11 Dates & Raw Nipples or How I Accomplished My First Half Marathon

half-marathon-mapToday was race day in San Leandro, a date I had committed to prior to starting my running adventure. I took the first ‘couch to half marathon’ plan I found on the Internet and looked it over. It seemed feasible, so without hesitation and without starting out walking, power walking or jogging I hit the ground running…literally.

I didn’t really know what to expect in my first race. I had spoke to others who had ran and the main point seemed to be the same, run your race and don’t get caught up in the hype and excitement of race day. It seemed easy enough to do and I had no doubts I would finish the race. The burning question was how well would I finish.

I didn’t want to get caught up on a finish time, as it could spell disaster. The numbers I had worked out based off on previous long runs, including a 13.1 mile training run would see me run a 10:30 min/mile with a finish time around 2:20. Strangely enough I never saw either one of those numbers during the time I was on the course today.

There were a few factors that made a big difference today then during my long training runs. First I decided to run with 11 dates in my pocket to use as fuel on the course. I am not a goo or gel type guy, tried peanut butter, hummus, honey, potatoes and a few other odd snacks, but dates seemed to have what I needed in order to maintain my fuel. Second the temperature. In nearly 4 months of running I have NEVER run with the temperature at 59 degrees. Most all of my training took place during 90-95 degree heat with a few runs exceeding 105 degrees! You would think I was training for Badwater 135!

Those two factors were key to my run today. One thing I tried to avoid, raw nipples. Much of my training was also accomplished without a shirt (had to get my Vitamin D while training, right?) so this never even occurred to me, until I had my first long run in which I wore a shirt and my Camelbak.

Holy hell! Never thought I would get raw nipples from the my shirt rubbing for 2+ hours, but it happened. I thought I had it whipped today when I covered my nipples with band-aids. Guess I should have used waterproof band-aids as I lost them somewhere on the course, but didn’t realize it until about mile 9 when the soreness started to creep into my chest. I’ll be glad I had an orange shirt or I would have ended up like this guy. If there is a next race I will be sure to take this advice and use Transpore medical tape.

Even with sore chaffed nipples that did not hinder my performance. When the gun went off at 8AM my position was in the middle of starting pack and took a few miles before runners spread out on the course. Yet after the first two miles I kept telling myself I was “too fast” with a 9:15 and 9:16 mile. That was 1:15 off the pace I wanted to run, but I tried to slow the next few miles, but that resulted in nothing slower than a 9:30 for miles 4 and 5.

spiltsJust past 6 miles was the third aid station. I brought no water for this race figuring I could get by on the aid stations at miles 1.55, 3.0, 6.55, 10.1, 11.45. I found it odd to have two so close together, but it did help on the home stretch. I only took a single cup of water at each aid station and attempted not to slow and lose time. Overall it seemed to work well. I made the turn just past mile 6 and started back towards the finish.

Just past mile 7 I glanced at my watch and did a few quick calculations. A sub 2 hour half marathon was possible. I would have to quicken my pace just about 25-30 seconds in order to come in under 2 hours. Miles 7, 8 and 9 were my best 3 miles of the day. I  posted 8:56, 8:40 and 8:54, which helped put in a strong position by the time I hit mile 10, with the aid station on my mind.

I dug into my pocket and pulled a date out popping in my mouth. The race was nearly done as I only had a single date remaining for the next mile. I was hoping to pick up the pace a bit more at mile 11, posting 9:04. I had gained another :06 seconds at mile 12 as I came across the last bridge and the park was now in sight.

I probably started my sprint a half mile too soon. I had one woman who had been pacing me for the last 4 miles and I pulled ahead figuring “this is it, I can make it.” With about a quarter of a mile I could see the finish line. The pathway we were running on was crowded, as I past a black woman trying to control 5 dogs on leashes. I also passed up some slower runners, probably from the 10k. I hit the grass with just yards remaining and started to run out of gas. I got passed within a few steps of the finish, but crossed with a big smile on my face as the race clock recorded a time of 1:58!

Within a few yards of the finished a co-worker of mine, who had run the 10k was there to great me with a handshake and words of congratulations. I was still surprised I pulled in nearly :22 minutes off my goal and nearly :31 minutes off my training run of 13.1 miles.

topSo what did I learn? I probably pushed myself a bit harder today than I did on my training runs. Then again, those long runs were not set up to see how fast I could run them, but to get the longer miles in. In the heat a 10-11 minute mile seemed to be a good time to shoot for, but it didn’t really correlate on race day. Who knows I might have been stronger if I had run a 10 or 10:30 mile for much of the race.

