Reflections & Lessons Learned
Reflections & Lessons Learned

Reflections & Lessons Learned

I’ve thought a lot about Saturday’s half marathon & how hard/painful it was and how long it’s taking me to recover.

I don’t think I’ve ever been this sore after a run or race ever. The only thing that has ever resulted in extreme soreness like this has been crazy weights, and although it’s hard to compare current pain levels with past pain levels, I’m not sure that crazy weights was ever this bad.

So, obviously, there were a few things that went – not wrong – but not quite right.

I think the biggest problem is that I was cocky. I trained waaay harder for this half than I did last year. Last year, I did two 10-milers, one 15K (6 weeks prior to the race) and a couple of 8-milers. This year in the two months leading up to my half I did three  12-milers, two 10-milers (one on trails), an 8-mile trail run & a rogue 15 mile trail run. I was prepared! Last year, in March & April, I ran a total of about 118 miles. This year in March & April, I ran a total of 185 miles. (In case you’re bad at math, I ran a lot more this year.) I also did speed work – something that I only haphazardly did last year. I do need to start back in with the plyometrics I was doing then (although I didn’t know that’s what they were called). The fact that I hated those workouts the most probably means that I need to do them more, right?

Bottom line: This year, I was so much more prepared. And I knew it. And I knew nothing could keep me away from my 2:15 goal.

Yeah, it was hot. The temps were quite a bit higher than anything else I’ve trained in. BUT, it wasn’t that hot that it should’ve sapped my will to live. My next half marathon is the 3rd of July, and although it’s going to be flat (Foot Traffic Flat, in fact!), it’s going to be exposed. Not a lot of shade, if I remember correctly. So, even though it’ll be earlier (7 AM start as opposed to a 9 AM start), it may still be warm.

So, how can I use the next eight weeks to adequately prepare to run that half without feeling as bad as I do today? And, since I did manage to pull that 9 minute PR out of my ass while still feeling like I’d been hit by the pain train for the last 1/3 of the race, how do I manage to actually hit my full speed potential? (Maybe the Runners’ World training calculator with its half marathon time prediction of 2:10:03 wasn’t smoking crack – maybe I really can shave another 6 minutes off my half in eight weeks.)

I have a few ideas.

  1. HYDRATION. I went into Saturday’s half inadequately hydrated. And, since at a lot of the water station, the Dixie cups were only about half full AND I was sweating like a crazy person, I couldn’t stay at my previous level of (inadequate) hydration, which had to have affected my energy levels. When I finished the race, my fingers looked like little smokies – they were so swollen. It was a few hours later before I was able to take my wedding rings off.  I also think I need to carry my own fuel belt. If I’d had my own water, I would’ve been a lot better off – I still could’ve stopped at the water stations for a top off later in the race if I ran out early, but not having to rely on half full Dixie cups would’ve helped.
  2. FUEL. I only took one Gu because that’s all I could fit into my fuel belt since I was carrying my phone. I do not need to carry my phone in a race, I don’t think. Better to take two Gus than the phone I could’ve just left in the car. It’s not like I got lost & needed GPS directions to the start, and I certainly wasn’t texting or tweeting or making phone calls when I was trying to remember how to put one foot in front of the other. More fuel would’ve meant I could’ve taken my first Gu earlier, instead of waiting until just after mile 6, when I was already starting to fade. Also, that means I wouldn’t have tried the HEED drink on the course for a last minute energy boost, which almost resulted in unspeakable horror. Another time carrying my own water would’ve been good – I waited until after mile 6 to take my Gu so I would be close to a water station for washing it down.
  3. TRAINING. I think that I may need to try to do a little training in warmer conditions (which may just be inevitable as summer approaches) so that if it is hot at my next half, I can deal with it better. And if it’s not hot, I’ll just feel that much more fantastic. I have the following long runs planned over the next few weeks:

5/15: 10 miles, trail
5/16: 10-12 miles, not trail
5/24: 20K, trail
5/29: 10 miles, trail
5/31: 12 miles
6/5: 9 miles, trail
6/7: 13 miles
6/12: 10 miles, trail
6/14: 14 miles
6/19: 11 miles, trail
6/21: 15 miles
6/26: 10 miles, trail
6/28: 11 miles

In addition to those planned runs, I have my Tuesdays scheduled with either hill runs (which involve more hills than my trail runs, usually. The trail runs are more rolling, nothing too steep) or speed work.  I will also be swimming & biking & hitting some weights classes, which should help with my overall fitness levels.

