Friday, May 22, 2015

Running a Half-Marathon: Goals, Burn-out, and the Food

It's been almost three weeks since I ran my second half marathon, but it seems much longer ago.  I got back from a 4-mile run earlier this week, with sweat literally dripping off of my elbows.  Yes, I'm feeling very distanced from that 39-degree breezy morning several weeks ago.

Honestly what I'm loving now is heading out for a morning run with no self-created pressure to run faster, harder, or longer.  That was my reality from January through April.  Based on my fall 5K and 10K finishing times, several online running calculators projected that I could  accomplish a sub-2:00 half marathon.

I worked hard toward that goal, but mid-way through the training, I realized I didn't have it in me.  Maybe I was capable, but I was feeling burned out.  I was pushing my body on every single run, and while I did get stronger and faster, I also got weary.  I started dreading most of my training runs, knowing how long each run would feel because of how hard I had to work.

When I finally faced the reality that I was not going to get anywhere near my goal of a sub-2:00 race, I started considering new goals. 
  • My primary goal was to finish, but after completing a half marathon last year, plus running 2 12-mile training runs and a 15-mile training run this year, I knew that was more than possible. 
  • I also wanted to beat last year's time, even if only by a little.
  • I wanted to keep a consistent pace, not starting out too quickly and not sputtering out at the end.
  • I wanted to fuel myself properly along the way so I didn't hit the wall at mile 11 (like last year). 
  • I wanted to finish the race feeling strong and not stumble over the finish line ( also like last year).

Still smiling...with a little over a mile to go!

Obviously, I did finish the race.  The course was slightly re-routed this year so I was able to pass Brian right before mile 12 and then again as I rounded the corner the finish. I can't describe how motivating it was to see a familiar face after running for 2 hours!  My official time was 2 hours, 9 minutes, 14 seconds. 

My official pace was 9:56/mile, BUT because my GPS watch recorded the race course as 13.25 miles (as opposed to a precise 13.1), my actual pace was 9:46/mile!  I was pleased to see that I finished in the top 50% overall, the top 35% of all females, and the top 30% for my age group.

I only beat last year's time by about 1 minute, but I felt infinitely better this year at the finish line.  I attribute that to the careful attention I paid to my other goals. It's so tempting to start out quickly, when the adrenaline is pumping and as other runners soar by.  I kept my pace under control, though.  My slowest mile of the entire race was the first mile, but it set the precedent for the rest of the day. 

Another reason I felt so crummy at the end of last year's race was that I ran out of fuel around mile 11.  I prefer to use whole foods instead of artificial sports gels so I practiced nutrition on the long runs leading up to race day.  I discovered what did not work (peanut butter!) and I found that the best formula for me is a dinner high in carbs and protein the night before and a breakfast also containing carbs and protein at least an hour pre-race.  Once the race has started, I eat a large date about every 3 miles and eat half a banana at the mid-way point.  Though I felt more-than-ready to be done as I neared the finish, I never reached a point when I was dragging or where I struggled to lift my feet.  I even had a smile as I crossed the finish!

turning the last corner to the finish line

One thing I miss about half-marathon training is the food.  I had to be careful to eat more than I thought necessary to maintain a proper weight.  (Don't hate me!)  I was burning so many calories during the week that every bite I put in my mouth tasted amazing.  Now that I've scaled back my running, food simply doesn't taste as good. 

At the race party, pizza was provided to all runners.  Brian snapped this photo of the stacks of pizza boxes, and as we were left the party, more were being trucked in. 

Something I learned from last year is proper post-race fueling.  I spent too long last year trying to get caught up on calories and feeling weak and out-of-sorts.  This year, I went with my cravings.  After long runs what I want most are milk products so I indulged in a peanut butter fudge milk shake.  Peanut butter equals carbs and milk equals protein so it's a win-win!

My muscles were sore for about 24 hours and Brian mentioned that I was probably going to be limping into church the next morning, but a good night's sleep cleaned the toxins out of my muscles and only a little discomfort lingered.

I've already decided not to run a half marathon next year-- at least not in the spring.  It's tempting, especially considering how good I felt at the finish line, but training over the winter was hard and time-consuming.  Shorter distances seem so much more manageable for me.   I can forget the fatigue and get into a better groove when I run 5 or 10K than I ever get in a half marathon. 

Three of my kids have asked to run a 5K in the fall so that might be in our future...


  1. What a great retrospective of your race. Congratulations on finishing well! I have zero expectation of ever running a half (my long-term goal being to run an entire 5K) but your story inspires me to be dedicated and deliberate about reaching my own goals. And it looks as if you've inspired your family to get into running, too!
    And good for you sticking to real food even though it would be so much easier to reach for the gels!
    Are the shoes you were wearing during the race Hoka One One? The color is identical to mine. I really like them but the soles seem to wear out more quickly than others, but I plan to keep at least one pair of them at all times!
    Again, congratulations, Kristin! Celebrate!

    1. I must admit that so far I've gotten by on cheap running shoes!! Seriously, I've never paid more than $30 for running shoes from Walmart or Target. As long as I'm careful to replace them as the soles wear out, I've not had any problems, but for Mother's Day, Brian told me to order a nice pair. I haven't done it yet (my frugal self is struggling with the $), but I'm excited to see what I get. :-)

  2. I think you've done an amazing job! I love how hard you've worked toward your goals. And I think it's wonderful that you've inspired your kids to run as well.Sometimes it's so easy to forget the huge difference we can make as moms. You're doing a great job!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...