Friday, February 21, 2014

Stonebridge Ranch Half Marathon Recap

Last Saturday was the Stonebridge Ranch Half Marathon sponsored by PlayTri in McKinney, TX.  I planned to run this race as a make-up for the race that never was. I wrote down a rough training plan at the beginning of the year that I didn't stick to.  I didn't do any speed work.  I ran hills once.  Most of my training was done on a treadmill.  My longest training run was 9 miles done the weekend before.  Overall, I was not feeling too positive about this race.  It's tough training for a winter race.

After acknowledging my poor training, I had very little goals for this race.  I wanted to run as much of it as I could and finish while still standing.  The course itself was hilly, so I knew I may have some slower than normal miles.  The only thing I was looking forward to was the perfect race conditions that were forecasted.

The race start was scheduled for 7:30 am. I arrive a little before 7 am.  The temperature was in the mid 30s. Since it was a little chilly, I stayed in my car for a few minutes and mentally prepared.  Then I got out and went for a half mile warm-up jog and stretch.  I finally got around to finding the start line around 7:20.  I ran with my phone in my FlipBelt, so I was able to see a couple of last minute "good luck" messages.

The Stonebridge half was a small race.  200 runners finished the half.  We waited at the start line for about 5 extra minutes before the race was off.  The first 2 miles were uphill.  I knew this going in and focused on not letting it get to my head.  I knew it was okay to take the first few miles slower and speed it up later.

After the first big hill, I was warming up.  My fingers were no longer frozen.  I was able to keep my pace around 9:40 which was my goal for the Dallas half when I was at peak training.  Around the halfway point, there was another uphill.  I took my time and walked a while taking in a Shot Blok and reset my iPod which was repeating songs I already heard (frustrating).  I muscled my way through that long hill.  I took another quick walk break right after passing the mile 9 sign.  I was running basically alone at this point as the pack had spread out.

After that last break, I decided it was time to finish strong. I started picking up my pace slowly. I caught up to some people in front of me and focused on passing them one at a time. All the runners were really nice as I passed and we cheered each other on that we were almost done.  My feet were aching, but I was feeling strong. 

For the last quarter mile, the finish line was in sight.  You could see it in my smile.  I was ready to be done, but also excited because when I looked at my watch, I was within PR time.  The temperature had climbed close to 50 so I was burning up.  I spotted my mom right in front of the finish line waiting for me, which helped me finish strong.

My dad caught this perfect finish line shot with the race clock in the background reading 2:09, 2 minutes faster than my previous PR.  I was shocked at my performance that day.  I'm feeling confident with proper training, I will be able to get that sub-2:00 half this year.  I was also so thankful that my parents came out to support my running.  It means so much to me, even though they tell me I am crazy half the time.  

Finishers Medal

I got home and checked out my race splits on my Garmin.  I'm happy to announce that only 3 of the 13.1 miles took more than 10 minutes.  I can't believe the improvements I've seen in my running over the past 2 years.

Overall, the Stonebridge Ranch Half Marathon was a great race for me.  It reminded me why I love running.  I personally like the small, local races, so I give this race a thumbs up.  Now, I turn my focus to the Zooma half that I signed up for in April.  Can't wait!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

So You Want To Run a Half Marathon?

I had the idea to write this post a month ago, but life got in the way a bit (sorry!). I have a number of friends and co-workers who are planning to run their first half marathons this spring.  A few have asked me for training advice, so here are some of my top tips, all in one place.  If you are looking to run a shorter distance, most of the tips can still be applied.

1. Sign-up now!
Do you lack motivation?  My advice is to pick a race you are interested in before you start training.  This race should be about 3 months away to give yourself enough time to prepare.  Now, pay that race fee today so you can't change your mind later (Bonus: races tend to be discounted if you sign up early).  After you've hit submit, write it on your calendar in big, bold, colorful letters.  Tell your friends, your mom, your dog, that random guy you see at the coffee shop, and anyone else who will listen.  This will help you stay accountable and finish that race.

