Thursday, September 11, 2014

Lessons from my first 13.1

While we're reviewing progress on my current training cycle, why not relive the beauty (and the misery) of training for my first 13.1?  I like to think that I learn from my mistakes, but maybe you can learn from them, too.  If you've never tackled 13.1 before, read on to learn the highs and lows of my first attempt at that distance:

Find a plan that works for your life and stick to it.  A simple Google search for half marathon training plans will yield an unfathomable number of results. Some have you run 5 days a week while others help you get by on 3. Some include speedwork, others rely heavily on cross training, and yet others focus on time rather than mileage. Find what works best for you and make it happen.

Train with friends. I had the pleasure of training and racing with my neighbor, and the friendship and accountability she provided was invaluable. The long runs seemed less hard with her alongside me, and I couldn't blow off a cold, early morning workout knowing that she would be out there waiting for me. I also trained virtually with a terrific group of ladies through Strava. My BRFs, both physical and virtual, made the training a wonderful experience. 

Log all workouts, both runs and cross-training. I'll admit that I'm a super nerd and a data junkie, and I love checking off boxes to mark my progress. Seeing the vast number of workouts at the beginning of a training plan feels overwhelming, but slowly checking them off feels gratifying and serves as a reminder of how far I've come.

Look at all those boxes to fill and check off!

Recognize an injury early on and seek immediate treatment. I lived in major denial for the three weeks preceding my race, believing that my body was cranky rather than injured. Seeking help after the race, I learned how pain-free running could be! If only I'd admitted injury sooner, I could have enjoyed race day more fully.

Learn the difference between niggles and serious problems. The aforementioned injury was of the serious variety, but I treated it like a niggle. Now I'm more keenly aware of what is an acceptable level of discomfort and what requires a call to a professional. 

There will be crappy parts of the training cycle. There will be workouts you don't want to do and days when sleeping in sounds better than lacing up. When those moments hit, know that it won't last forever. Do your best to ride the wave and hang on until you make it to the other side. Like all things in life, running and training are all about ebb and flow. Without the crappy runs, we couldn't fully appreciate the good ones. Embrace the suck.

A training plan doesn't just train your body; it also trains your brain.  During the training cycle, you will encounter moments of doubt when the magnitude of 13.1 miles seems overwhelming, to say the least. Doubt is part of the process. Knowing that doubt will come and dealing with it constructively is a huge piece of half marathon success.

Hold on to the finish line feeling.  After crossing the finish line, my feeling of pride and accomplishment was indescribable.  I chose to do something hard, I worked my tail off, and I made it happen.  How often in life are things so cut-and-dried?  In the months since my race, I often reflect back on that day and the finish line feeling.  I call on that strong, confident, badass version of myself when I need a little extra push to get through life's current challenge.

Courage, strength, resolve: a perfect recipe for 13.1 success!

If you've raced 13.1 before, what other tips or lessons would you add?