Postmortem of a half-marathon

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Although I finished the half-marathon which I ran two weekends ago, I failed to meet the cut-off time. Why? The long and short of it is that I was ill-prepared to meet the challenge. Why?

Let’s start with diet. Right before summer, I decided to give low carb diet, specifically VLCHF, another try (check this post). VLCHF stands for a very low carb (that is, no more than 50 grams of carbs a day) and high fat (well, I do need a source of energy) diet. I initiated this diet change at the beginning of what was supposed to be a four-month half-marathon training period. To accommodate the necessary adjustments arising from the diet change, I tweaked my training program and shortened the training period to three months to give myself at least four weeks to adjust to a VLCHF diet. Given that most, if not all, of the pieces of advice which I gathered from research were confident that my body would need around two weeks of adjustment to the diet, I thought that four weeks should be more than enough. I was so wrong.

On the first week, my energy level was so low that I couldn’t even run and I had massive headaches; however, they were to be expected so I did not panic and followed the recommended remedies. On the second week, I gained enough energy to run; however, contrary to my expectations, the energy level did not increase in the following weeks. When I started my half-marathon training, four weeks after adopting a VLCHF diet, I still had little energy to train properly. But I persevered for another four weeks (that is, during the first month of my training) in the hope that my body was just slow to adjust. My perseverance, though, did not pay off. There was no improvement in my energy level. Hence, two months after changing my diet and with two months left before my scheduled half-marathon, I abandoned the VLCHF diet because clearly it was not working for me. To those who may be tempted to say that I wasn’t in ketosis, I can tell you that those expensive ketone strips which I peed on every day told me that I was.

The increased carb intake wasn’t massive, just another 20-30 grams by adding back small amounts of fruits, vegetables and root crops that I avoided to stay very low carb. The additional 20-30 grams certainly gave me more energy and improved my runs.

Next reasons: insufficient training and my stupidity. There simply was not enough time to train properly. But by the time I ditched the VLCHF diet, it was already too late. The remaining two training months were not enough. I was too conceited to think that just because I had a running base I could bungle the first two months of training and then cram everything in the final two months. Of course, it didn’t work.

To make up for lost time, I did not taper and kept increasing my mileage in a linear fashion. This meant that my legs were tired on race day.

To make matters worse, on half-marathon day I did not fuel up. Until the eve of the race, I intended to fuel up before the race and carry cut oranges with me during the race. What did I do? Neither. You see, during my training, I didn’t fuel up before and during my long runs and survived. Hence, I foolishly thought, at the last minute, that if I had survived my long runs without fueling, then surely I should be fine during the half-marathon itself. Of course, I failed to consider that on race day, I would need more energy to run faster and longer than my long runs in order to meet the cut-off time. Thus, when I needed the energy the most, my body had nothing. Yes, yes, you can call me an idiot!

Looking ahead. Looking back, I’m amazed that I even managed to finish. But while we should learn from the past, let us not dwell on it and move on. That’s what I intend to do. After last week’s rest, I’ve started my training for the Yokohama Marathon to be held in early spring next year. In the coming months, I will most definitely heed the lessons from my recent half-marathon and past races.

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2 thoughts on “Postmortem of a half-marathon

    1. runningwithoutsugar Post author

      If things go well, a review is easy to do. But if things go wrong, it’s so difficult to sit down and see what we did wrong. But we can’t improve unless we know what we need to improve, and that requires reviewing our performance. It does become easier with practice.

      Reply

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