Sunday, November 3, 2019

Weekly Sweats: What's it's like to run a half marathon with a cold

Alright friends, the last time we left off I'd had several strong weeks of training under my belt and was feeling pretty cocky about half marathon #3.  Here's what happened from there:

I'm linking up with the Weekly Run Down, please head over to Kim and Deborah to check it out.   Special thanks for all of the kind words and advice that folks left for me on last week's post, there's some good wisdom there.

As I reminder, I'm the same person who wrote last week:

I loved Heather's Toronto Marathon recap.  She was going to run Chicago but was sick on race day so...she skipped the race and then ran the Toronto marathon the next weekend instead.  I love the idea of having a "backup" race.  All systems are a go for next weekend, but if we get freaky weather or if I get sick (not planning on it but everyone on the planet has a cold right now), the internet tells me that there are two half marathons the weekend after my race within decent driving distance, so I've got eggs in other baskets if needed.

If you've been here before, you know why the weather was on my mind: half marathon #1 and half marathon #2.  Being sick was on my mind because my husband and just about all of my coworkers were sick last week.  I was sick at this time last year (I remember it well because I'd wanted to run this race last year but knew I wasn't ready to run a half so I passed on the race and when I got sick that day I had confirmation that it was for the best).

So of course I got sick this week.  What it came down to is that I really wanted to run this race, so I did.  I made one error that I'll talk about in a second, but overall, I'm glad that I went through with it. 

Disclaimer: I am on the back end of a cold and my symptoms are above the neck.  Running today was the right decision for me, but I would not be inclined to run another race sick. 

Monday: planned rest day, started feeling a little cranky

Tuesday: yep, sick.  Stayed home, took lots of naps.  Started researching the next weekend's races, and one of them stood out as being really cool and suddenly I was completely OK with missing this race and running the one next weekend instead.

Wednesday: sick day II.  Stayed home, took lots of naps.

Thursday: started feeling human again, enough to run 3 miles outside which made me feel ever better as a human.  I turned to the internet to see what people had to say about racing with a cold, and of course some people said they PR'd and some people said they got bronchitis.  The one practical takeaway I got is that taking cold medication while racing is a no-no.

Friday: got 3 miles on the treadmill, again the exercise made me feel better than not exercising.  Hm, maybe I could do the race after all.

Saturday: planned rest day, felt terrible.  I went through the motions of picking up my race packet but I knew I wasn't going to make the race.  And I really regretted it.  I mean, that race next weekend looked awesome, but sigh, I really wanted to do this race.  And the other thing was that mentally I am ready to be done with long races for the year, I want to recover and set my sights on my spree of November & December 5ks and 10s.  I ran my thoughts by my husband and his take was that if I felt well enough to run why not do the race as planned?  "You don't have to be fast, you just have to be there."  So I got all of my race stuff organized and decided to see how I felt when I woke up.

Sunday: race day!  I didn't sleep very well, but I still got the benefit of the extra hour from the time change and felt better than I have all week.  I took the internet's advise and did not take any medication (first of all I absolutely believe the internet on this one, and second of all my medication of choice is Benadryl...I would have been asleep at the starting line)

This is a very small race, a 10k and a half with about 300 runners in each race.  The temperature was in the low 30's, enough to get us chilly on the start line, but very comfortable once we got moving.  I wore the race shirt from half marathon #2, and so did practically everyone else.  It was the unspoken uniform of the race.

My Mistake
I believe that I made the same mistake today that I made in my first half marathon, which is not adjusting my goals to the conditions.  Back then I pursued my A time goal even though it was over 80 degrees, and today I pursed my B time goal even though I was sick.  I'd set my Garmin up to warn me if my pace went over 11:30, and when I started to slow down in mile 3, I started pushing a bit, and yeah that early in the race it did not turn out well.  I was tempted to drop off at the 10k split, but I wanted to finish the race more than I wanted to quit.  Yes it got tougher and yes I took a few walk breaks in the later miles, but for the most part I was pretty happy to be out there.

I didn't want to think about my finish time and the only thing that was going to clue me in was my music.  My go to half marathon playlist is 2 hours and 25 minutes long and in both of my previous races it was a buzz kill when the music finished.  I started alternating a quarter mile of music with a quarter mile of silence which meant that I finished the race long before the music played out, and it really helped the last few miles go by.  I was certain that I was going to end up slower than my first half marathon, so when I saw 2:42 at the finish line, I was pleasantly surprised.

