Half Marathon Training Check-In

I’m a quarter of the way through half marathon training, which is the PR way of saying that I’ve finished three weeks. I don’t plan to do weekly recaps (obviously, I would think, by this point), but I thought I’d at least give some updates on training thus far.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I decided to use Hal Higdon’s HM3 program for half marathon training this spring, and so far, I am LOVING IT. A month or so into marathon training last summer, I realized that my (exceedingly specific) running happy place involves three days of running, one day of dance, one day of yoga, one day of strength training, and one day of rest. I fell into that pattern during marathon training in 2015, and as soon as I fell out of that habit post-marathon, I struggled with feeling aimless and extremely unsatisfied in all of my workouts, even when following a program, until in July of 2016 I decided to try that method again and instantly felt better. It truly was my “come to Jesus” fitness moment. Having a half marathon training plan that accommodates the running/cross training balance that both makes me happy and has kept my muscles/joints/bones happy without me having to tear the plan to pieces and put it back together with my utter lack of education (see: all of my past marathon seasons) has been such a nice change of pace and makes me feel so, so much more confident in my training plan.

It’s nice to have confidence in my training plan, because at this point, my confidence in myself is low, to say the least. Out of the five half marathons I have on my calendar so far this year, I plan to approach four of them with a “just for fun” attitude. One is a week after my first half of the year on a hilly course, one is in July, one is during taper, and one is not too long after the Chicago Marathon, so my expectations for all of those races are low, to say the least. Because of that, I’ve decided to make my first half marathon of 2017 my goal spring race, and because I’d like to do it, I’ve decided to make that goal to run a sub-2:00 half marathon.

I’ve never run a sub-2:00 half before. My PR, set on a picture perfect day in early April of 2014 after a winter of tempo and interval runs, stands at 2:02:50, so in theory, a sub-2:00 half shouldn’t be that unattainable. I need to take 171 seconds off my time, or about 13 seconds per mile. This is not like my pipe dream Boston aspirations, where I’d need to take closer to three minutes off all 26.2 miles of a marathon. 13 seconds isn’t nothing, but it also certainly isn’t three minutes.

A 2:00 half marathon is a 9:10 pace, but because I’d like to break 2:00, and, ideally, give myself a bit of a cushion to do so, I decided I should aim to run at a 9:00 pace. Last week, my training plan called for a three mile run at goal pace, so I set out to run three miles at 9:00. The good news is that, for the first time in my nearly six years of running, I actually hit my exact pace goal for one of those miles. The bad news is that when I got home from my run, I thought I was going to die. While that certainly didn’t bolster my confidence in my ability to run a sub-2:00 half, I figured I still had more than two months to gain more fitness and speed, and it wasn’t worth getting too bent out of shape over.

Then on Saturday, I ran seven miles: the first time I’ve covered that distance since the Chicago Marathon. It went poorly, to say the least. Granted, this was also the first time I’ve run in anything above, say, 40 degrees since the Chicago Marathon, so maybe my expectations were too high. After logging shockingly consistent runs throughout this entire training cycle (all of my non-speed workouts had been between a 9:55 and 9:58 pace. Every. Single. One.), turning in a 10:19 long run–which, to be fair, is still a lot faster than my usual not-cold long run pace–left me feeling so defeated that I came home and cried. I’m sure I’ve cried after runs before, but I certainly don’t remember the last time that happened before Saturday.

If I’m being honest, Saturday’s emotional breakdown was more a culmination of several frustrating workouts rather than the result of just that run in particular. Even though I kept up a regular workout routine after the Chicago Marathon, I have constantly felt out of shape. So many–not all, but so many–of my workouts feel harder than they should. I don’t think anything’s wrong with me physically, considering that the blood work I had done at the doctor a month ago came back normal (aside from my stubbornly, inexplicably high cholesterol), but it bothers me that I don’t feel like I’ve seen any results from the work I’ve put in. To be fair, I rarely see results from workout programs/habits, but I have tried to be a bit more conscious of what I eat after the holidays ended (see: high cholesterol), and that hasn’t seemed to make one lick of a difference, either. On the other hand, I am only three weeks into a 12-week training program, so maybe I’m expecting too much too early. Even though my mileage is relatively low (I ran 15 miles last week, for example), it’s still the most I’ve run since last fall.

So that’s where I am right now. While it’s definitely not my favorite place to be running-wise, I suppose it’s all part of the process, and hopefully this will pass sooner rather than later. Either that, or I’ll change my goals for this race and stop caring about running 9:00 miles 😛

6 thoughts on “Half Marathon Training Check-In

  1. It can be frustrating when runs don’t go as planned. I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to run a 9/mile pace in a few weeks. It’s funny how steep the fitness gain in the body is after a few weeks of plateauing. Good luck!

  2. A 10:19 long run sounds pretty darn close to your 9:58/mile goal. I’m always happier with a training run that was a little slower than planned than a little faster. After years of trying to kill myself by running too fast in training, I’ve realized (for me) it’s mostly about simply getting the miles in, regardless of pace. That way I have the endurance to hold pace during the race and my legs aren’t shredded on race day. Good luck with the 2nd quarter of your training!

    • Thanks for the encouragement and perspective, Pete! What really got me down were my later miles on that long run – the ones in the 10:40s/10:50s. But like you said, better to not kill myself trying to race my long runs now and save that effort for when it actually counts!

  3. I totally understand the frustration that comes with a training run that didn’t go the way you wanted. Our bodies are not machines and there are so many factors that can impact us on a day-to-day basis. But I am thrilled to hear you’ve found a training/cross-training plan that works so well for you. Consistency is definitely the key over the long-term, and you’ve got the recipe for success on that. Your future runs will be that much better to make up for any dips in the past!!!

    • Very true. If I were a machine, I would qualify for Boston every time I run a marathon 😛 And yeah, finding a training program that works so well for me has been such a relief. I finally don’t feel like I’m treading on thin ice in terms of training, and it’s a great feeling!

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