Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The opposite of me - continued

2008 is nearly done. Ran a wonderful 10 miler this morning despite a few glasses champagne too many last night with my best friend Dawn. She is running London as well this spring and is returning to running after quite a few years off. So she ran 4 with me which made time fly.. So much to gas about!Now that my best buddy is marathon training our conversations have reached maximum quality - we can hop between topics like training schedules, running fuel and our more usual wide-ranging life discussions - it's truly perfect.

And as far as marathon training is going I've decided to continue with the 0pposite of me streak I've been on. For 3 out of the 5 marathons I've run I've trained with Hal Higdon's Intermediate I. It's been great but I think I've squeezed all I can out of that schedule. I want to improve and so I need to shake things up a bit. The wonderful and speedy-quick Aron suggested I work my mileage up to about 35-40 miles a week and then do the 12 week Pfitz program. I think that's a great idea - I know that Jen and Maritza use his schedules as well and think they are good. I also think that, although the Pfitz is fairly hard-core, I can retain that kind of focus for 12 weeks. 18 weeks might be pushing it too hard for me. And then my Chicago buddy Melisa also gave me some great advice from a fast and skinny runner (2 characteristics I would like, one day, to apply to myself) - speed work and hill work. So my thinking is that for the next 4 weeks or so I will try to stay anywhere between 30 - 40 miles per week mileage-wise and do 1 hill and one speedwork session as well. This way I am hoping to be ready for whatever the Pfitz throws at me in my 12 weeks of training. You were all great with your advice and ideas on training programs so any suggestions on speed workouts and hill workouts - send them right over - I SO appreciate your input!

All that remains now for me is to wish you all a really wonderful New Year's eve and all the best in health and happiness for 2009. Lots of people seem to be delighted to leave 2008 behind them but I have to say - there's been more good than bad for me and I go into this new year ready to take it all to the next level. Happy new year peeps and thank you for all your support and friendship!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

the holidays - and 2008 in review

I had this idea that I would be able to use the time off work between Christmas and New Year to catch up with myself. Yeah right! We left for Holland on the evening of the 23rd with the two children and car packed up to the ceiling with luggage, presents and a turkey (a long story lies behind this one..) and a LOT of excitement. Trying to get the children to sleep in our cabin was no mean feat - we ended up having to switch all the lights off and feigning sleep ourselves to stop the chatter... (I also believe my husband's threat to remove a present for every word uttered helped). They wake you up at the crack of dawn (5:30 am) so you don't miss the chance to use their restaurants for a sub standard and overpriced breakfast. Which we duly did - finally getting off the ferry in Rotterdam at about 8am.

I won't bore you with a blow-by-blow account of our trip to Holland but it has not stopped being full-on. The kids are excited, my father is ill (bronchitis - bad timing but I remember that one myself from last Christmas), it is my son's birthday on the 27th and my mother's on the 28th - a fairly relentless couple of days. Little room for reflection! Still - I managed to get some runs in - I twice ran a 5 miler and on boxing day I ran a 7 miler which was part of a 10 miler I ran / biked with my husband. He biked alongside me for 7 miles and ran 3 and I did it the other way round. Great fun! Then yesterday I squeezed out a very ugly 4.8 miler - I was tired and my lifestyle choices have not been, shall we say, optimal for running. I can feel that..

However, I am still, despite all other demands and distractions, working on the opposite of me. While my career plans have changed somehow the exercise proved so useful - I have ended up with a much clearer idea of what my job is and should be and have, for the first time, communicated very clearly with my boss. (Generally, in life, I like other people to guess how I am feeling and to, magically, respond as I would like them to. A fairly unsucessful strategy). I feel far less burdened down by it all and I am looking forward to some of the big projects ahead in the New year, work-wise. So, insofar as going with the opposite of me means trying to break some bad habits, I'm going to carry on with this in the New Year. Starting now.

I am not very good at reflecting on myself or the past. Instead I fill up my life so much that often it is all I can do to keep on life's treadmill and not fall off. Looking back never happens. And while there are advantages to that attitude, I think I miss the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and successes. So - let's finish this year with reflecting on 2008.

This year's worst running moments:
  • no doubt, the worst was being injured at the beginning of the year. Looking back at my approach to it (hitting it from all sides with physios, podiatrists, massages and osteopaths) I think I might have benefited from looking at previous injury strategies. Had I done that, and gone straight to the osteopath who helped me in the past, I would have saved myself a lot of time and money. Lesson learned. At the moment I am seeing him once every 3 weeks not so much because my knees hurt but more to maintain some looseness as my mileage increases.
  • and that's it really for bad running moments - there were some awful, horrible, hard runs, there were some runs I didn't complete, there were runs where I was just thrilled that it was over - but overall running has continued to be my saving in the middle of my life.
And then the top moments of running this year:
  • meeting Maritza and Jen for a run in California in April of this year. They are both wonderful people and I really felt like I was meeting friends I had never met. We had a great run despite Jen just having finished the Boston Marathon and had a delicious brunch afterwards. I look forward to hosting them when they come and see me in the UK!
  • Meeting all my running buddies in Chicago for our wonderful blogging buddy meet-up there. While none of us ran the race we wanted to race, I will never regret or forget meeting up with Charlie, Melissa and Maddy - what a wonderful experience! Every one of them an inspiration and a friend. Again - come run a race with me in the UK!
  • And all the great runs in between and after these races - the runs in the rain with my speedy-quick buddy Sally, the runs with my mother when she came to see me, the runs with my husband, the long runs on my own where I started off with a head full of stuff and came back happy and empty.
While this has not been a year of PRs for me - not one! - it has nonetheless been a great running year. I am so happy to be out there on the road. And in the run-up to London marathon training I'm happy to have managed a long run of 10M for at least the last 5 weeks - I feel ready to start training properly.

So let's head into goals for 2009:
  • At ShirleyPerly's advice I have set my goal first and then picked the race. My goal is - dum dum duuummm - to run a sub 4hr marathon. Ambitious yes. Impossible - well I guess I'm going to have to find out. I ran 4:12 in Amsterdam in 2007 and I think I can run faster with different training;
  • Change my training schedules - while Uncle Hal has been great for the past few years I think he and I have reached an impasse - I'm not going to progress much now - and I need a new, fresh schedule and some speedwork to move to the next level. I am still trying to decide between the Runnersworld sub 4 hr schedule and the Pfitz sub 55 mile 18 weeker. While I'm a bit late for that last one - it's 17 weeks today until London - I'm going to decide in the next few days or so and will just have to jump into week 2 if I pick the Pfitz. Views?
  • Run more races. I am intending to run some races in my London training and have also already signed up for the White Peak half marathon in May which Drusy will be running. I am still looking for an autumn marathon - I am thinking maybe Portland or the Bizz Johnson - any thoughts anyone? Anyone running either of these or have another autumn suggestion?
  • Eat better. Hey I had to put that one in there. The past few weeks have not been weeks of smart food choice weeks and I can feel the effect on my running and waistline. I am ready to grab myself by the scruff of the neck and sort this one out. So bring on January - I'm going to do this.
  • Oh - and how could I forget - meet more running bloggers. Consider yourself invited!
Food for thought and feedback (please?). All that remains is for me to wish you all a wonderful new 2009. May it bring you all you wish for - and more.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

All change..

A few things haven't changed since I last posted:
  • it is, once again, 3 weeks since I last posted..
  • I am still keeping up my maintenance runs, managing a good 10 miler every weekend. This is a big change (bingo!) from my past post-marathon periods where I have taken it very easy between training schedules. I'm hoping a base of 20-25 miles per week will make marathon training easier.. Of which more, later.
A big thing has changed, however, which goes some way towards explaining why it's been 3 weeks since I've last posted:
  • the prospects for my freelance career have taken a bit of a downward turn. Various opportunities have become much less concrete in current climate;
  • and as a result I have decided I need to stay in my current position for little bit longer. Writing this down feels like such a climb-down. It very much felt like that. I was so looking forward to being completely freelance. However, economic necessity and practical considerations forced me to reconsider. It was not an easy decision to make, but it's done.
  • Not all is bad though. As a result of my uncharacteristic frankness with my boss, concrete steps are being taken to hire me an assistant in the New Year. The list of jobs I put together that I no longer wanted to do? That has become her job description... She's a nice person as well and I'm looking forward to working with her.
So after a tough week where I really wasn't sure which way to go (and lots of runs trying to work things out in my head) I am back at work and, strangely enough, feeling quite optimistic about it all. We shall see how it goes.

