Back to Back Half Marathons

This challenge of running two half marathons in one weekend was certainly a learning event and an experiment. This post is about what I did leading up to the back to back races and also what foods I ate (and should have ate) between the two races.

Back to back race prep

Leading up to this double half marathon weekend I took some measures, also because I was going for a specific goal on the first half.

My training had been going well, and I was familiar with the course for the Livermore half so I thought it could be a PB so I wanted to do whatever might give me an advantage. This included:

  • Sitting at work and standing rarely (I stand most of the time, typically)
  • Stretching my legs (hams, glutes, calves, hip flexor) at my cube 3x/day and put Kinesio tape on my calves to loosen them
  • I fueled properly the day before
  • Two days before I restricted (not sure if that was a benefit)
  • Observed two days of no running leading up to the first half
  • In the evenings on the two days of rest, I stayed off my feet as much as possible
  • Ensured plenty of rest leading up to the half
  • No drinking alcohol the week prior
  • Drank plenty of water (thanks to nuun!) the two days leading up to the races
  • I took a low dose of magnesium 

Fueling in-between back to back half marathons

Fueling is important when running a half marathon, but what if you are running two halfs within a 25 hour time period? It takes 24-48 hours for food to be stored as glycogen for muscle use so basically you have to start eating during your run or right after! But at the same time you don’t want to be full for the race the next day. The goal is to eat simple, low-fiber carbs (high-glycemic index), which convert quickly to energy in between the two half marathons.

What I ate in between my back to back half marathons (Sat: Livermore and Sun: RnR SF)

Here’s a listing of what I ate after crossing the finish line of the first half marathon and before I went to bed. You can see what I ate the morning of the second half marathon on my RnR SF race report.

  • 1/2 Kind bar (I couldn’t finish it because my body was not interested in that right after the hard effort)
  • Banana
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • French Fries
  • Purity Peach drink
  • Kidz Clif Protein bar (peanut butter)
  • 1/2 package Pro Bar Bolt without caffeine
  • 1/2 kids clif chocolate chip bar
  • Corn bread with a little butter and strawberry jam
  • Zucchini bread with a little butter
  • Homemade Oat bars
  • Carbonated water with real lemon juice and splenda

What I learned through all of this is that next time I will plan a little better regarding fueling between back to back half marathons. (And yes, there may be a next time! I’m training for my first full marathon in Sept.) Here is a sampling of what I learned through this:

  • I didn’t eat even close to 2000-2600 calories between the finish line and the start of the next race.
  • I wasn’t hungry at 3:30am before race #2 but by the time I got to the starting corral I was starving and my tummy was audibly rumbling. I was concerned about putting more gels (sugary substances) in my stomach and whether it would hold up (it did!).
  • I didn’t plan ahead of time the list of simple, low-fiber, high glycemic index carbs that I should eat, so I just went with what I felt like eating, which wasn’t much.

Items that were on hand in my house that could have been part of the fueling plan:

  • Apple sauce
  • Oranges
  • Craisins
  • Kidz Clif bars
  • Recovery powder drinks
  • Blueberry smoothie
  • Rice
  • Candy: skittles, starbursts
  • Gluten Free Bread
  • Tator Tots

Racing Strategy: Start out fast or slow?

Let’s take a look at one example of starting out fast (9:21 pace) and starting out slow (11:05 pace). Both ended with relatively same time (within 21 seconds of each other, official time). Starting out fast certainly made for an unpleasant rest of the run, was harder to keep myself motivated and in the end didn’t gain any time. The fast start had four +25 increase in pace interspersed throughout the entire race. When comparing, the fast start was less steady of a pace than the slow start. You can see miles 8-13 of the slow start varied less than +/- 10 min/mile aside from mile 12 where I got a second wind to get around the crowd of runners or perhaps it was the anticipation of the finish.

Slow Start Indy Mini 2:11:04

Slow Start Indy Mini 2:11:04

Fast Start Oakland 2:10:53

Fast Start Oakland 2:10:53

Next race for a time, I’ll start out slow, but perhaps not as slow as a 11min/mile pace.

What’s your strategy for the start of a race, hold back or go with the flow?

Oakland Half Taper Week

Taper week starts tomorrow, one week before race day. The Jeff Galloway Half Marathon training plan (Time Goal Runners) calls for 5 miles. This past week has been a taper week for me since I’ve been home with a cold. I didn’t skip my training runs but did reduce from what I have been doing (from 5-6 down to 2.5-3 miles). This cold happened at the best time, the weekend right in between two of my three half marathons this month.

I’m really excited about the Oakland Half Marathon on the 23rd. I was/am hoping for a PR but if that doesn’t happen (I skipped most of the speed workouts), I will still be pleased at the strides in fitness I’ve made this year. The training was different this time around – weekday short runs were longer due to a local running buddy and every few weeks, I incorporated hills into the short weekday runs.

Taper week for me includes mental prep: What am I doing the day before the race, what will I eat the day before and planning logistics for getting to the race.