What I Like About This Race
  • Hello a half marathon that's really 13.1 miles instead of 13.3 like the previous ones!  Um yes I've heard of tangents and I've also heard of Strava and it's amazing how consistent everyone is at running those same tangents;-)
  • It's 20 minutes from home
  • It's small and has a very casual vibe
  • The course is pancake flat, except for a hill near the end
What I Don't Like About This Race
  • The course is boring.  It's a road race out in the country, two 6.5 mile loops of nothing but roads and trees.  Related: no spectators.
  • Being a small race, very limited course support.  Only four water stops (two water stops that the course passes two times) and the porta potty situation was on the lean side.  I had my running water bottle with me but I could definitely have used more water along the way.
  • Being a small race out in the middle of nowhere, very isolating.  After the 10k split I spent most of the race alone, seeing a grand total of 3 other runners after that.
  • Thumbs down on the swag.  When I ran this race on a relay team a few years ago, the shirt was awesome and there was a legit swag bag.  This year the shirt is pretty ugly and let me show you the entire content of the swag bag:

Will I Run This Race Again?
Maybe.  The location is convenient and it has all of the makings of a PR course.  But I'd also like to check out the other race that's a week later and I'm also hearing good things about races that are the week before.  There are lots of fish in this pond.
My Feelings About Half Marathons Right Now
Still love 'em, still want to run many more.  With that said, if I have the same bad luck with the next three halves that I had with the first three, I can see making the call that the half marathon isn't my race and sticking to shorter distances.

Likelihood That I Will Ever Run a Full
Oh God no.  I made some noise once about possibly wanting to run my hometown race in 2020, and based on where I am right now, there is not a chance in the world.  Maybe in 2025 as a 50th birthday present, but not in the next few years.


  1. Sorry you were sick for your race! After not feeling well last week I couldn't have imagined running a half marathon. But I totally get why you would do it anyway! Hope you can rest up now so you can fully recover!

    1. Yes, it would have sensible to sit this one out, but the more I think about it, I'm glad I went for it.

  2. Even though you were sick (or on the rebound, at the very least), you still made the best of it. And a decent finish time! You haven't done many halves, so I'd suggest giving the distance a little more time. It's a good "long" distance without being too long...and the event itself can make or break the experience. If it's a well-organized endeavor, it can be a lot of fun even if the distance is a challenge (or your health is compromised). Conversely, if you're well-prepared and feeling good, a chaotic event can be a buzzkill. As you know, there's always so many factors that ensure a great race day, some of which are out of our control. Hope you're feeling better!!

  3. So sorry that you were sick for your race :( It's hard to have to deal with a curve ball like that on race day. Hope you can rest and fell better soon.

    Umm that "swag" or lack thereof is pretty sad!

    1. Look it's not like we run for the swag, but when it fits in the palm of your hand...

  4. Oh man, that cold could not have come at a worse time! I know what you mean about the playlist running out. I always say things like, "I'm going to load it with xxx minutes of music because I should be done by then. Right?" and yep, I've had it happen to me too!! doh!

    1. Ooh Lisa, I tried the stretching video that you suggested last week ( I was really stiff from the race but I feel almost 100% today. That's never happened before. Good stuff!

  5. Glad you felt well enough to run the half! And that you finished with a time you could be pleased with. I finished my race yesterday and developed a large canker sore on my tongue. I swear, it's always something! Feel better. <3

    1. For real! Even with the canker sore, I can't wait to hear about your race.

  6. aw crap :( I'm so sorry you got sick. that really blows :( but just remember that this is just things that happen that we can't control. you had such a great training cycle, don't give up on the distance yet (and definitely pick a race that is not so boring and isolating... but yeah I've done those too and being a back of the packer you really realise it at races like these).

    1. yep, life happens. Even with the boring course and being sick, I'm still glad I ran.

  7. I never have any expectations for anything great in a swag bag. If I get anything good then I am happy but if I don't then oh well. I am sorry to hear you were sick on race day. Kudos to you for racing. I think I would have stayed home.

    1. I think b/c it's only my 3rd half and that I'd been looking forward to this race for a year is why I was so determined to run.

  8. I think the decision to run a full has to be full heart. People are asking me if I will do one again and while my answer isn't "never", it's not anytime soon. I know that I have to want it to get through the training. I wanted it for my 40th, but I think I'm good for a long time. Like you, I love the Half.

    Glad you're feeling better. The colds this time of year are awful and there's no way to stay away from sickies.

    1. For sure. Two years ago I thought I wasn't capable of running more than six miles, now 13.1 is my max distance. When my body is ready it will take on more miles, until then I adore the miles that I have.

    2. That is the perfect attitude. Hope our paths cross at a Half