Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Racing and Pacing and Plotting the Course

The end of this week marks the midpoint of training for the half-marathon. Feels like a good time to look at how it's been going.

If you don't already know, I'm running the Rock 'n Roll Half-Marathon in D.C. on March 17.

This is week 6 of training, and if I'm being honest, I haven't really been great about it. I didn't really keep to the mid-week runs during the first four weeks. Look, no excuses. I shouldn't have been so nonchalant about it, but here was my thinking: waking up at 5 a.m. to run was just so unappealing. Plus, the long runs were two four-mile runs and two five-mile runs. Well, I ran four and five miles, like, four times a week all summer and fall.

The point is this: I knew I could get out and run four and five miles without a problem. So I didn't feel the urgency to get after it as hard as I should have. And I did. I finished the first few long runs without an issue.

Well on Saturday, I ran six miles -- the longest distance since the first half-marathon nearly two and a half years ago. I knew the six-mile run was going to be the most challenging of training so far, so I knew I had to get my ass in gear and do the mid-week morning runs leading up to it.

See, the thing about training is it's not all about getting up to the distance and running further. Of course that's a large part of it. Another large part of it is getting your body accustomed to the wear-and-tear.

I was running between 15 and 20 miles a week between July and October, and I never experienced any injuries (that weren't related to softball haha). Once I started my job at the end of October, I really fell off the running wagon.

So you could say I was a little concerned about the six-mile run. It was entirely my own fault, but it is what it is. On a few of the earlier training runs, I experienced a little tightness in my right hamstring. That's a problem because that's what I injured during the summer of 2010 when I tried to train for a half-marathon.

The pain hasn't been nearly as bad, and I've been obsessive about stretching. And the pain has subsided as soon as I stop running or stretch it out, which tells me it isn't necessarily an injury -- it's just a little tightness that will hopefully work itself out as I continue to stretch properly and run more often. That's what I'm hoping anyway.

Well, I woke up on Saturday, walked Allie and stretched for the run. I mapped out a three-mile path so I could run to the turn-around point and come back, totaling six miles. I made it about a mile and a half when I felt the first twinge in my hamstring. I immediately stopped and stretched it out for a good minute or so. The next two and a half miles passed by pain-free, which is significant because almost the entirety of the path from mile marker 2 to mile marker 3 was the most ridiculous uphill stretch I've ever done.

That I was able to run the entire way up that hill without experiencing any hamstring pain is a huge reason why I'm so hopeful it's nothing terribly serious. At the top of the hill, mile 3, I paused again for another minute or two to stretch. I stopped to stretch once more at mile 4.5.

All told, I walked barely a quarter-mile of the six mile path and stopped to stretch for a total of maybe six or seven minutes. And I still finished the six miles in just more than 62 minutes.

Let's GO. That tells me my pace is pretty solid, and as long as I keep up with stretching and don't miss anymore mid-week runs I'm going to be just fine. What a relief. I'm really excited about not experiencing any lingering pain in the hamstring.

A year and a half ago, it hurt constantly -- walking, running (obviously), standing, whatevs. And the pain lasted for almost a solid YEAR. It was terrible. So that's why I'm concluding it'll work itself out if I'm responsible about the rest of training.

I really can't wait. I've been thinking about the first half-marathon more lately. What a fucking adrenaline rush. As I got closer to the finish line, with maybe three-quarters of a mile or half a mile to go, I could hear the crowd cheering. And let me tell you, that's exactly when you need to hear the cheers.

My legs felt like jelly. Well, I don't know that because I couldn't really feel them anyway. I'm honestly pretty surprised I didn't fall down because I tried to run a bit harder down the homestretch. And that's not really feasible when your legs are bordering on numbness.

Anyway. We're almost to the midpoint of training, and while I haven't been as on-the-ball as I should have been so far, I think I'm still on track. I can get it back quickly, and there's still plenty of time left to make the gains I need to make. CAN'T WAIT.

Let's go!