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Train to make it through race day
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After a tumultuous few weeks knocked me off my running game during the holidays, I wasn’t sure how to proceed leading to my Feb. 9 half-marathon, so I solicited expert advice.
Liberty Run Group founder and coach Josh Maxwell returned my call Jan. 9. It was the sign I needed, as I was planning on logging a six-miler later that afternoon.
I explained my quandary to him and shared that I want to continue training and documenting the experience — but I need expert advice before putting it in print, lest I lead any readers astray.  
So does Josh get these requests often?
“Oh yeah,” he said. “It’s the same thing I tell them: You’ve got to really work on this now.”
But, he added, it’s typical for things like illness, family distractions and “any 100 things” to throw us off track.
Because I’ve completed a half-marathon before and I’ve continued running since, Maxwell said I should be OK to up my training and go for the Hilton Head Half-Marathon.
For a new runner in my situation, though, his advice is to hold off and try for a later race.
Along with the green light, the coach also gave me some plan modifications to ensure I can pull out 13.1 miles.
His first recommendation? An eight-miler on Jan. 12. Mission accomplished and with a smile on my face to boot. But I have that bizarre warm snap to thank, and it was exhilarating to get outdoors and to see some azaleas in bloom.
Next, he recommended a 10-mile run on Saturday, Jan. 19, followed by a 12-miler on Jan. 26 and a 14-miler on Feb. 2.
Here’s the honesty: I skipped the 10-miler due to a combination of cold weather and a six-day work week. Activity didn’t escape me that Saturday, as I stood and meandered around Dorchester Academy for three-and-a-half hours of Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations. But by the time I got home just before 5 p.m., I was drained, and running was the last thing on my mind.
Maxwell also said my Monday runs should be about three miles for speed, with four-six milers on Wednesday to build to the long, slow runs. He reminded are more about the distance than the pace, so something like 12 minutes per mile is totally acceptable.
Good news there, as Monday presented a great evening three in about 30 minutes.
He also advised to do two days per week of low-impact cross training, such as cycling, water aerobics and spin. Even yogalates, my new Tuesday and Thursday kick, meets the criteria. Check!
While my previous plan only built to 10 miles before race day, Maxwell said his half-marathon trainees run as far as 15 miles before tapering back down close to the big day.
“That way, they know exactly 100 percent that they could do it,” Maxwell said. Sounded understandable to me.
He explained more about adding two-mile increments on the long runs and its effects on our progress.
“Your body is going to think that you’re trying to run 16 at that point,” he said, adding that makes only 13.1 seem much more manageable.
My previous plan took lead from a different school of thought — one that basically said, “Trust your training and know that if you’ve eliminated all other variables, the atmosphere, water stations and competitive spirit will push you through the last 3.1 miles.”
Now that I’ve deviated from my modified plan, I’m not certain what this race has in store for me. It might be rough, and those 14 miles that Maxwell suggested may not come to fruition, but I could still build to 12, which would put me at a greater advantage than my fall training offered.
But I know this much: My first half of the Rock & Roll was rough. I never thought that I could not finish it, but my body began sending signals of fatigue, and my knees were very tender. As I rounded the last corner, I was going off of sheer determination.
This time, I’d like to have determination and certainty. And maybe still break my previous time of 1:28:08.
Here’s to logging that 10 tomorrow — even in the cold.

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