No LSD For This Half Marathon (That’s Long Slow Distance Dumb Ass!)

This was originally posted on our other blog,

Before we started CrossFit my husband and I were hard-core cardio junkies. 5k’s, five milers, half marathons and duathlons were a regular part of our fitness routine. We were always training for a race and logging the obligatory long runs and rides. Sure we’d hit the weights, but never with the same intensity central to CrossFit. We’d occasionally knock off a sprint workout. Of course we never combined sprints with squats. No one in the endurance world did that.

Obviously we were very specific and specialized in our training. In spite of our specialization we were neither fit nor particularly good at our sport. When we switched to CrossFit we realized how much our fitness lacked. After a two year hiatus from half marathons and four years dedicated to CrossFit we decided to revisit the half mary.

Our plan was simple. We would test the general preparedness of CrossFit training by running a half marathon with minimal specific training. In other words we were not going to slog it out on the roads for hours “training” for our race. Planning back from the goal race we would run two 10k’s and one 15k. Our CrossFit workouts would remain their usual mix of heavy lifting, short sprints and muscle-burning amraps.

The long runs leading up to the half marathon were relaxed and easy. We were pumped and confident heading into the half. We also tweaked our diet three weeks prior to the race. In our endurance training days we consumed far too many carbohydrates. Since discovering CrossFit we switched to a mostly paleo style of eating. Heading into this race we decided to tighten our diet with a strict “Whole 9” paleo diet.

Race day was a cool, breezy Saturday morning. We filled up on a paleo breakfast and loaded our fuel belts with water, almonds and raisins. Compared to our previous races the course for this half marathon was hilly. Talk about unknown! Pre-CrossFit the hills would have been a challenge. This time we attacked them. There wasn’t anything in this race that was intimidating. In previous races the 16k mark was where we would hit that proverbial “wall.” Not this race. Thanks to our paleo diet we had energy to spare. We checked off the kilometer markers like they were rounds in an amrap.

When we crossed the finish line our times were less than a minute slower than when we trained for the distance. We wanted to finish well and we did.

CrossFit’s general preparedness training works for runners on several levels. First it teaches you to manage discomfort. The hills in this race were not as challenging as Fran. Longer sprint workouts and amraps lasting 20 minutes or more build endurance. Heavy lifting, specifically squats and deadlifts, builds strength and prevent muscle imbalances. We did not suffer the leg fatigue that plagues runners in the last miles of a race. Our hips and core remained strong throughout the race. Thanks to double unders, box jumps, and yes, even burpees our running was more efficient.

We’ve set our sights on a bigger challenge. The Around The Bay Road Race is the oldest in North America. It’s 30k through the streets of Hamilton with a nasty hill in the last third. Ouch! Our training plan won’t differ much from the half. We’ll add some more long runs and incorporate longer sprints in our programming at our affiliate. It will be another chance to prove that CrossFit works.


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