What I Learned from Half-Marathon Training

Happy Spring everyone! There’s really nothing better than some fresh flowers on the first day of Spring.

I’m still basking in the glow of my first half-marathon this past Sunday. Over the last couple of days, as people have asked me “so how was it?”, I’ve describe it as, “The most physically and mentally demanding thing I’ve ever done in my life.” I honestly was prepared for the physical demand of the race, but the mental demand of the race was something that I was not quite as prepared for. There was a point in the race where I just wanted to quit. I wanted to walk off the course, find one of the many cops lining the edge of the course and say, “that’s it. I’m done.”

But I didn’t.

I pushed through. I got through these rough moments by thinking about Bernie and my parents and friends waiting for me at the finish line. I knew they would be there, with funny signs in hand, and cheering loudly. I couldn’t let them down. I worked too hard to not make it all the way.

Immediately after finishing, I knew that half-marathons were for me. I’m so ready to do another one! There’s a half in Boston in October that I plan on doing, and I’m looking forward to start training again. I’m already looking up training plans to help me shed my time. 2:12 is a good base, and I want to improve upon it.

As with everything in life, training was definitely a learning experience. I had never really trained diligently for a race before, so this was the first time. A few things I learned while training for my first half-marathon include:

  • PB/banana toast is my go-to pre-run fuel. There’s a reason a lot of people eat it before running, it works.
  • Fruit flavored Gu’s are WAYYYY better than the other non-fruit Gu’s.
  • Chomps don’t always sit well with my stomach. Use with caution.
  • My fuel belt was the best $40 I’ve ever spent.
  • When in doubt, go to the chiropractor. When my lower back/hips were hurting, the chiropractor fixed it and taught me at-home exercises that I could do to make them stronger. I’m officially a chiro convert.
  • There’s a really nice bathroom in the Boston Common. It came in handy many times.
  • My body can do amazing things. I learned that my body is so much stronger than I thought it was. I can push it harder than I ever thought I could. I need to trust it more.
  • Self confidence and body love. I haven’t always had the best love affair with my body, but after running the marathon, I am in awe of what it can do. I will no longer take it for granted and will appreciate every muscle.
  • Compression shorts are the JAM! I won a pair of Aspaeris compression shorts on Julie’s blog (I was shocked – I never win anything) and they are the greatest invention known to man. I wore them the nights leading up to the race, and immediately after the race, and over the last two nights post-race. It’s now 2 days after the race and I have no muscle soreness. If you often have hip pain after running long runs, invest in some high-quality compression shorts for recovery. I swear to you – they’re miraculous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Running really is for me. Some people run a big race like a half-marathon and realize that running is just not for them. After my experience on Sunday, my love for running has been reaffirmed. Running is definitely for me.

I’m already looking forward to my next race – the B.A.A 5k the day before the Boston Marathon. Steph and I are running the race, and then will spend the next day cheering on the Boston runners! It’s going to be a blast!

Until next time; readers – have you ever experienced similar mental blocks during a race like I did? How did you overcome them? What has running taught you? Share!

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13.1 or Bust!!

Today is the day! Today I run the 35th annual New Bedford Half Marathon. I’m super excited! I’ve gone through weeks of sore muscles, an aching back, many Gu’s, and cold Sunday mornings – but it’s here!

If you want to follow updates in real time, follow me on twitter!

See ya on the other side!

[source]

Tapering Like a Champ

Happy Friday everyone! It’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend!

This past week, I began the part of half-marathon training that everyone looks forward to; TAPER WEEK!

my thoughts exactly. Taper week=scary.

So far, I’m not really enjoying taper week. I feel anxious. I feel like I should be out running and doing other various crazy things. Here’s what my week has looked like so far:

  • Sunday: Lovely 8.5 mile run with Steph. Last long run! We high-fived afterward.
  • Monday: Gym, jump rope circuit and too many squats. Ouch.
  • Tuesday: 4 mile run outside, which sucked. My hips were super sore from previously stated squats. Stupid Sarah.
  • Wednesday: 60 min spin class with my favorite spin instructor who is 1 week away from her due date. She’s so pregnant it’s insane. Felt amazing to spin. Slept in my compression shorts.
  • Thursday: I was scheduled to run an easy 2 miles, but my stomach was NOT feeling too great throughout the afternoon, so I decided against it. I foam rolled my IT bands until I was bruised. Slept in my compression shorts again.

