Charlevoix Half: Critical Thinking

The disappointment of the Charlevoix Half Marathon is already starting to feel like a distance memory. I haven’t decided if I will attempt another half marathon in 2015, but when the time comes, I want to avoid making some of the mistakes I made for Charlevoix.

Not the clock time I was hoping for…

This spring I focused solely on racing my best 5k ever. Speed work was my training focus. I still managed to run one “long” run each week (long compared to 5k, short-ish compared to half marathon!). Following my goal 5k, I had only 7 weeks until my half marathon. That really only allowed for 6 weeks to get myself ready for a race over 4 times longer than a 5k (the race was week 7).

Although I put in some really great runs in those 6 weeks, it was just not enough time to prepare. For future PR attempts I need to put in a standard 12+ week training program.

My half marathon PR was set while I was training for a marathon. Leading up to that race I was running some serious long runs every week. Two weeks before the race I nailed a 20 mile training run with a fast finish (9:40 average pace with the last two miles at 8:44 pace). The race took place shortly before I would have started my taper. I was in great shape!

Leading up to Charlevoix, I think I was (am!) in great shape, but not necessarily the right shape for a long distance race. During 5k training my weekly long run was typically 9-10 miles. Not a terrible base for a half marathon, but not like it was in 2014. Take a look at the long runs I ran in the 12 weeks leading up to each race:

CC River Run Charlevoix
 12 6.3 0 (sick)
11 8 9.7
10 6.24 9.8
9 10.89 0 (injured)
8 13.06 10.13
7 12.63 0 (5k race)
6 15.08 12.18
5 17.1 13.1
4 11.58 14.2
3 18.42 0 (5k race)
2 20.42 15.25
1 10.3 16.36
Total Miles 150.02 100.72

That is a 50% decrease in long run miles logged from Fall 2014 to Spring 2015. Better endurance might have allowed me to finish the race without getting any side stitches. Due to the missed runs this spring my long run average for the 12 weeks leading up to Charlevoix was only 8.4 miles. For Capital City River Run it was 12.5 miles.

Positive Splits
The main cause of my huge positive split: side stitches. This was a curve ball during the race that I wasn’t expecting. When they hit I didn’t have a strategy in place for how I would deal with them. For my next race I plan to go into it know what I will do if/when a side stitch hits. I have been practicing a few things during my training runs these past few weeks, so I hope to have something worked out in time for my marathon this fall.

I can’t let the blame fully rest on the side stitches because I know I started to slow down slightly before that. I think I started too fast. I don’t necessarily think that averaging 7:48 in a half marathon is out of the realm of possibilities for me, but I think it was too fast for the first mile. I tend to run most of my runs with the first 1-2 miles around 30 seconds slower than the rest. For the 5k, I do an easy jog to warm up for 10-15 minutes and then a few strides to get my legs ready to run fast. For the half marathon, I did a few dynamic stretches to warm up because I was afraid I wouldn’t have the energy for a half marathon if I wasted some of it on a warm up mile.

I really need to do a proper warm up before trying to race a half marathon. It was stupid to think I could go from 0 to sub 8 pace without a proper warm up. I won’t be making this mistake again. I think in addition to a warm up mile before the race, I will try to run the first few miles slightly slower than my goal pace. Once I am fully warmed up, I will start kicking the pace up.

Last thoughts
I know that addressing these three issues is not going to guarantee sub 1:45 in my next half, but I do really hope that if I keep putting in the work and keep making slight adjustments that I will get there soon. While it is disappointing to have missed my goal, I am trying to get the most out of the experience by learning as much as I can for the next round.


9 thoughts on “Charlevoix Half: Critical Thinking

  1. I think 12 weeks is the perfect time to train when you have a base – which you do! It's enough time to get those muscles moving fast but not too much time that you are risking an injury. I think you should attempt another half this year for sure! Fall is the best time for it 🙂 And you hit another important point that I've been dwelling on a lot lately – more miles with fast finish runs. Yes, yes, yes!! You can run a half PR FOR SURE!! Practice that in your training and you won't have to worry about positive splits. Get it, sister!


  2. I'm definitely tempted to try for a fall half. Probably September, so not too close to my October marathon, but far enough away that it isn't so freaking hot! Still not fully decided though. I don't want to end up focusing on the half marathon when I really need to be focused on the FULL.


  3. I would strongly recommend another half before your marathon. Even if you don't hit your big time goal, it will be really helpful for you to practice being in the race environment. I would never run a marathon without having at least one race somewhere in my training cycle. If you are going for a PR, though – when you do the race matters. Endurance from marathon training helped me PR in my first half this Spring, but by the time I ran my 3rd, cumulative fatigue (and me being too cocky to taper for it) had really caught up to me.

    I think you are spot on with everything in here. Training for a marathon is one of the best ways to get a half PR. It really does make the distance feel a lot easier, even at faster paces. And starting slow is good advice too. My best races have been the ones where I started a little slower than goal pace and was able to finish strong. It's a MUCH more efficient way to race and I always perform and feel better than when I would just start fast and try to hold on.

    Good luck! I really know you can do this. The fact that it's such a long road will just make it that much sweeter when you finally nab it!!


  4. Thanks Hanna! I'm definitely planning on another race before my marathon, I just haven't decided between a 10 miler and a half marathon. I know that I need more practice in an actual race environment. I'm hesitant to run both since races tend to be really disruptive to my training (even just a mini taper and then a few extra rest days after ends up feeling like 2 weeks of cutback in a row). I'll have to get started on a pro/con list for each race.


  5. I think a half before your marathon would be a great thing to do. The one thing I regret during my marathon training was not running races. I think it would be a great way to get some miles in for your long runs (even if you have to add some miles in after the race) and it allows you to see where your body is at in training!


  6. I think you are very smart to look at this race from a positive “what can I learn from this?” perspective. Bad races happen to us all. I hope to right last year's wrongs with this year's fall/winter marathon. Good luck with your training.


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