Monday, December 28, 2009

happy new me!

Or well, that's what I like to think. There is something trite and repetitive about new year's resolutions: lose weight, exercise more, more quality time, yadda yadda yadda. So .. well, doomed to failure. No?

However. However. I am not a natural cynic. I know that, as we get older, we should be getting more cynical and I have, truly, gained some cynicism, mostly I am still pretty gullible and skip into life like a lamb with amnesia. As a result it takes me forever to learn life lessons. Forever. Truly! I was overweight for about 12 years before I figured out I had to exercise AND eat less. Every time I would go on some whacko diet, lose a few pounds, and then give up. How long, for example, can a person live without carbohydrates? To prove my point - when moving house this past summer I realised I actually have three - yes 3! - exactly identical copies of the Atkins Diet Revolution. Good lord! It clearly didn't work when I tried out the first copy, then like a goldfish I must have walked into a bookshop filled with self-loathing and excess weight, thought "hey! That Atkins diet looks like a great idea!", bought a second copy, failed again, and then walked in a third time and thought "hey! That Atkins diet looks like a great idea!".

So. That actually proves two things. One that I'm not cynical, and two that personal growth for me is slooooooooooow.

However. I did, finally, at some point when I was very very low, very very heavy and very very filled with self-loathing, decide "no more excuses". With insight that had eluded me for years I realised that I had made myself fat and unhappy and that I had to stop making myself fat and unhappy. Once again I went on a diet. WeightWatchers online this time. And I started to exercise. Most importantly, I chose to ignore the voice of failure in my head that told me I was incapable of losing weight and exercising with any success and I made myself go round a .9 mile circuit on our farm. Walking or running, struggling to get round. But, as so many of you realise, after a while you do get round without stopping. And after a while, the combination of a healthy diet and exercise do create weight loss. And more than all of this - after a while it finally penetrated through my very thick and learning-resistant skull that I can lose weight and exercise.

And so, before like a good protestant I contemplate all the areas in which I can self-improve, I am patting myself on the back. For, at some point, turning the supertanker of destiny around and getting onto this road. Initially I did it to lose weight and get fit. But it has brought me so much more than that. Self-confidence and inner strength (no small things, really). Not to mention some amazing friendships. But the biggest thing it has taught me is that I can change who I think I am. Someone as fat and incompetent as I believed myself to be 6 and a half years ago has now qualified for Boston. It is, of course, not at all about Boston qualifying itself, but about the fact that I would not have ever believed that I was ever going to be capable of something so seriously athletic as that. 6 and a half years ago I would have ruled myself out of that for life because that sort of goal was not for people like me. I have, bit by bit, learned that I maybe am not just the person I thought I was at 31. I am capable of much more than I thought then. And when I find myself assailed by the challenges of life I think of this. Change is possible, however hard it may seem. And however slowly it comes.

So now I try to take the attitude that I have to keep on trying. Maybe not bang my head into the same wall three times (see above) but still.

So my goals for 2010?
- I have athletic goals. Continuing to strive to achieve is good for me. I am scared of being accountable to others and myself and to put myself out there, athletically. I still have a struggle thinking of myself as someone who should even be out there at a sporting event. So for me racing is being very accountable. I can't lie. So I am going to carry on racing.
- I have strategic goals. I want to run Boston well. I may have BQed in Berlin but I ran it badly. I ran too fast, messed up my nutrition and lost my strategy. For Boston, my goal is not a time-based one but to see whether I can begin to work out a race strategy that will work. Ideas welcome.
- I have personal goals. These are the tricky ones. I could be specific but really - the overall goal I have is to try to spot the ruts in my life when I can and to shake myself out of them. When I am stuck, I have to do whatever I can (the opposite of me, anyone?) to move out of the rut. Not until I am out will I be able to see what I need to do to move on.

Finally - a quick update on running life. I have managed to maintain most of my running schedule over Christmas, despite wine drinking and snow.

Thank you Yaktrax!

My snow angels ;)

I hope that 2010 brings you all you hope for and that you too will be able to make changes where you want to.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Basset hounds and other pre-Christmas issues

Well, I was all set to write a post about a midlife crisis I am experiencing. However, I got started on writing it all and detailing it and then life took off, in that way it does in the weeks before Christmas, and before I knew it was December 21st (today) and I'd forgotten about my crisis. People who know me (ie my husband) tend to just let my crises be (I have them on a regular basis - I had a really bad one 2 years ago when I felt that I was the person described on Stuff White People Like - and I'm utterly serious) and judging by the fact that they are intense, and then pass (a bit like PMT come to think of it - perhaps I should be examining the timing?) I suppose I should learn to take them less seriously. Not in my nature, but still.

Anyway. My crisis was about ageing. It already seems ridiculous now that I'm writing about it but there is a still a kernel of deep feeling in there. Basically, I suddenly realised that at 38, if I don't get enough sleep and get the right kind of nutrition (...) my face ends up looking like a snowy field that lots of people have done 3 point turns on. I took a few casual photos of myself on my phone, thinking they would be fun to post on Facebook or on here and GOOD LORD! NO! I look like a basset hound (I could easily get back into this crisis, can you tell?). Anyway. As I said, the crisis went away when I had other urgent business (children fighting, ironing, getting Christmas presents organised) to deal with. The power of distraction - it's magic for toddlers and middle-aged women on the edge of a breakdown.

So back to running. Running. Yes. As I mentioned in my last post, I have started the 18 week Pfitzinger program. This is a first for me - I've only ever done the 12 week program - but I was in need of a new start and a bit of a change and I'm hoping this is it. I know it's more than 15 weeks to Boston from today (especially for Emily who I completely panicked with my inability to get a calendar straight) but I'm going skiing for 8 days in January (Jackson Hole, so with the jetlag I'll need a few more days to get over that trip) so I have added 2 extra weeks onto training. So, given that, I've completed week 3 today. 40M for the first time in this cycle (though that's not hard work for Petey Pfitzinger, he considers that a basis...). On the whole, I'm quite happy with how it's all gone, so far. I've managed every run, even today's 14 miler in the snow. My legs feel like I've done 20 - it was hard work on unplowed roads - but I got the miles in and made it round. As far as my cross training in preparation for next summer's triathlons goes - not quite there yet. But ... I did try our local swimming club. They are super hardcore (they send swimmers from Lincoln to the Olympics which is truly incredible) but were really really friendly. Yay for swimmers over runners, people. It may have helped that I had to have an entire humble pie to myself - I was by far the slowest and crappest person in the slow lane. While my 3 other swimming lane buddies were butterfly crawling their way across the pool (!!!!) I was doing breaststroke. Yeah well. I did feel that I learned a lot in one lesson and will certainly be going back once a week. Biking has been very quiet - it has been snowy and icy here and I'm terrified of falling over, attached to my pedals.. I can see that I might have to join the gym where I swim so I can get some spinning classes in. In the meantime, however, I am still signed up for the duathlon on New Year's eve (2.5 mile run, 9.5 bike, 2.5 mile run) and then on New Year's day we have organised an 8 mile bikeride (or 5M run depending on the conditions) followed by our now traditional New Year's day dip in the icy lake, followed by bacon and sausage sandwiches and HOT coffee...

Finally - oh I have been a terrible blog reader and commenter. While I was having a minor breakdown / buying Christmas presents / contemplating bankruptcy / researching rejuvenating serums on the internet you all have been out there achieving.. A brief and inconclusive rollcall reveals that:
- Susan ran a marathon 10 months (10 months!) after having a baby, after losing all of her babyweight and training her socks off. (10 months after I had babies .. well let's not go there. I was NOT running marathons). Susan is officially amazing..
- Jeanne ran a half marathon in freezing cold after nights of insomnia, just for the reward of brunch. Jeanne that would motivate me - one day we'll be having brunch together after a brutal half!
- Aron, Amy, Tara, Maritza and Tina (and many more) ran the CIM marathon. Aron BQed (fabulous girl - she really drained the juice in the can for this one), Tara became a marathon maniac (no comment) and signed up for a half ironman (actually you are nuts dear Tara!) and Maritza also ran something like her 20th marathon in 10 days and is now, I believe, taking a break for a few days? Are you?
- the only person who has been really lazing around, as far as I can tell, is IronJen and that is because she has just become an Ironman. Jeez Jen you set the bar SO high! What's a girl got to to do to take some time off and drink wine round here?

Seriously - you are all very very incredibly impressive. And I will catch up. At some point.

