My first big race was the 2014 Frederick Half Marathon, and I had no idea what I was in for. Looking back, I was a complete newbie and had no clue what I was doing as far as training goes. After taking a year off, I’m back for this year’s race. After some lessons learned from the first go around, I’ve got a few goals for May 8th.
Fuel: One of my biggest lessons learned was that I did not train properly for my first half marathon, especially when it came to nutrition and fuel. I “trained” eating foods with processed sugar (which made me feel terrible), and didn’t fuel properly during my long runs. During the half marathon, I didn’t eat a good breakfast beforehand and didn’t eat or drink anything during the race except for water at the stations. This resulted in some pretty awful leg cramps around mile nine or so. The cramps scared me because I had never experienced anything like it. For the remainder of the race, I had to do a lot of walking just to make it to the finish line. I was disappointed with my time (over three hours) and was flat out exhausted by the time I finished. It also took me a long time to recover after the race (close to a month), which I want to avoid this time around.
I’ve cut out all of the processed sugar from my diet and have been training with energy supplements during my long training runs. Gatorade has worked wonders. I’m also a huge fan of Gu energy gels. Before trying the gels, I tried sport beans but wasn’t a fan of the awful aftertaste. Yuck. I was hesitant with the gels but was pleasantly surprised. The Gu chocolate outrage flavor is to die for! Tastes like a chocolate brownie, yum! I attach one to the inside of my pants with a safety pin during my long runs and take it after I hit the hour/hour and half mark. I did my research and learned that I have to chase the gels with water to prevent them from sitting like a rock in my stomach. I do a lot of my training in a large park with access to multiple water fountains so that I don’t have to carry any bottles with me. I have a feeling this may change once I start hitting high mileage for marathon training, but so far this approach has worked for me. The half marathon aid stations will have Gatorade and Gu gels (yay!), but I plan on carrying a gel with me as a backup. I’m going to do anything possible to keep those terrible leg cramps away.
Speed: I’m a pretty slow runner, but I’ve learned that it’s okay right now. The reason I’m happy with my progress so far is that I’ve really worked on my endurance. I utilize the run/walk method, but I’ve gotten so much better with it this year. In 2014, the duration of running and walking was about equal. I would run three minutes and walk two minutes. Now, I can run eight to ten minutes while only walking one minute. Huge improvement in my book. While I hope to some day run the entire distance, I’m okay with my approach right now. I plan on utilizing the same strategy on race day. After that, I plan on really revving things up when marathon training goes into full swing.
Finish time: While my ultimate goal is to finish the race, I would love to finish under three hours. Because of the walking I had to do the last time around, I came awfully close to the cut-off time for the race (3:30). If I can finish the race in under three hours, I’ll be a happy runner!
Have fun: I want to enjoy myself this time around. The first time was hard. I breezed through the first six miles, but after that it was painful. My right foot starting hurting and once I got to mile nine or so, my legs cramped up so bad that I had to walk the remainder of the race. I was miserable and swore I wouldn’t race that distance again. Ha. Well, this time around, I know I’ve taken a much better approach to training and have completed the long runs with proper fueling. I’ve also been more careful about listening to my body and taking breaks when needed. I want to push myself but not injure myself. With my first marathon in the works now, I have to be careful. With that said, I also want to just enjoy the experience and not get too anxious thinking about what happened the last time around. I plan on using lots of positive self-talk: “Megan, you’ve got this!”