Sunday, September 21, 2008

When a run throws you blackberries - you make pie!

I know, I know it's feast or famine with me blogging-wise.. First nothing for weeks on end and then 3 posts in 3 days. I'm under no illusions that I'll keep it up but I've been having fun with my camera. During my 20 miler last Friday I noticed some extremely juicy blackberries and so yesterday I enlisted my personal slaves (ie son and daughter) to come out with me and pick them. Despite the fact that my daugther ate at least as many as she put in her tray, we came back with a decent haul and after picking some apples in a neglected orchard on our farm we came home and made pie. And ate it. It's gone - but it was gooooood. And there's nothing like running 20 miles to make you feel you deserve pie.

Taper time!

I love taper time. I really do. The hard long lonely runs are done, the excitement of the marathon is yet to come - it's a sweet time of anticipation..

Although I never run a marathon in training for a marathon (like some other crazy folks I know) I find the 2 20 mile runs that Hal Higdon incorporates into his Intermediate I program pretty tough. Harder than the marathon. The reason for this is, I think, that I usually do them alone. I love running on my own generally. It gives me very precious "me" time, and I tend to unwind and destress from all the things that get me, a definite type A personality, wound up on daily basis. I tend to run first thing in the morning as well and I find it's a great way to set me up for the day. All this works well for a 5/6 mile run for me. Once I get further than that, and particularly over 10 miles, I like company. Sally and I have not managed to co-ordinate our runs this season (though we may slip something in next week) and so I have been running all of my long runs alone. My first 20 miler went well. I did my second yesterday. It went ... okay... I guess.

I have been suffering with a bit of lack of mojo at the moment. One of the ways in which this is demonstrating itself is that after 5 years I no longer find it enough to just run around our farm. In fact - I marvel at my ability to have done this in the past. You know even last year I would run 20M in laps around our farm - laps of 1.4 miles. This year I just can't do it. I get too bored. I find that I need to run out and back for my longs so I have no excuse not to run back...

So far so good. Running an 8 miler before my half last weekend I discovered, by pure chance, a wonderful new running route. The irony of living in the countryside, at least in Lincolnshire, is that most of the roads have no bike paths or pavement and people drive FAST on the country lanes. It's a bit lethal... But this road I found is paved and yet only one car width wide and goes between 3 little hamlets. There's nothing there and the only traffic appears to be tractors.

So off I went on Friday. Dropped the kids off at school, parked in Brattleby, and set off. 20 miles! A loop, and then a bit on, and then back again. The first 13 miles or so went by fine. Nothing too eventful. After my half on Sunday I felt comfortable doing my 1 mile run, 1 minute walk technique. I chowed down on ShotBloks in the 1 minute breaks and was fine. And then at around mile 14, my sports drink ran out. I had cursorily topped up my CamelBak on my way out and assumed that enough was in there but the day had turned out unexpectedly hot and I clearly had not got enough. I stopped at the first house I could find. No-one in. Second house - I could hear voices when I rang the bell but the only thing the occupants did was open a side door to let out a Rottweiler. Into a pen. But still... Ok I got the message. Finally, at the third house an older gentleman told me "it's much too hot to run" (21 degrees Celcius in September in England everyone collapes with the heat) and his wife allowed me to fill the bag with water. I slowly trotted off for the remaining 4.5 miles but by this point I had really slowed down. I ran half a mile, walked a minute for the rest of my run and I have rarely been as pleased to get a run over with as I have with this one. The stats weren't too awful at the end - 3:18 for the whole thing but the speed was built up at the beginning - the last miles I went sloooowwwwllly..

So with this long run and last week's race under my belt I have a few lessons to remember:

1. do NOT underestimate dehydration. It happens very quickly - I realise this now.
2. Chafing. Is bad! Do not forget to rub the chub! I did and it has resulted in an ugly scene. I'm not sure I will wear skorts for the Marathon - my half leggings are safer...
2. Do download Mika's Life in Cartoon Motion. Grace Kelly has always been my powersong - Lollipop made me laugh at mile 19.5 when very little else could have.
From Last 20 miler before Chicago

So I'm done. Well not completely but the next few weeks are a lot easier which is hopefully is going to let me prepare for all the fun and frolics we have planned in Chicago!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A little sharpener..

