The Procrastinators’ Guide to Half Marathon Training: Day 4

First of all, I would like to apologize to anyone who found this page in search of a short-term, quick-fix half marathon training plan, as the title might suggest.  That’s not what this post is. At all.  My current training is not a “guide” or “training plan” (or really anything that I would ever recommend any runner ever do)– if anything, it’s more of a guide to what NOT to do when you are training for 13.1.

That being said, I know it’s been a while since I posted, so I’ll give a quick recap of what I’ve been up to (if you want the long version, check out my older post here).  After having my 2nd baby in two years last May, I took a few months off from running until my new-found hectic life mellowed out.  Late last fall, I started running with my local running group again here-and-there just to ease back into things.  I got sick a total of three times this winter (I swear my immune system is so much weaker since I haven’t been running regularly), which put me out of commission for most of the cold winter months.  Now that the worst of cold & flu season is *hopefully* (knock on wood) behind us, I’ve been hitting the pavement more often with a goal of increasing my pace and building up my mileage.

If you follow my blog at all, you know that I love, love, love the Pittsburgh marathon/half marathon events.  I ran my first half marathon there in 2011, so it’s a race very near to my running heart.  I haven’t missed a year since then except in 2017– my daughter was actually born on race day that year (I swear that wasn’t planned), so I’d like to think that I participated in the day’s events in my own way.  It’s just that instead of a bib and medal, I got a living, breathing human to add to my collection (ha).

Each year, I enthusiastically sign up for the Pittsburgh half marathon on the day that registration opens, and this year was no different.  I signed up as soon as I could last August with the goal of killing my training and making my return to distance running as epic as possible.  I cut back my hours at work and was now only working three days a week– I shouldn’t have any trouble finding time to log even more miles than before.  Or so I thought.  When you have kids, especially young kids, often things that seem simple and logical (you know, like well-thought-out, reasonable plans) become complicated and impossible.  And that, in a nutshell and for too many reasons to list here, is what happened to my seemingly logical training goals.

So, just about two months out from the half marathon, I realized that the half was drawing very near, and I was very far from being prepared for it.  Missing my favorite event in my favorite sport, though, is not an option for me.  So here I am, cramming my training in, two months before the half.

Before having kids (and barring any injuries), the only things stopping me from reaching my training goals were laziness and lack of motivation.  I love running, so neither were much of a problem and training usually came fairly easily.  Now that I have kids, the only things stopping me are laziness, lack of motivation, and two little ladies that are 100% dependent on me and their dad.  That last one is a biggie.  My days with my babies are wonderful, but they are long and they are tiring.  Training no longer comes easily.  Many days, finding the energy and motivation to run are hard.  Especially in the cold winter months in Pennsylvania.  And especially when neither of the kids are sleeping through the night (my toddler sometimes sleeps worse than my infant!).  For many months, I’ve given in to the tiredness, allowing myself to sleep in and miss my scheduled runs.  Now that the weather is taking a turn for the better, and my baby is starting to sleep (a little) better, I’m finding my motivation to run again.  Thankfully.  Having two half marathons on my schedule is also a little bit of a motivator as well, haha.

So, without further ado, here is my completely unofficial guide to training for a half in 8 weeks**:

**DISCLAIMER: DO NOT ACTUALLY DO THIS

3/17/18: 
SCRR Training Run
8 miles
1:23:16, 10:24 pace
TRAINING NOTES: I got stuck in the port-a-john at this run and had to be rescued by
four grown men.  So much for my epic return to running.  Did you know that the Steel City Road Runners host free training runs every weekend in the months before the marathon and you don’t have to be a member to participate?  This is a great opportunity for those who want to try some new/different routes in their training.

3/25/18: 
Treadmill Workout
8 miles
1:21:00, 10:08 pace
TRAINING NOTES:  I despise the treadmill, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil when you’re trying to train in the wintertime around here.  A great playlist is absolutely necessary for me to be able to run more than three minutes on a dreadmill.

3/27/18:
Tempo Run
3.25 miles
31:18, 9:37 pace
TRAINING NOTES:  I was originally planning to run 5 miles with my running group this day, but the timing and weather didn’t cooperate, so my husband and I actually went out for a quick run while we still had a sitter for the kids.  I had a long race the following weekend, so a faster/shorter workout was probably for the best anyways.

3/31/18:
Yough River Trail Council Races – Connellsville, PA
10 miles
1:43:06
10:20 pace
TRAINING NOTES: I sign up for this race each year I’m training because it’s the perfect distance at the perfect time before race day.  It really allows you to gauge your fitness level and help to give you an idea of how you will do at the half.  I’m not going to say much more here because I plan on writing a recap later in the week, but I was happy with my results given the amount of training (or lack thereof) I’ve had.

