Hi everyone! I’m only a few days away from the Her Tern Half (ahhh!!!!) and as I said earlier this week, I’m nervous! This is a big race for me and I’m hoping for a PR. Last year, I ran this race in 2:33:59. I crossed the finish line looking like death, and may have wanted to puke up the post-race cupcakes because I felt so awful. I hadn’t really put in all the training I should have, and it showed. I thought I’d never run the HTH again, even though I’d had a pretty good time overall (read the recap here!).
Earlier this year, Skinny Raven contacted me about trying out their HTH training plan and giving the race a second chance. I was honestly excited about the opportunity at first – I love trying out new things and I knew it would help me train better and hopefully finish faster. As the start of the training group approached I became more and more nervous though! I’d never trained with other people, and I was worried I’d be too slow to keep up. But I knew from day one that this was going to be a really awesome group of helpful, supportive women who were all here to get better – and to have fun! I plan on recapping exactly what we did over our 12 weeks of training in the next few weeks, but right now I’d like to share some overall lessons that I learned from the HTH training group, and how those lessons are going to get me across the finish line:
Running with friends is more fun than running alone. As I’ve said many times, I’m a solo runner. There’s nothing better than a few miles on the trails after a tough day of work. But by the end of the first week of training I was already meeting some amazing girls who not only ran at my speed, but were willing to stick with me for hours! I think our group has around 100 runners (some run in the morning session instead of my afternoon one) and I never met a runner who I didn’t click with. We made each other laugh during the running drills on speed day, and cheered each other on while speeding up hills and running long on the coastal trail. I learned that if you’re going to run hard, you might as well have fun doing it!
And running with friends makes you faster. In week 2 of training, we did a pretty tough run around my hilly neighborhood. I started out my tempo session alone (as usual) and completed one loop. While grabbing water, I began talking with two girls, and when they started their next loop I hung with them and tried to keep up. They were fast, but not so fast that I wasn’t able to keep up. They pushed me to finish faster than I thought was possible, and from that moment on they became my speed work running buddies! There were some practices where I wanted to fall back and let them go on ahead, but I ended up sticking with them and being able to finish fast. I couldn’t have done that if I was alone! My first track tempo pace was 10:00/mile for a half mile. My last track tempo pace with my buddies was 9:30/mile for 2 miles. No matter what my finishing time is, that’s a huge achievement for me and proof that I’m faster than I think!
Proper form is key to not feeling like death while running. This is probably common sense to everyone but me, but if you have good form while running you’ll feel better and look better. I went into training doing some sort of crazy arm thing – I kept my arms high with my elbows glued to my sides, and instead of pumping my arms I rotated my whole upper body. I also hunched over and stared at the ground. In the second and third week our coaches really began working with us on our running form and would give us lots of feedback on what we needed to do as we ran past them.
If you’re wondering what proper form looks like, here it is: keep your arms bent and low by your hips, and pump them as if you’re reaching back to put something in your back pocket. Don’t rotate your upper body and keep your shoulders back and down. And look forward, not down! Being all hunched over and looking down actually prevents you from taking full breaths, especially while going uphill. And on that note…
You need to embrace the hills. Hills are going to happen in every run and in every race. So avoiding them in training (which is what I used to do) is not going to work! It’s all about knowing how to attack the uphill and handle the downhill to maximize your energy. The hardest part is the mental aspect of hills, but we discussed ways to tackle them and make them part of our race training. This race (and basically all AK races) ends on a hill so it’s important for us to learn how to run them!
And the most important lesson of all: I’ve got this! I love that I’m going into this race knowing that not only do I have 100 awesome runny buddies from this group all around me, I have my 4 awesome coaches there too. It’s nice to know that for the first time ever, I’ve got more than just my husband rooting for me to finish. And throughout the training process we all used the HTH training group Facebook page to post inspiring comments, positive thoughts, and cheers for each of our accomplishments along the way. I’m incredibly nervous about this race still, but I know that these girls will be there to support me and get me across that finish line!
Overall, I had a blast training with the HTH training group and I don’t want it to end this weekend! And not only that, I truly believe that they prepared me for this race more than I’ve ever been for any other race. Just knowing that I did speed work, hill repeats, pushed myself on long runs, and trained in all kinds of crazy weather makes me feel more confident about my ability to finish. Now we just need to see what happens on race day!
Have you ever done a half marathon training group before? What did you learn from it?