Thursday, May 31, 2007


Ok Ok who was sitting at the back of the classroom, staring out the window and not paying attention? Me sir.. Marathon Chris has already taken Maddy's idea, brainstormed it and is up and running so I'm signing up. Clearly this is a bunch of people who can teach me quite a bit..

I'll be there on June 1st! Which is tomorrow I realise with total shock. OK. I'll be there, still. If there's someone at the back of the pack with her shoes half on and her shirt hanging out, it's only me and I'll be there once I get my act together!

Just footlin' for a few days..

Since my nuttiness 2 weeks ago I've been taking it easy on myself, just doing the occasional 2-4 miler when I fancied them and taking the pressure off my one painful reminder - the sore toe. To my pleasure it has now started to turn mildly black and is a lot less painful so it looks like I got away lightly. Terry told me to watch it wasn't a stress fracture so of course I googled toe stress fractures immediately and found they were regular by-products of, for example, "a sudden increase in exercise intensity". I think I got away lightly this time..

Next Monday, training begins. And as I intimated last week I think I'm going to be doing Hal Higdon's intermediate II program, taking on board a lot of information from the Advanced Marathoning book but not doing the speedwork on running days. Instead, I'm going to try to work some of those speed workouts on my eliptical on my crosstraining days. I hope that this way I can get the speed benefits without the risk of injuring myself. I am my own experiment.

Had an amazing run this evening - just 2 miles out on our farm. We have a big lake we use for irrigation but it's been raining so much it's nearly overflowing every day. There is a sluice gate to take out the overflow but it gets blocked with reeds most days so one of us goes out there once a day to unblock it. Tonight it was my turn and after a day of crazy weather (hot / cold / sunny / wet) it was a dry sunny turn and it was just beautiful. I bounded through the grass like a happy gazelle / madwoman and very nearly went for a swim in the lake, but this is England and May and it has not been warm - I decided enough madness for a little while. Pneumonia would be a major setback.

Finally - like most people I HATE the sound of my voice when I hear it recorded but it obviously does not put me off enough because I'm out there at the moment - you can hear me sounding like Mary Poppins (along with Terry and Gordon from Scotland) in Steve Runner's promo for the Phedippidations World Wide Half and I also think Dr Monte has finished his weight loss CD and has done a preview on his most recent podcast. So I'm now holding out for Oprah...

Otherwise I'm just resting up and limbering - getting ready for next week when the race is on. I'm with Maddy and Cory on the great idea of toting up our training miles - I'll see if I can work out how to restart my mileage counter on BuckEyeOutdoors so I can see how much I train for this and we'll add everyone's miles up at the end.. the marathons will seem like peanuts!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Drawing my conclusions...

Firstly, thank you all for your great comments and support. What a community! There's quite a bunch of us now running marathons in October - Maddy is running the San Francisco Women's Marathon (how cool does that sound?), podcaster extraordinaire MarathonChris is running the Marine Corps Marathon (I would LOVE to run that one one year..), ShirleyPerly is running so many marathons that I'm sure she'll be running one around that time, and as for Melissa - she's running her first in Columbus, Ohio. Kevin has been tricked into running a half at that time and our friend Terry is finally back on the road again as well and will be organising the amazing Phedippidations World Wide Half Marathon in mid-October. Susan - after your 10M race this weekend, what's your plan? And Cory is also planning a fall half-marathon - which one? You can see there's a bit of a trend going on... Let us know what you're doing so we can cheer you on!

