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B.A.A. Half Marathon & Distance Medley

Yesterday, I completed my 2-in-1 goal of finishing the B.A.A. Half Marathon and Distance Medley. I finished the half in 2:02, which was a small PR for me (my best before this was 2:05). I was actually surprised that I was able to finish in this time, as most of my training runs were slow and felt difficult for me to complete. I was running 10:00-10:30 all summer and could not believe the splits on my watch throughout the race. I think part of this was mental – I have been working for 2 years to recover from an injury and was afraid of pushing too hard during the training runs.

Official Results from the B.A.A.

  • Official Time: 2:03:01
  • Overall: 2943/6205
  • In Gender: 1212/3416
  • In Division: 294/838
  • Checkpoint at 5 miles: 48:45
  • Checkpoint at 10 miles: 1:33:57

Warning – this post is pretty long, but if you’re thinking about running the B.A.A. half or are curious about how a beginner can prepare for a half marathon, hopefully, you’ll find some of this information useful! I’ve tried to break it down into a few sections so you can skip to what you find helpful.

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2016 B.A.A. Half Marathon: Shirt, bib, medal

Training for the Race

Training Plan

Because I was recovering from an injury while training for this race, I decided to use one of the Strava/McMillan training plans and chose to run minutes over miles. This ended up working out really great for me since I get too focused on my time when running miles and am very likely to over train (running faster means I’m finished faster if you catch my drift). Focusing on minutes meant that I allowed myself to go slow on days when I felt that I needed more recovery time. I was able to focus on the process rather than the outcome, which was so important for me! I always ran the first few minutes slowly to get in a proper warm-up and ran the last few minutes slowly as a cool down. I plan to use this method again when training for future races.

 

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Foam rolling crew

 

Cross Training

One of the biggest mistakes I made while training for my first half marathon was cross training incorrectly. I am relatively new to distance running. I ran cross-country in high school, so prior to training for my first half, I would only ever run up to 3 miles or so. This also meant I had no idea how to cross train the right way. For example, I would try random 5-minute yoga videos from Youtube.

After getting injured, I consider cross training and recovery to be equally as important as running.

  • Physical Therapy: The only reason I made it to race day was by keeping up with my physical therapy. In July, I finished working with my physical therapist, but I have continued to do the hip and glute strengthening exercises that she recommended. I did PT 2-3 times per week. I started out doing 3 sessions per week and dropped to 2 sessions near the end of my training (sadly, out of laziness – this was not strategic).
  • Core Work: My physical therapist said that in addition to strong hips and glutes, I absolutely had to work on my core if I wanted to stick with distance running. Annie and I went to a tabata class once a week and 2-3 additional days per week I completed sessions from my Spitfire Athlete training app. I have been working on the Heroine Plan which is strictly focused on core and glutes.
  • Yoga: I can be really lazy about making it to the yoga studio once per week, so Jasyoga was my savior during this training cycle. I tried to do a Jasyoga session about 3 times per week. Jasyoga is yoga designed for athletes and Erin focuses on helping you heal the areas that need the most attention, depending on your sport. For my personal issues, my favorite videos are the 5-minute foot reset, the calf reset, and the comprehensive hip and hamstring reset. I do love going to an actual yoga studio sometimes, though. My teacher is focused on mindfulness, something which I found to be essential to my mental training. I cannot believe the difference yoga has made in improving my mental toughness!
  • Foam Rolling: I was religious about foam rolling during this training cycle. I have a Trigger Point grid, Addaday Type C, and a good ole tennis ball. I always took time to foam roll throughout the week in order to keep my muscles loose. I use the Trigger point to roll out my back and IT band, the Addaday for my calves and ankles, and the tennis ball for my glutes.
  • Ballet Beautiful: Occasionally I did the inner and outer thigh exercises to keep my knees in check, but I wasn’t intense about this. I still recommend it, however. It was a nice way to mix up my routine, which is important for staying mentally strong during training.

Issues

It’s important to remember that a training plan is something that you’ll follow exactly if nothing else goes wrong. Sometimes you just have to listen to your body and adjust (honestly, this is easier said than done). On the first day of my training plan, I stubbed my toe so hard that I sprained it and had to take a full week off of running (this didn’t mean I gave up – I cross trained instead – the old me would have given up and whined for a week). Also, after running a 10-mile day, I had horrible knee pain and took another week off. Prior to the race, I only ran one day  (I was supposed to run 3 times that week, including an hour long run) and spent the rest of the week loosening up my hips, hamstrings, and calf muscles because they felt too tight for racing. Training plans are great, but every person is different. Listen to your body (and mind – mental rest is just as important as physical rest) and modify your schedule as appropriate! Never give up though – there is always something you can be doing to improve your ability until you are ready to run again!

