Half Mary Musings | Week 9

I’m currently training for my first half marathon in Aviemore, October 13th, 2013. Half Mary Musings is my weekly reflection of how training went, what I’m doing well and things I need to improve upon.

I can’t believe I’ve already completed nine weeks of training! After tomorrow night’s interval workout, I’m officially into my taper period before the race.

6:30 am this morning

Keep in mind these different speeds as you read:
easy run:
60% effort, you can run and easily carry a conversation.
long/steady run:
65% to 75% effort, at least 1 min slower than race pace.
threshold run:
80% effort, comfortably hard, also known as tempo
85% to 95%, close to all out effort, leaves you out of breath.  

Monday: rest day, and my week 8 post.

Tuesday: 10-min easy, 25 mins at threshold, 10 min easy + abs!

This looked like: easy, conversation pace running for 10 minutes to warm up, then running at comfortably hard for 25 minutes, with a cool down of 10 minutes running at easy pace.

distance: 4.43 miles in 42:00, with mile 2 and 3 both under 9 minutes. I only did a 7 minute cool down jog…

I loved this run! I felt like it was a bit of a treat considering it was just one large chunk of running at comfortably hard. During this training programme, I’ve noticed that when I switch paces, I would always hate the change from comfortable to uncomfortable immediately, but by the end of the threshold interval, I’d feel comfortable with the uncomfortable. Running these 25 minutes in a row at threshold, I was looking forward to getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, and it happened quite quickly.

After reading an article from Runners World (I can’t find it to link up!), I’ve changed my breathing from inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth, to inhaling and exhaling through my mouth, inflating my belly rather than my chest. This act of chest breathing actually uses more energy over time (like long runs!), especially when you take in those intermittent deep breaths; belly breathing works and strengthens your diaphragm, the muscle meant for breathing. Now, during threshold runs, my breathing doesn’t feel nearly strained as it used to; instead, it just feels like my legs need to catch up! The only downside to inhaling through the mouth is that you’re liable to swallow a bug or two. And then have a coughing fit, maybe puke a little, but other than that, you’re fine!

Wednesday: rest day and no abs

Thursday: 10-min easy run, 2 x 6 mins half marathon pace, 4 mins 10km pace, 2 mins 5 km pace, with 2 mins easy between sets, 10-min easy run.

This looked like:10 minutes easy jogging to warm up, 6 mins at 9:45-9:50 pace, 2 mins easy running, 4 mins sub 9:15 pace, 2 mins easy running, 2 mins at sub 9:00 pace, then repeat the 6-4-2 again with 2 mins between each interval. 10 minutes easy jogging to cool down.

distance: 5.07 miles in 52:15

I know I did this workout wrong: it should’ve been 6 mins half marathon pace, then immediately into 4 minutes 10km pace, then immediately into 2 minutes 5 km pace, followed by two minutes easy running, then repeat the 6-4-2 set again. Pat did it correctly on his own route, while I assumed wrong on my route. Although this was one of my favourite runs of the programme, I found that I struggled with it a bit. Half marathon pace was fine, as was 5 km, but 10km pace was a disaster! That, or my Garmin was acting up. When I increased the intensity to 10km pace in the first set, according to my Garmin, I was running no faster than half marathon pace. By the second set, however, the problem had rectified itself and I was seeing a clear difference in pace between each rep. I even finished my last 5km pace interval at sub-8:00 pace!

 In case you feel absolutely clueless about your ‘race paces,’ don’t worry, you’re not alone. Remember in the early weeks I felt the same way? Check out this article to put your pace worries at bay. 

Friday: rest day

Saturday: 100 – 110 mins easy/steady run

This looked like: easy running for 1:56:48

distance: 11 miles, average pace of 10:37

Overall, I’m very happy with this run, but it was definitely tough! From miles 2.5 to 7.5, it was a steady undulating, uphill climb. Then, at the half way point, as I was running downhill through a small village, I experienced something I’ve never had before: belly issues. And unfortunately, I couldn’t just release the pressure in my belly, I needed a toilet! Luckilly, the village had public bathrooms, so I stopped my Garmin and had an unscheduled break. I’m grateful for that toilet!!!! I was able to continue on my merry way without issue after that. Am I naive to hope that there will be a toilet some where along the half marathon route?

Once I pushed pass the hills, the sore belly and mile 8 (I soooooo wanted to walk!), things seemed to get easier from then on. It also helped to know that I had little left to run. I was able to pick up the pace and finish in under 2 hours, at 10:15 pace. I also broke my 10 mile PR from the #virtual10miler in June with Rachel (1:46:xx), and set a new personal distance PR on Garmin Connect.

