Tag Archives: half-marathon

Write It Down, Do It Up – Week of October 13

Greetings!  So, let’s start with the good news:  I survived that half-marathon yesterday.


The bad news:  I suffered from some major GI issues that started at mile eight. (TMI?  We’re on that level now, right?) Not sure if I’ll write an official recap; it would most likely be filled with details you won’t want to hear, ha.  Long story short, it was not that race I wanted, and I have sworn off the distance (again) for the time being.


On a bittersweet note, my 2013 racing season has officially ended, and in an effort to transform from triathlete to real person, I celebrated with a glass of sangria and a lobster BLT from The Red Hook Lobster Pound at Madison Square Eats.


And I slept in until 7 a.m. this morning–progress.

Before the season ended, though, I did log some quality training last week.

Monday – a.m. swim and run with Full Throttle Endurance (FTE)

Light 3,000-yard swim, plus a five-mile easy run.  In preparation for the half-marathon, my coach instructed me hold a certain pace, and then proceeded to test me by telling other teammates to speed up and see if I would bite.  I didn’t.

Tuesday – off

I originally planned to bike, but my coach suggested sleeping in and taking the day off to ensure my legs were fresh for Sunday.  If you twist my arm …

Wednesday – a.m. run

Easy 3.5 miles in Central Park.

Thursday – a.m. swim with FTE

Another easy 3,000-yard swim in the long course pool.

Friday – a.m. easy shake-out run

No Garmin, no electronics.  Just an easy two-ish miler.

Saturday – off

Sunday3rd Annual Fall Foliage Half-Marathon

So, I hesitate to call this next part Write It Down, Do It Up.  Since I’ve been getting after it since January, the week I plan to do nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Let Operation:  Sloth Week begin.

Who raced this weekend—how did it go?  How do you bounce back from a tough event?

Write It Down, Do It Up – Week of October 6

Hiya, friends—happy Sunday!  I planned to pop in earlier this week because I have some 2014 racing updates to share.  First, on a whim, I threw my name into the lottery for Escape From Alcatraz—and got in!


Held in San Francisco, this event is one of my bucketlist races that consists of a 1.5-mile swim (from Alcatraz Island to the shoreline—how sweet is that?!), 18-mile bike, and 8-mile trail run.  I told myself not to hold my breath since it’s a popular race, but I kept my fingers crossed.  Now, I just need to figure out if there’s room in my travel budget … because I have another out-of-state race on the horizon.


Let the road back to Milwaukee begin!  I qualified for the 2014 Age Group National Championships at Darien; it’s nice to have that ticket punched before the 2014 season officially starts.

And speaking of races, it’s race week!


Hopefully by this time next Sunday, I will have successfully completed my second half-marathon.  I still haven’t decided whether I’m going to truly “race” it; most likely, it will be a game-time decision, and even then, I’ll probably just chill out for the first eight or nine miles and see how I feel.  Last week’s workouts went pretty well, so I’m looking forward to next weekend.  Here’s what I did:

Monday – a.m. swim and run with Full Throttle Endurance (FTE)

Light 2,500-yard swim with plenty of tech work followed by an eight-mile run with three miles of intervals (aka serious negative splitting).

Tuesday – a.m. bike with FTE

No more tris this season means no more bike-run bricks.  I wrote about how the bike workouts have been challenging, and this one was no exception.  Somehow, I got sucked in to the fast group and basically chased the guys up hills for 18 miles. (Although they did slow down, soft pedal, and wait for me on the flats.  Thanks, guys!)

Wednesday – a.m. run with FTE

Like last Wednesday’s run, we did a little more than eight miles along the Bridle Path and Reservoir in Central Park.

Thursday – a.m. swim and run with FTE

Another easy 2,500-yard swim in the long course pool with hypoxic sets.  The workout schedule also included speedwork, but I ended up cleaning and mostly napping instead.  Hey, a 4 a.m. wakeup call will do that to you.

Friday – a.m. bike with FTE

Three easy loops in Central Park to flush out the legs.

Saturday – a.m. long run

This 10 miler served as my last “long” run before next Sunday’s race.

Sunday – off

Since a bunch of my teammates are doing the Hartford Half-Marathon this coming Saturday, we’ll be tapering this week.  Here’s my workout docket.  Let’s Write It Down, Do It Up!

