Tag Archives: half marathon training

Musing on a taper week.

Monday was the first day of week 16 of a training plan that has succeeded, to a boring degree. I set my sights on a modest increase in my pace in the half marathon, and I’ll know soon if that training plan has succeeded. These 6 days are populated with a mere 11 miles of running.

With only the vaunted (or dreaded) taper remaining, that particular outcome is decided, but unknown. It is Schrodingers race. Right now it has both succeeded and failed, but I will not know until I open the box on Sunday morning and let loose all those tempo runs, all those mile repeats, and try to run 13.1 miles at an 8:43 pace and finish the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon in 1:54:xx.

Over the past few weeks, my training plan hit the 30+ mile weeks that I knew were coming. And at first glance, I felt like I did not do anything new. The plan was so similar to my Pittsburgh plan. And because it was so long, the differences snuck up on me. I haven’t tracked the milestones, but I have turned in some of the fastest, hardest and longest workouts of my entire life this training cycle, and I did it without feeling miserable.

I’ve adjusted my life, my sleeping schedule, and my attitude, to hit those key workouts. I’ve run in the rain, in the dark of night, in the hour before dawn. Things I didn’t do in my last plan, I did here. I did them to achieve a number most people don’t care about, something you can’t even explain. With breaking two hours, people got it. Now, it’s just another 5 minutes. But that is what is left to me, what I drive toward as long as my body will gain another 5 minutes, before I have to change my goals to a different kind of growth. Today I am young, and I am getting fitter, maybe too late to have ever seen what I was truly capable of, but certainly not too late to know what I am capable of now.

So this half marathon is not a milestone. It’s not my first, it’s not my first sub 2. It might be the next PR, but I won’t know that until Sunday. But at some point you go from laying your keystone, to laying just another brick in the wall, and I always said I was in this for the whole building.

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Half Marathon Training

My half marathon training has begun; in fact, I’m coming up on the close of week 4. But when I started with week 1, it wasn’t a very momentous start. Week 1 of my plan was way easier than the ‘maintenance running’ I had been doing to get through the winter. Week 2 and 3 were not much more intense, more of an evolution than a big change.

But all that was over, last night.

Thursday is the designated speedwork day in this plan, and while my first three speed work days (two tempo runs of 3 miles @ 8:47 and one instance of 2xMile repeats at 8:32) felt that “good speed” feeling, last night I did a *4* mile tempo @ 9:02. But because of my wife’s new Muay Thai schedule, I did it on a treadmill.

The unforgiving, unadjusting, brutal speed of the treadmill, combined with the warm air of the gym, plus the really high new effort (4 consecutive miles faster than the mile pace in my 5k PR….) was a new mountain to climb. I made it, but after 60 minutes on the treadmill I was glad to get off, not out of boredom or eagerness to get home, but out of a real and honest desire to stop and catch my breath.

It’s an amazing feeling, to push yourself. I look forward to more of this in the coming weeks.

On a way sadder note, after a 4 mile easy run last Friday at the office, I apparently misplaced my trusted Garmin Forerunner 305. Fortunately I had a Garmin 210 I had found at REI’s ‘garage sale’ for a backup, but I lost a week of workout data, and am really bummed about the absence of what I’d grown used to. Still, rather than running out and buying a new hotness, I’m taking a borrowed/handmedown 305 from Sherry (hi mom-in-law!) which will fill the gap.

I just can’t bring myself to be excited about it, because there are so many other fun new options out there, but I’d like to be practical and mindful of the money I spend on running. And the shoes I’m wearing just hit 300 miles…

Pre-race jitters

It feels like such a normal weekend, Saturday breakfast at Dmitri’s, lazy afternoon. Saturday has been a day off running for a while, and I’m not traveling anywhere for this race. Plus, understandably, this race is less of an “event” than Pittsburgh; not my first 13.1, no friends in town.

But the jitters are here, that feeling of fear, even if I know I can do it. It’s not really a lack of confidence just anxiety. I know it’s illusory. I’ve come here to my blog to exorcise my worries.

Can i run 13.1 miles?
Yes, I’ve done it before.

Will the hill knock me out of the race?
No. My hill repeats were much more exertion, and I did 8 hill climbs in an hour. Worst thing it could do is slow my time, but I’m not running this race for a PR.

Will I be on time, able to get my packet and bib and run?
I’ve confirmed my registration. The race location is an hour away and Steph and I plan to leave at 5:45, over 2 hours before the race starts. It may be a big race but there should be plenty of time for these things.

Water?
Water stop every mile. More frequent than I need, nice and predictable, and never too far away.

Breakfast?
Race breakfast is nice and defined and well practiced. I should be totally set with PB and english muffin and a banana in the car, along with a nice, hot, black cup of coffee.

Gear?
The only factor of this race that is in the slightest bit actual worrisome. The temperature dropped dramatically here over the past few days, and the current temperature at start time will be 39 degrees. Not one of my long runs has been run in those conditions, and not even my shorter ones provide any insight since it’s only been in the taper week.

