Sunday, October 31, 2010

I need your help.

Folks - I need your help.

This past week has NOT been a great training week. Apart from my first workout of the week (1o min warmup then 10 x 400M at 13.7 km/h, followed by 10 min cooldown) the rest of the week was tough. I was meant to do 5M at 8:15 min/mile on Wednesday. Went out into the park in London (we went down for a few days for the half-term holiday) and gave up after 2.5 miles. It was too hard - I just couldn't hold onto the pace. Thursday morning I got out there again and ran the 5M at 8:12 min/mile pace, without stopping once. Much better. Not easy - but I felt so much more accomplished. Driving home from London on Friday I decided to do my 15M on the treadmill at the gym - the weather was horrible and very windy and I was meant to stick to an 8:40 min/mile. Well - another fail. I think I managed 2.5 km before I gave up. The will to live people! I could NOT do it. So I thought I would go for a swim in the pool and do my routine of 250m warmup (100m kickboard, 100m kickboard with 2x5m acceleration each length, 50m slow freestyle) and then my freestyle pyramid exercise (50m breathing every 2 strokes, 50m breathing ever 3 strokes and so on till 7 and then back down again). But another fail! I just could not manage the long intervals - I would come up gasping for air! I am struggling with this breathing out under water business - I just seem to keep swallowing water. So I headed home, tail between my legs. Saturday morning I was at the gym, bright and early, ready to tackle that beast again. I had, by now, resolved to warm up for 5K and then run 16K (10M) at the required pace, before cooling down. I made it to 13K this time before losing the will.

I don't know what is going wrong here. Here are my theories:
  • I have said before, I don't enjoy running all my long runs at a prescribed (fast) pace. I found it hard on the Pfitzinger program when he interjected marathon-pace runs but I could do those - they were never the full-length of the run and they were not every long run either. Having said that, I'm following a half-marathon plan at the moment and looking at the full marathon plans in Run Less, Run Faster - those long-run paces look more reasonable. But I basically like running my long runs at a pace that does not make me out of breath so I can chat to a friend / listen to my podcasts = zone out for an hour or two, or three.
  • nutrition. I have been on the go so much in the rest of my life that I don't think I'm watching what I eat / drink enough. I don't eat to train. I don't think I eat unhealthily (very often) but I could definitely eat in a more targeted way. I think. Funnily enough, the most succesful training cycle I have ever had (the one leading up to London 2009) was when I was on Weight Watchers. I ate lots and lots of vegetables, drank very little alcohol and was quite assidious about post-run nutrition. What do you think?
  • General tiredness. I am not sleeping very well at the moment - for some reason, something disrupts my sleep every night and I end up being tired, a lot. Another reason for my tiredness might be continued iron deficiency? Maybe - I'm going back to have my iron levels tested. I've been off iron pills for a few months now to see if my ferritin levels have stabilised but I fear they may not have.
  • General aimlessness. The loosey-gooseyness of my training - despite the training plan I have no target race - is not helping, mentally, to keep me in the game. It was nice for a while, but now I'm feeling lacking in focus.
It's strange, because overall this has been a good time for me. After a year which has been enormously taxing on the personal front, I am getting to a good place mentally. In the best way possible really, because it's not like some of the external stressors have disappeared - it's more that my attitude towards them has changed. I am hardly there - wherever that is - but I've moved on from the bad place, from the real cr*p of the past year, and from feeling so intensely cr*p about it and myself in it. I have had help, advice and insight from so many friends, near and far, and quite a lot of them you, my lovely readers and commenters, and I have gained a keen insight into who my friends truly are - and am learning to stop worrying about those who are not. So all that has been good.

So if my life were a Hallmark movie, my running would now be amazing. You'd see me running in slow-mo, with "Chariots of Fire" in the background, medals overlapping on my chest. Not so people, not so.