A further set-back in terms of blogging, reading and posting has been the death of my beloved PowerBook's hard drive AND the back-up drive. (For those of you not aware of this - do NOT use Time Machine to back up your hard drive. If your hard drive becomes corrupted, the corruption is copied to Time Machine.) So after an agonizing and extremely expensive week I am now the owner of a new MacBook and of a new external hard drive filled with data recovered by a data recovery firm. It's a good thing I still have a job to pay for it all ;).

It's taken me a while to get back up and running on my new computer and to get my stuff together. The inevitable race towards Christmas with presents to plan, buy and wrap, Christmas trees to decorate, parties to go to, children's school performances to go to and cater for has meants that my free time has been non-existent. I'm not too displeased with my time management at the moment but I DO feel like I'm on a roller coaster.

Running has, once again, proved a lifeline. With everything that has been going I have been managing to keep it up. I have more or less decided on a schedule for London and I hope to post about it this week. My long runs are generally decent - today's 10 miler was tough but I was exhausted so it was a real "eating the elephant in small bites" run (to paraphrase the INCREDIBLE MarathonChris). I am ready. I can see that the next year is going to be busy and challenging but running is the thread that keeps me together - that returns me to me every day and forces me to consider and check myself.

I am going to bed now and am really hoping to post more this week. I am working tomorrow and Tuesday and then Tuesday night my family and I and a mountain of presents will be taking the Pride of Hull from Hull to Rotterdam overnight (the least glamorous ferry journey imaginable, take it from me - from one horrible ugly industrial city across a rough and ugly sea to another horrible ugly industrial city) to get to Holland and to my parents - in bucolic Oosterbeek - for Christmas eve. The week pans out as Chrismas day, boxing day, my son's birthday (Maritza's birthday buddy) and my mother's birthday - 4 days of parties. Once again, running will preserve my sanity - and my waistline...

But I hope to be posting from the frontline of my life - and I wish you all the most wonderful of Christmases. May all your dreams come true.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Update from the personal development front...

I know I know this is shocking. Once again it has been 3 weeks since I've posted and I haven't even caught up on everyone else's posts either. It's all happening guys - I will catch myself up (coming the other way probably but hey).

And where have I been? Gazing at my navel in self-contemplation? Reading through such eminent tomes as I'm Okay, You're Okay and The Power of You? No don't fret - I haven't completely gone over the cliff of that place called "myself, and what I'm feeling right now". No chance for that anyway - life is a 10 ton truck racing along at the moment. Hurtling like madness towards Christmas - which is also going to be FULL-ON!

I have been trying to stick with "the opposite of me". Not so much with being counter-intuitive (that wouldn't really be the point) but more trying to break with certain self-destructive knee-jerk reactions. Apparently it takes 3 weeks (though some say 3 months, and others say a lifetime - I'm sticking with the optimists here) to change a bad habit. So far ... well, I'm on my way. After my initial success in resigning from those parts of my job that I didn't want to do any longer, my boss (remember, a friend? A fairly manipulative, lovely one?) is choosing to ignore my leaving and is just pretending it's not going to happen. So I'm once again bracing myself to go and speak to him once again, clarifying further what I will continue to do on a freelance, working from home basis for them, and what I will no longer deal with. I'm having to be more persistent than I hoped to get the message across. In the meantime, the job is busy and full-on, family life is busy and full-on, December is THE social season in the countryside here and there are constant parties and nights out. Great stuff but busy and it gets in the way of blogging, posting, commenting and occasionally running.

Although, so far, so good. My weekly mileage is not very impressive - anywhere between 20 and 25 miles per week - but I'm managing to keep one 9-10 mile run in there each week as well as a few shorter runs and I've never maintained as well as this between race training. I'm looking into training schedules and training goals and will reveal when I know.

Sorry for this boring post - but I thought I'd update, let you know I'm still running and that I AM still here. And rooting, this weekend for Lizzie Lee and next weekend for the amazing Charlie who is going to run Las Vegas - this only weeks after running Chicago. And of course Jen and Aron who will be running the California International Marathon together.. Respect to you all and good luck!

And finally - because I really do feel bad about contributing NOTHING of any major import in this blog post (nor - and I do realise this - am I doing this in my comments..) I will add some photos to make this slightly more interesting..
Me after running 9M last Saturday morning (before 8:30 am and it was chilly hence that weird hat on my head..)

Slightly mortifying in so many ways but this is us before going out to a St. Andrews Ball on Friday. I have a poodle on my head and my husband - has Scottish origins. I'll leave it at that..

Friday, October 31, 2008

The opposite of me

Did any of you ever see that episode of Seinfeld - The Opposite? To summarise from Wikipedia "George, upon visiting the beach, (where many of the characters are seen having a major revelation), decides that every decision that he has ever made has been wrong, and that his life is the exact opposite of what it should be. Later, at Monk’s Café with the gang, he tells Jerry this, who convinces him that “if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right”. George then resolves to start doing the complete opposite of what he would do normally. He suddenly begins to experience good luck, getting a girlfriend, moving out of his parents' house, and even landing a job with the New York Yankees."

I know that Jerry Seinfeld described Seinfeld as a sitcom "where no-one learned anything" and as such it was wonderful anti-dote to so many cheesy sitcoms with "useful life lessons". However, ironically, a few years ago I did learn a great deal from Seinfeld by doing the opposite of me.. I don't really like most self-help books or self-improvement stuff - most of the time I feel that they oversimplify people's personalities and issues and that the solutions offered are pat and patronising. However, I do realise that there are times when you need to change aspects of your life and habits and so, for a while, I did the opposite of me. You see, up until that point I believed that my ballooning weight and inability to exercise was just the way I was. I wasn't happy about it but I didn't believe that it was possible to change. Everyone knew (or so I thought) I couldn't exercise and I knew I couldn't stop eating. However, for some reason doing the opposite of me lodged into my brain and so I experimented with ignoring what I normally did and so believed I could exercise and could lose weight. I did and I did. And while watching what I eat and how I eat is still something I need to keep a check on I do know that I can be slim and don't have to hoover up everything in sight. And with 5 marathons under my belt now, I also know that I can exercise.

And the point of this history of me is? Ah I was getting to that. As many of you have realised (particularly those who have read my deeply stressed-out outbursts on Facebook) the past year of working as a marketing manager in a sollicitor's firm (law firm) has not been easy. There's been the predictable crises resulting from childcare and domestic issues but there has also been a great deal of work-related stress. Focusing on the marathon in the weeks leading up to October 12th, I put all that out of my mind. But when I found myself back from Chicago with no immediate goal in mind I really sank down. Hence my January in October post, and my overwhelming desire to just get my head down and run another race. However - I decided to do "the opposite of me". For some strange reason, when I'm under pressure, I tend to just pile on more pressure until I crack and everything stops. I then finally tend to admit that I have too much on my plate and only then do I re-evaluate. I didn't let myself do that this time. While part of me threw around all sorts of crazy ideas "the opposite of me" would not let me make any decisions until I knew that I knew. For sure. So I flailed around for a few weeks, listening to all your wise advice about whether or not to race (and I really appreciate all of that - I can't tell you) and a few of you offered advice that went a bit further than whether or not to race - ShirleyPerly sent me an incredibly kind and incisive email about the role of training and racing in your life. I didn't make any decisions(believe me, that is the opposite of impetuous me). I just let things percolate. On Monday evening, when I came back from work stressed out and grumpy , my husband begged me to give up the job, telling me that I wasn't even doing the job I was hired to do. And suddenly I tweaked. All this time I had been beating myself up for failing - failing to enjoy a prestigious job, failing to appreciate how lucky I am to be in a job at all in this current climate, failing to be good enough at this job. Adam's comment made me realise that the job I am doing at the moment is NOT the one I signed up for and not one I chose. It's just evolved.. Thinking that through made me realise that while I enjoy doing freelance project work, I hate going back into an office with its office politics, the way people check up on you as they do in offices, and the constant battle to prevent bucks being passed my way. So on Thursday I went to see my boss and I told him that while I would be delighted to carry on taking web and marketing-related project work I would, by the end of January, stop doing the endless admin side of my new role and would cease to work in their offices and be at their beck and call. They could go with that, or not at all. And guess what? They went for it.

Like so many people I find it difficult to actually, honestly, say what I think - particularly when I think people are not going to be happy to hear it. Making an effort, for once, to do this, has been the most incredible release. I asked for what I wanted, and I got it. Not only that - once I had made this decision I immediately received a request to do some freelance work for a different company. Completely out of the blue, completely unexpected, and yet perfectly right. I have been thinking for years that what I'd be good at would be the person who sits between the techies and the business hiring them and I've never been brave enough to do anything about it. When I finally dared to say it, it started happening..

