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Where I inspect my training plan with a half marathon

by John on September 22nd, 2014

While I like to say that I blog about everything in my life, this blog is the MisAdventures of Daddy Runs a Lot, and, well, running is a big part of my life. Last week saw me mentally preparing myself for the start of the fall running season: two (maybe three) half-marathons, a full marathon, and a 5k to close things out.

You’d think that someone who calls himself Daddy Runs a Lot would, in fact, run a lot. But the truth is that I’ve been running a whole lot less than normal. While I’ve been running less-frequently, though, I’ve been training to make myself a better runner. Yes, the contradiction is evident. But, my plan has been to make my body stronger. And, as I make myself stronger, maintaining my body mass while replacing fat with muscle, when I do run, I’m “a better, more-efficient machine.” The first test was yesterday, for the Philadelphia Rock & Roll Half-Marathon.

If I had to define my training plan, leading up to this, it was “equal number of pull, press and leg bodyweight exercises,” with actual running as a complete afterthought. Most every morning, I wake up & do pull-ups, chin-ups, parallel bar dips, and one-legged squats. Most every lunch, I’m either doing the same (replacing the dips with one-armed push-ups) or doing a bunch of burpees and then holding yoga poses. A few evenings a week, I’m then taking karate with my son. Running has, truly, been the afterthought, despite the fact that, well, I consider myself a runner. And I really hope to break the four-hour mark in the full marathon when I run the Harrisburg Marathon in November.

Sunday was the first test of my plan.

Some of my friends, however, came up from Florida to run this race . . . which is great & everything, but I wouldn’t be a very good host without taking them out on the town. So on Saturday, we spent the day at Hershey Park. Walking around an amusement park all day, the day before a big run was, perhaps, not the brightest of ideas. But we all had a good time.

Sunday morning, I woke early, picked up my friends from their hotel, parked my truck as close to the start as it was possible to park, met up with several other far-more-local friends before the race, and started.

The course was, as advertised, quite flat. Despite just writing a race advice post, I violated many of my own tidbits of sage wisdom wiseassery. The day before the race, at Hershey Park, I ate buffalo chicken fries (I have a severe dislike of chocolate, so an abundance of sweets at the “sweetest place on earth” wasn’t an issue). I wore brand new shoes and a tech shirt that I had never worn before (to be fair, the shoes were a necessity because I had worries about the pair of shoes that I had been wearing surviving the race, as I saw several micro-tears along the stress points . . . and the shirt, well, it was a Batman shirt). I forgot my headphones, so the work I had put into my running playlist was all for naught (though, I’ll just be able to recycle it for my next half marathon). Despite all of that, though, the race was great. I had no gastro-intestinal issues to speak of. I do have two ugly blisters on each big toe and my nipples . . . well, they didn’t bleed, but if the race had been a half mile longer, they may have started to (so I’m incredibly aware of them right now), but none of that bothered me during the race, itself. And, as this was a Rock & Roll race, there were live bands playing so that rare were the times that I went without music.

I started the race with a slower corral than I should have, so I battled crowds through most of the run, but I managed to set a personal best in the distance – by almost 8 minutes (or over 30 seconds per mile) over my previous best half-marathon time. It was a good run – though I’m left with a few thoughts to ponder heading into my next few races.

Normally, I would say that the half-marathon is, actually, a 10 mile race . . . the last 3.1 miles, I’m used to being on cruise control. Now, maybe it’s because I haven’t been running as much, or maybe it’s because I didn’t have constant music with which to lose myself, but I was ultra-aware of mile-markers 11, 12, and 13. I don’t know if this is a good sign, or not, for the full marathon, where you almost *have* to get lost in your thoughts along the course – otherwise the “um, why are you still going” self doubt comes out & eats who whole.

The race was quite flat, but there was an uphill at the end. So, while I was giving *almost* everything I had, my 14th mile time actually looked a bit slower . . . this is a bit troubling, but, thinking back, I was still dealing with crowds and, yes, I was going up hill.