Going back to this weekend's craziness - the worst of which was, as Kevin pointed out, that no-one took up my offer of home-made cookies! - I am attempting to extract some pearls of wisdom from this nutty experience. So here goes:
- chafing. I thought I had chafing all covered but with my new CamelBak backpack on (the sportsdrink saved my bacon as they didn't hand out any on this trail marathon) I found new chafing opportunities - back of my neck and my shoulders. So I must always consider whether I've worn ALL my kit on a long run and tested if before putting the BodyGlide back. It would have helped, obviously, if I'd done a long run recently, in so many ways, but there you go..
- sunburn. It's not a common problem here at the moment - summer is not here - but despite the occasional shower I did burn the backs of my legs. So I need to add suncream to my bag and apply it "just in case".
- training. Ah yes - I was going to come to this. Terry pointed out in his lengthy and useful comment that actually, running a race unprepared was an amazing learning opportunity. I DID expect the wall and I slammed right into it but by walking occasionally I did come out the other end and finished the race running. More than anything else though, this experience has taught me to value my previous experiences, particularly my first marathon, NYC in 2005. At the time I was very disappointed with my time (4:55) and felt that I hadn't really trained hard enough. Looking back on it though I realise I ran the whole race comfortably, never even grazed a wall, and finished strong. My training was clearly quite good, actually.. In going over the training programs as I was last week (prior to this race) I was focusing mainly on improving my PB, setting a great time. While that obviously remains a consideration, I now realise that my main aim is to find an achievable program which will enable me to enjoy the race. For last year's Chicago marathon I used Hal Higdon's Intermediate I and I have to say I really enjoyed that - I like having middlingly long runs in the middle of the week as well as the weekend runs, I like pace instead of speedwork (touch wood, I did not get injured last year) and I was trained AND rested at the start. Now obviously a lot of factors come into this, but I'm beginning to incline back towards Uncle Hal and maybe will tackle his Intermediate II program and see where that gets me. Got a week or so to decide so will keep you posted on those developments - and I'm also lurking on Maddy's and MarathonChris's blog's to see what they're doing.

Finally, my body seems to have recovered well from this race. Normally I don't run at all in the week following the race but I went out for 2miler last night (slowly) and enjoyed it. The only thing - and this is quite weird - is that my big toe really hurts. At some point in the race I remember it suddenly hurting as well (not on the downhill) and I can't see what's wrong. I thought I was going to get one of those black toenails (which is unattractive but a rite of passage as a runner, I guess) but no - it looks fine, not swollen, a bit red but man - it hurts! I can get it in a running shoe and run with it without problems but anything more ladylike than Birkenstock sandals is not working for me at the moment. Hohum. Anyway - we'll see whether it drops off or sorts itself out. And I'll be back running again this weekend - I think I have a week or so before my 20 week program starts and I am motivated to TRAIN!

Goodbye for now, happy trails and enjoy your runs!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Guess what I did this Saturday?

Ok - guess what I did today? Let me give you three clues. I did something that was reckless, fearless and somewhat stupid.. I will divulge all to you.

Ok - I had decided, some months ago, that due to taking all that time off because of my chest infection, I would run a half-marathon today instead of my planned marathon. Wise decision. Right? But I didn't get my buns in gear and didn't e-mail the race organisers that I had considered doing this. Not until this week. And guess what? They told me the half was full, as was the transport to the start (the race started and finished in a different place..). So I spent the week fruitlessly coming up with ways to get to the start. My friend Sally and I were going to drive to the race together but I contemplated driving in convoy (how boring!) or trying to find someone to give me a ride. Husband would have taken me but was in charge of children and also had to take them to a party (near to the race, as it happened).

So yesterday lunchtime I decided to throw in my big guns. I went onto the Runnersworld website to the Forum thread for the White Peak marathon and half and offered up my bribe - homemade oatmeal raisin or chocolate chip cookies for anyone who would transport me to the half start. No takers. No takers! My biscuits are fabulous! And the oats make them good! Right? Right. Anyway they obviously didn't sell themselves. Then someone who I have never met posted a message saying "why don't you take it easy and just run the full? You've got a place on THAT bus?". And so, readers, that's what I resolved to do. I told no-one except my husband (who doesn't run and didn't realise the implications of someone SERIOUSLY undertrained running a marathon) and Sally (who thinks I'm nuts anyway so it all proves her point). Which she is right about, by the way.