4. WEIGHT. I’ve said this a lot over the past, um, year and a half, but even though I’ve had some awesome success with the weight loss, and haven’t gained back anything I’ve lost (other than the odd 3 lbs every once in a while), I really need to lose at least 10 more pounds, and probably could stand to lose closer to 15ish. I think that losing 10 lbs in the next 8 weeks is completely doable, even if I am racking up the mileage (better now than when my long runs are in the upper teens, right?). I really need to work on honoring my hunger – don’t put off eating when I’m hungry (like right now) and stop when I’m not hungry (or at least when I’m full). I find myself recognizing my point of satiety & just ignoring. Ignoring on purpose. Which is lame. It’s not like I’m never going to get another crappy food service burrito again, Amy. Walk away from the food! I also need to concentrate on replacing some of my go-to snacks with healthier options. There’s nothing wrong with full-fat peanut butter & full-fat cheese. BUT, in a time of weight loss, maybe moderation is key. What are your go-to snacks when you’re hungry all the time, but are still trying to keep the weight off? (For me, I know this is going to be all about food – there is no way I can add too much more exercise into my life – over the next few weeks, I’m going to be averaging just over 10 hours/week devoted to activity (this doesn’t include things like stretching, push-ups, gardening, etc.), and that’s pretty good for someone with a job & a life & stuff, I think. So – food & alcohol intake is key! I already track everything I eat, although I don’t track calorie intake, because that drives me insane.

Well, that was a long bit of navel gazing, wasn’t it? BUT, because you were so good & read through to the end, I’ll let you look at my race photos from Saturday. They aren’t as bad as I thought, at all. My ‘smile for the camera’ does look a little forced in the last (finish line) photo, but I don’t look as though I want to die, so apparently even after 13 grueling miles, I can put on a happy face!

Can you spot the Amy & the Sarah?
Can you spot the Amy & the Sarah?

First couple miles - hope was still alive
First couple miles - hope was still alive

Determined to pass
Determined to pass

Finish Line - Smiling Through the Pain
Finish Line - Smiling Through the Pain

Please, please, please feel free to share your thoughts about any of my four race pace maximizing strategies I discussed above. I am so super competitive with myself, and I know the longer I’m a runner, the less likely that I can PR every race, but I know that I can be faster, I just know it! I can run five 800s in 4 minutes, surely I can average a 10 minute mile over 13 miles, right? Right?


  1. Sounds like you have a pretty good idea of what you need to do. It also looks like you have a lot of good long runs coming up. Your already a strong runner and I think that losing 10 pounds is a good idea. 10 lbs is 10 lbs and if you can loose it you would be lighter on your feet. Duh right! that is the main reason why I wanted to drop a few. Going up hills I felt like I had a backpack full of bricks.

    For me – it’s easy to eat super healthy during the week because I pack my lunches full of healthy snacks. Lots of fruts, cut up veggies, turkey sandwich, pb sandwich (full fat of course), homeade granola bars, etc. The only thing I allow myslef to purchase is coffee. The weekends I just try my best to remember the main goal, but I don’t totally cut myself off from treats.

    A yummy desert treat – cut up strawberies with Lite cool whip (not out of the can). The cool whip is only like 20 calores per Tbsp. Those are good odds. Sometimes I do a couple squares of dark chocoalate on the side. It satisfies my late night sweet tooth without devouring some high-calorie indulgence. Also frozen grapes are good – and they take a long time to eat so it satisfies that “i’m not really hungry – but I want to eat” craving.

    Hope some of this helps. You can loose 10 lbs in 8 weeks. Just put some of that energy you put into running into this goal.

    1. Fortunately, the one thing I seldom have to worry about is a sweet tooth! The only time I ever crave sweets is when I haven’t been running much (which is weird, I know). Did you follow a specific plan when you were losing your 10 lbs, or just watch your food consumption?

      Also – can you share your homemade granola bar recipe? I would LOVE that! I think that I do need to plan for more fruit & veggies during the day. Today I had a potato for lunch & a banana for snack, and definitely need more than that (although dinner will be veg-heavy, more during the day would be good).

      Thanks for the ideas & support!

  2. I think that your belief in yourself – in your ability to shed that last bit of weight and to race faster is a TERRIFIC step. The rest is follow through. It sounds like you’ve already got some good strategies started. I know that substituting healthier/lighter versions of go-to snacks/meals is key for me. There are just some foods I “need” because they fill both emotional and physical niches for me. I’ve tried to pare away the worst ones but there are a few that I will always turn to. Figuring out how to make a yummy, healthy, vegetarian tostada that fills the same slot for me as my old favorite beef & cheese loaded tacos has been amazingly empowering. Good luck with those last 10 lbs and the speedwork!!

  3. Fun pics! You look like you weren’t struggling at all.
    I think you’re right on track with your goals. Even just being hydrated properly can make all the difference in the world.

    BTW, the other girls that I marathon with are in the high 4 range. So you guys could probably all run together.

