Half Marathon Training Decisions

My half marathon is in less than a month. It is in 28 days, to be exact. Overall, I’m not that nervous – I haven’t missed a single training run and my long runs are on pace to finish in my goal time (11 miles in 1:40 today!). I do have some decisions to make in my training, though, so I’m going to write about them in hopes to organize my thoughts and come to some conclusion.

First of all, I accidentally set up my training schedule thinking the half was on June 8th rather than June 15th. Why I did this, I do not know, but I had to decide how to deal with it. Originally, I just decided that I would add one more week before my “taper” (really just one easy week) where I follow the normal progression of the program. I’m using a slightly modified version of Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 schedule, which basically has you running 3 miles, then 5 miles, then 3 miles, then increasing the long run by 1 mile each week, stopping at 12 miles, but this would allow me to stop at 13 instead. While it would be nice to get over the mental hurdle of knowing that I can in fact run 13 miles before attempting a 13 mile race, I know that doing so is not necessary and I am slightly afraid that the longer run will injure me (I know that 12 miles is almost as long, but it would just be my luck considering that I’m not “supposed” to do it). So I’m still trying to decide whether I am going to do a 13 miler or just add on a second 12 miler for good measure. Perhaps this is something I will decide based on how I feel that day – I do want to do a long run of some sort, though, or I don’t think I’be confident to run the race the next week.

Also, the program calls for you to run a 5K and a 10K in order to practice racing basically. I did a 5K the scheduled day as well as an additional 5K (in place of a normal 3 mile run), so I was good on that part. Well, today, I was not supposed to run 11 miles – I was supposed to do the 10K, but there were not any going on nearby. I know that running a 10K is not necessary at all to be successful at running a half, but now I’m not sure how to adjust the training progression – I am now a week ahead on my mileage, when I was already a week ahead!

There is one possible solution – there is a 10K nearby…on June 1. I was originally planning to run a 5K trail run that day, and I wasn’t worried about that hurting my half performance, because I planned to do it easy/fun (I haven’t done much trail running so I don’t think I’d be remotely competitive). A 10K on the other hand, as much as I tell myself I will take it easy just to “practice racing” I know that I can be competitive in – I am almost as certain that I can push myself to break a 50 minute 10K as I am certain that given another chance in a race, I could break a 25 minute 5K, and I am guessing that in a small, local race that would place me in my age group. So I would just be WAY too tempted to push myself to run it really hard, and because I’ve never done a 10K race, I don’t know how long it would take my body to recover from such a thing. Would I be sacrificing my half performance? Again, I wouldn’t worry too much about sacrificing my performance…but 3rd place in my age group at this race last year was 1:56, so again, I might be competitive and I want to be able to push myself towards that. It would make it easy to adjust my training program, though, as I would no longer be TWO weeks ahead on my training schedule.

Finally, I need to decide like right now whether I am going to experiment with energy gels/sports drinks. I’m afraid they are just some sort of money wasting hype, but I am guessing there is some point at which they are really needed. I just don’t know what that point is. Last week on my 10 mile run, I felt fine, but my 11 mile run today was much harder on my body, and I felt very very weak afterwards. Part of this may be that I ate like 10 tons of pizza the night before the 10 mile run whereas last night I had pancakes for dinner (so still tons of carbs but much lower calories, like 1/3 of the calories). I did eat a big breakfast (ok, for me, it was still only like 450 calories) this morning before the run, hoping that would help, but I know I was STARVING at the end. I just don’t want to jump on the train of using a bunch of stuff like gels if its unnecessary. And sports drinks? They taste gross and I’m not sure what exactly they will do for me compared to water, and I don’t know where to find this information. I guess I’ll be doing a lot of Googling!

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6 thoughts on “Half Marathon Training Decisions

  1. If you’re going to try something new, donut well before you’re race — remember, nothing new on race day; shoes, clothes, food, supplements….

    Good luck Nd most importantly – have fun!

    • Thanks! That’s why I’m thinking I’d need to do it now – maybe I’ll buy like 1-2 gels (I live in walking distance of a running store that sells them individually) and see how I handle eating one next week, leaving me 3 weeks till the race to decide if it’s necessary!

  2. You can repeat a run (or do a tad longer long run) before you taper.

    As for gels, will the race you are joining have free sports drinks? If yes, try out the product they are using. If it suits you, you don’t have to worry about how to carry it with you. If not, you can find something else. But, I don’t advise eating a gel or bar and drinking a sports drinks at the same time – it’s too much carbs and your stomach may have a problem digesting. No fun having to use the porty potty during your race.

    One thing you can consider is eletrolytes. They are either in powdered form (but you have to practice taking it and drinking water to push the powder down) or in a drinks form. If you don’t mind carrying a bottle of water, you can mix electrolytes in the water – that way you don’t have to stop by the water station.

    Good luck and have lots of fun!

    • Thanks so much for all the advice! I saw they were giving out fuel, so I’ll check out what they are offering – I had never even thought of that.

      I’m also planning on having a water bottle. It’s like 85 degrees here right now so I bought a hydration belt and I’ve been doing my long runs and pace runs with it for practice. It gets easier to deal with every time. It also has lots of room in it for things like gels. I’ve also read that there are some really good alternatives to gels that might be easier to obtain, like orange slices or fig newtons, so I’m thinking of going that route so close to the race when I’m not sure how my stomach handles gels.

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