(If you’re new to WIDDIU, here’s how it works:  Every Sunday, I post my workout schedule for the week, and I invite you to do the same.  This way, we can motivate each other and hold ourselves accountable.  Sounds like a win-win, right?)

Monday – a.m. swim and run with FTE

Tuesday – a.m. bike with FTE

Wednesday – a.m. run with FTE

Thursday – a.m. swim with FTE

Friday – off

Saturday – a.m. shake-out run

Sunday3rd Annual Fall Foliage Half-Marathon

Did you have a good week of workouts?  When’s your next race?

Humble Pie

Hey, hey—happy October!  Yikes, September sure flew by.  Even though this means no more triathlons until 2014,  I am doing a half-marathon soon (in less than two weeks!); and aside from running, I’ve been logging lots of swimming and biking time too, which is a direct result of getting “called up” to the racing team. (This group trains five days each week.) Throughout the past few weeks, I’ve experienced a new level of training intensity—and I love it.

But it isn’t without its frustrations and growing pains.

Sometimes, I can hang—like during last Thursday’s long-course pool swim.  Sometimes, I fail to execute the workout properly and crash—like during last Thursday’s speedwork.  And sometimes, I push, get dropped, but fight my way back—like during last Friday’s bike ride in Central Park. (Actually, the same series of events happened this morning too.) Basically, this is the hardest I’ve ever trained.  And it needless to say, it’s been one reality check after another.  But since food metaphors are irrefutably better, let’s say there have been several servings of humble pie. (And that’s also the phrase my coach used, so I’m accurately reporting the details, ha!)



My first serving of humble pie was consumed on Thursday when a few teammates and I made the drive from New York City to Stamford, CT for a swim workout in the long-course pool at Chelsea Piers Connecticut.  Even though my swim is at a good spot now, I’ve noticed improvements thanks to new-to-me drills this training group does regularly. (For the swimmers and those curious, we’ve been doing a lot of sculling and hypoxic breathing sets.) And during this workout, I tried to “punk out” of a hypoxic nine breathing set (or breathing once every nine stroke).  My coach called me out, yelled at me a bit, and said there’s no reason I couldn’t do it.  So I womaned up and did it.  Sweet!

However, after a quick rinse and gear change, a few teammates went out to do some speedwork on the Darien Triathlon run course, and I royally blew up.  The game plan was to do a 10-minute warm-up, then alternate between two minutes at lactate threshold and one minute off for five miles.  Long story short, I took the first three intervals too fast, then crashed and paid the price during the remaining sets.  It was frustrating because I knew the pace that I should hit, but I pushed too hard in an effort to keep up with the fast people.  Train and learn, right?

And last Friday’s ride in Central Park was solid, yet mildly frustrating as well.  When it became my turn to pull (or take the lead) the paceline, I struggled to maintain the speed, which usually isn’t an issue.  Later, I fell behind the group as we climbed Harlem Hill, but I somehow fought back and regained contact with the pack. (Shout out to the friendly cyclist who gave me gearing and climbing tips!)

When my coach asked me how I felt after the ride, I simply said frustrated.  And he put things into perspective:  Triathletes in this training group have been doing the sport longer than I’ve been alive.  Triathletes in this training group continually win their age groups—and win races overall.  Triathletes in this training group went to London for the World Championships.  Overall, the triathletes in this training group will make me better, but they will push, challenge, and humble me first.

Let the feast begin.

How do you deal with adversity?

My Next ‘Race’

So as you know, my triathlon racing season concluded last Saturday with a sprint in Darien, CT.  After a humbling yet motivating experience at Age Group Nationals, the ITPMAN served as an ideal last race; it reminded me why I love swimming, biking, and running—and training, racing, and hanging out with my teammates.


Even though there won’t be any more swim-bike-run races until 2014 (boo!), I still plan to SBR with Full Throttle Endurance through mid-October.  A few weeks ago, I got “called up” to train with the five-day-a-week group. (I trained with the three-day-a-week group this season.)  Obviously, I don’t want to turn down this opportunity—oh, no, that’s OK; I’ll just see you guys in January!—and plus, this gives me a chance to work out with new teammates and develop a solid relationship with the head coach.

