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Gym Belle  - noun  one who enjoys pull-ups, push-ups, lifting things up/putting 'em down, PRs of all kinds, racing, jumping, spinning, daring and blogging re same (more here)


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The Newport Half Marathon: An Unexpected PR

If you followed my preparation for the Newport Half Marathon, you know that I wasn't expecting to do very well.  My training had been derailed by work.  Sleepless nights, copious amounts of coffee and late night Chinese aren't generally conducive to PRs.  On race day, though, everything came together.  I finished in 2:04:09 (official time), a considerable improvement over my 2:15:32 time at the Disney Princess Half Marathon. 

I joked after the race that sleep deprivation is the way to go.  Joking aside, though, I do think I was better prepared than I realized.  I've been spending more time with heavy weights this year, so my legs may be stronger now than they were in March when I ran Disney, but I don't think my time difference reflects physical improvement.  I think I was capable of running 2:04 in March; I just didn't do it.

The Disney Princess Half Marathon was my first half and nearly every decision I made during that race was motivated by nerves.  I was afraid to run quickly because I worried that I wouldn't last.  I was afraid to stop for water because I might not be able to start again and I didn't want to have to stop for the bathroom.  I kept going because I would have been mortified having to blog about not making it.  Around mile nine or so, I realized I was fine.  I drank some water; I picked up the pace.  I was happy with my 2:15 time.  In retrospect, though, I didn't actually race.  I just went on a 13.1 mile run.

Newport was different.  Around the time that I started training, I heard Laura Cozik, the founder of the Team Lipstick triathalon, speak at Lululemon.  She winced when I told her my 2:15 time at Disney.  "We can fix that," she said.  Laura was adamant that all runners, even first timers, need to set time goals.  She made a strong case for racing races, as opposed to running them.  Listening to her, I decided to train differently for Newport.

According to Laura, to go faster, I had to do more speed work and interval training.  I had to change my thinking from "I'm going to do an eight mile run today" to "I'm going to run for 90 minutes."  I had to pay attention to pace and to run at different paces.  I went out and bought my Garmin and started to train this way.  Of course, it didn't last long.  Work took over, and I wasn't willing to sacrifice CrossFit to run more often, so before long I was down to distance runs on the weekends and I didn't really think about pace.

In the months that lead up to the race, though, think I underwent some inadvertent mental training, and I think that's what made the difference.  In working till 2am night after night (and waking up at 5:45 nonetheless), I got used to running on empty and pushing through.  People would ask me how I was pulling it off.  My response was that I had to, so I did.  I couldn't let myself think about stopping.  My CrossFit workouts may have helped, too.  I've gotten used to persisting through pain.  I've also gotten more comfortable going for PRs with heavy weights.  You can't know if you're going to be able to, say, backsquat 105 lbs until you've done it.  You just have to commit to trying, get under the bar and see what happens when you try to fight it up.

The night before the race, I decided to aim for 10 minute miles, which would have given me a 2:11 time.  I had run 12 miles the Tuesday before at a much slower pace, but I figured it was a reasonable goal.  I started out on pace.  I averaged 9:42 for the first split.  Without realizing it, though, I sped up.  My second split was 9:01.  I concentrated on slowing down, and finished the third split in 9:57.  When I looked at my watch a little while later, I realized I had sped up again and I stopped trying to fight it.  Instead, I commited to keeping my pace below 9:30 or so.  I found myself in a familiar place mentally, pushing and making it work.

It wasn't totally smooth sailing.  At mile 12, I started to get tired and I slowed down for a bit, but I managed to get my stride back during mile 13.  When I thought the finish line was in sight, I sprinted and I managed a 6:52 pace down a steep hill.  Of course, the finish line was four minutes farther away than I thought.  That last stretch was brutal, and it was the first time I thought about walking.  (I didn't, of course.)

I was able to shave 11 minutes off my time mostly by getting out of my way and letting myself race.  I'm not sure the next 4:09 will come off quite so effortlessly.  The Philly half is just four and half weeks away, though, so we'll soon see.  I'll keep you posted.

-Gym Belle-


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Reader Comments (1)

CONGRATS on your amazing PR! You definitely earned it.

(Sorry so late! :)

November 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeghann

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