Friday, May 24, 2013

Man Down - Finish Photos Tell The Story

As I mentioned in my race report from the Brooklyn Half, I had some pretty solid tunnel vision going on as I focused my way toward the finish line on the Coney Island boardwalk.  But once the race photos were released, it opened up a whole other story that took place in those closing seconds, all of which is documented in my finish line photos.

To give a bit of a back story, as we were closing in, I vaguely remember seeing a man to my side almost reaching toward the finish line, when it appeared he had a little too much forward lean going on and he lost his balance about 20 yards before the finish line and he went down (looks like he was fine thankfully).  I remember seeing something out of the corner of my eye and shortly after I crossed the finish line, I remembered hearing medical staff calling for a wheelchair.  I nearly forgot about this until I happened to notice something unusual in the background of my finish line photos.  So the below sequence was captured over the 3 seconds of my crossing the finish line. 
Heading down the boardwalk toward the finish
At the finish, but the girl in above photo turned back to the man that went down

You can see the girl's back facing the finish, heading to the down man

Down man is trying to get up, while another runner plows into the girl

Runner in red and man down trying to recover, guy in green headband might have heard the commotion

Runner in red still losing his balance, man down still getting up

Runner in red starting to recover, as is man down

Runner in red wondering what the heck just happened

Runner in red recovered enough to finish, girl and help attend to man down

Runner in red still wondering what the heck happened, people helping man down back up

These were all the photos I was able to see, since I would have to know the last names of the bibs shown in the photos to search for them, thus preventing my search for what else happened.  I hope everyone ended up ok, but it was pretty heroic for the girl in white to stop just moments of the finish to go help the man that fell.   Pretty cool that the photos tell the story. 

However, I should also point out, that turning around in the closing moments of a race (luckily it wasn't that crowded yet) is kind of dangerous.  Both she and the guy in red are lucky that nobody was injured.  Most runners are at a nearly full sprint, so to have a collision at that point has got to be pretty painful.  Just goes to show that you never know what is going to happen.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Race Report: Brooklyn Half Marathon

In my last post, I outlined my general training strategy for the Brooklyn Half and provided a rough idea of how I expected to race.  In short, I expected to PR, but knew my training wasn't as good as I would have liked it to be.  Regardless of how anyone trains for a race, there will always be areas where you think you could have done more.  In this case, I knew I could have done more longer tempos, but I simply didn't have the time given other obligations.  I made the most of my training with the time that I did have and I knew that the result on race day would reflect my consistent training over the better part of a year, rather than these past six weeks of build up.  I used these six weeks as specific half marathon training, but the foundation of my fitness was laid a long time ago, so I knew I'd have an opportunity to run well, it simply came down to race day execution.

Since the Brooklyn Half was a Saturday race, I wanted to make sure I made the trip with plenty of time to relax on Friday and not have to add extra stress the day before the race.  And with a soon-to-be 1 year old (today!), we had to plan around his schedule.  So that meant leaving in the dark of the night to ensure he continued to sleep and we didn't run into any traffic issues.  We left at about 3:30 am and despite hitting some traffic in Staten Island during morning rush hour, we still made good time and were parked in Brooklyn by 8 am with a full day ahead of us...after we picked up some coffee first!

Main Pre-Party Area
I went for a short 20 minute run along the constantly updated piers that essentially went from my sister's place in Cobble Hill to the Brooklyn Bridge and back.  The run was a simple easy jog, including 2 x 2:00 at goal race pace, as a reminder to my body of the pace I should be running on Saturday. 

Bib Check at the Expo
After the run, I cleaned up and we made our way over to the Pre-Party Expo, which was essentially in the same place I ran to in DUMBO.  It was a cool vibe that was more party than expo, with only a New Balance and Jack Rabbit Running vendor shop for any gear.  I picked up a non-technical Brooklyn Half shirt, because I liked it a lot better than the actual race shirt, which was boring and minimal (supposedly in line with Brooklyn/hipster fashion).  There was also a couple cool features - a nice photo opp in front of a Brooklyn Half logo, a sweet beer garden with live music and some local vendors.  New Balance was also providing a really cool feature where they will print out any photo you post on Instagram and tag it #NBBrooklyn, so I posted and got a print out of my photo standing in front of the race logo with my bib.