I apologise because up until now this has been a non-running related blogpost. But strangely enough it is. Forcing myself to believe I could run, and then that I could run marathons, has slowly trickled its way into wondering whether there is more I could do that I never dared to confess to..

And the running is good. I'm not running a december race. I'm enjoying the downtime. For the first time I'm running a decent mileage without a goal race and relatively quickly after a marathon - I'm aiming for 20 to 25 miles a week. I'm paying attention to my stride, my pace, my body. Babying it when I'm tired and pushing it when I feel I want to. It's lovely and I'm enjoying it. My training for London starts at the end of December - I want to be fresh and ready. Removing this enormous blockage of stress about work should be a help.

Thank you for being so patient while I've been away - I'm back with you all now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Runner's Roundtable and a promise fulfilled...

Before we ran Chicago, Drusy asked me whether Charlie, Maddy, Melisa and I would be prepared to discuss our experiences afterwards on the Runner's Roundtable and we all immediately agreed. It took some time to get enough hosts and 3 out of the 4 of us (Melisa, unfortunately, had to work - doncha hate how that interferes with playing?) on board but we did the show last night and it was a great experience! We talked about the race and meeting up but in the course of the conversation I realised I had made a glaring great big mistake - this film is not yet out there.

Charlie - the great CewTwo - has a fabulous party trick and I have posted it below. Two caveats - it's taken me over 24 and about that many attempts to get this film to upload to Blogger so apologies for the delay. And secondly - even though I've realigned the movie on my desktop it has uploaded it sideways. Any tips? In the meantime - just tilt your head to the right and realise that when it comes to party tricks - Charlie wins every time...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

January in October

The marathon is over, my birthday is over, I need to go on a diet and I've spent my piggy bank - yup it feels like January in October...

I knew it would come but it never fails to sock me round the head - the post-marathon dip. I won't bore you with the detail of my self-pity - you may stop reading this blog altogether - but suffice it to say I've been moping. I turned 37 on Sunday and celebrated with a big party on Saturday night. For the past couple of years my marathons have always been on or just after my birthday so I've never really partied - this year, for the first time, I could let my hair down. Or out. I borrowed a karaoke machine, got a couple of boxes of wine and beer (Janey Wine-box - that's me!) and invited 20 great friens. Fun was had by all, I even coped with my actual birthday without feeling too horrible but Monday morning - oh what a surprise! - came the smackdown. I'm still in it I think. I feel tired, bored, unmotivated and generally whingey. If you met me for a coffee, I'd whine at you. And why am I whining?

I guess that after the race and the travel and a late party I am tired. But that's not the full reason I feel that somebody has just switched on the strip lighting and I am seeing myself and my life for what I truly am - I think the real reason is that I don't have a plan!

Marathon training structures my life. I always have what I've run and what I've got to run in the back of my mind. I use it to plan my life around it and though I don't always follow it to the letter, it is very rare that I don't know at least what I should be doing. There's a plan - and there's a goal. Without it I am clearly a slightly podgy, grumpy undisciplined person. Or so it feels now anyway.

Obvious answer - make a new plan. And I will. But I'm still in that bit of the whinge where I haven't pulled myself together, kicked myself up my behind and sorted myself out. I went out for my first run this morning - 3M in the dark with my little headlight on - and that felt a bit better. I started weightwatchers online yesterday morning and although I am still struggling to stay within my daily allocated 20 points I can see that I've fallen into some bad habits recently and I'm feeling quite positive about readjusting things.

Running-wise I'm a bit in 2 minds. I am feeling really good physically and there is a little part of my brain which is wondering whether maybe I can just squeeze in another marathon before Christmas? I've been googling "7 weeks between marathons" and while neither Uncle Hal nor the Pfitz think this is the most sensible option known to man, they don't think it is totally crazy either, provided you listen to your body. Race options are few - the only real contender is Luton which is basically a dump, but they are hosting a marathon and it might just shake the whingeing out of me.. Ideas? Views? Is it mad? ShirleyPerly - what's your take?

As I write an e-mail from a friend pops into my in-box saying that she thinks I must be on a low after the race and the party and to "take it very easy" for a while... Hmmm. I can see where she would vote on the above brainwave..

Longish-term I have been given my place in the London Marathon for 2009 and I intend to start training for that over Christmas - so even if I ran Luton I could then take 3 weeks off completely before starting again...

You can probably tell I'm not quite sure about anything right now. I'll wait and see - get my eating on track, do some running and see how I feel over the weekend. In the meantime, I've cheered up just by sharing my misery with you all. Forgive me! And thanks for listening.

Oh and before I forget - big shoutouts to amazing Maritza and incredible Greg for their feats over the weekend in their marathon and ultramarathon, respectively. Well done!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Chicago 2008!

What a week! I got back on Tuesday afternoon but it has taken me until this morning to get round to the race report - between work, unpacking and spending some time with my family it has been so busy. The jetlag is getting me as well - it's never bad on the way out to the States but on the way home - it is terrible. Yesterday at work I was just overwhelmed by the desire to sleep at about 12:30pm... I went outside and soaked up some rays and got my friendly barista to add an extra shot to my latte. This morning I woke up at 5am eyes wide open... But I spotted the opportunity for a post so here it goes.

I had a wonderful time in Chicago. This week proved to be about friends old and new. I stayed with Jeff and Brian, who had supported me last time around, and they could not have been more gracious, welcoming and generous hosts. Reconnecting with them - lying on their couch drinking diet coke and watching wonderfully trashy tv, going out for some fabulous sushi, shopping on Michigan Avenue - was just fantastic. And then, of course, there were my new friends - Charlie, Melisa and Maddy. I met Maddy for the first time on Friday morning, outside her hotel. A little late as I had driven into downtown myself and had got utterly lost in the tunnels underneath the Loop. (Note to self - satellite navigation does not work underground - remember this with a Garmin..). We set out for a lakeside run which was not as easy as it might seem - we ended up on the side of a highway and had to turn back on ourselves before we found the lake. Check out my wonderful "on-run" photography skills - you can just see the brim of my cap there.. And get some sense of the beautiful lake, and the sun coming out. Maddy had a full day of sight-seeing ahead and so after 3M we headed back to the hotel and went our separate ways, agreeing to meet up at the expo.

Which we did - later that day. The expo was great - for those of us who like shopping and running, these occasions just have everything! Just before leaving I had entered an online competition at the RunnersLounge to trial "The Stick" and won one of the trials, and so I headed over to their stand. The guy who runs this business is fascinating and we spent ages discussing running, injuries and how and where the stick would work. He would keep saying to me "now I'm not getting fresh with you here" and then demonstrate another slightly embarassing but very effective move.. While I was chatting to him, Tom from the Runnerslounge came on over and we chatted as well - what a nice guy! We settled on this particular Stick and I will be starting my review of this over the weekend over on Runnerslounge - though fear not, I have already started to use it!

At this point my iPhone conked out. And with it, I feared, my chances of meeting up with Charlie and Maddy (I had already received Melisa's message that we had missed her). However, meandering through the stalls I suddenly spotted Charlie - and seconds later Maddy and her entourage found us as well. Cue some more photo taking..
Charlie, myself, Maddy and her adorable daughter, Chase. Maddy and her family went off again and Charlie patiently waited while I dithered over which race tee to buy.. And then he took on the weekend's real ultimate challenge - to allow me to drive him back to his hotel! We spent some time driving around underneath McKormick Place but eventually found our way to his hotel - always staying on the right side of the road as well! He made it in one piece, as did I..

The next morning Charlie, Maddy and I went off for another early morning run - on another beautiful day. Just a quickie - I think we did just over 2 miles - and then Charlie treated me to a delicious breakfast. What a guy! A run and some breakfast makes me a happy woman!

That evening we all met up at an Italian restaurant which Maddy had booked for about 20 of us (well done girl - it would have been beyond me) and I finally got to meet Melisa and her family. As I suspected, Melisa was a hoot and it was great getting to know Bill (her husband) and her family as well as Charlie's brother and sister-in-law...

And then race day dawned. Jeff and Brian rose with me at 5:30 and had programmed the coffee maker (didn't I tell you these were perfect hosts?) and then drove me to Maddy's hotel. I got there early and dawdled in the lobby waiting for Maddy (even waking up her husband, I fear, when I rang up to check she hadn't overslept..). We then walked over to Charlie and Melisa's hotel where we chatted nervously for a while before heading over to the start and queuing for the portaloos... Oh wherever you go in the world some things are the same!

