5 Training Changes I Have Made – Half Marathon

This past summer on a bit of a whim, I signed up for another half marathon.  It had been about 2 years since my first one and I was ready to get back in the saddle.   I went to a conference for work and they really stressed being your best self both professionally and personally. I started reflecting on things that made me happy and decided to just go for it and sign up for another race. I really like having a goal, running itself makes me happy and this pushes me to do it when life might otherwise get in the way. Something that helped me pull the trigger is that the race was literally 5 minutes from my house.  And a wonderful surprise was Eric, my husband, decided to do it with me!  He has run in the past, frequently doing a local 4 on the 4th race (crazy hilly and always super-hot) but this would be his first half marathon.  After the race, I realized some key differences between my training for my last race and this one.


 

Terrain Choices

Last time I did a lot of my short runs either on the road, on the treadmill, or in a local park. I really hated the treadmill, it was just so boring and I never felt like I got a good run out of it. I much preferred getting outside and going on the road. It’s much more stimulating and you can’t beat fresh air.

This time around, I did my weekly runs at a local track. Starting in the summer vs. the winter means I was able to run everything outside which is amazing. I know that running in circles too much may not be the best but it has helped me to run at a much steadier pace.

Using my Nike Plus Tracker/Running app, I could see that previously, I would start and finish really strong but have a very significant dip in my pace for the middle. Or I wouldn’t push myself and have a ton of energy left at the end. I started timing my laps on my phone so I could see if there were any big changes lap to lap and address it right away. I think that running on the track has helped me establish a natural pace that I can now use when I am on a trail or the road.


Scoping out the Race Course

In addition to running on the track, every week I went down to the state park where the race was to get my long runs in. I had a map of the course and ran it from the starting point. It is so valuable to be able to know exactly where the hills are (even though they are minor) in addition to the mile markers. Something that is interesting about this course is it goes through multiple different types of terrain. It starts in the park and you run on dirt paths through campgrounds and picnic areas. Then you have a section of well groomed trail in the woods, which is totally shaded (sweet!). After that you pop out on the roads in Madison for the majority of the middle miles. Being able to check this out and run it consistently has given me the chance to get a feel for the conditions including the wind, sun, elevation and smells (low tide – its real). For my last race, it was in Annapolis so I never got the chance to check it out before race day.


Running Without Headphones

Track photo
Not listening to music gives Eric plenty of time to steal my phone and take random pictures of me.

When I was reading through the rules for the race, headphones are specifically banned so I have been training without them. Which seemed crazy to me at first! How was I going to stay motivated? In Maryland I would listen to music and podcasts on my long runs to help pass the time. I really thought it was going to be a struggle to go without any kind of music. Now that I’m running without them, I think headphones may have been holding me back. Once I got going, I would just putz along to get the mileage in without focusing on my form, pace or how I felt. I had a pretty short stride and was probably running hunched just because I wasn’t paying attention. Now I am really feeling the run. I can check in more easily and if I can dig deeper, I do. If I notice poor form or some strain, I can adjust. I no longer need to be distracted while I run. Obviously after a while, my mind will wander (perhaps writing the outline for a blog post…) but I can snap myself in and out as needed. This has allowed me to keep a more consistent pace but also challenge myself and now I am going much faster. Much of my long runs had an average pace around 12:00 min/mile, some even slower. Now I am consistently in the 10:00’s. I don’t feel like I am training any harder, but rather, I am getting more out of each workout so I am progressing.

 

Having a Buddy

For my first race, Melissa of EatontheRun peer pressured encouraged me to sign up because she was racing. I then got my friend Erica to join as well. Even though there were a bunch of us running together, we all had different paces and locations – Erica was living about 7 hours away from me at the time. So the vast majority of my training was solo.

Having Eric running with me was a big change.  Not only does this help with motivation during the run (we get competitive with each other) but it makes it much easier to stick to our schedule. We plan our evenings around our workouts. Being on the same page Eric and Wendymakes things so much easier so there isn’t any FOMO – we can plan fun things for our rest days together.

Being afraid of missing things did get me in trouble last time. I got lax about following my training schedule in the final couple of weeks and ended up missing a lot of runs. My internship was wrapping up, friends were getting married/graduating and I was trying to prepare for life post internship in the real world. This time, I had Eric to really anchor me into the schedule.
Making a Time Goal

Last time all I wanted to do was finish. I wanted to run the whole thing and didn’t care how long it took. I ended up walking really only around the aid stations because I can’t handle drinking/eating while running. So I was happy with that.

This time, I decided to make a real concrete goal. Having a benchmark makes it easier to determine what a reasonable goal is. So this time, I set out to finish in less than 2 hours and 30 minutes which breaks down to about an 11:30 average pace.