So now I'm going to post this and start making my mammoth shopping list for Christmas food. Have my parents coming across from arctic Holland tomorrow for 6 days. People coming over for Christmas eve, and then we have the Duguid / Moll 4 days of celebration - Christmas day, Boxing day, Felix's (and Maritza's!) birthday, and my mother's birthday. The duathlon will be a welcome break. I intend to stick to my running schedule over this time - keep me accountable. Wishing all of you a wonderful Christmas and a fabulous new year. May 2010 bring you all you wish for. Lots of love, Petra

Thursday, December 03, 2009

And another thing

Because see, the thing is, just because I didn't blog for 4 weeks didn't mean I disengaged my brain. This is not to say I came to any earth-shattering conclusions or insights, but rather that I plodded and groped my way through my self-created slump, trying to think of ways in which to change my 'tude. I've already told you that your emails and messages and feedback were the driving force that gave me my mojo back. However, here follow a few other things I tried:
- join a running club. Well - I did join a running club ages ago - in 2006 - where I met SuperSal - but I found it hard to make the weekly meetings in the evenings. Also - to be honest - I like training alone and fitting my training in where I can. Anyway, Jonathan, my osteopath, recommended I try another local club because they do all sorts of hateful things like time trials and hill workouts and track workouts that are good for me. So I went along on a Tuesday evening 3 weeks ago. The first thing I have to say, honesty compels me, is that the coaches (yes there were true honest-to-god qualified coaches) were friendly and seemed good. The second thing I have to say is man! The English can be terrible in social situations. As Sophia used to say in the Golden Girls "picture the scene". Group of runners standing around in running gear in front hall of leisure centre (yeah) waiting for workout to start. Congregating round coaches. The clothing makes it clear who is with the running club or just there to eat the fast food in the cafetaria (yeah). New person turns up. Clearly new because no-one has seen her there before. It is clear that the other members know each other (they are speaking in groups, shooting the breeze, you know being social). So this person - not standing in a group, greeted loudly by the coach "Hi Petra, nice you could join us today!" is new. What do you do? Do you a) go up to her and say "hi, I'm x" and start a conversation or do you b) stand around staring at her but not speaking to her. If you chose b) you chose the group's correct reaction. Jeez! Anyway I haven't developed my extraordinary social skills for nothing so I worked this crowd. As we jogged to the track I struck up conversations, showed interest, expressed admiration at race times and achievements. The track workout was a dud as half the track was closed, and so this created some bitching I could in with (nothing like bitching together to draw people together). We slowly jogged back, and back to our cars. End of workout. For honesty's sake I will make the following points: 1) some people were very nice 2) I do not expect the red carpet to be rolled out for me. The question that has you all hanging on the edge of your seat is - will I go back? And the answer is ... no. And not because no-one's being nice to me. Because I'm sure, over time, the folks would defrost and I would find some kindred spirits and yadda yadda yadda all would be okay. But actually - I have done my speed workouts alone this year and like that. My Garmin keeps me honest. I'm not really that keen to ingratiate myself with a new bunch of people when what they offer is not something I desperately want or need. Call me Greta. (ref. Garbo not Waitz).
- changed my playlist. I tend to listen to podcasts when I'm out running so one of the lightning bolts of inspiration that struck me was that to change my mood I needed to change what I was listening to. So far so genius. As you may recall from aaaaagges ago Mika's Life in Cartoon motion got me through 2008 Chicago training. Mika has a (relatively) new album out (The Boy Who Knew Too Much) and as I can never get me enough sexually ambiguous madness I popped it onto my iPod. Amazing album. The guy is as mad as a snake but fantastically funny with it. And sexy. Couldn't really see that while I was running but I could think it and that helped. Did it help get my mojo back? Well - in so far as it stopped me from thinking and got me belting out songs, yes. I wouldn't say it proved the tripswitch but it helped.
- set myself goals. One of the many kind emails I received in the past month was from Gary, who I ran with at the White Peak half this year. He's quite an incredible ultrarunner and has set himself the goal of running 50M next summer for his 50th birthday. I had emailed him that I might join him on some of it and he responded by saying that my joining him really helped him get motivated. So that I needed to set myself some more goals to get me motivated. He said some more very kind things I won't embarass him by repeating but trust me - the man is a mensch. So here are some of my options:
  • run 50M (or part of it) with Gary. I could use Boston training as my leap up in mileage, and then just carry on running long runs. Part of me is quite intrigued by whether I could do an ultra. But maybe 50M is a very long way to go - and will detract from my other training goals (see below). Maybe do 20M - 30M with him? Tips / advice?
  • Triathlons. I am very close to finding a swimming club, I have been in touch with some tri gurus and I am fairly confident that, if I cross training with swimming and biking during my Boston training I can get into some sort of triathlon shape by the summer. There are a number of sprint triathlons close to me (Woodhall Spa triathlon, May 9th, Lincoln Triathlon July 4th) and then I'm quite tempted by an Olympic (or oly as I think I'm meant to call it) in London over the summer - the London triathlon. I'm not signing up to anything until I've sorted out my swimming club, but once I've done that I think I'm signing up to these three.
  • Bike ride from Arnhem (Netherlands) to Berlin (Germany). I have some local friends who bike a lot and who are tentatively planning to ride from Arnhem in Holland (coincidentally where my parents live) to Berlin. I think it's about a 350 mile bike ride, mostly on quiet roads and cycle lanes, and we'll take about 6 days to do it. I think this would be great fun to do with friends, Adam will join me, and it's one way of seeing just how well I bike (and how good my soon-to-be purchased bike seat is going to be).
  • That leaves the autumn open. Which is probably a good thing. If I pull off all the above I might be ready for a break. Alternatively there are so many decent local running races I can enter later in the year that I don't need to decide now.
- cut my hair. I am such a moron! Most people I know are really careful at the hairdresser's - an inch off here and there, stick with the same. I get kamikaze when I'm in that chair. "Go for it" I tell the hairdresser. As if a new haircut will change my life. Well it might, but probably not for the better. And in all this please bear in mind the fundamental material I'm dealing with. I have thin, fine hair. Not a lot of it. It is one of the various banes of my life. I do not, and have never had, good hair. The past few years I have employed The Opposite of Me at the hairdresser's and have been conservative, like the rest of you, and this has resulted in semi-decent hair. Good colour and a sort of shorter noughties Rachel haircut. However, in my clearly mentally diminished state I turn up at the hairdresser's and say "Go for it". What was I thinking? I came out looking like a newsreader! I have a bob! I look square! What was I doing? A week on things are a bit better. For the sake of veracity - picture below.
It's a week later now and though it's not like my hair grew a lot in that time (I wish!) I have managed to make it my own. Does it look like I am disguising my hair with a cat? Well I am. I should have put her in front of my crow's feet as well...

Okay. So what can you learn from me? In a nutshell:
- Not everyone has great social skills.
- change your tune. You might enjoy it even if it doesn't work.
- set some goals. It does work..
- don't cut your hair when you're trying to prompt a change.

Finally. I've been reliably informed that I need to post a picture of my new "ride". Be gentle with her - she's second-hand and was a bargain..
Ok. So as I'm in week 1 of Boston training - yes - I'm off for 8M with 4M at hm pace. That should be fun.. Speak soon my friends.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The future is bright (and cold and wet).

Finally! You thought I'd just crawled under a rock and given up right? As well I might have done given all the moaning and whingeing I have done in the past month. But the funk is officially been, done and gone. How did I achieve this? 

First of all, by going back to the opposite of me. Remember that? Well this time I took it and interpreted it slightly differently (it's my church, so I get to make the rules) to just mean "doing things differently".
• After being on a running schedule for most of the year, I had no schedule. After getting each and every run in for the past 7 months, I let myself off the hook sometimes. I took a break and it was good.
• After more than 5 years of doing only running, I bought a bike. I have held off on buying a bike for a long time because, being Dutch, and having used a bike as a primary means of transport for years in my teens and twenties, I was under no illusions as to the problems with bikes. I.e - technical problems. Flat tires. Chains coming off. Strange noises. Adjusting and readjusting. Endless stuff. And this was all on the simple and cruddy bikes I used to ride. Heavy "sit up and begs" that had no gears and had backpedal brakes. However, I was owed a birthday present and eBay suggested a beautiful bargain. It was delivered to me with clipless pedals and while this would, normally, have been an excuse for me to park the bike in the garage for 6 months while I procrastinated about working it out, I headed to the bikeshop instead and bought some shoes, some cleats and a helmet and set about working out my bike. Yes I fell. Four times hard, so far. I have forced myself to work out how to adjust the tension, I have adjusted the seat, and have also - major victory, worked out the gears. Somewhat. That's still a work in progress.
• I have entered a duathlon (31st December, 2.5 mile run, 9 mile bike and 2.5 mile run) and am currently trying to find somewhere agreeable to go swimming. If I can find a place to train and learn, the next summer will be summer of triathlons. I really am working on this one peeps!
• I did some of the things I haven't done when I was training so hard. I spent some time with friends, I filled in my tax return (so late it's not even funny) and I generally lazed about a bit.

