I’ve been doing 13.1 Half Marathons on and off for the last few years but I’ve always cramped up in the later miles. When you’re 6’4” 260lbs that’s a lot of energy to expend. I did the Rock n Roll San Diego Half for the first time Sunday and I had 1 main goal which was to finish under 3 hours. My first 13.1 I finished in 3hrs and 20mins with cramping at mile 9 so I had to walk the last few miles but I did not quit. As the years went by I did a few more and my time went down with my fastest ever was 3:07 last December in Las Vegas. I started cramping at mile 10 and walked the rest in. I was really let down I had trained for this one I had changed my diet and really put some focus into it. Then revisited my training and my diet and my race day nutrition and it paid off with not only my fastest time ever at 2hrs and 38mins but I was able to actually run the whole thing the only times I had to walk was around the hydration stations from other people slowing down. I didn’t come into this race expecting it to be an A race it was a C race for me. My A race is Saturday in Utah, but I set the stage for an even better race I hope I just have to recover properly. My next A race will be in September at the Tri-Rock San Diego doing the Olympic Distance triathlon with another B race 13.1 in November in Las Vegas. I’m excited to see where my training takes me for those races.
So what possessed me to start doing a half marathon (13.1)? Well it dates back to 2007 when I first started to lose weight. I said that I wanted to run in the Rock n Roll Marathon, that was my goal. I started doing some 5K’s and realized that I needed to do a 13.1 at some point so my first ever was the Carlsbad 13.1 which I described my experience above. I was very humbled with it cause mentally I hit the mental wall around mile 7 I really questioned myself and what was I thinking. Had I set my goals too high and too fast? Then the cramping set in and I had to walk the final miles. The moment I crossed the finish line and I realized I did it the overwhelming sense of accomplishment I felt was amazing. Weeks afterwards I questioned my goal of running a full 26.2 miles and I abandoned it. Mentally I don’t think I have what it takes to stay in a run that long before getting to that really dark place. So I decided to stick to 13.1’s and try to improve my times and be able to actually run an entire 13.1 without stopping to walk. I reached that goal this past Sunday and I am hoping it’s a building block of more to come and maybe I will revisit a 26.2 at some point.
So what changed in 6 months for me to turn a 3:07:00 finish into a 2:38:00 finish? Well aside from running 15lbs lighter, I started running 3 days a week and much longer distances and I brought my leg training back into the picture. My usual training consisted mainly of running for 4 minutes and then walking a minute for a set amount of miles. On my HR monitor I noticed that at the start my HR would be around 130 BPM and inch upwards towards 168 BPM towards minute 3-4 and then I’d recover during the minute back down to 130 BPM. I’d rinse and repeat this process mile after mile. On distances longer than 8 miles I knew I needed my hydration belt cause of the sheer amount of energy I would expend. Then 1 day I decided to try and run a full 5K and see if I could do it. Sure enough I did it and felt really good about it. When I looked back at the HR monitor I noticed 1 thing, my constant HR range of 150-155 BPM which really seemed a key range for me. So I started to look more into HR training and right around the same time my Personal Training Coach Spencer Aiken was going through intensity levels and HR rates and like a light bulb it all went off that if I’m going to run the entire 13.1 miles I need to keep within that HR Range which was about 60% of my capacity and at my current fitness state that’s right around my Lactic Threshold (LT) as well. Now that I have that figured out I needed to focus on race week/day nutrition. In 13.1 miles at the 12:00 mile pace I burned through a whopping 4310 calories on top of what my body needs for minimal function. Upon reading several race day diets and nutritional needs articles from pro’s I also realized 1 critical error that I had made in every single race. I gulped everything down mostly water and Gatorade. The GU pack’s that you got I quickly devoured several of them as fast as I could and kept on running. Every article I read had 1 common factor and that was the runners would drink through the race such as through the next mile and they would take small bites of whatever they had sips of gel. I brought all this together and low and behold I had a very good 13.1 by my standards. So now I can really focus on what I need to do to increase my run times in preparation for my next 13.1’s and new goal 70.3.