I have been totally lame in the writer’s department lately, and I apologize for it. The writer’s block continues. It might be a direct relationship between the amount of other people’s writing that I’ve had to read and respond to; grading seems to zap my creative potential. I’m disappointed about it, but there are ups and downs. We go with them.
Instead of going the freewriting route again, I’m going to debrief you on my training for the half-marathon so far. I’ve found it to be a challenging and sometimes mystifying process. It’s very much like writing, actually. I can never predict the ups or down. I have no idea where those good runs come from–where the words or flight came from–or where they went when I’ve laced up but find myself plodding instead of flying.
Anyway, in full disclosure, here’s where I am with all of it. My original training plan for a beginner is below. See how neat and lovely and, well, straightforward it looks?
Even that exclamation point at the end seems so natural and fitting and bound to happen; the whole box is just one gorgeous rectangular formula of guaranteed success, right?
Not so much. Don’t get me wrong. I know at this point in the process that the exclamation point will come. I’ve logged enough miles to know that even if I had to drag my body through injury or rain or sleet or snow, one way or another I could laugh or cry myself over the line. It won’t really matter in the end how I get there or how fast. The 13.1 miles! will be self-evident and the farthest I’ve ever run. That’s enough.
I’ve come this far, and I do want to do it well, primarily because I don’t want to re-visit it. (Like…ever. I will be so happy to cheer my blogmates on in the future while I stick to my happy place, somewhere in 5K-ville.)
Here’s what I’ve logged so far:
I started off strong, doing more miles than I was supposed to, which may have backfired with some of my aches and pains in recent weeks, so now I’m running less than I should be overall. I’ve been pretty good about only taking 2 days off per week though.
I am a creature of habit, so I run the same routes all the time. If I turn right outside of my house (a 5.1 total out-and-back loop), I hit a hill almost immediately, but it’s short, and it’s the only hill on the route, and that means I finish on a downhill. If I go left outside my house, I have a 5 mile loop with one (less steep but longer) hill halfway through the run. I hate any hill, but I especially hate them when I’m tired, so I avoid that loop except for my longer runs, where I add one loop to the other, passing my house halfway to shed layers of clothing and hydrate.
I’m loosey-goosey about timing the runs, checking the time once when I leave and once when I return. Overall, most of my longer runs have all been paced under 10 minutes a mile except for one or two where I knew going in that I was pooped and ended up on the other side of 10. I ran the 15K race faster than I anticipated (under 9 minute miles), but it was also perfect weather and a flat course. I try mentally to visualize the finish time at certain points along the way on my training runs. In my 5K running history, the only thing that ever helped me shave off time was starting out faster and pushing early on; my natural rhythm kicks in and carries me at the end. The struggle (and the faster race) comes at the beginning. This is a tricky thing, of course, because going out too fast is risky.
On the rare occasion when I’ve done shorter runs on the treadmill, I usually stay close to the 9 minute range. Most of the runs I’ve done under 3 miles are much slower though–I was either walk/jogging because of muscle tightness or just running because Free wanted to, so I let her set the pace.
Here is what I like about this kind of training, or the ups, if you will:
- The struggle is longer, but it’s never quite as intense as it is with shorter distances. In a 5K race, I often feel like I might die. No understatement. When I ran the 15K race, I felt like I was working really hard and really wished someone would come and run with me or at least cheer me on, but I didn’t feel like I would die if I took another step. That’s the only way I can describe it. I definitely understand now why people say that anyone can run a marathon. (It’s not true, by the way, that anyone can, but I can see how a runner can just keep adding miles over time.)
- I feel so damn strong. I only have to remind myself that a few short weeks ago, 5 miles was an ENORMOUS achievement to feel like Superwoman. Now, 5 miles is just boring–I only pray my music or the roadkill will be interesting enough along the way to keep me from turning around and going home early. The caveat is that I don’t really walk around feeling strong. Physically I’m about the same as before–no big weight loss or huge muscle gain that I’ve noticed. It’s a mental thing, this new strength. It reminds you that you can do things you didn’t think you could. You just need to gear up.
- Who knew you could suddenly, on mile 9, feel so light on your feet that you wanted to sprint and hop and shake your booty and smile and laugh at how great it is to be a runner? (Ok, this only happened once, but that second wind thing is real, and it is awesome.)
I’m not going to give you the downs because you know them, and they’re more boring than miles 8 and 10–and the second half of mile 9, if we’re being honest.
I will say that I’ve learned not to run too late in the evening, even if it’s still light out (bugs in your mouth and eyes), and to slow down and give your full attention when a strange dog comes charging.
Also, I’ve learned that devouring that swiss-roll cake that lasted 8 months in your freezer before you started training probably isn’t the best way to celebrate a good run.
I’m just saying.
So that’s it so far. At this stage, I’m not sure how to finish the training. My tentative plan is to run a 12 and then a 13.1 as my last two long training runs and then go back to 7 or 8 for the tapered long run, keeping the rest as close to the plan as I can. Any advice on whether this is smart?