2016 Vancouver Lake Half Marathon

Half Marathon Training









I just completed the 2016 Vancouver Lake Half Marathon.  My time was 1:27:59.  My good friend Derek shattered 1:30 with his PR time of 1:28:35.  Right before the race, Derek told me he would be happy with 1:35, so I have to assume he’s ecstatic with his time.

This was my first race in the 50 – 54 age bracket.  I came in 2nd place.  Unfortunately, I forgot to pick up my award (a monogrammed pint glass).  Oh well, wonder if they’ll save it for me for next year:-)   Below I provide some race details, my splits and some details of my training leading up to the race.

The Lake Vancouver Half Marathon is run near the end of January every year.  On a totally flat course.  Conditions can be horrible (windy, raining, sleet, etc) or not bad. The race is a favorite for locals here in Southwest WA and the Portland, OR area.  It’s limited to 500 runners.  Sign-ups open on November 1st and the race is typically full with a week to 10 days.

This year’s race was almost perfect conditions.  At the 1000am start (no need to get up at the crack of dawn for this one) the sky was mostly overcast.  No wind and temps in the mid 40s.  Some people were dressed up for cold weather, but as you can see above, I wore a t-shirt under my racing singlet.   I started the race with gloves, but handed them to my youngest son at mile 3.

Vancouver Lake Half Marathon


Chris Platano (age 27) won the race in 1:09:21 (that’s a 5:18 pace)







As with last year’s race, I didn’t complete much track and speed work training in preparation for the race.  December was an extremely wet month (nearly 20″ of rain) and I was out for almost a week with a head cold.  Fortunately by the end of December I was able to get in a number of 8 – 9 mile runs.  I also continued to complete weight and circuit training at the gym during the holidays, so I am strong.

My long runs in January were 2 x 10.5 miles at 7:30 pace.  I completed one of the runs on the course the first week of January and another 10 miler while in Dallas about 12 days before the race.

My track or speed work consisted of:

A ladder workout about 3.5 weeks before the race – 1 x 200m, 1 x 400, 1 x 600, 1 x 800, 1 x 600, 1 x 400, 1 x 200m

2 other track days where I completed 100m strides, high knees and butt kicks

I complete 1 x tempo run the week before the race.  This run was on a local (Heritage) running trail where I did 1 mile warm-up and then 6 miles at 6:40 pace, followed by 1 mile cool down. Prior to this run, my confidence was fairly low that I would be able to break 1:30 for the 1/2 marathon.  After this run, I felt like I may have a shot.

One of my key strategies before the race was to fully hydrate starting a few days before the race.  I also really watched my diet the week before.  I laid off processed carbohydrates and saturated fats.  The night before, I had pasta primavera (chicken with roasted veggies) and a dinner salad.   The morning of the race I ate a bowl of oatmeal and continued to drink a lot of water. I also had a piece of toast with cut up banana and some yogurt.

I knew that I was well hydrated because of frequency of my bathroom breaks before the race.  I consumed 1 energy gel about 10 minutes before the race and had another at about mile 8.  This second gel really gave me a boost the last 4.5 miles as my legs were starting to get tired.

Following are my race splits.  As you see, they were pretty even.  Mile 13 was one of my fastest.  Overall, I’m pleased.  Breaking 1:28 at age 50 and not doing a lot of training for this race is pretty good.

Next race is Portland’s Shamrock run on March 13th.  I’m running the 15k.  Maybe if I train I can run near 60 minutes ;-)

Vancouver Lake Half Marathon

Vancouver Lake Half Marathon Training and Race Recap

Vancouver Lake Half Marathon Training and Race Recap

Half Marathon TrainingI completed the Vancouver Lake ½ Marathon last week. I finished in 1:28, 7th place for my 45-49 age group (top 6 receive commemorative pint glasses). This is a small race (about 525) on a flat course adjacent to Vancouver Lake and the Columbia River in Southwest Washington. Race time weather conditions were perfect. Temperatures were in upper 40s/low 50s, with no wind or rain and a slight fog. In past years, racers have experienced freezing rain and wind. Although I didn’t train specifically for this race, I’m still happy with the time. 6:45/mile pace isn’t bad considering I haven’t done much speed or tempo work.

My specific mile splits are captured below. Right now my sights are set on the Vancouver USA Marathon in mid June, so I view this race as just a 13 mile tempo that I ran 17 weeks prior to the Newport Marathon. Following are my splits for the race:

Vancouver Lake Half Marathon Splits
Below I outline my training for this event. I think it’s a good template for half marathon training at the beginning of a race season. I mostly relied on my running base (typically 25-35 miles/week during the offseason, plus cross-fit conditioning workouts twice a week). Although this may seem like low mileage, at my age, I don’t want to breakdown during my marathon training. Read my post on building an offseason mileage base for more information.
I also recently completed the Runners World 36 day challenge (running every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s). I completed medium to long runs (8-12 miles) at a relatively easy pace and I finished 4 track/interval sessions. The rest of training was balanced around my busy work/travel schedule and consisted of workouts in hotel gyms. As discussed in my marathon training tips for busy professionals, the goal of these gym workouts was to maintain my level of fitness. My 6 week half marathon training plan included:
1.  At least one long run per week – 3 (total) x 8 milers, 2 x 10 milers, 2 x 11/12 mile runs at 7:30/mi pace.
2. Weeks prior to the race, 11 mile run at 7:15-7:30/mile pace in the vicinity of the course
3. Approximately half the long runs included hills.
4. Interval/track workouts. I completed 1 (each) of the following workouts, starting 5+ weeks prior the half marathon.  These were not super strenuous, but each was run at 5k pace. I honestly haven’t felt too motivated to run a hard/long track workout. All of these started with 1.5mile warm-up, stretching & 8 x 100m strides