Anyway, so why am I sharing this information?  Well, I’ve been entertaining the idea of doing a half-marathon for a few weeks, and most of my five-day-a-week teammates are training for marathons (mainly New York City in November) or doing a few half-marathons.  And since I embarked on Operation: Go Long—and since I’m prone to succumbing to peer pressure—I officially registered for the 3rd Annual Fall Foliage Half-Marathon when I got home from Darien.


The race takes place in four weeks, so there’s plenty of time to log some longer runs.  On Saturday, I completed a 10 miler sans music, which was a huge confidence booster, even though it didn’t go as well as I would’ve liked.


Coach Pat to the rescue!  This epitomizes “do as I say, not as I do”:  At the running store, I always tell half- and full-marathoners to carry water or make sure there will be water available on their route, practice their nutrition strategy, etc.  But during my run, I had zero water and zero nutrition.  Yes, I should—and do—know better.

Anyway, I’m locked into doing this 13.1, but I haven’t decided whether I want to truly race it.  Honestly, staying positive, running strong, and crossing the finish line will be a huge victory after last summer’s half from hell.  I’ve definitely matured and developed as a runner this year, but spending so much time in my head still makes me nervous.  And I know that sounds ridiculous because Olympic triathlons last longer than half-marathons, but switching sports breaks up the race.  Basically, I’m not used to spending so much interrupted time in my head.

How do you stay positive during longer workouts and when the going gets tough?

National Dog Day, Training Updates, and a Bout of Nostalgia

Hello!  Woah, I totally didn’t mean to take a five-day hiatus, but it feels like I’m still catching up from my weekend in New Hampshire.  Here are some highlights from the past few days.

Celebrating National Dog Day


Unofficial blogger rules question whether I celebrate since I didn’t Instagram a picture of Zelda–ha!

Setting a new bike personal distance record (PDR)

Early Sunday morning, a teammate and I rode across the George Washington Bridge, explored New Jersey, and logged 60 miles.  For the serious cyclists and long-course triathletes, this distance won’t seem impressive, but it’s a PDR.  And we’re already planning to break it this upcoming weekend with another multi-hour outing.  In related news, I’m now taking road saddle suggestions.  And starting my tri bike research.

Contemplating a long (for me) race

Speaking of going long, I need to start doing some double-digit runs.  Even though there’s a training philosophy that says you should go fast before you go far, it’s important for athletes to develop both fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers. (Read more here.) All of my Full Throttle Endurance run training has worked toward building speed (our workouts cap at five or six miles), and I haven’t logged longer runs this season.  In fast, my farthest one was with Jen back in February.  And sure, I could go long for fun, but I know myself well enough that a tangible goal (read: race) would hold me accountable.  Enter the 3rd Annual Fall Foliage Half-Marathon.


Yes, I am considering a half marathon.  Considering.

Starting the final training cycle

Yep, the last eight-week training session kicked off this week, and it’s been bittersweet so far.  I’ve had so much fun this season—training, racing, and hanging out with my teammates—and part of me doesn’t want it to end.  But on the way to practice yesterday, it hit me:  I’ve been swimming, biking, and running for eight months.  Eight months.  Let’s just say some downtime (read: unstructured workouts) will be welcomed.

Feeling nostalgic

College students across the country are heading back to campus, and my alma mater hosted its first-year orientation this past weekend.


Photo has reached 113 likes, FYI.

This is for real.  There are no words.

Moving on, I met a teammate and newly crowned Ironman for lunch last week. (He’s the one who completed Lake Placid.) Of course we talked triathlon, but we also discussed writing (because he finally launched his blog)—blogging for a digital space, getting into a writing routine, etc.  It’s been a while since I’ve talked about writing, and I didn’t realize how much I missed it.  And that in turn made me miss the critical classroom discussions, which in turn made me think about college … you see where this is going, right?

When’s the last time you felt nostalgic?

