Some years ago, I hiked Mt. Whitney in California. This 14er is a strenuous grind. The trail starts at 8,360′ and the summit is at 14,505′ (6,145′ of elevation gain!). The round-trip is 22 miles.
My friend and I started at 4:30am, summited at noon and were done by 4pm. It wasn’t easy, but we were happy with our performance especially since neither of us trained for it.
Despite 3 solid months of training, running the half-marathon on Saturday was much harder. Here are the dirty details:
- Finishing time: 2:31:29
- Average pace: 11:33
- End of race state: Sticky (Peeps) and in pain
How It Went Down
The race had pacers. These were runners who ran at a predetermined pace and held signs so you could see how you were doing. For example, if your goal was to run the race in 2 hours, you just had to look for the guy with the 2:00 sign and run with him.
I started the race behind the 2:30 guy but passed him quickly. My goal was to conserve energy for the second half, so I didn’t plan to chase down the 2:15 guy until at least half the race was over. I’d try to enjoy myself and focus on the Peeps.
It all felt good at the start. The air was cool, but the sun was out. I was with friends. There was a lot of excitement. There were Peeps. Everything went well until around mile 6. It was at that time that my left IT band started protesting. And by “protesting,” I mean it started to hurt like a &^%$@!#* (insert your preferred colorful metaphor).
For me, IT band issues are an all-or-nothing proposition. They are either fine or it feels like the side of my legs are on fire. From the point that my left band started hurting, I had to stop about every quarter mile and stretch to keep the pain at a tolerable level. I never caught the 2:15 guy and 2:30 passed me a couple miles before the end.
There were times in the last 2 miles that I felt like my legs might give out. I’ve never felt like that before and it was disturbing.
My original goal was 2:00 and with a time of 2:31, I didn’t even come close. More thoughts on what I think went wrong in a moment…
What I Learned
Failure is good. While I’m not happy that I didn’t finish the race in 2 hours, I can certainly learn something from the experience of running and training.
I can do so much more than I thought I could: A year ago, I couldn’t run a mile. On Saturday, I ran 13.1 miles. And I ran 163 in the past 3 months to train for this. At 44, my hair is going grey, but I may be in the best shape of my life.
Less weight is more: Six months ago, I was overweight, had high blood pressure (130/80) and wasn’t feeling good about myself. Now, I’m almost below 15% body fat, my blood pressure is normal (115/65) and I feel great.
Less beer is more: I consumed less and if felt good. I usually don’t drink during the week, but Friday and Saturday I indulge. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found that alcohol screws with me more. I’m hot in bed and sleep poorly. I need multiple days to recover. I drank about 60 beers in the first quarter of the year and look forward to cutting that way back in the second.
Hunger is hard: I went on an intermittent fasting diet to lose weight. This involves only eating in an 8-hour window (10am-6pm). This helped me keep my weight down, but pushing through hunger isn’t easy. I plan to keep up with this food schedule though because I eat less when on it.
Peeps + running == sticky mess: I ingested many Peeps on the course along with GU energy packets. By the end of the race, I not only smelled bad, but was super sticky. It was not a pretty scene.
Running doesn’t lead to weight loss, at least not for me: It was difficult to lose weight while running. I found it much easier to lose weight walking fast. I think it’s because walking puts me in the fat-burning zone and running puts me above it. I cut back on my walking when training for the half, but am going to go back to it now to lose a bit more weight.
Sugar is the enemy: I LOVE sugar. You know, Peeps. However, I need to keep it out of my house because I struggle with willpower.
It’s mostly a head game: Building on the first point, the most important thing I learned from running the half-marathon is that the main battle is mental, not physical. Of course, you have to physically train for something like this. However, pushing through discomfort by getting my mind in the right place is the most important skill.
Where Did I Go Wrong?
So, I failed. Big time! I finished 30 minutes behind my goal. I can blame some of it on my left IT band, but not all of it. If my IT band had been OK, I think that I would have finished under 2:15, but not 2:00. Where did I go wrong?
I didn’t get down to a good weight: This was my biggest failure. I was somewhere between 155 and 160 on race day and I should have been closer to 145.
I didn’t run the final week before the race: I had not run for a week before the race. I had planned to, but we were on vacation and I didn’t make time for it. Did I lose some of my momentum?
I didn’t heed the advice of others: I have a friend who is a physical therapist and Mrs. WoW is an occupational therapist. They both told me to do squats to stave off the IT band issues. However, my IT bands never complained during the training, so I didn’t do the squats.
I didn’t start training early enough: Running didn’t start to feel really good until the second half of March, about 10 weeks into my training. I would have been a lot better off if I started a month earlier.
I need to be more disciplined: This is the big one. Most of my issues can be traced to lack of discipline. I need to be mentally stronger. I have to eat less crap and stick to exercise schedules.
Where Do I Go From Here?
I have a 5K to run at the Berkshire Hathaway conference, so I’m not giving up running. At least not yet. Over the summer, I’m going to mix shorter distance running with long distance cycling though. No more long-distance running, at least in the near future.
However, I can’t let this go. The bottom line is this:
I didn’t fulfill my potential.
I need to do another half-marathon to redeem myself. However, it won’t be for at least 6 months. December sounds about right for attempt #2. Who’s in?
And one more thing. Peeps and beer are not so good together.
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