Sunday, September 30, 2007

Oh endurance..

Friday's 20 miler was never going to be swift or easy. I had been plodding through the week's runs, getting them all in, but at no great speed. Friday arrived as a real autumn day, windy and overcast and cold so you can imagine my enthousiasm about the task in hand.. Anyway. It was an endurance run. It took me a long time, I got really tired and contemplated giving up quite a few times. At about 17 miles I stopped at a point in the woods and seriously contemplated just lying down on the path - of all the things in the world, that's what I wanted to do - but I knew I just wouldn't get up again. So I plodded on. On top of everything, my iPod sensor is not working so well on my new shoes. I wonder whether the fact that they have newer, bouncier soles means it's not picking up every step, because I ran with my Polar footpod on as well (which I've calibrated over the years and which has proved accurate in every race I've run) and, even though I'd calibrated the Nike+ with it this summer, the Nike+ was off by .8 of a mile over the 20. Not a great deal, but enough when you're struggling through the 20 miler I can tell you. So I stopped when my Polar said 20.4 and my Nike said 19.62. It took me 3 hours and 41 minutes which wasn't terrible - especially given the walk breaks and the moan breaks and the self-pity breaks..

And really - it wasn't too bad. All along I kept thinking "I'm training for endurance this run. I'm training myself to cope with a bad run, with a slow run, with a run where my legs are just worn out". My expectations of my performance were not high but I just forced myself to see it through.

Highlights? Well, I really experimented with the gels and I am able to suck down the chocolate ones even at 18 miles. Usually by 15 miles I am unable to take anything on so that's good. Also - my dear husband came out and joined me for 3 miles which I SO needed at that point. Just someone else to talk to as I trudged round my circuit made a huge difference. Another great highlight was my discovery of Podrunner mixes which I know MarathonChris and Charles use - that certainly helped to keep me going.

And when it was over I did lie down and feel SO relieved to have it done with.

And amazingly - I managed to run 8 with my friend Sally yesterday. It wasn't fast but still - again I told myself I was training myself to run with tired legs.. I seem to be putting in a fair few of those training runs at the moment.

There's a mild temptation to put in 6.89 miles this morning so I can bring my monthly total up to 170 miles but there's no two ways about it - Charles has won this month's Nike+ challenge! And I think I probably need a rest day after this week - my legs are aching and tired even when sitting at my desk..

So let the taper begin. 3 weeks till D-day..

Sunday, September 23, 2007

4 weeks to go - not quite there yet

It's been a so-so running week. Stepback week which is always a bit of a relief but somehow is also a very slow week, running-wise. None of last week's running speed I'm afraid. I only managed 10 out of the 12 I intended on Thursday, I made up the 2 I missed yesterday (nice and short run that was!). Plodded around to do 8 today. Next week is my last big week - I'm intending to my last 20 miler on Friday so we'll see if the juice returns to the box before then.

I seem really low on energy at the moment and I think it's due to the following:
- very very busy rest of life where I'm only hanging on by the skin of my teeth. Hard to keep that from encroaching on the running;
- not enough sleep - I'm going to bed too late;
- not enough focus on eating for running - again, I'm just eating here and there and I need to really fuel up.

The one thing about slow runs is that it gives you a chance to think (and then some) so I've figured the above out yesterday and today (all by myself, yes) and I'm doing something about it. Can't do too much about busy-ness but can continue to ruthlessly prioritise running for the next 4 weeks (that sounds SO hardcore no?). I can go to bed earlier. And I can eat better. Which I have, in fact, been doing since I realised this might be a factor.

I've also purchased my racing treads - drumroll! - no no excitement at all - same old Saucony Hurricanes I had before. I love them, they work, I'm not injured - 'nuff said. They're a bit cleaner than the old (new 4 months ago) pair and
there's a bit more bounce there as well - I don't suppose I really really needed new shoes yet but I've always had a new pair before the race (well worn-in but still new-ish) so I guess it's all part of the race juju. The chocolate sports gels work well - they're no more disgusting than regular chocolate which is great - I'm keeping them down and they help. So I'm almost there kit-wise.

Otherwise the weather is cooling down - after that horrendous early summer we've had an exceptionally dry September with an amazing Indian summer which has been good, if a bit warm, for running. However, nothing can change the fact the Northern hemisphere is tilting away from the sun so I thought I'd share with you what I look like on my 6am runs.. Now imagine being the only light in the darkness, running through the woods - yes I get completely freaked out! The light picks up the eyes of all sorts of little critters which then scuttle away - aaarggh. I yelp quite a lot when out running in the dark. Thank goodness my puppy comes out with me on my morning runs - he can protect me against all the woodland monsters..

