Friday, March 20

Race Tip #1: Curbing Pre-Race Anxiety

I've got a few clients and other friends that are running the Dallas Rock'n Roll Half Marathon this weekend. Many have asked me for some advice or last-minute tips as we approach the race. I've got plenty, but I wanted to share just a few that all relate to each other. They're simple, easy, but often overlooked. 

As you're in the corral about to start the race you'll likely have butterflies. Nervous energy. The same sort of anxious feeling you get before giving a speech or presentation. You may even have some element of doubt. "Am I ready?" "Did I fuel properly?" "Did I train enough?" This mind chatter is completely normal, but you have the ability to shut it off.

Here are three things I do in any race before the gun goes off to curb pre-race anxiety:

  1. Deep breathing -- closing your eyes and taking several deep breaths has been shown to be effective at reducing anxiety as it works to calm the fight or flight response; in through the nose, out through the mouth several times, and then...
  2. Express gratitude -- typically I'll say a prayer of thanksgiving for the ability to even be out at a race with thousands of others; considering so many people in this world don't have the means to do this sort of thing, we should be thankful that we're here! You'll be surprised how having a genuine appreciation for being there diffuses the anxiety and leads to a general feeling of happiness.
  3. Smile! -- speaking of happiness, smile! You've worked hard to get to where you're at, this is an important day, but it isn't your ultimate day. Remember the reason you do endurance sports: to stay healthy, to achieve a goal, and hopefully, to have FUN! 

Now, go out and do just that: have fun!

Wednesday, March 11

Allison's Race Report

This is a guest post by Allison on running, training, and the Cowtown Half Marathon.

History and Background

In 2012, I decided to register for the Nike Woman's Half Marathon because a close friend of mine had passed away from leukemia that year and the race raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Before this race, I did not run to stay in shape but for the mental sanity that it provided after a hard day. Although I ran often, I never took it seriously. When I signed up for this race I had no clue what I was doing. My training consisted of 3 mile runs every few days for a month or so before the race. I loved every minute of my first race. After finishing in 2 hours and 24 minutes (2:24) I wanted to get back out there and do it again.

In 2013, I signed up for my second race but this time followed a training plan that I had found online. The training plan consisted of 5 runs every week with one long run on the weekends that increased in distance every week. For my second race, I ran a 2:10. It was then that I decided to set a goal to break two hours. I signed up for the Dallas Half Marathon in December 2014 and followed the same training plan, never missing a run. I was determined to break two hours, but barely missed my goal, running it in 2:02.  I was excited that I had PR'd by 8 minutes but disappointed that I did not achieve my goal.


A week later, I met with Brian and he explained the science of training for a half marathon. He walked me through heart rate training and I learned that I had been living in "No Man's Land" -- running at an effort too high to build endurance yet too low to build speed. I was immediately hooked on the science of his training. I decided to sign up for the Cowtown Half Marathon on March 1st and began Brian's training plan. Every week, Brian sent me a personalized training plan that was customized to my goal, resources, and availability. He also checked in on the progress of each workout. At first, I was nervous because his workouts were nothing like the online training plans I had been doing. There were very few runs longer than 3 miles, and most required me to go slow. There was also a lot of focus on weights routines to build strength. Growing up as competitive swimmer, I was use to working out multiple hours a day. It was foreign to me that I could achieve the results I wanted with 30 minute workouts a day. 

A few weeks into our training, Brian and I met to work on drills to improve my form. This was a turning point in my training. Once my form was corrected I was able to run much more comfortably and confident. I started to get faster at the same level of effort! Soon after, we started to do hill workouts with DFW Tri Club.  It was fun to do tough workouts with an encouraging group. Finally, we added speed workouts to the training. These workouts made me tough, since each time I did them it was in the roughest conditions (freezing, or windy and hot!). These were important because when you are running a race, the person you are running for is yourself. It can be easy to talk yourself down and convince yourself it's not worth it and just give up.   

The Race!

When race weekend came around, I could not have felt more prepared and excited. Brian and I talked race strategy/plan, and wet set up my GPS watch to help me with pacing. When the race started it was surreal. I focused on the strategy to not start out too fast and to focus on my form. The first few miles felt very easy. I looked down at my watch and was a little ahead of pace but didn't think much of it. I kept focusing on my form and following the race plan. I knew there was a big hill at mile 9, and when I got there, I channeled my training and started focusing on my arms and cadence to power me up the hill. At mile 11, I looked down at my watch and had 24 minutes to run 2 miles in order to hit my goal. I realized I was not only going to hit my time but, but completely crush my goal. I couldn't stop smiling for the last 2 miles of the race. It was an amazing feeling and the best I have ever felt running 13.1 miles. I ran the Cowtown Half in 1:54.

I was a competitive athlete for the first 22 years of my life and this experience of training for the Cowtown Half Marathon was one of the most special things I have ever been through. I have never been more proud of my athletic accomplishments than I was that day. The training plan showed me that its not about how far you run or how many hours you workout, but it is about the quality of the training. He helped me focus on strength, speed, and endurance. The furthest I ran prior to the race was 6 miles but during the race I felt stronger than I had ever felt at mile 10.  

Smiles and a PR!
In the end...

While the training plan was fantastic and effective, the best thing about working with Brian was the support and encouragement that he constantly showed during the entire process. Every day, he checked in to see how I was doing. He adjusted the workouts based on my schedule and provided honest and timely feedback when I needed it. When workouts got tough, he was positive and extremely motivating during them. I dropped 8 minutes in less than 3 months and would not have been able to accomplish my goal without the training and support.

Tuesday, March 3

Lessons from Cowtown

This past weekend I (along with 6,500 other brave souls) ran the Cowtown Half Marathon in Forth Worth, Texas. I say "brave" considering what was supposed to be a five-race weekend (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon, Ultra-Marathon) turned into only one race due to winter weather: snow, sleet, icy roads, etc. The race crew at Cowtown worked with city officials to provide a safe course for the Half Marathon folks, but there were still some sketchy parts.

Ever since becoming a coach I've had a heightened sense of awareness while working out, and even while hanging around other endurance athletes. I find myself constantly going into "coaching mode": analyzing my own situation or observing others' form, etc. I can't seem to turn it off!

Cowtown was no different, so what came from this race (besides sore legs) were some insights I thought I'd share. Insights I gleaned from being an athlete in "coaching mode" who raced a tough course with unique, wintry conditions.

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