Saturday, January 24, 2015

Race Recap: Baltimore Half Maraton: When Training Isn't Adding Up

"It takes a lifetime to prepare for life's greatest moments."
-Meb Keflezighi

View from the Central Park Reservoir during a recent training run
After my June races I ran an additional three races: Bronx 10 miler, Baltimore Half Marathon, and the Race to Deliver 4 Miler.  I was originally supposed to run the Baltimore Marathon, but about 6 weeks prior to the race I decided to scale it back to the half.  At the time I was working full time and nannying at night and on weekends frequently.  I hadn't made it past 14 miles in a training run and while I figured I could make it up to 20 miles before race day I was hesitant to push it.  I've never had that "hitting the wall" moment during any of my previous half marathons and I didn't want to during my first marathon.

My Brother and I after the Baltimore Half
Once I scaled back the race I also ended up scaling back my training.  Not only had I run previous halves I had run more than a half in training so I knew the distance wouldn't be a big deal.  Once the weather started to get colder and work picked up I stopped worrying about keeping up with my usually structured training plan.  While the race still went well, I was a little slow coming in a little over 1:56.

Starting Line
Even though the race was harder than I expected I loved every minute of it...maybe not every minute, but almost.  I had heard Baltimore was hilly, but I didn't realize it was almost all uphill.  I'd estimate it was about 11 miles uphill and 2 miles flat.  Outside of the hills it was a great race.  The weather was perfect- sunny and cool.  The crowd was phenomenal- tons of locals lining the streets.  My favorite sign of the race was "Run Faster- Omar Coming."  

My parents got up with me at 5:30 am and rode the light rail to Baltimore with me to be there at the starting line.  At the finish line my parents, brother, and sister-in-law were waiting for me.  We also received a crab shaped medal, and the crab claw works as a bottle opener.  All participants received an under armour shirt as well.  Since I am doing the NYC Full this year I won't be able to do the Baltimore Full this year either, but I'm hoping to do the half again.  

It's been months since the race so I don't remember a lot of the course outside of the hills.  Somewhere around 7 or 8 miles there is a flat stretch where you run around a lake.  To me I felt like this was almost the most challenging part of the race.  After going uphill for so long flatness didn't seem like much of a break.  There were several times we would get to what was seemingly the top of the hill and there would be an option to turn one way and go down hill and turn the other and continue up hill-- we always went the uphill direction.  While I was running around the lake I had to continuously tell myself not to start walking.  My legs were tired from all the climbing they'd already done, and I knew there was much more to come.  It was at this time that I realized I hadn't trained- and I was eternally grateful I hadn't gone for the full.  

My parents and I at the finish
I hadn't prepared for the hills, I hadn't pushed myself to improve my speed, and I barely strength trained.  With a fresh year and race calendar I am excited to return to training as opposed to working out.  Below I've listed some elements that should be included in a "workout" to make it a training session.
Night Speed Work in Central Park

  1. Take care of your tissues- start with foam rolling, yoga balls, or massage sticks.  This helps release trigger points, improve tissue quality, and maximize blood flow.  I recently took a class that used yoga balls to help loosen muscles that are under the most strain from running.  My hamstrings have never felt better and my mobility improved tremendously.  
  2. Warm up well- Aim for dynamic movements as opposed to static stretching- toe walks, inchworm, butt kicks, etc.  This helps get the blood flowing and prepares the body for movement.
  3. Turn on your core- Placing moves like planks and bridges at the beginning of the workout as opposed to the end activates the core and helps improve posture throughout the workout, protecting your back and improving your workout.
  4. Use multi-joint movements- You rarely move just one joint at a time in life, so don't do it for your workout.  Dumbbell rows work both shoulders and elbows as opposed to biceps curls with just work elbows.
  5. Use multiple planes of movements- Working in one plane creates imbalances.  Try incorporating moves like skater shuffles, crab walks, lateral lunges, etc into workouts.
  6. Pull more than push- We spend the majority of our life working the front of our bodies, so when it comes to our workouts we need to spend more time working our backs.
  7. Alternate heavy, medium, and light- Aim to vary your workouts.  This applies both to lifting and cardio.  Recovery is important and should be built in to workouts.

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