So wish me luck and energy this week as I tackle my last big week's training before the marathon. I'm feeling kind of funny about it - like I haven't focused on it enough - but the last few weeks should deal with that. Keep running and keep letting me know how it's going. Oh - and I'm still getting WHIPPED by Charles on my Nike+ challenge..

Monday, September 17, 2007

Switcherooni and allsorts..

Woohoo! This Nike+ challenge that amazing Maddy has set up (while also searching for and finding a job and flying across the US for her first week of work- what are you eating woman? I need to get me some of that) is really igniting the competitor within me. About time you might say? For yes indeedy - we are now - tatada! - 5 weeks minus 1 day away from race day. And although I had been feeling rather blase about the whole thing - to me, Amsterdam is not as exciting as New York City and Chicago have been the past two years - I'm beginning to hot up for the race. And my Nike+ challengers are helping there - particularly crazy Charles who isn't even training for a marathon and is just kicking my heinie! He's just done 100 since the beginning of September! So I tell you - this gets me out the door and running my miles.

Running - oh yes. That's been going well at the moment though it's all a bit mixed up. I understand that generally one is advised not to switch one's schedule around too much - hard days should be followed by easy etc. - there is, basically, a reason a week is laid out as it is in a good schedule. However, my life is crazy at the moment. I'm driving 90 miles a day to drop off and pick up my children from school at different times, my husband has just left the country on a business trip and I'm also trying to revive my career. Oh and my wonderful weekend babysitter (my Sunday morning indulgence while my husband works Sunday mornings) has gone to university. These are all some of the reasons that I am cramming the runs in where I can. If I have 90 minutes free - I do the 8 or 9 miler. If my husband's home I get up at 6 to do 5. And I wedged in last week's 20 miler (of which more in a minute) on a Friday morning by promising my husband all sorts of printable and unprintable good stuff if he dropped the kids off and picked nr2 child up at lunchtime. So - things have not been where they should be but I have managed most runs.. The only run I skipped this past week, in fact, was an 8 miler. And what was my valid reason for this? A New Romantics party at which I got totally carried away dressing up and drank a tad too much wine, danced too vigorously and so I basically dragged myself through Sunday. This is Adam (Ant / husband) and I on Saturday night. Who'd a thunk I'd ever be putting nail polish on my husband? But there you go .. it's part of marriage's neverending mystique..

The 20 miler. Oh yes. Now here I did something else Uncle Hal would have slapped me for - I ran it at race pace which, I hope, will be 10 minute miles. I did this for one of my 20 milers last year and I felt it gave me such confidence during the race to know I could sustain this pace for a long time. So my friends, only weeks after rediscovering my mojo I ran this in 3:21! Yes! And that included a 1 minute walk break every 5 miles and a few pitstops along the way! So I am psyched. Saturday's 5 miler was a bit slower as a result - could this have been delayed onset muscle soreness? - but still. I feel quite happy. Stepback week this week and then next week is my last 20 miler before the taper! This has crept up on me a bit actually - I was expecting masses more 16 and 17 milers but there you go, it'll all be behind me, one way or the other, in 5 weeks.

Final thought before you can go back to your real lives - crosstraining? Not one of my stronger points. I've biked some, ellipticalled some etc. but to be honest - didn't do much really.. Anyway inspired by Terry and ShirleyPerly I thought I would join the Swimfit class at the gym I've just joined. HooHa my friends - new respect for all triathletes. I was terrible! I had NO stamina! I was gasping for breath and unlike running you can't just pant - you drown! I had forgotten this. I don't think I've ever done more than 25m of crawl and now I was doing 4 100m reps TO WARM UP? Anyway - I did it and survived most of it although I was firmly and securely the worst person in the group. And the group was a downer. Obviously all serious swimmers they either just ignored me (nice!) or said things like "you're not out of breath already are you?". "Well - yes I'm new to this" I would say but there was no welcome, sympathy or encouragement. It made me very determined to always be VERY welcoming, sympathetic and encouraging to newbies at running.. Will I go back? Yes - but after the marathon. My hip is hurting (no doubt from my lack of technique) and I don't want to run the risk of injuring myself now. But then I will go back. I'm not going to let this bug me. I managed to start running from scratch - below scratch - and I'll knock this swimming thing on the head as well...

So on I chug my friends - keep running, keep posting about it and keep remembering to enjoy it!

Monday, September 03, 2007

I am a turtle; or in praise of Susan

Am I a turtle? I referred to myself as such in my previous post and just had a comment from Susan who tells me I am far from a turtle. Now I could just say "aww, shucks" and leave it at that but she's right - it's relative. She's struggling with her speed at the moment - or rather with the fact that she would like and hoped to be faster - and looks at some of my runs and probably says "what's she complaining about?". And I understand that she thinks that - coming from her current point of view.

