Living in Denial, or, My Half Marathon “Training”

Once upon what feels like a million, billion years ago, my sister asked if I would run the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon with her in January of 2016. This was some time last spring, well before marathon season, and I assured her that I most certainly would, provided it made it through marathon season unscathed. I did, and then proceeded to cut back substantially on my running until mid-November, when I intended to attempt to bust out an eight-week training cycle for the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon.

About one week before I intended to start training for this half marathon, I realized that my life’s circumstances had changed a bit from last spring, and I no longer knew if I’d be able to take time off work in early January to travel to Mississippi. Because my circumstances that would have prevented travel were in flux, I decided to train with the intention of running the Mississippi Blues Half, but refrain from registering and/or buying tickets to travel to Mississippi until I knew for sure that I could go.

At just about this same time, my sister told me that she had been getting migraines during her long runs, and no longer thought she could handle a half marathon. Instead, she planned to do the race’s quarter marathon. I figured I’d still train, because I didn’t know what would happen on my end anyway. I also thought that I’d eyeball the F^3 Half Marathon in Chicago, scheduled for two weeks after the Mississippi Blues Half. Worst case scenario, I could scrap the Mississippi trip and run F^3 instead.

Ultimately, that’s what happened. My sister decided she didn’t particularly want to run a quarter marathon, so I registered for F^3, crossing my fingers that, by some miracle, the weather wouldn’t be terrible on Jan. 23.

f3lakehalf1

^^ F^3 2013, when I froze my booty off volunteering and got sunburn from the snow. lulz.

So far, the forecast looks fantastic. In fact, as of my writing time, the forecast looks downright ideal for me: 32 degrees, “times of clouds and sun,” no snow. I honestly don’t know if I could dream up better conditions if I tried. That, my friends, is PR weather.

Unfortunately, I have not been training for a PR.

chitownhalf4(From that time I did train for a PR)

This has been the biggest joke of a half marathon training cycle I’ve ever undertaken. Things got off to a fairly rocky start when I came down with the plague/Ebola one week into training, which knocked me on my back for a bit. As soon as I recovered from that, it was off to Iowa for the weekend, during which time my primary activity consisted of getting in or out of the car. Then it was Thanksgiving, and then it was home for Christmas, and then it was cold….

All told, I think I only skipped one or two runs entirely, so even though I may have been all right from a quantity standpoint, I feel like the quality of my workouts, running or otherwise, was absolutely laughable during this training cycle. I intended to follow Best Body Boot Camp and call it half marathon training, but that did not work out at all. I usually got in at least one legitimate strength training session per week, but I never did any workout more than once (Best Body Boot Camp comes in four phases, with each phase lasting two weeks. In theory, you’re supposed to do the same workout twice (i.e.: the Week 1 Monday workout is the same as the Week 2 Monday workout, though Week 2 usually prescribed higher reps)), so it was very hard to feel like I made any sort of progress in the strength department, or like I was even following the plan to begin with. I spent a lot of time on the treadmill for the cardio days, which means I did get in a decent number of interval workouts this session, but from a volume standpoint, I don’t feel like I’m in good shape at all. Most of these “runs” lasted 40 minutes, including warmup and cooldown, so I was logging roughly 3.5-3.75 miles per run. While that’s probably quite fine for maintaining fitness, it didn’t feel like enough for half marathon training.

I did do weekly long runs outside, along with a whopping two weekday runs outside instead of on the treadmill. By and large, those long runs were a STRUGGLE – and I can’t say I’m surprised, given the ridiculousness of the rest of my training. I had a good eight miler the week before Christmas, and a so-so eight miler last weekend, but other than that, every single one of them was tough, both physically and mentally. And let’s not even talk about my splits, which have been more of what I expect to see in June or July than December and January (which is to say: SLOW).