So this is where you all come in. I need your practical and emotional insights and advice on my training. Let me lay it out for you:
  • I have entered two main events next year; the Boston Marathon and the London Triathlon. I intend to race shorter distances in the run-up to both - a hilly half-marathon (TBT) and the Ashby 30K (very hilly) before Boston and 2 local sprint triathlons before London.
  • I think - but please tell me if you don't agree - that this means that between December and April I will focus my attention on running, using swimming and biking as crosstraining and improving my skills in both.
  • Then, from April (but look at my caveat below) I will focus on tri-specific training - spreading myself more evenly across the disciplines.
So far, so good? Good. Then here is quandary number 1. Everyone tells me not to race Boston. I am told that by doing so I won't experience the whole sense of it, the whole glory of it. It's a hard course. And my personal worry is that if I race it and then have a bad day, I will ruin my one shot at being there. But if don't race Boston, then I need a race, maybe 4-6 weeks after Boston, where I can race. What do you think? And of course, part of me thinks, maybe I should just race Boston - give it all I've got. Not be afraid of failure, if there is such a thing. Go out with glory. Train like a demon for Boston and then Yadda yadda yadda. Make a note of your thoughts for this and hold off because here's my next quandary:

How am I going to train? Which program am I going to follow? Do I carry on with Run Less Run Faster, running three times a week and cross training? I'm liking the tempo and the speedwork but the long runs - not so sure. And is 3 days a week really enough? Or do I add cross training onto the Pfitz? Bike one day, swim one evening? Or do I find a coach to somehow mesh something up for me? I know some of you are coaches - do you do this remotely? Could any of you help me transition from running to multisport over the course of the year? Help me?

Finally - just let me finish off a thought that's been dangling in my head for about 2 weeks now about the Boston marathon filling up so early. A lot of you have posted about it, and a lot of you have made lots of valid points. I found myself, in the days after registration opened and closed, feeling very antsy and defensive and when I actually started to think of why, I realised it was because I feel that am one of the people in the group that critics think "have it too easy" - I am in the 35-39 age group with a qualifying time of 3:45 and I'm well aware that many feel that that is too lenient, that men my age have to work harder to qualify and that there are many many women out there who are far faster than me (in my age group and often above). Moreover, I'm well aware that if they change the qualifying times by more than 12 seconds (likely) I would not have been in, at all. So I am quite aware that this is probably going to be my one and only Boston - and I am totally fine with that. I never thought I would have a shot at it, at all, and I'm going to give it my best. And then run some of the other awesome races that can be run all over the world..

So now can now all tell me how you think I should my next training year. And if you're thinking - hey, she's leaving the second half of the year unplanned - well, I'm kind of waiting to see how the first half unfolds. But if you have other thoughts on that - bring it on! I want to hear it. Till then my friends - bottoms up! (Although I'm sure you'll be telling me to make that a protein shake if I really want to get my mojo back and I might even listen!).

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Catching up with myself..

Another 3 weeks of loosey-goosey, run-for-fun fun ...

Saturday October 10th we organised a race on our farm for the WWFOR - the Lincolnshire Lollop. A whole bunch of bloggers who have been meeting on a more or less yearly basis for the WWFOR and the White Peak half were joined by other friends and family and we ran 5Ks, 10Ks, halves and full marathons in 1.4 mile loops around the farm. Toni summed it all up pretty well in this video:

Can you tell we had a good time?

A week later, another great race - a birthday present to myself. I've always wanted to run an off-road, muddy, challenging race and sometime this summer, when I was feeling blue and unmotivated, I signed up for the Salomon Turbo X Sheffield trail race. It was a freezing cold day - 2.5 degrees C when I left and pulling up at the race venue I really started doubting the wisdom of what I was doing. For one thing, everyone looked very fit. For another, they were all wearing trail shoes.. The Salomon gear tent had a sale on and I was very quickly convinced to buy my first pair of trail running shoes.

relaxing in the car before the race
race banners at the start - it was cold!

