Lesson Learned: I’m a Hibernator

Operation Fast Half is coming to a close here soon (the race is in a week and a half), and if I could sum up my lessons learned during this training cycle into one phrase it would be: people don’t change. Or maybe more accurately: after 28 years of life, you should probably know yourself a little bit better.  Maybe: You can take the girl off the couch, but you can’t take the cou…I guess that one doesn’t really work.

A couple of months ago I made some cock-eyed statement about trying to hit 1:35 for this upcoming half marathon.  I ran this same race last year, coming in at just under 1:45 (1:44:53), still  my best half time yet, but I thought I could train myself down 10 minutes to a race pace I’ve only hit a couple of times during 5-K’s because:

1) I’m faster overall thanks to some intense marathon training,

2) I’m a “real” runner now who takes training more seriously than Christmas cheer,

3) I have blog friends to keep me accountable for my workouts,

4) I’ve tasted goal crushing victory and I don’t ever want to eat anything else again,

5) I didn’t train very well last year.  My last/farthest long run was 8 miles, so anything more productive than that should surly produce extraordinary results.


I’m going to beat you! 

What I didn’t account for is that:

1) I AM faster, but it takes a bit of time to get a LOT faster (i.e. a superstar transformation usually doesn’t occur within 10 weeks),

2) Um, was I high? (No, I wasn’t, I promise).  Christmas cheer will always trump running. Always.

3) Y’all are pretty easy to ignore if I turn off my computer,

4) Cookies are pretty tasty, oh yes they are.

5) People don’t change.  Little runners who would rather hibernate than train all winter will probably always be this way.

I was doing great all November.  Speed workouts were going amazingly, and long runs were flying by.  I was eating really well, and I was motivated.

And then I transformed back into Amy circa winter 2011, going around saying, “but, it’s Christmas”  as an excuse to not get a run in, or to pick up fudge square #3.

I’ve still been running and maintaining, but I don’t think I’ve been getting the type of quality mileage required of a significant improvement.

And then all of the sudden we’re having a really cold winter.  Albuquerque can get cold, and we usually have one miserably frigid day, but we’ve had multiple days in a row where the morning temp is under 20 degrees which seems out of the ordinary.  I’m not willing to head outside for an 11 mile run on  Saturday morning if it feels like -3 outside. I know most of you deal with this all winter every year, but I am not acclimated to cold like that.

So, I’ve been running on the treadmill more. It gets the job done, but I don’t think it really translates as well into the real world.  And I definitely cut runs shorter on the treadmill than I would outside because my wall is boring to look at.

We opted out of using a formal plan for this reason.  We knew we’d be busy and cold, and that we’d spend a lot of time rearranging workouts, but I guess we thought we’d be more disciplined (Um, WHY did we think this?  PEOPLE DON’T CHANGE).

And I’ve been eating non-stop since Christmas Day (slowly getting the cookie habit back under control).  I’m probably going to run this half about 5 pounds heavier than I did last year, which translates into extra effort and likely extra added time.  (Update: Tracie posted a chart on how many minutes extra pounds add to your race time.  If’ that’s not enough to make you depressed over holiday gain, I don’t know what is).

IMG_5648My sister made us our own special batch of gluten-free cookies for Christmas morning.  Guess who ate 95% of those…

So, there you have it. I’ve been training, but not very well, and certainly not enough to shave 10 minutes off my PR time.

In retrospect, I don’t think it was a realistic goal for me to increase speed that much knowing that I’d be distracted. I think we did better on our training this year than last, so improvement was made, and  I’m faster, stronger and more race savvy thanks to a year long effort toward improvement and I can appreciate that accomplishment.

I know that I don’t slack off all the time, and I think I have a better understanding of when I thrive and when I’m better at simply maintaining.  I’ve realized that I can seriously push myself during one training cycle per year (by seriously push myself, I mean stick completely to a plan, give each workout 100%, and have running be a top priority, while consistently remembering my goal and evaluating my progress toward reaching it), and that training cycle can’t fall during the holidays.

I won’t hit 1:35 next Sunday, and I’ve already moved past it.

What is kind of worrying me is that I should have been base-building for Boston.  The day after the half, I am jumping in head first into a more intense 12 week marathon program.  I’m taking my weekly mileage from about 15-25 miles all the way up to about 55 pretty fast, which isn’t really what I wanted to happen.  And if I only want to seriously push myself for one training cycle per year, then I want this one to be it, so slacking off for the first couple of weeks isn’t an option.