But the boot, or perhaps more aptly, the running shoe, is often on the other foot. It's a real toughie, this stuff. I run some of my long runs with a dear friend, Sally, from my running club. Sally is a newbie and has more than 10 years on me. When I met her earlier this year she had never run more than 6M so I convinced her to keep me company for a 10M run. She kept up - with ease. Since then she has gone from strength to strength. She has already run several sub-2hr halves and is now training for the Amsterdam marathon with me. The kicker is that she is training faster and harder than I am - she is keeping up with the Intermediate II program (despite a demanding and more than full-time job) where I've had to step back to Intermediate I. It wouldn't surprise me if she runs a sub 4hour marathon in Amsterdam, something I'm unlikely to ever be able to achieve. She may qualify for Boston - again, something that is beyond me, for a while at least. She is incredibly gracious and modest and is always crediting me for being her inspiration and support but let's face it - this gal outruns me with ease.

At times, particularly when I've struggled with lack of motivation, I have found this really hard to deal with. At other times other runners have made it clear that a "slow" runner like myself is not really a marathoner. I remember telling somebody about a 20M training run I ran last year and his response was "if you're running at that speed, why on earth do you bother?"..

Steve Runner dedicated a whole episode to a critic of slow marathoners and eloquently made the point that we are all marathoners, despite how long it takes us to get there. I have also heard elite athletes remark with wonder on the ability of mere mortals to just stay out there on our feet for SO long - and they weren't all being patronising. Susan struggled with a 17 miler yesterday. She did it in several phases and at every point felt like giving up. She was demoralised by her lack of speed and lack of mojo. But she did NOT give up. Where so many would have given up she carried on and made it.

I suppose the truth of the matter is that if you are going to be competitive about it, you have to accept that you will never be the fastest (unless you're Paula Radcliffe or Paul Tergat but I don't think they're reading this). I would consider myself competitive but I would also say that the main competition is within me. Every time I run - however slowly - I win the race against that part of me that would prefer to be welded to my sofa eating a fried potato product. Every time I race I win the race against that part of me that considers myself a quitter. And having gone through life NEVER being any good at any sports whatsover - and this is no false modesty - every single training run is a victory over that part of myself that believes I'm incapable. For those of us who are not elite runners, who fit it in around the rest of our lives and run despite the constraints that other obligations and our physiques may place on us, every run is a win. After all - you could be not running. And you are. So you are - in my definition - a winner, Susan.

45 miles - KACHING!

It's in the bag! The week following my mojo-meltdown was a triumphant return to running. I ran the 17 miler I gave up on the week before on Tuesday. I know, I know - you're not meant to make up missed runs but we are all a bit compulsive (aren't we? am I the only one?) and I needed to prove to myself I could do this. And I did it. I ran for a mile, walked for a minute and then finished the 17 miles with two uninterrupted 9 minute miles. Which was an enormous boost to my confidence. I then did 2 5 milers this week which both turned into tempo runs - I ran one in 47'23" (9'27" minute miles) and the other in 45'53" (9'09" minute miles). Now this is, again, not an example of targeted training - I didn't intend to run hard nor is my aimed for tempo for the marathon around 9 minute miles - I am aiming for 10 minute miles and am not being terribly successful at hitting that pace. But! (and you knew that but was coming didn't you) after the week I had had it was an enormous boost to my confidence to know I had that speed in me somewhere. And I appreciate my use of "speed" is relative but for a turtle like myself, that is "speed"!

Then yesterday I did 18 miles with my running pal. I can't say it was an amazing run - I did struggle at times and our speed was nothing to write home about - it took us 3'22" - but we made it and we got really caught up on our conversations. Always a good thing. And then to top it all off my friend had brought along 4 fresh rolls with ham and home-made chutney which we polished off sitting on a bench in a churchyard overlooking the field and an orchard. What an English scene!

I've got a stepback week this week but am fiddling about with it - my running pal wants to run the week after next's 20M this week so I'm going along with that - might as well knock the first one on the head - and I might do some longer tempo work this week if I can squeeze it in. I've got to go to London tomorrow with my son and then back again Wednesday morning and then Thursday they both start school! Yay! Although it will be a bit bittersweet - it's my son's first day - the holiday has been so long than I am more than ready for a bit of alone time..

So there we have it. I'm back in the saddle. I even managed to tick another thing off my to-do list - I rambled on in my hideous voice for Kevin, Chris and Nigel and made the contribution I have been promising. All done.

So keep it up and remember - if I can do this, anyone can!