It may have escaped your notice -it certainly did mine - but I haven't had any race practise this year. At all. What with being injured and busy it just hasn't happened. It suddenly struck me, however, that it might not be too clever to roadtest everything - speed, nutrition, kit and mental attitude - while out on the course in Chicago. Added to this I've been a bit unmotivated this past week - I've made most runs but am not bursting with vim and vigor, as we might say. So I thought a race would be the perfect thing to shake me up and sharpen up my 'tude and mojo before October 12th. I scrabbled about for a race to run this weekend - I had 12 to run on the schedule, so I figured a half would be perfect. The only one I could still enter was the Mablethorpe half run on the Lincolnshire coast about an hour from here. Now before you get excited - our coast is no cape cod. Or Florida. Really. First of all there's the North Sea which is cold and vicious. Then there is the fact that the Lincolnshire coast was developed on a large scale in the 50s and 60s. The developments along the coast are basically dumps. Tawdry fish and chips shops, lots of gambling parlors and lots of - let me be diplomatic - undertall people who could do with a marathon or 10. BUT - with some kind of wisdom the people of Mablethorpe have built a high sea defence between the town and the ocean and for snobs like me this allows one to enjoy the beach without having to deal with the town. Anyhow - that was just me setting the scene for you. On with the report.

I set off at 6 this morning as the race website said that only 100 people would be allowed to register on the morning of the event for the 10K, half and full marathon. The race has been very popular in the past and this weekend has been uncharacteristically warm and sunny so I thought there would be an enormous amount of late entries.. It seems not. When I finally found the start area - amazingly it took me half an hour to find any sign of life in a town still fast asleep - and registered I was the first to do so. I got chatting to the race director who told me there were only 900 people registered for all races. I mosied about for a while and finally found someone who would sell me a cup of coffee (instant - I knew better than to think to look for a Starbucks) and chatted to a few people. The race started at 9:45 (5 mins after the 10K start and 5 minutes before the full Marathon start) and I happily jogged along for the first mile or so. The adrenalin in a race always makes me happy - I'm always beaming from ear to ear for the first mile or so.. One of the many worries I had about Chicago was that I have been training with walk breaks in my long runs (1 mile run, 1 minute walk) and I was wondering whether to do these in Chicago, or to walk aid stations, or just to run the whole thing - and whether I could do it. So I decided in this half to walk the aid stations and when I got to the first one I duly walked for 1 minute drinking the water. By this time it had warmed up plenty and I had to tie my windproof jacket around my waist. (Note to self - unless it is below 0 leave that jacket behind in Chicago). I soon got running with 2 women from the Louth running club, Amanda and Fiona, who had a nice pace going and some distracting conversation. I got so busy chatting to them that I forgot to walk the rest of the aid stations and as I was feeling quite comfortable I didn't really have the need.. The course was flat and windy (good preparation for Chicago) and the last 3 miles were along the seafront (with the wind in our back). At mile 12 I left Amanda and Fiona behind and charged ahead - Amanda was having a slightly tough time - and forged ahead for the finish line, ready to be done with it. And I came in at 2:01! I was very pleased with this - I didn't feel I had pushed myself too hard and I'd overcome some of my worries and concerns for Chicago. After a delicious sausage bap (or hot dog as it's known outside of this region) I jumped in the car and drove home. Quite uneventful really - but that was good too...

Onwards and upwards..

Friday, September 05, 2008

Getting that monkey off my back...

With 5 (5! 5?) weeks to go before Chicago I'm beginning to experience all the normal fears, worries and superstitions that I always feel before a race. So these are the normal, standard things I worry about:
- I can't do this. It's all been a fluke so far but actually this race I'll get found out to be the faker I am;
- I will miss the race. Miss the plane, lose my shoes etc. These are the themes of my dreams. I haven't yet had a running the marathon naked dream but I do have 5 weeks to go.
- I can't do this.