So guess who lined up for the marathon today? me. Bright and sprightly and perky. My new Camelbak backpack on, mobile with me for disasters, plenty of powerbars - I will confess to you that I thought I might amaze myself.
Friends of mine (mostly men..) have run marathons without much training and I thought that maybe I was being too much of a stick-in-the-mud sticking to Uncle Hal's programs and needed to "live a little". Well, my friends, I lived a lot. I feel like I've lived a lifetime. On the upside - the race was on traffic-less roads, the weather was ok and there were only 200 other marathoners registered. I met some nice people, had some very interesting conversations. So much for running Oprah. On the downside - guys! I can't run a marathon without training! This hurt. SO MUCH! There were some mean and nasty steep downhills and my knees are toast! I found it hard. I walked! I have never walked! I wasn't able to slow down enough - I was either running a 10:30 minute mile or walking. OK OK. Another confession. I thought about blogging about my decision last night but knew that you - wiser friends of mine in the blogosphere - would tell me that I was nuts and shouldn't do it.

Upshot? OK I finished in 4:49. Not too bad - NYC took me 6 minutes more but I was well over 30 minutes off my Chicago time. But I tell you guys - it was not fun. Miles 21-26.2 were horrible. And I've never had that before. Training consistently has meant that I have always been more or less confident and capable during marathons. Today that was not the case. So a lesson has been learned - to everyone's shock and awe Petra does not run fast or enjoyable marathons without training properly. Hear me girlfriends? Don't do what I did.

Finally though - despite all of the above I am happy tonight. Grinning, in fact. I had a rubbish week. I don't think I'm dealing well with the thought of my little boy going to school in September and losing a big part of my mom-job at home. I've been horrible - moody, grumpy, self-doubting, angry - you name it, I have been it. My family has show extraordinary patience with the witch, I can tell you. But doing something stupid and irresponsible brought back my inner naughtiness and it's perked me up no end. I won't do it again - the pain is too much! My legs are unmoveable and stairs scare me - but, strangely and stupidly enough - it was what I needed. I laughed with myself today, and I haven't done that for a long time..

Keep running, keep training, and stick to your schedules, my friends! I am going to have a hot bath and then meet my friends Ben and Jerry in bed with a book. I know how to live.. or not?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

the future is bright, the future lies with Advanced Marathoning

The silence of the past 2 weeks has not been due to any more illness (thankfully) or lack of running (well.. not really - more on that later) but rather due to my applying myself and some of my trusty blog readers to choosing a training plan to use to ... train for the Amsterdam marathon on October 21st, for which I have now officially registered!

So - it's all happening. The incredibly impressive ShirleyPerly - who runs marathons the way normal mortals drink the first coffee of the day - quickly! - sent me a long e-mail regarding choosing a training program. She makes a number of excellent points, which I will briefly summarise below (for the benefit of at least some of my readers (you know who you are girls!) who are going to be training at the same time..):
- there's no such thing as a "sure thing" training program. Dang! Easy option out the window right there..
- then she launches straight into her most crucial point: the best program you can pick is the one that is least likely to get you injured and most likely to help you deal with your performance limiters..

OK. Performance limiters for me are:
- genetics. I lost the excess weight, my BMI is great BUT I'm still a short sturdy diesel. My great grandfather was a (very relatively) famous long-distance skater and one of the most famous things about him was, apparently, the fact he had big thighs.. What can I say, it's obviously a dominant gene. My point is - I am somewhat limited by the ingredients I was given. Paula Radcliffe need not look over her shoulder.
- lack of speed. OK - some of that is to do with the above point but, in fairness, I have never done any serious speedwork. I did find in the past that I put myself at the risk of injury with really fast speedwork but there is quite a bit I could do in this area..
- time. Like most of us I have a busy life outside of running and I can't always devote the time and attention to running that I might like to. I think I pretty much give as much time to it as I can get away with.
- fuel. I have never really thought about my athlete's diet as I never really think of myself as an athlete. But there is no doubt that what I eat affects my running and recovery and that I could do more to fine-tune that relationship. Hrmmm..

