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.