If you’ve read some of my older posts, you know that the Princess Half Marathon is really where this all got started. Needless to say it holds a special place in my heart. That is all the more reason why I like to try knock this race out of the park every year. It’s my “runaversary” (the anniversary of my very first half marathon) and so is a natural point for me to reflect on this crazy journey annually.
Let’s take it back to where it all began for just a second. I promise, I will keep this a very truncated version of the story. After being really inspired during the January 2010 Walt Disney a World Marathon weekend, I signed up with a limited fitness base and 8 weeks to prepare. I outperformed my wildest expectations and fell in love. I learned about the special magic of race day adrenaline, I wore an incredibly ill fitted outfit, and I realized just how gratifying this sport can be. You see, running is about a whole lot of things. Most obviously, it is about putting your body through its paces to see what it is capable of doing. Most importantly it is about training your mind to push your body beyond what it is physically prepared to do. It is about doing things you never thought possible just because you refuse to entertain the notion that you can’t. It’s this latter list that changes you in irreversible ways and it’s a big part of what my love for this sport will never fade.
Since 2010 a lot has changed. I now have nearly 25 half marathons under my belt (I need to verify but I’m pretty sure this year’s princess is number 25), I’ve aged 8 years, I’ve turned my 2010 internship into an incredibly fulfilling career, met by husband, got married, had my two beautiful babies, the list goes on. This has all been one really long, sentimental tangent (and I promise that I will get back to the topic at hand now) but thank you for indulging me as I get misty eyed and nostalgic over here for just a second.
Here’s picture from every year I’ve completed this race. 2018 is the Princess Half 10th anniversary and I’ve only missed two of those races – the first year (when I wasn’t running yet) and 2016 when I had just given birth to my boys (so obviously not running a half marathon:
Preparation for the 2018 Event
I used to really gear up when I trained for an event. A couple months out, I would start to work backwards from the event date, planning my workouts very intentionally to prepare me for peak performance on race day. Then I got pregnant, had twins, and life got crazier than I ever imagined. A complicated pregnancy meant a very long break from running and I knew the journey back would be slow and frustrating. I have actually been pleasantly surprised at how much has come back to me quickly. It didn’t take too long before I was back to an ok base pace and the mental tenacity that training and pushing through difficult runs has remained.
I’ve completed several half marathons in the last two years since the twins were born and have steadily brought my times down. My lowest post-babies time has been 1:58 (my PR “personal record” is 1:47:30). All of this was done with pretty lackluster, unfocused training and I know I can make even bigger strides if I focus just a little bit more. Not an easy task when you also work a full time job and juggle twin two year olds, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try.
What’s Different This Time
It’s been about a month since my last race (2018 Celebration Half Marathon). I was slightly underprepared for that one due to a sprained toe that sidelined me for a couple weeks and the fact that I was sick with a nasty cold for a full week prior to and including the event. I went out to hard and crashed and burned by mile 8. I took stock of everything and realized that with a full month until Princess, I could make some big changes if I worked hard and stuck with my training schedules. Here are three things that I hope will pay dividends this time around:
Making Sure “Key” Workouts Happen
Its really tempting to log a bunch of “junk” miles. What I mean by junk miles are just lots of miles done at an easy pace which have no real specific purpose beyond bumping up your weekly mileage totals. It’s much easier to motivate myself to get these in so I have to be careful of the trap of not getting in enough quality workouts.
I started adding in one treadmill interval workout a week at the end of last year so I am finally getting some “speed work” back into the mix. This is one of my “quality” workouts each week. The other essential is my long run which is probably the most significant mental hurdle for me each week. It takes a long, long time and it’s easy to blow it off when other things come up or you just don’t feel like it.
Well for the last month, I have diligently done each of my two key workouts for the week. It’s still not ideal training. I would like to do speed work on a track again and add in a tempo run each week as well to really have well rounded training like I did pre-babies but I also have to be realistic about what I can do with what my life looks like right now. This feels good for the time being.
Staying Illness and Injury Free
Ok, so this one is not fully something I was able to control but I did manage to avoid any major training interruptions this month. I did drop a piece of furniture on my toe (same foot but not the same toe I injured last month) but thankfully, I was able to run after babying it for just one day.
I tend to get sick a lot in general and I think I finally found the (very obvious) secret to staying healthier. It’s called getting enough sleep. If you are a parent, you know how tempting it is to stay up after the kids go to bed. It’s your “me time” and it’s the only way you get any during the work week. Well, I started staying up till at least 11pm, often even later binge watching Netflix or whatever else I wanted to do. It also makes getting up early to run (which is my only opportunity to do so) very challenging. I know myself well enough to know that I don’t function without a minimum of 8 hours of sleep a night and I was averaging more like 6 or 7 for a long time.
Well, for the last month, I have constantly started to shift my sleep schedule. I try to be in bed, light’s out, and a podcast on with a sleep timer (which usually puts me out in about 15 minutes) between 9:30 and 10:30pm. As a result of doing this for a few weeks, my body has naturally started waking me up at 6 am. This give me time to catch up on things around the house, get ready to run for 7 am, and there’s even enough time left over to walk our dog Elsa before it’s time to get ready for work. I cannot tell you what a difference this has made in my life. I am just more on top of everything and I simultaneously eliminated the number one reason I used to miss workouts – I was too tired and/or I over slept. I have started to backslide every now and then since it’s still tempting to get stuff done at night but I’m trying to stay on track with this change because it is clearly working.
Listen to Your Body
This isn’t so much a training thing as a mindset for race day. I started the Celebration Half with a friend and we were trying to run under two hours so we picked up a goal-oriented pace from the beginning. I think I am in good enough shape right now to run at this pace but that particular weekend, I was not. I’ve gotten used to my body surprising me by the amazing things it can do so I felt like it might be possible. Nope. I have found over the years that staying relaxed and listening to your body is really the most important things for peak performance for me. My best race times have usually been when I stopped being a slave to the race clock and started running what was comfortable. In those races, I’ve often gotten faster when I should have been getting fatigued. Our bodies send us signals about when we need to push and when we should hold back. You can definitely mind over matter at the end of the race but if that same mentality makes you use up all your juice in the first few miles, it’s going to end up being a pretty miserable experience in the end.
It’s impossible to predict what kind of morning I will have tomorrow or how my body will feel. I hope I have done everything in my power to set myself up for success and only time will tell. It’s going to be a warm one (which never boosts anyone’s performance) but if I remember to focus on soaking up the fun, I know I will have a great time whether or not I actually end up with a great time.
So for today, I’m going to picture two feelings. The first is that goosebump-inducing moment when you round the corner onto Main Street and see the castle shining in the breaking daylight. This is why I fell in love with this race. The second is that feeling when you are in the finish line stretch and you know the experience is coming to a close. Your body is very ready to be done but it’s also the bittersweet end to another lesson-filled experience.
I know this one was long and kudos especially to any non-runners who got through it. I promise I will be back to our regularly scheduled general content now but thank you for bearing with me as I share a deeper look at my running journey. Be sure to watch my Instagram feed (and stories) to see how it all goes!