After racing in hot, not so fun, and unideal conditions for my first half-marathon in Chicago, I was excited to give it a second chance in New Orleans, LA on March 4, 2018. After only taking 3 full rest days off from the Chicago Half, I jumped into a maintenance training cycle–eyeing New Orleans Half Marathon in 5 months. I knew in this training cycle I needed to add in more lower body strength-training after toeing the line in Chicago with tensor fasciae latae pain, so focusing more on strength-training, recovery (foam-rolling), and adding in more cross-training to get to the start line healthy. My goal in this training cycle was also to become more comfortable with the mid-range miles of 6-10. With the seasons changing and going into winter, most (if not all) of my runs were done on the treadmill. Living in the most northern section of North Dakota, the winters are brutal (-40 to -50 windchills and snow-covered roads all winter long). So this training cycle was nothing like what I had trained for in the summer months leading up to Chicago, but I was very confident I would see results if I kept showing up and putting in the work (despite running outside). I switched things up for my training program, I purchased a Believe Training Journal by Lauren Fleshman and Roisin McGettigan-Dumas to help me stay on track each week and to look back on for future reference. I also downloaded the Nike Plus Running Club Half Marathon training program. This was a 12 week program focusing on adding in 2 speed runs (track/intervals and tempos), 1 long run (endurance) , and 2-3 recovery runs (cross-training). I picked this program because I thought it was more detailed and loved the fact it had speed training runs broken down. To improve my pace and become faster, I knew I needed to incorporate these speed runs. With Christmas, New Years, traveling, and a wedding back home this training cycle it definitely tested my self-discipline and determination. I also had the sickness curveball thrown in there, it seemed I battled 2 sinus infections back to back early in the year, but that did not get me down. About 2 weeks out of New Orleans, I noticed I started to have pain in my R shin that I could not kick after my last long 14 mi run. I did everything from consistent icing, rolling, taping, new shoes, and more rest days leading up to race day in 1-2 weeks. I was told by a running coach that I would not lose that much fitness within a 2 week period, so to rest if it I needed to. I added in more cross-training days and up to 1 week out I did slow, minimal runs. I ran 5 miles on Monday and still managed to feel a little pain, attempted a run on Tuesday and I could not make even 1 mi without pain so I stopped all together. It was at this point where I told my husband that I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to run Saturday in New Orleans. He explained to me to stay off of it and re-evaluate later in the week. I just did that. I ran my last run of 5 miles on Thursday with minimal pain before the race Sunday. All that was left was to run 13.1 in NOLA!
TRAVELING TO NOLA
To get to NOLA for the weekend we had to drop our boys off with the grandparents prior. We had a 6 hour drive to Minneapolis to catch a late 9:30 flight to Chicago where we would stay the night. The grandparents also had a 6 hr drive to Chicago after work Friday to meet us, so lets just say everyone was exhausted by the time we went to bed (~midnight). Chris and my flight took off super early from Chicago around 6:30 a.m to Atlanta, which meant we had to be up around 3:30 to get to the airport in time for boarding. So after only a few hours of sleep that night, we were more than exhausted. We caught our connecting flight from Atlanta to NOLA and landed around 11:30 a.m. We ended up meeting up with one of my husband’s friends that lives in NOLA, went to the expo, got my bib, and had a late lunch. I knew I would be going to bed early, was told to try eating pancakes the night before the race (breaking marathon rules trying this the night before), so we stopped in at IHOP- grabbed a tall stack of 5 pancakes and headed back to the hotel. I was beyond tired, so at 7 p.m. bed time never felt so good. The alarm was set for 3:30 a.m.!!
FOOD PRIOR TO RACE DAY
I started to watch what I ate about 1 week prior to race day. During traveling, I had to be extra cautious I was making smart decisions. I was lucky enough to start talking with a marathon maniac in our town that runs 6-7 full marathons a year. He told me his secrets to preventing GI distress during races and what to eat/what to avoid. His pre-race meal the night before is always IHOP pancakes and he swears by them. He recommended sticking to a bland, carb-based diet. I really dialed in on Wednesday. Friday night traveling to the airport, I ate a Subway footlong club sandwich with just cheese, mayo, and a little lettuce. Saturday morning at 5 a.m. I ate 2 glazed donuts (bc that was all the was open in the airport that early). We arrived in Atlanta at 8:30 a.m. and ate a 10 -12 in cheese pizza (no greasy breakfast sandwich for me). I had a bowl of chicken noodle soup from a Thai restaurant around 3 p.m. and then went to IHOP to get a stack of pancakes to go. I had 2 pancakes before bed and ate the remaining 2-3 race day morning around 5 a.m. Traveling had my digestive tract all sorts out of whack. I was really worried, as one of my goals going into this race was not having to stop to use the porta potties. I did get some relief the night before being able to have a BM (but still concerned because I would not be able to go in the morning now, but hopefully would not have to go in the middle of the race). All my pre-race foods seemed to be good choices because I had NO GI distress during the race and felt strong up through mile 10.
I was racing Rock ‘N” Roll New Orleans as a St. Jude Hero for the first time. I had fundraised for a few months prior to the race to raise over $500 for an organization that I hold very dear to my heart. It was a beautiful morning to have a race. I got up at 3:30, showered to wake up, drank a cup of coffee, ate my pancakes, and then headed out to the beginning of the race day festivities. Our hotel was only a couple of blocks from the race, so we walked to the start. It was beautiful, lows 50s that morning morning with a high of 74. I did take 2 Tylenol prior, because I knew my shin would most likely act up as the miles went on. I really had no race strategy going into this race because of my shin. I just wanted to have fun and see the results of my hard work that I had put in the last 3 months–whatever that would be. I knew if I could go the entire race without having to stop to use the potties, I would see a time improvement for sure. During the race I felt so strong, even when the shin pain started to creep back in around mile 10. I did fuel with Clif shot bloks every 3-4 miles and also sipped on gatorade through the aide stations after Mile 6. My avg paces every 3.1-3.8 mi were 9.10, 8.42, 8.46, and 8.54 for a total of 13.1 mi. Avg pace 8.53 min/mi and chip time of 1.56.22. A 12 min PR within 5 months and my A goal of sub 2!! With shin pain sneaking in around mile 10, I needed to let up the pace to prevent from injuring it even more, but knew I could still finish strong and with an amazing time in my eyes. I was beyond happy with my finish. It was such a fun, incredible, and beautiful course that I would definitely enjoy coming back for future races. I felt I had seen real, raw results from the hard work I put in for those 12 weeks and could not wait to set my eyes on the next. Half Marathon #2 and State #2/50 knocked off the list. Next up, Fargo, ND.