The Hard Lesson I Learned at the 2018 Miami Half-Marathon

Today I ran the Miami half-marathon in 2 hours and 4 minutes. Good right? Except I was vying to PR by breaking 2 hours. It’s what I’ve been training for since before the Key West half-marathon. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards. There were a couple of different factors I can blame—the excessive wind, the fact that I ate dinner too early, an ankle injury from last Thursday’s run—but the hard lesson I learned yesterday is that no matter what you do, sometimes you have good races, sometimes you have bad races.

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My gear, prepped and ready to go the night before the Miami half-marathon.

Last January’s Key West half-marathon was a good race. I finished it in 2 hours and 3 minutes and could have easily broken 2 hours if a much-needed pit stop and other amateur mistakes hadn’t cost me those precious 3 minutes. I felt strong from the start line to the finish line and could have easily kept running a few more miles afterward. This race was what inspired me signing up for my first marathon. I just felt so good.

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My sister Carla and I running the Key West Half-Marathon in January 2017.

Yesterday was a bad race. I started out strong for the first seven miles, averaging a 9:15 min/mi pace. I started to mentally fade when we had to loop around Washington Avenue. Not only was it a boring part of the course, but it also seemed infinite. (I forgot it loops south to come back north and I wasn’t mentally prepared for it.) I started to physically fade as we approached the Venetian Causeway, at which point I seriously considered running to my nearby home. My pace dropped to 9:50 min/mi for the rest of the race.

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Me, looking like I’m being tortured as I crossed the finish line yesterday.

I won’t lie—I’m super bummed I didn’t PR. From miles 7 through 13, I even started to question my ability to run a full marathon. But, I managed to tough it out to the finish line and for that I couldn’t be more proud. Once my right ankle recovers, I’m excited to get back to training and to experience the Paris Marathon, good or bad.

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Gear: Brooks Glycerin 15 running shoes, Garmin Forerunner 920XT watch, Amphipod running belt (similar here), Bose Wireless Sports Headphones

Playlist: My “Miami Half Marathon” playlist on Spotify

Is Running In A Group Better Than Running Alone?

Tonight I made my triumphant return to the South Beach Run Club. Can you believe it’s been five years since the days we met up outside Mr. R’s? Even more shocking, it’s been nearly seven years since Morgan and I frequented the Gables Run Club.

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Morgan and I, crouched at center, after a Gables Run Club run in September 2011.

Since my last run club stint, I’ve been more of a solo or partner runner, running in larger groups only when races absolutely demand it. I made an exception today because I was scheduled for an easy, short run and my friend Naveed asked nicely. The runs are usually around 3 to 4 miles so my plan was to run them at comfortable pace. Naveed had a different plan.

One of the benefits of running en masse, particularly in a run club, are pace groups. Naveed and our friend Diego recommended I join theirs so I wouldn’t have to navigate around slower runners until everyone was sufficiently scattered. It was a solid strategy, except for the part where I’m substantially slower than them. (Naveed and Diego run sub-8 min/mi, while I averaged an 8:21 min/mi in my 5K PR.)

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The super fast, serious runners of the sub-8 min/mi pace group. Intimidating, right?

Another benefit of group runs is that there’s plenty of incentive to run faster. Not surprisingly, I started out at the end of the pack, pushing a 7:45 min/mi pace and still falling a few steps behind the last pacer. I wasn’t sure of the course so I made sure to keep her in my sight. When we caught up to the slower groups, I was finally able to slow down a notch but the runners (er, prey) in front of me and the vigorous beat of Glass House by Kaleo kept me at an aggressive pace.

Thanks to both perks—or, the peer pressure from Naveed and Diego—I finished tonight’s run at an 8:34 min/mi pace, despite a 9:49 min/mi warm-up that dragged down my average. I was extremely proud of myself. Back in the day, I would take off with the 10 min/mi pace group and fall toward the back of the group. Today I finished among the fastest of the pack. Miami half-marathon, come at me bro!

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Gear: Brooks Glycerin 15 running shoes, Garmin Forerunner 920XT watchBeats Studio 2 wireless headphones

Playlist: My “Charging Down The Mountain” playlist on Spotify

Paris Marathon Training Log: Sprints, January 23 2018

I was WAY overdue for sprints. In a perfect world, my marathon training should consist of one race pace run, one sprint workout, and one long run per week. But, this is not a perfect world so I haven’t done a sprint workout in two months. Leave it to me to wait until the week of my half-marathon to start doing things the right way.

After the hiatus, sprinting wasn’t easy. I was only able to rally for four out of the six 1/2-mile intervals I could easily complete last January before the Key West Half-Marathon. My pace was also average, ranging between 7:24 min/mi and 7:36 min/mi. (Early last year I was putting forth 10% less effort and running each interval about 20 seconds faster.)

