The big day is almost here! Although originally I thought I’d be in 100% carbo-loading mode in preparation for a full marathon right now, I am still taking the half as seriously as the full.
I have been tapering for the half for about three weeks. Typically, a half marathon taper is just one week but since I was training at marathon mileage, I basically just followed the taper plan that was in my marathon training book with a few tweaks (replaced an 18 mile run with a 16 mile run with 12 miles @MGP instead). One of the many reasons I decided to switch this race to the half was to avoid burn out. I’ve been training at pretty high mileage (for me anyway) since October and I didn’t want to risk burning out in a month.
The taper has been good for me in a lot of ways. Since I was often running alone before work in the pre-dawn cold and darkness, I was losing a bit of my love for running. It was starting to feel like more of a chore and less fun. Now that I’ve cut back my mileage a bit which has allowed me to sleep a bit more and get in some more cross-training, I’m feeling more refreshed and excited to get back into the high mileage weeks I was doing in December and early January. I’ve also had some great key workouts like my 10k and 10 mile time trials which have given a confidence boost.
As I’ve said before, my goal for this race is to run under 1:45. This would be a huge PR for me and I know it’s quite a jump from my current PR (1:51:50 something) but I really feel like I’ve made HUGE progress in the last few months. I’ve never missed a speed session and I’ve had some incredibly encouraging long runs. Doubts do creep into my mind at times, but overall I am going into this race confident that I have a chance at achieving my goal, or at the very least, getting very close.
A 1:44:59 half marathon requires an 8:01 average mile pace. Since we all know the course is always longer, I’ll need to shoot for about a 7:59-8:00 pace. My goal is to keep my mile splits (the best way for me to assess my progress since my Garmin pace can’t be trusted) need to be between 7:55-8. Luckily, the Surf City Half Marathon course is very flat and the weather is predicting temperatures in the low 50s at the start, possibly mid 60s by the end.
I also plan to carry a hand-held water bottle for the first time in a race (I run all my long runs and mid week long runs with a hand-held so I’m used to it). At the Long Beach half I realized I was losing lots of valuable time at aid stations and I think carrying a water bottle could save me a minute alone. Whether or not I’m going to need to refill my water bottle or start using the aid stations is still in the air and will likely be decided on the course. I tend to drink a lot when I’m running and I think it will be good to be able to take my Gu exactly when I want to rather than it be dictated by when the next aid station is. I usually take 1 Gu every 40 minutes but I’ve decided for this race to take 1 every 30 minutes so that I can get 3 Gus in during the course of the race. Another new thing I’m going to try (yikes – so many new things!) is eating a banana about 1 hour before the start. Since Mike is still doing the full, I will have a full 1.5 hours to kill between his start time and mine and I know my breakfast isn’t going to keep me totally full for that long.
Another thing I’m going to try is a longer warm-up. I’ve never done much more than a few dynamic stretches followed by some static stretches before a half marathon. Before my simulated 10k a couple weeks ago, I ran about 1/3 of a mile around the block in order to get lose and I found this really helped me run quickly out the gate without that initial lethargy (often the first mile of a training run is nearly a 10 min/mile). Usually I’m running a race with a group of people and we are chatting and hanging out rather than properly warming up. Since I’ll be alone this time, I really plan to dedicate some of this time to a proper warm-up, hopefully including a 1/3ish mile run and some stretching.
And of course, I will try NOT to run too fast out of the gate. I also don’t want to run too slow and have to make up that time later in the race – ideally the first 1-2 miles will be in the low 8s and the rest in the high 7s. I’ve had varying experiences in the half marathon. I’ve bonked hard at mile 10 (Long Beach) and I’ve run races where I couldn’t be stopped from miles 10-13.1, finishing the race at a complete sprint (La Jolla).
One of the things that I think will help me achieve my goal in this race compared to at Long Beach is all of those hard interval, tempo and MGP long runs I’ve done over the last few months. At Long Beach I hadn’t done much speed work recently and I had forgotten what it feels like to suffer during a run. Ultimately, speed work is about suffering, but in a good way in that it can create a memory in your mind that you can pull out during those tough times in a race. You can remind yourself that you got through that hard workout and you can get through this race. Hopefully all of those speed sessions pay off on Sunday!
Do you warm-up before a half marathon with a run or just with stretching (or Porto-potty line waiting)? If you have used a hand-held water bottle in a half marathon, do you usually need to refill it?