Picnic with a view
After getting the basics, we set out for lunch, which was a gluten free pizza place just down the street from the expo.  Since it was such a nice day, we decided to eat outside with a killer view.  After eating, we just hung out, while Z endlessly chase pigeons all over the grass.  It was pretty hilarious to watch. 
Sweet Carousel
He also took a ride on the carousel, which we weren't sure if he loved or not, but he didn't cry and held on REALLY tight, so we think he was ok with it.  Either way, made for some cool photos with a scenic backdrop.  It was starting to get close to Z's nap time, so we walked back.  Walking both to the expo and back might not have been the smartest idea (since I had also already run), but it was too nice to take the subway and we were having such a nice time.  Sometimes you just have to do what's best for the group and remember that walking a little bit extra isn't going to derail my race.  Once we got back, we pretty much just rested, which was all I wanted to do, so I had a light dinner and hit the sack by 9:30 or so.

Race Day

Race morning came early, with a 1:30 am crying session for about 5 minutes, before Z went back to sleep.  I tossed and turned quite a bit to get back to sleep, which lasted until 4:30 when he woke up again.  Since my alarm was set to go off at 4:45, I was up for good.  Typically when Z gets up at 4:30 or so, he'll fall back asleep till 6-6:30, so while Rebecca was trying to get him back to sleep, I was eating my pre-race breakfast in the dark with only my iphone flashlight to guide me.  A few short moments later, I saw the shadow of a little head moving toward me.  Z was up for good too, which sure made things interesting, as he tried to play with a make noises with all his toys.  I just felt bad for the people who live under my sister! 

At 5:45, I made my way toward the start line, which was approximately 2 miles from my sister's.  I jogged for 10 minutes until I made it to a hill and decided to walk the rest of the way there and not add any extra stress to my legs.  After eventually making it to my corral (though there were only 2 main corrals of 20,000 bibs each, they were broken up by barriers and security within each area, so mine was 1-1999).  Since the corrals were closing at 6:30 (30 minutes before start time), I set out for the final part of my warm up - 5 more minutes of running, with 2 x 30s race pace strides to remind myself what race pace effort feels like so I don't go out too fast.  Once I re-entered my corral and they locked them down, I sat down for the better part of 25 minutes to rest my legs and back, until closer to the start.  With 15 minutes to go, I popped a ClifShot with some water and prepared for battle.  In few seconds between the start and the actual gun, we shuffled along toward the start line.  Being in the front, I could actually see the lead pace car with the clock right in front of us.  I knew it wouldn't be in my view for long, but kinda cool to be right up close in such a big race.  And with the horn sounding, the race was underway.

Miles 1-3 6:39/6:38/6:38
Before racing, as I always do, I research the crap out of the course.  By that, I mean that I study the terrain, where turns are, and how my goal pacing should be adjusted for any or all of the factors involved.  So I felt like I had a pretty good handle on my expectations.  What I was not expecting was the whole 1st .5 mi being a steady drop downhill, followed by a 45 degree turn and up the equivalent of the downhill we just ran.  I knew it was downhill at the start, but this was pretty steep.  People were FLYING by me and I just told myself to run my race and I'd see them soon most likely.  At the bottom of the hill, my average pace was about 6:18/mi, but I knew my effort was really restrained and since I had to go back up a similar hill, my pace would slow and net out to where I wanted to be.  As we made the turn back up the hill, I really focused on running easy and let my current pace slip into the high 6:50s, so when I came across Mile 1in 6:39 I was happy.  My plan was to be at about 6:45/mi, but with the steeper downhill section, I felt like it was within reason to start out a bit faster.  Miles 2-3 involved a lap around Grand Army Plaza, followed by a return back down the hill we just ran and a stretch of flat along the perimeter of Prospect Park, so I knew my pace would be similar.  I knew the tough hills of the course were all in Prospect Park, so I wanted to get through the first 5k without any damage and ready to let the hills come to me.  I crossed the 5k mark in 20:49, slightly ahead of my goal of 21:00.