It didn't seem that long before we were lined up in our corral, singing the national anthem and then standing around, listening to Born to Run while we were still waiting to go through the start. I think it was nearly 20 minutes before we crossed the start line and I immediately realised that I should have applied Friday's navigation lesson to my brain - my Garmin cut out in the tunnels and between the tall buildings... Oh well. Maddy and I had decided to run the race together and we were aiming for a 4:30. The first mile came in at about 12 minutes, but I figured with the crowds this was not bad. We stuck at this pace for a few miles, trying to find Maddy's family (we missed them until much later in the race). At 8 miles, we saw Jeff and Brian (photos to follow) which was fantastic - in 2006 I had missed them at every point. We were slowing down by this stage as the heat was making itself felt. I could see that we were drifting off our pace and made a decision there and then that we were just going to finish this race, come what way, and that we were going to forget about any time goals.. Which we did. Maddy has written a fabulous blow-by-blow race report at her blog although she gives me too much credit - I saw she was having a tough time (and I was plenty hot and bothered myself, may I add) and cannot begin to describe how much I admire her for sticking with the race (and me). The upside of the weather (and yes there was one) was the audience - the people were just having street parties everywhere! Highlights of the race include:
- the people in Pilsen - they know how to party!
- everyone who hosed us down with their garden hoses
- all the people who shouted out our names and made us feel like superstars - especially that band in Lincoln Park!
- and for me, Maddy. This girl has grit and determination and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to run the race with her. I was quite convinced that she would sock me (especially after I made her cry at mile 20) and I am just thrilled that we managed a PB for her - there's more where that came from girlfriend!

I think for all of us, it was a much tougher race than we had anticipated. We didn't think it could get as hot as last year again, and it almost did. The race was fantastically well-organised - the last 3 miles felt like one continuous water station - but nonetheless, this doesn't do the running for you. It really was tough out there and it seemed there were a lot of people at the aid stations and bent over with cramp by the side of the road.

But Maddy and I made it across the finish line - hand in hand! We need to get that photo! What a relief to stop running... And then there was the long drag to the medals, the apples (?) and my bag. Maddy had to make a quick turnaround to get to the airport so we hugged farewell - there is nothing like running together to cement a friendship! - and then I wandered off to find Brian and Jeff (stopping off at the beertent to collect my free beer, which, I have to say, was one of the most delicous things I have ever tasted in my life - and I'm not a beer drinker). After running in the heat for over 5 hours, there was no need to ID me... When we hooked up the boys took me home, and then we partied! Champagne at the John Hancock, a fabulous mexican meal and then singalongs to showtunes in their local bar. Bliss! And all too soon, I was wending my way back to the airport and home to my wonderful family..

Overall it was a truly wonderful experience. Meeting with Charlie, Maddy and Melisa was incredible - the strange combination of feeling you know these people but yet, you don't... We got over that last bit very quickly and I really hope to be running with these peeps, and others, soon enough. Thank you Charlie, Melisa and Maddy - for coming along, for being game. I am so sorry for encouraging you to run a race that did not live up to anyone's expectations achievement-wise. Next time I'll let you choose!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Stress, preparation and Stan...

Oh come on now! You know 3 posts in a few days was just a fluke! I was never going to keep up that kind of pace was I?

Life has been STRESSFUL! Well - not life - but work. Very stressful. Pressure, deadlines, working into the evening, work creeping into family life, work creeping into all aspects of life. Really not what I had in mind when I started working at this job in November. Everyone said to me that part-time work is never really that. They were right.. It will happily creep into every aspect of my life. What to do about it though? Well as I see I have a number of options:
- learn to deal with the stress in a constructive way. HA! Easier said than done is alls I can say. Running helps but does not solve it. I know people who can work hard, be really engaged and then switch off. I know that I need to "put my stress in a box" and shelve it. I know that. I just don't know how to.
- make my boundaries much more apparent to my employers and colleagues. Yes another good one. Despite my general gobbiness (few of you actually know me but believe I talk the hind legs off the proverbial donkey) I am not enormously assertive about my boundaries and what I will not do. Saying "no" in other words. More to work on there..
- give it up. But I really don't want to. I really want to work this out, work this through, learn how to handle this job better.
So I'll be working on the 1st and 2nd points then...

Preparation. Race preparation. Travel preparation. Well what can I say - I'm ready! I went out for 4 in the dark (that happened quickly!) and I was chomping at the bit to burst free. However it's all about control now and keeping it IN the jar so I'm doing that. I'm doing 8 on Sunday and then it's really slowing down. Heading to Chicago Thursday morning via Humberside - Amsterdam - Detroit and then driving across town to stay with my friends. That should be fun - driving on my own on the other side of the road after a good 12 hours of traveling. You can see why I plumped for SatNav... And then Friday we've arranged to meet all the other amazing blogging buddies at the expo and we'll take it from there?

Stan. Is a spot. I never get spots. Didn't have acne as a teenager, don't spot over at my time of month - it just doesn't happen. But last week - probably due to all the stress (see above) I got a spot. And not just any old spot. This spot was gigantic! Enormous! No-one said to me "oh you wouldn't notice it was there" because that would be like ignoring a second head that was sprouting out of my face. This spot was of such epic proportions I really did feel it had a life of its own and therefore I named him Stan. Of course this was the week we had a big launch at work where I had to stand around covering my chin with my hand like a teenager and then I met a friend who I hadn't seen for 18 years (! the wonders of Facebook).. Anyway I'm not a very make-uppy kind of girl but this was a crisis so I went into a beauty shop and just pointed at my chin. The staff, again, didn't pretend there was nothing there but like EMTs rushing to an accident they whisked out all their magical stuff and by the time they were done I had a beauty spot. Not great - it kind of looked like a wart - but not as bad as Stan.

While there is still stress, Stan is shrinking, finally. I didn't take a picture - I just couldn't bear it. But take it from me - with one thing and another - I'm looking forward to getting on that plane next week and leaving everything behind for a few days.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

When a run throws you blackberries - you make pie!

I know, I know it's feast or famine with me blogging-wise.. First nothing for weeks on end and then 3 posts in 3 days. I'm under no illusions that I'll keep it up but I've been having fun with my camera. During my 20 miler last Friday I noticed some extremely juicy blackberries and so yesterday I enlisted my personal slaves (ie son and daughter) to come out with me and pick them. Despite the fact that my daugther ate at least as many as she put in her tray, we came back with a decent haul and after picking some apples in a neglected orchard on our farm we came home and made pie. And ate it. It's gone - but it was gooooood. And there's nothing like running 20 miles to make you feel you deserve pie.

Taper time!

I love taper time. I really do. The hard long lonely runs are done, the excitement of the marathon is yet to come - it's a sweet time of anticipation..

Although I never run a marathon in training for a marathon (like some other crazy folks I know) I find the 2 20 mile runs that Hal Higdon incorporates into his Intermediate I program pretty tough. Harder than the marathon. The reason for this is, I think, that I usually do them alone. I love running on my own generally. It gives me very precious "me" time, and I tend to unwind and destress from all the things that get me, a definite type A personality, wound up on daily basis. I tend to run first thing in the morning as well and I find it's a great way to set me up for the day. All this works well for a 5/6 mile run for me. Once I get further than that, and particularly over 10 miles, I like company. Sally and I have not managed to co-ordinate our runs this season (though we may slip something in next week) and so I have been running all of my long runs alone. My first 20 miler went well. I did my second yesterday. It went ... okay... I guess.

I have been suffering with a bit of lack of mojo at the moment. One of the ways in which this is demonstrating itself is that after 5 years I no longer find it enough to just run around our farm. In fact - I marvel at my ability to have done this in the past. You know even last year I would run 20M in laps around our farm - laps of 1.4 miles. This year I just can't do it. I get too bored. I find that I need to run out and back for my longs so I have no excuse not to run back...

So far so good. Running an 8 miler before my half last weekend I discovered, by pure chance, a wonderful new running route. The irony of living in the countryside, at least in Lincolnshire, is that most of the roads have no bike paths or pavement and people drive FAST on the country lanes. It's a bit lethal... But this road I found is paved and yet only one car width wide and goes between 3 little hamlets. There's nothing there and the only traffic appears to be tractors.

So off I went on Friday. Dropped the kids off at school, parked in Brattleby, and set off. 20 miles! A loop, and then a bit on, and then back again. The first 13 miles or so went by fine. Nothing too eventful. After my half on Sunday I felt comfortable doing my 1 mile run, 1 minute walk technique. I chowed down on ShotBloks in the 1 minute breaks and was fine. And then at around mile 14, my sports drink ran out. I had cursorily topped up my CamelBak on my way out and assumed that enough was in there but the day had turned out unexpectedly hot and I clearly had not got enough. I stopped at the first house I could find. No-one in. Second house - I could hear voices when I rang the bell but the only thing the occupants did was open a side door to let out a Rottweiler. Into a pen. But still... Ok I got the message. Finally, at the third house an older gentleman told me "it's much too hot to run" (21 degrees Celcius in September in England everyone collapes with the heat) and his wife allowed me to fill the bag with water. I slowly trotted off for the remaining 4.5 miles but by this point I had really slowed down. I ran half a mile, walked a minute for the rest of my run and I have rarely been as pleased to get a run over with as I have with this one. The stats weren't too awful at the end - 3:18 for the whole thing but the speed was built up at the beginning - the last miles I went sloooowwwwllly..