My 2012 Running and Triathloning Recap

Happy last day of 2012, friends!  How are you spending the last 24 16 hours (and counting) of this year?  Will you set resolutions for 2013?  Even though I’m not one to set goals when the clock strikes midnight (you don’t have to wait for a new year, month, or week to make a change), I do like reviewing what happened this year–on the running and triathloning fronts, of course.  Seeing which races and distances proved successful—and which turned into struggle fests—I can better make my 2013 training schedule and race calendar.  This post has been circulating the running, triathloning, and healthy living blogs recently—and a big thanks to Miss Zippy for conceptualizing this idea—so with the new year only hours away, it’s time to reflect on 2012.

Best race experience?

Running:  The Seneca7 (during pre-Fitness and Frozen Grapes days). (The Boilermaker 15-K was a close number two!)


This seven-person relay race around Seneca Lake promised everything—running (three legs and double-digit mileage for the day), eating (the swag bags contained nut butter and chocolate!), and lots of laughing.  At the beginning of the day, I didn’t know everyone on Team Run-On Sentences, but there’s nothing like running 77.7 miles to bond people.


It was literally one of the best days ever, and four of the original Run-On members are looking to get a team together for 2013; I’ll keep you posted!

Triathloning:  Cazenovia Triathlon.


It was my first triathlon in my hometown—I got to swim in “my” lake, bike on “my” hills, and run on “my” roads—and my family showed up in full force!



Even though I completed brick workouts in the weeks leading up to the event, doing a true triathlon ignited a passion in me that I thought died during collegiate basketball.  After I crossed the finish line, I was totally hooked; deciding to give this triathlon thing a “tri” (sorry, couldn’t help myself) was a huge turning point for me, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me in 2013.

Worst race experience?

Running:  Tromptown Run (half-marathon).  In hindsight, training for my first triathlon and half-marathon simultaneously wasn’t the best idea.  Doing my first multisport event provided enough of a challenge (not to mention a learning curve!) that I could’ve done without increasing my mileage; if I hadn’t spent so much time running, I could’ve worked more on my swim and bike.  Anyway, this race itself proved to be my toughest run (mentally) of the year.  On the bright side, I can only improve, and looking forward (wayyy forward), I know I can and have run 13.1 miles … for when I train for a half-Ironman.

Triathloning:  Honestly, I didn’t have a disappointing triathlon (thanks to low expectations—ha!), but the swim portion of the DeRuyter Lake Triathlon ended up being especially brutal.  Wind and choppy water equated to my slowest swim split of the season.


Again, that just means there’s room for improvement.

Best piece of new gear?

Running:  Mizuno Wave Elixirs.


I’ve been an ASICS girl for the longest time, but I’m really glad I switched over; these sneaks feel so light!

Triathloning:  As a swim-bike-run rookie, I had to get all the necessary gear—tops and shorts, wetsuit, bike, everything.  Today, especially during the winter, I’m grateful for my CycleOps Fluid2 trainer.


If I didn’t have this apparatus, I wouldn’t be riding regularly.

Best running/triathloning advice you received?

Running:  “Run the mile you’re in.” (I think I read it in Runner’s World.) While running, it’s easy to get caught up the distance or time remaining.  During the summer, heading out for a 10-mile run seemed daunting, so I’d break it up into smaller chunks.  Sometimes, I could handle running five and then another five, or maybe eight plus two, but there would be those days that making it to the next mailbox was the goal.

Triathloning:  A lot of running advice translates to triathloning—don’t try anything new on race day, always have several (“A,” “B,” and “C”) goals and races, etc.  Overall, though, I’m still learning so much about the sport, and my cousin MB has been great putting up with all my questions and offering tips.  Most recently, she told me about her general fueling strategy on the bike.

Most inspirational runner/triathlete?

Runner:  How can I pick one runner?!  Everyone has overcome obstacles, challenged themselves, and pushed past their limits, which sounds inspirational to me.

Triathlete:  Again, same thing. (Although I do have a total soft spot for Craig Alexander now.) Each triathlete has a story to tell, and each has a unique journey that lead them to the swim start.  Inspirational people are everywhere; you just have to look.  I’ll freely admit to tearing up while watching the Ironman World Championships in Kona–crossing the finish line means much more than swimming, biking, and running.  And after being inspired by these athletes, how can you not want to do it too?

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be?

Challenging myself, going outside my comfort zone, and ultimately making a lifestyle change.

Running/triathloning ups?