Today I plan on doing nothing, again. ‘Rest’ is the operative word this week. There are a lot of theories about how long one should taper for certain distance races, and how much activity is too much. I found a pretty great article with tips or first-time marathoners from an old Runner’s World “Ask Coach Jenny” blog. Some of my favorite tips include:

Have faith in your preparation, especially during the taper. Something mystical happens when you begin to taper your mileage to rest up for the race. It’s a little like taking away Linus’s blanket as there is comfort in training because you are actively moving towards your target race. As you reduce the mileage, the nervousness sets in. Remember that tapering allows your body time to rest and accumulate energy at the rate of a slow simmer so that on race day you are fresh and ready to rumble. Review your training log to remind yourself of the base you have going into the race and visualize a strong run during the season. You are well prepared and that is the best insurance against earning that medal.

I found myself reading over my training log today. My first ‘long run’ was 5 miles. Within 7 weeks, I doubled that and ran 11.5 miles for my final long run. That’s insanity! I’ve come a long way in a pretty short period of time. Over the course of training, I’ve gone from hating running, to being absolutely head-over-heels in love with it. My overall love for running has increased and I’m surprised how much I enjoyed my slow and easy long runs.

Warn your family and friends that you’ll have the stability of a 3-year-old child on race day. I’ve borrowed this line from my husband John Bingham, and it’s true. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned veteran, making even the smallest decisions like what to eat and what to wear will feel like life changing moments during race week. Ask your support team for extra patience, because they’ll need it. Anticipate this temporary state of immaturity and lay out your clothes the night before the race. It helps to try on everything you plan to wear (bib number, chip on shoe…) The more prepared you are the night before, the better.

Bernie is probably already so sick of hearing about running, he could scream. It’s become my entire life, especially over the last couple weeks. I don’t know what will happen on race day on Sunday, but I might cry. We’ll see.

Run the tangents! It took me several years to learn this nugget of information and I shaved minutes off my time once I did. When a race course is measured (and certified) it follows the tangents to the curves. A tangent is a straight line just outside the curve (or as close to the curve while still on the road). For example, Sandra the runner sees a curve on the course and runs a straight line (tangent to) the inside of the curve. Beth (who is not paying attention and didn’t read this blog) follows the curve in the road.  Curve for curve, Beth will end up running more mileage in the end. Sandra will run the measured 13.1 miles (and be showered  before Beth finishes). This will help you in two very important ways:  One, it keeps your mind actively engaged in running the course as you think your way through every turn.  Two, you’ll run only 13.1 miles! You can add more than a quarter-mile to the course by taking the long way around turns! Stay focused, grasshopper, and set yourself up efficiently as you wind through the course.

I figured this out from running a lot of 5k’s, but I didn’t even think about it for the half marathon. I plan on doing this as much as possible. While I have a time goal in my head, I decided the other day not to hold myself to it. This is my first half marathon and my first time running the distance, ever. I really should focus on enjoying every second.

Only 2 days to go! Thankfully, the weather is going to be gorgeous – almost 70 degrees! The average temperature this winter while I was running was between 35-40 degrees. 70 degrees is going to be quite a change. Hopefully it doesn’t completely throw me off.

 

Readers: Seasoned marathoners/racers – what are your tapering tips? Have you ever tapered before? What are you doing this weekend?

Cutting Myself Some Slack

I loved hearing all about the things you’re most thankful for/are loving yesterday. Sounds like a few of you also are in love with French bulldogs. Who could say no to this face?!

Let’s talk about the big elephant in the room for a second.

Cue the panic!

Last night, I went for an easy 4 mile run outside. The weather here has been beyond gorgeous. I ran in shorts and a tank top and was SWEATING after 4 miles. It also was a pretty tough 4 miles.

Notttttttttt exactly the splits that I like seeing. My hips were EXTREMELY tight. I think I overdid it on Monday at the gym with the squats and the hip strengthening moves. I need to remind myself that I should be taking it easier this week, since it is taper week. Steph and I went for our final long run on Sunday – a pretty nice 8.5 miles.

(my garmin took half a mile to finish loading the satellite signal…weird. Just add .6 miles to this.)

