Sidebar: Half Marathon

Thirteen point one, baby! I ran my first half marathon today, and I’m still grinning like an idiot about it. Not only did I finish, but I managed to do it in just under two minutes (wishful thinking, I meant hours; official time 1:56:26). And not only that, but the whole Team Flail (my friends Adam, Drew, Matt, John plus me) finished in under two – well under, in Drew’s case.

Go Team Flail!

This post doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the usual food and nutrition stuff I write about, but I will share a little of how I ate pre-, during- and post-race. If you want to indulge me, head on past the jump here. If you don’t, bail now and come back later this week for some tasty usualness.

While he was talking about a full marathon, I’ve remembered what Peter Sagal said about training for The Last Six in long-distance runs and it helped me think about how to approach this half. I wanted to stay slow in the first mile, then average 9-minute miles (definitely doable based on training times) through the next six. Somewhere during the eighth mile, I planned to buckle down, pick up a little speed if I could and just get $**t done through the remaining five or so miles.

Team Flail at the start, with me hoping I'd paced things right

That’s pretty much how it went, minus the “pick up a little speed” part. I kept pace with Adam and Matt through the first two miles – which was super helpful to prevent me from taking off too fast in all the excitement. They went ahead from there, and I kept steady at 8:50-minute miles. I got to the 8-mile marker and settled in for the haul. When I hit the 11-mile marker, I was psyched – that’s the farthest I’ve ever run in one go.

“Psyched” shortly became “ragged,” and my splits (here) show my pace slowed to over-9:00-minute miles from 11 through the end. I really… REALLY wanted to walk right around 12.5 miles, but I knew that if I did, I probably wouldn’t restart the run. And I also knew I didn’t have enough time to walk into the finish and beat two hours. So I kept putting one tingly foot in front of the other, grabbed a much-needed high five from a spectator, and just kept going.

I rounded the corner to the final block to the finish, and heard the announcer saying, “One fifty five; you’re going to finish in under two hours.” That’s when I went into Full Idiot Mode, pumping a fist in the air, whooping, clapping, and running across the line. I met up with Team Flail shortly thereafter.

Team Flail after the half marathon

Here are our official results:

Official results from the Eident Half Marathon 5/1/2011

I also met up there with Mr. Eating The Week and Eating The Week, Jr. The former brought my recovery smoothie (thank you!) and the latter loved wearing my finisher’s medal.

Miles and the medal

Even though I said this is mostly a non-sequitur post, there were a few nutrition-y things that came up:

I was stupidly unprepared for pre- and during-race nutritional needs. I set up and stuck to a 12-week training regimen, but it wasn’t until the week prior to the race that I got a clue about how to eat and hydrate. For someone entering the dietetics field, that’s lackadaisical at best, and probably closer to bone-headed. So when I sat down to read articles and blogs on this topic Monday, I was freaking out a little (“Wait, how many ounces of water how many hours prior? I should slug sports-drink how often? Whoa, seriously, take in that many calories while running?”). Wednesday, I freaked out all over again reading for the first time about “bonking.”

But eventually I got a grip. I used my taper-week runs to test what I’d learned, and tried a newly devised race-day food-and-water routine before each 3.5-miler. I also used a recipe (via No Meat Athlete) by Midpack Runner to make my own chia-seed and fruit energy gel. The day of the race, I had Cream of Wheat with soy milk (6 oz), black tea (8 oz), and an energy gel between 5:00 and 6:00 am (race start was 8:00). I ate two energy gels while running – 45 minutes and 1.5 hours into the run – and hit the water stations four or five times. I definitely noticed a difference – felt far less draggy than I have on long training runs – and I think this fueling is a good part of what got me through the race in the sub-2:00 time.

Related to prior: I didn’t fuel and hydrate properly during my long training runs. I rarely drink or eat anything other than a few calories worth of gummy omega-3 supplements before I head out, pre-dawn, to run. That’s fine for shorter runs, but not a great idea for longer ones where I lose a lot of water and burn through stored glycogen. Now that I’ve got more of a clue, I will definitely carry water and – for anything over an hour – energy gels to consume during long runs, whether racing or just daily workout.