However. However. However. The most interesting realisation to me has been that while I needed a break from my schedule and running I am happier and more effective with a schedule in my life. Somehow it sets my course for each week - this is the training I need to get in and I need to work my week around it. I get a lot more other stuff done when I'm training. I waste less time. I feel better - physically and mentally - with a goal. All hardly an aha erlebnis for most of you, but I'm not really a Type A like so many runners. (You should see the state of my house!). I'm amazed that I'm able to stick to a schedule and find it so useful to organise my life, and set out my priorities.

The other thing that has got me back is, once again, the kindness of you lot. The emails, the messages, the FaceBook comments. I couldn’t drop out if I wanted to could I? So thank you – you know who you are..

So I'm back in the game now people. The past few weeks have seen my first brick workout (8M bike followed by a 5M run -hardly an IronMan but still) and I’m determined to keep up my biking as my cross training in the run-up to Boston. I’m going to try the 18 week Pfitzinger schedule this time – it’s long but I want to try and see how the more gradual build-up will go. I’m fitting in 2 extra weeks as I’m going skiing in January – yes this time I will have sports massages while I’m out there and I’m already booked in with my osteopath immediately upon my return. Tight quads will NOT derail Boston.

Finally – can you keep a secret? You know I’m better when I get naughty. And I have been. I have had (and still have…) a very bad cold at the moment. On Saturday night I was in bed by 7pm feeling like death. However, I had entered a half-marathon on Sunday weeks ago to motivate me to get some mileage in. I woke up at 6am on Sunday feeling okay and so, without telling anyone, texted the babysitter and headed to the race. Well of course it was a stupid idea. The rain was sheeting down. It was SO cold. So wet. So hilly. Despite that I got race giddy and ran my first mile in under 8 minutes – so the end of the race was very grim indeed. I wasn’t properly trained, nor physically well enough to run a half-marathon yesterday. But I did it. And I crossed the finish line in 1:52! No PB, but not bad at all. A good yardstick to start Boston training with.

I'm going to publish this now so I can go off and catch up on your blogs. Apologies for the radio silence - I'm back in the game!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The party's over

The pity party that is. As always you, my faithful commenters cuddled me, cajoled me, and some of you gave me a kick up the *ss and okay okay - I get the message. I've put away the black streamers, dried my tears and I'm back again.

That's not to say the running has been great these past 2 weeks. I think I definitely suffered from something related to what my kids had last week - they've had (swine?) flu and tonsilitis but have now recovered - and even by the middle of this week my 8 miler was compiled of grit, determination, clif-shots and slow miles. None of it is a pretty picture to be sure but I've just read Meg Runs' blog and I have cut and pasted the following:

No matter what your goal is...weight loss, a 5k, a 3 day walk, a hike, an ultra, a need to look at the plan. What ever your pace; to finish, to go fast, to go slow, to walk. Don't let it own you, own the plan. Talk to it, "Bring it on!"

Do it with confidence. age doesn't matter
Do it with concentration. single out that one specific moment in time and focus on it
Do it with control. but don't force it
Do it with commitment. bring it on

And she's right. Completely right. The other mantra that has embedded itself into my mind is the AA mantra of "fake it till you make it". I am faking it and slowly beginning to make it. I struggled through 7 awful miles in wind and rain last Sunday (failed to run the 12 I had told myself to run, but ran 7 when 0 was by far the more attractive option), I ran 5 on Tuesday that were neither here nor there but on the books all the same, and today I decided to kick myself a bit harder and make myself run 5M out of a 10 miler at a faster pace. (Chicken and egg you see - my lack of mojo has had me slugging out the miles at 10 / 11 min/mile pace - great recovery pace if that's what you're going for but for me, at this point, just a sign of how deeply I had sunk into sluggishness. ) And reader, I did it. I warmed up for 2 miles at 8:17 min/mile (good to find that pace again), then ran 5 miles at an 8:01 min/mile, before slowing down for the last 3 at a 9:03 min/mile pace. Much better - and I'm much happier.

I'm in the doldrums for a number of reasons, really - I'm worrying about my kids, worrying about the lack of direction in my life, worrying about when I'll ever get settled into my new house, worrying about all sorts of relationships in my life that aren't working terribly well at the moment - but what I'm hanging onto here is that running is good for me when all this stuff is going on. It may not be fast, and it may not be quality, but getting out there is always better than not getting out there. And before you worry about me - none of the things I am worrying about above are as troublesome, or difficult, as I sometimes think they are or as I might be making them appear. The problem, really, at the moment is my attitude and my worrying, not the people or situations I am worrying about. And as I'm unable to think these worries away, I might as well go out for a run. After which things never seem quite as difficult anymore. So Meg, you're right. Bring it on!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Feelin' funky...

Unfortunately not in a good, groovy 1979 kind of way. No I'm in a funk. Which, I guess, was bound to happen. Running-wise I've just completed 2 hard cycles of training, more or less back to back. I've run 2 marathons this year where I totally, absolutely put everything I had into the race and hit the wall physically (London) and mentally (Berlin). My motivation to train hard and well for London was fed by pulling out of the race the year before and then by increasing success in shorter races leading up to this year's race. It was one of those times where you just know you're moving away from a plateau and onto the next level and I loved it. Coming so close to a Boston qualifier was unexpected but incredibly encouraging. So for Berlin I had my goal clearly in mind. To Boston qualify. And we all know how that went.. But, as many of you pointed out - I did it. Something that I had never deemed possible became possible and in the crappiest race I've ever run I managed to run the fastest I've ever run and to achieve something that even 9 months prior to that had seemed impossible. All good stuff.

And now I've just received my Boston entry confirmation. Which is great news after all that angsting - I know you all told me not to but still I did, of course - over the 13 seconds to spare and the "unofficial" results.

So all is good. 2 marathons in one year done. PBs achieved - for 10K, for half mary (twice), for 30K (first time doing it), for 20M (first time racing it) and for full mary (twice). Job stress dealt with by resignation (hrrrmm - not ideal but had tried every other avenue) and house move partially accomplished (the next stage is not in my hands).

Not to mention a fantastic trip to California with my parents which was wonderful - they are such great company, Sequoia and Yosemite are stunning, we had such a lovely time - and then to top it all off I went to stay with the wonderful Marathon Maritza for 2 nights, met up with Tara and Aron, ran a 14 miler with Maritza and generally had a wonderful time.

happy hour at Lodgepole camp in Sequoia

my lovely parents in Kings Canyon

A bear near the General Sherman tree

My mother and I

those mornings were cold...

The view from Nevada falls

The rohos after brunch in Walnut Creek

me taking crappy pictures of Maritza and I - was it the beer?

So why am I am I feeling so bleeugrgh? Reading the above through the answer is obvious - because all the goals set earlier this year have been met, the various events I had been looking forward to have happened and I now have to start afresh... I've come back from a marvellous holiday and now have to deal with various domestic duties of varying tedium, have to pay my taxes and deal with all sorts of financial responsibilities, have only just recovered from my jet lag which had me sleepy in the day and awake at night, and have a sick child who I think has passed on her bugs to me. Uggh.

Running has been pretty haphazard since Berlin - though I initially launched into Pfitz recovery schedule with gusto it all got a bit messed up on my trip (running up the trails in Seqoia and Yosemite was very hard although I did manage to get 14M in with Maritza which was fabulous.) Overall I took the attitude that it was a good idea to not have much of a schedule for a while, before launching into it again for Boston. 5 weeks on from Berlin though I think it's time to pull myself together - if only because the rest of my life seems to flow better when I'm running. At the advice of my osteopath I'm running a 10K in early December so that I will spend November doing 2 or 3 speed sessions a week, with a hilly long run at the weekend to keep up the distance. That schedule is due to start on Monday - pray with me that this achiness and loginess I'm feeling are just the end of jetlag and not the beginning of flu.

