In less than 3 weeks I’ll be able to proudly slap that 13.1 magnet on the back of my car and I couldn’t be more excited! This past weekend’s 11 mile long run taught me a lot about what to expect from my body, how I’m going to feel, and how deep I’ll have to dig for those last few miles. This upcoming weekend’s 12 mile run is a dress rehearsal for the big day. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. I hit my wall between miles 7 and 8. Everything shuts down including my brain. Everything literally says “Okay, we’ve been at this for over an hour, we’re done with this…” Once I get to 8.25-8.5 I get a renewed energy, focus, and tolerance for discomfort. It’s amazing what happens when you get over that wall.
2. I have anxiety about being desperately thirsty in between water stations. I realize that this likely won’t be the case, but it’s a fear nonetheless. I’ve used my Nathan fuel belt for months now, but I don’t want to wear it during the race. Nervous about using a hand-held water bottle, I’ve resisted so far because I’ve been sure my hand would feel trapped and that would be bothersome. For $12 at my local running store, I thought I’d give it a try. I bought myself the Nathan QuickShot Plus and I love it! This is the one I got – I’m crazy about the colors and it’ll be perfect for those moments when I just want to avoid cotton mouth. My hand doesn’t feel like a wild caged animal dying to break free at all and I’m happy about that.
The only thing I need to remember to do is wear it on my left, non-dominant hand so I can use my right hand to grab the water cup at the water station. If I don’t, I won’t be coordinated enough to “crush the cup” and drink the water without choking or splashing it up my nose. See why these practice runs are so important?!
3. I love flat land! It’s so much better to find a flat trail to do an “out and back” run for a long training run. The rolling hills of Berks County, Pennsylvania are great for strength and training, but sometimes you just want to go and see what you can do. No traffic, no stop lights to break our stride, no ankle buster sidewalk cracks. Just honeysuckle, babbling streams, and a green canopy. Nothing could stop us here…except a small handful of creepy people. Not too many, but just a few. You know, the ones out jogging in denim and leather jackets with headphones on and a far away look in their eye… Yeah, I think I’ll go get some mace before next weekend.
4. Everyone visualizes their race in a different way. Mama C, my “half buddy” had a bizarre dream that included us not having our race bibs or timing chips (we accidentally left them at home). We frantically got new ones from the race coordinators and started our race way behind all the other runners. While we were trying to catch up to the others, another friend was upset that she wore the wrong pants, so she ran the majority of the race with those wrong pants down around her ankles because better shorts were underneath. We all somehow finished in under 2:30:00 despite all the challenges. Weird, but I guess she knows that we’re resilient and able to overcome anything thrown our way on race day. Lately I find myself lost in daydreams; I hear the crowd cheering that last mile as we approach the finish line, their energy giving us strength for every step. I can’t wait for that to happen!
5. Be sensitive to your body. Tonight my left knee and shin hurt during our 3 mile run at the track. This is something new. I’ve been injury free for this entire training season and I pray this isn’t going to last long at all. That said, I need to respect my body and give it a rest. I do believe there comes a time when you can burn out from training and I think I’m close to that, both mentally and physically. I just need to run the race already! I think for me, the sweet spot for a training season for a half would be right around 16 weeks. I’ll try that next time if I don’t keep up my mileage.
BONUS: I’m sure that this is different for everyone, but I feel best when I fuel with a Gu between miles 4-5 and somewhere around 9/10 miles. Since this wasn’t our first 2 plus hour run, I’ve been able to figure out when I can feel that my tank is empty. I know I need to eat something like my coffee and Ezekiel bread with peanut butter about 2 hours before and then maybe a small snack like a banana about a half hour/hour before the long run starts. One breakfast at 4:30 or 5 am, coming my way. I better practice that at least twice to see what that does to the bowels…could be dangerous.
I’d love to hear any training or race tips that you’ve learned along the way. Please share them in the comments section!