So with this long run and last week's race under my belt I have a few lessons to remember:

1. do NOT underestimate dehydration. It happens very quickly - I realise this now.
2. Chafing. Is bad! Do not forget to rub the chub! I did and it has resulted in an ugly scene. I'm not sure I will wear skorts for the Marathon - my half leggings are safer...
2. Do download Mika's Life in Cartoon Motion. Grace Kelly has always been my powersong - Lollipop made me laugh at mile 19.5 when very little else could have.
From Last 20 miler before Chicago

So I'm done. Well not completely but the next few weeks are a lot easier which is hopefully is going to let me prepare for all the fun and frolics we have planned in Chicago!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A little sharpener..

It may have escaped your notice -it certainly did mine - but I haven't had any race practise this year. At all. What with being injured and busy it just hasn't happened. It suddenly struck me, however, that it might not be too clever to roadtest everything - speed, nutrition, kit and mental attitude - while out on the course in Chicago. Added to this I've been a bit unmotivated this past week - I've made most runs but am not bursting with vim and vigor, as we might say. So I thought a race would be the perfect thing to shake me up and sharpen up my 'tude and mojo before October 12th. I scrabbled about for a race to run this weekend - I had 12 to run on the schedule, so I figured a half would be perfect. The only one I could still enter was the Mablethorpe half run on the Lincolnshire coast about an hour from here. Now before you get excited - our coast is no cape cod. Or Florida. Really. First of all there's the North Sea which is cold and vicious. Then there is the fact that the Lincolnshire coast was developed on a large scale in the 50s and 60s. The developments along the coast are basically dumps. Tawdry fish and chips shops, lots of gambling parlors and lots of - let me be diplomatic - undertall people who could do with a marathon or 10. BUT - with some kind of wisdom the people of Mablethorpe have built a high sea defence between the town and the ocean and for snobs like me this allows one to enjoy the beach without having to deal with the town. Anyhow - that was just me setting the scene for you. On with the report.

I set off at 6 this morning as the race website said that only 100 people would be allowed to register on the morning of the event for the 10K, half and full marathon. The race has been very popular in the past and this weekend has been uncharacteristically warm and sunny so I thought there would be an enormous amount of late entries.. It seems not. When I finally found the start area - amazingly it took me half an hour to find any sign of life in a town still fast asleep - and registered I was the first to do so. I got chatting to the race director who told me there were only 900 people registered for all races. I mosied about for a while and finally found someone who would sell me a cup of coffee (instant - I knew better than to think to look for a Starbucks) and chatted to a few people. The race started at 9:45 (5 mins after the 10K start and 5 minutes before the full Marathon start) and I happily jogged along for the first mile or so. The adrenalin in a race always makes me happy - I'm always beaming from ear to ear for the first mile or so.. One of the many worries I had about Chicago was that I have been training with walk breaks in my long runs (1 mile run, 1 minute walk) and I was wondering whether to do these in Chicago, or to walk aid stations, or just to run the whole thing - and whether I could do it. So I decided in this half to walk the aid stations and when I got to the first one I duly walked for 1 minute drinking the water. By this time it had warmed up plenty and I had to tie my windproof jacket around my waist. (Note to self - unless it is below 0 leave that jacket behind in Chicago). I soon got running with 2 women from the Louth running club, Amanda and Fiona, who had a nice pace going and some distracting conversation. I got so busy chatting to them that I forgot to walk the rest of the aid stations and as I was feeling quite comfortable I didn't really have the need.. The course was flat and windy (good preparation for Chicago) and the last 3 miles were along the seafront (with the wind in our back). At mile 12 I left Amanda and Fiona behind and charged ahead - Amanda was having a slightly tough time - and forged ahead for the finish line, ready to be done with it. And I came in at 2:01! I was very pleased with this - I didn't feel I had pushed myself too hard and I'd overcome some of my worries and concerns for Chicago. After a delicious sausage bap (or hot dog as it's known outside of this region) I jumped in the car and drove home. Quite uneventful really - but that was good too...

Onwards and upwards..

Friday, September 05, 2008

Getting that monkey off my back...

With 5 (5! 5?) weeks to go before Chicago I'm beginning to experience all the normal fears, worries and superstitions that I always feel before a race. So these are the normal, standard things I worry about:
- I can't do this. It's all been a fluke so far but actually this race I'll get found out to be the faker I am;
- I will miss the race. Miss the plane, lose my shoes etc. These are the themes of my dreams. I haven't yet had a running the marathon naked dream but I do have 5 weeks to go.
- I can't do this.

So new features on the "freakin' out of Petra show" are:
- I've focused less on my training than in previous years. Therefore as above, I can't do this.
- I will somehow not manage to hook up with my running buddies.

That's it. Enough to keep me going, believe me. The monkey has really been sitting on my back this past week as I pulled out of my 18 miler on Sunday after 9 miles. I was so exhausted (first day after my holidays, clearly really relaxed) I just couldn't get my head round it. But you know how you feel when things don't go your way. Added to that I had decided to not get so stressed out about work anymore (so easy when sitting on a Tuscan terrace with a glass of wine in your hand) and the first day back at work I experienced what I think was a mild panic attack at the wheel of my car on the way home, just going over my workload. So the no-stress thing was clearly not working well...

Anyway I did manage to pull myself together this week. I am putting together some plans at work to help me cope with my workload and to get some help with it. In the meantime I am ruthlessly prioritising and ensuring that my home life and running life does not suffer unduly. No more working in the evenings / weekends for a while. And I'm actively investigating various stress-reducing solutions like meditation etc. I've always been a worrier but I'm getting a bit tired of that, and would like to work at changing this.

So this week I had 20 on the calendar. I decided to put my failed 18 miler behind me and focus on the future, and run my 20 miler today as I have a wedding to go to tomorrow and guests coming on the weekend. So I waved my kids off to school and drove to a little country lane, about 2 miles from my house, to run the 20 miler on roads (it's been raining here, for weeks, for years, forever, and my track around the farm is pretty soggy by now).

Oh - and have I mentioned my 20 mile superstition? Bearing in mind that this is the 3rd time I've trained with the Hal Higdon Intermediate I program I have this thing that I have to run at least one of my 20 milers at race pace. I hasten to say this is not what Uncle Hal wants you to do. But I always feel that if I can do one of my 20 milers at race pace it gives me confidence that I can do the full race... We shall see.

5 weeks to go!

A few snapshots from Tuscany...

Monday, September 01, 2008

Things done - and not done...

Things I have not done:
  • posted a new blogpost. Not for 5 weeks. A record I'm not proud of.
  • posted comments on other people's blogs. Again. Not for 5 weeks. Again. A record I'm not proud of.
  • been in touch with lots of friends - in person and online. Something I'm really not proud of.
  • organised a t-shirt for my blogging buddies running the Chicago Marathon with me. Got halfway there (commissioned my barista for a design, which he delivered) but then did not get any further.
  • been online much for pleasure / fun / playing. We lost our internet connection at home for 10 days (will you believe this?!). I nearly started playing boardgames but see below - was working too hard for that..

Things I have done:
  • worked hard. Most of my failures above are due to a deadline at work which had me working very very long hours.
  • been on holiday. I came back last night from a lovely 2 week holiday with my husband and children to Rome and Tuscany.
  • drunk wine. See above.
  • eaten pasta. Also see above.
  • sat in the sun. We didn't know it worked but it does. Just not in the UK.
  • been warm. Even hot. Didn't remember that was possible. It is but just not in the UK.
  • bought various beautiful and expensive pieces of clothing and footwear. Blame wine and sun. And opportunity.
  • trained for Chicago. I missed a few of my shorter runs but so far have got most of the long runs in. Ran 17 2 weeks ago (reaching 13.2 in 2:08 which is good on a training run and with 1 minute walk breaks every mile, methinks).
  • Announced on Facebook that I was going to run 18 miles and then didn’t quite manage it. I was exhausted from travel I think.. Not great and it made me feel just a tad foolish…
  • bought 2 new pairs of running shoes. Very hardcore this. After Maddy’s recent experience with hip pain and Shirley Perly’s advice I decided I should do the same. A bit painful in the running shop but it shouldn’t cost more in the end. Right?