So, training has been off to a slow/late start, but I have a concrete plan in place for how I want the next few weeks to go, and I’ll be sure to come back and keep you updated each week.  Have a great week all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2016 Pittsburgh Half Marathon Recap

This past Sunday, I ran the Pittsburgh Half Marathon for the fifth time since 2011 (I ran the full marathon in 2014, so this was my sixth consecutive Pittsburgh Marathon event).  Running Pittsburgh is a tradition that I look forward to each year; “the most wonderful time of the year” as I call it.  As always, I signed up for the race on the first day that registration opened in August.  I was seven months pregnant with my first baby at the time.  I ran the 2015 half while I was pregnant, so running it at six months postpartum was a no-brainer for me– how hard could it be to train, right?!  After all, I would have 9 whole weeks off for maternity leave.  I could train a ton with all of that time off.   Wrong.  Very wrong.  I summarized my training in an earlier (short) post, but let’s just say that I didn’t have the free time or energy to train like I had anticipated or wanted.  Not running the race, though, was not an option to me– I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was looking forward to race weekend and was determined to make it to the finish line even if it meant doing a lot of walking.

So, on Saturday I packed up my running clothes and the baby and made the hour-long trip to Pittsburgh for the expo.  My brother and I run the race together each year, and each year we stay in a hotel closer to the city to avoid any traffic hangups (and extremely early wake-ups) in the morning.  This year was no different, except this year we took my mother along as well to babysit Miss H while we ran the race.

EXPO
Because I wasn’t sure how well the baby would do with a long & hectic day, we left later than usual and arrived at the expo at 4:30, 1.5 hours before it closed.  The expo is always booming and there are a lot of interesting exhibits to see, but we were familiar with most of the vendors and just wanted to pick up our packets and get on our way.  My brother and I were both very disappointed to find that they were out of both of our shirt sizes by the time we arrived at the expo!  In all of the years I have been racing Pittsburgh, I’ve never had this issue before.  It might seem like a trivial problem, but we were both beyond disappointed– I love sporting my half marathon shirts after my races.  The shirts, although we didn’t receive one, were of a lesser quality than they have been in the past too.  We were also disappointed with the attitudes of the volunteers at the shirt swap station.  We were told to go there to inquire about getting a shirt in our size, and we were met by several hostile, defensive volunteers who were gruff with us.  I’m sure they were tired of dealing with ticked off runners all day, but that’s no reason to treat us with hostility.  We were pretty nice about the situation.  That was a Pittsburgh first for me– rude race volunteers.  Another first for me was that my bib was messed up– it wasn’t personalized with my name, and it didn’t contain a corral letter (so I had to wait in line at runner services to get a corral assignment, and the volunteer there was also less-than-friendly with me!).  Again, these may be somewhat trivial things, but when you pay close to $100 to run a race it’s disappointing when things aren’t as planned.  Overall, I was pretty underwhelmed with my expo experience this year.

IMG_3012

Miss H’s First Race Expo

PRE-RACE
After the expo, we headed to Monte Cello’s in Ross to carbo-load for the race with their pizza (one of my favorite pre-race meals).  My brother and I found Monte Cello’s before last year’s race by scoping out local Italian places online and calling for their wait times.  Surprisingly, we didn’t have to wait at all to get get seated there last year!  And their pizza was amazing.  But this year was different, and when we were told it would be an hour wait we scoped out other options so we could get to the hotel before Miss H’s bedtime.  We ended up settling for Olive Garden, and I had to forego my beloved pizza for Portobello Ravioli (which was delicious, but probably not my best pre-race choice).  After dinner, we headed to Panera to pick up the bagels that I had pre-ordered for the morning, then headed for our hotel room.

Miss H still isn’t sleeping through the night, so I wasn’t sure what our night of sleep would be like (especially in a new & unfamiliar place).  Luckily, she only woke up once around midnight and again at 3:45 a.m.  Since I was planning to get up at 4:15 anyways, I just stayed awake and got my shower and breakfast ready for the day.  I ate a Panera Cinnamon Crunch bagel with peanut butter on it– a pre-Pittsburgh tradition.  Yummo.  We left for the city around 5:30 and got there with plenty of time to park, hit the porta-johns, and line up in our corral before the 7 a.m. start.

MILE 1
The weather at the start was being somewhat cooperative– the temperature was in the mid 50’s and it was slightly raining, which I didn’t mind at all.  I was worried that a heavier rain would result in a bunch of chafing, but luckily the rain quit fairly early in the race.

My brother and I started in Corral B, which was designated for 8:00-9:00 mile pace runners.  Although that’s appropriate for my brother, that is more of a PR pace for me than a realistic pace at this point in my life.  I’m not sure how I got in that corral, but I wasn’t complaining because I knew a earlier start would mean I would get back to Miss H sooner.  I started at the back of the pack so that I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way, but I couldn’t help but try to keep up with the crowd after the gun went off. Although my Garmin wasn’t working for the first few miles of the race, my brother told me that we ran our first mile at a 8:45 pace, which I think was a little too fast to start out for me.

As soon as we started running, I realized that I had made a mistake by going to the bathroom too early before the race start, and now I had to go again.  I  hate waiting in line at the porta-johns along the race course, but I knew it was something I’d have to do if I wanted to be comfortable running the race. So, right after the first mile marker, I spotted a bathroom and stood in line waiting my turn.

