6 Lessons I Learned (the Hard Way) While Training for Seawheeze


In 2016, I learned a lesson upon crossing the finish line of the Seawheeze Half Marathon. I learned that my first-ever half in 2015 was fueled by novelty and endorphins. Having stopped and walked a few times in the latter half of Seawheeze (I ran my first half nonstop), I finished my second race at this distance 28 minutes slower than the first. That’s BAD.

Why such a discrepancy in times? I didn’t take SW2016 training seriously. I figured that I was in better shape than I actually was, and that “Vancouver’s flat, it will be fine”. Heads up for the long(ish) read, but here are the 6 lessons in a nutshell, keep reading for the stories behind them. Seasoned vets know this stuff, but I was a ball of rookie mistakes.

  1. Start training early
  2. Follow a plan
  3. Prepare for the weather
  4. Wear the right gear
  5. Don’t rely on your iPhone coach
  6. Food is your friend

6 Lessons I Learned (the Hard Way) While Training for Seawheeze

Delayed Start in Training

I talked about training for the race for months, but because I’d only signed up for my first half about 6 weeks in advance and it felt so great, I felt little to no urgency to train. The running I did was far too little too late.

Lesson #1: Start training 10-14 weeks in advance. Not FOUR.


Having been healed of the DeQuervain’s Tenosynovitis that had sidelined me from CrossFit the year prior, I was running sometimes, lifting sometimes, and not following any sort of plan. I ended up putting up mediocre performances on both the whiteboard and the race course. I had no idea what I was doing.

Lesson #2: Find someone who knows what they’re talking about, and get yourself a structured plan.

Physical Preparedness

July last year was HOT, and my mind and body weren’t prepared for the hot summer days. My longest run pre-race was only 7 or 8 miles. Most of the training for my first half took place on nice, cool, September New England evenings. I wasn’t used to the heat stress, and a few times I had to abort longer training runs due to getting chills while it was in the 90’s out. Hydrate better, self.

Lesson #3: Drink more water. Sunscreen, hats, light colors… wear them.

Footwear Trouble

I’m a TTS 9 in street shoes, but Fleet Feet put me in a 9.5 a few years ago. It seemed excessive, so I went to my usual 9 when I got a new pair of shoes in 2015, the Brooks Ghost 7, which I eventually ran Hartford in, blister-free. Something must have changed in the design (or my feet), because I started going through excessive amounts of bandaids trying to dodge blisters with my size 9 Brooks Ghost 8’s.

It got so bad, I ordered a 9.5 the week of the race, and Amazon Prime delivered them to me the day before I left for Vancouver. The first run I went for in the sized up pair was Seawheeze. Thankfully, the 9.5’s worked.

Lesson #4: This all could have been avoided if I listened to the professionals. Feet swell, half size up for your race shoes.

Reliance on Technology & External Cues

First, I’m about 50/50 on training runs with music. On 5 miles or less, I’m ok without it, but I’d never run a full half marathon with nothing but the voices in my head. I stupidly trusted Spotify’s ‘shuffle’ algorithm in my songs library to keep me going on race day, because it gave me one good day the week prior. Mistake.

On race day, I don’t even know how many times I smashed that skip button and was frustrated that nothing could get my motor running again. I just flipped on my 2015 playlist for a 5-miler this past Sunday, and I didn’t even mind that I was plodding down the road slower than a snail covered in molasses. Carefully selected tunes can do wonder for one’s psyche.

Also, the robo-voice in MapMyRun told me I’d run my first mile of Seawheeze in 7:46 (I can assure you I had not covered a mile yet), and said that the course was 14.94 miles long. There’s a huge spike in the front end of my pace graph saying at one point I was running a 3:14 min/mile, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The app had failed me, and with the glitch above, I no longer had any idea how fast or far I was going. My American brain wasn’t too keen on processing course markers in kilometers. It threw me off within the first 8 minutes of the race, and I was never able to mentally recover after that.

Lesson #5: While tech aids are nice to have, don’t rely on them. Learn what sustaining your goal pace FEELS like. Train your way into a headspace where your race mojo won’t die, even if your devices’ batteries do.

Race Day Nutrition

Like an idiot, I had some preworkout and half a Quest Bar on race morning, which is nowhere near the calories my body needed going into a half marathon run. Even with aid stations, My handheld water bottle was empty around the 17th kilometer. Note to Future Katy: grab a drink (or two) at EVERY aid station you can, even in the early stages when you don’t really feel like you ‘need it’ yet. You will.

