Monday, November 7, 2011

2 Half Marathon PR's in Two Weeks | What I Learned

I don't know about you - but within minutes (if not seconds) from crossing the finish line, my mind starts to evaluate the race. What could have I done differently? Did I run smart? How do I feel? What do I need to recover?

Amidst all the celebrations of PR's and fun - my mind has been going in overtime since the Hoover Dam Half. From the beginning of 2011, I have used every race (even the 2 milers and 5K's) as training runs. Each race event gave me experience, knowledge and hopefully some wisdom to carry me to a sub2 at RnRLV.

Within the past two weeks, I crossed the milestone, that I have been seeking since I finished RnRLV 2010. Sub2 Half Marathon. It was accomplished at Hoover Dam on October 29th. Then, the next weekend - I ran a sub2 at the Snow Canyon Half (St. George, UT). A mostly downhill race (but not as steep as Red Rock) - it was the other extreme vs Hoover Dam.

What have I learned in the past two weeks and what was so different about those two races vs my other Half Marathons were I finished in 2:07, 2:11 or 2:12.

Here are some of what I have learned:

1. Fueling is ESSENTIAL during the race. All courses are challenging. To think that you have all you need in your body, at the start to get you to the finish line - I beg to differ. I was never a believer in fueling during Half's until I started at the ET Half Marathon. While I know I would of finished just "fine" without it - I finished stronger, faster and recovered better by taking that extra step to fuel during the race. For those who have not read my race reports - this is my new standard

PowerBar Performance Gel - at Mile 4 or 5
PowerBar Performance Gel - at Mile 9 or 10
Swedish Fish (gummy candy) at Mile 12

At Snow Canyon, I was fading fast coming up on Mile 9 or 10 (fighting off stomach cramps) and I took a Gel with some water. By the time I came up on Mile 12, I felt so much better and more energized.

Take your Fueling BEFORE you falter. Even if you feel good - take it. It needs to be in your body before you hit your wall.

The faster you run - the more you will need fuel. Do not scrimp on this. You can't change chemistry.  The faster you run the more carbohydrates you use. I have seen many experienced runners keep running without fuel and I end up passing them, when they should be blazing by me at the end.

2. I have also learned of the beauty of Water Stations. In the beginning, I was given ill advise to NEVER drink any fluids during a Half Marathon - train my body to be without. During the RnRLV 2010 - I didn't take any water until Mile 12. How stupid is that, really?!!!!

So.....since ET, I have walked - yes WALKED through each station, taking a swig of water and move on my way. As a test - I saw how much time I lost during each aid station - about 15 seconds. If I can't make up 15 seconds on a Half Marathon, then there is something wrong with my running. That few seconds allowed me to consume some vital hydration. Doesn't matter the weather - hot, cold or anything in between - you need hydration on your long runs. Do I stop for hydration on 5k's? No, I don't - but I will for longer runs.  If I don't drink the water, I will put some in my mouth and spit it out. Just enough to moisten my mouth.

3. What you say to yourself (in your mind) will either make or break you. Coming down on the Snow Canyon declines - I immediately told my legs to relax, chill out and enjoy the run. When my stomach started acting up again at Mile 7 - I kept my mind on each Mile Marker and just worked to get to the next one. Personal mantras are always great. Find what works for you. Some of my personal favorites, "I got this", "one step at a time" "head up - be strong"

4. Each race is different. You are a different person in each race. I do not take it for granted that I will sub2 at RnRLV, even though my last two Half's I have ran sub2's. Each race has it's own personality - we are never the same at each race day.

5. Nothing can replace solid training & nutrition. You can have the fanciest gear, best fuel products and whatever do-dad you need. Without solid training AND nutrition throughout your training - you won't achieve your goals.

One thing I do know - reaching the milestones of the PR's in the past two weeks will make me train smarter and harder for the next month. Afterall, it's my one and only RACE of the year. It's a Homecoming of sorts to me...going back to where it all began for me in 2010.

How has your racing strategy changed recently? 

(c) C. Ragsdale 2011
Celebrate Your Finish,

Charlene L. Ragsdale - Las Vegas, NV
Certified Sports Nutritionist, Running Coach & Public Speaker
~My Facebook Fan Page ~Follow Me on Twitter


  1. Wise words!

    You mentioned in your Snow Canyon report your pre-race carb-loading a few days before the race. I'd like to hear more about that strategy. You're putting the whole package together, way to go!

  2. Hi Dan - thanks for the feedback.

    Yes, I have always been an advocate of carb & hydra loading 2-3 days out from race day. In the past, I have carb loaded with the typical pastas, rice, etc.

    On Hoover Dam and Snow Canyon - I took a different approach to carb loading. Here is the link of what I followed:,7120,s6-242-301--14076-0,00.html

    For me, it seemed to work better because I retained water prior to these races. That showed me I had the carbs I needed. Do I think I think it helped me PR in these two races? Yes, with the race day fueling plan, I finally found the carb loading/fueling system that works for me.

    Let me know if you try it and the results.


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