In preparing to prepare (that's right, I'm a planner...deal with it!) for training for my spring half-marathon (Kentucky Derby Festival Mini-Marathon), I struggled to figure out the best training plan for myself. Typically, I would have used a personally modified version of Smart Coach to guide me and keep me focused. However, with an infant, I had accepted that I would not be able to devote the same amount of time to training as I had in the past--additionally, my Husband needed his own time to work out, so we had to come to a compromise. That meant I would not be able to train 5 days a week--and 4 would be a stretch. And while I didn't mind the thought of running easy runs with my little guy in the stroller, there was no way I could do any intense training runs with him.
When all was said and done, I realized that I could only dedicate 3 days per week to running. This depressed me a bit but I told myself to make the best of what I did have. And since I was still in training for and focused on my trail race, I put the issue to rest temporarily and decided to come back to it a week or two before my trail race. Soon after, however, I saw an article on runnersworld.com about a 3 Day-a-Week training plan for the Half-Marathon distance. Apparently, this was a modified version of a Marathon training plan that had produced positive results for many people. Developed by the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST), this appeared to be a less time consuming but more intense training plan. I read through the article and was quite intimidated. But I kept reading and I figured it was worth a shot--and it was a 10 week plan which was the perfect amount of time to get me ready for the Mini.
The plan centered around 3 runs each week--a tempo run, speedwork and of course, a long run. The goal was to improve speed, build your lactate threshold and gain endurance. These are the three things I attempt during any given training cycle so that was no issue. What intimidated me was the level of intensity needed during these runs--each one of the three types of runs were to be done at a pace faster than usually done. Which mean speedwork was going to be faster than fast. Long runs wouldn't be the typical slow and easy. No, it says in the article, "Make no mistake about it. There is real speed in these sessions." Eek! Speed is something I DO NOT have. I envisioned myself on a track, blue in the face and on my knees, crying. And I assumed, as well, that the long runs would be garbage each week. However, I told myself to give it a try. If it was too intense, I thought, I would just give it my best and hope for the best.
*The plan also requires you to cross-train, which is unfortunately something I am unwilling to do at this time. Having only 3 guaranteed days without my son meant using those 3 days for the 3 intense runs. So I wouldn't be cross-training. What I was able to do, however, was to get in some easy workouts like walks and hikes WITH my son 2-3 days per week. (That was more about getting outdoors than it was about exercise.)
*I replaced the tempo runs with hill repeat sessions. These workouts, while different, produce some similar benefits. I enjoyed the sessions with the Swag's group on Tuesday nights, and I wasn't prepared to give those up.
*Some of my long runs were longer than the schedule--this was a personal preference for me, as I already had a solid base. (When I say they were longer, usually no more than by about a mile or two.)
*The program advises that you lock into your race pace early and stick with it. I chose to begin with a conservative 5K and then speed up. This was also a personal preference that made me feel empowered, and in my opinion, allowed me to not become fatigued early in the race.
I stayed pretty much right on plan. I was determined to not miss any workouts (though I did end up missing at least one non-long run workout during the final two weeks of the schedule--but that's taper time anyway, right?) and my goal was to stay as strong and speedy as I could, though I surprised myself when I was actually able to meet (and at times, exceed) the pace requirements during my speed workouts. Those workouts were NOT pleasant, but they WERE manageable.
The most challenging part of the program was the increased speed for the long runs. It was difficult to maintain the necessary speed for runs over 8 miles. Notice I said it was difficult, but I never mentioned impossible.
My *dream* goal was to finish the race in 2:24:32--this was the half-marathon goal time which my training was based around. But realistically, even though I was confident in my training, I was shooting for sub 2:30. That, I believed, was going to be difficult but possible. And so that's what I went for. I ended up finishing the race with a chip time of 2:24:57--just 25 seconds from my "dream" goal. If only I hadn't jogged backwards to talk to a walker, and if the water stops had been well-stocked, I know I would been able to finish much more than 25 seconds faster.
I consider this training program a success and I will certainly use it in the future--I LOVED it. The intensity of the workouts kept me feeling challenged (in a good way) and I never felt over-trained or fatigued--physically or mentally. I consider my finish time pretty much right on target with the plan's goal for me and the best part was I ran the most comfortable race I think I have ever run--it was DEFINITELY the easiest half I have ever run.
