Six more days until my race!

This weekend was my last long run before my half marathon, so I decided to kill it.

The weather was not cooperating. It had been snowing and hailing all weekend, and it was freezing. I went out anyway.

I ran through high winds and snow, but at one point the sun came out and it felt amazing. I ran for two hours without stopping. I’ve never done that before.

I also went to a park and ran off-trail. I did some hills and some stairs. I finished the distance I had set out for myself about 15 minutes ahead of schedule, so I just kept running until I hit two hours. I have no idea how far I went, but it’s definitely further than I’ve ever gone before.

I recovered well and my nerves are much better now: I know I can do this.

MY UPCOMING WEEK

On Monday I have my last pre-race plyometrics workout at the gym. I also start carb loading. During the week I will be running shorter distances, no more than 5k. Then a couple of days before the race, no exercise at all. Hopefully by Sunday I will be ITCHING to run.

MY PACE

I’m planning to do walking intervals. Because I know now that I can run the full race without stopping, I’m really going to push myself on the intervals for speed. I plan to run for 10 minutes, then walk for 30-45 seconds. As I get closer to the walking, I plan to speed up.

I should be able to almost sprint for the last couple of minutes at the end of each interval. In my training, my recovery time is fast. So after 45 seconds of walking I should be good to go again.

HYDRATION

I have measured my hydration up and down and I wish I had a clear number of how many litres I need for a half marathon. It just completely depends on the weather and other factors. So I have given up trying to do the math. Instead, I have learned to read the signs of my body and the temperature and humidity levels outside.

I apparently cannot run with a fuel belt OR a camel pack. I just can’t. The second I snap anything across my hips or chest, my motivation goes down by about 25%. So I’m hoping the weather isn’t scorching and I’ll be able to just carry a water bottle and rely on the water stations along the way.

My nutritionist suggested that I carry my own fuel so that I don’t have to slow down at the water stations, but the time I spend at the stations will be nothing compared to how much lugging around a fuel source is going to slow me down.

STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES

When I try to measure my strengths and weaknesses, I think of four things: my heart, my lungs, my brain, and my muscles.

I’m in love with my legs right now. The muscles in my legs are definitely my greatest strength. They are MILES ahead of my other organs (heart, lungs, brain). They never give up on me.

My heart is my next strength – it beats evenly and steadily throughout. My brain is probably third. I can harness it a lot more effectively, but I still have to consciously control it.

My lungs struggle sometimes. Not to a level of concern, but if anything is holding me back it’s my lungs. When I feel like I need to stop, it’s because I want to catch my breath. The good thing is that it only takes about 20-30 seconds for my lungs to feel 100% again, whereas when I started training it would take up to a minute and a half.

MY CHEAT SHEET

These are a couple of shortcuts that I picked up through training, completely based on personal experience.

1.  I run with my hair out. It’s a little longer than my waist now and quite thick. In the past I would tie it back tightly to keep it out of my face. However, when I let it out it plays an important function: It keeps me cool.

It does this by absorbing a LOT of sweat and keeping it off my face and body. I learned this by accident one day while running under a hot sun. At the end of my run I realized my face was completely cool and dry. At first I thought I had transformed into superwoman. Then I realized that my hair was wet.

Running with my hair loose feels good. The wind blows through it and cools my entire neck and scalp. It also looks good and makes me feel wild and fast. Like Pocahontas.

2. I loosen my shoes. I’m not running this race barefoot because I haven’t trained for these kinds of distances (so far I can only run up to 10k barefoot). But I did buy a larger shoe size, which has made a HUGE difference. I also loosen my laces quite a bit, which feels much better over a longer period of time.

COMPETITION

I’m highly competitive by nature. I can be the most easy going person at any other time, but on race day I have no friends. Only competitors.

In the past I have tried very hard to get into the mindset of just racing for fun. I simply can’t do it. I don’t race for fun; I race to win. I know I’m not coming in first place on Sunday, but I am very interested in my ranking within my age group.

I figure that it is highly unlikely for a girl my age to be training with the same nutritional advantage that I have. Also, they are not as likely to have had the same training time that I have enjoyed these past few months, or a comparable team of professionals.

And finally, girls my age don’t usually have the same lifestyle that I do. They have other goals and hobbies and interests. For me, this is pretty much it. So I expect to be a fierce competitor in my age group. If I’m not, I will be very disappointed.

During my race I am going to be keeping an eye out for girls that look around my age. And I’m going to want to pass them. The tough part is that it is extremely hard to judge a person’s age, especially when they’re running in front of you. So most likely I’m going to end up trying to pass every single female between the ages of 20-45. Sigh.

PLYO

When I first started plyometrics, I wasn’t entirely convinced how it would help my running. But doing hills during a two hour run in high winds made me appreciate plyo. I was able to switch from a long, slow, and steady pace to quick power. I could literally feel a shift in the muscles I was activating to keep my core strong and take an entire hill without stopping. I’ve never done that before.

I’ve also noticed that through plyo I’m developing muscles in my inner thighs. This helps me run strong with my legs spread out more than usual, which is the form I take to run a hill.

My race route isn’t going to be particularly hilly, but it’s good to know that I have access to some quick sprinting power, especially as I near the end of my race and that finish line is just a few meters away.

I am SO excited!!