So bearing all this in mind I have bought the book that Shirley recommended - Pete Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning. While I was waiting for Amazon to get it to me I read an article on the Runnersworld website by Amby Burfoot about the ingredients of marathon training and how many runners don't train very efficiently. They run too fast or too slow and so never maximise the benefit of different kinds of runs. Now that I have received the Pfitzinger book I see he makes pretty much the same point and has put together what looks like a good if challenging marathon training program. I think I'm going to go for the 18 week program and add 2 weeks onto it - there's one week during my vacation this summer where I may not get all the running in and I'd like to build in a week for life - tiredness, illness, injury - so that I don't completely fall out of the program if something happens.

Now - my running. After a dispiriting run with Sally last Sunday - we were aiming for 12 and I had to give up after 9 I was so tired, the rest of the week has been good. I've been pondering my tiredness but I think it's just that - life is pretty exhausting at the moment and I'm really going to have to concentrate to get enough rest to train for this fall marathon. My spirit returned to me on Monday - I was determined to lick the 12 miles and did it. At a slow pace - I also think I've been running a bit fast with Sal - I managed it quite easily. And then the rest of the week was good - even managed a lactic threshold and pace run as well as 2 5 mile maintenance runs. Heading out for a 10/12 miler with Sally tomorrow in preparation for next Saturday's White Peak half-marathon and that should bring my weekly mileage up to at least 37 miles. 37 miles! No wonder I'm feeling a bit tired in the evenings..

Otherwise running is proving a bit of a haven for the mess in my head. I was listening to Adam Tinkoff's great new show - the Zen Runner - and he was talking about seeing your mind as a river and what you did to calm it down. Well, at the moment mine is a big stormy river and all that seems to calm it is running. I'm heading towards a new phase in my life - 2 kids at school in September - and I'm wondering what I'm going to do with myself. I have done various bits of odd freelance work in the past years but nothing consistent and suddenly I'm wondering whether I should be pursuing more of a directed course. I won't bore you with my CV but I'm a Jack of all Trades, mistress of none. I've done graduate studies, worked in academic publishing, worked in IT - and now I'm at a bit of a loss as to where to go next. My head is swirling with the voices and opinions of others (which I ask for, to be fair) and my own self-doubt. If this all sounds depressing - it isn't - just a confusing time. Which, strangely enough, is leading me back to a reappraisal of running for its own sake - for the way in which it can take me out of myself and bring me some peace and strength and confidence. So, to finish this post - the running's going great..

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

marathon? here i come, i think..

Life took over the last week - work, family, home etc.. but the running didn't suffer. I managed to get out to running club on Tuesday and then ran most days of last week, managing 9 miles on Saturday and Sunday despite late nights. However, by yesterday those late nights came home to roost - I only managed two before going to bed very early last night. Still, I am feeling positive and have decided, more or less definitely (is there such a thing?) to enter the Amsterdam marathon on October 21st.

Still haven't decided on a training program but ShirlyPerly of the Humble Triathlete blog has very generously and kindly offered to help me out there. I'm going to be e-mailing her my details and info today and see what she says. I'm still interested in the Hansons program but the fact that there is no book out there about it makes it that much more difficult to do, I think. What do you think? Other exciting news is that Maddy is going the whole hog and running a marathon as well so we can cheer each other on from across the Atlantic!

Otherwise - I just got the MP3 files for this CD that Dr. Monte is putting together on weight loss and healthy lifestyles and to which I made a contribution. Great stuff but AWFUL hearing my voice - I sound like Mary Poppins! I don't know how people do this podcasting thing, this has made me realise I definitely can't listen to myself. Anyway - I will let you all know when it comes out and you can see what you think.

And that's it! Uneventful life this week which makes a nice change. Keep runnning!