Lesson #6: Fuel your body properly. Experiment with different carb/protein combinations before long runs, keep track what makes you feel best. Eat that on race day. Hydrate early and often on the course. Blowing by aid stations doesn’t make you a better athlete than those who slow for a quick sip. It could come back and bite you in the arse 7 miles later.

How 2017 Will Be Different

I was so disappointed in myself (and MapMyRun) at the end of 2016’s race, and the verbatim comment I entered to accompany the run in my app was “Wanna dieeeee. First Seawheeze may be my last.”

Immediately after finishing Seawheeze 2016. I was not amused.

Between the disappointing shorts design and my shameful performance, I had lackluster feelings over the idea of doing it all over again. I was 50/50 going into registration day, but figured I’d rather be IN with the ability to opt OUT, as opposed to having a change of heart too late in the game. So, my friend Krystle and I registered for Seawheeze 2017.

Since August, I had dropped running altogether and started lifting more until business travel took me out of the gym almost entirely. Now that I’m back off the road, I’m feeling a bit squishy and sluggish in comparison to the other kickass ladies at my box, but I’m finally feeling some improvement. Turns out, all you have to do is show up and give it some effort. Results don’t happen overnight, but after 4-5 weeks, I’ve been able to gain back some optimism.

Therefore, I am on a mission to avenge all of the mistakes I made in 2016, and show up at the start line in Vancouver knowing I did my best to prepare to run a race I’m proud of. In the last 7 days:

  • I went for a non-stop 5 miler on Sunday afternoon. It was more of a jog than a run, but I went outside, and STARTED.
  • After checking a few out, I ponied up $9.99 to RunnersWorld.com for a 10-week half marathon training plan for beginners. Because I want to keep CrossFit as part of my routine, I opted for a plan that has 4 days of running per week, and 3 of “Rest/Cross-training”.
  • While we are 17 weeks out from SW17, I have a long span of travel in the 5 weeks leading up to the big day, and I want to be able to step away from lifting for that time and focus on keeping my cardio up. I know that I won’t have the time or energy to focus on both, so I am starting my 10-week plan NOW, so I will be up to speed by June, and will keep myself in cardio mode from there on out. Stadium stairs and hotel gyms, I see you.
  • I will be researching GPS watches in the near future. If anyone has any app or GPS watch recommendations, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section!
    • EDIT: Thank you to everyone who offered their insight and recommendations! After a few weeks of research, hemming & hawing (plus needing a coworker nudge me into nervously hitting the ‘check out’ button on my shopping cart), I ended up ordering a Garmin Forerunner 235 🙂
  • Finally, I went to Target and bought myself a pretty little planner. About 5 years ago, I kept a blank printed chart on the wall of my cubicle, and it helped to keep me accountable for how many workout vs rest days I was getting in. Plus, there’s something to be said for getting to pridefully write in by hand if you worked out that day.

Each week, I’ll be sharing my training logs. I’m hopeful that not only will it provide you with relatable routines & results (trust me, I’m not fast), but it will be a fun thing for me to look back on and see what I did to (hopefully) cut my finish time by 40 minutes.

#SeaKatyWheeze 2017 is here! Will I see any of you in Vancouver this summer? 🙂


  1. I use the Strava app and am about to buy a Garmin 630. I also considered the Garmin 230 (but decided for an extra $100 to get the fancy features.) I hate watches with wrist heart rate monitors. They aren’t accurate (that’s why I didn’t look at the 235). DCRaimmaker has a lot of Garmin reviews on his site if you want to look at that.

    Starva app is great. It has GPS in it. And you can track your run segments against others. (see if you have the 6th best time on this route etc. Also find new routes). It tracks your splits and best times. And you can see your friends runs, like or comment on them. A ton of runners user it. Highly recommend as a training device.

    1. I second these recommendations, although I’ve only used the Strava app for run tracking a couple of times – I use a GPS watch that syncs to Strava. It’s good for travelling (especially internationally/to places where you can’t use your phone GPS)

      DC Rainmaker’s reviews are great and helped me choose a watch that had the features I wanted. See what’s on sale and then check his reviews.