So new features on the "freakin' out of Petra show" are:
- I've focused less on my training than in previous years. Therefore as above, I can't do this.
- I will somehow not manage to hook up with my running buddies.

That's it. Enough to keep me going, believe me. The monkey has really been sitting on my back this past week as I pulled out of my 18 miler on Sunday after 9 miles. I was so exhausted (first day after my holidays, clearly really relaxed) I just couldn't get my head round it. But you know how you feel when things don't go your way. Added to that I had decided to not get so stressed out about work anymore (so easy when sitting on a Tuscan terrace with a glass of wine in your hand) and the first day back at work I experienced what I think was a mild panic attack at the wheel of my car on the way home, just going over my workload. So the no-stress thing was clearly not working well...

Anyway I did manage to pull myself together this week. I am putting together some plans at work to help me cope with my workload and to get some help with it. In the meantime I am ruthlessly prioritising and ensuring that my home life and running life does not suffer unduly. No more working in the evenings / weekends for a while. And I'm actively investigating various stress-reducing solutions like meditation etc. I've always been a worrier but I'm getting a bit tired of that, and would like to work at changing this.

So this week I had 20 on the calendar. I decided to put my failed 18 miler behind me and focus on the future, and run my 20 miler today as I have a wedding to go to tomorrow and guests coming on the weekend. So I waved my kids off to school and drove to a little country lane, about 2 miles from my house, to run the 20 miler on roads (it's been raining here, for weeks, for years, forever, and my track around the farm is pretty soggy by now).

Oh - and have I mentioned my 20 mile superstition? Bearing in mind that this is the 3rd time I've trained with the Hal Higdon Intermediate I program I have this thing that I have to run at least one of my 20 milers at race pace. I hasten to say this is not what Uncle Hal wants you to do. But I always feel that if I can do one of my 20 milers at race pace it gives me confidence that I can do the full race... We shall see.

5 weeks to go!

A few snapshots from Tuscany...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Things done - and not done...

Things I have not done:
  • posted a new blogpost. Not for 5 weeks. A record I'm not proud of.
  • posted comments on other people's blogs. Again. Not for 5 weeks. Again. A record I'm not proud of.
  • been in touch with lots of friends - in person and online. Something I'm really not proud of.
  • organised a t-shirt for my blogging buddies running the Chicago Marathon with me. Got halfway there (commissioned my barista for a design, which he delivered) but then did not get any further.
  • been online much for pleasure / fun / playing. We lost our internet connection at home for 10 days (will you believe this?!). I nearly started playing boardgames but see below - was working too hard for that..

Things I have done:
  • worked hard. Most of my failures above are due to a deadline at work which had me working very very long hours.
  • been on holiday. I came back last night from a lovely 2 week holiday with my husband and children to Rome and Tuscany.
  • drunk wine. See above.
  • eaten pasta. Also see above.
  • sat in the sun. We didn't know it worked but it does. Just not in the UK.
  • been warm. Even hot. Didn't remember that was possible. It is but just not in the UK.
  • bought various beautiful and expensive pieces of clothing and footwear. Blame wine and sun. And opportunity.
  • trained for Chicago. I missed a few of my shorter runs but so far have got most of the long runs in. Ran 17 2 weeks ago (reaching 13.2 in 2:08 which is good on a training run and with 1 minute walk breaks every mile, methinks).
  • Announced on Facebook that I was going to run 18 miles and then didn’t quite manage it. I was exhausted from travel I think.. Not great and it made me feel just a tad foolish…
  • bought 2 new pairs of running shoes. Very hardcore this. After Maddy’s recent experience with hip pain and Shirley Perly’s advice I decided I should do the same. A bit painful in the running shop but it shouldn’t cost more in the end. Right?

Things I am going to do:
  • get back in the saddle. Training has been going okay – I feel fine about it – but it hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind. With 6 weeks to go, Chicago is my focus. I’m not going to make up for this past week’s run but am getting properly into this week – my first of 2 20 milers.
  • Get back online and in touch. I’ll be there this week my friends, I promise.
  • Get this post posted. Enough already!

Keep on running my friends – I’m back on your roads with you now!