Looking over my entire race, mile by mile I was consistent. Actually I was stronger starting with mile 6, so that’s a big confidence booster. I also learned to stay within myself, but to use other runners to set your pace. I picked up a guy who had a good pace going at about mile 9.5, we were stride for stride for the next 2 miles. Although I think I got the better of him as he seemed to be struggling, not that I was but I was still running at my 9 min/mile pace.

In the end I finished 184 out of 511 runners overall and 14 out of 23 in my age group. No shame in that at all. I was very pleased with my effort and all the long hours and miles I had put in to get me over that finish line. Never during my training did I think that a sub 2 hour half was possible, especially in my first half marathon. I did set some PRs during the run, on the 10k (55:20), 10 miles (1:30:41) and of course the half marathon. Now to relax and reflect.

First Half Marathon

half_marathon_551On the eve of my first half marathon, an event I never pictured myself participating in. It’s been nearly 15 weeks since I started my training program back in late April (read Run Forest! Run!) with the goal of finishing a 13.1 mile run at the Summer Breeze Half Marathon. It’s been a wonderful adventure to this point, while most all of my training and been limited to concrete and paved roads, I still have a desire to get into trail running soon.

As mileage started to increase in my training program, I had to decrease the amount of weight training I was doing using the Stronglifts method. I feel there is a balance in both forms of exercise, but I have not quite found the proper levels of each to maximize the level of activity and be able to get enough rest and food in for muscle and cardiovascular development. Through all the training, I am ready to run my first half marathon.

As I told a co-worker and Tough Mudder teammate earlier this week, I am not all that excited to run my first half marathon. He said that will change when I cross the starting line. I have no doubts I will finish. I have trained well, including long runs on the weekend and continued to push myself, increasing my speed and endurance. I even put in a 13.1 mile training run to finish up week 14 of my training program.

I have been training in 90+ degree heat most days I run. Those long, hot runs should work to my advantage on Saturday as the gun goes off at 8AM and temperatures will be in the high 50s with light winds out of the northwest. Hydration was a concern in my 13.1 training run as I ran out of water approach 11 miles and felt completely defeated. Craps were beginning to make their presence known in my calves, I lost my appetite for the snacks I bought and split time running for 3-4 minutes while walking 1 minute. The last few miles were the worst. I pulled in at 2:29 but believe I can knock a substantial amount of time off that.

Tomorrow I won’t bring any water, relying only on the aid stations, the longest stretch being 3.5 miles. However I am going to bring dates and sunflower seeds, which should provide me the needed nourishment while running. Probably going to dip into the snacks before mile 3 in order to keep the energy up. Unlike my longest training run I don’t want to bonk, so might as well start early.

Overall I am looking forward to the experience, which will dictate my interest in a second half marathon (R&R San Jose) and the possibility of adding another 18 weeks of training to run in my first marathon, the California International Marathon in December. See you after I cross the finish line.


thirteen_point_oneIt’s been 14 weeks since I started running with 13.1 or a half marathon as a goal, something that before this year I didn’t like or wouldn’t do. I felt lifting weights was necessary after dropping 44 pounds in order to rebuild what was left on body frame. Thankfully Stronglifts provided me that opportunity to gain strength that was much needed. In addition to strength training I made the decision to start running, which was shunned by many in that same community as it would have a negative effect on my strength training. So be it I said and made running my priority.

Yesterday was my longest run to date as I finished a half marathon or 13.1 miles! This long run wasn’t on the initial ‘couch to half marathon‘ plan, but I had an extra week and decided to run it just to get some idea of what my time would be. Much like the marathon training I am involved in, my first half marathon goal is to finish. If it was like yesterday, finish is all I care about. Then again I don’t expect it to be 90+ in San Leandro the morning of the race.

Still running 13.1 is a BIG accomplishment, something I never thought I would achieve. I am feeling it this morning as my legs are still very fatigued. They don’t hurt and my muscles aren’t tight and overall I guess I feel pretty good given the conditions I ran in yesterday.

Unfortunately I started out too fast putting up a string of 10:30/mile (give or take 20 seconds) through the first 8 miles. I made a quick stop by my truck, covered my head in water and had a few slips before continuing on. Unfortunately I never regained that 10:30/mile losing another 2 minutes on each mile the rest of the way. As was expressed to me from another experienced runner, “lower your pace 10MM was probably a little too fast. 10.5 – 11 would help you have a stronger finish.” This was a prime example of hitting the wall and never recovering.

The biggest problem I am having is what to eat while running. From my reading I should be eating 200-400 calories per hour. The last few long runs have include a peanut butter sandwich and hummus. Yesterday in place of a sandwich I put peanut butter and honey in a bag to be used like a squeezable pouch when I needed a pick me up. That much needed energy never arrived and I was left running with no gas in the tank, so to speak. At mile 11 I sucked down my remaining water and wouldn’t be surprised if I had a the onset of a heat stroke.