Tackling new distances—like my first 10-Kvolunteering at the Ironman 70.3 Syracuse and with New York Runners in Support of Staten Island, and finishing my first sprint triathlon.

Running/triathloning downs?

Where I was mentally during my half-marathon; and honestly, the end of the triathlon season bummed me out.  In terms of confidence, I hit a turning point during my third tri, and I felt like I was starting to somewhat figure out what I was doing.  That’s off-season motivation, though!

Surprise of the year?

The fact that I started triathloning—and having people call me a triathlete.  I still can’t wrap my head around it sometimes!  If you told me one year ago—when I was a wee college senior—that I would be swimming, biking, and running after graduation, I probably would’ve looked at you in complete disbelief and had a good laugh.  Now, though, it seems like such a logical transition, and I can’t picture myself not triathloning.

Let’s hear about your 2012:  favorite race?  Best piece of new gear?  Surprise of the year?

My Half-Marathon Playlist

Wow, I still can’t believe I completed my first half-marathon!  Saying the race itself was tough would be a huge understatement, and I’m glad I brought along my iPod shuffle for the 13.1-mile ride.  Although running with music is a hotly debated topic, I find it helps me during my long runs.

Why Listen To Music?

You’ve heard this before:  Several studies suggest listening to music during exercise may increase the speed and length of your sweat session while creating a more comfortable workout environment.  Plus, plugging in and pressing the play button can provide a distraction.  Here’s how:  According to a New York Times article, music has the

“dual ability to distract attention (a psychological effect) while simultaneously goosing the heart and the muscles (physiological impacts) that makes it so effective during everyday exercise.”

Runner’s World also published an article that detailed the pro-con debate, and one expert said listening to tunes reduces your perception of how hard you’re running by about 10 percent.  An external stimulus, music can block some of the internal stimuli trying to reach your brain like fatigue-related messages from muscles and organs.  When these “say uncle” messages fail to reach your body’s epicenter, your perception of exertion becomes reduced, so you feel like you can run farther and faster.  Plus, blasting Usher or Lady Gaga elevates positive feelings (like excitement and happiness) and reduces negative ones (such as tension and fatigue).

Why I Listen To Music

When I run shorter distances—usually up to eight miles—I can stay focused without music.  Running “naked,” or sans iPod, makes it easier for me to listen body, assess my breathing, and adjust my cadence.  However, if I’m having a bad run—mentally or physically—popping in my earbuds helps to silence these negatives thoughts.  Since I completed my longer half-marathon training runs with music, I used music during the race.

My Playlist

Before sharing some of the tunes on my shuffle, I want to set the record straight and say rap and hip-hop are not my go-to jams; my favorite artists and bands include Maroon 5, Sara Bareilles, Goo Goo Dolls, Adele, and Florence + The Machine.

Yeah, I’m all about the Kanye and LMFAO during a run, and I also have a soft spot for Pitbull and Flo Rida, but these artists aren’t exactly “easy listening” music.


I haven’t had overnight oats in a while, so I figured it was time to bring them back into the rotation.

Last night, I prepped a bowl with one mashed banana, plain Greek yogurt, 1/3 cup of old fashioned oats, 1/3 cup of almond milk, and cinnamon.  I’m not sure if it was this mixture or if I was especially hungry, but this batch tasted even better than usual.

Question of the morning:  Do you listen to music when you run?  How about during other workouts?  Feel free to share your favorite sweat session songs—I’d love some new music suggestions!

Write It Down, Do It Up – Week of August 12

Hey, everyone!  I hope you had an enjoyable weekend!  Between running Thursday’s half-marathon, preparing for my first sprint triathlon, and completing the Cazenovia Triathlon (recap coming soon!), I’ve had a busy couple of days.

After graduating from college in May, I embarked on these 13.1-mile and swim-bike-run endurance events as summer fitness challenges.  My sweat sessions felt more purposeful because I was training for definite races, but now, my workout calendar is totally blank.

Don’t worry, though.  After conducting online research and talking to fellow triathletes, I found a few races—of both the run and swim-bike-run variety—that peaked my interest.  But before I start training for the next event, I’m devoting this week to active rest and recovery; I won’t be taking seven days off, but I also won’t be completing multiple brick workouts either.  Without further adieu, here’s this week’s edition of Write It Down, Do It Up!