Recap

Well the race went really well. It was a bit chilly and started a bit late but it was a beautiful course and we had nice weather.  We did miss our goal by about 2 minutes, but it was still better than my last one by 15!  I am really happy with how it went, especially because we only trained for 9 weeks and Eric was brand new to this distance.

Post Half

It was a great race and after a little hiatus, we signed up for another one this April! We are already so much faster starting out so I’m expecting some significant PRs in our future.

 

How has your training evolved over time?

 


All of this is based off of my personal experience as I don’t have any formal training to instruct others. If you are working towards a fitness goal, just be mindful of what tactics seem to work and if anything has changed since you started. Being adaptable is a great way to get the most out of you training and in general, your life.

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Trick-or-Trot

Happy Halloween! This is one of my favorite holidays.  It combines outrageously festive dress and candy.  Now I may be an RD, but I still love candy.  In addition to the regular activities, my father and I decided to try something new for the both of us: running a 5K.  You may be wondering, wait a sec, you did a Half-Marathon, surely this is nothing new.  The fact is that my first race was 4 miles, and from there I have done a 10K, Half-Marathon and another 4 miler, but I completely skipped what is usually the first step in racing. 

With all of my longer races, my dad was really proud of me and said he was pushing himself a little harder in his workouts.  He is a gym regular and has routinely done 2 miles on the treadmill a couple days each week.  As a challenge, I thought it would be fun to up it to 3.1, and he was totally on board.  We trained separately, but came together this past weekend for the first annual “Trick-or-Trot”, a fundraiser for the Daisy Ingraham Elementary School PTO in Westbrook, CT.

 

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It was a very fanciful race with a costume contest, face painting, a bouncy house and a lot of children running alongside their parents.  I wore an old Native American costume over my running gear to get into the spirit.  My favorite group was a family of super heroes including a Batgirl mother/daughter pair, a Captain America father and a Buzz Light-year son.  The kids were pushed in strollers and would jump out and run a segment when the motivation struck.  It was so great to see parents getting their kids excited about exercise!

Wonder Woman pushing her child’s stroller.IMG_0246

It was a beautiful run that took us down along the beach.

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The last 0.1 miles of the race was uphill (isn’t that the way) and my dad was able to speed away from me for a strong finish.  I kicked it into gear and finished 3 seconds behind him.  Dad 34:45, Wendy 34:48.  Not too shabby considering I was at a wedding the night before!

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Unintentional Rocky Costume.IMG_0251

Proud finishers.IMG_0253

We both had a great time and I see more races in our future.  Maybe I can make myself a new Half-Marathon buddy.  (Melissa rubbed off on me). 

If you are a runner or an aspiring runner, I would highly recommend doing a 5K with a friend.  Having a race date will keep you focused on your goal and doing it with a buddy will make the day of a lot more enjoyable.  You can soak up the events associated with the race and catch up with each other. 

Who do you like to run with, and do you encourage others to race with you?

Packet Pick Up and Expo

On Friday, Melissa and I drove into Annapolis for our packet pickup at the Lowes Hotel.  We were also grabbing Kelly and Erica’s packets because they weren’t getting in from new Jersey and Massachusetts (respectively) until later in the evening.  The packets were so cute, and everything was in Chevron which gave it an extra pinch of adorable.  Melissa is crazy about Chevron, so its only fitting that she talked me into this race. SmileIMG_1309[1]

We then poked around the expo where I picked up a cute non-slip headband.  I had been meaning to get one for a while but couldn’t find one I liked, but when I saw orange zebra print, I had to get it.  Animal prints were the signature of my Greek family in ΑΦΩ and my race tank was orange.  Stars aligned! 

Honest Tea was a sponsor of the race and they held a Mocktail Party with their products.  They had some really cute creations and I got the Light Foot Lemon-Limey which was fizzy and refreshing.  I think I’m going to pick some up for the summer.  Honest Tea Collage

Melissa was a Zooma Ambassador along with some other food and fitness bloggers so they all got together to catch up.

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Anne of Fannetastic Food (second from left) came to one of our class days back in the fall to talk about blogging and has since passed her RD exam and has started her own private practice, which is very exciting! I love that she just dove right in to her own business.  Anne then introduced me to Theodora of Losing Weight in the City and Tina of Carrots ‘N’ Cake.  This was particularly cool because Carrots ‘N’ Cake was the first food blog I ever read and I have followed her since my sophomore year of college.  She is part of the reason I got into nutrition and switched my major from Marketing.  Her blog also inspired me to make The Baier Necessities.  Needless to say, I was extremely pumped to meet her!

Tina and I

She, and everyone else, was so nice and funny, it was a really great experience to meet them all in person.

After the expo Melissa and I strolled through the city.  Annapolis is so cute and has some awesome food.  We grabbed dinner at Fado, an Irish pub, then got some ice cream down by the water.  We needed to fuel up!