2. Set a goal to finish.
Don't set the bar too high if this is your first race.  The best part of it being your first race?  No matter how long it takes you to cross the finish line, it's an automatic Personal Record.  But you have to cross that finish line!  When I ran my first half, my training focused on being able to finish the miles without hurting myself.  I did not worry about my pace, that comes later.

3. Make a training plan.
If you are training on your own or with a buddy, there are a ton of resources online with training plans.  I suggest looking at a couple and then making it your own.  Try to give yourself at least 12 weeks (3 months) to train.  If you already run regularly, you may be able to get by with 8-10 weeks, but 12+ weeks is still recommended.  For the half distance, I suggest committing to run at least 3 times a week.  Here are my favorite beginner training plans.  Half Higdon Novice Plan and Jeff Galloway's Beginner Plan.  Local running stores/clubs should also have training groups if you need group motivation.

4. It's okay to walk.
It's okay to walk.  During my first half, I walked nearly a whole mile because my legs needed a rest after some hills.  I was still moving, and that is what was important.  Jeff Galloway is a strong supporter of the run-walk method (see his link above).  I still like to walk through the water stops, so I can hydrate and catch my breath.

5. Fuel is your friend.
I had no idea about Gu's or Energy Chews when I did my first half.  I just remember someone handing me a red gummy thing at mile 9 of my first race that made me feel a ton better.  I've learned since then that any time you run longer than 1 hour, you should be fueling your body.  My fuel of choice is Clif Shot Bloks because they are easy to carry and chew on the run.  Make sure to experiment before your run so you don't cramp during your race while trying something new.

6. Chafing is your enemy.
Don't wear a new outfit on race day.  If you don't already own good running clothes, go buy some dri-fit fabric shirt and shorts (no cotton!).  During your training runs, make sure your skin isn't rubbing and making you uncomfortable in different places.  I won't go into details, but if you are still having issues, consider investing in some BodyGlide.

7. Consider new shoes.
If you are planning to train in your 5 year-old worn-in tennis shoes, you should rethink you plan.  A good pair of running shoes is important to prevent injury and help with your running form.  If there is a running store nearby, go get fitted by one of their employees.  A good running store will watch you walk, determine what type of pronation your foot has, and suggest some shoes that will support your foot best.

8. Start slow.
This applies to both training runs and your race.  It is easy when your legs are fresh to want to run really fast, but remember there are lots of miles ahead.  Pace yourself and save that extra energy for when you need it at the end.

9. Know the race course.
I suggest running a local race if it is your first.  Then, if possible, go practice running different parts of the half marathon course.  This way, you won't be surprised on race day that there are 3 miles of steep hills (*cough Bearathon cough*).  Also, it will put your mind at ease on race day if you are already comfortable running those roads.

10. Listen to Your Body
Rest is just as crucial to training as is the actual running.  Make sure to listen to your body.  I've written about it before.  You don't want to get burned out mentally or injured physically.

11. Have Fun!
Enough said.  Trust your training, you are going to do great!

Hopefully these tips will help you throughout training.  Do any runners out there have other advice?  Let me know in the comments.  Happy running!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

You Can't Always Get What You Want

This week has been frustrating for me.  I sat down to work on a training plan for a half marathon on February 15 (so soon...yikes!).  I realized that I'm already so behind when compared to the training I did for the Dallas half (that never happened).

I think a lot of it is based on this time of year.  It's colder, it's dark when I get off work, there is less motivation to go out and enjoy the day.  I've tried moving a lot of my runs indoors on the treadmill and that is the ultimate motivation sucker for me.  Let's take a look at last week's workouts, shall we?

Sunday - The "arctic" cold front had blown in, so I headed to the gym with 5 or 6 treadmill miles on the brain.  I just joined a new gym and found out that the cardio machines all turn off after 30 minutes to encourage sharing.  The gym wasn't busy while I was there, so after 3 miles, I reset my treadmill to go again.  This time I ran 1.5 miles before deciding I'd lost my groove and couldn't continue.  In total a 4.5 mile long run...not bad.