(If you’re new to WIDDIU, here’s how it works:  Every Sunday evening, I will post my workout schedule for the week, and I invite you to do the same.  This way, we can motivate each other and hold ourselves accountable.  Sounds like a win-win, right?)

Monday – easy cardio at the YMCA (maybe the elliptical); yoga class with the sister

Tuesday – swim at the YMCA; strength training

Wednesday – CNY Triathlon Club training (last of the season—boo!)

Thursday – Rest

Friday – 5-mile run; strength training

Saturday – Women on Wheels

Sunday – Cycle 60 at the YMCA; strength training

What’s your workout schedule look like this week?  Are you training for any races?

Cazenovia Triathlon Packet Pickup

Happy Saturday, everyone!  I can’t believe I’ll be completing my first triathlon in less than 24 hours—yikes!

I’m a day behind on my blogging, so let’s get to it! (Rewind to yesterday afternoon.)


Before running some errands with my mom, I snacked on some celery and hummus.

I love spicy foods, so I’m a fan of this cracked chili pepper hummus.  It isn’t fire-breath hot, but it packs a little kick.

Cazenovia Triathlon Packet Pickup at Fleet Feet

Now that I survived Thursday’s half-marathon, it’s time to prepare for my next race—the Cazenovia Triathlon.  Packet pickup began two days ago, but I felt like I would be begging for bad luck by getting one race’s packet on the day of a different event.  That has to be a racing faux pas of sorts.  Plus, I wanted to focus solely on the half-marathon until it was over.  Anyway, I arrived at Fleet Feet shortly before 1 p.m., and when I walked into the community room, I saw Donna, my old spin instructor from college!  She was actually one of the first people who talked to me about triathloning, so it was great to tell her I’ve made the leap.  Donna’s doing the sprint tomorrow as well, so hopefully she won’t kick my butt on the bike I’ll see her at some point.

Loaded with goodies, the swag bag contained fliers for local runs, sample energy gels, and race-day information.

Plus my swim cap and number.

Colors and numbers shouldn’t matter, but my race-day combo instilled a sense of calm.  The green cap will complement my hair and skin coloring, and 905 is an odd number, but the five makes it sort of even.  I’m weird, I know.


Once my mom and I got home, I made a salad for lunch using spinach, leftover chicken, carrots, celery, and blueberries.

It hit the spot!  I also had a peach for dessert.

Mid-Afternoon Snack

A few hours later, I whipped up a banana and PB smoothie.

One frozen banana, one and a half scoops of PB, one cup of almond milk, and a dash of cinnamon went into the blender.  This is hands down my favorite smoothie recipe.


We ate late last night, so I snacked on some unpictured crackers and cheese and veggies and dip beforehand.  Dinner was totally worth the wait.

My dad grilled two kinds of tofu—teriyaki and orange citrus—while my mom prepped roasted potatoes and veggies.  I tried the orange citrus first, but even after I sprinkled some cayenne pepper on top, I didn’t love it.  For my second serving, I went with the teriyaki.  My sister also made a lemon layer cake, and I had a slice for dessert.


There were leftover veggies from dinner, so I incorporated some into my morning meal.

Two scrambled eggs with roasted broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini, and red peppers, plus a handful of spinach.  I also toasted a piece of Ezekiel bread.

Surprisingly, I don’t feel too sore from Thursday’s half.  I’m going to take Zelda for a walk, stretch out, and hopefully hit the pool today.

What do you have planned for the weekend?  Anyone racing this weekend?

35th Annual Tromptown Run Recap

Cross this one off the fitness bucket list:  Last night, I completed my first half-marathon, the 35th Annual Tromptown Run!

As both my first 13.1-mile run (and farthest I’ve ever run, period) and night race, I went into the half with zero expectations.  My longest training run allotted to 12 miles, so I knew I could physically handle 13.1, but my primary concern had to with the race’s evening start time of 6:15 p.m.  Prior to last night, I don’t remember the last time I ran at night; in hindsight, I should’ve completed at least one p.m. long run.  Because Tromptown was a race of many firsts, I didn’t set any goals.