And on top of ALL of that, my right knee hasn’t been quite as cooperative as I would like it to be. I don’t know exactly what’s going on. Every time I run, whether I’m on the treadmill or the road, whether I’m doing intervals or a tempo run or a slow and steady run, my right knee will start to bother me around 3.5/4 miles. It’ll last for maybe 10 minutes or so, and then usually it’ll go away and I’ll completely forget about it until the next time I run. It hasn’t bothered me when I sit at work, so I don’t think it’s patellofemoral pain syndrome quite yet, but it feels like it’s moving in that direction. I’ve tried to do my PT exercises to be proactive and prevent that, but, as always, it’s tough to find time to do them. I do a couple at work every day, and on weekends I’m (sometimes) better about doing more of them, but I just cannot seem to get into the habit of doing them. I have an okay health insurance plan right now, but its networks are weird, and my PT isn’t in my super-preferred network, which means, if I got EXTREMELY lucky and my insurance agreed to let me go to him for PT (which isn’t necessarily likely to happen – there’s some weird fine print that makes it tougher to go to places that aren’t in your super-preferred network), I’d be staring down a $105 copay/appointment. And I can only go a total of 36 times/year (which ideally would be fine, barring another Great Injury Debacle of 2014, but you never know. Also as a side note, I have to say that I think PT limits are LUDICROUS. For someone like me, sure. Does a runner likely need more than 36 PT appointments in a year? I doubt it. But what if I got in a car accident and broke a bunch of bones? I bet I’d need a bit more than 36 PT appointments to fix all of that.). All that to say I’m not super enthusiastic about going to the sports doctor (which also comes with a $75 copay. LOL I LOVE MARKETPLACE INSURANCE. *sobs uncontrollably*) to get a diagnosis and/or a script for PT when right now it’s not bothering me to the point of major concern. I just wish my PT exercises would clear it up quicker. And I wish I could convince myself to do more of them more often.

So that’s the situation. To be honest, I wish I could rewind the past 10 weeks of my life and do this whole training cycle all over again, because I really think I could stand a decent chance of PRing, at least if the forecast holds (and it’s not windy). I mean, I suppose you never know what could happen. I surprised myself big time at Jingle Bell in December, running a solid 40 seconds faster than I anticipated. At this point, there isn’t much use in whining over woulda/coulda/shoulda. I *think* I’m at least capable of finishing the race without walking. At this point, that’s my primary goal. That, and negative splitting (or at least not bonking). I’d LOVE to break 2:10, since I came within spitting distance of doing just that twice last year under humid conditions. But if I could PR (sub 2:02:50), or–pie in the sky goal–break two hours, I would be the happiest runner in all of the land. Either way, I’ll finally unlock the F^3 Badass Runner Points achievement for doing this crazy race, and I’m always happy to add another notch to that belt 😉

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7 thoughts on “Living in Denial, or, My Half Marathon “Training”

  1. Training during the winter and over the holidays is tough. Most of the time I am actually not training for anything so I am a couch potato.
    Does your PT have an option for cash payments? I ran out of insurance coverage for my chiropractor and now I am on a monthly debit plan, I can go once a week and I only pay $10 more than what my copay was per visit. The PT might be different but it could be worth looking into!

    • I’ve never tried to train through the holidays before, and it was WAY more challenging than I anticipated. It also didn’t give me quite as much time off training post-marathon as I think I needed. I expect to not run much/at all after F^3 until March, and I’m not gonna lie: I’m super excited to do things other than running for a bit.

      I don’t know if my PT has that option – I’ve never checked! Hopefully I won’t have to find out, but if it comes to that, I’ll ask!

      • I agree, I really like the downtime that comes with not training all year long!

        Apparently, with my doctors bills, you can call and work out discounts (like discounts for paying the whole bill up front) which I find a little bit strange but whatevs.

  2. Good luck at the F^3. Looks like we should have some pretty decent temps, but we need to get the wind to not blow from the north, so the last 6 miles will be a breeze!

  3. I chuckled when I saw this title. Good luck, I think that training through the winter blows. Unless you live in like San Diego where the weather is magical. As a future OT I also think that therapy limits by insurance are BS. I hope you at least have a little fun racing. Or at least some fun after!

    • I love the temperatures of winter training (usually…earlier this week when our highs were like 5 degrees, that I could do without. Haha.), but it’s all the other things that make it so difficult: the lack of light, snow, ice, wind. Fortunately, we’re not looking at a forecast like you guys over on the East Coast, and so far race day looks ideal! (Thinking of you guys with all the snow predicted to be headed your way!)

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