For next year’s half, I will certainly follow this training plan again and adhere more closely to the speed workouts. In addition, a running buddy with similar ability certainly has proven to be important for increasing endurance and confidence.

What is your favorite part of taper week?

San Diego Half Marathon (#5)

We high tailed it down to the expo before it opened and beat the crowds. Maybe because it was the first time in skirts since last fall or just the excitement of the weekend plans. We took a swag lap around all the booths after picking up our bibs and technical t-shirt then ended up at the booth with headbands and SD half gear. I purchased a few headbands and wore one of them during the race. I typically cover my ears in the city because of the cool wind but these destination races call for just a head band to hold my hair back.


The afternoon after the expo was spent walking around La Jolla with lunch overlooking the cove. I fueled like I would for a typical long run, which meant lots of water and anything goes except for alcohol. Next time my choices will be a little more selective because the salty fish tacos and corn chips were probably the cause of the swollen hands and feet post-race.

Race Day

We arrived with plenty of time, there were plenty of portapots (thank goodness!) for the 6000+ participants.

We were wave 14, this was my first experience with a wave start for a half marathon. While we waited, I captured a great photo of the San Diego sunrise. 20140312-170010.jpg

Many times during the 35 minute wait, I had to remind myself that this was a training run – a leisure run – and that’s why we were with the 2:45 pace group. I have quite a competitive nature, this was probably the most difficult part of the race. =) My internal goal was to stay with this pace group at least till the very end, then if we felt good, pass them.

The waves went off about 20 seconds or so apart except for a few of them, which were held at the start for 7 minutes so they wouldn’t have to wait for the trolly to pass on course.

I don’t recall crossing the tracks and, for that matter, a number of miles during the race were a blur, and are hard to recall. The conversation must have been engaging. =)

Mile 2-4

The next few miles took us past the Broadway Pier where the expo was held, then we headed toward the airport. We saw some airplanes landing so close, it was pretty cool.

My sister needed to use the portapot and at 3.75 we saw one on the other side with an aid station. We were doing a run/walk and there was only one portapot so I told her to go on ahead and I’ll catch up with her. I took a moment to capture this picture for her. At the time, I didn’t realize how beautiful it would come out wit the sun shining through the tree.


Mile 4-9

My 12 day old groin pull was now warmed up and was allowing my stride to increase so we picked up the pace to catch up with the 2:45 pace group after the potty stop. Mile 6-7 took us along a beautiful park with decommissioned cannons. This is the moment that I realized the race was going by in a blur because we had been running by this park for a few minutes already.

The water stations were now out of water and electrolyte fuel. Disappointing and sad that the people who may need it the most, 3:00+, don’t have this vital necessity. A person from the first-aid station was giving out water bottles. We grabbed one to share between us. Half empty water bottles are not the friendliest things to carry on a run. With the temperature above 60 and aid stations running out of water, we had no choice.

Again, it’s was just a leisure run.

There was a fun 270 degree exit with an underpass/tunnel at the Marine Corp. Recruiting facility. I made sure to hoot and holler in the tunnel.

Mile 8 SD Half Marathon

Mile 9-10

By mile 9 we passed the 3:00 pace group and caught up to the 2:45 pace group. Perfect timing because we encountered an awesome 1 mile, 300+ft elevation increase (i.e. hill).

The pace group was alone and one of the few around us who were still running. We ran with them for a bit then pulled ahead. During this hill, we took our scheduled walk breaks and continued the strong climb. We finished strong at the top. Up and over.

Half way up, I took a photo. It was a great hill. My sister from flat Indiana crushed it.

Mile 10-13

We had passed the 2:45 pace group so we slowed our pace to conversation pace after passing through the Hillcrest neighborhood. The chatting picked up on the 3.1 mile downhill to the finish. We passed the west side of Balboa Park.

San Diego Half Marathon 2014

San Diego Half Marathon 2014

The after party was at AT&T park, but we were ready to get back to the hotel. They provided a generous goodie bag with an orange and banana, along with chocolate treats. After a finishers photo, texting our loved ones and a walk through a local market (not part of the SD half), we slowly made the walk back to the hotel.

Injury report

  • Pre: Left groin pull
  • During: Back (Kinesio Taped: Left groin, left knee)
  • Post: Back, right knee (taped it wrong before race, so removed tape prior to race), hurt for two days (iced and taped post race)

How many half marathon’s have you completed with the intent of it being a training run or a leisure run?

Going the distance

Today was a long run in the half marathon training plan – 5 miles – the longest run for me since 2010. I ran 10 miles in 2010, was not prepared for it and it caused a knee injury, which has given me a number of setbacks since. But since then, I’ve learned a lot about running and I’m going to take this half marathon training slow by doing a run/walk and spanning the training over 27 weeks.

Taking it easy, the 5 mile run was easy and fun. I ended up in golden gate park.

Spent 2 hours walking around the park, listening to music. It was a gorgeous day so the park was packed with people.

I ate a ton of food once I arrive home and my legs are tired – it was difficult going up and down the stairs to wash my stinky running clothes.