This whole positive split thing seems to be a theme. I’m not too worried – I need to remind myself that with New Bedford being my first half marathon, and the first time ever running 13.1 miles, I need to cut myself a little slack. I’d love to finish the race in under 2 hours, but if that doesn’t happen, I can’t beat myself up over it. Just training for this race has been a challenge – if I want to come out of it injury free (minus some soreness) I need to just chill out on the self-induced pressure. I’m a perfectionist, I always have been. There is no such thing as half-assing anything with me. This is a blessing, but also a curse. Over the next 4 days, I plan to focus on the fun aspect of the race and how crazy and cool it is that I committed myself to training for something for 15 weeks straight. That’s an accomplishment even in itself! Who cares if I run a sub 2-hour half marathon! I certainly do, but I really shouldn’t. That’s my goal for the next few days.

 

Readers: Are you also a perfectionist like me? How do you relax before a big race? Any tips for how to let go of the self-induced pressure and just have fun? Any half-marathoners out there with tips for Sunday?!

To Work Out, Or Not to Work Out

This is what my life has come to over the last 24 hours.

Sarah’s head cold 2012 is here and in charge.

I am thankful, however, that the cold is basically focused only above the neck. I have no sore throat, my lungs feel strong, no cough. It’s basically all focused in my nasal passages. I’ve only had to deal with a stuffy nose, sneezing, and headaches. Not really being able to breathe out of my nose has definitely drained some of my energy, but I feel alright overall.

I woke up this morning sort of eager to get moving. I wasn’t tired. I felt okay (other than not being able to breathe normally) and wanted to do SOMETHING! I am not a good sick person. I am the type of person who’s first thought when I sit down is usually “what else should I be doing right now?”. I don’t rest. There is no such thing as full relaxation. I like to feel productive at all times. If I’m sitting on the couch watching TV, I may seem like I’m doing nothing, but I usually have a million other things going on at the same time. A load of laundry is probably in the washer, the dishwasher is probably running, and my laptop is open to some sort of to-do list. Sufficient to say I don’t like doing nothing, so this whole rest thing has been tough over the last day or so.

As I started to clean the apartment this morning, I noticed that my nasal passages started to open up. MIRACULOUS – I CAN BREATHE! I realized that maybe working out was a possibility today. I always knew the “neck” rule with working out while sick; if your symptoms are above the neck (stuffy/runny nose, sore throat, sneezing) it’s okay to work out, but if your symptoms are below the neck (cough, shortness of breath, body aches) no gym for you. I did a little googling this morning and found an article from 2008 in the NYT all about whether you should work out with a cold or not.

Since my symptoms are all above the neck, I knew I would be physically able to work out, but is it a good idea? Would resting help me recover better from my cold faster, and would working out hinder my recovery? Maybe not…

Once again, Dr, Kaminsky and his colleagues infected volunteers with a rhinovirus. This time, the subjects were 34 young men and women who were randomly assigned to a group that would exercise with their colds and 16 others who were assigned to rest.

The group that exercised ran on treadmills for 40 minutes every other day at moderate levels of 70 percent of their maximum heart rates.

Every 12 hours, all the subjects in the study completed questionnaires about their symptoms and physical activity. The researchers collected the subjects’ used facial tissues, weighing them to assess their cold symptoms.

The investigators found no difference in symptoms between the group that exercised and the one that rested. And there was no difference in the time it took to recover from the colds. But when the exercisers assessed their symptoms, Dr. Kaminsky said, “people said they felt O.K. and, in some cases, they actually felt better.”

 

I thought this article was really interesting. It seems that working out if you have a head cold does not hinder recovery from that cold, in fact, some people actually felt better. That’s awesome news – especially since my last long run before the half marathon is tomorrow.

So with that, it looks like I will be working out today. I’ll be taking it pretty easy; maybe a 2 mile run on the treadmill and some weight training, but nothing crazy. Not HIIT today, no hills, no speed intervals, just a nice and easy workout.

 

Readers: How do you deal with being sick? Do you indulge in resting, or are you just restless like me? What is your favorite remedy for a cold?

It’s Official

It’s official – the “I’m not feeling too great this week/nausea/exhaustion/stuffy head/itchy throat” thing has turned into a full blown cold.

Yes it will...right?

Boston was beautiful yesterday – 68 degrees and sunny! I HAD to take advantage and decided to do my 5 miles outside after work. I don’t know if it was just my “sickness” or the fact that the reservoir area near my house resembled the ocean the waves were so high, I didn’t have my best run. I couldn’t finish. Well…I don’t know if I couldn’t finish, I just didn’t want to. I gave up. For the first run all training, I gave up at 4.3 miles, .7 miles short of what I had planned. The wind was brutal and I just wasn’t into it. Maybe I should have listened to Bernie and rested. But 68 degrees in Boston in early March=I’m running. Sorry.