Things I am going to do:
  • get back in the saddle. Training has been going okay – I feel fine about it – but it hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind. With 6 weeks to go, Chicago is my focus. I’m not going to make up for this past week’s run but am getting properly into this week – my first of 2 20 milers.
  • Get back online and in touch. I’ll be there this week my friends, I promise.
  • Get this post posted. Enough already!

Keep on running my friends – I’m back on your roads with you now!

Monday, August 04, 2008

a downer, but then back up again!

Once again it has been crazy these past few weeks! I've hardly read any blogs, but the ones I read did chime with me - Maddy's clearly been sharing some of my issues about just finding the time to run - let alone blog about it... But I'm coming to the end of a big deadline project at work (which I've had to keep moving the deadline for, which makes things even more stressful) so I can foresee some slightly easier times ahead. And yes - I've got another trip coming up. In 2 weeks my family and I will be flying to Rome for 5 days, after which we will travel to the hills of Tuscany for 8 days. Not too shabby I know - and I'll be taking some photos of those hot and scenic runs out there. I can't wait! And finally - and this merits an enormous DADUM - I've finally turned something work-wise down! Amazingly I seem to be aware, for once in my life, that I have enough on my plate already. There are more big projects in the pipeline and in the meantime I've also been offered the opportunity to undertake a course. There is no doubt this course would be useful for me, and helpful for me in career. But you know what? Not now. I am just about juggling enough right now. I'm meant to be having 2 days off from work a week - where I could do my studying, theoretically, but it just hasn't happened. At all. So I know I would end up studying evenings and weekends. And you know what? I'm just not going to do it. Not yet, anyway. Once I can carve out some more time and see that I could make the window - then I'll jump. You probably don't realise what an enormous step this is for me but believe me, it is. .. And I'm all strangely psyched about it. The prospect that I might have some time off - whoopee! I can run!

And yes the running. Well - the week before last was a bit of a downer. I managed to get my midweek runs in - 4M, 7M, and 4M and then I contracted a stomach bug over the weekend and missed my 7miler AND my 14 miler. Well you all know exactly how awful that feels! Man I was so peeved. And I don't know about you but when I miss a long run I panic. I didn't grow up thinking I could do this running thing, and I've not exactly had too many people in my life who believed I could do it either as it still seems, somehow, so unlike me. So whenever I miss a long run I think - see? That proves it. I was faking it all along. Do you have that?

Well I chewed on that over the weekend and then Monday evening, after I came in from work, fed and bathed and bedded the kids, I went back outside and ran. And ran and ran and ran. Eventually I had to stop at 10 o'clock because it was so dark and I didn't think to dig out my winter running headlamp (the one that whenever I put it on at 6am on a February morning makes my sleepy husband take one look at me, say "you have officially lost the plot" before digging his head back in the bed). So I stopped at 11M full of zest and vim and mosquito bites. NOT vanquished yet. The rest of the week I juggled the runs a bit (I did 4, 4, 7, 7 instead of 4, 7,4, 7) and then, yesterday, I did my required 15M. Not fast - I 11minute miled this baby - but you can see where I'm heading can't you? Technically, I ran 48 miles this week. (&*(*^&*(^*& 48 MILES! THAT IS A PERSONAL BEST! And if you think that I was thinking I might never run again a few months ago (a touch dramatic, but that's me) I can't tell you how happy I am. I can still do it. I am still a runner. So far, I am not an impostor...

So guys and gals? How are you? I'm going to cut this one short now so I can actually go online and check on all of your blogs. I've got a stepback week this week which is rather nice - I'm going to step back and enjoy it and try to get life back together a bit.. Till soon and don't forget about me - I am constantly trying to get back on track with all of this!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Week 6 - in the bag. And various problems solved..

Week 6 is in the bag.  Nearly did every planned run - yesterday's 6 miler was cut short at 1.5 miles due to my husband suddenly having to go out so I had to come in and stay with the kids.  Never did manage to complete the remaining 4.5 miles either but I did manage to get today's 9 miler in despite being very tired.  Hardly speedy - 1:34:08, averaging me out at 10:28 minute miles, but that's fine for my long run.  While running I contemplated every possible excuse for giving up but by the time I had 6 in the bag I decided I might as well finish the job, and I did.  So a victory of mind over matter if nothing else.  The kind of mental training that comes in useful... 

As I mentioned in last week's post I have recently upgraded my gadgetry with a Garmin 405.  This is what my Polar 625X looks like at the moment:

Not so good - no battery and the button's dropped off.  No use at all.  So in a spirit of financial optimism (ie slightly tipsy amazoning after a nice Saturday night out with friends) I decided I NEEDED a new Garmin 405 and 24 hours later, thanks to the ease of Amazon Prime and one-click shopping my new gadget arrived.  Lovely indeed. 

But you will note that, as Nicole from 4 feet running has reported, this gadget was not designed for delicate little wrists.  It was fairly uncomfortable actually, rubbing everywhere as I ran.  And then, while in a shop buying some hairclips from my daughter, genius struck me and I arrived at what I like to call the Hello Kitty solution.  Yes indeed that fabulously 80s accessory, the sweatband, is the answer.  And with Hello Kitty on it, to boot!  Just check out this elegant solution..  Eat your heart out Bjorn Borg.

And all this action has lead to a happy runner, even in the rain.  The joy just shines off my shiny face doesn't it?  

Have a great week on the road my friends - 12 weeks to go until Chicago! 

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Not again?

No, don't worry.  The knees are fine.  I feel them, from time to time, but judicious stretching, walk breaks and preventative massages (and some painful stretches on my foam roller) appear to be keeping anything more serious at bay..  No what I'm referring to is that, once again, I'm absent from the blogosphere for weeks on end! How does this happen?  Oh yes, I'm busy at work (but have been for a while now) and I'm busy at home (what's new there?) but I was pretty on top of things for a little while there at the beginning of the year - it's the last few months that the wheels have really come off my blogging and commenting.  I'm WAY behind on everyone's posts and promise to try and catch up this week.  Man!  What's changed?  Well all I can think of that's changed in a big way is that I'm in training.  And on top of what is proving to be a more or less full-time job and the usual family / home / life stuff the days are completely full.  Packed to capacity!  Blogging just falls off the to-do list, most days. 

But not today.  Enough is enough and a 3 week silence is long enough.  Well you will be happy to hear, I hope, that I'm still on board for Chicago.  In fact, today's 12 miler tops off my first 3o mile week in this training cycle and for some time, altogether.  The week has also been a triumph in running planning after a week that was not.  Week 4 of my training program was severely curtailed by a hospital stay for my son in London.  We ended up staying the night which I hadn't anticipated and he needed me more than I had thought so I, effectively, lost 4 days of my program.  Which I hasten to say I have no regrets about - I have retained some perspective on priorities, you'll be happy to hear.  Without going into boring detail about my son what he has is ongoing but not life-threatening, so there will be more of these visits in the future.  One of the UK's best children's hospitals is in London (Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children) and he is very fortunate to be able to be helped there - but you can imagine this requires quite a lot of upheaval for us all.  Without the support of my best friend Dawn and my in-laws things would be really tough but we are so lucky with our network, both in London and at home.  And the support includes babysitting while running, when possible - due to my unexpected overnight stay in hospital I did not have a change of underwear with me, but I did have my running kit (always prepared for a run).  So I did a very Run Lola Run thing - I ran through the crowds of Oxford Street to get to Gap to get some clean underwear!  It was crazy but very exhilarating - just mad weaving through the people in my running gear and just powering on, with only my cash card in my shorts and then running back with a pair of white knickers in my hand.  I felt so much better after the run, the shower and the clean underwear! Ready to tackle the rest of what life had to throw at me.. 