Even so, I’m proud of what I was able to finish. In the end, I got in nearly 5 miles: a 1 mile warm-up at 9:13 min/mi, 2 miles of sprint intervals with 0.7 miles of walking in between, and a 1 mile cool down at 9:15 min/mi. Plus, I came to three important conclusions:

1. Sprinting is a good way to burn off stress. Running is my therapy. Period. But, sprinting pushes you to your physical limits in a way no other type of workout can and is therefore a great way to channel and get rid of stress. Today’s workout was a perfectly timed antidote to my currently hectic life.

2. Rap music is great for keeping pace. Rap music can be a valuable tool for setting and maintaining a goal pace. For example, during the Key West Half Marathon, the rhythm of She Can Get It by DJ Laz helped me find the 9:15 min/mi pace I needed to PR. Similarly, Lemon by N.E.R.D—yes, I finally switched up the soundtrack—allowed me to reach the elusive 7:24 min/mi pace during my best interval.

3. A heart rate monitor is an invaluable tool for sprint workouts. A few weeks ago—on the training log for January 7 2018—I mentioned my heart rate monitor, which pairs with my Garmin watch, has started to chafe. I haven’t worn it since and haven’t missed it…until today. One of the stats that guides my pace and effort during sprints is my heart rate. I aim for 90% my max heart rate (around 180bpm), waiting for it to lower to 70% (around 140bpm) between intervals. Without my heart rate monitor, I was running blind.

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Gear: Brooks Glycerin 15 running shoes, Garmin Forerunner 920XT watch, Amphipod running belt (similar here), Beats Studio 2 wireless headphones

Playlist: My “Move” playlist on Spotify

Paris Marathon Training Log: Long Run, January 21 2018

I saw the best and worst of Miami on today’s run. I guess that’s what I like about being a runner—it allows me to get to know cities more intimately, including my own. For example, I learned there’s a really cute pitbull that can drink water by himself from the beachwalk water fountains. In less cute news, I learned we have a lot of pet owners who don’t pick up after their dogs including one guy whose dog left a present in the middle of the South Pointe Pier. Yuck!

I have never been to Paris and am excited to explore it for the very first time through the unique lens of the Paris Marathon. (If I have to run 26.2 miles, it might as well be past the historical landmarks and glamorous arrondissements of the City of Lights, non?) The route starts and ends near the Arc de Triomphe, passing by the Place de la Concorde, Place de la Bastille, the Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Eiffel Tower. I will basically be taking a tour of Paris’s “must see” attractions but at a 9:40 min/mi pace and accompanied by 55,000+ strangers from France and abroad.

While I’m jonesing for Paris, today’s run was all about the Miami half-marathon that I’m running next Sunday. My back-to-back ski trips put my training on an untimely pause so today’s 8-miler was an important last push to get my head and body right for the race. Surprisingly, despite the nearly two-week hiatus, I felt good. I managed a near-perfect “predator run,” averaging less than 9 min/mi on miles 7 and 8.

Leading up to next week’s race, I am going to take it easy. That said, I’m hoping to get in three easy runs—a sprint workout on Tuesday, a slow and steady 6-miler on Thursday and a warm-up 5K on Saturday—before the big day. The wind has been killing me the last few long runs so I’m also hoping to get in a “no wind” dance before Sunday. Stay tuned.

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Gear: Brooks Glycerin 15 running shoes, Garmin Forerunner 920XT watch, Amphipod running belt (similar here), Beats Studio 2 wireless headphones

Playlist: My “Night Skiing” playlist on Spotify (I added a handful of new songs, including Tongues by Joywave which I used to get me out the door.)

Paris Marathon Training Log: Tempo Run, January 10 2018

I’ve been very whiny about my last few training runs, but not today! I killed—no, I mass murdered à la 300—this workout. It was a tempo run geared toward my Miami half-marathon PR of under 2 hours so I set off with the intention of averaging a 9:10 min/mi. I finished feeling strong at an average pace of 9:04 min/mi. The doubts following Sunday’s long run about my inability to reach my goal at the end of this month have been swiftly eradicated.

My tempo runs usually take me on the Venetian Causeway because the distance between Margaret Pace Park and my apartment is exactly 6 miles. Also, have you seen the view at sunrise and sunset from the bridges? It is the absolute best motivation for getting out there. This evening’s sunset was particularly killer and coupled with music like Hunter by Galantis set the right ambiance for beast mode.

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There’s not much more to share about today’s run other than I had trouble controlling my pace because I felt so good the entire time. Luckily, I learned from Sunday’s mistake of taking off too fast and made it a priority. It’s the only reason I was able to increasingly up my pace from 9:47 min/mi on mile 1 to an 8:28 min/mi pace on mile 6. Also, I made sure to drink water every 1/2 mile. Whatever made the difference, I am so glad today went well.

P.S. A lot of you requested that I start including what gear, music, and other variables are going into each training sesh in these posts so I’ve added a new section below the stats where I share these details. Keep an eye out for this section in future training logs and let me know in the comments or on twitter what other details you want me to include!