    1. I had to think about this all night, because my first instinct was to say “of course I’m not overtraining” followed by a very mature “pthbbbbbttttttttt.”

      After thinking about this (I didn’t think ALL night – I took some time to sleep), I really don’t think I overtrained. I ran my last long run 2 weeks before my half, and, if anything, took tapering to a special place that meant “do nothing” for the week before the half. The only activity I did in the last week before my race was one yoga class.

      I think I didn’t taper wisely (stopping ALL activity, instead of getting in a couple of smaller runs, not doing any xtraining, very little stretching), but don’t think that my problem was overtraining. I do need to remember to rethink my taper before my next half – maybe an 11 miler one week before the race doesn’t count as a taper!

      And a question – since I know you’re a tri- girl, what is your advice for approaching one’s first tri-. Anything you wish you’d known in advance? Any advice on wetsuits & transitions?

  4. i like your strategies. i so totally agree with carrying your own hydration. call me paranoid, but i don’t like to rely on the stations b/c what if i get thirsty in between? then it gets in my head. i try to do the ‘drink every mile’ thing i learned from aron. it helps me stay on top of things and it’s more comfortable for me to drink smaller amounts more often than a huge bolus and have it sloshing around. i see from your pics that you wear a belt, so you’d be used to the feeling of carrying around your own flasks anyway.
    i put gatorade in my flasks so i get the electrolytes then i will still stop and get water at some race stations too. do u think that electrolyte loss contributed to your hand swelling or were u drinking the race electrolyte replacement? some people like e-tabs, but i’ve never tried them. for me the gatorade works b/c i get sugar and lytes…and it just tastes so yummy.
    acclimating to warmer temps sounds smart. i need to do that to. i think i saw something on about that?
    good luck!

  5. Your pictures are terrific!! You look strong and happy. Ok…maybe you felt bad because you ran faster than you ever have before! Harder effort = more sore? You PR’d…you did not pull it out of your ass, you trained for it! Revel in it!

    My go to snacks because they leave me full/satisfied: (I do WW points and these are all two points or less) Yogurt, Fiber One bars, 94% FF popcorn, a cup of grapes, an apple or orange, carrots and celery with FF ranch dip (I make the dip with FF sour cream and FF hidden valley ranch mix). I stay away from the 100-calorie packx because they have very little nutrition and actually make me feel hungrier sometimes.

    I’m checking out Milwaukee….not sure if I want to do another one this year or not, but Hubby might, in which case I’ll be yelling for you on the sidelines! Maybe I’ll even make a sign…. 🙂

  6. good call on training in warmer weather!!

    For me weight is truly about food. Let’s see go to snacks, because I am a constant snacker…Genisoy Crisps, cereal (dry so I eat it with my hands), Green tea has become a big thing for me lately … seriously try the green smoothies too 🙂 Hmm what else… a spoon full of PB is my morning snack pre-workout.

    I realized that a lot of times I eat because it’s time to or I should or I”m trying not to eat something else…so tuning in and creating new habits is helping me a lot.

    1. I’m getting 1-2 green smoothies/week now, and am seriously loving them! Tomorrow, my smoothie will be made with spinach fresh from my garden! I honestly couldn’t be more excited.

      Also, right now, I am sitting at my computer, post-lunch. There are 4-5 more bites of my (very healthy lentil & veggie) stew on my plate, but I am no longer hungry. In fact, I’d have to say I’m full. I am leaning towards getting up & throwing away the leftovers. I need strength!

      (I am currently trying to limit myself to two tablespoons of peanut butter a day. That is much harder than skipping my dinner glass of wine!)

  7. Alisa

    Hydration is key for me. The warmer temps actually force me to be better about hydrating. You know I hate the fuel belt but while I curse it, it’s also a savior on race day.

    Weight, you know I’ve been yaking about it too. I’m determined to get some poundage off. I say instead of happy hour we should do PB&J walk-a-thons or something =).

    1. Okay – I’m all about trying to shed these last few pounds, but I am also not prepared to give up happy hour for a walk-a-thon. That would suck all the joy out of my life! I am, however, going to way cut back on my at home drinkies so that I can enjoy happy hour guilt free. I run so that I can indulge in the occasional happy hour! If we were going out for PB&J happy hours weekly, I would concede that they were the issue, but I can’t get on board with that last suggestion! BAD!

      I actually don’t mind the fuel belt, and carry it for all my non-race runs, but don’t like it for races. I am definitely rethinking that strategy for the Sauvie Island half.

  8. you look great in those pics!! i have no running advice for you, but i’m really impressed at how much you’ve thought through all the factors and things you can do to improve for your next race – that is awesome 🙂

    i’d also love to see the homemade granola bar recipe…pretty please!

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