For Next Time…

I felt like I was so close to hitting my long-term goal of running a sub 2 half. It was not an initial goal for this race, but because I felt so good throughout the whole race, I tried to push myself hard enough to get there. It just did not happen – I could not go any faster. At the same time, I know signing up for another half this season to shoot for this goal again would be a bad idea. I simply did not have a good enough mileage base built up before I started training and proceeding this way put me at risk for injury during the full training cycle. Since my main goal is sustainable running, I plan to taper and continue to work on my core and hip strength. I’d like to shoot for sub 2 in the spring after I’ve spent more time training properly.

Mantras & Inspiration

Just wanted to share some motivation from this season…I honestly don’t remember where I picked all of these up, but I’ve tried to cite when I can.

  • Hit Rest. Taking the time to slow down is equally as important as everything else you are doing. -Erin Taylor
  • Focus on the process, not the outcome.

  • Every day is the most important day of your training.

  • Sometimes it just takes listening to your body. – Shalane Flanagan

  • Be with what is. -My Yoga Teacher
  • Sometimes you have to move toward what is tight. -My Yoga Teacher

  • Think about what you want your body to do for you — not what you want to take away from it. -Heather Stephens

  • He was trying to switch gears; at least that is how he thought of it. And though it was a somewhat frightful thing to contemplate for very long, he really was pulling all the stops. After this, he would have no excuses, ever again. -Once A Runner

AND MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE…

  • You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. -Kate Grace
    Something I’ve kept in mind during all of the uncomfortable stretches, difficult weight lifting sessions, and frustrating runs.

Race Day

This was my second time running the B.A.A. Half. This race was very first half marathon in 2013, and ever since I ran it the first time I was dying to do it again. The course is one of my favorites because it passes through so many beautiful parts of Boston and the fall foliage is in its prime. Unfortunately, we did not get very good weather this year. It was rainy and cold the whole time. I tend to run better when it’s cold, so I actually think it ended up working in my favor.

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Photo: Here I am in 2013 after the race. Didn’t take a photo this year because it was so cold and rainy.

Race Day Schedule

I’m basically writing this down to refer back to if I ever run the race again, but you might find some of this information useful…

5:15 AM – Woke up

  • Breakfast: PB toast on Ezekiel bread with bananas slices (1/2 banana)
  • Liquids: 1 small mug of black coffee, water
  • Preparation: KT taped ankle, calf muscle, and both knees + light stretching
  • Wore: tank top (debated tank top vs. short sleeve tech shirt for ages and finally changed), Oiselle distance shorts (the pockets are THE BEST for fuel storage, etc. on race day), a super cozy zip up fleece I picked up from Goodwill so I could discard on the course during the race, Oiselle mesh cap to keep the rain out of my eyes
  • Packed for race: extra TP in case porta potties ran out (spoiler alert: THEY DID), ibuprofen, 2 strawberry banana GUs, extra KT tape, keys, driver’s license, Charlie Card, cash, reused Gatorade bottle filled with 1 tablet of fruit punch Nuun
  • Packed for post-race: (I had my husband bring this bag along so I could skip gear check) flip flops & wool socks, knee brace (just in case I needed it along the course)
  • Weather: 60 degrees and raining with hardly any wind, with decreasing temps throughout the race

6:25 AM – My friend Annie picked me up to head over to JP to meet her friend Carolyn. We planned to go to Forest Hills and catch the shuttle from there.

7:00 AM – We left Carolyn’s and headed to the Orange Line.

7:20 AM – Train finally showed up but we obviously missed the shuttles to the race. Everyone got off at Green Street station. We were planning to get off at Forest Hills to walk 1 mile to the race or try to catch any lingering shuttles, but we followed the giant herd and it worked out wonderfully! It ended up being easier than walking from Forest Hills since the walk was through a neighborhood and not next to the highway. Still roughly 1 mile though.

7:55 AM – Hopped in the starting corral at the last minute.

My Strategy

My only running goal has been to keep going without further injuries, so I was not taking this race seriously at all. I was thrilled to even be on the course and physically capable of running 13.1 miles. Prior to the race, I felt excited and grateful, which was extremely different compared to how I approached it the first time. Back in 2013, I felt incredibly nervous and did not think I would even finish the race. I was still a little anxious about running without any problems, but this time, I was much more relaxed.