And life has thrown me some good stuff this past week: 
- first - a new gadget!  Yes.  I have been running with my Nike+ for some time now but I am irritated with its lack of accuracy, the fact that the batteries suddenly die and that you generally have to deal with Apple / Nike glitches (and I say this as a passionate lover of all things Apple, and to a slightly lesser extent, all things Nike).  Just that the 10th time your iPod freezes up or you come back from a run and are told: "0 miles completed, your speed was 0 miles per hour" you get a bit frustrated..  I used to run with a Polar 625X with a footpod which I loved to distraction and which kept me well paced in every marathon I've run.  However, I wore it all the time and late last year the stop start button fell off.  I did try to get it reconditioned but it's quite pricey.  (If anyone would like to try to do it with Polar you are welcome to my kit - it's cheaper to repair than buying a 405 despite all the creative accounting I tried - I've got the footpod and the watch.  Polar needs to replace the battery and put a new button on it.  Just let me know if you're interested.)  Anyway, I decided to go for gold and buy a Garmin 405!  I had held off on Garmins before because I run under trees a lot (about 99 percent of the time) and had heard bad reports on GPS watches.  But I was reassured when I ran with Sally recently at home with her 205 and we never lost reception and apparently the 405 is even better. I have little to compare it with but love it!  Yes, of course, some glitches (not Apple compatible yet ;)) and I realise you HAVE to lock the bezel when running, but once I've managed this I'm quite happy.  I have been running with it since last week and I have to say I think it works well as a motivational tool as well.  So all in all - 5 stars! 
- and then, even better, I bought my husband a trip to Paris for his birthday with - tada - me!  So on Thursday we set off on the Eurostar to Paris (so civilised people - it has to be done) after champagne and scrambled eggs at the longest champagne bar in the world at the station in London.  An hour or two (and a few more glasses of champagne onwards) we glided into Paris and found our hotel.  We had 3 lovely days of strolling around, sitting on terraces, shopping, sightseeing and generally enjoying ourselves.  I even managed to get a required 6 miler in on Friday (instead of Saturday) and then get this - they have a wonderful new system of basically borrowing / cheaply renting bikes in Paris.  I won't bore you with these details either but let me link you to more information on this.  But..  this is Paris.  They have put in quite a few bike lines, the buses don't spew their exhaust behind them but still - Parisian drivers are not known for their courteous and moderate driving habits.  The centre of town has beautiful, gigantic traffic circles like Place de la Concorde where about 8 different "avenues" convene on one great big circle.  These great traffic circles are rarely roundabouts but instead appear to be where a high staked game of chicken is played.  The lights change - red, amber and then flash, instead of turning green, as if to say "it's up to you - you decide whether to go for it".  You find yourself moving forwards in traffic only to see another stream of traffic coming at you at a similar speed from either (or both sides).  Who gets across first?  We exercised some caution but sometimes you just have to go and trust they'll let you go in front.  Which, it has to be said, the drivers did.  I only got honked at a few times and believe me, in Paris, that is an achievement.  

Back home on Saturday night to piles of laundry, whiny children and domestic bliss - aahh how I missed it. But Sunday morning I set out for my planned 12.  I can't say it was easy - the good life in Paris does not really set you up that well for running - but I persevered and turned in a slow and hot 2:10 for my 12 miler.  Not breaking any records but hey..  I managed.  This week is a step back week (phew!) and my long run is 9 so hopefully a chance to catch my breath before I power up for the big weeks ahead.  I will endeavour to be a more conscientious blogger and commenter my friends - I haven't forgotten you, don't forget me...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Consider myself


Just about everyone has done this meme, but even when late to the party, I like to join in..  So here goes: 

How would you describe your running 10 years ago? 
10 years ago I only ran into the pub / restaurant / out to get more wine..  Or cigarettes.  Or at least to eat something, anything, with chips / fries on the side.  

What is your best / worst race experience? 
There is something pretty amazing about every race - I'm always amazed to be there at all.  I get quite happy in races - goofy smile, I talk to everyone - I'm just so excited that I, Petra, am there.  You don't get this do you?  I Petra!  The fat slow one.  The one who truly never got picked on any team, anytime, at school.  I, Petra, am running a race. To me, still, every word in that sentence should be in bold.  

I haven't really had a terrible race experience but running a marathon I hadn't trained for was challenging at times.  It was a small field, and I came 2nd, or third to last.  But more than anything, that race hurt.  It hurt my legs, my back, and my brain.  It taught me there is merit in training, not just to get faster, but also in letting you enjoy your races, being prepared...  But ultimately, I still felt fantastic when it was over.  And the home made bacon sandwich I ate at the finish will forever remain in my mind as a top, top meal... 

What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running? 
That it's okay to run slow.  That bit of advice, given by John Bingham, in a slimming magazine I picked up when I was at my mental lowest point and physically heaviest (non pregnant) point - turned things around for me.  I had never run because I wasn't fast.  The realisation that that didn't matter opened the door for me and set me on the path to where I am now.  

Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know. 
I'm an open book guys - you know a lot about me.  One thing that you don't know because most of you haven't seen me as partygirl is my partytrick.  I can put my fist in my mouth.  Make of that what you wish - and don't go asking for video evidence.  Buy me a beer and we'll see what happens.. 

I'm just working my way through everyone's blogs at the moment and will post my own update later tonight (I hope).  All's well and ticking along.  Fairly mild weeks, these first 2, and its suiting me fine.. 

2 weeks in and going strong...

I've just reached the end of week 2 of my Hal Higdon Intermediate I program.  Because, yes, I've taken the plunge and booked my flight - Chicago, here I come!  Via a very long and winding trip (Humberside, Amsterdam, Detroit, Chicago) I arrive in Chicago on the 9th of October and head back via the same route on the evening of Monday the 13th.  So those of you going out there to run - I'm there and looking to meet up with everyone! 

And so the training has an edge now as well - I have made the financial decision to go, now all my body has to do is follow and train.  And so far, so good.  Admittedly, the first two weeks are not too high in mileage and although I had to miss a run last week because of the most unbelievable streaming cold (can you believe it?  In June?) I managed to get every run in this week.  I went out for 9 this morning with Sally which was great - just like old times.  Except for the fact that my former protegee has completely overtaken me in fitness and ability..  Remember this woman who, in February 2007, joined me for her first ever 10 miler?  And who very quietly and underconfidently trained for her first marathon in October and then helped me get a PB?  Well this wonderful woman ran Edinburgh a few weeks ago and despite her fears about running it alone and some major major stomach upsets along mile 22 (which slowed her down considerably) she went round in 3:51:41 - a time I can only dream of.  What a woman!  And there's no slowing her down - she had a tough week at work this past week and unwound with 10 yesterday before joining me on my leisurely 9 this morning.  Honestly!  If I didn't love her I would resent the hell out of her, but believe me, it's impossible to do so.  She is just such a lovely person, you really do wish her the fastest possible times (most of the time - and it would be great if she could just pass me some of whatever juju it is she's got going).  So here's an old photo of us together at our first race, her first half marathon and the first time she pushed me to a PB.  and may there be many more to come - though somehow I doubt it.  She has just herself out of my league I fear... 

In other news - the ongoing saga of the knees - all seems to be under control at the moment.  Plenty of stretching, walk breaks in my long runs and some painful sessions on the foam roller ( just like Akshaye ) seem to be doing the trick.  Back to the osteo this week and a bit more acupuncture as well - it didn't seem to make any difference last time but apparently you need more than one go to see if it works.  So I'm going with that for the time being.  The way I see this developing is that, hopefully, with a bit of tweaking and loosening from the professionals, my knees will be happy with the slowly increasing mileage and not go insane again.  We shall see! 

Finally - I am fast beginning to realise that the real enemy of my schedule is not my knees (thankfully) but the encroachment of the rest of my life.  Work is incredibly much busier than it has ever been in a previous training cycle and the squeeze that puts on the rest of my life, never mind my training, is taking some adjustments.  Right now I'm intending to plan ahead - I can see some obstacles up ahead and I'm just ducking and diving, switching training days and commitments around to get (most of) my training in.  Next week I'm off to London with my son to hospital - nothing as serious as the last time around but nonetheless pretty intense and unpleasant.  I hope to get a run in - running saved my bacon last time round - but won't beat myself up if I can't.  

So no shocking news for y'all - just an update to tell everyone I'm back out there and training hard - so someone book Giordano's for the Sunday night!  (I don't think we can justify that the night before, do you?)

Stay healthy, stay happy, keep running... 

Friday, June 06, 2008


As promised, though once again a few days later than I intended... 

OK - chapter by chapter:
The knees.  The knees are doing well.  I've just come back from my friend, the physio who is also an acupuncturist.  Very interesting.  In her view, the problems stem from my Q-angle, something I've long suspected.  My kneecaps are very high, which is just how they are, and if my quads get tight (which they are prone to do because they are strong and I don't stretch enough) they pull my kneecap up even further.  Overpronation further exacerbates the problem.  To my relief she thinks that basically everything and everyone I've seen has helped - the physio stopped me from running when I might have really injured myself had I carried on, the podiatrist has dealt with the overpronation, the osteopath has loosened the tension around the kneecaps.  Now I just need to keep stretching and make sure that I don't let the area under the kneecap get inflamed again.  To aid the healing of the minor inflammation that is still there she then used acupuncture.  I won't go into further detail about why this is thought to work, but will just gross you out with a picture of the procedure..

The white ones (which you can't really see very well) on the inside of my knee hurt - the rest was fine.  I'll keep you posted on the situation and whether it works. 

