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Jacksonville Bank 1/2 marathon - Race Report

I must say..watching the Ironman World Championships, on the day before a race, can be a wonderful boost. I say it every year, but the NBC showing of the IM world championships is so inspiring and motivating, and gets better every year!
Compared to years past, I had a calm, yet tingly, feeling while watching the broadcast. Knowing that I will be "one of them" in 10 months was a strange feeling. I say it all the time, but the Ironman is for anyone and it's all about the journey. I have coached athletes of all levels and for all distances but as an IM athlete myself, I absolutely LOVE working with first-timer IM athletes.
As for me, four times are not enough. I can't wait for my 5th Ironman to hear the words "Marni, you are a World Ironman Championship finisher". Ok...sorry for jumping ahead in time.

Well, it's been 3 months since I've written a race report, so here it goes....

With a goal of wanting to PR my 2008 half marathon time of 1:36 (which also happens to be my last solo half marathon) at the Jax Bank 1/2 marathon, I had one goal in mind when creating my training schedule with Karel.
Don't get injured
I think telling yourself "don't get injured" is easier said than done. It's really easy to not want to get injured, but it's through a balanced training plan, and an open mind, that one can really put the pieces together in order to reduce the risk of injury. Telling yourself that you don't want to get injured may seem over-ambitious, especially if training volume is too high, the daily diet is not balanced and doesn't support current training, you don't give the body adequate rest on a weekly basis and you don't take the time to strengthen the muscles in order to respond positively to the demands of training.
When setting goals for myself (both in training and in life), I find it helpful to develop an outline. Having written many papers and outlines in my never-ending educational career, an outline will begin with a general idea (the goal) and will be followed by specific examples (ways of accomplishing the goal).
With my goal in mind to PR at the Jax 1/2 marathon, I realized that "training hard" was not a practical plan of action. It's been over a year and a half since I've told myself to just "train hard" in order to reach my goals. With Ironman racing as my passion, I have learned to train smart...not hard. Sure, some training sessions are really really hard (especially if I am trying to stay on Karel's wheel) but I am beyond training for quantity miles. I know it doesn't work and I know what it does to the body. I train for quality.

Over the last 6 weeks I have implemented the Galloway method into my long training runs. From a training perspective, it has worked amazingly well. I finish every weekend feeling stronger than the last and I approach upcoming weeks with a stronger body than the weeks before. With 15-60 sec. walk breaks and fast .5-.9 repeater miles (depending my long run workout), I developed a schedule that allowed me to work hard during the week and work hard on the weekends. My long aerobic miles turned into fast, heart-pumping intervals...and a very fast "long" workout. With no run over 12 miles and no interval longer than .9 miles, I looked forward to sets such as:
2 sets of 3 x .5 miles @ sub 7 min pace w/ 1 min walk w/ 1 mile easy jog in between each set (for a total of 10 miles with warm-up and warm-down)
2 sets of 5 x .75 miles @ 7:15 min pace w/ 30 sec. walk w/ 1 mile easy job in between
each set (for a total of 12 miles w/ warm-up and warm-down)

It was amazing to me that despite walking for 3-4 minutes (total) in a long run, I could still average a 7:45 - 8:10 min/mile pace. More so, when I finished a long run I would be incredibly tired but my legs didn't feel the typical fatigue and broken-down feeling that I would experience after pounding mile after mile with poor form and an inability to properly take in nutrition.

Additionally, I was able to do long group rides on the weekend to work on my endurance threshold. Going into upcoming weeks was a great feeling because I was able to give my 100% for the day, to every workout, and still strength train at least 2 times per week. I stuck with my Mon-day off strategy (aside from 2 easy "floats" in the pool) and managed to keep the rest of my life, as balanced as possible.

So...on to the race!

My best friend Jennifer came in from Lakeland on Sat afternoon. After picking up her packet, catching up and watching the last episode of Top Chef (what else would a RD and future RD want to do than watch a food show?), I prepared a super yummy dinner for when we watched the Ironman World Championships.