Miles 4-7 6:44/6:48/6:46/6:29
Upon entering into Prospect Park we were welcomed by a nice rowdy cheering section of fans, which helped lift my spirit.  I knew there wasn't anything flat in the park and the 1st half of the approximately 3.5 mi loop was largely uphill, so my pace was going to slip.  It was too soon into the race to use any extra gears, so I just ran steady through the hills.  The main feature of the park is the sweeping, curvy .5 mi climb between the end of Mile 4 and the middle of Mile 5.  I was prepared for it, so I just kept the effort steady and let my pace up the hill slip into the 7:15/mi range.  It was pretty steep and would have required using gas I was saving for the last 5k to run it harder and I knew the downhills to follow would get me back on pace.  I came through the 10k split in 42:05 with a 21:16 5k for Miles 4-6, which was just slightly slower than my 42:00/21:00 goal, but the downhills on the back side of the park would get me back on pace.  I spotted Rebecca, Z, and my sister right around Mile 6, which was a welcome sight, since I had just finished the uphills and was looking for some positive feelings to come back.  With the hills behind me, I let the downhills take me, covering the downs in the low 6:20s, but with some of the steeper sections I noticed a few periods of sub-6 work.  It would have been more work to slow down, so I just rolled with it.  We existed the park a bit after Mile 7, but I was not surprised to see a 6:29 split here given the downs.

Miles 8-12 6:35/6:39/6:41/6:42/6:43
Cyclone Rollercoaster
Mentally and physically at this point, I was doing great.  I knew the hills were in the rearview and I had a straight shot of 5 miles on Ocean Ave and then the final mile, so the end was near.  I think I used a little bit of the excitement of knowing that I only had a 10k to go to push a little harder here, even though Miles 8 and 9 had some uphill to them.  When I mapped this 5 mile section out, it all seemed like a false flat downhill and it largely does in my Garmin file, but for some strange reason it felt like I was mostly running a false flat uphill.  When I'd glance ahead of me, runners appeared higher and I couldn't ever see too far into the distance.  I was hoping to see Coney Island coming closer into view, but never saw it until I was right there.  So this section was tough mentally.  Pushing through a bit harder in Miles 8-9 made 10-12 some tough miles with a whole lot of self talk.  I kept reminding myself over and over that I worked hard for this, and my goal for this race was to run a half time that is representative of my fitness.  While I was happy with my marathon time, I know it was not representative of my fitness at the time, so this was kind of a redemption to me, to build back some of the confidence I had going into Shamrock.  These reminders helped A LOT.  But what did not help much at all was something I'm sure most parents can relate to - a random annoying baby song getting stuck in my head for the better part of the last 3 miles.  Next time you go run a tempo, sing a few baby songs and see how your splits are...probably not very good, huh?  Well, it was stuck and not leaving, so I kept up with the self talk.  My 3rd 5k split was my fastest on the day in 20:39 and I hit the 10 mile mark in 66:40, which was enough for a new 10 mile PR.  This also reminded me that I should probably race a 10 miler so I can have a real (faster) PR at the distance.  Those last 2 miles were tough, but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other until I got to Mile 12 and I knew I could start picking up the effort a little bit more.

800m to go!
Mile 13 - Finish: 6:39/1:25 (6:17/mi pace)
After passing Mile 12, Coney Island was finally in sight and we were FINALLY getting off Ocean Ave for a change of scenery.  I crossed the last 5k split in 20:56, knowing that I was going to PR, but the question was by how much?  I knew the clock was ticking closer to a finish time around 1:28 and that it would be close, so I pushed where I could, but I started to get the sense that if I put any more effort in, I was going to cramp.  With the higher humidity (officially 72%), I continued to cool myself with water at each aid station, in addition to accounting for the extra sodium losses, by taking in some unplanned Gatorade to keep things balanced.  I just tried to relax and let the finish line come to me.  Whenever I force my pace, I tighten up, so I knew the fastest way to the finish line was to keep slowly upping the effort without going too hard.  At the end of the day, a few seconds won't change my result, but a cramp in the last mile of the race could.  By the time I exited Prospect Park, I knew that I had run a fair bit extra, since my watch was showing miles a good deal before I crossed the markers. 
400m to go!