The running is good.  Last week in Holland I managed 19 miles comfortably and then upon my return I ran a 10 miler.  I'm babying my knees - I ran 1 mile, walked 1 minute - but still got round in a respectable 1:43 which I'm very happy with.  I stretch my quads well after 1 mile and do a thorough stretch afterwards and, so far, I'm fine.  Check me out with the girls below and then in my ice bath afterwards (with son hamming it up).  This week has not been great, purely for time reasons but I'm hoping to go out and run 8 later this morning and then see where I am. 

Camera Charles asked me which camera I use - I have a Canon Digital Ixus 75.  They seem to bring out a new model of this one every 2 months but it's a winning formula.  I've had some really high end cameras in the past but I really wanted a light point and shooter and this one does the job.  The video on it isn't half bad either - certainly suits the purposes of what I need.  I bought a small case with it (LowePro) and it hooks onto my fuel belt when running and honestly - I am very very happy with it.  It's also survived a few run-ins with mud, rain and the road and seems none the worse for wear. I highly recommend it for running bloggers.  I'm very trigger happy at the moment - this is me after a very wet run on Wednesday night.  Don't you call me a fair weather runner!

Training program Thank you all so much for your input re training programs.  I have really listened to what I've heard and have decided, on this occasion, to not go for Furman.  I am too concerned about the effect of the fast work on my knees.  I am very tempted by Jeff Galloway but time (which is ever dwindling) is running short and his programs are 29 week ones - a bit late for that I fear.  Mulling things over I realised there was a great big elephant in the room of my considerations - my ego.  In all fairness I should still consider myself "on the mend", not "recovered".  Yet when I read about the mileages some of you are clocking I think "I want this too!".  I have given myself a severe talking to - my objective, in this race, is going to be to get to the start uninjured and be in a position where I can get round uninjured.  At this point in time I really need to force myself to not think about PRs or even course PRs.  Just get round comfortably without doing any lasting damage.  And added to this, this is the first time in my marathon training that I'm also working a lot while training.  Time is in so much shorter a supply than it has been before.  I'm only just beginning to realise what the impact on my life is and, while I really enjoy my job, I'm having to acknowledge adjustments here.  I'm getting some more help in the house (why do we women always want to do it all ourselves until we collapse? Side issue here, but still) but still time will be limited and energy levels as well.  I'm focusing on diet this time as well - not so much to lose weight (though I would not complain) but more to give me energy and strength and support me in everything I'm trying to accomplish in the next few months.  

So after all that, after all the houses I've been round, I'm going back, cautiously, to old uncle Hal's Intermediate I, with the following adjustments. For the time being, I'm doing the long runs with walk breaks. And I may replace one of the shorter runs in the week with cross training.  Tomorrow is Week 1 so I'm going to set up my Buckeye Outdoors schedule and will link to it from here as soon as it's organized..  

So that's it folks - training starts tomorrow.  On your marks, get set, GO! 

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Come run with me

WHOA!  It's hard to blog every week!  I can't tell you how many blog posts I make up in my mind as I am driving to work or walking down the street but to get to my desk and actually do it - there always seems so much else on.  But last week we took a break and for my children's half-term we went to Holland where I grew up (in part) and where my parents still live.  My children love it there - country bumpkins that they are they love being in a small town where they can cycle everywhere and where there is always so much happening.  My parents spoil them and everyone has a great time, with quite a few pancakes and pickled herrings thrown in.  I love it because apart from the family and friend time, the running around where my parents live is just gorgeous.  Most people picture Holland as quite flat and bare, and quite a bit of it is, but where my parents live the landscape is rolling hills and dense woods, and there are an endless amount of trails, paths and riding tracks for me to run on.  I never set out on a fixed route and just love the situation of following a trail to see where it takes me.  I wanted to take you all with me on one of my runs and after I went out with a dead camera on the first day (flat battery) I got my act together and took some photos.  The weather was not amazing, but still... I had good run.

And now I'm back and it all seems to have gone so quickly!  And there is so much else to blog about - that's for tomorrow night!  Wanted to get the pics up before they became antique.. More to follow! 

Friday, May 23, 2008

Slippery slopes and all that...

Yup - I was nearly there again...  The slippery slope of being so busy I didn't blog.  But no - I caught myself before I rolled all the way down that hill again.  I'm trying to learn that even though I can't achieve all I set out to do, I could maybe achieve some of it.  So this week I set aside doing, folding and putting away laundry (something that takes up so much of my time that I never want to find out what it adds up to over my lifetime) to e-mail a friend.  And tonight I'm delaying packing for yet another trip to quickly post to my blog and comment on some of your blogs.  Bits and pieces guys - that's how my Rome is going to be built. 

So first - running.  Well - up and down.  After last week I've had a fairly good week.  I ran odds and ends last week (4 here, 3 there) and then 8 on Sunday with Sally.  All fine.  Then went to see osteo who was happy and gave me some exercises and told me to come back in 2 weeks.  Went out for a blissful 5 on Tuesday morning at 5:30 am - birds tweeting, sun shining, knees not-paining - life was good.  Then went out for 3 on Wednesday and ah.  Could feel those darned things.  Took yesterday off and ran a cautious 2M today which went fine.  For some reason some runs just seem to set something off and then it takes me days for the pain to fade.  But fortune hasn't completely deserted me - before you wonder - because coming out of my office for lunch with a friend I ran into another friend who is a physio.  She knows about my knees but I've never gone to her because I felt kind of funny about asking a friend - I thought it would be awkward if it didn't help.  But she was so open and thoughtful and then said - as an aside - that she had been practising acupuncture for 10 years and found it very useful for knee pain when other treatments weren't completely succesful.  I was amazed!  I had found the first practitioner who didn't just practise one thing!  I always think of physio as being quite related to standard medicine, whereas acupuncture - which I've never tried before - seems to belong to such a different tradition.  Needless to say, dear readers, I've booked an appointment in 2 weeks.  In the meantime, I'm carrying on seeing my osteopath - the weird things he does to my legs really help, they just don't seem to be able to prevent things from happening again.  

As far as Chicago is concerned, I am still not sure yet.  My osteopath seems confident - I'm going to wait until I see my other friend now and talk to her.  If she too feels that, with a bit of treatment along the way, I can get into marathon-shape, I will go ahead and book a ticket.  

So this, potentially, brings up the matter of training.  Now I've been searching for a program that would suit someone in my particular situation.  I'm (hopefully) in recovery from injury, I'm more focused on running the race than on winning it (ha! fooled ya!  I mean running a PR) and I would just like to make it to the start and finish line in one piece.  Enjoy the run!  So..  In one of of the most recent Phedips Steve read out some race reports (I feel honoured to have heard Jen's directly from her, on a run) but he also mentioned another runner who said he had used a Furman's schedule as he was fighting injury.  As soon as I got back from my run I googled this and after a few misspellings (don't you love it when Google knows what you mean before you do?) I found the website for the Furman FIRST program.  The program is based around the idea that with 3 really targeted (and precisely and ambitiously paced) runs per week (speed, pace and long) and 2 cross training sessions you can run a good marathon.  Their website and book is filled with stories of people who have done extremely well on the program.  Now - as I've said I don't think it's realistic to treat whatever training program I'm aiming for as one to get a PR.  But the 3 days of running a week does appeal to me - my knees just seem particularly prone to trouble when I run back to back days.  I've been enjoying my cross training - particularly the swimming - and in the summer we even have a pool at home that I could use.  I think that, possibly, this kind of program might enable me to get stronger and fitter without risking overdoing the mileage and getting injured again.  So once again my friends, this is where you come in.  What do you think?  what would you do? 

And once you've given that some thought, help me out further - if I do it should I do their beginner's program, their advanced program (which looks like some pretty scary mileage for a low-mileage program) or the runner's world in the middle program?  For all you triathletes out there - do you find your running prowess decreases when you run less and do other sports?  

So there you have it my friends - knees (still) and training programs. A degree of deja-vu, I appreciate that.  I am about to head to Holland for a week (where my parents live and where I used to live) which has always been great running time for me - my parents live in the woods and it is just gorgeous out there.  So here's hoping the good karma of the beautiful nature helps my running.  

And finally - on a sadder note.  I have just been to vist a friend of mine in hospital.  She is very ill indeed - a woman my age, with 3 young children.  She is on a very slow and fragile mend - I will probably be looking after her children for some time in the next few months.  If ever I needed a reminder that my particular problems were of limited significance, this visit did it for me.  I would love to be able to run Chicago, I am determined to go at this with whatever I have, but I will, ultimately, surrender to the universe on this one.  We'll see what happens.  If I can't make this race, there will be others.. 

Love to you all, and good health.