My plan is to wear throwaway gloves and a pullover, and hand off the pullover either right at the start or to Steph if I see her and don’t need it any more. The forecast isn’t calling for rain so hopefully that holds up; I can run in the rain and cold just fine, but my training hasn’t had much of that. It could leave me seriously miserable.

I’ve laid out my gear (including obligatory race penguin. Say hi, Hermes!) because that usually helps me get my confidence rolling, and here it is:

My normal sized pasta dinner has been eaten, and now Steph and I are going to go out for a quick beer to unwind and add a bit of liquid carb before an early bedtime.

Goodnight, and you’ll hear from me at the finish line.

Ready for the race, but not ready for the taper!

The Plan has become a sort of religion for me, complete with Sunday Services.

For weeks, every Sunday, I carved out hours to pay worship to sun, rain, wind and road, to beat myself into a new form, a runner. I have had a plan, a routine. I have metrics and numbers, and goals. I’ve added to my weekly mileage, upped my endurance, crammed 5 miles into a weekday run where before I struggled to get 3 in.

And then I started to taper. No long run Sunday. 4 miles Tuesday, no run Wednesday, 3 tiny miles today. Only 2 tomorrow. And then it’s race weekend, the whole point of this exercise (or maybe, just the tip of the iceberg that is really The Point.). And I’m confident, I’m ready for the race. All the change to my schedule, my 5x a week worship, my daily catechism, I was not ready for. I wasn’t ready for the taper.

Tapering is hard. For some people, it seems to be physical. Cold symptoms, cramps, wild appetite. Not for me. For me, it’s just breaking my mold that’s hard. Hard to tell a random co-worker that I’m only running 3 miles today, only 9 miles this week. Hard to fill in all the yellow squares on my summary log. I’m listening to my body, and doing the right thing this last week, but I want to do more!

But not as bad as I want to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. I want to run it strong, and fast, and leave nothing on the table. So right now I have to load up that table with rest and kindness to my body. Not anything it wants, but just a few extra carbs with dinner. Going to sleep early. Running 11 minute miles when it screams to run 10s.

Look out Smithfield Ave. Look out, Roberto Clemente Bridge. Look out Heinz Field. I’m coming. I’m going to storm the Strip District, I’m going to power my way out into the Northside and burn my way down Carson St, and then I’m coming for you, Pittsburgh.

2 days, 17 hours to the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. 2 days, 19 hours, 30 minutes to the finish line.

Half Marathon, Week 9

I decided that after training by running after lunch for a few months, I needed to make sure I wasn’t going to get a nasty surprise on race day with my customary diet and wakeup times for races. So I set an alarm and woke up at 7am Sunday morning, ate my run breakfast (English muffin w/ PB, banana, cup of coffee), suited up and headed out the door.

I ran 11 miles that morning with 0.6 of warmup and cooldown, and the whole thing was great. Near the end, my left leg started to cramp, a cramp that stayed sore until I slept, and returned/worsened during my 5 mile run last night. So for the first time, tonight, I’m missing a run. I’m doing it because everytime I’ve seen someone ask “my leg hurts, should I run to stick to my plan” the answer has been “Don’t risk injuring yourself this close to your run. Sticking to your plan isn’t going to make you invulnerable.”

So I’m icing and resting today. And I’m skipping a cross train tomorrow. And reducing my mileage on Friday to an easy 3 instead of an easy 5. But I’m hoping to still go on my last long run Sunday.

Oddly, instead of feeling defeated or deflated by it, I’m content. There’s a little frustration at my leg, a desire for it to get better so I can keep going, but I don’t feel as dissatisfied as I could. I’m motivated to get better and get back on my feet and running, even if the way to do that is to not run right now.

17 days to the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.

A weekend of running

I have two runs to talk about, each of them really great, with high highs and not very bad lows. But they are completely different, two vastly different endpoints of the same long road.

Friday, I ran 5 miles. I’m still a bit unbelieving that my ‘twice a week’ run is now a distance I once called a long training run, and wanted to emphasize that by running one of my old routes. I would start out at the RAC after work, and run home, just about exactly 5 miles door-to-door. 

Or I would have, if I hadn’t gotten the following text message at 3:45pm

Weather for Fri, 04/15:Partly Cloudy  and  Windy, and 53 &deg; F. Start run @4:30. Text time to <e-mail redacted> CU@Falls.

Oh, son of crap I forgot my weekly 5k! It starts in 45 minutes! I frantically texted my (beautiful, wonderful, supportive) wife, and she offered to leave work early (knowing she’d have to make up the time working at home) and drop off my running gear.