With a large race like this, and one with lots of curves, it made it difficult to keep on the tangents, so I knew I'd cover more extra distance than I would in a smaller race.  Turns out, I ran an extra .13 mi, which is about how much extra I ran in my whole marathon.  But to me it didn't matter, because I was able to start picking up the pace with the 800m to go sign as we passed by the Cyclone rollercoaster, then hit the 400m to go sign and took a left toward the boardwalk.  A painful steep ramp uphill to get onto the boardwalk with about 200m to go, and I got my money's worth of a cool finish line.  The finish area was starting to resemble something epic - we were on the Coney Island boardwalk, and I was racing toward Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs.  As I came through the finish line, I knew I wasn't under 1:28, but I was pretty darn close!

 Final Stats
Time: 1:28:09 (1:25 PR!)
Avg Pace: 6:44/mi
Overall: 613/21,378
Age Group: 141/2,697

Post Race Thoughts
- I'm happy with my finish time, but I can't help but wish I could have eeked out another 10 seconds to go under 1:28!  Oh well - on a smaller race with less extra running and hitting the tangents, I would have made it.  My "good day" goal was 1:28, so I pretty much nailed that, even without optimal training.  Just goes to show me that I have a fair bit more to take off this time, which is in line with where I feel my fitness is.

- The course was not easy, but it is a fast course.  It offers a number of early opportunities to blow your legs out too soon, so patience wins on this course.  Don't hit the 1st mile too hard and don't push too much on any of the hills.  I was running next to people gasping for air on the uphill section of Mile 1 after flying on the downhill.  You can get a really false sense of your fitness in that first .5 mile.  You have to make it out of the park ready to put in a harder effort in the back half of the race.  If you feel beat by Mile 7, you're in for a tough last 10k.  Those 5 miles on Ocean Ave require focus and mental determination to keep pushing, even though the scenery never really changes.  It is monotonous, so you need your legs and your head till the end.

- I didn't spend much time hanging around after the race.  Given the length of the train ride (about 50 min back to Cobble Hill), I got my medal, walked through the designated path to get us safely away from the boardwalk, and headed to the subway for my ride back.  While a lot of the post race photos show a big party, it hadn't even started yet by the time I was walking out.  Bands were just getting set up and some music was playing, but it was like 10-20% of what it seemed like later on.  Would have been nice to have that going on the whole time, as it would've given me a reason to stick around and maybe buy some stuff in the area.  Instead, I didn't feel like waiting, so I left to head back and meet Rebecca, Z, and my sister.  Too bad.

- You'll notice there aren't many (really, any!) spectators in my photos, which all took place in the last mile of the race.  Aside from Miles 1-7 and the aid stations, there wasn't much crowd support when I was out there for the remainder of the race.  While I thought Prospect Park had a lot of people, I was told it really filled in about 15 minutes after I came through.  I don't know if Ocean Ave ever got any more spectators, but that section of the race is the only thing holding this race back from being on par with major races.  I realize Coney Island is pretty far for most people to get to, especially early in the morning, but I did expect the post-race party to be fully set up.  That said, I'd race this again, simply because it is relatively easy logistically for me for such a large race. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Fine Tuning for the Brooklyn Half

Although I hate making post-marathon race plans before I've actually raced the marathon I'm training for, race registrations and quick sellouts have a way of screwing up that logic.  I simply don't think it is good karma to plan for the next race when you haven't finished the first - kind of like counting your chickens before they've hatched.  Anyways, I've long wanted to run a big race in NYC and failed miserably at getting into the NYC Marathon through the lottery program.  Unfortunately, they are ending the guaranteed entry after 3 fails after this year (this would be my 3rd miss if I don't get in), so I had to look for alternative options.  The Brooklyn Half is just that, being that my sister lives there, so this should make for a relatively easy logistical event.  So with that said, I decided to go ahead and register when the race opened.  I figured that since it was a good 2 months post-Shamrock, it would be more than enough time to recover properly without the temptation to get back into things too quickly due to the race looming.

