Observations on Unconventional Half Marathon Training

Hi there! I’m still here! And, by here, I mean the hospital, my apartment, SoulCycle or Flex Studios.

Way back when (alright January), I wrote about not training for a half marathon coming up. Then, I didn’t run that half because I wanted to sleep (#internproblems).

In the depths of the polar vortex, I had imagined the Miami Half would provide the kick in the butt to start training for May’s Brooklyn Half. And then after I didn’t run the Miami Half, I figured that the winter would turn around and I’d be doing long runs again in no time. Half marathon in May? No problem.

The weather sort of turned around, but my “training” didn’t. Of course, I will still exercising a fairly good bit, but long runs, tempos, even running in general? Well, it just didn’t quite pick up as the months went by.

Since November’s NYC Marathon, I’ve been on a huge spin kick. I love running and still do, but I just usually wasn’t feeling it. And spin? I was feeling it.

The last time I ran over 8 miles prior to Saturday….

The last time I ran over 8 miles prior to Saturday….

No good blog post would come without some analysis of largely unimportant details of a 20-something’s first world problems. Thus, I thought about why I was so spin crazy all winter/spring and not run drunk as usual. I think I spent what equates to a small wedding fund at SoulCycle this winter for three reasons: 1) indoor heating; 2) music; 3) community/people. In the throes of intern year, when you all you really want to do is drink some water and sleep, the thought of running in the cold alone is fairly bleak. Inside exercise? Check. Getting lost in music and forgetting about the labor floor? Check. Having some sort of unspoken peer pressure by those around to work hard? Check. Add more classes to that cart.

As May drew closer and closer, I did start to get slightly concerned that I might crash and burn in this half marathon, especially since I had told my co-resident, Meagan, that I would “pace” her through her first half, which would require me to be in some kind of shape.

Sure, I was exercising a lot. But, would it be enough? Since analysis is my middle name, I thought this through a little bit.

I estimated that my exercise/workouts were broken up as follows:

– 10% pilates (new obsession thanks to this power tool)

– 50% spin (including a lot of “doubles” and a few “triples”)

– 40% running (including a lot of run/spin or run/pilates combos)

I equate a 45 min spin class to be the cardiovascular equivalent of a 5 mile run. I also consider it like a “mini” track workout or tempo since its often high cadence against moderate resistance and potentially this evokes some sort of fast twitch neuromuscular stimulus or another equally fancy term.

If the above was true, then doing a double or triple spin was like a long run (double spins feel like a 12 miler to me and triples feel like a 16 miler in terms of my cardiovascular stimulus). Or doing a spin + 4-5 mile run was like getting in a 9 or 10 miler. Or so I hoped.

Pilates was a plus in the strength corner.

This left only one real variable, which was the one I was most worried about — time on your feet.

I learned from Steph that I lot of your long runs were just getting used to being on your feet and running for that long. It helps your muscles, tendons, and ligaments adapt to that stress and get stronger. And, that was the one very crucial thing that I was missing.

Slight oversight.

A little more of this may have been useful...

A little more of this may have been useful…

To sum up the analysis: 

General cardiovascular endurance + moderate strength from pilates – time on feet aspect + the square root of 20 =  Half Marathon?

Turns out, everything went well, as it usually does in these complicated first world problems for 20-somethings.

In fact, I had a lot of fun. Pacing someone in their first half was even better than running your own PR in a way.

To be fair, my legs did NOT feel used to running 13.1 miles and I started to feel a bit heavy legged by about 10 miles (pilates the night before also may have had something to do with this). But, I didn’t feel terrible either. Meagan and I finished in 1:53:43 (amazing first half marathon, right?!) which I thought was really great. Judging on how my legs felt at the end, I think that 1:53 was about the limit of my leg strength/power. They just weren’t quite used the pounding of 13 miles and the leg power needed for that, which I’m glad I now realize when I approach future races (NYC Marathon 2014!) with likely unconventional training plans.