She pulled up at 4:20 or so, and I *hurled* myself into my clothes in a restroom, and dumped my bag in her trunk, and took off running right from the front door of my building. She had an MMA class starting at 6pm, so I have 1 hour, meaning that I had to be economical with my time (5 miles in an hour is about my ‘slow run’ pace.) so I resolved to run the 5 miles as a warmup run to Fallsports, the FAC 5k, and then tack on whatever I needed to get to 5miles.

The warmup was definitely a brisk warmup, somewhere in the 10:30 pace for the less-than-a-mile out to Fallsports. It was a cold, somewhat blustery day (though nowhere near as windy as my 10 miles, Sunday!). The extra motivation of trying to keep Steph on schedule, along with the naturally motivating feel of this little weekly ‘race’, was enough that I pounded out each successive mile faster and faster. Each lap of Shemansky Park was burned though in what felt, previously, like an unachieveble time. My 5k time was 30:43, a pace of 9:53.

I was elated.  I stopped to breathe, thinking I would run out my remaining ~1.25 miles at a nice slow pace along the neighborhood streets, and just  bask in that great 5k time, maybe mentally plan out a 5k race to run to get that PR ‘officially’ on the books. But as I stopped to breathe, my coworker Mahmoud came up behind me, on his last lap, on pace to do a 25 min 5k! I ran alongside him, rather than taking my planned breather, and ran that lap faster than the ones before it. And then, instead of wandering off at the end of that lap, he hung in another lap to motivate me, and that resulted in my last mile being just as fast as the previous 4. When I ran up to the car in the CVS parking lot, drenched in sweat and breathing hard, I saw that the overall pace for the 5 miles had been 9:54.  I had just run 5 miles in < 50 minutes.

I knew immediately that I probably shouldn’t have done it. My legs didn’t hurt, and my body felt fine, but there’s some kind of fail-safe deep in the system somewhere that was throwing switches and declaring maintenance operations to begin. I sat in the gym during Stephanie’s MMA class, relaxing at one of the tables, and I thought about my 10 mile run, about what I’d heard about the importance of recovery time, and all the things I had learned second hand. I wondered if I was going to learn some of it first hand when I woke up on Sunday and tried to repeat my double digit run from last week.

Saturday flew by, and my legs seemed to recover.

I was excited for my 10 mile run, and got outside with fewer psychological games than in the 9 mile weeks. It was a very windy day here in the Midwest, with constant winds out of the west of 20mph and gusts up to 30mph, so I did the sensible thing and ran as much as I could in the shelter of the trees of the Lower Huron Metropark. Dressed more like I had for a winter run, I felt a little pang of ‘backsliding’ as I set out the door, but I never felt the urge to swap out my pullover for the pair of armwarmers I packed into the bag.

Last week when I ran 10, it was 5 out, and 5 back, with no real warm up and cooldown. The garmin measured a 10.77 course, some of which was building interference error, and some of it was correcting for lost time under multi-level streets. But I certainly didn’t tack on my customary 1-1.5 miles of warmup/cooldown. Sunday, I did more than that. Half mile to the front of my neighborhood, and that planned route through the metro park would end at least ~1.25 miles from home. The warmup felt right as rain, though I think I’m starting to feel the age of my shoes (they’re past the 250mile and up at the 300mile mark!).  The wind pushed me out and up along my course, on the busy streets to the Metropark. During the 4 mile stretch through the park that wind was basically was mitigated by the trees and the riverside setting of the Lower Huron course. As I exited the park down at the bottom, I felt a sense of exhiliration; I had never run this far through this park. I had run 7 miles once inside the park, but I had been dropped off right at the entrance. Running the whole length of the park after making it to the entrance, I was eager to run the road outside and head back home. That 10 mile route was something I once plotted on a map looking for something longer than 3 miles, and laughed breezily at, thinking I would never do.

The run up Haggerty was north and slightly west, and the wind was pushing hard against me. A few times I jumped off the road long enough to let a car pass rather than risk being blown into their path. I had my third and final gu at mile 8, and put my head into that wind for another double digit finish. I maintained an 11:00 pace for the whole run, struggling against the wind, but never stopping or taking a break during the 10 mile route.

When that 10 miles was over, on the other hand, my tired legs and fighting against the wind conspired to make it a very long trip back to the house. Where previously I have run most of the cooldown, Sunday I estimate I ran half of it. The headwind heading west was actually enough to stop me dead in my tracks once or twice. I flopped in the door and had some solid food and a glass of milk.

I’m amazed how different these two runs are, how my body reacted to them, and how it feels to have them behind me. I’m proud of both of these runs, and both of them were successful. The speed of the Friday run is not something I intend to repeat until after my half marathon, but it was elating to feel myself move that fast. And the 10 mile run, even with the hard finish, was a big confidence booster; I only have 2 more long runs, and if the worst result I have is that it gets hard after I stop my course, I’ll take it! 

In just a few weeks I expect myself to run 13.1 miles, and with the training of the next two weeks, and a nice responsible taper for the two weeks after that, I think I will have all the energy and motivation I need to do it.

26 days to the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.