The basic structure of my training plan went something like this:

  • Weeks 1-2: Focus is on recovery from the marathon and only running toward the end of Week 1 and if I want to, in Week 2.  Big mental and physical reset with flexibility to take as much time as needed.
  • Weeks 3-4: Transitional phase of getting back into the normal structure of training habits (5-7 runs/week), with the slow integration of some preliminary speedwork (ie fartlek, short tempos).
  • Weeks 5-7: Build toward half marathon specific progression, including longer tempos, intervals, and strength work.
  • Week 8: Taper with some shorter quick workouts and a focus on recovery.

I'm at the tail end of Week 7 right now, which means that I'm effectively in taper mode.  For me, it really is just a slight step back in total volume, but with more of a focus on recovery (ie sleep).  As a morning runner, this has been difficult.  My typical routine is to just hop out of bed while everyone is still sleeping for another 1-2 hours and get my run on in the darkness.  I come home feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.  But with sleep as a priority to help with recovery, I have shifted the number of early morning runs I am doing in the hope that the extra sleep will give my body a bit more quality time to rebuild.  I have to be honest though - as hard it is might be to get up so early, I miss the post run energy and the ability to carry that around with me the rest of the day.  There's just something special about having that little secret in the back of your mind when you hear people complain about how busy they are.  It just makes me feel productive no matter how the rest of my day goes, because I made time for to do something I care about when when I had to "find" time for it to happen.  Removing most of my early morning routine is just a small tradeoff though for what I hope is a great race.  Before I'll know it, I'll be back to business as usual in a few weeks anyways.

This short build period has been fun though, since I've been so marathon focused for the past 4-5 months.  It has given me a chance to add a bit more speed quality with faster efforts, rather than some of the longer moderate efforts typically found in marathon training.  However, it has come with its own set of challenges.

Life frequently has a way of dictating exactly how much volume one can sustain.  Not always from a healthy/injured runner perspective, but from a happy family one.  With Rebecca and I focusing on her final preparations for the Nike Women's Half, combined with an insanely busy work schedule, I ran out of time to keep my volume even remotely close to what it was during marathon training.  Even with moving my wake up time 20 minutes earlier (and trust me, 20 minutes when it is already insanely early is a BIG deal), I was still unable to get in as much volume as I would have liked.  During marathon training, my "return home time" was typically something in the 6:15 am range, which would allow me to get 12+ miles on some mornings.  But during the last two months, that return home time has moved to 5:15 am, which means I'm lucky if I can get 8 miles in.  Now add to this the fact that I usually run with the dog (typically when it is just an easy run), who tends to add a few minutes here and there due to the need to pee on every plant in existence, and those runs are more like 6 miles.  I could be selfish and leave the dog at home, but the guy goes a little crazy when he doesn't get his runs in (sound familiar?).  He's just as much addicted to running as I am.  Occasionally, he'll go two days without running and when that happens, you better have some food or a toy to play with him, because he tends to get a big moody and go stir crazy.  So I try to avoid that with the Z man chasing him around all the time.  So that was a long way of saying that between everything going on, I haven't be able to train ideally, though I have certainly trained enough to run well.

At the end of the day, a happy dog + a happy baby + a happy wife = a happy family.  And that is what it is all about.

My hope is that my sustained high volume base achieved during my marathon training will carry me through on race day.  Most of my workouts in the build cycle have been more of the quality focus, rather than quantity, simply for the fact that I just haven't had enough time to do both.  So when something had to give, I had to drop some of the total volume in favor of more race specific quality (ie faster 4-6 mi tempos versus longer steady state workouts). 