That's it folks - nothing very inspiring, nothing very exciting. It's how I'm feeling right now though and sometimes I just need to get started again - even if it is a very unexciting blogpost - to get myself back into it. I hope your running is going well - I have hundreds of blogposts in my reader to catch up on! - and I'll be back. I think.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Moving on

So. After posting the race report I spent the next day obsessively checking and rechecking the results pages to see if the "inofficial" had changed to "official". I phoned the Berlin marathon people to ask when the results would become official (1 to 2 weeks the lady thought but she seemed utterly mystified by the urgency in my voice), I submitted my application to the BAA for a place in the Boston marathon (they need to verify the results themselves anyway and wait for them to become official yes I am going in circles here). I achieved very little else. I felt a bit sick, a bit nervous. I didn't sleep very well.

In truth, I just didn't know what to make of this race. It felt like I had run an awful race, yet I had achieved what I had set out to do - qualify for Boston. For the vast majority of the race, the first 17 miles, I felt increasingly awful. Physically, but also mentally. Normally I am a really happy racer. I wave at the crowds and in my head I am all focus. I feel that this is the day I've been training for and my mind is completely in control. It is a wonderful feeling and it puts me on a real high. In this race I just didn't feel it at all. This may be because I wasn't feeling well or was, somehow, dehydrated. But besides my physical condition, my mind became a very negative place in the course of those 17 miles. All the doubts that can plague me at 3am (along the lines of "I am really a failure, I am terrible, who am I to think that I can do this") were playing through my head. The urge to stop was enormous and while I was fighting it it was as if this awful voice in my head was telling me: "you stop. you've always been a quitter and you thought you'd got past that but you haven't. You know you want to stop. What's the point in carrying on?" Awful stuff - I know - but truly this was going through my mind and I have never felt this while I was running.

Ironically, though, what stopped this negativity was stopping. Once I'd stopped it was as if I had done that awful thing I had always been so afraid of doing. The voice switched off and it was as if the slate had been wiped clean. As I started running again with my blanket around me I knew that I might well miss my BQ. But I didn't really care. I was going to finish this race and prove that I could do that. I definitely was tired and I was definitely was not 100 %. I had negative thoughts (I vividly remember thinking, somewhere during mile 23, "I will never run again") but I could acknowledge that thought and carry on. In the last 3 miles I walked about 3 times every mile. I could see my time slipping but I really did not care. At that point I felt it was incredible I was still in the race at all. I had completely given up on the BQ - and I was, in my peculiar state, ok with that - when I suddenly realised at the 41K mark that I could still make it. By now things had been reversed in my head. I was now in a place where I couldn't imagine making my qualifying time and all of a sudden the possibility presented itself. Looking at my Garmin, my last miles were well over 9 minute miles, and then the last mile I whipped out an 8 minute miler again.

After all the turmoil I was happy when I crossed the finish line and immediately slammed on my watches (yes) to see my time (3:45:45.65). I knew how finely I had cut it, but I was happy to think I might have just made it, and even posed for a finisher's shot which I never usually bother with. Well you know all the rest - and I apologise for rehashing as much as I have.

The truth of the matter is, of course, that I wanted to BQ in full Chariots of Fire glory. In all honesty I wanted to set down a glittering, definitive BQ - not one with 13 seconds to spare. I wanted to feel the way I did in London, without falling apart at the end. This is why I was disappointed - I had achieved my goal but not as I had hoped and anticipated.

But that's where all of you came in.
You all emailed me and commented (and the lurkers phoned and Facebooked) and you were so nice to me! I wasn't sure what to feel but you were understanding and kind and complimentary and excited! Greg gave me an unintended (and therefore very valuable) compliment by sending me an email of commiseration once I'd missed the 3:40:59 cut-off (he said I looked too young to be 35. Greg! As someone who is 2 weeks away from being 38 you could NOT have me happier unless you were an official from the BAA telling me I officially have a place in next year's Boston marathon). And then, after I was nervously emailing and generally faffing about, one of you sent me the following email:

you are insane, right???????????

YOU JUST BQ'D!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHILE HAVING A CRAP DAY!!! AND WALKING??!?!

Think about that for a few seconds....

I want to hear YAY ME! (from you. not me. you know!!!)

You need to congratulate yourself!! You set a goal and woman, you DID IT! You did it while feeling bad, and wanting to quit!! THIS IS HUGE!!!

You're amazing! Think for a MINUTE about what you would have done if you'd felt good and hadn't walked! The mind boggles!!!!

And I realised she was right. Like so many things in life this race did not go as planned. But I had done what I had set out to do. And more than that - I had given up in a race (something I have always been afraid of) and then started up again. Something I did not really want to learn, but did and something to stick in my pocket in future reference.

So I have moved on. I think I have BQed, I can't imagine my time changing, but I've let it go. I'll make my plans (and have that bottle of champagne) when I hear from the BAA (either way..). And I'm not running the Bizz Johnson. In part because, let's face it, I know myself well enough to know that I would try to run a better race than Berlin. And I also know that running another marathon hard, 3 weeks after a previous one, is possibly not a great idea. I am going to save my legs (and knees) for Boston. But also because, by not detouring to Susanville for 3 days, I can go on a bigger road (and hiking and camping) trip with my parents. So often running comes first for me, and I don't regret that or apologise for it, but 3 weeks after a marathon I am going to choose my family. And after a week of wilderness (Sequoia National Park, Sierra National Forest, Yosemite National Park and then some wine tasting around Lodi) I am driving to the Bay Area to stay with the wonderful Maritza and meet up with as many Rohos as I can fit into 48 hours. Eating, drinking, talking, running - it's going to be hard but I think I can do it.

And I'm back on the road yes - faithfully working through Pfitzinger's 6 week recovery plan. I'm erring on the side of caution and rest - if I'm not feeling it I'm not running - but this week has been good. 5 milers have brought the pleasure back pretty quickly.

See you soon, good night and thank you. From the bottom of my heart - thank you.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I started writing this post this morning and just deleted everything I had written. It was just too boring and pointless. Let me set the scene for you very briefly and then dig into the meat of the matter..

Trip to Berlin went fine, snag was that SuperSal's luggage went missing so she had to get new racekit at the expo (she had her running shoes on during the journey as per previous advice from me apparently - the wisdom comes and goes and is, in any case, forgotten by me). Berlin was warm and congested, hotel fine, pasta dinner slow to come but delicious, glass of red wine seemed to allow me to sleep much better than before London (ie I slept this time).

Sunday morning, bright, warm and early, we headed to the start which was a 20 minute walk from our hotel through a beautiful park. The start area was fairly well organised, and though I had been seeded in a pen ahead of Sally (don't understand why as she is faster than I am) I was able to drop down into hers. The gun went off at 9am and about 9 minutes later we crossed the start mats. Within about 100 metres I felt one of the soft insoles, which I had tucked into my shorts, drop out. The right one. The one that I felt I might need. I couldn't go back for it though and so we carried on. The course was incredibly congested. It's a big race - 44000 entrants - and, unlike London, there is only one starting area. For the first 10 miles or so Sally and I were weaving and dodging to stay on pace. And the first 10 miles sped past pretty quickly. Right from the get-go we went out at a pace I would describe as "comfortably hard". Had a salt tab after 30 mins, my first gel (Hammer Espresso) at 1 hour. We passed the half marathon mark at 1:48, still well on target for a 3:40 finish. And then - I don't know. All through the first half of the race thoughts like "I'm not enjoying this" had been popping into my mind and I was trying to pop them. Then by mile 14 I noticed that I was feeling really nauseous, cold and shivery despite the fact that the temps were really warming up - it must have been around 23 / 24 degrees Celcius by now. I pulled over for a second and tried to be sick. No go. I told Sally who pep talked me. By 16 I told her that I felt my wheels were coming off. More pep talk. And then at mile 17 I saw a medical tent and made the snap decision to head in. Sally was shocked but by the time she registered I had gone off. I went in and said to the two women there "I am so cold. What is the matter with me?" They were completely unhelpful, said they had no idea and handed me a paper blanket. I sat down on a chair for a minute and then, all of a sudden (it was a day of impulse decisions, clearly) I thought no - this is not going to be a DNF. I said goodbye to the Boston Qualifier but I knew that, one way or the other, I could finish this thing. And so I got out of my chair and got back on the road, with my blanket around me. I ran with the blanket for another mile or so until I felt better and all of a sudden I felt okay again. I walked for a minute every mile, then walked in between as well. I got to the 40K mark and walked, got to the 41K mark and then - all of a sudden - I saw the finish and realised that if I pegged it I might just be able to run in under 3:45:59 - the cut-off. So I pegged it - and I did. 3:45:46 according to the chip time that has been emailed to friends and family... I walked through the finish chute not knowing whether to laugh or to cry - I thought I had probably BQ'ed but I also had the worst race I've ever had. Very strange. As I walked out towards the exit - I had made no plans to meet with Sally or her husband as we had never planned not to finish together and I had left no luggage - I suddenly collapsed to the ground with calf cramps. It was like I had been shot in the calves and hurt like hell. Various runners who were lying on the grass around me resting after the race came to my rescue and as I lay on my back on the ground. 2 men very kindly stretched and pulled my feet until I could get up again. Not the most glamorous of positions to find yourself in but by that stage I was totally beyond caring. They helped me up and I thanked them and just carried on walking. I really can't describe how I felt - I wasn't happy or sad, just relieved that it was over. I picked up my free alcoholfree beer (hmmm - not what I would have asked for but it was fluid) and just ambled back to my hotel where I freed my luggage from storage and could finally contact Sally to tell her I was okay and at the hotel.