So, I’ve decided to:

1) Still go for that PR next weekend.  I can always predict my race time based on my last long run pace (without fail, I can run a full minute faster per mile).  I ran 12.35 comfortable miles on Sunday at an average pace of 8:47.  Based on this, I should come in at 1:42 which will constitute a PR.  I think I even have a decent shot at 1:40 if I suffer a bit. If I can’t be faster than I was 10 weeks ago, I can at least be faster than I was last year.

2) Go harder than I typically would for a goal race taper.  For half marathons, we typically taper for 2 weeks, but I’ll probably reduce it to about 4 days.  My priority needs to shift to marathon training.  I need all the preparation I can get to run a strong PR marathon.

I really hate giving up on something that I said I would do (though it kind of seems to be a theme recently), but I should have known myself better.

I have a general hatred toward the fitness models used in these.  What is up with this lady’s hair?

Any lessons you’ve learned about yourself during your training?  

Hope you are having a great (loooong) week!

19 thoughts on “Lesson Learned: I’m a Hibernator

  1. So again — glad we’re kind of living parallel lives (minus the whole BQ thing and super fast running thing) because (I’m sorry!) it makes me feel better about myself that I’m not the only one who goes through little setbacks like these. With that said, GOOD LUCK with your half and how exciting that you’re about to start training for THE Boston Marathon!

  2. I think you should cut yourself some slack! It’s incredibly difficult to stay disciplined over the holidays. Plus, 10 min off of your (already impressive) HM PR is very tough! If your real goal is to build base for Boston, I don’t recommend going out 110% at the race. As great as my PR felt in Healdsburg, my body had a terrible time recovering from that effort. (I also blame that race for the ensuing tendinitis.) I still think you’ll get a PR – even if you weigh a little more compared to last year, you’ve also got more racing experience under your belt. Good luck!

    • Thanks! I definitely won’t go 110%, but I’m still planning on “racing” it. Arizona is a pretty easy course, and I’ve never had any problem recovering after a half (KNOCK LOUDLY ON WOOD!!!), so I should be able to run the day after. I think the biggest change will be not tapering next week so I don’t have such a drastic jump in mileage. We’ll see how it goes.

  3. I think it’s refreshing that you can be so open and honest about your difficulties. And now you know how to proceed going forward. Every day is a new opportunity to make different and better decisions :). And let me add that I just hesitated to type better decisions because I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that you took the time to enjoy your holiday and your family!!

  4. I think you nailed the assessment but I am with Jen, focus on Boston, run a good race but don’t set yourself up to be hurting right when your mileage is about to ramp up. I am in the same boat but my half isn’t for another 5 weeks so I have some time to get in some serious work. Holidays are stressful, friends and family are way more important than a couple of minutes in a race for right now. Your ultra-competitive is difficult to keep happy!

    • So, here’s a weird thought that I’m not sure will make you feel any better or not… So let’s say you PR with a 1:42, which is amazing! You know that with some decent, real, committed training you can get another PR.
      In my odd mind, this lack of training has set you up for additional PR’s, and additional victories.
      Just remember to be proud of any PR and how you are faster than you were last year. Don’t beat yourself up over coulda, woulda, shoulda, continue to bask in the glory of that rediculously intricate gorgeous gingerbread house! 🙂

      • Haha! The gingerbread house is still up and I’m still basking! Thank you for the encouragement! And I agree…maybe if I had hit 1:35, it would have been much harder to beat next time around. I’m a big supporter of sustainable growth, so it makes perfect sense!

    • Arizona isn’t a brutal course, so I should be ready to go at the very least by the Tuesday after if not on Monday. I think some of my biggest challenges will be that it won’t be any warmer in a week and a half, and while the days are getting longer, the time won’t change until March. We’ll see how it goes. But yes, I’m almost relieved that I haven’t become so serious that I take Christmas off to train.

  5. Heyyy, you have a fantastic blog!
    Your half PR and running time is is amaaazing, I just have to say!
    LOL at number 3 of what you didn’t account for..hahahahha 🙂

    Also, thanks for your tips and comment on my post.
    Following you and looking forward to reading muuuch more! GOOD LUCK too!

    • Thank you! Hope the speed work stuff helps. Definitely not the most fun thing to do, but worth it when you realize how much faster you’ve gotten!

  6. Hey Amy! Thanks for being so honest as always :). 2 things:
    1. You have a realistic chance to PR next week…that is great so own it and enjoy the race. You’ve worked hard to improve – maybe not as hard as you wanted, but will still be a great achievement.
    2. Running is a fun part of life but it is NOT LIFE. Spending time with your family and friends and enjoying the holidays together is precious, so don’t beat yourself up over it!
    Can’t wait to read your race recap, you will be great.

    • Thanks for the encouragement! And I agree…running is not life! I think my biggest breakthrough was realizing that I’m never going to take training very seriously during the holidays!

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