But that’s neither here nor there. I’m back on track with blogging. And today’s post I write one year after my first half marathon. I am proud of how far I’ve come in the past year and yesterday, ran by second half, the 2011 Pittsburgh Half Marathon, 17 MINUTES FASTER than last year in 2:03:28! 2,699 overall out of 8,980, and the 308th woman out of 1,285 in my age group to cross the finish line. Although I was *thisclose* to breaking 2 hours, I am ecstatic to have maintained a 9-9:20ish pace throughout (and an 8:30 pace for the first four or so miles).
So, what did I learn this year?
Pittsburgh climate is STILL Pittsburgh climate.
It rained…again. But whatever. I’ve decided I’d rather run in cold or rain than hot, I’m-gonna-faint weather.
Taking time to enjoy the festivities is worth it.
Since I didn’t see ANY of the weekend festivities last year, I made it a point this year to do the opposite. So, I ran the inaugural Pittsburgh 5K Saturday, then walked the expo and got all my free goodies. Benefit? I PRd (personal record) my 5K time with 27:54 (276 out of 1,159 overall). I then proceeded to walk around the city another 2-3 miles, which I regretted making my legs tired later that day, but the next day my legs were fresh and I’m glad I got the warm up. Also fun was experiencing the expo, and meeting the Sweaty Bands people! A big thank you to them for hooking me up with super cute headbands, one of which I wore during the race. The thing didn’t move, didn’t give me a headache, and kept my frizz/rain hair at bay. Love these. Go buy one…now.
Water and carbs are STILL your BFF, and running half marathons won’t make you skinny.
This year, I didn’t gorge myself the entire time I trained like I did last year. I wasn’t used to the miles last year, and was ALWAYS hungry. This year, my body got used to it, and I ate normally. Except the last week when hell broke loose and I pigged out on pizza, garlic bread, Dairy Queen, Chick fil A, and Red Robin. Disgusting. That on top of chugging water and gatorade made my stomach bloat something fierce. Running does NOT make you skinny, people. In fact, it makes me gain weight if I’m not careful. W.T.F. But I have to say, drinking all those fluids really makes you hydrated and not cramp, plus carbs make you ready to go. Plus, who really regrets delicious, glorious carbs? This week, I’m veggie loading and doing some boot camp style working out. It’s almost bathing suit season, after all.
It’s OK to train your own way.
Last year, I stuck to my training plan from Runner’s World, which is the plan I used this year. I may have altered one or two days, but I was outside or on the treadmill four days a week. This year, I skipped more than a few days. And I drank a lot of beer. Ooops. But I realized that I’m not some Olympic or pro athlete runner. Those people have to worry about following precise diet and running plans. I have a very busy job, and sometimes I want to sit on the couch and eat Goldfish. So I decided that as long as I did one long run per week, I’d be OK. I ran almost every weekend both days, but a few times I didn’t. So what? Running is supposed to be fun, right? I still got my miles in, increasing each week, and I made sure not to have TOO many beers.
Runny buddies ARE better.
I’m mostly a solo runner. But this year, I paired up with two friends for long runs. What did I learn? Last year I said in my recap it might be nice to have a support system. And I was right. I ran 8, 9, and 10-milers with friends, sans music, and kept up a nice pace and chatted the whole time. It was fun and made the miles easier. For the race, I paired up with my coworker Autumn, who I did several training runs with. Autumn and I had our music on and didn’t really talk for the half, but we ran side-by-side the whole time. Having her there made all the difference.
Music is good, and so is the pause button.
Music got me through last year’s race. It’s gotten me through quite a few awful treadmill runs too. But since I did a lot of runs without music this year, I’ve come to appreciate things like listening to my breathing, and the silence around me. On race day, I made sure to pause often to listen to cheering, bands, and other runners. It pumped me up when it needed to, but so did the noise around me. And you betcha I was still clapping and lip synching. I will post my official half playlist soon, but took mostly from my past “songs to run” to lists.
“Runner stuff” helps.
I had two things this year that I think helped tremendously: A Garmin and Gu. For my birthday last July, I got a Garmin, and that thing has been a Godsend. Training runs are stress free thanks to my watch that tells me my pace, distance and time. It was slightly faster than the official course for the half, but was great to tell me my time and pace in real-time. I will post my review of the FR60 model soon, too. As for the Gu, I kept reading about it, so I decided to try it for runs that were 7 miles or more. The verdict? It tastes like delicious pie, and I’m not sure if it’s good marketing or what, but I feel like it gave me added energy. A lot of people think Gu is gross given its texture, but I love me some Gu and love those calories for long runs when you need them.
Running is so good for you, but it’s terrible stress on your bod from the waist down. Last year I battled shin splints and this year, foot and toe pain. There’s no way around the constant pounding your legs, hips, thighs and feet take. But there are things to do to combat and ease the stress and pain. Which I did NOT do enough of. After a 10-mile run, the last thing I want to do is more physical activity. But it’s so important to stretch for 5 or 10 minutes after a run. I also didn’t do enough yoga this training, which last year helped me a lot. Ideally, I’d like to stretch for 5 minutes each morning, 5 minutes after each run, and do yoga once a week during training, plus some other kind of cross training for rest days. My sore body is yelling at me right now for not. If I do a full, no matter how busy I am, being diligent about that will be key.
After one year of running races (which I did 5 in the past year), I can honestly say that I’ve improved so much, and really enjoy running in these types of races. I’m proud of how far I’ve come from someone who just ran for sports, and casual exercise before, to someone who runs races. So what’s next? Definitely another half, by the end of 2011 ideally, and maybe, just MAYBE, a full 26.2 real deal marathon by 2012. I didn’t get into the New York Marathon, but there’s plenty more..I just need to decide which one has my name on it.