For the first time in - well, ever? - I warmed up before a race because I didn't want to do the race in too many layers (I knew I would get filthy) and I also knew there wouldn't be anywhere to leave my layers. As soon as the race kicked off, I realised I was doing something entirely new. The race started off downhill through a field and before we knew it were in the woods. I did not have my Garmin on - it's a bit too precious for this! - but for about 60/70 minutes we were running on roads and narow trails through woods. Then came the first steep incline. Like so steep that you could not run up it, you just had to slowly walk your way up and occasionally pull yourself up by a tree or a root. A flat bit at the top to catch your breath, and then it was down again - equally carefully. A flat bit at the bottom, and then up again a similar incline. And down again. I could begin to feel my legs taking a beating. We then ran on through the woods again and by this stage I had made a new friend, Marie. We were running at a similar pace and she was the one who advised me not to run the hills - wise advice this proved. She's a sports therapist and we ran on for quite a way talking about life, love, kids, work, running. We were wondering where the "real mud" was going to start as we went into what was advertised as the Turbo Zone. For the first part this was still just trail running through the woods and then - all of a sudden - the mud started. For some time - I have no idea how long but maybe about 30 minutes?- we just went through one muddy trench after the other. In the water, out of the water. Up a hillside, down a hillside, back into the water. The water was freezing but I can't tell you what fun we were all having. Everyone was trying to get through without falling over - not very succesfully - and it was the most wonderful atmosphere. There was NO competition, just people helping each other and laughing.


After about a mile or so of this, we came out of the zone and by then my legs were truly trashed. I had gone into this race thinking 10 miles were piece of cake. Although I knew the race had trails and mud in it, I had not counted on waist-deep trenches filled with cold mud. And so, by this stage, I was wet, cold and exhausted. And the race was still not over! Had Marie not been my new best friend by this stage I would have given up completely and just laid myself down in a sunny grassy spot. But on we went, walking up the hills, running down them, through the woods, past lying race marshalls (only 1K to go - yeah right!) until we finally saw the finish which we crossed hand in hand. Followed by a big hug!
Look at my new shoes! Thankfully they cleaned up nicely..

There were no showers so I stripped down to my underwear (everyone was doing it, honest!) and quickly changed into some dry clothes and drove home.
This is what I looked like when I got home - it took some showering to get rid of all of that mud!

Recovery took longer than I had thought - Monday morning I had speedwork on the books but there was no way - I could barely walk down the stairs. Instead, I took my bike out for a very leisurely 15 miler. I made it all the way to the treadmill on Tuesday but after 3K it became very clear that I wasn't going to get those fast mile repeats in on that day either. It was also my birthday, and I had a new iPad charging up on my desk at home, so I decided my decision was made and went home.

Then on Wednesday it was a drive down to London again - one day earlier than normal - to meet up with Portland running and yoga blogger Emily and her friend Cyndi who were in London for a few days. We met up with BFF Dawn and went out to Wahaca for margaritas and burritos, and generally had a great time. Sightseeing / shopping Thursday and Thursday evening I went to my Interior Design course at Central Saint Martins, the official reason for my weekly trips to London. Then Friday morning I whizzed back home again to start the weekend and my kids' autumn break. To be greeted by this:
Which, as you all know is a big deal. It's a big deal because man, this year it was no easy feat. And it's a big deal because I didn't get to run it this April. And it's a big deal because man! It's Boston! I have some thoughts on Boston filling up so early, and all that might be done to change that, but they're nowhere near crystallised enough. I'll tell you what I think when I know what I think..

The next post will follow shortly - I'm writing it right now - but I'm going to finish this one up and take a breather because there is SO much to talk about!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Planning ahead.

4 weeks into my new fitness schedule and I feel it's time to lay out some of my thoughts on how it's going, what I'm thinking and where I'm heading with it all.

How is it going? Good, overall. For the first time in my life I am using the gym regularly and the treadmill particularly as I'm finding it really helps to keep me on pace with my speedwork. I have no access to a track and so tend to run my speedwork with my Garmin on the road but I can't help but feel it's not too accurate. The wind is often really strong here so I find my laps differ simply by virtue of whether I'm running with the wind in my face or behind me. Also I think I give myself permission to slow down sometimes which is much harder on the treadmill - I'd just fall off if I did that - so I have keep the pace going. I'm taking Ana Maria's advice and giving myself some leeway on the pacing but overall I'm pleased with the workouts I'm getting in.

