Checking In 9/2/2021

I’ve formulated a plan for the half marathon this weekend, given the following:

  • I’m obviously not in peak shape, having come off a hamstring/groin problem or injury that derailed several weeks of training.
  • Most of my training in the last two months has been cross training on the elliptical, which while productive (45-80 minute workouts) is not exactly running and has not neuromuscularly prepared me to run long.
  • I have not run farther in one go than 12 miles in this training cycle, and I last did so almost 7 weeks ago.
  • I have to be wary that the hamstring and groin may still be an issue and could suddenly present a problem during these 13 miles.
  • Along with water, the race is serving Nuun, which is sugar free and won’t provide any glycogen during the race. Given I’ve only maxed out at 12 miles in this training cycle, bonking might be a risk.
  • The race is in the Midwest, in cooler but much more humid conditions than I’m used to (recent Vegas humidity aside). Temperatures for the race should be about 65-70°F, but with 60-70% humidity, and it should be clean and sunny.
  • The course is mostly flat, like much of the Midwest, certainly flatter than anywhere outside I’ve been running the last several months. This may be easier to handle.
  • The entire race is on grade-separated paved city trails, and while most of the trail is tree-lined, there are swaths of the route that could be fully sun-exposed. It could feel somewhat hotter than it actually is.
  • There are six aid stations on the course, each spaced about as equally apart as organizers could manage. These stations are about 1.8-2.3 miles apart.

I can’t run this half marathon like I typically would. At best, the last half of the race would be a slow, painful slog… if I could physically continue running at all.

Either way, handled as best as I could, it’s probably going to take a full week for my body to bounce back from this event. But if I successfully run all 13 miles plus any warmup/cooldown, it’s basically the best long workout I’ll have done in a long while, and recovery from that stimulus will set me up well for serious training in September/October.

The plan:

Run the Half as seven (7) 3000-meter repeats.

Looking at it as one 13.2 mile race, the Half seems far too daunting. Looking at the Half as seven sections of 1.8+ miles with water stations between each section makes it feel far more do-able.

This is similar to my approach with the 2019 Mardi Gras Chaser 10K, where I ran 2 mile chunks of the course at race pace then slowed at the aid stations to drink water and cool off. While I PR’d in that race, I was obviously in better overall (injury free) shape then, and I’m not expecting to PR now. My main goal is to complete the Half injury free and however strong I can.

Each aid station being about 3000 meters apart allows me to just run reasonably strong for 3000 meters, then slow down to drink fluid and cool down before running the next 3000 meter section. While I hope to run each of these sections at close to marathon intensity or pace, I’ll be realistic about what my body can do at the time.

Eat a light meal an hour before the race.

To minimize the possibility of a bonk, I should eat in the morning before the race. I’m fortunate here, as there’s a cafe right near the start line that will be open before the race.

Similar to what I did last weekend in Flagstaff for my long run, I plan to jog there as a warm-up, have some espresso and something to eat, relax a bit, use the restroom, then head to the start line and run.

This should set me up nicely for what I anticipate will be a 2.5 hour run (I’d be thrilled if I finished it more quickly).

The focus each 3000 meters will be on form and power.

I have mentioned that my hamstring/groin issues didn’t pop up if I was running with a fully extended stride and consistent forefoot strike. The flip side is that maintaining such form takes quite a bit more effort than an easy jog. But the easy jog has sometimes presented pain, probably because of the form breakdowns I’ve had that likely produced my issues to begin with.

The ideal form, according to Stryd, requires about 230-260 W of running power, compared to the 190-220 W of my typical easy runs. That’s also around my theoretical expected half or full marathon effort.

If I focus on forefoot landing and full follow through during these 3000 meter intervals, on power in the 230-260 W range, I likely can (albeit with difficulty) run the whole race pain free, presuming I’m in minimal or no pain that morning.

If at any point before or during the race consistent pain emerges, go ahead and drop out.

While I want to finish the race, I’m under no legal obligation to do so. If the issues become a problem to the point where running becomes unduly difficult or impossible, I can leave the trail and consider this trip an otherwise bland weekend getaway.

It helps that where I am lodging is actually along the out-and-back course, right near the trail at the mile 3 and mile 10 markers. No matter where I am, I’m no farther than 2-3 miles from where I’m staying. I’ll be packing light so there’s no need to go back to the start line for Gear Check. If I have to quit, I can leave the course and just walk back to base.

For it to happen well before the finish could also accelerate recovery, since I wouldn’t have run 13 miles.

However, my goal is to finish, and if I’m experiencing no undue distress, then I’m going to finish.

So that’s my plan for this weekend, and hopefully things go well.

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