MILES 2-8
Two words can sum up these miles: side stitches.  When I ran the full marathon in 2014, I stopped to go to the bathroom at Mile 20 and was plagued by crippling side stitches for the next 6.2 miles of the race.  You’d think I would have learned my lesson then, but I didn’t.  Sure enough, after I paused to go to the bathroom after the first mile, I had terrible side stitches after I started running again.  Side stitches so bad that I actually considered a DNF by the 2nd mile marker, which is something I’ve never done.  They only got worse as the miles went on.  My optimism about being able to finish the race dwindled each time I stopped to stretch and each time I ran down a hill, when the pain was almost enough to stop me in my tracks.  In all the half marathons I’ve run, I’ve never had such negative thoughts about my ability to finish so early on in the race.  All of the negative self-talk coupled with the fact that I had to stop and stretch so many times was very discouraging, and I honestly can’t believe I didn’t give up.  I’m not one to give up easily, though, so I pressed on across the city’s bridges, through the North Side, and through the West End Circle despite the pain in the hopes that the pain would eventually just go away.  I’m glad I decided to persevere because by the time I reached the 8-mile marker, the side stitches had somehow managed to near-disappear, and I was finally able to focus on (and enjoy) the race at-hand instead of the pain.

MILES 9-11
In contrast with the rolling hills in the early part of the race, the Pittsburgh course from miles 9-11 runs along East Carson Street and is relatively flat.  That doesn’t mean it’s easy, though– by that point my legs and lungs are usually spent and my endurance is waning, and this year was no exception.  My longest training run (and longest run since last year’s half in May) was 9 miles, and I could definitely feel it as I pushed past that point in Sunday’s race.  I had officially entered uncharted territory in my training.  My side stitches were gone, though, so I still felt better than I had in the earlier miles of the race.  The crowd support at Pittsburgh is amazing, especially along this stretch of the course.  I pushed through these miles tired but still very much enjoying the race.

MILES 12-13.1
Mile 12 began as we made a left off of Carson onto the Birmingham Bridge.  I know from past experience that these last few miles of the race are by far the toughest, which is as rewarding as it is cruel.  As we traveled across the bridge, one spectator sign in particular stuck out to me (and to everyone else that I talked to)– it said something along the lines of “You’ve Made it This Far, Now F This Hill!”  Everyone that runs Pittsburgh knows “the hill,” and if you don’t, you will after you’ve run it once.  It’s a +/- 173 foot elevation climb spread over the course of a mile right at the near-end of the course.  “The hill” is always lined with extra medical personnel, and it’s easy to understand why.  It’s tough.  Do-able, but tough.  At the bottom of the hill, there were several people handing out free beer, and as a major beer-aficionado I almost stopped to grab a cup.  If I wouldn’t have been slowed down by side stitches for the first part of the race, I totally would have.  But I just wanted to finish with the best time possible given the circumstances, and I knew the beer would only slow me down (maybe next year I’ll grab that cup).  This is my official “thank you” to the person who was holding that sign, because it was just the motivation that I needed to push up over the steep incline that is Mile 12.  The last mile of the course is a fairly steep downhill with a small level section of road at the very end, which is always a welcome and refreshing change from the climb the mile before.  I sped down the hill to the finish with an official time of 2:24:13 and an average pace of 11:00/mile.  I met up with my brother at the finish line for a few pictures before heading back to the hotel room to meet up with Miss H and my mom.  Afterwards, we went to Monte Cello’s to catch up on that pizza that we had all so looked forward to the night before.

OVERALL
Of the fourteen half marathons that I’ve run, this is my 3rd slowest– my slowest was the 2015 Pittsburgh half when I was pregnant (2:32:55), and my 2nd slowest was my first half in Pittsburgh in 2011 (2:25:45).  As with any race, it’s easy to pick apart the results and to think about how I could have done better, but overall I’m thrilled with my finish time.  At six months postpartum and with completely inadequate training, I’ll take an 11:00/mile average pace any day.  Could I have done better if I hadn’t had side stitches for the majority of the race?  Probably.  But then again, maybe not– maybe a faster start would have resulted in slower miles later in the race.  There’s no way to know for sure.

There is one thing that I do know for sure, though– I need to find the cause of my side stitch dilemma so that I can avoid them at all costs during my next race.  The pain was excruciating, not to mention extremely disappointing.  I’m not sure if it was a first mile that was too fast, or an unfamiliar pre-race dinner, or my unplanned bathroom break one mile in that was the culprit.

Oh and another thing I know for sure– I’ll be back next year!  Hopefully the expo goes a little better, but I never have any complaints about the race itself.  Thanks for another great year Pittsburgh!

Today I’m linking up with Mar, Courtney, and Cynthia for their Friday Five Link Up– be sure to check out their pages and see what they are up to!!

Have you ever done any of the Pittsburgh races?  Have side stitches ever crippled a race for you?