Annapolis Collage

We rented a room at the O’Callaghan hotel for the night and Kelly, Erica and Emily met us there in the evening.  The hotel was in walking distance of the start so we could relax and not have to worry about being late for our 7am start!  Race recap to come next, get ready!

What has been your favorite city to run through?

ZOOMA Half Marathon

It is official – I am going to run my first half marathon! 

Lucy Suprised

This has been in the works for a while now, but last night my friend Erica and I officially signed up.  Running has become a big part of my life over the past year or so.  After I ran my first race, I knew that I was hooked.  It was such a fun environment to be in and I wanted more!  I looked around and contemplated a 10K or doing some more short races, but I decided that I wanted something a little more ambitious and just went for it.  Over Christmas break, I proposed the idea to Erica and she was totally gung-ho so that just sealed the deal.

lets do this

Zooma

I heard about the ZOOMA Half in Annapolis from Melissa, who is an ambassador for the race.  She made the point that for my first race, it should be an amazing one, and that ZOOMA definitely fit the bill. 

  • The course is right on the water and is very scenic
  • Its in early June so the weather should be pretty mild
  • It comes with a sweet swag bag (yoga mat, water bottle and custom necklace)
  • It’s a party!

Party? you may think skeptically.  How could running for over 2 hours be a party?  It looks like ZOOMA does their very best to make it as fun as possible.  After the race, there is an expo with shopping and massages, yoga classes, and wine.  If that isn’t motivation to finish, I don’t know what is!

In order to prepare for the race, I made myself a training schedule.  I got this off of the Hal Higdon’s website, Novice 1.  It was only for 12 weeks so I doubled up a few to stretch it out to June.  Zooma Training Schedule

To make sure I wasn’t going to wimp out, I completed the first week before I signed up.  I found that having this schedule makes it so much easier to workout. When I check the schedule, I just know what I have to do, and I do it.  Mentally, this thing is gold.

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I will periodically post updates on how I’m doing and any tips I may learn along the way!

 

What are your long term running goals?

 

My Running History to Date

Growing up, running was one of the most stressful things in my life.  I hated it.  In elementary school, I definitely cried over having to run the mile.  Things slowly got better when I started doing organized sports in high school, but it was something that I endured rather than enjoyed and I thought people who ‘ran for pleasure’ were lying to themselves.  How could you love to do something that hurt and wore you down?

After high school, I started to form a sort of admiration for runners.  It was something that I was terrible at, so I saw them as supreme athletes, someone to admire for their athletic prowess.  I tried to start running a little in college, and it never really took off.  I got up to doing 2.5 miles on the treadmill, but that was exhausting and I never sustained it.  This past summer, Eric encouraged me to give it another try.  He was definitely a better runner than I was and brought me along on his runs.  When I got indignant and insisted on stopping, he would push me to go a little further, and showered me with positive encouragement.  After going on runs pretty regularly, I built up my stamina to doing 3 miles.  The distance was an achievement in itself, but do you want to know the biggest change?  I liked it.  It was no longer something that I did because I knew it was good for me.  After a run, I had that high people talked about.  And it was awesome. 

At this point, I still wouldn’t have classified myself as a runner, but I felt I could hold my own when talking about it.  While adjusting to life in Maryland, I took a bit of a break.  I was used to running outside on trails, and this area was completely unfamiliar.  I didn’t know if it was safe or what routes I could use.  After about a month and half, I found my bearings and started up again.  I got to the point where if I missed a day, I actually missed it.  Now I really had the urge to enter a race.  I felt confident enough to do one.  I was consistently running about a 5k so I knew that I wouldn’t embarrass myself if I entered.  Thanks to Melissa, I found the Rudolph Run, sponsored by Bullseye Running. It was a 4 mile race through the state park near my home.  It was a 2 mile loop done twice or in a relay.  Originally, Melissa and I were going to do it together, but she got sick that weekend.  Undeterred, I still went.  And I am do happy that I did.

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That’s right, I ran my first race.  On December 15th, I ran 4 miles in 46 minutes and 22 seconds through the woods with a bunch of other people. It was so much fun, and now, I finally feel like a runner.  It was such a great experience.  There were spectators lining the course at points, cheering you on, even if you were a complete stranger.  (TIP: Wear a shirt that has some identifying mark.  I was known as “Uconn”, so I kept hearing things like, “You got it Uconn!”, “Looking good Uconn.” A little encouragement goes a long way)

Rudolph

My goal was to finish in under 50 minutes because I had actually never run a full 4 miles before.  I figure if they expect marathoners to run 6 more miles than they trained for, the extra fraction of a mile couldn’t be too tough.  Overall, I had an incredible experience and I would strongly encourage anyone who is interested in entering a race to do so.  There is such a comradely among runners and you may meet some really nice people while achieving personal bests.

Do you run? What’s your story?