Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My First 1/2 Marathon - What I Learned

Having a little time to reflect on my first 1/2 marathon (and a little time to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment), I wanted to write a blog post about what I learned through all of this; what I did right and what I could've done better. This information is what I learned about me and what's right for me. You may find that none of this applies to you or that none of it is found in the science of running, take note. If I did gather some info, I cited the website.
So here it goes!

Things I did right:
* Training
I picked the right training program for me. I used Hal Higdon's Novice 2 plan. I stuck to it pretty closely (when I started the plan, I was running 4 milers on a regular basis, so my first long run was 5 miles and then I progressed from there. Each week my long run (LR) was a mile longer than outlined in the plan), especially the mid week run distances. I debated on whether to use Higdon's plan 1 or 2. Plan 1 was for those who were truly novices, who have never run a 1/2 before. True, this was my first 1/2 but I have trained for one before, so I went with plan 2, since it had some longer LRs included.
Take away: pick the training that is right for you. Remember that no one can run the race for you, so you have to train within your abilities and goals.

Originally, I was to run the Cook Forest 1/2m in March (an illness kept me from it - boo, hiss!). The race I ended up running was the Boston Trail Half Marathon in Boston, PA (you saw Boston and thought I went for the big one, didn't you?). There were several great things about this race:
- It was an out and back course - I like those; they work for me.
- It was on a trail - not pavement - kinder on the joints. Plus, most of my training LRs were on a similar trail, so the terrain was familiar.
- It was flat - kind for a 1st-timer.
- It was well organized - highly recommend this course, especially for a 1st 1/2M.
- There were pacers - just cool; and motivating (we wanted to stay in front of the 2:10 pacer)
- It was beautiful - the scenery was just gorgeous. River, trees, nice houses, etc. My kind of thing.
Take away: Do a little research and make sure your race, especially your first one, will be a memorable course and that it fits who you are as a runner.

*Nutrition and General Preparation
I was pretty focused on eating well and hydrating well during my training period. I tried to keep a good balance of proteins, carbs, etc in my diet. I added chia seeds into my daily foods, mainly my morning oatmeal.
I think my training period was pretty spot on. I followed the plan, I hydrated well during training, I ate well, I slept well. I didn't do anything out of the ordinary on race day - I wore clothes I was used to running in, I wore my usual shoes, I took my usual fuel source (Swedish fish and sour patch kids). Overall, I was satisfied with this (If you read on, you'll find that I could've done a bit better with nutrition on race day).
Take away: preparing for a race is holistic; you can't just focus on running.

Things I could have done better:
* Race day fuel and hydration
This race was a 2-hour drive from home, so I got up @ 5am, we left @ 6am. I was so nervous for the race, that I didn't eat breakfast at home, as planned. I ate a banana, a few pretzels, a pack of Angry Bird gummies, and a couple of sips of water prior to the race. That's it. I know better than that! I was paying the stupid tax starting @ mile 8. My body was out-of-steam. It's not that I didn't want to go, I just felt like I couldn't. Yes, I had my Swedish fish, but I was beyond hungry at this point, my stomach was hurting and I couldn't handle more than 1 fish along the way. By mile 11, I was so dang thirsty, I almost asked an old man riding his bike on the course for some water......I should have eaten breakfast AND a snack + at least 32 oz of water prior to the race.
Take away: Take the time to properly fuel on race day. Get up earlier if that's what it takes. Don't go into your race without the fuel you'll need to get through.

*Less layering
I'm a cold runner. The forecast was calling for dropping temps and increasing rain, so I dressed accordingly. The top layer was a windbreaker/rain coat with a lining in it. By mile 2, I hung it on a post (hoping it would be there on the way back) - I was hot. I would've been fine for a 5k, not for a 1/2.
Take away: don't over dress. I read something (don't remember where, so I have no citation) that said dress as if it were 20 degrees warmer than the actual temp - that will ensure that even if you're cold in the beginning, you'll be comfortable by the end.

So there you have it - the things I learned from my first 1/2 marathon.

What's the most important thing(s) you've learned
from your first race (short or long distance)?
What's the race tip you give people most often?
What's the tip you've been given that has become part of your regular training?


Angela said...

Congratulations on your first half marathon - you did fantastic!! I loved you detailed post about it!

It sounds like you were well prepared for the most part. I, on the other hand, was completely unprepared in every way for my first and suffered for it. You are totally right about dressing for a half (always wear less than you think). Race fuel and hydration is something you'll learn and perfect as time goes on. For me, I've learned never to run long races without GU gels (vanilla bean!), a small handheld water bottle, and gum (keeps my mouth moist). And ALWAYS hit the bathroom before the race, even if you don't really have to go :)

Have you caught the half bug now? Are you already planning for your next half? They can be so addicting :) Happy Running to you!

HudkinsFamily said...

Thanks so much for the words!
I have to admit that I'm curious to see what it feels like to run a half properly fueled/hydrated!