Week 1 – 4 x 200m with 60 seconds of rest between each
Week 2
– 2 x 200m, 1 x 400m, 2 x 200m with 60 seconds of rest
Week 3
– 4 x 200m, 2 x 400m, 2 x 200m with 60 seconds of rest
Week 4
– 2 x 200m, 3 x 400m, 2 x 200m with 60 seconds of rest

5. Other workouts included either 4 miles on hotel treadmills with assorted plyometric exercises or 2-3 mile warm-up runs followed by 30 minute cross-fit/Universal Combat Conditioning (completed as group at Universal Jiu-Jitsu  in Camas, WA).

Featured Post #1: How to build a running base

How to build a running base


In order to handle the stresses of marathon training, you need to build strength and stability in your leg muscles and joints.  As part of a periodized running program which will allow you to achieve your goals year after year, both beginner & experienced runners should build a base before beginning a marathon training program.   Having a base will help prevent injury.  Essentially, if you are a beginner, you need to introduce your body to the rigors of running, so your body knows what to expect and running won’t be such a shock to your system.   For those that are experienced runners, building a base is critical to staying healthy and building confidence.

building a running base

For beginners, on a weekly basis, one should be running at least 4 days, with a long run of 6 miles and averaging at least 20 miles.  In my marathon training plan for beginners (Crushing26.2), I include a 12 week plan  specifically for a beginner runner to build a base.  Ideally, these 12 weeks are to prepare someone for a 5k race and allow them to be able to run for 30 minutes without stopping.

For experienced runners, building a base typically occurs between racing seasons.  Depending on your race schedule, some runners complete base training twice a year.  For intermediate or experienced runners,  base training involves scaling back the intensity and running a lot of long, slow miles.

The idea is that this repetitive, low-intensity activity builds a strong foundation that will support the hard work of training and racing that follows during the rest of the year.  However, as important that completing this base or foundation work is for your long term performance, it’s also typically the root cause of injury if done carelessly.  A few tips can help you build miles safely and to best effect. Follow these steps to ensure that you, too, are fortified for the coming season.

A base period can last four weeks-or four months. I recommend no less than 2 months.  For beginners, 3-6 months is the minimum to effectively build your base depending on your fitness level at the outset of the base building program. The 2 month minimum is because you shouldn’t increase your mileage by more than 10 percent every two weeks.  I always coach that conservative, yet consistent training is most important.  You have a much better chance of achieving your long term goals if you’re able to avoid injuries and stack week after week of training on top of each other. The more gradual you build your mileage base the better.

biggest running challenge
While in the base-building phase, it’s advised to stretch regularly and participate in strength training workouts consistently.  I also recommend regularly completing strides.  I show how to do strides in this video. As with your mileage, gradually add strength work.  I also recommend cross fit activities such as stationary bike, rowing machines, elliptical and use of fitness accessories like Fitness Bands, kettle bells, medicine balls, etc. 

Although, many elite athletes complete a six-week base period between the end of cross-country and the beginning of indoor track, the average runner has much more time to build their base. As you increase your mileage, I suggest following high-mileage weeks with a lower mileage week (approximately 10 to 15% less). As best as possible, avoid more than two consecutive high-mileage weeks. If you feel fatigued during your runs or feel some aches and pains, don’t hesitate to back off by as much as 20-30% for a week or even two to ensure recovery.

If you’re interested in joining me, I can put together either a custom training plan or I can personally coach you. Either program will be specific to your goals and athletic abilities. Just click on the links for details.

The primary purpose of base building is on aerobic mileage. However, I can’t stress the importance of including variety in your training.  This includes strides & some faster (at least steady state) paced runs.  Once you complete week four of base time, running an occasional tempo or rolling hill workout will help to maintain your stamina and actually improves strength and anaerobic capacity.  I counsel runners who are working on a multi month base building program to add a second weekly threshold workout 6 – 8 weeks into their program.  If you keep the effort controlled (under 85 percent of your max), you will continue to maintain stamina without burning out.

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During the base training, assuming you’re healthy, it’s important to get your long run up to 90 minutes.  Depending on your pace, this is typically 9 – 12 miles.  Ensure you run at least that long every two weeks. You can adjust up or down depending on how you feel.  This will keep you accustomed to time on your feet.

Besides using the strategy of gradual mileage increase, the most important and often underrated component of any good running program is rest. Your body will most successfully adapt and gets stronger if you give it a chance to recover after vigorous workouts. As you build mileage, keep in mind that rest and recovery are essential.   Just as with my marathon training plan, I believe it’s important to take a rest day every week.  It doesn’t have to be the day after your long run (in fact, I like to run about 5 miles easy the day after a long run), instead it could be the day after tempo or hills.  Oftentimes my business travel dictates when I take my rest days.  Also, as with the marathon training plan, it’s good to insert a rest week (at least 20 percent lower mileage) as discussed above.   The overall lesson to be learned here is to build miles very gradually, with plenty of stretching, proper nutrition and rest.