After 5 minutes of beating myself up over it, I moved on. I didn’t feel good and needed to rest. I spent the rest of the night laying down on the couch watching the food network and nursing a bottle of orange juice. Party!

This weekend, I plan on taking it easy. I’m resting tonight, going to drink lots of fluids, and sleep! Tomorrow all my friends are going on a bar crawl all over Boston that we did last year. I’m sad I’m not participating, but I know that I’ll run better next weekend for it.

I wanna play!

Sunday is my final long run before the race. Since I’ve gone completely off schedule for all long runs for the last couple weeks, my roommate Steph and I plan on doing a taper long run on Sunday of 8 miles. I hope that this cold stays all above the neck so that I can run. Then taper week!

Happy Friday!

 

Have you ever quit during a run? How do you deal with being sick? (I’m the worst sick person ever – I always wish my mom would appear with soup and a blanket.)

Robot Cars

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a fabulous weekend!

Mine started off really great. Friday night I spent the night hanging out and playing cards at a bar and drinking from this: The Budzilla!

The next day, my friend Lauren and I spent the morning doing suburban things, aka: going to Target. I ended up finding some wicker baskets for Bernie’s entryway table that I’ve been looking for. You also can’t go to Target without taking advantage of their inexpensive workout wear. I picked up some inexpensive sports bras and workout tops! WOO!

Lauren and I were talking about how having a car in Boston isn’t necessary, but it definitely makes things easier. I came across this really awesome article from Boston Magazine all about it called “Hell Yeah, I Love My Car”. Pretty funny and very true!

Then Bernie and I spent the night chilling out and going to bed early because I had 11 miles on tap for the next morning. My half marathon plan had me running 9 miles on Sunday, but since I spent my last Sunday’s “fake 6k” doing 10 miles instead, I thought I would go for 11 this Sunday. Next Sunday is my last long run before the race, so I think I might just take advantage and do a taper long run of 8-9 miles.

I woke up yesterday feeling REALLY tired and beat. I slept like absolute ass and knew that the run was going to be a challenge. I went home, did my usual routine (change, eat, bathroom run, stretch, go) and headed out for 11 miles with my roommate Stephanie. She is running the half marathon with me and we haven’t been able to do any training runs together the whole time. Our schedules just never synched up. So this week we planned to get one in. We set out and did one lap around the Chestnut Hill reservoir and then ran up Beacon St. towards downtown Boston. Once we hit Boston Common, we looped back and ran up Beacon back home. I love running in downtown Boston; you get to explore the city and run at the same time. We kept about a 9:30 pace the whole time. It was really awesome to have someone else with me while running that many miles. We just chatted the whole time about everything! It was super fun! We are definitely doing that again. My miles looked like this:

I ended up running almost 11.5 miles! CRAZINESS! I felt pretty good afterward too. A little tight, but overall good. I’m getting really pumped for this race! It also feels good to push myself. I felt pretty strong – even took my Gu at mile 7ish instead of 5.5 like last week. I’m really proud of myself and my body for pushing through. Bring it on, New Bedford!

After running, I met up with Bernie to run more errands: Target and grocery shopping. When we left the grocery store, however, we ran into a bit of a problem: a flat tire. Bernie’s car’s tire had been looking a little low lately, but I didn’t think it would flat out blow out! Luckily he has AAA, so we called and waited an hour for a mechanic to show up. In the meantime, Steph came to the rescue and picked me and all the groceries up (didn’t want them to spoil!) Then she brought me back and I waited with Bernie. We listened to the Celtics game on the radio and then after about an hour, the AAA guy came. He changed the tire in literally 5 minutes flat! Amazing. When he pulled the tire off, it looked like this:

HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN!??!?!

Now we’re rocking the donut until it gets fixed. Looks like I’ll be taking the T to work for a couple days :(.

The icing on the cake was that since we had the car on to listen to the radio, we totally drained the battery of the car! Bernie’s car is a fancy one with a start button, not a traditional key hole. In the time I’ve known him, this is the second time that the battery has gotten drained. The first time was from leaving a door not completely closed overnight. Since his car is a robot car, it’s apparently really easy to drain the computer battery. Luckily the AAA guy noticed and jumped it for us. So stupid. Pretty eventful Sunday!

How was your weekend? Any big running milestones out there? Anyone else get a flat tire before? Do you know how to fix a flat? (Bernie and I do not – AAA to the rescue!!)