Finally: post-run recovery food is equally important. Again, being a sports-nutrition slacker, I didn’t think about this until the day before the race. But once I got some rough guidelines (100 grams of carbs, 20 grams of protein, liquid/smoothie, includes electrolytes), it was easy to make up a batch (the recipe follows below). And boy, did I appreciate those 600 sweet, thick calories after huffing my way through thirteen miles.

Drinking my recovery brew, while Miles has chocolate milk

It sounds like Team Flail’s going to take on some more races this year, and while I’m still not interested in full marathon, I do want to see if I can beat what is now my official PR for a half. I’ll bore you all with those updates as they happen ;)

Kat’s half-marathon recovery drink

Caveat: I don’t really have a sports-nutrition clue. I picked some things up from reading online – especially at No Meat Athlete – and winged it. This baby has about 600 calories in the single serving; I ate about 3/4 of it. For reference, this was calculated to refuel a 130-lb woman after a two-hour run.

Ingredients:
1 cup soy milk
½ cup dried apricots
1 banana
1/3 cup almonds
1 Tbs sugar
1 tsp salt

I tossed everything into my food processor at once and let it run for a few minutes. The almonds were still in small-ish bits, so if I do this again, I will probably put the almonds in first for 3-4 minutes until they’re almost a butter, and then add everything else for a minute or so.

13 comments

  1. Mom says:

    Well done. I liked the play-by-play.

  2. Molly Dwyer says:

    Kat, so happy for you & Team Flail. Even those of us who have done it for a while mess up on the nutrition. Sub-2 hrs. for your first is AMAZING! Love how the tattoos turned out!! Thanks for sharing the play-by-play!

  3. Tim Woodbury says:

    Congrats again, Kat! Molly’s right, sub-2 is fantastic! I’ll be interested in hearing how much you beat it by next time. ;)

    How did the gel hold up for you? Do you think it gave out around 12.5, or was that just the wall (and great job smashing through it, btw)? I’m always looking for ways to improve these recipes.

  4. Mom, Molly, Tim – Thanks, all!

    Tim, good question about the “argh, NO MORE” point at 12.5. I’d be surprised if the gel left me hanging – I deliberately ate more than I thought I’d need, earlier than I thought I’d need it. Much more likely that the gel kept me from reaching that point earlier! I did feel really thirsty several times on the course, so if anything, it may have been hydration-related.

    And maybe neither fuel nor water, but mental. I felt like “here we go, into the abyss” as soon as I crossed the 11-mile mark, having never run farther than that prior to Sunday. I know how to do 2 miles, but these were no ordinary 2 miles. Ultimately, a good 2 miles b/c I know how they are now, and can train to push through them faster on the next half.

  5. Congratulations Kat! I have always wanted to run a half, but have never made the commitment. You inspire me! Also very interesting what you learned about nutrition along the way. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Alysa, thanks! A bit of a crash course, to be sure, but now I’m looking forward to my sports nutrition grad elective even more.

  7. Congrats Kat! What a huge accomplishment–and what an awesome race time! And your son is completely adorable. :)

  8. Sally, thanks on all counts! I’m convinced that Mr Adorable (specifically, carrying & delivering 9-lb Mr Adorable) is a large part of why running has seemed more doable in my 30s than at any time prior.

  9. Yay for you Kat! That is so awesome – and inspiring! And I love your honesty about knowing what’s what when it comes to sports nutrition. Its definitely something I wish I was more of an expert in.

  10. Thanks Kati! It was grueling but great – both the running and the cramming to learn about nutritional needs ;)

  11. Congrats on the half marathon Kat! Really glad your incorporated the importance of sports nutrition on the post. This is a BIG area of interest for me and I am looking to specialize in it eventually.

  12. [...] of tart cherry juice on post-running pain for one of my nutrition classes, so I modified one of my recipes (at end of that linked post) to include the antioxidant-rich tart cherry [...]

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