How I got myself prepared for my halfmarathon PB starting one week before the event

22
May

Last week I did my PB in halfmarathon at Bucharest International Half Marathon: 1h24’55”, improving a time of 1h29′ that I had ran two years before during a sub 3 hours marathon.

Just one week before my race a ran another half marathon in 1h29’57” at Mures Halfmarathon, on a pretty hilly route, which gave me the confidence that I could go for a good time if I rest well enough and focus on my goal. Why do I say this? Because just 3 days before the hilly half marathon I ran 30 km in a combined forest and asphalt route which obviously tired me pretty much. So with proper rest, a flat course and a good strategy, chances were great to improve my time.

So I built my race preparation strategy by properly managing each of the following issues detailed below.

Issue #1
I had to make sure that I recover as best as I could for this purpose and that meant that I had to drain the lactic acid from my muscles: running uphill and downhill it is something I’m not used to, so even if we are talking about asphalt, my body reacts strongly when I’m pushing my muscles to the maximum I feel I can run.  My half marathon run took place on Sunday, in Targu Mures, and I spent 6 hours on Monday, in the car, on my way back to Bucharest: this not only that didn’t help my muscles, as they did not benefit the normal very slow speed recovery run, but it made them feel even worse because of sitting so many hours on a car chair.
So the very next day I went to Medy Sportline and did a vacuum procedure which made my legs feel much more relieved, but not fully. The VacuSPORT program the doctor recommended was for recovery after competition by reducing the lactic acid, reducing the creatine kinase and by eliminating thus the residual toxins from the muscles. I came the next day too and after that I could say that I was fine.
Issue #2
I had to make sure I sleep enough.
Of course, having access to state of the art recovery procedures makes the difference between two athletes that are investing the same efforts, passion, dedication and work in their running. But all the great benefits of modern technology are strongly diminished if the athlete doesn’t sleep, as sleep is the best natural recovery.

Issues #3 & #4
I considered having a pacer, but only if the pacer’s presence would allow me to enter “the zone”
There is a very thin line between what a pacer can bring you: either lots of help or great defocus and please let me explain myself.
My pacer was Laurentiu, a boy I run with in some of my trainings, a passionate and also great runner and also an amazing positive spirit. I very rarely feel really comfortable in running with someone and Laurentiu is one of those few people.
When I have my long runs or my fast runs I enter “the zone”. What I mean is that I reach a state of concentration in which my senses are “all in” into the running I’m doing. To be able to do that means that I’m focusing on my steps, on my cadence, on my breathing, on how I move, while melting myself afterwards into seeing with my eyes wide open the images and people that bring me energy. While I’m running at my peak, at the verge of my anaerobic zone, I may be here with my body, but I can be thousand miles away with my heart or imagination. Not only that I think of things that pump life and energy into my system, but I also visualize them with my eyes wide open and I immerse myself with all my senses into what I’m projecting: physically, emotionally, mentally.
And here interferes the risk that could come from the pacer, a risk that occurred to me and that I have succeeded to manage. If the pacer starts talking and chit chatting with other runners while accompanying you it will defocus you and make you lose lots of energy. Because the brain is the greatest consumer of energy in the body and not only that the body has to do its internal processes to sweat in order to keep your head cool and your brain at its adequate temperature, but by hearing conversations when you find yourself at the limit of the anaerobic effort, your brain has also to consume energy to decipher the sense of the conversation you are hearing without wanting. This totally defocuses the brain from its running mode in which it has to deal with cadence, breathing, aso and places it into a new mode of processing an information that it’s not useful for the purpose of the running and is, in the same time, very energy consuming. So what I did is I kindly asked (well, I should have been kind but due to the effort I wasn’t and I apologized afterwards) my friend either to continue to join me but be silent during the process, or to allow me to distance myself from the conversation and move on with my race. We ended up continuing the 3 of us together until the finish line and you can easily see in the pictures who took care to preserve his energy better.
I must say that with this talking incident solved, my running partner was of great help for achieving my PB, with the energy he saved me from consuming while giving me the water at some of the refreshing points and with carrying my PowerBar gels. Not to mention that running with him made an unprecedented high intensity effort seem somehow familiar as he was running with me.

Issue #5
Projecting myself into the race spirit I want to feel during the race is something I always do. I started doing that from the early morning by following my routine: eating tested food, taking vitamins, putting my make up, all of it while listening over and over again one of my motivational videos that succeed to stimulate my emotions.

Issue #6 
Comfortable clothes that will not obstruct in any way the way I breathe during the race. The more oxygen I can bring to my system by breathing the easier I will perceive the effort (it this could be called easy). Therefore, instead of my running bra which starts to bother me while breathing during high intensity effort, I chose to wear a sleeveless running blouse which allowed me to breathe to my full capacity.
Issue #7
No matter how much I would have wanted to know my heart rate during the event, I left my heart rate belt home for the same breathing reasons explained at #6. It’s not that the belt would have made such a big difference, but counting all the little details does it. And a wrist monitored heart rate on a wet sweaty skin is not the most accurate indicator either.
Issue #8
Proper running rest. I took full rest on Thursday and on Saturday before the race, meaning no running or other sport, while doing a not so long in distance interval training on Wednesday and another interval training on Friday to gain tonus.
Issue #9
I had a manual therapy massage on Saturday morning at Terapie pentru Miscare and an EECP therapy on Saturday afternoon at FitnessLab, just one day before the race.
The manual therapy addressed some of my muscular tensions in order to keep myself free of injury when I push myself very hard during the race, while the EECP therapy helped nourish and clean better my cells by increasing the speed of blood circulation.
Having done that, I maximized my chances for everything to go well. I had an average pace of 4’02” per kilometer for the entire half marathon, with the last 2 kilometers ran at a pace of 3’54”/km and 3’46″/km respectively. Considering that I could speed up to the finish this way and that I was very active the entire day afterwards, means that I could have given more during the race. At this point though, I don’t have enough experience to know which is that thin line that I should go very close to, but in the same time not to cross, in order to achieve the best I could achieve during a certain race.
I also want to mention that besides doing all the above, an athlete (amateurs are athletes too, sometimes even more motivated than the professional ones) must prepare himself very thoroughly for the event. To push your body to the extreme without a solid preparation for the event you decide to run is not healthy and can involve great risks.  So prepare yourself for the race physically, train your mind for success and let your heart fly you to the finish line!

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