Training to Run a Half Marathon PR

You guys.

You need to read this article about training to run a half marathon PR.

OK–maybe those of you who don’t run don’t want to read it.

But! The rest of you: READ IT.

I, for one, am completely smitten by it and immediately want to find another half to train for so I can implement these ideas because I’m a super nerdy runner like that.

So this all started because I came across this article and started rambling to Manfriend about it via gchat.

Manfriend is not a runner.

He’s plenty athletic (he plays all the sports), but my running rambles got stale for him pretty quickly. It was basically this scenario:

It’s Not About the Nail from Jason Headley on Vimeo.

So. I reverted to my usual first reaction: emailing this lady, obvi. But I wanted to talk about it MOAR. And here we are.

My favoritest parts of this read include, but are not limited to:

  1. Long Runs. I wonder if adding a 2 hour run every week would help build aerobic capacity long term? Or does this just work during training and require downtime (ie., non-training time) to be effective?
  2. Strides! Why am I not doing these? I don’t know why I never do strides, but I should, especially given that they take almost no time and very little effort. Same with incorporating fartleks. I used to do intervals fairly regularly, but almost never do now. At least not running intervals. HIIT is a different story.
  3. Hills. I know running uphill is great for training, but what about downhill? The part about running downhill and strengthening quads is so smart, especially for a course like the one I just ran, which is a very gradual downhill course.
  4. Lactate Thresholds.  Funny, I was just talking to my co-worker (who used to be a rower) about this. Apparently, you reach a point in your workout where you start producing lactic acid (you know, the part that really hurts), and you can’t push yourself any further. Your body literally starts to break down. (Yes, literally). I think it’s interesting that you can increase it, though. I want to do that!
  5. Last Miles = Fast Miles. I know you’re supposed to pick up the pace at the end of long runs, but I always go out too fast and then get tired. If I could pace myself better, I know this would help me.

Anyway, the article is written by Greg Strosaker who is a marathon runner, author, and online running coach. I was pretty impressed with the quick look I took around his site. Definitely worth a follow.

Running Stuff

So. Running stuff. Just like any other runner, I like to try new things here and there and see if they’ll change my life. (Yes, I dream big.)


A while back, the Sunglasses Shop offered to send me a pair of sport sunglasses to try out. I love free stuff (duh), and in all honesty, I’ve been looking for a pair of sunglasses for running for quite some time, so I was definitely game.

The Sunglasses Shop has all kinds of fancy sunglasses, but since I specifically wanted a running pair, I spent an exorbitant amount of time browsing through their sport sunglasses. Since they stock basically every pair of sunglasses on the planet–for running, cycling, baseball, fishing, kite surfing? (you get the idea)–it took me quite some time to pick something out.

Can I just say how hard it is to choose a pair of sunglasses without trying them on? I have an oddly tiny face/head, so everything tends to look a little goofy on me. I did my best, though, and eventually settled on the Dirty Dog Clank Sunglasses.

Dirty dog

They’re maybe a tiny bit big for my face, but as far as functionality goes, these are awesome. They stay on my face, don’t bounce, don’t fog up–basically everything I want out of running sunglasses. Good work those Dirty Dog Sunglasses people have done.

Gentle Leader Puppy Harness

Next up, the Gentle Leader harness. If you have a dog or will ever have a dog and run, you need one of these. It’s a head harness that is totally comfy for puppy, but prevents pulling for you.

IMG 1489

Hers is actually a little too loose here, but you get the idea. It fits over her face but behind her mouth, and fastens at the back. I’ve tried a bunch of different harnesses, and this is the only one that actually keeps her from pulling. She’s still not perfect on it, but it’s a vast improvement from anything else I’ve tried.

IMG 1472

She loves it. I swear.

Ok, she doesn’t love it, but she’s getting used to it. And as soon as we start running, she’s so happy that she totally forgets about it.

