Hard Work Pays Off: OUC Half Marathon Recap

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I think my journey to this weekend’s race really started at the end of my last 13.1 — a grueling, hilly and soul-destroying race back in 2011. Despite the fact when I crossed the finish line, I’d shaved 10 minutes off my previous PR, I felt really crappy about the way I finished, both physically and mentally.

I quit at the end of that run, and I hated having that failure on my record. (Again, I don’t mean the time — it was great! — but how I gave up instead of digging deep.)

When I decided to start running half marathons again, I knew I wanted to do everything I could to come in under 2:00 AND I wanted to train smart so I didn’t fade or get hurt. So I took the last few months pretty seriously. I followed a training plan, added intervals to my routines and got in a lot of long runs before the big day.

And as they say…hard work pays off.

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This weekend’s OUC Half Marathon was such a pleasure for me — I woke up feeling great, had time to stretch, ran my own race and finished with a new PR: 1:52:50.

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A few notes:

  • It was hot — probably too hot for most — but I didn’t mind it that much. I’ve been training all summer so perhaps my body was well-conditioned! At the end of the race, the heat definitely caught up with me (so many people wanted to know what the ice was all about in the picture above…I’d been icing my hamstrings but eventually moved the ice bags up into my shirt to try to cool my body down!)
  • The course had more hills than I expected and that SUCKED. Also, there was a lot of cobblestone which I found tricky.
  • I lined up with the 1:50 pace group but quickly abandoned any ideas of running with them. The leader was doing 4:1 intervals (4:00 at an 8-minute pace; 1:00 of walking) and I knew I’d be better off running longer stretches and walking through the aid stations. For most of the race, I stayed ahead of them but got passed at about the 10-mile mark. I was actually OK with that — my overall goal was to come in under 2:00 so as long as I could see the pace sign, I knew I was OK. The leader became my rabbit for the last 30 minutes or so.

I printed a race pace band for tomorrow. I know you're supposed to wrap it around your wrist but would it be crazy to tape it to my forearm instead? I feel like it would be easier to read that way.

  • I was glad I started toward the front of the pack — it was hard to get any distance for the first mile and I really wanted to go out as fast as possible. My strategy was to try to do the first 10K in under :55 (I did!) and then just hang on as long as I could toward the end. I probably averaged an 8:20 pace for the first half and closer to 8:45 or 8:50 for the second half. I haven’t really looked at my splits but I tried to hover as close to 8:25 as I could.

(Update: I found my splits online. I have not yet looked at my Garmin for the per-lap pace.)

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  • I hit a bit of a mental wall again at mile 8.5, just like I did at Iron Girl, but vowed NOT to bonk again. I got to mile 9.5 before I really started changing my strategy. I’d been taking :15 walks through the aid stations, every 1.5 miles (or at least what should have been 1.5 miles — it turned out they were not spaced all that evenly) but from mile 10 through 12, I decided to start running 4:00 and walking :30. I was a bit disappointed that I needed those breaks but I’d done the math and knew that as long as I kept moving and stayed below a 9:00 pace when running, I’d PR.
  • I really (really really really) wanted to walk the last .6 miles. I was out of gas. But I started chanting “one foot in front of the other” until I heard the crowd cheering. From there forward, I just started waving and smiling and then cried my way across the final timing bar.

It was a beautiful course, with crowds at every stretch. This was my very first half marathon in 2010, and I think it will always be one that holds fond memories for me.

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My biggest issue continues to be fuel and nutrition on these long runs. I had a pretty nervous stomach on the way to the race, so I forced myself to eat my standard Clif bar breakfast but hated every bite. I drank a ton of water on the way as well but the bathroom line was so long when I arrived that I decided to risk it and start the race without a potty break (there were lots of bathrooms along the way if I’d needed one).

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I took water at every aid station, and decided to eat three Clif shots halfway through. Unfortunately, they almost didn’t stay down — I even stopped for a few seconds because I thought I was going to throw up — and even though they did, I felt pretty nauseated for the following mile. I also got a bad stomach stitch which is still causing me a lot of pain today.

After the race, I hung out in the finishers area for a while, icing and eating a popsicle.

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I drank more water and felt OK. I even stayed a while and chatted with Michelle and Paula, who’d also run that morning.

photo stolen -- ahem, borrowed -- from Michelle

photo stolen — ahem, borrowed — from Michelle

As I drove home, I started to feel pretty sick (I was also covered in ick…sweat and maybe worse — moms know what I’m talking about). I got home and jumped in the shower. It felt great to get clean but the hot water made me even more light-headed. I got out of the shower and knew I needed to lay down…so I crawled into bed — in my soaking wet towel! — and passed out for a little bit. After about 25 minutes or so, I woke up feeling like I needed to throw up. I called for Lucas and he convinced me to come downstairs and eat something. I shoved a muffin in my face and drank another bucketful of water and things started to look up.

After lunch, I was much better. Tired and sore, but no longer sick. Sunday, I woke up very sore and still tired, so Audrey and I took a nice long afternoon nap.

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Overall, it was a great race and while I’m already starting to think about things I could have done differently (we runners are crazy), I’m also so proud of my experience and my PR.

Runners, help me with my nutrition! What can I do better?

 

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    I am so sad I didn’t get to catch you after the race!!! I would have forced some food on you :) Congrats on the PR and yes those brick roads are tough, it’s my concern about the half in March. Hope today you are feeling good!