      1. You just suggested a key word = international!

        My work phone (the newer of my two, of course) goes into WiFi only mode when I cross into Canada, because I don’t want to have to explain any non-business international charges on my expense reports. That said, I’m not entirely sure my iPhone 6S battery is going to live for the duration of the race in August if I have it firing on all cylinders with run tracking and music simultaneously.

        If I could have a GPS watch tracking me as opposed to Mr. iOS, that would help alleviate how hard my phone has to work. I’m trying to hang on to this 6S until the iPhone 8 makes its debut in the fall.

      2. I’ve travel a lot (including internationally) and the Garmin handles it fine – the only issue I’ve noticed is that it usually takes a bit longer to connect to GPS the first time I use it in a new place, or when I return somewhere I haven’t been for a while.

    2. After seeing your recommendation on DC Rainmaker last night, I headed over and there is SO MUCH information. Thanks for the tip!

      Heart rate isn’t something that I usually pay attention to, but it probably wouldn’t hurt me to start. I’m weary about trusting smartphone GPS again after 2 inaccurate races with MapMyRun.

      I read an interesting article where someone suggested a point that made me think: at the end of the day, no matter the app, it’s still asking the phone’s hardware to tell it where it is and how fast it got there. I’m going to give Strava a go for my 5-miler today, and see how its distance calculations compare to both MMR and mapping the route out on Google.

      Yay numbers! Data makes me happy.

  2. Thanks for posting!! I slacked on training for 2016 as well and I am determined to do better for 2017. PS I wore the same top for 2016 too! Let’s hope they show a sneak peak of the shorts soon!!!

    1. I’m starting to get ants in my pants on the shorts! I’m hoping for some sort of navy/orange/pink that’s been in the marketing materials so far. The preview was already out by this time last year, and I believe my shorts shipping on 4/27 for last year’s race. COME ON LULU!

      Half the reason I chose to race in the Sculpt Tank last year is to hide the awkward bulge from my FlipBelt… but I like how lightweight it was (no armhole chafing), that I just might race in one again this year!

  3. I use the Garmin forerunner 235 and the heart rate and distance are pretty accurate! The distance could be affected when in a very built-up city high-rise area though, but otherwise it’s fine (:

    1. Thanks Jessica! I feel like the first 1-2 miles of SW were through the streets downtown, then the course opens up. I wonder if that’s what messed up my tracker last year.

      Either way, I feel like this year it’s time to join the serious runners and get myself a tool that’s engineered for this specific purpose. Relying on apps has served me OK and AWFUL in my first 2 half marathons, so I can’t expect different results by using the same tools.

  4. It’s funny because before I read the comments I was coming here to say – steer clear of the Strava app because I’ve had nothing but terrible, terrible experiences with Strava’s GPS. So maybe the lesson is – keep trying GPS apps until you find one you like and that seems accurate through a variety of runs. My app of choice is RunKeeper.

    As far as GPS watches my advice is do some research and then go somewhere and try them on – most of them are somewhat larger than fitbits/watches and I found them to be incredibly uncomfortable and not something I would wear while running [I do have weird, small wrists so that could be part of the problem :)].

    1. Which way did Strava lead you? Did it tell you that you were going faster and farther than you really were, or was it the opposite? I can’ understand a *tiny* fudge can help with self confidence, but when your internal calculator knows that the gadget is seriously wrong, you turn into a chauffer for a very expensive wrist decoration for the remainder of the race.

      Good call on trying a few on first! I’m used to an Apple Watch right now, and don’t think I’ll mind having something a bit larger on. I tend to run halfs with a handheld water bottle anyway, so I’m used to being weighed down a bit anyway 🙂

      1. Strava is consistently, insanely off for me. As in “you’ve run 3 miles” *run three steps * “you’ve run 4 miles.” I mean 45 second mile splits are awesome for my self-confidence but I’m a nerd who wants consistent, accurate feedback.

        I went back and forth with their customer support and gave up when their answer was basically ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        Also after I dumped Strava, a friend googled my name and under the Strava result you could see all of my runs, date, time and route – without friending me or being a Strava user. And that was a leeeettle uncomfortable for me, being a single lady who often runs alone from her house. You can make your settings private, but you can’t do anything retroactive – so, mind the privacy settings as well!

      2. I wonder if it’s just the GPS technology on the phones. I read somewhere that it really doesn’t matter which app, the hardware feeds it all the same data, depending on cell towers, etc.