Summer Duds

I cannot adequately express how in love I am with my Lululemon Speed Shorts. Yes, they are pricey. But I just got my second pair, and I prefer running in them so much more than any other shorts I have. They’re comfortable, flattering, and have 10 zillion pockets. I know it’s a lot to spend on a pair of running shorts, but given the fact that I run on more days of my life than not, I can justify the expense.

Running duds

The other piece I’m kind of obsessed with is this running tank from Gap. It fits and feels like cotton, but it’s wicking, so when you sweat, it doesn’t get super heavy. I need to buy a few more before they’re out of stock. Even though I know they’re not specifically in their running line, they work for me. The blue one in the sunglasses pic above (not that you can see it all that well) is my other fav. I have it in black, too, and it’s probably tied with this white one. Gap makes good running stuff!

P.S. Sunglasses Shop offered these sunglasses to me at no cost in exchange for my honest opinion, and that’s what you got! The rest of this stuff is just stuff I like–no affiliation or free stuff involved. :) 

Suffering Through My Own Stupidity

Often occasionally, I’m not very smart. 

Example: I typically forget I have asthma until I’m wheezing and feeling like I’m drowning in the heat and humidity. This may or may not have happened at last weekend’s race.

Example 2: Sometimes I don’t exactly pay attention when my body is sending me signals that something’s not right. Case in point: a week or so before the race, I woke up seeing halos which I know is a symptom of a migraine. Basically, you see spots of light that follow your line of vision and only go away when you close your eyes. It’s a little disorienting, but not the end of the world. However, if you don’t know what’s happening, it’s freaky as hell. As luck would have it, it’s happened to me before, so I didn’t give it much thought. Plus, it went away after 30 minutes or so–not a big deal then, right? I had also gotten a pretty poor night’s sleep the night before, so I assumed that it might be related to that, took some ibuprofen for my lingering headache, and got on with my day. Read: I forgot about it, even thought halos + headache = migraine symptoms. Duh.

In my defense (of me to me?), I didn’t have any other symptoms the rest of the week. No headaches, no auras, no halos. So when I arrived in Morgantown on Friday night with a wicked headache, I assumed it was just because I needed to eat. When that didn’t work, I figured sleep would take care of it. If I had thought to pack ibuprofen, I probably would’ve taken that, but I didn’t, so I went to sleep.

Even when the intensity of the headache woke me up later that night, even when I spent an hour vomiting, even when I was feverish and miserable, it never once crossed my mind that I might have a migraine.

That morning, the headache was much better and the nausea had substantially subsided, so I thought it was just a fluke thing–maybe something I ate.

Finally, two and a half days later, I realized that it was a migraine (duh). Had I paid better attention, I could’ve just taken some precautions (Excedrin Migraine as soon as the symptoms start usually works for me) and avoided the whole thing.

Ugh. Life.

Decker’s Creek Half Marathon

(Warning: Long post ahead. Only one picture, so you’ll have to count on being entertained by my enthralling prose. Proceed at your own risk.)

Remember that race I’ve been training for? So I ran it last Saturday. And it was good! Ish.

To fully understand what I was working with, let’s talk through the events leading up to the race.

I knew it was going to be hot. Really hot. And disgustingly humid. I did my regular hydration routine beforehand in anticipation of the conditions, but even a well-hydrated, well-conditioned body is going to struggle in the heat. I went into the race with this in mind, reminding myself that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I needed to slow down because of the heat.

Friday night was very low key. I arrived at the hotel with a pretty bad headache, but assumed I just needed to get some food and that would take care of it. No dice. I’m super stubborn about taking medication if I think I can “tough it out,” so I didn’t bother running to the store for anything.  I mean, how bad could a headache be? <–foreshadowing

I went to bed around 10 and fell right asleep, but around 12:45 I woke up with an absolutely pounding headache. We’re talking blindingly miserable pain. I thought I could just go back to sleep and it would go away, but an hour later, I was still awake, and my head felt like it was going to explode. I called down to the front desk asking if they had any ibuprofen (acetaminophen has never been good to me), and they said they’d send some right up. And up it came. In the form of Extra Strength Tylenol. I knew I had a bad history with the stuff, but I was desperate, so I took the meds. Approximately 8.3 minutes later, I was retching in the bathroom.  It was a sad scene: sweaty fever and blinding pain–and it went on for the next hour. I somehow managed to sleep for another 2.5 hours,  but then I was awake–without the headache or vomiting–but also without the rest I needed pre-race.