If you are time-constrained due to work or family responsibilities but are willing to work hard when you do find time, I highly recommend this program for you. Read about it here: 3-Day Half Marathon Training Program
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
This year’s KDF Mini-Marathon was by far the most fun for me! Each one has had special meaning and this year was no different. I was excited to run this race again since I was not able to last year (pregnant with a lower mileage base), and I knew that it could potentially be my fastest half-marathon because for the first time, I didn’t have to increase my distance. In fact, during the 4-5 months prior to the Mini, the majority of my long runs were 10-15 miles long because I had been training for February’s 15 mile trail race.
The morning of the race, however, was not quite as fun. Have I mentioned that I love being a Mom? Have I also mentioned that being a Mom creates all sorts of…let’s call them obstacles…to my normal routine for preparing to run—especially for long runs and races? Of course, I do not get enough sleep. On average, I’m getting about 4 hours of interrupted sleep at night. But that’s not the issue. The first “late” cries started at 4AM. So, I went to console my little guy and after a half an hour, he was asleep again and I decided to stay awake so I could relax, eat, get ready, and chat with Mom a little when she arrived to babysit. I went to start a pot of oatmeal and I hear crying again! My morning went like this: baby crying, mommy frustrated, baby consoled, mommy hopeful, mommy takes 5 minutes to do something, baby crying. Repeat x 10. Somehow, though, I managed to eat my burnt oatmeal in the nursery, get myself ready, get everything ready for Mom and we only left 10 minutes later than we planned. We arrived downtown and quickly found a parking space 10 minutes earlier than planned. WHAT?!?! Joey drove…
We were able to leisurely walk to the Paul Hornung statue, after a quick bathroom break. We waited and shivered at the statue for 40 minutes and never saw one person we knew, much less recognized. I thought it was pretty odd that out of all of the people that were supposed to meet there, not ONE showed up. I received a text from RHA saying she was in Corral F and I went to find her. Fortunately, Corral F was near the Pee Wee Reese statue, and I happened to find my good buddies there! I decided I really needed to use the bathroom again and I ran over to stand in line. Waiting, I accepted that I would be starting the race late, and something like that would usually really bother me. This morning, however, I was strangely laid back about it all and began a very scientific discussion with a stranger about the rules for Port-a-Pot use. The rules are as follows:
1) Look for lines with the fewest number of women;
2) Number 1 doesn’t apply if the men in the line are holding their stomachs, grimacing.
3) If, upon exit of a particular Port-a-Pot, everyone’s faces are scrunched up and they have turned blue from holding their breath, avoid use of that Port-a-Pot.
Surprisingly, I made it to the start before the race officially began and waited more than 15 minutes to actually cross the starting line. My game plan was to run a relaxed 5K and then hopefully pick up the pace for the remainder of the race with a nice 1.1 mile sprint at the end, because, after all, you can do anything for a mile (and a tenth)!
I mentally divided the Mini-Marathon into 5 phases, and I did this pretty much right after crossing the starting line:
Phase 1: Easy 5K
Phase 2: Fast Not Furious
Phase 3: The Dreaded Churchill Downs
Phase 4: Long Run up 3rd
Phase 5: Finish Strong
Phase 1: Easy 5K went as planned. I coasted easily and spent the majority of my time talking to people. I saw many friends out there and made some new ones. One worth mentioning was TE, a man I saw walking ahead of me with a shirt that had the old Swag’s logo. As I ran in front of him, I turned to see what the shirt said on front. It was an event shirt from 1981. I jogged slowly backward while talking to him. He was a great character and he said he just felt like doing this race, even though he hadn’t done anything like this in a long time.
Right before the turn to Muhammad Ali, the Central HS band was posted up and they were doing their thing! They got me totally amped up and ready to pick up the pace during Phase 2: Fast Not Furious. I loved running 18th Street, as well—so many people were out and just cheering us on from their porches. I was feeling really good thanks to the easy 5K and the crowd support.