        I read something about the Strava privacy thing when lululemon did that challenge back in January. I know there are many people who didn’t participate for the reason that your runs had to be public in order to count. I’ve only done one run on Strava so far, and made sure not to share it publicly, so I’ll have to run the google test like you suggested just to make sure.

  5. I find Brooks shoes to run small even compared to other running brands (and the people working at Brooks told me this too). I’m a 9 in street shoes, 9.5 in the shoes I play tennis in, and a 10 in Brooks running. Good thing you sized up! Your poor toes!!

    1. I’ve never heard that before about their sizing, but that makes good sense! The 9.5 seems a bit roomy when I put them on, which is why I went back to a 9 when I got the Ghost 7’s. I trained for and ran my first half in size 9 G7s and didn’t have a single blister issue.

      It must be a combination of the sizing and a tweak in the design to the G8. From here on out, I am definitely going to keep distance and your comment in mind when buying new race shoes.

  6. The Garmin 235 is fab! The wrist based HRM is actually pretty accurate…I’ve worn that and my polar HRM strap at the same time and the readings are super close!

    In terms of apps, Nike run club is really good! Otherwise Runkeeper is my next fave, and it links in nicely with Spotify too.


      MayMyRun tried to mess with my ability to run while listening to Spotify last week and I was not amused. Do the Garmin watches integrate with both of those apps, or do you need to enter in your stats manually?

      1. Garmin watches sync to Garmin and Strava, an easy Bluetooth upload after your run. I think it also can sync to other apps like MapMyRun, but I haven’t tried this. I’m not sure if there is a way of linking the watch with Spotify (far beyond my technological capabilities!!)

        Also, I saw up above that you mentioned international travel. If you decide to stick with apps rather than a running watch, NikeRunClub app doesn’t require data to track your run…an absolute blessing when travelling!

      2. I definitely like the no data thing, plus that you can sync a run after the fact. Anything that helps to keep my silly battery draining itself during the race is a plus.

  7. I have used a garmin vivoactive watch for the last year. I used it to train for seawheeze last year. It’s very much a multi sport watch – in addition to running I use it for hiking, snowboarding, Nordic skiing, spin and cycling outside too. I love it. I find the wrist heart rate to work great. I have it paired with the strava app which is somewhat unnecessary as the garmin app tracks everything for me.

    I ran the 2015 and 2016 seawheeze races. 2015 I had a great race. 2016 was AWFUL. So hot. I didn’t sign up for this year and have a bit of FOMO reading about your training plan :). I look forward to ready about your progress!

    1. I also noticed the Vivoactive popping up in my search a lot last night. I feel like I need Garmin to sit me down and give me a powerpoint on how many great options are out there!

      FOMO… a large contributing reason why I finally thought with 1 hour left before registration opened that “I GOTTA GET IN”, even though 2 days prior I was like, meh.

  8. I will be there! Most likely. I’m currently almost 8 months pregnant and my little one will be 2 months old when SeaWheeze rolls around. My plan is to bring baby and walk the race but who knows what will happen. I think baby will be fine but even walking 13.1 miles may be too much. I’m hopeful though!

    And I have a Garmin 225 and love it. I agree with other peeps, the wrist based heart rate monitor works really well. I used it last year at SeaWheeze and it was great. I plan to upgrade to a fancier model this year or next because I like my Garmin so much!

    1. Ahhh, Congratulations! Start em young! 😉

      It’s a relief to hear that the cityscape didn’t mess with your GPS! I’m a geek and a half when it comes to getting data and creating spreadsheets, but the fun and utility of it all goes away when you know deep down it’s inaccurate. Thanks for the intel!

  9. I’ll be at Seawheeze again! Good luck with your training this time around. I can say you’re already off to a good start with a plan! 🙂 I love the Seawheeze race and look forward to it every year! You should definitely reward your self with a lulu prize when you meet monthly goals! I find little rewards keeps me going..especially when you have weeks to go until the race! Oh and use a Garmin 220 watch..basic and functional.

    1. Lulu incentives are a great idea! I think/hope the prizes for me will be fitting back into some of my size 8 crops that I’m currently too afraid to squat in 😛

      I ended up with the Forerunner 235. A little pricier than I was originally intending to spend, but the FOMO on some of the features ultimately led me to spring for the 235 (but still say “oh hell no” to the $600 tag on the Fenix)!

  10. I love Strava! To be honest, I use it for mountain biking and have yet to use it for running, but it works great for mountain biking and is very accurate!

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