When it was time to actually get up and get ready, I still felt a little queasy, but I didn’t train for 6 weeks to sleep off some weird illness in a hotel room, so I figured I’d at least try to run the race. I could always drop out if I needed to. We stopped at the store for some ibuprofen and pretzels, which helped any traces of headache and settled my stomach, respectively. Sidenote: when you live in the city, the price of groceries in the rest of the world becomes a source of great joy. Meds, pretzels, and 2 giant Gatorades for under $10. Unheard of. Anyway.

The Decker’s Creek Half Marathon is a tiny race–600 participants, max–and there’s no pre-race expo. Packet pick-up is before the race near the finish line, and then runners are bused to the start. They do this part really well–very orderly and pretty straightforward. I grabbed my packet, dropped everything but my bib back at the car, and hopped on the bus with a handful of gummy bears. Shot blocks, gummy bears–it’s all the same, no? I got to the start in plenty of time to use the bathroom and do a few dynamic stretches beforehand–I just swing my legs back and forth and side to side (one at a time, of course), and I actually think it helps the ol’ hips.

Even though there were only 600 runners, the start was incredibly crowded. They do 2 waves, but with approximately 300 people lining up on a path that’s 8–maybe 9–feet across doesn’t make for an easy start. Oh, and my Garmin didn’t start right away, so my distance was slightly off for the whole race, but that’s not the end of the world.

After the first 3/4 mile or so, I had gotten out ahead of the jumble and found a comfy pace. I was surprised at how good I felt considering how sick I was and how little sleep I’d had, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that adrenaline can do surprising things. I started out around a 7:30 pace, sped up for the next few miles, and then settled to just under 8 minute pace until around mile 10. Despite the heat and humidity, the miles ticked by relatively quickly, and I felt good. Shortly after mile 8, I ate my Gu and actually stopped at the water station to make sure I didn’t spill anything–I needed the hydration. I usually run through water stops, but I needed to be sure I got every drop. When I finished the cup, I remember thinking, that’s it?!? I suppose I could’ve walked back and gotten another cup, but I figured I could wait until the next stop.

I did ok until that next water stop, but by then, I was pretty wiped out. I stopped again and drank 2 cups of water, then plodded through the last few miles of the race. By mile 12, I was at a 9:14 pace and just spent. I stopped once more for a drink, then finished ‘er up.

Official chip time: 1:44:36, 25th of 329 women, 7th in my age group

deckers creek half

Honestly? Not mad at that at all. It’s 10 minutes faster than the last time I ran this race (and the conditions were much better that year). All things considered, it was a pretty good run. A tough run, but a good one no less.

Bonus: Manfriend was there (with signage!) cheering me on. This is the first time since I started racing that I’ve actually had a significant other, and it was kind of awesome to have him there. Decker’s Creek is not an easy course to spectate–it’s all on trails that are difficult to access from the road–but he caught me at 3 different spots. Even though I was salty about how hot it was, seeing him definitely made me smile.

Will I run this race again? Maybe. Now that I have more races under my belt, I can see that it leaves some things to be desired, like the congestion at the start, the lack of Gu/gel on the course (they have them for you to pick up pre-race), and the location of the aid stations (it was a little hard to tell when they were coming up, even if you knew the mile marker, they weren’t consistently spaced). I’ve also realized that it’s harder to run a race when there are so few places for people to spectate. I like the energy of the crowd, even if I do have my headphones blasting the whole time. So we’ll see. I really do like the course and the size of the race, so I’ll keep it in my back pocket. But for the immediate future, I want to set my sights on something new. Any suggestions for a fall half?


