Fifteen weeks ago, I started training for the Miami Beach Rock and Roll Half Marathon. It’s hard to believe that the day I’ve trained so hard for is almost here! I started training for this race very early. In fact, I was concerned I was starting a bit too early, but was just too excited to wait any longer. This being my third rodeo, I was anxious to start working on implementing the changes I made after trainings 1 & 2. To recap: In my first half, I was probably running 1-2 times per week and maxed at 11 miles. Considering I am not a distance runner and I have a laundry list of injuries, finishing 13  miles that day (a year and a half ago) was a sheer miracle by my standards. Looking back, my time was nothing to write home about, but that didn’t concern me. I was just happy to finish! For my second race, I trained a bit differently. I ran 2-3 times per week, and maxed at 12 miles. I hated every bit of those long runs, but had a goal time I wanted to crush. Come race day, I beat my goal time by 2 minutes, crushing last year’s race time by more than 9 minutes. So I’m on a roll, right? I mean, I must have this training all figured out! Unfortunately, this is not the case. After both races, I got incredibly sick. The first time with exercise-associated hyponatremia, the second time with severe dehydration. Both of these instances caused incredible cramping and abdominal pain that I just can’t put into words, (nor would you want me to try), both times lasting a full 8 hours. Something has got to change.

So this time, I have a new goal(s). First—have a good, strong race and feel amazing the whole way through. Second—not get sick after the race! I looked up several running plans, this time settling on Nike Running’s Race Coach Programs. I downloaded all three Half Marathon Training Programs: Level 1: Finish a Race, Level 2: Set a New PR (Personal Record) and Level 3: Lead From the Front. After reviewing all three plans, I decided I would base my training programs off of a combination of Levels 1 & 2, taking my teaching schedule into account (11 classes/week). I printed out blank calendars from August through November, and wrote down the low and high ends of the mileage for each week. I figured I would at a minimum follow Level 1’s program, and if I could, I would try to get as close as possible to Level 2.

As it turns out, I was able to stick almost perfectly to the Level 2 program, which means I maxed at 35 miles weekly and a 14 mile long run. That is the furthest I’ve ever run! Don’t get me wrong, it was not easy. There were SEVERAL weeks where I just really, truly did not want to go and could have justified not doing that long run. Knowing that I could get away with maxing at 11 miles and still have a good race made it difficult to keep on pushing. But, if training were easy, it wouldn’t be worth it! I ran in the rain and the cold (if you know me you know I despise cold weather), replaying the same phrases in my head that I tell my clients and group exercise classes —

“When you’re tired—this is where the training starts.”

That was key for me this training. My training STARTED at 11 miles because know I can do 11 miles. I needed to push myself PAST those boundaries. I wavered back and forth about whether or not I was

going to hit that 14-miler. But when it came down to the day to do it, I realized I had not worked this hard to give up now! So I did it. I felt great during the run, but ended up in an ice bath and very sick shortly after. I was devastated. The reason I have been training so hard was to avoid this sickness! What was I doing wrong?! After much research and with the help of my Doctor, we’ve so far concluded that it’s tied to my chronic thirst. I tend to avoid sodium but it is also an essential electrolyte. After realizing just how little sodium my diet actually contains, I think we may have found the answer!

RNR Miami Half Marathon

I eat an incredibly clean diet, but this lack of sodium proves just how important proper nutrition is. I’ve spent the last week and half consciously consuming increased amounts of sodium, with great pleasure I might add. I can finally eat salted pistachios without guilt! I hope this makes a difference come race day, but no matter what, I’m going into it knowing that I’ve done everything possible to prepare myself for this race, and that’s a fantastic feeling! I trained hard, I trained smart, I ate right, I rested well and got the proper care for my body when needed. Now fifteen weeks of training all comes down to one. single. race. Or does it?

In all honesty, I accomplished things in this training that I never thought I could. I ran 3-6 times per week with a schedule some can’t fathom having to deal with. I ran 12 miles several times, I ran 13 miles and I ran 14 miles. I got sick, I got better, I got smarter. Whatever happens on Sunday, November 18th, it’s okay—because I feel like a winner already! (But I wouldn’t mind if y’all sent me some good runner vibes from about 5:45am CST to 7:45am CST)!

Here’s to a strong, happy, fabulous race! Cheers! (I’ll drink to that…after the race of course!)

Peace, love and lots of electrolytes,

Melissa