When I look at my indicator workouts, I'd be lying if I didn't see gaps where I would to have more to pull from.  This fact has me slightly hesitant about my goals for this race.  While I am still shooting for a PR, I have expectations quite a bit beyond that time (1:29:34).  I know my fitness will allow me to PR, so I am really trying to hone in on my race plan execution to ensure I get the most out of myself.  Where one might lack fitness, one can make up a moderate amount of the differential simply through proper pacing.  And while additional fitness gives you some more flexibility on that front, a properly executed plan should get you pretty darn close to the same place.  At least that is what I keep telling myself.  Afterall, you've got to be a confident athlete if you want to toe the line and expect to succeed.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Coaching and Executing: 2 Races, 2 PRs, Including a 30 Minute Half Marathon PR

When we last left off from our sherpa and coaching adventures, my lovely wife was about to explore racing for really the 1st time since Z was born.  With the Monument Ave 10k scheduled, followed by the Nike Women's Half Marathon two weeks later, she was about to find out how all this training I've had her and her friends doing was about to work on race day.  And while she's done a few other small races for fun in the nearly year since Z was born (seriously, how has it already been a year!), this was her first time in race shape with the mindset of going hard from the gun.

Monument Ave 10k

In the past when we raced the Monument Ave 10k, we'd go down the day before and stay with a friend who lives right on the course.  Last year, with Rebecca pregnant, we didn't think sleeping on an aero bed in someone else's place made sense, so we we drove down early that morning.  Now with Z, we still didn't think sleeping on an aero bed in someone else's place made sense, so decided to do the same thing and hope for the best with the Z man.  We woke up at 4 am, packed everything up, and made way for the trip south to Richmond.  Fortunately, at that hour of the morning (or night, depending on how you look at it), there wasn't any traffic.  We made amazing time and were there in about 1.5 hours.

Ready to run Richmond!
With some time to kill before the race, we just hung around and let the Z man bumble around the race area.  It was still early enough before the race that it wasn't too crowded, so people mostly just looked on as he discovered the streets of Richmond.  Before we knew it, it was getting close to race time, so Rebecca ran off to get in a bit of a warm up and Z was running out of room, as 40,000 runners were quickly descending on the race site.  Once she got back, Z and I made our exit and I went for a short run up the return side of the course. 

It's called Monument Ave for a good reason
My plan was to run about 1.5 miles out and hang out in the median to see the elites come through on one side and look for Rebecca on the other.  Despite my best efforts to be super dad and race photographer, I wasn't able to grab a shot of her as she came by.  However, I did get to see her come through at about 4.5 miles and she looked like she was just out for a jog (part of me was wondering if she was racing hard enough for what I was hoping she would).  However, when I heard her final time, I realized she was just making it look easy.  As far as I can count, she's raced the 10k distance 7 times over the past 6 years, and she just set 3 minute PR with a pretty impressive negative split!  I couldn't have been more happy for her and excited for what Nike would bring, because I knew her training was starting to come together.  With 2 weeks to go, all she had to do was keep her legs moving - the hay was in the barn, so to speak.

PR City
Nike Women's Half

Rockin the shades!
 Another race, another day of trying to be super dad.  Since the race started at 7 am, we got up super early to meet up with the group of ladies that were all part of the team I was coaching (Team Fight 4 A Cure).  Z man was once again a trooper and hamming it up for everyone, despite some race day nerves, many of whom were running their first half marathon.  We all kept things loose, the ladies left for a bit to go warm up, and shortly after, they had to make their way over to the starting corrals. 

Support Crew Ready For Action!
My plan was to cover as much of the course as possible so I could see everyone and give support.  With 15,000 runners, I knew this would be a challenge, but since Rebecca and a few of the girls in the group were of similar pace, they were planning to run together for as much of the race as possible.  Its sure easier to spot 3 people than it is 1, so that helped.  Shortly before 7, Z and I headed off and I started by day by getting in a nice and relaxed 3 miles of stroller running in near perfect weather.  Seriously, you could not have asked for a better day!  It was shortly after I started moving that Z man passed out for the morning's excitement, and would remain asleep for the better part of the next 2ish hours, allowing me to do some quality spectating.