My post long run meal was made by this guy, (who also joined me, but finished 5 minutes faster):

It consisted of wholegrain toast, more maple syrup baked beans and two hard-boiled egg whites:

I got ready, then we headed up to Aberdeen for some nuts, seeds, and other treats at our favourite health food store, then off to Union Square shopping centre for shopping at TK Maxx and dinner at Nandos with one of our couple friends. The day was culminated by a showing of Napoleon Dynamite at home, (I hadn’t watched this film in YEARS!).

Do the chickens have talons? – source

Sunday: rest day, four loads of laundry, cooking, school work, and the official Indian Summer! (according to my Mom, it’s only Indian Summer after September 21).

20’C yesterday! Unheard of in Scotland!

The bees in our yard were still busy as can be(e)!

And I made a dish that my mom used to make when I was a kid/teenager: wild rice casserole. You can’t buy wild rice in grocery stores here, but we found what could’ve possibly been the last pouch of it at the health food store, so snapped it up and shelled out close to £4 for it.

The recipe is kind of like fried wild rice. It’s really easy to make and so delicious. I’ll post the recipe soon, I promise.

Areas of Strength:

starting slow: I’ve now learned the benefits and reaped the rewards of starting slow and now do it every single run. This is also fantastic because I get to finish fast! I’m also going to use this approach in this weekend’s Arbroath 10km. I’ve been told it’s a fast out-and-back, and unlike the Forfar 10km, it’s actually 6.2 miles.

gains in confidence: when I first began this programme and looked ahead to the bulky training weeks (ie. now), I was unsure as to how I’d do, how I’d approach each run and I was scared about the uncomfortable experiences I might have. Now that I’ve done my longest long run to date and some intense speed/hill workouts, I’m noticing that I’m gaining much confidence in my ability as a runner. Through each interval session, I’ve thought of the chunks of time as ‘it’ll only take x minutes to complete,’ rather than ‘I can’t believe I have to run x minutes that fast/up a hill!’ It’s as though I’ve embraced the training and because of this, I can admit to actually loving it too.

change of attitude: as mentioned above, I’ve noticed quite a change in my approach to runs, intensities and distances this training cycle. The Danielle that used to be afraid of going out of her comfort zone now embraces it and actually gets a bit excited for the workouts. Seeing progress in fitness and endurance over the last 9 weeks, compared to the last 3 years (!!!!) prior to that has been incredible! I embrace the uncomfortable threshold runs, the breathless hill runs and the sometimes tough long runs because I now know that they only make me better. And can I say, I love long runs?!?!?

Areas of Growth:

Apparently I still need to learn to read the programme: last week and this week I’ve made two mistakes in workouts because of not reading the programme properly. I tell my students to read things thoroughly and ask questions if they’re unsure about something; I should do the same myself.

– Doing. More. Abs. Enough. Said. Is ‘I keep forgetting’ a legitimate excuse?

visualisation: this is something I used to do when I played softball and did weightlifting. I used to do it so much I would go through the motions of swinging a bat or cleaning a barbell subconsciously as I fell asleep! My body would literally move as I drifted off, and I would wake myself up from the jolts of movement. I need to start thinking about my running and racing. I think a reason why I have a lot of self-doubt come race day is down to the fact that I’ve not done any psychological preparation for the race: I haven’t thought about my race plan at all, I haven’t visualised running up hills, pushing through uncomfortably hard feelings, sprinting to the finish. All this time, I’ve somehow expected to just show up and run, then have a huge battle between running and walking raging in my head the entire race. As I’m falling asleep each night, I’m going to think about the half marathon: about reminding myself to run slooooowwwww for the first half, about picking up the pace for miles 8-12, about running the last two miles at threshold pace (hopefully!), about pushing out those feelings of self-doubt when I’m in the middle of the race and not about to give up, about running each stride, and about trusting my training.


By the way, you know who else is into their tapers? Hyedi, who is running the Twin Cities Marathon (her second) October 6th, and Rachel, who is running the Loch Ness Marathon this weekend, (her third marathon overall, and second time running Loch Ness). Good luck ladies!

What’s your favourite type of training run?
Do you use visualisation for your race preparation?
What’s your favourite wild rice recipe?


4 thoughts on “Half Mary Musings | Week 9

  1. Looking forward to your friend wild rice recipe!

    I need to do more visualization. I think it'd be really helpful for me.

    And I love your areas of strength — the gains in confidence and change in attitude are SO huge.

  2. Thank you Hyedi! I'll get that recipe posted sometime this week hopefully.

    Although visualization helps, I find it hard to visualize more than simply running (whereas with softball, I could visualize swinging a bat, catching a ball, throwing a ball, etc). I also plan too: paces, progression run, etc. I'm getting there 😉

  3. Pingback: 2013: The Year that Was | I Eat Therefore I Run

  4. Pingback: Half Mary Musings | Week 9 | I Eat Therefore I Run

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