Story last updated at 4/23/2014 - 2:31 pm
Every once in a while, I learn from my mistakes. Not all the time, because that would take some of the chaos out of my life and make it difficult to be a self-deprecating outdoor columnist.
However, in the interest of the structural integrity of my left knee, my right hip and general health, I am going to train for the half-marathon I plan on running.
It sounds obvious, but I entered my five previous half-marathons and two full marathons unprepared. That's a bad idea at age 23, and it's outright stupid at 33. (Man, I'll be 33 on race day. I might have to work that age thing out on my laptop one of these weeks.)
My first full marathon was in San Diego and my longest training run before that was 14 miles, a little over half of what I'd have to do. My college buddy Matt and I had similar goals: 1.) Live. 2.) Don't lose control of bodily functions.
They were simple goals that led to poor training.
We thought we'd just get to mile 14, then run a mile, walk a mile for the rest of the way. Being two competitive dudes desperately not wanting to prolong the misery, ran with no regard for cartilage and only slowed to get water.
We ended up finishing with both goals intact, but there was no euphoria. I finished in the upper middle of my age group which is even better than I planned because I am not at all fast, but I felt terrible. I drank a bunch of water. Felt nauseous. Ate a banana. Worse. I laid down next to the first aid tent, which had a table that provided shade.
"Is that dude under the table alright?"
Someone at the tent walked over to find out. After a short discussion, he gave me a packet of salt, and I felt better within minutes. Not awesome, but better. The guy said I was probably hyponatremic, which happens when you drink too much water and the body gets low on sodium. So rather than grab a post-race yogurt, I should have gone for the pretzels.
It also explained why at the beginning of the race volunteers were distributing little packets of salt to racers who wanted them. It made no sense to me then, but it does now.
I guess that means I've learned two things - I must train and I must salt.
As for the preparation, I'm taking a cross-training approach rather than just racking up miles. Many running magazines encourage light workouts in addition to running, but I had never tried any. In the past, I have I felt like I was listing a bit when running longer distances, so I'm focusing on strength.
My buddy Danny co-owns a CrossFit gym in California (CrossFit Excel) and we've adapted some of his CrossFit exercises because I'm in Klawock and have volleyballs filled with sand and weighty driftwood with home-made handles, not medicine balls and Olympic barbells with 2,000 pounds in neatly racked plates.
In addition to frequent, but low-mileage running (for now) I'm following the workouts of the day (WOD) at Danny's gym. Three days on, one day off, I'm doing deadlifts, squats, box jumps, jumping rope, burpees, L-pull ups and crazy exercises like bear crawls, which engage the entire body not just separate parts.
Though it is a half-hour of torment, the functional movements are much more beneficial to overall strength and fitness than isolated ones. Hopefully with everything put together well I'll feel more like I am running a race than the race is running me.
Now, understand here, in order to be a member at a CrossFit gym, the first step is to take a class to ensure you understand the importance of form and safety. So blowing $2,000 on a weight set, pulling WOD's off the internet and going full-bore in your garage is not what I or what any CrossFit trainer would ever recommend.
Danny is militant about lifting fundamentals and provides form feedback when I send him short clips via text. Learning how to do a clean and jerk from watching an Internet video, then doing it yourself, is crazier than running a marathon without a training run of more than 14 miles.
The goal here is doing adapted exercises to build strength that might help me be slow in a more comfortable and resilient way when I run half of the Prince of Wales International Marathon next month. Hopefully, learning will be worth it. So far so good.