20 May 2014

About that time I...

...Ran a half marathon without training...

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'd cut back on running significantly until  last month when I surprised myself by logging more miles in a long time. Wellllll...a distance runner that does not make me. But last Monday when I found out about a half-marathon being held on Saturday in our area, I thought to myself --Oh, why not?! I used Monday afternoon as a test and told myself if I could just run 9 miles in preparation, I could do the 13.1 on Saturday.

I got through Monday's run in 85 degree heat, admittedly walking a killer hill. It was hot. And slow. But I did it. So I decided I was all in for this past weekend. 

In fact, I started thinking about all of the positive things: The race didn't require any "travel." I wouldn't get too claustrophobic at the start like in the past since it was a small field of runners. The course was flat and winding through the 'old neighborhood' where the Sailor and I once lived.

And the one negative thing: I had not trained at all. A couple of years ago, the Sailor and I trained for months for the Lake George half-marathon, which is obviously the right way to approach 13.1. And last year, when I planned to run the Make It a Great Day half, I revisited Hal Higdon's training plans, wrote my mileage goals in my planner (old school style) and committed to hours of pounding the pavement. I even recall reassuring myself multiple times that I conditioned, that I'd prepared, that I'd dedicated myself to achieving this goal.

Lake George Half Marathon 2012

This time, I had five days until the race. It was good because I had so little time to psyche myself out and talk myself out of doing it. It was also bad for the obvious reasons... "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail."

The extent of my prep, beyond that one 9 miler last Monday, was Googling "how to run a half marathon without training,"  pinning some inspirational running quotes and setting a realistic goal -- I didn't think there was any way I'd PR. I just wanted to finish.

Saturday turned out to be a perfect day for running. It was cool, mix of sun and clouds, with low humidity. The race was extremely well organized with enough volunteers to make check in and bib pick up go smoothly, direct traffic, hand out water and medals. There were a couple of water/gatorade station and porta-potties throughout the course. The course was a loop, run twice through neighborhoods, and I liked knowing what to expect next (until the end...) There were plenty of people who came out to watch the race, from friends and families of runners to people just hanging out in their yards waving and cheering.

The only complaints I heard were that there were no mile markers and that the course was actually longer than 13.1 miles... Although it was a 'loop,' the start and finish weren't exactly in the same spot. Runkeeper told me that the total distance was actually 13.7 miles, and the Sailor overheard other runners saying the same-- that their Garmins measured anywhere between 13.3 and 13.7 miles. I felt great the whole race except for the last mile, and I was so disappointed when I hit 13.1 and the finish line wasn't anywhere in sight.

Whether 13.1 or more, I was pleased that I not only finished but also beat my best half marathon time (only other half marathon time?) by 8 minutes...despite not training, which I wouldn't recommend!

For what it's worth, here's my list of 'lessons learned':

Always bring an extra layer of clothes. I am ALWAYS cold. And race day was no different. The temperatures started out in the low-50s and didn't warm up much throughout the race, which explains the lack of sweat in the above photo! The Sailor was there to take my extra gear while I ran, but I didn't bring a sweatshirt or fleece, making for a very chilly 30 minutes or so before and after the race.

No need to carb-load, and don't eat right before the race. We've all read the articles about runners that carry extra weight despite logging high miles. One of the reasons is over-fueling, and while I do strongly believe that proper nutrition has a huge impact on performance, I don't find it necessary to carb load the night before a race. I ate about 100-150 calories extra each day in the 3 days preceding the race and 150 calories extra the morning of the race to ensure that I'd have enough energy. The race time of 10:00 AM made things a little tricky for this breakfast fan. I eat within 15 minutes of waking up. Everyday. No exceptions. So I ate breakfast around 7:15 AM and scarfed down a 1/2 banana 10 minutes before the race. It was too close to start time and I couldn't get rid of the banana taste. Yuck!

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. It's a no-brainer so just do it. Drink water. Lots in the day or two leading up to the race.

Run the first part with your head, the second part with your personality and the third part with your heart. - Mike Fanelli This pinterest quote stuck with me!  I started out fast, like more than a minute faster than my usual pace, which I sustained through the first three miles. Then I started panicking and worrying that I wouldn't be able to make it to the end of the race. But after the first few miles at that pace, I was already to the 'second part' of the race and trusted I had the will to keep going and push myself. And the third part-- it truly was a gift to be out there running, doing what I love. Maybe there will even be more road race adventures to come!

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