Training Update

Well, here we are. My last week of training before my race on Saturday. I love the process of training so much that I’m a little sad already. There’s something about waking up before the rest of the world to run, accomplishing tough tempo workouts, and logging 30ish miles a week that I’m somewhat addicted to. I love the sense of purpose and anticipation that training gives me, and while I know my body can’t handle training all the time, I think I’d be happy if I were training about 75% of the time. Not marathon training, mind you–I didn’t enjoy that much at all–but the half is the perfect distance for me. It’s familiar. It’s comfortable. And while it’s not easy, I know it’s something my body can handle. 33c093b3d458dc3b8de3d0e22135caf5

I probably haven’t trained as hard or as seriously as I could have for this race. I could’ve pushed my paces a bit more, hammered a little harder on my speedwork, and strength trained more. But I was definitely a bit more hesitant than I’ve been in the past given how burnt out I was from marathon training last fall and the hip/back/hamstring nonsense that I can’t seem to get rid of. I’ve decided I’d rather have a long running career than a fast one, so I’m not expecting any miracles on Saturday. No more 20 minute PR’s or even a time in the 1:30’s. If it happens, I’ll be thrilled, of course. Shocked, but thrilled. But I’m not expecting it. My main goals are to come in somewhere in the low 1:40’s and to enjoy the run. Both realistic and attainable goals.

Here’s what went down this past week:

Half Marathon #7 Training–Week 6

Monday: 5 miles easy

Tuesday: 5 miles easy, upper body strength training

Wednesday: Mile repeats–6 miles total w/ 3 x 1 mile @7:24

I was miserable during this run. It was really humid outside, so I figured I’d give the treadmill a shot. I realized I hadn’t been on the treadmill since about October, and I hadn’t missed it one bit.  Was pretty sluggish the whole time and really had to talk myself through the mile repeats because mentally, I just wasn’t there. I did it, but I didn’t like it. What I did like, however, was the feeling of accomplishment I had when I finished. Always worth it.

Thursday: 4 miles easy

Friday/Saturday: REST

Sunday: 10 miles @8:18 pace

I’ve been a little under the weather with some congestion and a cough for the last week, so I figured I’d play it smart and keep my pace a little more conservative for this run. I didn’t feel too bad, and I know the relaxed pace helped a lot. No aches or pains, either, so that’s a win.

Feeling ready for Saturday! And just to be sure I’m ready, I treated myself to some new racing shorts yesterday. How could you not have a great race wearing these? 

I’m also pretty excited because Manfriend is coming along with me to the race. I know spectating races isn’t the most thrilling thing in the world, but in the past I’ve been pretty bummed when I haven’t had anyone there with me so it means a lot to have at least one fan. That guy. Yeah, he’s kind of great.

Life and Stuff

This post is, at best, moderately interesting, but I feel like I haven’t talked about much of interest lately, so I figured a random mash up of things on my mind wouldn’t hurt. It’s just, you know, life stuff.

1. I now take the Metro (DC’s version of the Subway) to work. Somehow, I just kept my head down on the bus and paid as little attention as possible to the people around me. This is not the case on Metro. For one, I’m underground so my phone doesn’t work. For another, I’d get too motion sick trying to read anything. This leaves one choice remaining: people watching. I am alternately appalled and fascinated by the things I see.  Like the Patrick Swayze doppelganger? Truly remarkable. But the number of grown, adult, professional women going to work with their hair wet? Appalling. I know. I’m awful.


2. I know a lot of people think the Before Sunrise and Before Sunset movies are ridiculous and pretentious, but I just love them. So  romantical. But, like, real life romance, you know? Anyway, I came across this list of An A-to-Z Guide to Celine and Jesse’s Conversations in Before Sunrise and Before Sunsetand I love love love it. Like really really love. I know. I’m so descriptive.

3. Today I had a (vegan) Baked Falafel and Chickpea salad from Sweetgreen for lunch, and it was omgdelicous. I’m already scheming about how I’ll recreate it at home. Or hijack the Sweetgreen folks for the recipe.