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Gear: Brooks Glycerin 15 running shoes, Garmin Forerunner 920XT watch, Amphipod running belt (similar here), Beats Studio 2 wireless headphones

Playlist: My “Night Skiing” playlist on Spotify

Paris Marathon Training Log: Long Run, January 7 2018

I had an awful 13-mi run today. It went the complete opposite of how it should have gone because I did the complete opposite of what I needed to be successful. I went to bed late last night after drinking wine with the girls. I ate a plate of spaghetti an hour before heading out. I didn’t drink water every half mile like I usually do. And, I started out WAY too fast in the first four miles, averaging between 9:30-9:50 min/mi when I normally warm up at 10:30 min/mi on long runs.

The wind didn’t help. It was blowing around 20 knots from miles 5 through 11 and I had to run against it. Nevertheless, as I sit here drinking my recovery concoction (a blend of Isopure protein, collagen, banana, peanut butter and almond milk), I know my overall lack of performance was my fault and I am disappointed. I’m particularly bummed because today’s run was the litmus test for the Miami half-marathon where I am vying to PR with an under 2 hour finish time. It is a real possibility I’m not ready.

The good news is I messed up in training and not during the race. Also, I’m proud that I finished. For a minute while I was on the MacArthur I was teetering on the edge of ending early and walking home, but instead I sucked it up, turned up the music and pushed one foot in front of the other. I’m glad I did. I really enjoyed running through my neighborhood, especially after being away on vacation for so long. Miami Beach is really at its prime on Sunday afternoons!

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The stunning view on my run during mile 7 on the MacArthur Causeway.

This run was overflowing with lessons, but also some questions with which I will leave you. If you have any guidance on the three questions below, please leave it in the comments below or send me a tweet @margaritaruns. Thank you and goodnight.

1. What tricks help you get past a mental hump or when you hit a wall?

2. Do you have a good pair of socks or other trick you can recommend for foot pain? My metatarsals have been hurting the last few runs once they’ve been pounding the pavement for about an hour or so.

3. If you wear a heart rate monitor, has it ever chafed you? My Garmin heart rate monitor has started to rub off the skin where it sits the last few runs. Is it time to get a new one or is there a product I can use to reduce chafing without damaging it?

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Three Reasons Why Skiing Makes You A Better Runner

To be a great runner, you need to run A LOT but did you know running alone is not enough? Your body needs to move in different ways to become stronger, improve cardiovascular fitness, and be more flexible. That’s why the best runners cross-train. Whether they lift weights, dance or practice yoga, they alternate running days with other types of physical activity to improve their overall performance.

When Roy was prepping for the Boston Marathon, he supplemented the miles he logged with weight training, targeting muscle groups that helped him run faster and reduced his risk of injury. I am far less strategic about my cross-training regimen. I alternate between dancing, cycling, yoga, etc. depending on what strikes my fancy at the moment. What I am strict about is doing something other than running every week to balance out my running workouts and keep me from getting bored.

Since I started training for the Paris Marathon, my typical week looks like this:

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Cross-training days before the holidays consisted solely of Vixen Workout. (I promise to share what that is and how it benefits my running in a future cross-training post.) This past week, however, I was on an end-of-year road trip with friends that took us from Wyoming to Utah. While our travels put my running on hold, I was able to keep up with the cross-training part of my workout thanks to my favorite all-time activity: skiing.

Almost every day this past week consisted of skiing. I skied three resorts (Jackson Hole, Snowbird and Alta) and completed more than 60 runs. It put my body through the ringer, sending me home with sore legs, sore abs, and whiplash from a pretty serious wipe out. (Thank god for helmets.)

Ok, so skiing doesn’t get your heart rate up as much as running does—according to my Garmin watch, I averaged 140bpm skiing versus 160-180bpm running—but according to sports medicine research, it offers several long-lasting benefits for runners. Here are three that I look forward to reaping when I get back to my training this afternoon:

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1. It boosts running performance. Oxygen is more scarce at higher altitudes. That’s why your heart rate is higher and your breathing is faster when you exercise at high altitude, like when you ski, as compared to sea level. To compensate, your body generates more oxygen-carrying red blood cells, a physiological change that noticeably boosts physical performance and can last up to 20 days after you leave.

2. It builds versatility in running muscles. Skiing works your hip muscles, hamstrings, quads, calves, and feet. More importantly, as this Outside Online article explains, it “works the leg muscles in many different planes, which is beneficial for runners.” When I run, the usual suspects in my legs (hamstrings, quads, calves) get sore. When I ski, I also feel the burn in my inner thighs and other areas of my legs where I didn’t even know I had muscle.

3. It reinforces the importance of good form. As runners, we focus a lot on our form when it comes to buying new running shoes but most of us forget about it thereafter. You can’t do that in skiing. Every micro movement—whether you lean forward versus backward, where your feet are pointing, how far your legs are apart from one another—can mean the difference between riping down the mountain or wiping out. Skiing this past week was a good reminder of how form affects performance.

We’ll see later today how much of a difference one week of skiing really made. Per usual, I’ll post the training log once I’m done!