Half Marathon Training Starts!

Today is the day! It's the first day of what I've been looking forward to since October 19, 2013, the day I finished my second half marathon, the Buffalo Creek Half Marathon. Everything I've done since then has been to get back to the Buffalo Creek Half Marathon this year and be better and faster. Why is this race so important to me? Come back with me to September 7, 2013.

I'm standing in the chilly early morning of the Robinson Mall parking lot, jumping around to keep warm until the Montour Trail Half Marathon starts. Early in 2013, I decided I wanted to run a half marathon to celebrate my 40th birthday and picked the Montour Trail race because it was just five days after my birthday. With only a few years of tentative running, one 5k and one 12K race, and a lifelong history of never being able to run behind me, a half marathon was a huge goal. But I'd prepared.

While I didn't follow a training plan, I ran three times a week all summer: two three-mile runs and one long run where I added a mile each week until I got to 12 miles. While I rarely eat white pasta, I'd gone out for a huge pasta dinner the night before the race. I'd gotten sick from it, but I'd read that carb-loading was good before a race, so I wasn't worried. While waiting for the race to start, I ate a bunch of Clif Bloks and drank a Gatorade because I was worried I'd have trouble not having enough energy. I was confident about the race and only had one fear: having to stop and walk.

The race started, and I was careful to start slowly and soon fell in step with a woman who seemed like she knew what she was doing. She was going at the slow, easy pace that I'd trained for, and she even took her energy gels at the same time I took my Clif Bloks. When I looked at my Garmin a few miles in, I was surprised to see that I was running at a pace one minute/mile slower than what I'd trained. I figured it was better to go slow then to have to stop and walk, so I kept following her.

Mile 9. The pace still feels way to easy, so I decide to pick up my pace after taking more Clif Bloks. I start running at the one-minute/mile faster pace I trained for. Almost immediately, my stomach starts hurting, but I figure it will go away. But it gets worse and worse.

Mile 11. I'm in severe pain. I feel like I'm going to throw up. I decide to walk just until the nausea stops. The nausea and pain do not stop, though. In fact, they continue the whole day. And I cannot start running again. My body just won't do it. I barely manage to break into a slow jog when I see the finish line and cross it to meet my husband and friend who are waiting for me.

Struggling to finish the 2013 Montour Train Half Marathon
My official time was 2:50:59. Out of 633 participants, only 16 people finished after I did. I was devastated. I spent the day in emotional misery, feeling like a failure. I came home from the race and looked for the next half marathon near Pittsburgh, because I was determined to prove that I could run the whole race. That's how I ended up at the Buffalo Creek Half Marathon a month later.

I had realized all the mistakes I made with eating the night before and fueling during the race. I ran the race with no problems and finished in 2:37:30. This time 51 people out of 982 participants finished after me. I was really happy with how I did in this race, but I couldn't help wondering, 'How does everyone else run it so fast?!'
2013 Buffalo Creek Half Marathon

So I set a goal to come back and do the race in 2014 but be better and faster. I started reading everything I could about running and looking into training plans. That's how I decided to train for and run a 5K and 10K this year to prepare for my half marathon.

And now...I'm ready! I have a great running base as a foundation and feel like I'm a much better runner now than I was a year ago. I'm running five days a week instead of three and running much higher weekly mileage, and doing a variety of workouts including speedwork. I've picked the Hal Higdon Intermediate program and feel it's a good fit for me.

The first few weeks aren't much different from what I'm doing now, but the last part of the program will be challenging. My only concern is that in week 7, one of the first challenging weeks, I'll be on vacation in the high altitude of Colorado. I'll have to figure out how to handle training then.

Based on my last 10K race result, the race prediction calculator has me finishing at 2:23 for a 10:59 pace. That sounds good to me, so I'm going to set my goal pace just below an 11:00 pace.

I'm ready, I'm set...here I go!