Again - I'll spare you the details of the blow-by-blow - showered, changed, airport, flight, airport, McDonalds, flight, drive, home. Where my husband was waiting, super excited as he was confident that I had Boston qualified (he'd gone straight onto the BAA website and checked for the times and seen the 59 seconds grace period note). Bad night's sleep - adrenalin finally kicking in? - and here I am on the day after. My legs are sore, my back is chafed from the one insole I did run round the course with (what was I thinking?) but otherwise, I'm intact..

So how do I think about this race? Was it a success? I went out to Boston qualify - a goal that seemed utterly unachievable 9 months ago and, bearing in mind that the results are not yet official, it looks like I have. Or was it a failure? I lost the plot. Something went wrong physically - nausea is not an unusual feeling but I had it very early on in the race, straight after having my gels (which I've used all summer). I may have had heatstroke - the shivering and goosebumps was very strange. Though again, I've run in far warmer conditions. But more than anything else, I wasn't feeling. Normally when I run a race I am just full of it. Annoyingly so. Grinning, positive, driven - all these things. In London I relentlessly pushed a pace I had not run before and carried this on right up until I absolutely could no longer do it. Here I gave up. I was feeling quite blah for the first bit, hanging on mentally for the next few miles and then I just gave up. I thoughts things like "I don't ever want to run again". And yet. And yet I also got up off my chair at the medical tent. And got myself back in there. Looking at my pace on the Garmin, that slow mile with the medical stop was followed by an 8:19 mile. Pace wise I didn't really slow down until mile 23 when I started running plus 9 minute miles. Did I go out too fast? I think so. Sally was gunning for 3:35, I was gunning for 3:40. I should have let her go. However, had I not swooshed through the first half so quickly, I would not have slipped under the 3:45:59 mark. And then - I wish I could have found whatever I found at the 41K mark just a bit sooner. That last half mile was run at an 8:04 pace..

Or was it just a case of a bad day? I've had those in training, but never in races. Will it happen again? I guess if I keep racing, probably it will. At some point.

More to the point - what now? I have submitted my application to the BAA. But the Berlin results, so far, are classed as inofficial and according to the kind lady at the SCC Real Berlin office I spoke to this morning it will be another week or two before they are confirmed as official. I can't really imagine my time changing - the time I have is a chip time recorded on their website and on all the status updates. But I only have 13 seconds to play with so I'm not celebrating yet..

I wish that I had been able to qualify more conclusively. If I had a 3:43 in the bag I wouldn't be so worried. I also wish I had run a better, more consistent race. On the other hand - who knows what will happen? I may not run this fast again, for whatever reason. If I get a place in Boston, I think I will take it.

Finally - do I run Bizz Johnson, for which I'm registered, in 20 days? Why would I run it? To get rid of this awful feeling that I somehow failed. To run 26.2 fairly consistent miles. To run a good race. Perhaps - to Boston qualify more conclusively. On the other hand - what if I have another bad day? What if I run a worse race?

You can sense where I'm at. All over the place. Not sure where to go or what to do. Send me some wisdom peeps - I know you have your thoughts and opinions and I would like to have them.

And finally finally - thank you all of you who sent me texts, emails and messages of support, commiseration and congratulation. You are incredible. Truly.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Follow me!

The amazing Greg - who has just blasted his previous PR with a "bat out of hell / contained madness" pace - has found the email / SMS results service for the Berlin marathon. Bad news is you only get half marathon / finish times. Good news is they will let you sign up foreign phone numbers which is rare. For those of you who don't succeed I will try to update Facebook as soon as possible. See you on the flipside of 26.2 miles!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Who's the dumb*ss?

Well - that would be me. Because I am the idiot who insisted on running a 30K race without checking out the course profile. Because I did not amend my race strategy when I realised that it was an entirely different race from the one I ran so successfully and confidence-boostingly (bear with me with this lack of grammar, I'm on a roll here) in London in March (extremely hilly instead of flat, on trails instead of roads). Because I kept thinking I could hit a sub 9 mile pace in it. WHAT WAS I THINKING? I wasn't is the answer. Thinking. I didn't think until at mile 17 it felt like someone was hitting the bottom of my left kneecap with a hammer. And I had to struggle in.

Since then my knee has bothered me. It has improved - weekly sessions with Jonathan have loosened the tightness in my quads and improved the tracking of my kneecap. It was never terrible - nothing like my knee pain last year when I could feel it coming down the stairs. I felt it in the last miles of my 16 miler a week ago. Nothing that stopped me, but it was there. After 3 months off orthotics, I have started wearing them again and this week's 12 miler went fine - no pain.

But what it has done is made me nervous. Everything else is looking good. I have been going through my average paces and workouts in my last training cycle and my average paces are up. What felt hard last time is comfortable now. My VO2 pace has gone up (or down - whatever - I'm faster) and my long run pace is a lot faster. I haven't missed many runs in this cycle and found them easier than I did the first time around.

I'm just nervous about my left knee. I took out my orthotics some time ago because in the space of a few days the orthotic on my right foot really started to hurt my arch. I was fine without and just carried on and have only started wearing them again, on and off, since I hurt my knee. I think I probably should wear them in the race but I'm terrified of what might happen if I suddenly develop this pain in my right arch. Right now - and I know this is completely mad but perhaps you'll understand - I'm thinking of taking 2 soft insoles with me tucked into my fuelbelt so that should my arch suddenly become unbearably painful I can take my orthotics out and put my soft insoles in. Kind of insane I know but it might just put my mind to rest. Hrmmm.

Or is all of this just taper madness? To an extent. Or just general madness. Plenty of that going around too.

Otherwise, however - thank you! You guys! What a response to my previous post! What an amazing bunch of friends I have in the running community (and all you lurkers out there - I can see you!) and what a point to prove about what running has brought to my life. Thank you so much - all your comments made me feel very virtually hugged. Wonderful. Can't wait to meet each and every one of you one day out running.

And that's what I'm trying to keep hold of right now. I run because I love it - and I truly do. Not always, not all the time, but most of the time I love it. I have trained hard for Berlin and really would dearly love to BQ. I'm thinking positive thoughts and visualising and all that good stuff. However, however, however - I also want to be okay with it if it doesn't happen. I even want to stop kicking myself for being such a dumb*ss. There's little point in it anyway..

So that leaves me here children. 3 days to go. Last run done yesterday morning (7 miles with 2 at RP - well kinda) and I've decided to ignore the 5 miler Pfitz wants me to do on Friday and the 4 miler he wants me to do on Saturday. I'm going to keep the juice in the box now. Sunday morning, 9 am, let's see if I can use my "bat out of hell" strategy again. I'm not sure whether you can track me - my bib number is F1864 - so far I've not managed to find a tracking website.

I'm going to run this thing. And then I will let you know all about it. I promise!

Saturday, August 29, 2009


On the whole, I tend to think of myself as a fairly even-tempered person. Well - that's not entirely true. I tend to veer moor towards one or the other extreme but still - I tend to operate within a band of emotion which is, by and large, moderate. Acceptable, I think. However, from time to time I get totally and completely riled. Utterly.

Over the course of this summer this has happened more often than before. For reasons I shall not bore you with I have recently come in for a larger than usual share of personal criticism. Thankfully not from my husband (or even my children..) but nonetheless. And let me say this upfront - I'm not terribly good at taking criticism. Much better at giving than taking it. However, I am trying to be grown-up about it and to stay calm (serenity now, serenity now). I'm taking it away and trying to work out whether it is true and fair criticism and, if so, if there is anything I can or should do about it. Again I won't bore with what I have been told are my various faults (highlights are that I am, apparently, not terrible sociable, and I am, apparently, occasionally bad-tempered). All fairly subjective criticisms as well, I realise, and I do not take all of it on board.