In the end with a few minutes of walking I was able to accomplish 13.1, but was dehydrated and fatigued with I got back to my truck to drive home. All I wanted to do was lay down and go to bed. I did walk around for a few minutes before leaving and when I got home I did some simple stretches, as the calf muscles felt as if they were tightening up. I never did cramp, but I did notice I have a bad habit of clipping the inside of my left foot while running, especially as my form deteriorates from fatigue.

All in all I am still pleased with being able to finish and doing so in 2:29. This goes to show I do have what it takes inside me to run 13.1. I am still on track to make my first half marathon in 2 weeks, but all that work could be derailed by an impending strike at work and the possibility of a separated left shoulder. I should find out more on the shoulder when I head to the orthopedic surgeon on Tuesday.

Run with No Excuses

running-no-excusesAs June comes to a close, it’s been just about 3 months since I have taken up running. Not jogging, but running with training and goals in my. To date I haven’t officially signed up for any races, but am planning on three before 2013 is over. I have been very surprised at how quickly my body has adjusted to running, my form has improved and my times have decreased. Still, there is a long road ahead before I am ready to run my first half marathon. I am running by the credo, “run with no excuses” in order to remain on my plan in order to achieve the goals I have set. I still haven’t answer some basic questions; “What does it mean to you? How hard are you willing to work? What are you willing to sacrifice? Why is it even important and why does it even matter?”

My ultimate goal is to participate in my first marathon on December 2. With any luck I will be registering in 2 weeks to run in the California International Marathon in Sacramento, CA. Initially my training started so I could run in my first half marathon on August 3, the Summer Breeze Half Marathon in San Leandro, CA. I blame Born to Run by Christopher McDougall for the onset of this running addiction. It does seem to be the natural progression, running a few shorter races before challenging yourself with 26.2 miles. I have gone back and forth on running in Sacramento, but after planning out my training I realized Sacramento was possible. I am now considering a third race as a tune up to the marathon, the Rock & Roll Half Marathon in San Jose on Oct 6.

It’s an odd feeling of wanting to run, all the time. That is how I feel now after just 3 months, but not the 42 years prior. It is my desire to continue building endurance to participate in longer run and challenge myself. Each run is an adventure. Is it going to be difficult? Yup. Will I want to feel like quitting? Yup. Is it all worth it? Yup! While I still don’t have answers to the questions I asked there is something special about running. Born to Run has inspired me to challenge myself and run with “no excuses!”

While the marathon is the goal for this year, it’s definitely not the end of the road. I am already looking forward to other races, longer training run and getting into trail running. I have experienced some wonderful benefits from running and learned quite a bit in just a short period of time. Reading the CIM website for the marathon, I felt a bit overwhelmed by information. It was overload, but I do feel I will enjoy this “ultimate” experience and reflect upon it positively, looking forward to other challenges.

Marathon in 2013?


“Why do you care about running a marathon anyway? What does it mean to you? How hard are you willing to work? What are you willing to sacrifice? Why is it even important and why does it even matter?”

262These are the questions I need to answer honestly before I jump in with both feet and plan on running a marathon. The past week I have been reading Marathon Roadmap: The Vegetarian Guide to Conquering Your First 26.2 by Matt Frazier (NoMeatAthlete.com). Since I am already training for a half marathon in August I thought I would look ahead at what it would take to accomplish a marathon.

While I have been pretty excited about the idea, I selected the California International Marathon in Sacramento, CA on December 2 as my target race. Further reading of the ebook and discussion with a co-worker has me wondering if I am trying to do much too soon. I am in the 7th week of a 16 week program training for my half marathon. The marathon training program is approximately 24 weeks, give or take 6 weeks depending on your ability to put in 12-15 miles before considering a marathon. I fall on the low end, running just over 12 miles a week the last 2 weeks.

A co-worker, who is a marathoner, tri-athlete and avid bicyclist tells me to hold off on the marathon and complete the half marathon first before setting sights on the marathon. Currently my half marathon is set for August 3, as I hope to participate in the Summer Breeze Half Marathon. That gives me an additional 3 months to finish training for the marathon in Sacramento. Looking at both training plans, I can only assume I haven’t trained hard enough through six and  a half weeks to make the full marathon if I were to continue training for the half marathon.

If I were to scrap the plans for the half-marathon, I could ramp up my training to run in my first marathon. Right now, I will continue working towards my half marathon as my goal. If I am successful with the half marathon, I could potentially have training time to make the December 2 marathon in Sacramento. In the meantime, I will come up with answers to the questions I asked to start this post.