Saturday, March 10, 2012

Do Yo Thang

Another half-marathon training session is nearly done.

Since January 1...I mean, January 2...I mean...well, sometime around the beginning of January after I got over the epic sinus infection, we started up training again. This time for the DC Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon  coming up on March 17. Switchfoot is headlining. I'm not a huge Switchfoot fan. I just like live music.

This eleven-week training course was a little different than last time. First off, because training in winter is far different than training in summer. We were lucky this year and blessed with a freak El Nina (El Nino? Global Warming? 2012 Mayan-Calendar End?) stream that kept temperatures well above freezing most of the time. I think I wore my Arctic Under Armour compression shirt that I got for Christmas (thanks, family!) less than a handful of times. Don't worry - I'm sure next year we'll be back to regularly-scheduled frigidness and it will get much more use. 

Secondly, and this was a shocking moment for me, I realized that my body is now used to 8+ mile runs. Even 10+ miles. While I slacked off a bit in the intensity training for short runs, I still got the scheduled long runs in and, for the most part, was surprised to find that muscle memory is a very real thing. I felt like I did far less this time around then last time, but I'm still getting in the long runs without too much fatigue. It makes me think that I might finally be ready for the dedication of training for a full marathon. Because, after you've run 13.1 miles, what's 13.1 more? Ask me again after the race, and we'll see. Especially if I puke again. No toenails lost this time so far, however, which sort of makes me feel like a slacker, to be honest. But then I think about where I was a couple of years ago when thirty minutes on an elliptical a few times a week constituted a "workout routine." How very far we have come.

The basics:

An important thing I've learned in training for a half marathon is that you don't really need to do anything too drastically different in terms of eating. A common mistake is to think that you need to "carbo-load" or take in more calories. Mistake.

I'm hungry all the time, but I'm hungry all the time anyway. The difference now is that if I don't eat regularly, I get dizzy and irritable and am subsequently likely to eat too much because I feel famished. I eat every couple of hours. Small meals. And you really don't need to consume too many more calories in training than normal. You just need to eat, and often. Breaking up three meals a day into six smaller ones worked well for me. As for carbs, everything in moderation: I find that I do much better, energy-wise, if I stick to primarily lean proteins and fiber and try to keep the carbs to a moderate amount. This doesn't mean I eschew carbs, just that I don't eat extra. I do tend to eat more protein, because it keeps you fuller longer, and because women tend to not get enough protein as it is. 

Things I consume regularly: tuna (canned and ahi), salads with oil + vinegar, turkey burgers in whole wheat pitas, brown rice, chicken, lots and lots and lots of eggs (yolks included - but I try to do 1 yolk for every 2 eggs), Kind bars (possibly my favorite post-run treat), Muscle Milk light (the 100-calorie chocolate kind), spinach, tomatoes, hummus, carrots, oatmeal, white fish, blueberries, Wasa crackers, black beans, Vitamin Water Zero, Power Bar energy gel chews, Gu, garbanzo beans, and dark chocolate whenever I can get my hands on it. The last one because it's awesome. I also like to combine food groups whenever possible - fiber with protein, carbs with protein, etc. And sushi is and forever shall be a wonder food to me.

My sleep. I am no longer of any use to anyone after 10pm. But I wake up around 6:15 like clockwork every morning. This habit is disruptive only on weekends, when I want to be a functioning human being past midnight and sleep past 9am the next morning. All of these healthy habits are wreaking havoc on my party life. Bummer.

As long as I'm eating and sleeping the way my body wants me to, I've got energy to spare. Unfortunately, my schedule rarely allows me to eat and sleep the way I'd like to, so I do feel like I get tired out more easily. But those days when I magically hit the hay early after a full day of healthy eating - there is nothing in this world that feels better. During training last time, I cut my caffeine intake by half. I'm no longer on that bandwagon, but I am much more conscious of it and try to limit it to before 2pm. And no more lattes or large coffees. Smalls or mediums only, and medium has to have at least a few fingers of decaf in it.

When I feel overwhelmed, when I feel small, when I feel like my problems are insurmountable, it's a pretty freaking amazing thing to say to yourself: remember when you thought running a mile was an accomplishment? Now you regularly run more than five, and sometimes even more than ten. Your body can handle 13 miles. It just takes time, dedication, and passion. Don't forget the passion part: if running just ain't your thang, it ain't your thang. Personally, I can't think of anything worse than swimming long distances. I have no desire to do it, and the few times I've tried it has not felt good. It just ain't my thang. You gotta find your thang. Because when it hurts, when you're tired, when you're running out of steam, you're gonna need that drive. 

Now, excuse me while I do and do my thang....

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