Race day always gets me super pumped. I absolutely love the crowds and all of the excitement and energy from other runners. I started with a pretty slow pace (the second half of the course is more difficult than the first), but around mile 5 I started to feel really great (you can see my splits below) and just let my legs carry me as fast as they wanted to go. I was extremely paranoid about something going wrong during the race. I have had a lot of knee, calf, ankle, and hip problems over the course of my training season, but surprisingly, I didn’t have any issues during the race (this never happened during a training session – it must have been the endorphins or something)!

During the race, I took it one mile at a time and during the most difficult parts, 1 hill at a time. I was listening to a No Meat Athlete podcast the week before the race, and they were talking about mental strategies to use when feeling stuck during the race. They suggested just telling yourself to make it to next hill – well, this strategy totally worked for me…especially in the pouring rain. I chose to be mindful and listen to my body. Once I knew I was feeling good, I tried to go as fast as my legs would carry me. There were definitely times when I felt horrible physically and wanted to slow down significantly, but I tried not to let myself.

Mileage Breakdown & Splits

1 – 9:45 – (EV* -99) The race starts out downhill, so it’s deceivingly easy. I chose to conserve my energy at the beginning since I knew the hills were coming.

2 – 10:01 – (EV 24) Again, sticking with my strategy and taking it easy. I felt my top fleece on for the beginning of the race due to the cold and it already was feeling heavy with water during mile 2.

3 – 9:46 – (EV 23) I told myself I would spend one more mile in the heavy fleece. I knew the hills were coming and wanted to feel lighter right before the hill. I wanted to trick my brain into thinking that the race was getting easier.

4 – 9:26 – (EV -69) Feeling a little better here. The course flattened out a bit. I knew the big hill was coming…

5 – 9:12 – (EV 11) – This was my favorite mile of the race. My favorite running song came on my playlist and I felt like I was flying – even though I really wasn’t. I was extremely happy to be there and felt mentally strong.

6 – 8:21 (EV -11) – At this point in the race, I really started taking advantage of the hills. The B.A.A. Half has a lot of uphill and downhill spots – not too much in between.

7 – 9:01 (EV 54) – Oh hey big hill. I was waiting for you…

8 – 8:48 (EV -15) – Again, I think I was able to get this split by using the downhill. I didn’t stop pushing myself .

9 – 8:49 (EV 2) – When I saw this split on my watch, I got even more excited and chose to aim for sub 2. I couldn’t believe I was running under 9 minutes after an incredibly slow summer.

10 – 9:30 (EV 36) – Mentally, this was the most difficult mile for me. I was starting to hit a wall and the hill felt difficult. I just kept telling myself to push it until the next mile.

11 – 9:05 (EV -10) – Still using those downhills to my advantage…

12 – 9:26 (EV 39) -Another freaking hill! At this point I knew I was two miles away, so I started to push harder.

13 – 9:22 (EV 33) – Hills, hills, hills! I just wanted to be done at this point. I felt like I was going to throw up, but I didn’t let up. This was probably the second hardest part of the race for me. I knew I was almost done, but this hill was killer at the end when mentally, I was ready to speed up but physically could not run much faster.

13.1 – 8:16 pace (EV -14) – I just kept thinking about hitting the finish line.

* – EV = Elevation in Feet

All in all, the fact that I couldn’t sprint at the end was a good thing. I felt like I gave this race everything I had after mile 5. If I ever run this again, I will continue to stick with the strategy of starting out a little slow and picking up the pace during the mile 5 hill!

What’s Next

As I’ve mentioned throughout this post, my only goal right now is sustainable running. This means that I want to be able to run consistently throughout the winter season without injury. I honestly need a mental break from racing (it’s all I’ve been doing since I started running again, and following a training plan makes it harder for me to enjoy running – I get very depressed when I have to take time off which usually happens because I try to do too much, too soon while following a training plan).

I plan to spend this week in active recovery. After the race, I spent the day on the couch and the rest of the week, I’ll be doing yoga and foam rolling. Beginning next week (as long as I feel fully recovered), I’ll start a reverse tapering plan and only plan to increase my mileage by 10% each week. The winter season should provide enough time for me to build a strong mileage base in preparation for a spring half marathon. I’d also like to do some weight lifting this winter using the Spitfire Athlete app.

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