While I still felt like I had something in my legs at the end, I know I didn’t have another 13.1 there . . . part of me is worried about the way that will translate to a full marathon until I tell myself that, um, I was running a good minute per mile over the pace that I should be aiming for. If I were running just a little bit slower, who knows what would have been left in my legs.

So, I’m happy to say that I made it through. So far, my “don’t run quite as much” plan seems to be working just fine. The next few weeks will have me running a bit more, though – I’m hopeful run the hardest 2-mile stretch of the Harrisburg Marathon (with a flat one-mile connector) 7 times to get a moderately-difficult 20+ run one evening in the next few weeks. That should cease any/all fears of being able to complete the distance in my head.

More than a great race, though, I got to meet up with some great friends, and I had a wonderful weekend.

My next race, back at Hershey Park, for their half-marathon, will be far hillier (though not incredibly hilly), but I hope to match my time.

12 Comments
  1. Kim permalink

    The only thing I read here was the fact that Hershey will be far hillier than the run you just did… (because as always, it’s all about me – LOL).

    Seriously… congratulations! Awesome PR. Looking forward to seeing you next month for Hershey 🙂

    • I’ve run the Hershey Half three times now, I think (Kiss, Reese’s Cup, Twizzler medals . . . I know I didn’t run it the first year (Hershey Bar), as I wasn’t anywhere close to being able to run half marathons at the time, and I’m pretty sure this is the fifth year). I’m of the opinion that the course is “moderately flat,” whatever that might mean — there are ups & downs, but it feels like “traditional suburban road up & downs,” so not super flat, but nothing glaringly hilly.

      On the other hand, I know of many who steadfastly refuse to run this race a second time because of how hilly they found it, the first time. So maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment. Still, I get the feeling that hills aren’t something foreign to you, and your neck of the woods is, as I remember it, equally hilly as central PA, so I think you’ll be right at home.

      Super excited to run it with you 🙂

  2. I have not been running much for the past 18 months; at best a four-miler each week, but even that hasn’t been a guarantee. I do a good power walk at least once a week and have occasionally been walking on the treadmill (DREADMILL!) so I’m not exactly a slug, but it’s a far cry from the “I can go out and run ten miles without blinking” condition I was in a few years ago.

    A friend of mine who is a lifelong runner wants me to do a half marathon with her in Palm Desert the first weekend in February, 2015 – and while I do like the IDEA of getting back into the kind of shape required for a 13 mile run, I’m not sure I will like actually DOING it.

    She seems to think it wouldn’t take much for me to just suck it up and finish. I’m more doubtful.

    At least I know there would be cocktails afterward.
    My parents live in PD and they are always stocked for me!

    • You know, I’ve done far more research into personal health than most anyone else. There is a LOT of research pointing to the fact that the body “remembers” its extremes, and pushes to head to them. So, when you’re trying to get yourself into shape, your body fights to get back to where you were, at your apex. When you’re not working to make yourself healthier, people regress to their lowest. This is used to explain a few different phenomenon:

      • Why Olympic athletes can “retire,” take years off to raise a family, get the competitive urge, and find that they’re still competitive in their sport after a few months of training, despite having spent years away from it
      • People who lose tremendous amounts of weight find that they need to work incredibly hard to maintain losses (because the body is at the apex, so it’s not working to “get better” and redefining the apex is, essentially sculpting) and, should they “fall off the wagon,” they end up right where they were – often even worse because, while they may have added some muscle as they lost weight, their regression, likely, purely added body mass through fat and not muscle
      • Scientists who think that performance enhancement drugs should either be fully legal or result in a lifetime ban (since your body will be trying to get back to what it remembers as it’s strongest, if that strongest happened to result from an unnatural advantage, you’ve given yourself a lifetime advantage, as long as you’re working out, even if you’ve been off anything illicit for years)

      Now, I don’t know if I fully buy all of this science, but it’s certainly interesting — and, if there is some truth to it, while you might not be training like you once were, getting back to your “running all the time” self might not be as difficult as you think it might be.

