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?