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No Race? No Problem! Hit Your Next PR With These Simple Habits

Feb 23, 2021

When the Chisholm Trail Half Marathon was canceled due to Covid-19, I was bummed. I know most every runner was. And then I felt a little relief. We were in Colorado the weekend before the race when we saw the cancellation post, and immediately I thought: No half? I guess that means I can splurge a little more than I’d panned on food and beverages. I pictured vacation pizza, ice cream cones and trying some new craft beers at all the breweries in Fort Collins. These are all things I had planned to avoid or enjoy only in small quantities so I could run my best the following Sunday.

The perfect serving of ice cream.

But my husband quickly brought me back to reality by reminding me that just because we weren’t running an official race doesn’t mean we shouldn’t run, afterall we were both shooting for PRs and had been training hard. Of course he was right, so I got back to my original plan of including vegetables with every meal while still adding in some extra carbs each day. I did splurge a little on pizza and ice cream; I just kept the portions in check. 

So we ran. And we both hit PRs; Courtney came in 16 minutes faster than his last half and I shaved 3:30 off my best time. My goal was to hit the two-hour mark, but I needed an extra 27 seconds. 

As I glanced at my watch throughout the run, it was exciting to see my pace around 9:15-9:20. For a person who has never really felt built like a runner, that’s a pace I was proud to run consistently. I was in shock for a few minutes after the run, pleased with my time and surprised my last two miles were my fastest pace. I was really pushing it to hit the 2 hour mark. When it was all said and done I couldn’t believe I had run 13.1 miles in just over 2 hours. How was that even possible? There was no race, which means there was no race day adrenaline to push me. 

Again, my husband stepped in and brought me back to reality - he’s really good at that - and reminded me that it was possible because I had trained and worked hard for it and focused in on some key habits. Oh, riiiiight! How quickly I forget.

Here are a few things I did to make this my best half yet:

Training - I’ve run a few half marathons over the years, and this time I knew I wanted to PR. Going in, my best time was 2:04 and I knew I could beat that if I really tried and had a training plan, so back in November I asked Griffin to program my workouts. I told him I wanted to be faster and stronger, and that’s what happened. His workouts have helped me build strength, endurance, speed - and avoid the injuries I’ve experienced in the past - stress fractures, shin splints, plantar fascitis and sciatic pain. The workouts also include mobility work, something I don’t typically do on my own. Plus, the weekly emails he sends always include positive words and encouragement. And it might sound crazy, but the gains I made with strength training gave me the confidence to feel like I could do anything. 

Sleep - Whether training for a race or not, sleep is a key factor in recovery. In the few weeks leading up to the race, I averaged about 8 hours/night and sometimes approached 9. It can be difficult to get that much sleep when you get up early to work out, but it’s not impossible. 

Hydration - My goal for the last month was to drink 70 oz of water per day. I only hit that amount about 50% of the time, but most of the other days landed somewhere between 50 and 70 oz. Plus, I’ve cut way back on alcohol since January, so I rarely felt dehydrated. 

Blood flow - To keep myself from feeling stiff and sore after workouts, I set a goal of moving more often throughout the day - at a minimum, going for a 10 minute walk outside at least once a day, usually right before lunch. This has become a favorite part of my daily routine because it gets me away from my phone and computer and recharges my battery. 

Enjoying our trip while still sticking to my plan of meat and vegetables.

Nutrition - Over the last month, I really focused on eating some kind of protein (usually meat) and veggies for at least two meals a day. When we traveled the week prior to the race I knew I’d have to plan ahead and take some food along if I wanted to stick to this habit. So we packed a cooler of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese and meat and snacked on trail mix. I also made sure there was plenty of peanut butter to go around.

Instead of carb loading only a day or two before the race, I made sure to include more carbs throughout the week leading up to it.  

Positive self talk and future thinking - Throughout my training and last weekend’s run, I repeated several messages to myself: You’ve got this. You can do hard things. This is what you’ve been training for. Turns out, there is science that backs this positive self-talk practice. If you missed our blog post about it, read it here. And like I said, having squatted, deadlifted and overhead pressed more weight than I ever thought possible, I was mentally ready to run faster than I thought I could. 

Something else I found helpful was imagining how race day was going to go. During my training, I journaled about race day, my energy, my confidence. I wrote about being calm and fueled properly and finishing with a 2 hour time. If you can imagine something happening, it can happen! Had I not stopped to tie my shoe on mile 3 or grabbed a drink of Gatorade at mile 8, maybe I would have shaved the extra 27 seconds.

As you can see, it takes more than just running to make a better runner. What we eat, how we recover, what we tell ourselves- all of these things can improve our performance and set us up for hitting our goals!

If you’re looking to improve in your sport, whatever it may be, don’t be afraid to reach out. We’re here for you!