Chic P

4. It is a great aspiration of mine to have a fantastic self-tan that is more  Jennifer Aniston than Kardashian on the spectrum. I’ve always been a fair, freckly girl, so an actual tan has never been a real possibility for me. I hated this as a teen, but the fact that I will (probably) ultimately have fewer wrinkles because of it makes me happy now. Anyway,  I recently picked up some St. Tropez bronzing spray at Sephora, and while I occasionally find myself weeping over the exorbitant price tag, I am mostly totally and completely smitten. It’s golden and natural and lovely.

st tropez bronzing spray

5. I tried a not-to-be named brand of kombucha in a can the other day. You know by now that I am a confirmed kombucha lover and find its puckery-ness delightful, but this variety? Was like straight vinegar. I’m typically too cheap to waste anything and pour it down the drain, but this stuff was so awful that I couldn’t even make my thrifty self drink it. Kids: just say “NO!” to mini cans of kombucha.

6. D.C. has decided it’s cold, and I don’t know–March? so we’re having a lot of cold and wind happening this Memorial Day weekend. It is, however, somewhat fun to think that a year ago I had just moved here and was running around making a spectacle of myself. Seriously, though, this year has gone by so quickly and so slowly all at once. I daresay it’s been one of my best yet. Apparently, I dig my 30s.

Training Update

It occurred to me the other day that this training cycle is a lot different from other times I’ve trained. Typically, I have a good sense of how I’ll feel during a run beforehand. There’ll be a noticeable progression in my training. I’ll eventually get into a groove where I feel really ready–perfectly trained and prepared for a race. This time around? It’s not happening, folks. I never know how I’ll feel and can’t predict when I’ll have crazy pain vs. an amazingly loose, relaxed run. It’s a little disconcerting since the whole point of training is to feel prepared, and I feel anything but. Still, I know logging all these miles has to be doing something, right?

Positive self-talk. It's a thing.

Positive self-talk. It’s a thing.

It’s also time I thought about what I want that something to be. I’m hesitant to set a definite goal for this race since it’s the first thing I’ve trained for since the marathon that wasn’t, and I still don’t feel like my hip/hamstring are operating at full capacity. Still, I think I’m one of those people who always has a PR in the back of her mind–who doesn’t, right?–and would love to show myself that this training has done something for me. More realistically, I know a PR probably wouldn’t even be smart to shoot for given my injury. Instead, I have a more conservative time in mind that’s slightly slower (but still plenty fast for me) than my PR. And no, I’m not going to tell you because I’m too big of a wimp to put it in writing and have to face failure if I don’t meet it. (<–REAL TALK)


I know you’ve all been waiting with baited breath for this week’s training update, so let’s get to it, shall we?

Half Marathon #7 Training–Week 5

Monday: 4 miles @8:11

Tuesday: 4 miles @8:59, full body strength training

Wednesday: 7 miles w/5 miles of tempo

This run was particularly crappy. It was humid and hilly, and I generally felt like crap. Can’t win ‘em all.

Thursday: 4 miles @9:18; this workout

My hip was in bad shape for this run and continued to hurt pretty badly until Saturday morning. Lucky for me, Manfriend helped me stretch it out before my long run on Saturday. I can stretch it myself, but it’s a huge help to have some pressure on it to help it release. That, I can’t do myself. So thanks, MF.

Friday: REST

Saturday: 14 miles @8:03

Inexplicably fantastic run. I was absolutely spent by the end of it, but it did give me some confidence that I might still have my speed somewhere in there!

Sunday: REST


Here’s what else I’ve noticed: since I started my new job, I’m back at a desk all day. My hip doesn’t like it. At all. In fact, I’m generally uncomfortable sitting unless it’s sprawled out on the couch or floor. I stand up as often as I can and even stand at my desk sometimes, but it’s still pretty bad. Anyone else experience this? I’d love to know if you have any tips on how to deal.

BTW, if you really want the play-by-play for this training nonsense, feel free to follow along on the Daily Mile. Or not.