      And, while I write about possibly working out three times a day (early morning, then lunchtime, then karate with the boy), as long as I do my silly routine first thing in the morning (done in 10 minutes if I dilly-dally), I’m good – so, the “running all the time” to get to 13.1 might not actually be necessary, if it’s a question of time. Or dislike of getting sweaty.

      All that said, cocktails. I mean, those, alone, should be enough to push you.

  3. I happen to think you’re awesome!! I don’t run even half as much. In fact, not even close. I think what you’ve done is incredible. Be proud!

  4. I always always always blow off cross training, even though I know it is a key part of training. My goal this time around is to NOT blow it off, but with time constraints + my laziness, things don’t look good.

    • The reason cross training has been working for me is because of my time constraints. I used to spend at least an hour, every morning, running. Now? I wake up, walk the dog, feed the dogs, do a superset of 5 pull-ups/10 dips/5 pistols on each leg/5 chin-ups/5 pistols on each leg (the whole sequence takes me about 5 minutes), start my coffee, do dishes, pack my lunch, do another of those silly super-sets, get dressed, pour my coffee, and head out the door for work – so, I just need 2, five minute segments in my morning to get the important workout in. After that, if I can manage a run, or another trip to the gym, that’s great – but as long as I get that first suck out of the day (and the workout does suck, there is no other way about it . . . but, before coffee, I don’t realize just how hard I’m working), I’m good.

  5. See the thing is, I don’t think you have to run a lot to technically be a runner. I think all of the components that you’re adding are doing wonders (obviously) to help build your endurance for racing. Without a strong core and body, you can’t really start and finish strong.

    It’s one thing to have the will and capacity to run, but as far as being able to actually run your best, you have to have the whole package.

    I’m still super impressed how you did! That’s awesome!

    *unrelated: buffalo chicken fries sound fantastic.
    *I walked for two days at Disney World, so I’m not that bright myself.
    *I wore a new shirt for running too, but luckily not new shoes.
    *You aren’t a runner till you’ve gotten massive blisters or lost a toenail.

    • You know, it was YEARS after my first marathon that I lost my first toenail. But massive blisters, well, I have them constantly.

      The hardest part of the Disney Half Marathon wasn’t the half marathon, but the walking around Disney for days before & after the run. That said, I TOTALLY want to head back for Marathon Weekend 2016, running the Goofy Challenge.

      And thank you.

  6. Congratulations on seeing the fruits of your labor (or limited labor) pay off! That’s a great feeling!

    Sometimes, new things on race days shake things up. Sorry about the chafing though. That’s got to be rough. I’ve never gotten a blister from running (plenty from other things along the way, but not from the actual activity), and I’m glad for that.

    I always enjoy your perspective on things. We are purposely getting down to the Disney marathon expo the day before so I’m not tempted for any kind of park time. The day after? Well, there are some roller coasters in Universal Studios that are calling my name 🙂

    • I’d never be able to survive a whole day at an expo . . . I’m just too easily distracted by shiny things & crowd-adverse. Plus, knowing that I was “on Disney property” would have me wanting to head to the Magic Kingdom or something. But good on you 🙂

      The nipple chafing, honestly, made for more humorous tweets than anything else. In a day or two, things were fine, and, even if I had started to bleed from my nipples (oh, the things runners say), I was wearing a black shirt, so it wouldn’t have been like this run.

      I’m currently planning to take on the Goofy Challenge for the 2016 RunDisney weekend. I’d drive down with the family for Thursday, setting up at either the campground or a value resort – spend Friday at a park. Run the half on Saturday, spend the afternoon at a park. Run the full on Sunday, spend the afternoon recovering at the hotel. Visit a park on Monday. Visit Universal on Tuesday. Visit SeaWorld & LegoLand on Wednesday. Drive back home on Thursday.

      We’ll see if that actually happens….

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