Tag Archives: Half Marathon

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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Enough of that training plan already

So a week before Saturday, with a 10 miler looming on the schedule, 12 weeks into an automated Garmin half marathon training plan… I decided to pull the plug on the plan.

I wasn’t struggling. Save for one or two runs where I couldn’t nail pace (one was a nightmare session where I was running uphill into a 30 mph headwind), and a couple of workouts here and there that I circumstantially had to delete, I had done every workout and had hit the prescribed training paces on all of the other runs. This was 5 runs a week, four in a row with a long run buffered by days off. I had started with a lot of cross training and then backed the cross training off as the volume and demands at work went up. I was doing okay and I noticed I had decent general energy at work.

However, the scheduled runs completely took away my flexibility with workout scheduling. I had to do X workout on X day, X miles, X pace. Often I had to plan my day around the workouts rather than vice versa. With a tough work assignment, a cross town commute, and a resulting long work day with few gaps… at this point I need to be able to decide how long midweek workouts need to be, and have the luxury of scheduling them either before or after work. At this point I was doing all my workouts after work because they required about an hour. If I could knock it out in 30-40 minutes, I could do it in the morning, but few of them were that short at this point.

It turns out there was another external complicating factor to go with it. Rising Coronavirus concerns at the time were likely to wipe out the planned half marathon in January, and I had no real personal need to independently run 13.1 miles outside of an organized race. Now we know a 2nd wave of restrictions are taking hold, not to mention a looming risk of increasing cases for the winter, and in all likelihood everything’s going to be cancelled for a while once again.

Plus, and yes I realized I had accepted this up front, but 18 weeks is fairly long for a sub-marathon training plan. The 12 weeks I had trained is a more typical training plan length for a half marathon anyway. That seemed like a good time to call it off, if I was going to call it off early. At least I spent the time doing focused, quality training.

So I nuked the plan, and after taking a couple days off, plus some very busy subsequent days at work, I ended up taking the whole week+ off, my only subsequent exercise being some 20-30 minute walks during the day. Again, I’m a big proponent of extended training breaks during the year to let the body recharge, and this for me is a good chance to take one.

Even if I take the rest of this week off and let two weeks pass before running again, I still have built up a suitable amount of fitness to run long 12+ miles and run 3-6 times per week for up to 30-35 total miles. I also have substantially improved the pace and work in my regular easy runs, which is a boost going forward.

If I want to roll the dice on a May marathon happening, I can begin serious training for that at the end of December. At this point, needless to say, the chances of gyms being open are pretty small, and I shouldn’t count on being able to lift weights or cross train on cardio machines. It’s running and calisthenics, or bust.

But this time around I’ll go back to building my own training plan, and giving myself the option to run shorter on most weekdays so I can get those runs in during the morning. The if I need a quality or longer workout outside of the weekend I can get one in during a weeknight as needed.

Meanwhile, Happy Thanksgiving.

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How A Busy Schedule Improved My Nutrition

I’m currently working in a fairly isolated location across town, and some weeks I’m working longer than 8 hours. My schedule many workdays is wall to wall booked:

  • Wake up
  • Perhaps run as time allows
  • Prep for work
  • Go to work and work 8-10 hours
  • Commute home
  • Work out if I didn’t get to in the morning
  • Eat dinner
  • Prep food and clothes for tomorrow
  • Go to bed.

On many workdays I can’t leave the client facility because I only have 30 minutes for lunch, plus even when I can the best food options are halfway across town. In this location there’s no supermarkets or viable restaurant options nearby. I won’t eat garbage fast food or something off a vending machine or convenience store counter. Even if any of it was satisfying (hint: doubtful), the near total lack of useful nutrients will crash my energy levels in the afternoon, in a job where I need to stay engaged and proactive.

And, of course, I’m now endurance training. I need to stay fueled for those morning and/or afternoon runs. I can’t just eat a minimal diet or whatever happens to be available and expect to perform as needed in these workouts. Plus, I have to maintain my overall health and not make choices that will contribute to illness or burnout. The food I eat has to support not just my general day to day health but what I am doing in training.

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Half Marathon Training and Finding A Faster “Easy” Pace

Training for a Half Marathon, and running quicker on eays runs than before

Ambivalent about forming any 2021 training plans, I decided none the less to use one of Garmin’s automated training plans to build up for a hypothetical half marathon by the start of next year. Being in shape to run a half by January would get me in line to be ready for a late spring marathon… if coronavirus allows it to happen.

(Incidentally, BBSC Endurance currently plans to host the Lake Mead Marathon, Half Marathon and other races on January 9, 2021, which incidentally fell 18 weeks after I had started the half marathon program. So, if that Half Marathon happens, it would be a good goal race. We’ll see.)