But then, yesterday, another missile was lobbed at me. Apparently - "and another thing" - I am addicted to running. It's wearing me out and affecting my life and that of those around me negatively. I blame it on the papers: 2 weeks ago this article appeared in the Telegraph and various other papers and since then lots of people have quoted the contents to me. I've tended to just make light of it, and haven't really gone into it. But last night it did rile me.

And why does it irritate me? Well, firstly, I guess, because I don't think it's true. I imagine the research quoted in the article is scientifically accurate, but I don't think that I exercise excessively. Marathon training is intense, but I know plenty of other "normal" people who do it, and many who exercise a great deal more than I do. I don't suffer from anorexia athletica (jeez have you seen me lately?). And when I don't run - like a week ago, when I had to take 5 days off - I did not display "symptoms like those seen in addicts: trembling, writhing, teeth chattering, and drooping eyelids". Good lord.

But what I really don't think is true is that my running affects a) my family and b) my life negatively. I polled the only person who matters in this respect, Adam (my kids would love it if I devoted every waking moment to them so I'm not going to check in with them) and he confirmed that, and I quote "your running does not affect my life negatively in any way and I am very proud of your achievements". I make a considerable effort to ensure that my running rarely takes place at a time when it could affect my family - 80% of it takes place before 8am.

So the final topic to stew on - does it affect my life negatively? The criticiser claimed that I was "always tired" as a result of my running. I'm not. Yes - when I run a 20 miler at 6am I am no longer fresh as a daisy by 9pm. But believe me, it's the rest of my life (2 kids, house, a pile of responsibilities) that tires me out. I have always woken early and gone to bed early (I have just checked and confirmed this with my mother, source of most truths) and this fits in with my running. Thinking things through I would say that the only thing that is sacrificed for my running is watching TV and frequent late night revelling. Without a hint of sanctimoniousness and with, indeed some regret, I don't watch any TV. I tend to use my evenings to catch up on things in my life - friends, books, washing, tidying, etc. I miss the series I would like to watch. But - it's not a big regret. And as for frequent late night revelling - I never was able to keep up with the big kids for very long and, occasionally, I can still bust out a great party night. All the more enjoyable for being a bit more rare...

Fundamentally I am upset by this criticism because I love running and what it has done for my life and I am upset to think that something that makes me so happy could be considered such a bad thing by others. It has not only helped me lose weight that I had carried for over 10 years. It has not only toned me and strengthened me. But it has also served as an enormously healthy way of dealing with stress and tension. It continues to give me an enormous sense of achievement, every day. And it has given me friends and social networks - running buddies near and far - and goals to work towards. The gains, in short, have been enormous.

What are your thoughts? How does your family feel about the time you devote to running? Do you feel you miss out on things because of it?

Ok. Rant over.

Finally - it's taper time. 3 weeks till Berlin. The knee is getting better - Jonathan said it was a typical fell runner's injury (hardcore, but still undesirable) and is working on loosening the quads and minimising the swelling. I feel fairly confident that Jonathan, and time and taper, will get my knee healed before Berlin. I've been icing after runs, and only felt my knee slightly in the last (downhill) miles of yesterday's 20 miler. Nonetheless, I got her in in 2:53 which gives me confidence for the big race in 3 weeks. Hope everyone's running is going well. I am YEARS behind on commenting on your blogs but intend to catch up next week!

Monday, August 17, 2009


You may recall that before London I ran 3 long races - the Stamford 30K, the Ashby 20 miler and a 20 mile race in London. At the last one I came in in 2:54, feeling strong and ready for the marathon.

This time round the long distance races were harder to find. In fact, the only one I could find that was fairly near (75 miles) was the Belper Rugby Rover 30K. And so, without much investigation or information, I signed up for it. And made SuperSal sign up for it as well. SuperSal was worried that I would take off like a rocket and so wasn't sure about running it but I assured her that my strategy was to 9 minute mile it. Secretly I thought that if we were feeling strong by mile 15 we could then kick in the 8:10s if we wanted to. Well har-dee-har-har. Pride comes before fall and all that malarkey.

We arrived well before time and fiddled about with race numbers etc. More or less at 930 about 400 of us set off. Within half a mile of a start we came to a standstill several times - we all had to wedge through a variety of little gates and this caused quite the tailback. Still, it's a good idea to start slow and I didn't think much of it. However, once through the gate it dawned on me. Oh. This was a cross country 30K. That is, off-road. And so it was. A single track along fields led to a stile (the first of SO many) and then off we were. Or rather up we were. Derbyshire is hilly and we had to go up the first hill. And not on a road, remember? So just through the grassy fields up the hill. And on. An on. Stony and root-covered trails were followed by more fields. I stumbled and fell at about 2M not hurting anything. I thought. By mile 7 we had reached our 2nd waterstop and we were at the bottom of a very high and steep hill. My heart sank. By mile 8.5 we had walked / run up most of this hill, climbed over dozens of stiles or little gaps in stone walls between fields (very rustic I know - but I wasn't really focusing on that aspect of things) and I was seriously contemplating a DNF. Berlin is flat. I don't need these horrible hills, not to mention the stupid fields, the cowpats, the gnarly trails. None of it. However, we were in the milddle of nowhere and the only way on was up. So up we went.

And then, almost out of nowhere, at mile 17 I was greeted by my nemesis. Knee pain! No! I haven't had this at all. And now suddenly, out of nowhere, here it was. I tried to stretch but this shot cramps into my calves and hamstrings. Walking was fine, but running hurt. I stopped and started, and eventually got back to a slow and not terribly painful pace. I came through, tired and demoralised, at 3:19. 3:19! That's 10:49 min/mile...

Thank god for Sally. She talked me through, didn't complain about her own footpain, and was very sympathetic about my knee. Not only that. After the shower (which was wonderful) and wedging myself into my new compression tights, Sally's husband Bob got a camping stove going in the back of his car and made us tea and bacon and eggs. Wonderful. Delicious. What a demoralised girl needs.

And then I drove home to my husband to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary. And watch Usain Bolt power his way to a 100m win. And watch Jessica Ennis finally win gold.

This week is my second silver-bullet week - my son is going to hospital in London today and my mother and I will be staying down there with him. I always knew running might be hard, and given yesterday I think some time off might be the best thing for me. I'm not, at this stage, too worried about my knee. I think it was the hills, and in particular the screaming downhills, which did it. I suspect that, just like with skiing, my quad is enormously tight and will need loosening. As I can't see Jonathan my osteopath until next Monday I will take it easy this week. Take the beginning of the week off, see where I am Wednesday / Thursday for an easy 5 miler.

Finally, here's the profile of the race as posted on their website. As part of their logo. I should have paid more attention ...

Monday, August 10, 2009

holiday running...

For the past 4 years or so I have had an autumn marathon on the schedule and so my summer holidays have fallen in my training cycles. In 2005 (New York City), 2006 (Chicago), 2007 (Amsterdam) and 2008 (Chicago) I trained with the Hal Higdon plan and I tended to just either play it loosey goosey on holidays (tried, sorta, kinda to get my runs in) or I extended my training program overall with 2/3 weeks so that I could more or less take the holidays off. This year, however, my training changed. I took on the Pfitz, I became a lot stronger and a lot more dedicated to my running. This has taken, and continues to take, big mental leaps for me - taking myself remotely seriously as an athlete is a complete change from how I used to see myself. Going from someone who is pleased to finish races (and amazes friends by even competing) to holding myself accountable to certain paces and expecting some improvements and results as a result means putting myself out there. Put simply, over time my goal has gone from just competing to working hard and doing the best I can.

Sooooo - how does this work when a holiday falls in the middle of it all? I did not want to take 2 weeks of from running during our family holiday to Greece this year. However, I also did not want to affect everyone else's holiday by the demands of my taskmaster, the Pfitz. So I pfutzed it a bit. I added 2 weeks onto the 12 week schedule (so started 14 weeks in advance of Berlin). While in Greece I ran one week on schedule (my first week, the 55 miler) and used one of my wild-card weeks. For this week I ran the schedule for week 7 which is a step-back week (42M - the Pfitz knows how to chill). And well - you know how it went. I got the runs in, though quality was absent. Instead, it was all about just getting them done. I had hoped that, once I was home I would spring right back into my workouts but that has not proved the case. I had 9M with 4M at lactate threshold pace due on Sunday morning but whether it was the day of traveling beforehand, or the anticipation of everything I had to do for my 6 1/2 year old's birthday party, I just couldn't do it. I ran 2 miles to warm up and then managed 2.95M at 7:54 min/mile before collapsing in a heap. Obviously very disappointing but the first run of this training cycle that has had to go by the wayside.. I guess it happens.