Unconventional includes 18 x1 jumping selfie attempts. #nailedit

Unconventional includes 18 x1 jumping selfie attempts. #nailedit

After I wasted all that brain space analyzing whether I could physically run 13.1 miles (when my longest run since November’s NYC Marathon was 8 miles), I realize that what was really missing from the above equation and, perhaps, is the most important variable is this: your mind and attitude.

Over the 5 years I’ve been running and racing, I’ve gone from seeing running as a thing I “needed to do” or “have to do” to now something that I get to do. Running, going to spin, taking pilates – it really is a privilege. Not everyone gets to do it. And I do. And, I’m really thankful that my body is able to do it and that I have the time and resources to do so.

Can't talk about my running roots without mentioning my running buddy OG, Erika. Thanks for inviting me to run that time. It worked out ok.

Can’t talk about my running roots without mentioning my running buddy OG, Erika. Thanks for inviting me to run that time. It worked out ok.

What I learned from the Brooklyn Half was this: When you run from a place of joy and appreciation,the result is so much sweeter, no matter the time on the clock. 

This only took me about 5 years and half a billion races to learn.

On a final note, don’t underestimate your power. Even a lowly intern can convince her senior residents to run a half marathon.

NYU OB/GYN - excellent surgeons in excellent shape

NYU OB/GYN – excellent surgeons in excellent shape

TELL ME: WHAT YOUR SPORT HAS TAUGHT YOUR ABOUT ATTITUDE, MENTAL TOUGHNESS, OR SOMETHING RELATED TO THE BIG ORGAN BETWEEN YOUR EARS. 

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Observations on Unconventional Half Marathon Training

  1. I’ve been training sort of unconventionally this spring too…after major marathon training burn out and dealing with a breakup among other personal and stressful things, I’ve been running plenty but not running fast at all. Basically no workouts; just easy and even easier runs…and then also gone to run a few PRs, including breaking 50 in the 10k, which I’d been trying to do for 3 years. Go figure. I don’t think I got/needed a lesson in mental “toughness,” but it’s shown me that I shouldn’t doubt my ability so much when race time comes!

  2. I’m running a half marathon this coming Saturday that I have trained unconventionally for too, in the sense that I didn’t train… Or at least I feel like I didn’t train. I have done a few long runs, including a ten-miler two weeks before the race, but I also have had two separate forced weeks of rest due to pain and my max mileage in a week has been 20. So I guess when I think about it, I’ve trained enough to complete a half, just not to the level that I would have hoped. This post will probably be one of the things I remind myself of if I start getting down on myself during the race or am not having fun!

  3. My marathon training was unconventional and extremely limited. I know my body would likely not be able to handle “traditional” marathon training, so I only ran one day a week – a long run. I spent 4 to 5 other days doing some other kind of cardio and a bit of weight training, but my total training mileage was incredibly low. I know people thought it was crazy, but I was able to build up my endurance, reach the start line healthy and finish the race strong. I know many people would scoff at my marathon “training” but I am really proud of doing it and my race time!

    You’re doing what works for you and what you want to be doing now. That’s all that matters.

  4. I like this – mainly because it puts this whole world of running into perspective. We are really lucky and in fact, rather privileged to be able to run these races, and buy fancy shoes and clothes. All the negativity and obsessiveness about PR’s and Health can sometimes be underwhelming.

    In a world where many can’t afford a pair of sneakers, or can’t see the finish line, we must remember to keep this all in perspective. We should always challenge ourselves, run and support others. Not because we have to; but because, we GET to. We are lucky.
    Thanks meggie.

  5. Like you, I spent a whole lot of time at Soulcycle this winter but didn’t log enough miles on my feet. I ran my half on Saturday in 1:54 and thought the same thing – “well, that was about the limit of my leg strength, but I’ll take it!” Congrats on your race!

  6. Pingback: On Why We Exercise | The Thinks I Can Think

  7. Pingback: NYC Half: Round 5 | The Thinks I Can Think

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