May 28, 2017—the date I finally achieved my goal of a sub-three hour half marathon. It doesn’t seem like a big achievement knowing that an average runner aims for a two hour finish time. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about distance running is that there is no reason to ever compare myself to another runner. The only person I’m competing against is me, and the only real comparison is my results from the last time I did this distance on this particular course. This was my seventh half marathon. Results from my previous half marathons ranged from 3:53 to 3:08.
So, based on this, a goal of a sub-three hour half marathon was reasonable for me, but I had a bigger goal in mind. In each of my previous half marathons I did great in the beginning and then fell apart at some point and suffered through to the end.
• Half marathon #1—I did okay the first half, but then fell apart physically and emotionally during the second half.
• Half marathon #2—I was on target for a sub-three hour finish when my left hamstring began to spasm and I had to hobble through the last two miles.
• Half marathon #3—this was the year after my full marathon. I was devastated that the finish line was torn down, so I needed to go back and experience the finish line. I had a severe case of plantar fasciitis, so I had to walk the course.
• Half marathon #4—I was doing well up until mile 9 when my right calf seized up, and did not let loose for the rest of the race. I limped through the last four miles.
• Half marathon #5—My training was going really well until the last few weeks before the race. I broke a toe, so I wasn’t able to run for two weeks while that healed up. Then the Monday before the race, I had to be taken to the ER due to a severe bout of vertigo. I should have pulled out, but I decided to do it anyway even though I was still experiencing dizziness. It was grueling.
• Half marathon #6—Another case of a hamstring spasm in the last few miles.
My bigger goal was to actually feel good and enjoy the entire race, and to be able to function afterwards. This was much more important to me, and I would have gladly slowed down and held back and accepted a finish time of greater than three hours to feel decent at the end. And, I am thrilled that in addition to a 2 hour 50 minute finish time for the 2017 Med City Half Marathon (28 minutes faster than the last time I did this distance on this exact course in 2015, and an 18 minute personal best overall); I can truly say that I have never enjoyed a race experience more. I felt good the whole way, and I was still able to spend time with my family the rest of the day with minimal pain.
Now is the time I assess how I did. Could I have done better? Honestly, no. I do not regret one thing about this race nor the training leading up to it. So, what did I do right? I think it boils down to three things:
2. Consistency with running
3. Heart-rate Training
I started using Isagenix products in August 2016. I use their protein shakes twice per day, take their vitamins, and used their performance fueling for my long runs. As a result, I lost more than 20 pounds during training, and the fueling (which consisted of a protein shake with Amped Power pre-race, a scoop of Amped Hydrate in each of my water bottles on my fuel belt, which I sipped on throughout the race, and two Amped Fuel gels, which I took at miles 4 and 8, and then a protein shake post-race). I have never felt healthier.
Consistency with Running
In past years, I began running in late February or early March and carried through until November when all of my races were finished for the year and the harsh winters of Minnesota were on the horizon. It was usually at that time of year when I developed some sort of injury that prohibited me from running—plantar fasciitis, a sprained toe, tendonitis, etc. I did strength training and spinning classes during the winter, but when I began running again, it was such a shock that everything I gained the previous year was gone and I had to start over from square one as if I’d never run a mile.
This past year, I joined the Chatty Chicks running group; and the promise of time with friends who also enjoy running and coffee kept me going even as the days grew colder, icier, and darker. I discovered that with a headlamp, ice cleats, and layers and layers of running tights and shirts and jackets and gloves and hats and face masks, I can keep going. It also helps that there was the option of an indoor track when conditions grew dangerously icy! I’m truly grateful to this group of ladies who welcomed me into their flock and enthusiastically cheered me on during this race.
There were a couple of the Chatty Chicks who used heart rate training for the Twin Cities Marathon. I joined them for one of their training runs…okay I didn’t actually make it the whole distance. I escaped and did about 4 ½ miles; however, I actually ran the entire 4 ½ miles. I’ve never done that! I’ve always used a run/walk method. With heart rate training, you go low and slow: a slow pace to keep your heart rate low. I decided to give this method a try as I trained for the 2017 Med City Half Marathon, and it worked.
Another thing I did during training was I did not race during my training cycle. In the past I would do 5K’s, 10K’s, 15K’s in an effort to “build up” to the half marathon distance. I learned that I was working too hard and tearing my body down. That’s why I fell apart during my big races. This time I only allowed myself to do one 10K in support of a friend whose son was battling brain cancer. Other than that, I kept my focus on the training plan.
The Race: Med City Half Marathon
The weather conditions were absolutely perfect on race day. Even with minimal sleep the night before, I felt great. Besides, does anyone sleep well the night before a race?
For miles 1-6, which are mostly hills, my strategy was to walk up the hills and run down in an effort to conserve my strength and energy. This worked beautifully.
For miles 7-10, I ran/walked with a 2:1 interval (2 minute run:1 minute walk). There were a few places I pushed myself to run further, and was pleasantly surprised that I was able to.
For miles 10-11.5, I walked the majority of this section as it is a bit of an incline, and I was getting tired.
For miles 11.5 through the Finish, I was familiar with the course so I planned out the sections I would run and the sections I would walk, and when I turned the final corner and saw the Finish line about a ½ mile away I burst into tears as I realized that I was having the race experience I wanted. I had no idea what my time was at that point. I didn’t allow myself to scroll to that information on my watch, and I’m glad I didn’t know because it was such a wonderful surprise to see the clock above the Finish Line was at my target time.
Throughout the race I daydreamed about texting my hubby “sub-three!” and it felt so good to do just that.
Now that this goal is accomplished I’m in that lull when I just don’t know what to do with my life. Oh yes I do. Rest and recover this week, and next week? Begin training for my fall half marathon, of course!
“…And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1