  2. 2

    says

    Congrats, Katy, way to gut through the end. It looks like you have your pacing down, but nutrition can kill you every time… especially as I’d bet a doughnut 26.2 is in your future. A few thoughts: You didn’t say what you ate BEFORE the race. Bagel with protein, oatmeal with raisins, something like that an hour or 90 minutes before you start will help a lot later. Personally, I think that technical food has way too much sugar, which often manifests itself after the race, as you found. 3 Clif bloks at a time is probably too many. Try another tech food that has less added sugar. Hammer products work for me 1:52 is fast, but not fast enough not to drink something with electrolytes in it. Every other or every 3rd water stop, chase half a cup of Gatorade with half a cup of water. Fight Hyponatremia! And after the race, you have to have carbs-protein 3:1 ratio within 30 minutes to feed your muscles. It probably would calm your stomach, too. Chocolate milk is a good start. Probably too much information, but maybe you or some of your gajillion readers can find something useful. What’s next? Love you, speedy

  3. 4

    says

    Katy,

    First of all, congrats on your new PR! I know that’s an awesome feeling. As far as nutrition goes, were you practicing your nutrition routine on your long runs before the race? There are always 4 issues to work out for endurance events – fluid, carbs, electrolytes and possibly protein (if running >3 hours). A lot of times problems happen when one of those needs isn’t met entirely. It looks like you got in water, but the electrolytes might have been lacking… which can definitely lead to dehydration & nausea. Per hour, a good goal is 400-800mg sodium and 100-200mg potassium. It’s hard to keep track of this so making a nutrition schedule for long runs & practicing it may help a lot!

    • 5

      says

      (((hides))) No, I was really bad at fueling during my long runs, and I know you’re not supposed to do anything new on race day, so that was part of the problem. But that’s so interesting to know about the sodium/potassium. I definitely have some work to do for the next race!

  4. 6

    says

    Congrats on that awesome PR! You are an inspiration!

    After you left, Michelle and I ran into an old co-worker and were talking for awhile. I got super sick feeling too and had to squat down for fear of passing out. I ate at mile 3, 6, and 9 and still felt like I couldn’t keep stuff down. I really attribute that to the heat this time. It can do a number on us. (That number is #2.)

  5. 7

    says

    I’ll let others talk to you about race nutrition…I’m focusing on how proud I am of your training, your fortitude, those miles with the squealing babe and your ability to go from Point A to Point B with a plan. You are one strong mama!

    • 10

      says

      DONE. It’s doable! All of it…the race goal and the pumping (although I bow down to you for being able to do any training with two babies — you are amazing!).

  6. 11

    says

    Congrats again on your BADASS PR!!

    I was feeling a little off after the race too. It was definitely a combination of dehydration, exhaustion, and fueling. I think I should have eaten more at dinner the night before and more at breakfast. I, too, forced down a Clif Bar – but needed something like a banana. I usually don’t require two gels during a half, but I definitely did on Saturday. I also should have carried a small water bottle for the first 8 miles. I guess it’s just proof that each and every race can be different!!

    • 12

      says

      Totally agree Michelle. This race was crazy for me too– and it just left me with every race is different! My nutrition sucked and I totally bonked at like mile 8. Yeah, even RDs bonk. Haha! For me this is most likely due to the fact that I typically only run 3-4 miles a couple times a week sprinkled with a 6ish “long run”– state of my “training” right now…but the most important thing with nutrition is you have to play with it leading up to the race and find what works for you. Hydration is a big one, even on “shorter” distance races.

  7. 15

    says

    Wondering how (if) your body felt different running the race before you had Audrey and now after you’ve had a baby? Anything feel different? More difficult?

    • 16

      says

      Some things are much more difficult…like, ahem, bladder control (hey, I have to be honest here, right?) and handling nursing and long distance running.

      But frankly, a lot feels easier. I weigh less now than I did before I got pregnant, and I took a year off of running when I was carrying the baby, so I think my body was a pretty good blank canvas when I started training again. I’ve been training smart, following a plan and making sure that I do things right this time (before baby, I kind of jumped into running without any real plan).

  8. 19

    says

    I don’t know what makes me more jealous… the great PR or the nap with the baby. My first half postpartum was crummy and I haven’t dared attempt another one since and my 15-month-old will not lay down and rest with me ever! I think I might be more jealous of the cute nap!

    • 20

      says

      Yeah, the nap was amazing. I can’t believe she actually stayed with me — she normally wants to crawl all over and play rather than sleep. She must have known I needed it!

      I hope you sign up for another race soon and get that crappy one in the rearview mirror!

  9. 21

    says

    Congrats on the PR! That is awesome! A sub 2:00 half is something that I am determined to do this next year. I am still trying to figure out nutrition myself. I’ve had trouble getting down gels when I really need them during a race.

  10. 22

    says

    Congrats on the PR and running a great race! I take in shot bloks at miles 4, 7.5, and 9/10 to make sure that I have a consistent stream of calories in so I don’t have the chance to bonk. It’s worked pretty well. I train using the same strategy so my body gets used to it.

  11. 25

    says

    I really struggle with race fueling a ton. I get better with each training cycle, and I keep working at it. Every body is so different and I have yet to find the combination that fuels me properly without turning my stomach. Congrats on the PR!!!

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