Inspired by all those folks who come up with their own training schedules (I've never had the balls) I am starting to fiddle with the plan a bit - I feel I can, particularly as I'm "only" base building at the moment. So along with adapting the paces at times, I am taking some executive decisions. For example, the RLRF folks are pretty specific about the pace of each of the week's three runs. I think that's a good thing for the speed and tempo work but I'm beginning to rebel against having every long run paced. I'm all for marathon pace and half marathon pace workouts - sometimes - but sometimes I just want to run and not watch my Garmin. I like doing my long runs with a walk break - .05 of a mile - every mile and I like listening to all my podcasts and I like thinking things over. And when I'm breaking my neck to stay at pace I can't do these things. So I'm sorry guys - if this costs me minutes in the race, so be it. The journey really does matter at least as much as the destination and sometimes that journey needs to be a bit more leisurely.. (Having said that, I went out for 13M determined to ignore the instructed HMpace +30 seconds and averaged an 8:53 min/mile - probably not far off where they wanted me to be).

The cross training is GOOD. I am loving it. Who'd have ever thunk it? Not me but there you go - as they say round here "nowt so queer as folk" (they really do say that). Thursday was a gorgeous day and as soon as I woke up I knew I had to go out and bike into it. I biked 12M out to a friend's house on quiet country roads where I was passed by about 3 cars and 20 mamils (middle-aged men in lycra), had 2 coffees and a flapjack and a catchup in the lovely autumn sun, and then biked home again. Just wonderful. I pushed myself a bit but still only averaged 15 mph - there's some way to go. Swimming is going well as well - I've found a really nice swimming group and instructor and I find myself looking forward to the lessons. Sometimes it is nice when someone else cracks the whip and it's not ALL self-discipline. I also find it's extremely helpful to have another option at hand sometimes - my speed session was unsuccesful this week, abandoned halfway, as I was not feeling very well. I was tempted to have a go at it again today but was tired after yesterday's 13 miler and Thursday's bike ride and so I opted instead to swim 1000m. Nothing shocking but it pushed me, I pushed myself and I feel a lot better.

me at the end of my windy and wet 13 miler

Overall, this week, I feel like this program of running and swimming and biking is somehow more balanced for me. I feel less ground down than I have for a long time and the fact that there are only 3 fixed workouts a week somehow makes me feel under a lot less pressure.

And so and so and so... what's next for me? I realise I have raced very very little this year. In the runup to Boston that never was I only raced the Stamford 30K. I then ran the White Peak half with Adam and Drusy and all the other wonderful UK run net people. Over the summer all was quiet and now in autumn it has taken me a while to get back into it. But I'm beginning to think it's going to be fun to race again and so I'm putting some things on the horizon. Next week is the WWFOR and this year some the UK contingent are coming to our farm to race the Lincolnshire Lollop. For anyone who'd like to join us there to run a 5K, 10K, half marathon or an ultra (yes this is apparently happening for someone!) please get in touch and I will give you directions. You are very very welcome. Then on Sunday the 17th I have decided to give myself an early birthday present and race the Sheffield Salomon Turbo X. I've always wanted to race one of these muddy and challenging races, just because they seem like so much fun and without any pressure. I haven't managed to find someone to race with (volunteers? It's not too late - email me!) but if not, I'm going to do it by myself.

As far as all the stress I mentioned in my last email, it is all slowly ebbing away. I took Maritza's suggestion and dealt with my insurmountable list of posts in the google reader by marking them all as read and I'm starting again. Sorry if this means I haven't commented on all of your posts but at least I'm keeping up with them now. My kitchen work has ground to a halt this week - a plumbing situation - and will start up again next week. Nothing at all exciting to report basically, but that is a good thing. I'm brewing up plans for next year but am determined to get this post out so more on that next time. Time to catch up with everyone else..