How to Have a 'Dialed In' Half Marathon

>> Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I've been thinking about HOW I was able to have such a surprisingly good performance at last weekend's half marathon. Actually, I was even starting to theorize DURING the last few miles of the race. Here are my 3 thoughts:

• 10% chance it's due to PureFit Bars.

Before most half marathons, my routine is something like this: PowerBar 2 hours pre-race, Sharkies after that (just enough to not get hungry), Roctane Gel 20 minutes pre-race, and another Rotane or Gu during the race (around mile 7-8). I did exactly that at the New Prague Half Marathon on Saturday, but instead of a PowerBar I had a PureFit bar. I REALLY don't think that made THAT large of a difference at the race, but being it was a new factor, it DID enter my mind.

(Full disclosure: I was sent some PureFit Bars about a year ago to try. I never raced with them until this last weekend. They state they are "the all-natural, gluten-free and wheat-free, dairy-free, vegan, kosher, high in protein, diabetic-friendly, that tastes great nutrition bar." It was pretty good!)

• 20% chance it's due to more rest.

I was nervous going into this race because my last long run was 3 weeks prior. I usually like to have my last long run about 10 days prior to race-day. But 2 weeks before the race was the Get in Gear 10K, and 1 week before the race was the Cinco "Du" Mayo Duathlon. All of my weekday runs between all of those races were pretty much easy recovery runs or easy pre-race runs. So yes, I DID race 3 weeks in a row (which can lead to tired legs), but those were shorter races - I even noted right after the duathlon (2m, 10m, 2m) that my legs still felt fresh.

But here's the biggest reason I think I had such a great race on Saturday...

• 70% chance it's due to Henry (my 11 month old son).

In the past few years, you've seen me post about track workout after track workout. I used to do nearly EVERY workout at 100%, or "all out" (including long runs). Some people (especially her and her) finally convinced me that easy running can be the key to faster racing. Really.

And Henry's been doing his part to make me listen to those 2 ladies. Being he loves "stroller runs," I do a lot of running with him. I've been doing easier and longer runs than I have in the past. Henry and I have already logged over 194 miles together in 2012!!

Let's quick look at my training leading up to my old half marathon PR in 2010 compared with my training leading up to this race last weekend:

4 weeks of long runs pre-race in 2010: 10, 6, 10, and 6 for a total of 71 miles over those 4 weeks. All long runs were at a pretty fast pace.

4 weeks of long runs pre-race leading up to this past race: 13, 6.5, 13.5, and 13.5 for a total of 101 miles of those 4 weeks. These long runs were all done mainly at an easier pace with just a few faster miles in the middle.

This is a big change from "the norm." I'm usually faster at shorter races because I USED TO do so much speed work and not do as much longer-distance training. Now that I'm doing less speed work and more longer runs, I've become a bit a of a more "well rounded" runner, but I'm sure I've lost some short-distance speed. I guess we'll find out in 2 weeks at my next 5K!

Easy recovery run with Henry yesterday morning along the Mississippi River.
This was just MOMENTS after a coyote sprinted across the trail in front of us!

And if you don't know what I'm talking about regarding this amazing race I had last weekend, click here (or scroll down 2 posts) to read about my new 1:20:54 half marathon PR.


Carolina John 7:11 AM, May 16, 2012  

yep! I'm fighting it too. more slower miles will lead to fast racing? balderdash. I need to try it anyway.

Evan Roberts 9:26 AM, May 16, 2012  

5k is a mostly aerobic event that benefits from long easier running very nearly as much as a half marathon does.

Willie 9:36 AM, May 16, 2012  

Steve - it is apparent from your posts, photos and updates of how happy you are with life in general. I think that's a huge percentage. Look at all the joy and inspiration that surrounds your life. It's so great to see the direction you are headed. Happy fast 5K to you!

Steve Stenzel 1:21 PM, May 16, 2012  

Willie: Thanks! :)

Evan: I sure hope you're right! I can totally understand what you're saying, but I'm just afraid that *I* will have forgotten how to run "fast" - I'm afraid I'll go out TOO fast, or I won't be able to go fast enough. We'll see!

And John: It's totally true. (For me anyway.) When I ran more (even more EASY runs), my racing improved. I credit Jen with 2 things: teaching me to run SLOW, and teaching me to train a bit with "race pace miles" (but to not overdo it). I haven't ran so slow as when Jen was my coach. And she was able to drop my 10 Mile time down from the high 1:02s (where I ran 3 10-miles) to 59:05. All with running slow! :)

Wendy 3:20 PM, May 16, 2012  

Leigh Schmidt set a course record time at Bull Run Run 50 miler in 2008 or 2009.

Prior to the early April run, he'd been on the other half of the country looking for jobs, preparing to move his family, and had barely gotten in his normal running routine.

When that April day came, the weather was PERFECT (sunny, clear, blue skies, low 60s, no humidity) and he relaxed. He was not expecting to win, let alone set a course record. He was shocked by his performance.

I'll forever remember these comments as he shared that he just relaxed and ran....even with "those annoying hills" that challenge BRR runners. :-)

Congrats on your little dude inspiring greatness in you!

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