Just before mile 4, I believe, I saw my Husband ahead tried to flirt with him but I got very little response. He, unfortunately, wasn’t having the same experience I was. I tried to pump him up but even calling him “sexy” had no effect. The other runners, though, must have thought I was a little too forward with this guy—even forcing him to kiss me!
I kept up what felt like a solid but comfortable pace. Phase 2 was going unusually well—I actually wasn’t sure I was running any faster than the first 3 miles but at each mile beep, I surprised myself with a decent pace. I knew that this feeling could NOT last forever, so I focused on running steady and tried to mentally prepare for what I was dreading—Phase 3: Churchill Downs. (History lesson: Churchill Downs has always been my “Achilles heel.” As soon as I reach that first tunnel, it’s like my life energy gets usurped and I have nothing at all left until, if I’m lucky, mile 13.) As I ran miles 3-8 (Phase 2!), I tried to turn my dread into opportunity. But I’ll be honest since I’m among friends, I really had very little hope that Phase 3 would end any differently this year than the previous years’.
On 4th Street, someone shouted “two more blocks to Central Avenue!” I kept running but I felt like I was frozen in fear! Before I knew it, I was running toward the first tunnel at Churchill Downs. When I hit that tunnel, something inside of me stood up and said, “Fear, you’re now my b***h.” I pumped my elbows and lifted my knees and just ran right down the tunnel and right back up, and I found myself totally zoned out (or in, which was it?) as I seemingly zoomed past runner after runner. I picked up the speed on the uphill and while it wasn’t easy, it wasn’t all that challenging, either. (Iroquois hill repeats, baby!) I am proud to say that while I started to get tired during this portion, I owned Phase 3: Churchill Downs. I enjoyed running by the running horses and I enjoyed not ever having to stop to walk while there—a first for me.
Phase 4: The Long Run Up 3rd began and this was the first time during the race where I felt more than a little tired. Somewhere between mile 10 and 11, I hit the wall. But there was a part of me that knew there wasn’t much left so why give up? I really tried to let my mind take over (luckily, my mind was stronger than my body here) and focus on all the right things. I didn’t feel great during this time but I just pushed on.
Mile 12 came and I noticed that everyone around me was picking it up. All of those people I had passed the last 12 miles were trying to pass me now. So it was time to enact Phase 5: Finish Strong. I could tell by how I felt that I was running faster (or maybe it was just the exhaustion of running 12 miles) and I don’t remember much about the last mile (other than Main Street seemed abnormally loooong) until I saw the Start Line…I knew I was close at that point. I just kept my head straight and focused on running to the end!
I grabbed my blanket (may I just say how HAPPY I was to get that?) and my medal and I heard “KRISTON!” It was two of my running buddies from Tuesday night hill repeats. They had just finished as well and we of course talked about how helpful those repeats were! We caught up a bit and then I grabbed the most delicious package of Ritz peanut butter crackers I have ever had in my life. I must have needed the salt. The bagel made me sick. But those crackers—I would have bought stock in the company that morning because they tasted that good!
1 - 11:18
2 - 11:31
3 - 10:52
4 - 11:08
5 - 10:30
6 - 11:09
7 - 10:38
8 - 10:59
10 - 11:38
11 - 10:56
12 - 11:22
13 - 10:00
0.1 - 9:57
AVG - 10:56
*I really DID run the last mile fast (for me!)
*Super pumped that I averaged a sub-11:00 pace
*This was the most comfortable Half-Marathon I’ve run—ever. I can’t remember feeling this relaxed for even a 13 mile training run. Between the good weather and my solid training, I felt great.
*I hate the runner’s area after the race. I know why they do it. Really, I do. But I hate it. They should have a reunite area every year (In 2010, they had a reunite area sectioned off using letters—meet at letter T, for instance) just to make it easier to find people. Why do they not do this every year? It doesn’t even have to be 26 letters. Use 5 for all I care. D-E-R-B-Y. People texting me “Where are you.” How do you best describe that you’re sitting in a field by a big pole? I mean, that’s not very specific.
*It seemed as if there were more than 14,000+ participants.
*I’m glad I never had to go to the bathroom during the race—some of the lines were ridiculous.
*Congratulations to the Swag’s relay team for finishing in 3:06, first place for the coed division!