Monday - I convinced my mom to sign up for a 9 week aerobics/strength class with me.  She's still a little upset that I persuaded her, but eventually she will thank me (I hope).  For the first class we did step aerobics for about 30 minutes, and then some chest/upper arms and ab strengthening.  This was my first time ever doing step aerobics.  I really enjoyed the class and liked the instructor!

Tuesday - I woke up with a sore chest from the aerobics class.  Later in the morning, I realized my calf muscles were super sore too.  I figured a run after work would feel good even on sore legs.  I was wrong.  Half a mile in on the treadmill, I had to stop and massage my calves.  My muscles were so tight, so I finished up walking and riding the stationary bike.  Before I left the gym, I spent a long time stretching and using the foam roller.  The foam roller has never caused so much pain for me before.

Wednesday - My calves were feeling a little better.  My mom and I had our second aerobics class.  For the second class we did kickboxing cardio.  Any time there was a lot of jumping, I took it easy so my calves would be ready for a run on Thursday.  Again it was a great cross training class and I enjoyed the strength conditioning.

Thursday - My bicep muscles were sore, but my calf muscles were ready to rock.  It was raining, so I headed back to the treadmill.  This time my goal was 3 or 4 miles and I managed 2.75 before I could go no more.  I was trying to make-up miles from Tuesday, which I realized was not a good idea.  I have to listen to my body and give it rest when it needs rest.  I ended with more stretching and foam rolling, plus some ab moves from Tone It Up.

Friday - I had a long run planned for Saturday, so I sat out on Friday.

Saturday - My body must have appreciated the rest day on Friday because today I rocked 6 miles.  I hit my favorite trail in shorts and a t-shirt and couldn't have been happier.

My mileage for the last 2 weeks has been 10.5 miles and 9.25 miles respectively.  That is not the mileage I'd like to be doing a month before my next race, but it will have to do.  I keep reminding myself to focus on the good runs because there will always be bad runs.  Hopefully the class I'm taking with my mom will help build strength as well as work on my cardio endurance.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone had a fun time saying good bye to 2013 and ringing in 2014.  I spent the evening with some girlfriends enjoying Peach Bellinis and catching up.  It was a perfect cap to 2013.

Reflecting back, 2013 was a pretty good year.  I accomplished a lot of fitness goals.  I ran more miles than ever before (600 to be exact).  I got new PRs in all of my race distances.  I completed my first sprint triathlon.

PRs According to Garmin

I traveled to Oklahoma, Big Bend National Park, Washington DC, and South Padre Island. I also spent a lot of time with friends and family at destinations a little closer to home.

A Sea Star on South Padre Island

2013 didn't end exactly the way I planned. The Dallas half-marathon was cancelled and the boyfriend and I decided to part ways. However, I tried not to waste too much time being sad.  I knew I could have a fresh start in 2014. I focused on staying positive and hanging out with my family as much as possible.

Family Christmas 2013

So here we are, a few days into a new year.  I've been reading everyone's resolutions and goals.  Here are a few of my own.

1. Run a half marathon in under 2 hours.  I've already picked 2 races for the spring and am planning at least one more in the fall.  I know I'm really close to that 2 hour mark and with a little more training, I can get there.

2. Buy a road bike and complete a duathlon.  I completed my sprint tri last year with the mountain bike that I bought when I was 13.  It's time for an upgrade.  I signed up for the Esprit de She duathlon in October for extra motivation.

3. Pray more.  Right now I have the perfect opportunity to turn my focus inward and reflect on who I am and who God wants me to be.  By praying and reflecting, I'm hoping to learn more about myself and the path God has laid before me.

That's kind of it.  I'm sure I'll set lot of other goals for myself throughout the year, but these are probably the most long-term ones.  If you follow me on twitter or IG, you know I've signed up for the Tone It Up Love Your Body challenge.  This challenge runs from Jan 1 - Feb 14.  I hope this challenge will encourage me to prioritize more strength training into my weekly schedule.  I will keep you updated on my progress and check-in soon.