I appear to have come back from my holiday with tired legs. Whether it was all that running in sand (man, how I hate that however pretty it looks) or the running in the heat, I don't think I've quite recovered. Also, my nutrition was not top notch - complex carbs were hard to come by - the only carbs I could take were white bread which doesn't really fit the ticket. Since coming home I've been trying to redress the balance and I think I'm getting back on track. My 8M with 5x600m at 5K pace (7:26, 7:18, 7:43, 7:06 and 6:54 min/mile pace) went well last night and this morning's recovery of 4M felt good. It's a busy week ahead with 11M tomorrow morning, 10M on Thursday morning (with 4M at lactate threshold - I want to get those LT miles in) and then a 20M race on Sunday. Yes! I've found one. Unfortunately it's a tough one - the Belper Rugby Rover is a cross country race with hills, mud, trails, sheep and cows.. Apparently the 20 miles are as tough as a flat marathon. However, it will just be good to get some more race training in. Plus I'm doing it with SuperSal so I'm going to have to have a word with her about pacing. She'll be bounding up those hills at 7:10 min/miles before we know it. Then next week I'm doing using my second silver bullet week as my son will be in hospital in London for an operation and I'm not sure how much running I can get in. I'm going to try to do the stepback week schedule again but will have to see how the land lies..

Wow my posts are so boring these days aren't they? Life is pretty crazy busy outside of running and so my brain is on the frizz. Lots of other people (I am catching up on your blogs, I promise) appear to be suffering with a case of the blahs and I think I've picked up a mild case myself. However - I promise to HTFU and just get on with it. And maybe wit and entertainment will make a reappearance?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Humble pie

For my first few marathons the 20 mile runs in my schedule were the big, big mountains in my training. They were the runs I dreaded, the ones I felt I had to get right in order to feel confident about my training and upcoming race. Then, last training cycle I ran both of my 20 milers as races. This both improved my times (considerably) and made them more fun and less of a big deal. Also, the Pfitzinger program has so many relatively long runs and big training weeks. For whatever reason, I was feeling quite seasoned and I no longer felt any fear about doing my first 20 miler of this cycle while on holiday in Greece.

But this long run proved a fickle mistress.. I had gone to bed early the night before, leaving the rest of my family to have their night out and instead staying in to eat pasta and drink water. I got up at 530 am to beat the heat, but found, upon being outside, that it was still dark. Greek drivers have to be seen to be believed, so I dared not venture out before daylight. So I headed to the treadmill for my first 2 miles. By then it was light enough (and I was fed up enough) to head out. Strike one - for the first time ever my Garmin acted up. 1 minute into my run the autolap feature told me I'd run a mile. Dang! I started panicking - how was I going to measure out a 20 miler in a new territory without the Garmin? However, I managed somehow to restart the thing and off I went. I had run 12 earlier in the week so the first 6 miles were not too hard, though I felt no pace in my legs. I could feel I had the (still mild) wind in my back and, all in all, it was not going too badly. And then, very suddenly, I ran out of road. The track which follows the coastline, simply stopped. So I waded across the sand and ran the next 2 miles along the beach, right along the shoreline. Although this was the best (most packed) surface, the camber was very steep and, of course, I mistimed my steps and managed to wet both feet. I was getting thoroughly fed up by this stage. I decided 2 miles out along the beach was enough (was, by this stage, getting 12:30 minute miles) and so turned around. 2 miles back was worse as the wind was now picking up (the kitesurfers were already setting up at 7am so that tells you something) and I now got sand in my face as well. Great. Back on the track things improved a bit - at least the surface underfoot was better) but the wind was now getting very strong. I sucked down an espresso Hammergel and headed out on a 1 mile out and back up and down a hill road to add the extra 2 miles I had missed by only heading out 8 miles to begin with) and then started on the way back. What can I say? It was horrible. It was really hot, really windy and just a constant struggle. In my 20 milers for London I had run great races and now I felt like I was just back to square one - struggling to get under 10 minute miles. I didn't. My overall time for the run was 3:26.

I don't think it's my fitness. All my runs for the past few weeks have gone very well and I've not struggled at all with any of the set paces. I think it was purely the very unpleasant circumstances of the environment. But nonetheless it was humbling. I thought I would just slip this long run in. And I didn't. It took every ounce of mental strength I possessed to just carry on and drag myself through this run. Probably a good thing to just regain a little respect for the distance and the effort. Not to mention for all those pals of mine who train in the heat all the time.

Finally - here is a photo I took along the way. It convey nothing of the unpleasantness and makes it all look rather lovely. Maybe it's my attitude that needs changing and nothing else..

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gearing up, heading out and going naked

I’ve been blaming my lack of posts in the past 10 months on work. However, now that work has, for the time being, disappeared out of my life, I’ve been posting even less. Thinking about it this morning while I was pounding out 10 painful miles on the treadmill (of which more later) I realised that the main reason my posts have been further and fewer between is because of the demands of my training program. I am too busy running to write about it.. This does not seem to affect other Pftitzionados I know (and I am hereby, officially, coining this phrase – feel free to use and distribute) like Aron, Tara and Maritza but in my case, this is what seems to happen.
So, another post, another excuse. At least it’s a different one.

Since giving up work about 4 weeks ago things have not stopped. My daughter and then my son started their summer holidays, tax returns were due and then our old flat in London (vestige of our previous life which we rent out) was vacated by our tenants and my husband and I spent a week dealing with the revolting state our tenants had left it in. An ongoing project but thankfully it has been interrupted by our summer holiday, booked way back in February when it was freezing and cold and all I could think about was getting some heat. Well I’ve found it.

I will be uploading this post from the island of Naxos, in Greece. We are staying in a lovely hotel 10 minutes from the beach and have, so far, spent our days either by the pool or at the beach. Reading, building sandcastles, swimming – it has been absolutely wonderful to switch off. It is hot – very hot – and saved only by the breeze, well wind, that blows across the entire Cycladic chain of islands in summer. And yes, I have been getting my runs in. 12M on Tuesday was run along the coast as an out and back. 5 yesterday was not too taxing but I was dreading this morning’s 12. It was a V02 workout with 7M at halfmarathon / 15K pace. The roads are fine to run on but dusty and sandy – not at all great for speedwork – and the wind makes your speeds differ widely, depending on whether it is in your back on or in your face. So I decided to go for it on the hotel’s treadmill in its very bare gym. This being continental Europe, all the treadmills are in kms but Pfitz has helpfully started incorporating some km distances into his schedules. So I warmed up for 2K and then ran 12K at 11.5 km/h pace. Which I think is sort of the right pace. Hard to work out. It didn’t feel too painful so it was probably not quite fast enough. On the other hand I find doing any distances on the treadmill psychologically incredibly difficult so it was probably best to pitch it conservatively. I then had 5K more to run and have to admit defeat – after a cooldown of 2K I had had enough. I just cannot bear these things! Being on it for nearly 90 minutes was just about the hardest thing I’ve done in this training cycle. I find it so boring, find myself counting down the distances to the nearest 10th, and am just running and waiting for it to be over. Anyway – I’m not beating myself up too much for the >2M I missed – I ran those on Monday anyway on the treadmill at the airport hotel – and tomorrow is my first 20 miler of this training cycle so it’s not bad thing to cut things a bit shorter today. I’m taking a leaf out of all Roho’s books here – I’m going to start this run at 5:20am so I can get most of it in before the sun gets really serious.