Inside the DeRuyter Central School gym, a DIY packet pickup was held.  It was a bit strange getting my race bib and t-shirt by myself; at all other races I’m run, there have been volunteers on hand to distribute race gear and check identification.  Tables were marked off alphabetically, but each section lacked a volunteer.  I guess they don’t have problems with bandit runners!

Before the race, I saw my old JV basketball coach.  He’s a big runner who’s completed the race a few times, and he gave me some last-minute pointers:  skip the first water station (because the water tastes “funny”), pace off someone slightly faster, and remember the first hill is the worst. (Sidenote:  He finished the race third overall and first in his age group; yeah, he’s legit.)

The race featured a two-wave start—one at 5:30 p.m. for runners who would take more than two hours, and another at 6:15 p.m. for runners who would finish in less than two hours—and in hindsight, I should’ve signed up for the earlier time, especially because this was my first half-marathon.  Based on my 4th of July 10-mile time, I knew it 13.1 miles would take about two hours, so I should’ve played it safe and signed up for the earlier start time.  Oh, well.  Live and learn, right?

As I walked to the start line and stretched out, I didn’t feel ready to run.  Although I followed a low-fiber pre-race eating plan, my stomach seemed a little full; not uncomfortably so, but it wasn’t ready to tackle 13.1 miles. (For my next afternoon or evening race, I’ll skip the bowl of oatmeal and slam an energy gel instead.) Mentally, I felt off, too.  It was strange getting ready to run at 6:15 p.m.; it didn’t feel natural or comfortable, which, as a morning runner, I should’ve been expecting.  Before all of my races, I’m psyched and ready to go, but I wasn’t last night.  These firsts—following a new eating plan, running a new distance, running at a different time of day—were not ideal race-day conditions, and they made me feel uneasy.  Overall, these factors made it difficult for me to get into the zone, yet I hoped my mental outlook would improve once I started running.


Anytime I run, the first five miles are the toughest, a fact I kept in mind during the beginning of the race.  Plus, I knew after the steep incline at mile three the terrain would consist of rolling hills; I just had to make it past the incline, and I would feel fine.  However, as I logged miles five, six, and seven, I knew it was going to be a long race.  Everything that gave me trouble during past training sessions—mainly my calves—felt fine (thanks to tapering), but I couldn’t get myself into the run mentally.  Running in no-man’s land didn’t help either; there were big packs in front and behind me, but I ran the majority of the race alone.  Normally, running solo isn’t a big deal—it’s what I do during every run—but being alone in an unfamiliar environment proved to be an issue.  Basically, the entire race didn’t feel “natural,” which only worsened my mental game.

Even though I was in a less than ideal mental state, the volunteers and spectators provided spurts of encouragement.  There were encouraging course marshals around every turn, and the people manning water stations were also very supportive.  When I passed a spectator around mile six, I couldn’t help chuckling when whe exclaimed, “Run with your tits!”  Yeah, she was probably buzzed (she was holding a beer can), and the comment was definitely obscene, but it made me smile.

From a mental perspective, the final three miles epitomized sheer exhaustion.  It’s not like I mentally checked in to the race at the start, but I was more than ready to be done once I hit mile ten.  Luckily, I ran the remaining 5-K with a bobcat, aka a good-looking older gentleman.  He set the pace, and I totally zoned out.  After crossing the finish line—with an unimpressive and unofficial time of 2:11—I thanked him for running with me because I was struggling mentally, and he said I helped him, too.

Overall, aside from confirming the fact to never try anything new on race-day, I experienced firsthand how running is 90 percent mental and 5 percent training.  I prepared for the cardiovascular component, but the mental challenge surprised me.  Plugging into my iPod didn’t help my mental approach, but zoning out and keeping pace with someone else seemed to work.  For my next half-marathon, I will definitely run with a friend.

I’ve always respected people who complete half- and full-marathons, and now, I have even more esteem for those who tackle 26.2 miles.  My mentality for 13.1 miles was subpar at best, and I have no idea how I could keep myself mentally (and positively) engaged for that period of time.  I’ve been truly running for only one year, so I hope this mental strength comes with time and experience.

Tell me about your first half-marathon.  Was it a morning or evening race?  Did you run it alone or with friends?  Have you ever struggled mentally during a race?