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.
- Start training early
- Follow a plan
- Prepare for the weather
- Wear the right gear
- Don’t rely on your iPhone coach
- 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.
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.
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.”
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? 🙂