I've written about my running over the last year. I started training regularly in February for my half marathon at the end of April. Here's what helped:
1. My runner friend Pam encouraged me to write out the entire training plan. I had my weekly mileage goal along with weekly speed work. Even if I missed some goals due to sickness or injury, I had structure that got me back on track.
2. Run with a club. I did my long runs with a local running club. It was awesome. There were huge turnouts - almost felt like a race. The venue changed each time that followed part of the upcoming marathon route. They had water/gatorade/food stops along the routes, too.
3. Long runs are practice runs. By the time the half marathon came along, I knew exactly what to wear, what to eat beforehand, and how I could run without music.
Race day was perfect weather. The last time I had run the half marathon in OKC, it rained and hailed during the race. The training paid off. I was surprised when I realized I had been running over 6 miles because I felt so good. I knew when I hit 10 miles, my knees can start to act up so I pay attention to my pace and gait. The hills especially towards the end ate my lunch. I realized I needed more experience running hills. I completed the race faster than my prior halves, but I still want to be quicker and get closer to two hours (my time was about 2:20).
About 2 days later, I biked and started lifting. I didn't run for a few more days. Over the next month, I cross-trained trying to strengthen my muscles. My weekly mileage wasn't very high though. I did a ten mile run two weeks before another half marathon.
Pam said I tricked her into running the half marathon with me by saying we could have a kid-free weekend away with our husbands. All she heard was "kid-free weekend." She had just ran the Boston and did a long run relay stretch at the OKC race. The four of us did have a fun weekend in Stillwater. I'm glad I ran the race, but it was rough.
The race route is pretty neat. There's parts that go through quiet neighborhoods, a part through the OSU campus, and around the lake. There's some rolling hills, but nothing too bad. It's called the Scorcher because towards the end, it's getting PRETTY HOT.
Here's what I learned:
1. I've got to have high weekly mileage to have a good time in a long race. That being said, I don't think I could have ran more between OKC and Stillwater races. I needed some recovery time after the half in OKC. I also worked full-time getting ready for Oxford. In a future season of my life, that month in-between the races will probably hold more miles.
2. I can be fast. Maybe not for long, but I can be speedy.
The plan was for Pam to set a pace for us for the first 6 miles. I wasn't wearing my Garmin watch. I wanted to avoid paying attention to the time. So I followed Pam. And we flew.
I got a PR for one mile: 8:37 and for a 5K: 28:39.
After mile 1, I was super tired. By mile 3, I thought I was going to throw up. If Pam hadn't been running with me, I would've quit, turned around, and walked back. So thankful she was there. Despite my really slow miles towards the end, my fast beginning got me a 2:27 total time. Not bad considering what else was going on...
3. Do NOT wear new clothes for a race.
I know, I know. How many times have I read this on running blogs?
Pam and I bought matching running shorts at Eskimo Joe's. We thought it would be cool to match.
I also thought it was cool that the shorts had built-in underwear.
Turns out that I am allergic to that built-in underwear nylon, and 13 miles in new, itchy shorts was not good. I chaffed horribly and am scarred on my legs where the nylon rubbed my thighs.
Morale of the story? Never ever wear new clothes for a race. Period.
4. Half marathons in different months can be radically different season-wise. The April race was cool weather, especially for Oklahoma. The June race was a lot hotter. When I train in the spring, I don't drink a lot the day before and the day of a big run. Otherwise, I over-hydrate. I learned that I need to hydrate a lot more for the summer races. I was so thirsty during the Stillwater race. I drank a lot at each stop never filling quenched.
5. I'm not ready for a full marathon yet. I had been playing with the idea of running a full one in late fall, but I wanted to see how my training was going after July. Pam had a good point when she said that I have a focus on Oxford. They'll be a time for full marathons. For now, I'm good with working on my 5K time, and I'll probably run another half marathon late fall. Maybe I can get closer to the 2-hour mark on my time.
6. Despite the pain, sickness, and exhaustion from this last race, I'd run it again.
And I'm still excited about my running journey.