Garmin’s automated training plans prep for either the 5K, 10K, Half Marathon or Marathon distance. You select a desired training schedule and time goal. You choose from one of three coaches, whose identity determines the algorithm that automatically prepares your training schedule. Garmin then has you do a brief 5 minute “benchmark run” to estimate your current fitness, from which your initial workout distances, intensities, schedules, etc, are set. This benchmark also clues you into how realistic your chosen pace goal may be.

I’ve built my own training schedules for years, but for many reasons decided this time around I’d prefer to let Garmin build it for me.

  • I have more schedule flexibility.
  • I’m doing other strength and cross training
  • Garmin tends to book shorter workouts, which is easier to get done.
  • I’m studying for certifications and working on other projects.
  • I wanted to train and build volume, but didn’t want to worry too much about how to go about it.
  • Not to mention… with coronavirus cancelling everything for a while, I had nothing to lose in trying things this way.

So this time around I used an automated plan.

Garmin’s three choices for coaching styles are:

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Your goal pace has an easy run pace

Most runners train for a race with a goal pace in mind. Many will train for that goal pace by running it in varying distances and durations during their training.

Various authors, most recently and notably Matt Fitzgerald in 80/20 Running, advocate building a solid base of mostly easy running from which you can do a bit of tempo-specific running each week. This makes sense since your ability to run fast won’t matter much without the aerobic development to sustain a desired pace over your desired race distance.

Jeff Gaudette of Runners Connect takes this a step farther. He actually posits that most runners already have the desired speed to run a goal pace, that what they lack and need to develop is the aerobic and neuromusucular fitness to sustain that pace for their desired race distance.

Gaudette has a good point. Whenever you are able, go outside and run as fast as you reasonably can (i.e. don’t hurt yourself). I imagine if your pace was measured you’d easily exceed your desired goal pace.

I also imagine you won’t be able to hold that fast-as-you-can pace for very long. Running at max speed, you’ll be winded and your muscles will be neurally screaming in seconds. I’ve done max speed reps for giggles a few times, and I find the longest I can reasonably go at that intensity is about 30-45 seconds.

When we do speedwork, we’re not really training ourselves to run faster. Most of us already can run pretty fast. What we’re training is the ability to hold a given speed over a desired distance, whether that distance is 400 meters, 5K, or a marathon. (Ultra distance runners by and large have other aerobic and endurance concerns during training aside from speed)

This is why many coaches say the goal of speedwork should be economy, i.e. refining your form and taking every step as efficiently as possible, so that when you run your races you’ve honed and improved the efficiency of every step.

I realize I’m digressing a bit. I mentioned easy pace for a reason. We focus a lot on speedwork, on our goal pace, while forgetting that every goal pace has a corresponding pace at other distances… as well as a corresponding regular and recovery run pace.

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A Better Long Run: The 55-5 Long Run Method

road nature trees branches

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As with a lot of training approaches, runners have a very polarized approach to how they handle long runs.

Either they do a simple easy run over a long distance, or they add in some tempo with the long run (either trying to run the whole thing at a tougher moderate pace, or mixing in tempo segments with easy running), turning it into a grueling exercise.

Both polarized approaches have substantial drawbacks.

The long easy paced run may develop long aerobic endurance, but it also accustoms you to only handling your longest distances at an easy pace. Any attempt to race longer distances thus becomes a huge struggle, because you haven’t practiced running faster at max distance.

The mixed tempo run may address that issue, but creates another issue: It asks you to work especially hard at points on a run that is already fairly difficult due to its duration. This increases the burnout and injury risks, and at the least makes long runs such a miserable experience that many just forego any sort of intermediate tempo work on those runs. (It’s the biggest issue with the Daniels Marathon Plans. Those quality long runs are super-demanding. Few outside of elites and hardened distance running vets can consistently handle them.)


Regular readers can probably sense where I’m going with this point: There is a vast and mostly-unexplored middle ground to long runs that will allow you to work on and develop aerobic strength (aka the ability to maintain faster paces over longer distances), without demanding so much from you.

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Recap of an ice cold F3 Half Marathon

f3halfThough 10 degrees Fahrenheit was far warmer than it had been in Chicago throughout this week, the cold at Saturday’s F3 Half Marathon was stiff enough to compel organizers to do most of the pre-race festivities (including the National Anthem) inside the Soldier Field concourse.

Your intrepid running writer struggled Friday night to find an effective race-day-gear middle ground between minimal racing weight, and functionally layering for the cold.

Because this was basically a goal race on my schedule, how I did today was important enough to not just dismiss this as a throwaway result in icy conditions. I didn’t train for the Half distance just to phone the race in.

I knew a PR was probably unlikely: I knew I’d end up a bit heavy (and thus slower) due to layers, and that despite the cold I might end up a bit overheated due to what layers I wore. This was just about seeing how close I could get in these conditions.

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