Roasted Red Potatoes (w/ olive oil and gold garlic)
Pineapple and walnut salad (w/ homemade dressing - olive oil, balsamic and spicy mustard)
Egg and tofu salad w/ pitas
(not pictured was canned tuna, which was enjoyed by Jennifer, Karel and 3 furry little ones)

This morning Jennifer and I woke up at 5:15am. I prepared the coffee and had my typical pre-race, run breakfast of sandwich thin w/ peanut butter, banana slices and a few walnuts (I have an oatmeal mixture for pre-race triathlon). I took 2 hammer endurance amino's and 2 anti-fatigue w/ water while I was at home and on the way to the race I had 1 race cap supreme. It was a chilly and misty morning but I was excited to put my training to the test.
We made our way 4 miles down the road, to the race start, and stayed warm in the car until 6:30am.
We made our way to the race start, and after a quick potty stop, we were ready to warm-up.
Jennifer and I were both shooting for PR's so we decided to run together, with an understanding that if one person felt better than the other, to just keep on going. No hard feelings needed to be in place, especially since we were both shooting for PR's.
The first 3 miles were into the headwind (heading North) and we tried to not go too-fast. Staying behind tall-people, we were able to get a good draft before we made the turn to start heading south.
Approaching mile 2, we were both feeling good. Certainly not conversational but we were able to keep each other going. By mile 2.5, I started to feel a slight build-up of lactate so I told Jennifer it may be good to walk at mile 3. Although I was kinda up in the air with my Galloway strategy during the race, my thoughts were to run the first 2 and last 2 miles and to walk 10 sec. at every mile, trying to hold somewhere between 7 min and 7:15 min/miles (on average, including the walk breaks for 9 miles.
At mile 3 we took in a quick sip of fluid (while walking) and started to pick back up with our pace. My focus was on my effort and I didn't worry about the other runners behind me or in front of me. I knew what I trained my body to do and it was up to me, and only me, to put my training to the test.
Between mile 4 and 5 it was getting really hard. Although we were heading south and the wind was helping, it was still a solid effort to keep up our pace. My thoughts were if I don't cross over into the red zone and put my body into a place that I can't get out of, I can continue with run/walk and still set a PR.
With my gel flak in my hand (filled with Hammer gel) I was well-fueled with a tiny sip of gel at every mile or whenever I felt like I needed it. I don't carry gels any more during my long runs because it is so much easier for my body to take in a little gel every 7-8 minutes, than to take in 100 calories every few miles. I enjoy having a constant stream of energy in my body.
By mile 7 I was feeling really good. Jennifer slowed down just a tad and I let her keep her own pace. I was really sad to leave her cause we were both keeping each other motivated but we both had to do our own race in order to reach our goals.
Having run the race course many many times during my training (my typical weekend route for long runs), I new what to expect at each mile.
The race was going by really fast and I felt strong. It was a hard effort but I couldn't help but look forward to every mile...just to give myself a little "breather".
By mile 9 the race got really hard. I really had to dig deep if I wanted to continue walk/run. I figured this strategy was better than seeing my pace drop slower and slower.
At mile 10.5 I was back into the head wind and the wind was blowing. It was a slight uphill to the finish and I was ready to get my PR. I kept looking at my watch and my self-talk kept me going.
"You trained hard can do this. It'll feel so amazing when you cross the finish line!"
Seeing people out on the course helped so much, especially a few familiar faces.
Surprisingly, I had a little fan club of my friends/training buddies at mile 12 and boy did I need it. Without walking at mile 12, I slowed down to a jog, just hoping to keep a sub 7:30 min/mile pace. The last 2 miles were super tough but I was nearing the finish and I craving a really big PR.
Approaching the track to the finish line, I tried to pick up the pace but my tired, almost cramping legs (muscle related) were not getting the idea. Smiling and overwhelmed with an "OMG" feeling...I crossed the line with a 4-minute PR!
Finishing time: 1:32.34
7:03 min. mile average
5th age group (25-29)
102 overall
13th overall female

Jax 1/2 2010:
6:51 (this is where I started walking for 10 sec at each mile marker)
7:03 (this was my last walk/run and it was getting hard on my body to keep up the pace)
7:14 (ouch...windy!!!)
7:18 (almost there!!)
Total: 1:32.34

A big congrats to Jennifer for finishing in 1:34.49 and setting a BIG PR and 3rd in her age group (30-34).

After the race, we went home, got warm, had a recovery drink, grabbed Campy (and his sweater) and went back for awards. BRRRR. Karel was out for a 100 mile (freezing) ride.
Campy is officially famous...