Road to my first half marathon – Week 11

The training for my half marathon is slowly coming to an end. This week I’ll run the longest distance I ever ran and also the longest distance in training towards my first half marathon. I’ll be using Garmin Courses for this route and I’m really looking forward to it. I have gotten myself a little present to make it a little easier: my very first hydration vest

Besides the long run this week also includes a small recovery from Sunday’s run, which just meant I skipped my Monday morning run (yes, again). I did go to aquapower Monday evening and did two speed workouts. 

Progression run

I’m a little confused when I check the weather while slowly waking up. It’s supposed to be wintertime, but my trusted weather app clearly says 10°C, at 6:00 in the morning. The long tights I had specifically washed the night before will not be needed. Capri’s and T-shirt it is. 

Coach Greg actually wanted me to do a 30 + 15 minute goal pace run, but since I had already ran 10K at goal pace last Sunday, I wanted to take it a little easier as that. There is a short progression run planned for later in the week and I decide to mix it up and do that today instead. I’ll see what to do about that goal pace run later.

Today’s plan is a 5 minute warm-up, 30 minute easy run (7:43 – 8:21 min/km), 10 minute fast run (6:29 – 6:41 min/km) and a 5 minute cooling down. The easy part went pretty well and I ran it at an average pace of 8:07 min/km. The fast part starts and I’m struggling to reach the fast pace. I’m running the first two minutes at an average pace of 7:00 min/km and I’m reminded of Sunday’s race in which I also had problems keeping my pace up. It’s raining lightly, but I’m not wearing my cap or visor. Two minutes into the fast part of this run I have to stop abruptly. One of my contact lenses has shifted causing a lot of discomfort. I pause my watch and try to fix the issue, but the rain has moved my sweat all over me and my face. As I’m poking in my eye with a wet, sweaty finger I realize I’m making everything worse. Luckily I always carry water with me, I’m able to clean my finger, eye and fix the problem. This whole mess took about two minutes and I’m cold, wet and not moving. I sprint off, restart the watch and continue for the final 8 minutes of this part of the run. I finish the total 10 fast minutes at an average pace of 6:37 min/km, but I’m sure I would not have been able to reach that pace if I hadn’t had my little break. 

The extra reading material provided with the plans says the goal of this run is “to get the feeling of increasing your speed slightly over a long run on relatively tired legs”. It seems that extra rest I had messed this goal up pretty good. Sorry, Coach Greg!

Long easy run

As I explained two weeks ago, Coach Greg’s half marathon plan has a maximum long run of 120 minutes and I feel that’s not enough for me. Since I’m a bit of a slow runner, the 120 minute workout barely got me to 15K. I wanted to get in at least one more longer run and that is the plan for today. I didn’t want to adjust one of my regular routes or think of something new. So, I opened Garmin Courses, choose automatic creation and 17K, direction south. Garmin Courses always takes the distances with a little grain of salt, today it gave me an 18K route. 

The preparation. My brand-new hydration vest holds up to 1,5L water, but I won’t be needing that. I fill it up until half, more or less, make sure to get the air out to avoid sloshing and try to figure out what to put in which pocket. I’m already loving this thing. So far I’ve been doing my long runs on a small breakfast (toast and one egg) and fueling during my runs with a standard sports drink. I think bringing a bit more could benefit me. My stomach is really sensitive and I’ve been hesitant to try gels or something similar. This weekend I remembered in the past I used something very Dutch during my mountainbike rides, a ‘stroopwafel’. According to Wikipedia a stroopwafel is described as “a wafer cookie made from two thin layers of baked dough joined by a caramel filling”. Whatever, it’s high on carbs and worked in the past, why change a winning team? Today I’m bringing a stroopwafel on my run!

One last selfie to show off my cool new vest and off I go.  

It’s a bit cold and very windy outside, not ideal conditions, but it’ll have to do. Can’t choose race day conditions either, right? The first part of the route is familiar and takes me towards my usual running route, but that changes after about 3.5K when my watch tells me to make a right instead of the usual left. Alright, I’m putting all my trust in you Garmin, take me on an adventure! 

I leave the quiet, beautiful nature preserve and head towards a small town. Big houses on either side of the road, but the road itself is no fun to run on. It’s curved so I’m never running on a straight path, there are missing stones and cars driving up towards me with not enough room for more than one car. There are a few other runners passing me from behind, but they chose to run on the other side of the road. Their choice, but now the cars have to zig-zag between us. Great, I’ll run on the grass then. In the distance I see a railway crossing coming up and have about 500 meters to think about it closing right in front of me. I’m lucky, the alarms of the crossing go off almost immediately after I cross it. 

The next part takes me along a road right on the edge of town, with houses on the left and farmland on the right. It’s a straight road that appears to go on forever. Lucky for me, my legs also feel like they can go on forever. I’ve been running for about 7,5K when I leave the civilized world, I’m now completely surrounded by farmland and running on small country roads. I think this is a good time to mention again how windy it is today. Left and right turns on my route make the wind ‘attack’ me from either sides or directly upfront. Somehow it never feels as if the wind is coming from right behind me. 

I’m happy when I finally reach the woods and the wind is less of an issue. New challenge, Garmin Courses is taking me over a signed mountainbike route. I did select trail running, even though this is the first time I’m seeing a trail on this run. Luckily the signs of the mountainbike route are in the opposite direction, meaning most of them will be coming towards me, giving me time to get out of the way. I’m not always this polite, but I’ve done some mountainbiking, it’s a signed route, to me this is their territory and I’m a guest. This part of the route is about 1K of muddy, slippery and fun mess. I saw about 20 mountainbikers and one trail runner with a well-trained dog. 

Back on the asphalt and sadly I know exactly where I am. This is part of ‘the long way home’. From here it is one straight line towards home, but this line is about 7K long. I always dreaded this part when I was out with my mountainbike in this area and today is no different. Almost there, but actually not even close. 

I made it home in 2:25:07. I ran 17,5K at an average pace of 8:18 min/km. When I set up the course I put in 8:20 min/km as a goal pace, not a bad job pacing I’d say!

Summary

That’s it, my longest run of the plan (or, my life) is done and it feels good. It feels like I might be ready for this half marathon. It’s in four weeks and in the meantime I intend to listen a bit more carefully to Coach Greg and the plan he’s created for me. 

The hydration vest was probably my best running investment since shoes and a Garmin, I love how easy it is to drink on these long runs and judging by the empty bladder I drank more then usual during a run. I still have to get used to it a little as it seemed to get looser towards the end of my run. Not sure if I’m supposed to adjust it during my run or it should’ve been tighter from the beginning. I noticed it was shifting a bit, but it didn’t bother me so I didn’t think much of it. Right until I got in the shower. Oops. 

Counting down until February 9!

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