Changing the topic, I was going to do a post on all my new gear, gearing up for Berlin. There is finally a Hammer distributor in the UK and so I placed a big order for espresso (nutella) gels and some small packets of the various different drinks etc. that they sell. However, it appears the distributor has a pretty iffy computer connection and my delivery took about 2 weeks to arrive. I was going to take a photo of all my new food and my new shoes and tights, but I got fed up with waiting and started using it all. So you’ll just have to believe me when I tell you that I’ve bought a new pair of Asics Gel Nimbus 11s which I am slowly wearing in and that my mother has treated me to a pair of serious compression tights which I’m hoping to start using in September and will certainly be wearing on the plane home from Berlin (as I’m basically crossing the finish, pulling on my tights and then getting on a plane)…

As for going naked you will be relieved to hear that this has nothing to do with my ass injury – and that’s all fine now thank you – but rather has to do with my orthotics. Those of you who have been working their way through this blog for a while know I was really injured last year and tried every possible thing to get over it. One of the things I did was go to see a podiatrist and, of course, I was prescribed custom orthotics. Has anyone ever gone to see a podiatrist and not come back with (screamingly expensive) custom orthotics? Anyhow I have been wearing these things for well over a year now, training and racing, but about 5 weeks ago I started to notice that I was really feeling them in my shoes. Then I went out for a long run and found I could not run with them at all – they really hurt my feet. Of course I did not have the original insoles in my shoes anymore so I had to bail on that run. At home, I found some insoles and started running, tentatively, without my orthotics. Would the sky fall? It didn’t. 5 weeks on and I’m running free of my orthotics. I bought some new insoles and haven’t looked back. Speaking to my osteopath about this he thinks it is because my legs are so much stronger than last year and I just don’t need that kind of support anymore. I’ve saved the orthotics but hope never to have to use them again…

Which brings me to the end of an exceptionally boring post. Sorry about that. I wanted to update you on my life and training and, for once, there isn’t too much going on. Just getting my miles in and letting things come at me – for once… The peace won't last so get ready to catch me when I next panic!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Playing catch-up

Where to begin?

I haven’t blogged for nearly 3 weeks and I find myself not knowing where to start. Running? Just running? Or all the other craziness that is going on in my life?

In the past 3 weeks I have moved house – we've moved next door in anticipation of a house switch with my in-laws – and have quit my job – or at least , as a freelancer, quit working for the employer who was providing me with the vast majority of my work. One of my children has started her 9 week (9 week!) summer vacation and my other is about to start his 7 week vacation. All this to explain my absence from the blogosphere. I was – gasp – even off-line there for about a week.

But I’ve been running. Oh have I been running. The week of the move – which was, of course, also the week that my work got so on top of me that I decided I really had to quit working this job – was not a good running week. When I wasn’t working I was carrying boxes out of my old house into my new house (we’ve moved next door, remember, so everyone reasoned we did not need removal men…). I ran 15 out of the recommended 35m and briefly contemplated a do-over week – I have given myself 14 weeks for the 12 week program so that, if needed through life, injury or illness I can have a do-over week – but decided against it. I LOVE do-overs but they have a habit of getting in the way of just-getting-on-with-its and so, as always in the spirit of the opposite of me – I decided to carry on. And sure enough – week 3 and 4 of training have been completed happily. It’s Sunday evening and I’m writing this after a 48m week. Pfitz’s revised edition has a slight r&r week this week which my legs are ready for but otherwise – onwards and upwards.

So the facts of my running are good. I’m getting the slow miles in, but also the faster ones. I managed my 16M with 10M at 8:16 which I was pleased with. I wedged in a 10K in which I placed 8th out of 60 women – not bad for a distance I hate!

As for my life – ah well. It struck me, while out on a run yesterday that those areas of my life where I have such low expectations of myself – i.e running – are those areas where I persist and do well, and where I gain a great deal of satisfaction. I also never anticipated being married or a mother, and while I would not – by any stretch – consider myself remotely perfect mother or wife material, again the lack of expectation on my own part means that I don’t generally think I do a terrible job.

The area where I have always had high expectations of myself, however, is my career. And there, I’m afraid, I have never really been much of a success. At least, not by own standards. Although I did well at school and university, I never felt I really ever hit the sweet spot – found that thing that really worked for me. And in my jack of all trades career since things have carried on in that vein. I am trying not to talk about how others view my job or career – because some of the things I have done may have sounded prestigious, and I have rarely been terrible at a job. But neither have I ever hit on professional satisfaction – a sense that I had found my place and the direction to follow.

This sounds like a complaint and it is not. I know that when I need to go out there and earn some money I can do that. Whether I make coffee or write copy – I can do that.

But I am reaching a stage in my life where I think I perhaps need to adjust my view of myself. In my teens and twenties I thought I would be a highly professionally successful, single woman, living somewhere like New York City. Instead, I am happily married, mother of 2 children, living in the English countryside. Sports never even featured as an ambition in my life as I was just too incompetent – and now my passion is running. Perhaps I am not the person I thought I was. And I need to think about the person I actually am? And maybe by being more honest about what I am, rather than what I think I am, or used to think I would be, I will be more able to find some professional satisfaction?

All very deep thoughts on a Sunday night, after a long week. But Pfitz has me running long, and a lot. And I have killed another iPod, so thoughts like these are occupying me at the moment..

In the meantime, I have the summer ahead of me, training for Berlin and Bizz Johnson, going on holiday to Greece (lots of early morning / late evening running to avoid the heat) and Holland (wonderful, beautiful woodland trail running). Perhaps all those miles will give me the opportunity to gain some insight into my muddled head.

I will leave you all with a list inspired by Oprah the Great. This I know for sure:
- iPods are not waterproof. They don’t like being washed in a washing machine. They don’t even like being stuck inside a sweaty running bra when you forget your iPod carrier.
- Running with your family is great. I made my whole family – husband, mother-in-law, and two kids come out with me to my 10K on Tuesday and we all raced – the kids in a fun-run and Adam and I in the 10K. We all loved it, despite some troubles with the fun-run on my son’s part – and my daughter won second place, a great running shirt (which she is refusing to give to me) and everyone got inspired.
- Moving house is a pain in the behind.
- You think you’re very essential to help make things happen. You leave the place you think you’re essential to and the sky doesn’t fall. 2 weeks later, everyone is coping fine without you.
- Running is the best.
I’m back in the game peeps – back onto your blogs and comments and all. Thanks for waiting around!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Week 1 - in the bag?

Well Pfitz and I are back at it again. Like any intense relationship, I think a temporary separation was a good thing. Running easy miles, at my own pace, was good for me. But before hooking up with him again, this time, I prepared myself for him. I was ready for him. In the weeks leading up to the beginning of my 14 week Pfitzinger training plan (12 + 2 weeks for life getting in the way) I ramped up my mileage and my tempo runs and, to be honest, our first week together was less demanding than the fortnight before we reunited. However. However. As you know - we are now in the middle of moving house. I had a ball to go to which required a late night, dancing in high heels and a stay away from home (well, required, but you know). And work just never stops stressing me out. So the first week, was, well a bit of a struggle. I bought a new version of the Pfitzinger Advanced Marathoning as I had been told he's changed his plans a bit. I haven't had time to read it but yes he has. He's introduced doubles. Running twice in a day. Good lord that is a challenge. Fitting one run in is something but two! So I promptly missed the first double. Then I had 5 easy to run which I ran on a hilly path with a heck of a hangover - not much of a recovery run, more of a punishment run. But I doubt the Pfitz approves of dancing in high heels and drinking champagne so this was his way of telling me to get back on the wagon.. And then I had 13 to run on Sunday. But Sunday I moved furniture and - stuff, SO MUCH stuff - all day. Up and down stairs. I was going to run at 9pm but I was finished. Done for. In the bath, soothing my aching muscles, I perused Advanced Marathoning to see if he would let me off the hook. No such luck. "There's really no excuse for outside commitments to regularly interfere with your marathon preparation". Cheers Petey. Guess I'm off out tomorrow morning. So in the tradition of truly hardcore runners like the ROHOs I set off at 5am with an empty stomach. I only got 9M in. I was running slowly (running on empty man!) and had a big, full day ahead at work and home - I had to be in the house again by 6:30am. All day this bothered me. So when I got home, stressed and ratty, guess what I did? Yup I went out and ran the other 4. Yes this is not what Pete wanted. He wanted me to run the last 8M at marathon pace. But you know what Pete? It's been a hard week.

However, on the upside - we are nearly done. By Friday I think I will be moved - temporarily. There is an 0ff-putting pile of boxes in storage and still amazing amounts of just - stuff - to be moved - but the big ticket stuff has been done. And there have been some true highlights. I found a handbag I was so upset at losing that I allowed myself to be hypnotised to try to find it. (that didn't work - duh.) I found a dress I saw recently in a sale and wished I had bought in my size - guess what? I did! It was hanging in my wardrobe all this time... I am SUCH a ditz.

We're camping out for a few months, wedged together with my in-laws (that conjures up a pretty picture hey?) but little need to worry about my house. I can just go out running. So watch out for me peeps - I intend to get back on the blogging, commenting and generally being present wagon. Till soon!

Finally - I've been so bad at most things recently - friendships, prioritising, blogging, being-on-the-wagon - that it just drops into the ocean of my failures but I haven't posted any photos recently. So here's a recent photo of me in my new running gear after a 10M run. Forgive the hideous house I posed in front of.