A year ago, I ran a half marathon on a humid and hot May day. I struggled to finish in three hours, and didn't come close to making my time goal. Crazily enough, I thought I might like to run the very same half marathon again this year - making training, nutrition, speedwork, and sleep priorities. All of this would be done while planning my wedding, and the race? Twenty days before my wedding. Friends both encouraged me and called me crazy for wanting to set aside twelve weeks for training, complete with long runs, cross-training, and, if possible, speed work.
Internally, though, I was hemming and hawing. Last year I registered for the half marathon in November. Of 2011. For the 2012 race. I was excited, right up until I got achy, came dangerously close to having a stress fracture, and got sick enough to have to miss a full week of training. I was waiting to register for the half marathon, until a friend said she'd run it with me. Then, a conversation on a trip home from the grocery store happened, and The Boy said he would run in the relay with me, if we could get a team together. In this, an idea and a relay team was born. The Boy, me, and two of my bridesmaids would run the relay in the Flying Pig, and we would do our hardest to finish in under 4:45.
From the get-go
The Boy, having only run up to 5k distance before, wanted a training plan that would be doable for him. Me, wanting to support him in his efforts, agreed to do the same plan, and we opted for Hal Higdon's novice 15k training plan to get us going. It combined three days of cross-training with three days of running, was balanced, and looked to be the best plan for us. I hadn't run more than a 10k since the RedLegs 10k in June of last year, and I was worried about stamina. After our training fell apart at the end of last year's training cycle, I wanted something I would stay committed to. This plan was easy to commit to, broke down nicely, and kept our evenings full of exercise.
Not surprisingly, we both lost a little weight training. Our eating habits straightened up - more fruits and veggies, fewer sweets, and more water were key to keeping us energized for our daily workouts. We had some struggles in the beginning - our long runs were hard, when previously for me, four and five miles had been easy. Two new pairs of shoes (one for me and one for him) later, we were out and running easily and comfortably.
From the beginning, training was easy. I am a person who commits easily to a goal and will do everything I can healthily do to accomplish my goals. For this, it was to hopefully finish running just under eight miles in about ninety minutes. After running the 7k in September, I knew it was a possibility, but I didn't want to push myself to injury. I knew that the other folks on our team were working hard to accomplish their goals, and being part of a team was an even bigger motivator than I could ever had thought. None of us wanted to be a weak link, and we were all having fun training up to reach our pace goals.
Dealing with Injury
Right up to our eight-week mark, things were looking good. Our training plan was ten weeks long, with the final week ending in the race. Week eight was a seven-miler, and we set out in the late afternoon after my bachelorette party weekend ended, planning to go strong. Four miles in, The Boy started having some severe IT band pain. What started out as a strong and easy run ended in a slow walk home. This wasn't anyone's fault, but we worried that this meant bad things come race day. A week later, we had the same issue when trying to run seven miles again. This time, we stopped at our local running shop and asked for advice. They were able to offer concrete examples for stretches to do, and we decided that all we could do was our best to get The Boy's leg healed enough to run or walk his leg of the race. My IT band was acting up at this point in time, so rather than push it, we both decided to take a good long week off from running.
Making it to race weekend
After a week off from running (well, I decided to run three miles one evening as a way to relax), we both felt strong going into race weekend. Saturday we were up earlier than we might otherwise be, to finish straightening up the house for guests and to be ready to go to the race Expo. As soon as our friends arrived, we headed into downtown and the Duke center to pick up our packets, explore what there was to get at the expo, and figure out our race-day strategy.
At the expo, the energy was incredible. Erica stopped to buy a Boston Strong tee-shirt while The Boy and I explored the Asics booth. I looked for a 13.1 finisher's hat and browsed the other booths. We looked at other races, the corral maps and relay exchange maps, all while discussing the best means of carrying and passing our timing chip - which was the relay baton, so to speak. None of us have ever run a relay before, so this was all new to us. On an impulse, I bought an ArmPocket at one of the expo booths - My iPhone's armband was no longer any good, and we all wanted to carry our phones to keep in touch and to be able to find one another quickly at the end of the race. It was another way to keep track of each other while running, so we could be ready at the relay points.
Saturday night we made our way back home, with plans to meet up by 4:30 the next morning to be on buses on time. After enjoying a pasta and garlic bread dinner, we all headed to bed early, bellies full, adrenaline starting to race, ready to get our run on Sunday morning. My night was pretty sleepless, and when I woke up on Sunday morning after only getting two hours of sleep, I worried if I would be able to finish.
To be continued...