Back in September I ran the best half marathon of my life. Not only did I PR in this race, but I shaved 10 minutes off my previous record. The race experience was one for the books and I learned so much!
I’m not en expert or fitness professional. This is just my experience and what worked for me.
Since my experience back in September, I’ve been thinking over and over again about my big PR and what I did to make it happen.
Here are some of the things that I attribute to my PR:
The Course/Specificity of Training
I chose this race as my goal race because it played to my strengths. I love running scary fast on down hills and am emotionally moved my scenic and wild locations. I knew the severity of the downhill course would excite me and the location would put my mind and heart in the right place. Choose a course that plays to your strengths!
The Revel Big Cottonwood Half Marathon course had an elevation loss of almost 3,000 feet. Yes, you read that correct. The race was also at altitude, but there was some comfort in having done that before. Racing downhill was completely new to me though.
It may seem that by nature running downhill would be easy and effortless, but that’s hardly the case. Running downhill is just like everything else. If you aren’t training with specificity, you won’t hit your goal. No matter what your course looks like you have to train specifically for it.
Speed Work + Strides
This was a huge factor in my success at Revel BC. Not only did I do a solid job of incorporating structured speed work into my weekly plan for the first time, but I also added some pace pick up miles into the last couple miles of my weekly long runs. This helped me practice a fast finish and learn what my body felt like when I was running fast on tired legs. I also incorporated strides into some of my easy runs. Not only did it help my mechanics and leg turnover, but it helped me get used to being uncomfortable.
I Practiced Racing
If you are a regular reader then you know I like to racecation a lot. In fact I had raced in a different location about once a month before I ran Revel Big Cottonwood. This helped me manage my pre race jitters and practice my race day nutrition and strategy. I also learned how to manage jet lag and early morning flights. I basically use the same formula for every racecation and it works.
Most people that train for a half marathon rarely run more than the half marathon distance before their goal race. At the time of my PR I was in the peak of marathon training for Chicago and NYC, so my long runs were really long. I had ran multiple long runs of 17 and 19 miles in the weeks leading up to the race. Not only did this help my endurance, but it gave me the mental edge because 13.1 miles seemed like a short run compared to the long runs I had done in training.
While I’m not awesome at doing strength and core work like I should, I did more of it leading up to this race than I’ve ever done. Sticking to my yoga routine, doing single leg exercises and performing kettlebell routines made my body stronger overall.
I ran the San Francisco Half Marathon five weeks before Revel BC and trained on hills like it was my job for the entire summer. The hill repeats helped my body get strong, but the reverse hill repeats got me race ready. Since I knew I wasn’t running San Fran for time, I spent a lot of runs focusing on running easy on the uphills and running fast on the downhills. I would choose short hills, long hills, gradual grades and steep grades. I didn’t discriminate and here in ATL there are nothing but hills. I did hill repeat specific workouts at least once a week, but added in repeats during easy runs or long runs too. If I ran up a hill I made sure to run even harder downhill and would repeat it at least once if it was on my route.
All those added hill repeats here and there really add up. Not only did they get me ready for my particular race, but they made me physically and mentally tough.
Race Day Strategy
This was one of the best things I did the week leading up to the race. I reviewed the course elevation and made a plan. Even though Revel BC was a downhill race there were still some small hills and lots of areas were the grade was so gradual it would feel flat. I adjusted my pace goals per mile based on the course and it paid off.
I knew the excitement would make me start fast, but I pulled back to 30 seconds slower than my target pace. I wanted to warm up my legs and continued to pull back the pace for the first 3-4 miles. I knew running downhill would be a false sense of everything because my perception of effort was totally skewed. Miles 5-9 were noted as the fastest miles by the race directors so I let myself run as fast as I thought I could do without blowing up. These ended up being about 1 min 30 sec faster than target pace.
Mile 10 would be hard because it was flat so the goal was to run this as close to target pace as possible. Mile 11 was a steep grade downhill so I ran as fast as I could to the finish.
I think there were a lot of factors that contributed to my success, but jumping the mental hurdle was huge. When things got really hard I told myself I could do it, I smiled when I wanted to stop and walk and I never let myself give up or give in.
These are just what worked for me, so they may not work for you. Find what makes you successful and do that!
How do you prepare for a goal race?
Have any of these things worked for you?