Having a little too much fun racing
With the race underway and some of the faster runners coming through the 2 mile mark where I was standing, I started to do some math in my head to try and figure out when they might be coming through.  Sure enough, not too much later I spotted them.  Everyone is always in such as good mood in the early miles of longer races.  So much pent up anxiety and your relaxed body always feels so good.  It was great to see so many people just happy to be out on a nice run.  After seeing them at Mile 2, I moved on to Mile 4 where I'd have a chance to see them again at Mile 6 due to the out and back section.  Not too much later were they cruising along, settling into their race pace effort for hopefully the rest of the race. 
Halfway home and looking strong!

While coming back on the Mile 6 mark, I found myself running alongside them for more than a mile, since there was a parallel trail.  I hadn't planned on that, but with the flow of runners so thick and nowhere to cross the road to head toward the finish, I just kept running along until I reached the end of that trail and had to turn around.  Eventually, I found a gap between runners and slipped my way through, headed back toward the finish. 

As the girls continued to push on, I was following along on the online race tracker.  With each 5k split, I could tell they were executing perfectly by slowly picking up the pace and were right on target for my predicted finish time.  While playing with a finally awake Z man a bit off from the main finish area, I had just checked my phone and it updated to show Rebecca finish with a 30 MINUTE PR!  Her last 5k split was her fastest on the day and she couldn't have ran the race more perfectly based on her fitness - and with a slight negative split to boot!

Little cheering squad

After searching for a bit through the finishers area, we all finally met up.  It was so exciting to see all these ladies finish strong.  Everyone who ran, either set a new PR for the half marathon distance, or conquered the distance for the first time.  Such a great way to cap a fun training cycle!

Team Fight 4 A Cure
Keys To Successful Training
While I'd certainly like to take some credit for their success, they obviously each had to put in the work to make it to the start line.  Here are a few key takeaways that I think helped work:

- The backgrounds of these runners varied from those who have been running for 8+ years, to only a few years on an off, but with minimal distance training.  While I had them work off similar plans (they all had to run 13.1 miles!), it was important for each individual to work within their current abilities, which is sometimes easier said than done with them temptation to keep up with each other!

- A little less than halfway through the training, I had them run a time trial to both get a gauge of their fitness adaptations, but also reset their training paces based on the results.  What we learned was that they had all significantly improved, so we slid their paces a bit faster to adjust.  This ensured their training continued to be in line with their fitness progression.

- I made sure to include a systematic progression of workouts that moved them from more general to more specific training.  This had two purposes - to adequately prepare them for the race they were training for (specificity), but also to create variety within their training workouts.  Doing the same thing week after week, while adding a mile, or an extra 5 minutes, or an extra rep is boring.  A bored runner isn't motivated to do the work you ask of them, so I wanted to make sure they had variety, while simultaneously progressing them through more race specific preparations.

- They largely trained as a team.  I think there is most definitely something to the group training mentality that helps bring out the best in others.  Whether its the pressure to show up when you might not want to, or the drive to keep up with others, it works.  These ladies met most weekends for their long runs and got it done.  I was always excited to have Rebecca come home and tell me how everyone did. (As a brief side note, for those local runners, now is the time to sign up for our =PR= DTP, where you'll be able to take advantage of a group setting!)

- With a few tweaks and setbacks throughout the past 16 weeks, it was all about managing what could be done when issues cropped up.  For example, assigning strength routines and targeted exercises with the onset of new pains.  Or implementing cross training to ensure a lighter impact to let nagging issues heal, while keeping aerobic fitness steady.  At the end of the day, they each made it to the start line knowing they would finish, which is what you must feel in order to race well. 

I had to laugh at the fact that within only 1 day of finishing the race, I was already receiving emails about next races to sign up for.  As I do for everyone following a peak race, I gave strict orders to take a short break from running (1-2 weeks) and we can discuss further once we know recovery has set in. 

If you want to run optimally, you have to recover enough to allow your body and mind to give it everything the next time.  Continuing to train or race when you haven't reached that point will frequently lead to sub-optimal results.


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