Happy Monday everyone!
It’s hard to believe, but I am entering my final week of training for the Wineglass Half Marathon. While I usually love tapering for a race, lately I’ve been getting antsy on days that I don’t run, and there have been a lot of days during this training cycle where I’ve actually wanted to run twice in one day. I think this is because I’m anxious to get back to the level of fitness that I was at prior to pregnancy, and subconsciously I feel like any time I’m not pushing myself to that level, I’m not pushing hard enough. Either way, I sense that this week is going to be filled with anticipation for Sunday’s race – it’s been a LONG time since I’ve participated in a half marathon (just over a year since I ran/walked Rock ‘N’ Roll Philly at 12 weeks pregnant), and even longer since I’ve run a half with any sort of time goal.
As I’ve been nearing the end of training for the Wineglass Half, I’ve started thinking about what my next goals will be. Some of that will be determined based on my performance this coming weekend, but I already know that a major goal for me over the next few months will be strength training. Because I enjoy running and it has great cardiovascular health benefits, I’ve been guilty of assuming that running is enough to stay in shape and that I don’t need to strength train – I mean, I must already be strong in order to run half marathons, right?! Unfortunately, I know better now that this is not the case, and that if I want to be a better runner, I need to lift some weights.
To get myself jump-started in that direction, I’ve been participating in the 14-Day “No More Mummy Tummy Challenge” (NMMTC) from Lorraine Scapens of Pregnancy Exercise. The challenge includes different sets of abdominal exercises that are supposed to be done six days a week (although I haven’t followed this exactly). She also provides a nutrition program and stretch and balance routine, but I haven’t been using these since I’m gearing up for my race.
I really enjoy Lorraine’s programs because they are designed for pregnant and postpartum women, and busy mothers in general. I tend to get easily frustrated with strength training and workout routines when I feel like I can’t keep up with the instructor, and I’ve never had this issue with any of the programs from Pregnancy Exercise. Lorraine just strikes me as a genuinely kind, sweet person, and her demeanor is encouraging without being aggressive or in-your-face. As someone who is definitely not motivated by Jillian Michaels-style trainers who are constantly yelling at you to PUSH (!!!) harder, I really appreciate Lorraine’s approach. I highly recommend her programs (and no, no one is paying me anything to say this 🙂 ).
So, this past week’s workouts looked like this (Days I’ve done the NMMTC are also noted):
Tuesday: Rest Day
Wednesday: 3 miles @ 9:40 pace, NMMTC
Thursday: 5 miles @ 9:51 pace, NMMTC
Friday: Gentle 30 minute bike ride, NMMTC
Saturday: Long Run – 12 miles @ 9:55 pace
Sunday: Rest Day/30 minute walk with Matt and Brooke
Monday: 3 miles @ 9:34 pace, NMMTC
Like other parts of the country, we have been dealing with a heat wave for the past week or so, which has definitely impacted my pace. However, I tried something new this week that I don’t think I’ve ever really done before: I ran my easy runs as truly easy runs. Forcing myself to slow down turned out to be harder than I anticipated – I am guilty of thinking that if I’m not running at least a little bit hard, I’m not running hard enough. But, as I’ve been studying for my personal trainer certification, I’ve learned the value of doing easy runs at a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) level of 5 or less, which equates to being able to talk comfortably while exercising. In fact, elite endurance athletes do 70-80% of their training at this level, which I found to be pretty astonishing – my assumption was that they pretty much always ran either really far or really fast for training.
If you’ve been following my story on the blog, you probably know that my long runs throughout this training cycle have been all over the place – some have been good, some have been horrible, and a couple have been in-between. I’m happy to report that I felt really good on my 12-miler this past weekend. It’s always nice when your last long run before a race is a strong one, and this one was a helpful confidence builder. I took a new approach to this long run – an approach that I really should’ve been taking during every long run this training cycle – and focused on fueling and pacing.
I have tried a lot of different fuel for long runs in the past – GU, CLIF Shots, sport beans, Honey Stingers, regular gummy bears and fruit snacks, raisins and dried fruit, and sports drinks, to name a few – but have never found the fuel that really works for me. Most of the time, when I fuel, I don’t really feel much effect from it other than a stomach ache, which has unfortunately led me to avoid fueling on runs where I have needed to fuel (like last week’s 11-miler).
On a whim, while at a local running store last week, I grabbed a few Huma Gels for this week’s 12-miler (yes, I know it’s a little late in training to be trying something new…). What drew me to the Huma Gels is that they are all-natural, with chia seeds, fruit, and sugar providing you with your carbohydrates for energy, and I was hopeful that this would help me avoid the usual GI issues I get from other gels and fuel.
So, for my long run, I woke up extra early to avoid the heat (which was a good idea, since it got up to 90 degrees here on Saturday) – this meant Matt took Brooke’s 4:30AM feeding (thank you, honey!), and I woke up at the same time to get ready to run. I was out the door by 5:15AM, and while it wasn’t chilly, it was pleasantly cool, especially compared to the hot, humid runs I’d dealt with the rest of the week. My fueling plan was to take a Huma Gel and drink water at 3 and 9 miles, and drink Gatorade at 6 miles.
Looking at where the drink stations will be located for the Wineglass Half, I should be able to replicate this plan pretty closely, which is a good thing because it worked really well! I actually finished the 12 miles still feeling energized (thanks to the Huma Gels, I think), and hit pretty consistent splits around 9:45 min/mile after a few slower miles at the start. What surprised me, however, was how it felt like the rest of my body was starting to fall apart during the run. Although I seemed to have plenty of energy, I started having quite a bit of knee pain (which has always been an issue for me), as well as pain in my right foot and Achilles tendon. Because of the pain, I took Sunday as an almost complete rest day instead of doing the three-mile shakeout run that I had planned. Fortunately, I feel much better today and didn’t have any pain during my run 🙂
So, the plan for taper week is a 3-mile run and two 2-mile runs before Sunday. Although my plan calls for two rest days prior to the race, I doubt I will stick to this – I am nearly certain I’ll need to get my legs moving either Friday or Saturday in order to feel fresh on Sunday. Here’s to hoping for some good weather and a great race 🙂
I’d love to hear how you fuel for long runs and races! What works best for you?
Are you someone who loves taper week, or gets antsy waiting for race day?
Happy Running! ~Sara