Sunday, February 22, 2009

A bump in the road?

Thank you all for your comments - you'll be glad to hear that I heeded your advice and headed out for my 18M yesterday with Sally. We went out on the lovely road near Brattleby where there is very little traffic and it turned into an unexpectedly warm, spring-like day. The run was so-so - both of us were overdressed and we both ran out of water. Sal hadn't run longer than 10 for a few weeks so confessed afterwards that she was cursing me in her head at mile 12 - I think that's when I was waxing lyrical about how nice it is to run with friends.. Oh well. She forgave me, I think. We stopped and started and talked about everything but we made it round in just under 3 hours (I subtracted the 20 minute presentation Sal gave at mile 7 of all her new cross training exercises. We were practising weight lifting exercises with pretend weights by the roadside. Oh well). So overall, nothing beautiful but nothing terrible.

Except for one strange thing. At some point I noticed my ankle hurting. And don't jump on me - it's not anywhere near tendons etc - it's literally on the outside of my ankle bone. It's exactly the same place that hurts when I wear wellies, ski boots or skates - and I think I must somehow be rubbing it against my shoe. At least that's what I hope it is - the pain is very much on the outside of my ankle bone rather than anywhere inside.. It just feels bruised. I went out for 5 this morning and could feel it, though nothing that actually impacted my running. It's just weird and I hope it will fade in the next day or so..

Big week ahead - 51 miles and a busy week in the rest of my life as well. It'll be a test of me and the Pfitz. Doing 5 Tuesday, 12 Wednesday (either before work - which means starting to run at 5am which oh man! I don't want to be doing - or in the afternoon if I can find someone to palm off Daughter No. 1 to) and then lactate threshold on Friday morning, before a weekend of 5 and 18 again.. The rents are coming across from Holland on Friday morning so that 11 mile lactate threshold run will again be a 5am job. The only consolation for that one will be that I can think of the Dutch rewards that I will be able to indulge in when my parents get there .. herring (salted), licorice (sweet) and chocolate sprinkles..

I've worked out where to fit in my other silver bullet week as well - I'm going to repeat the week 6 weeks to goal (the week after this one - as it stipulates a marathon specific 15 miler with 12M at race pace - I could do that at the Silverstone half). The week after that is my 20 miler which neatly co-incides with the Ashby 20M race I signed up for. All so tidy.. Something's bound to come unstuck, but still.. And then I wasn't going to run my local race - the Lincoln 10K - but my schedule for 4 weeks to goal stipulates an 8 - 15K tune-up race. Do you think I need this given the amount of other races I've done? Does Pfitz put this is in because he wants you to race (in which case I'll have done plenty of that) or because he wants you to race somewhere between 8K to 15K? After a few big races - the Silverstone one really is big for a half - I'll be ready to get back to hermit land and run some miles alone... What do you think?

So there you go, another update from Petra-land. Take them as they come - I seem to be on a roll at the moment...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Not running but slogging..

What goes up must come down right? Except for weight, generally, that holds true. After my triumph in Stamford this weekend (I really was inordinately pleased with myself which, in itself, set me up for a slap) I decided I would use this week as one of my "silver bullet" weeks I had built into my Pfitz plan. I started my 12 week program 2 weeks early so as to give myself the opportunity to miss or futz 2 weeks in case of sickness / child sickness / skiing holiday. The last option never happened (probably good news for my running after last year) and the first two - well I still have a week extra left..

And it was definitely a silver bullet week. The kids were on break, and we were going to London together. Except that my 6 year old crept into my bed on Friday night with a temperature. He was very poorly all over the weekend and into the week and so by Tuesday I sent my husband and daughter off to London together. The 6 year old and I had a quiet few days, interrupted only by my wonderful mother-in-law (I can't believe I've never mentioned her before - she is truly a wonderful woman) who came to babysit so I could run. Told you she was great! So I ran 5 easy on Tuesday. Mildly sore but fine. Set off for 11 on Wednesday and had a cracker of a run - 11M in 1:42. If you think I wasn't intending to run fast, and walked for a minute each mile, that brings each running bit (about .95 of a mile) in at well below 9 minute miles. I was VERY pleased with myself. And .. as we all know, this is when the man with the big hammer comes and slugs you one. Because I was intending to go out for 8 yesterday - 3M warmup, 4M at 15K pace and then 1M cooldown. I made this workout up myself - I know! - based on previous weeks. Except someone slipped cement into my legs. I soon realised there was NO way I was going to go fast. It was a pure survival run. I ran the 8 miles - not fast, not pretty. Pride comes before fall - I should know this.

Tomorrow we (wonderSally and I) have 18 on the agenda. I've carboloaded and am very close to heading to bed. I'm not even contemplating matching last week's pace - will just be happy to get the miles in.

Any lessons learned? Well yes. Running hard and long wears you out (doh!). This is probably the reason you're always advised not to run long runs at race pace. I'm fine at this stage in the proceedings - it's 9 weeks till race day and I'm at the end of the first bit of my training. I could take it easy this week and have. But the races up ahead - the Silverstone half and the Ashby 20? Respect - especially for the latter. I will NOT race that one at race pace. I've put it out there now people so I promise..

Finally, I haven't been posting pictures recently. Said 6 year old has dropped my camera and I now need to get it fixed.. But this is stuff I've been meaning to post.

My stomping ground in the snow:

New treads to wear in in the next few months..
The snow had nearly melted but there was enough ice to make it awkward..

So that's it for the moment people. See you the other side of 18 - I hope all your training is going well (better than my 8 miler yesterday anyway - I wouldn't wish it on a soul).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Stamford St. Valentine's 30K

Well this is a first for me - again! Posting a race report on the day of the race... It's snow in July I tell you...

I really took this race seriously. I ran 11 on Friday and then chilled - did very little yesterday but ensured I carboloaded last night (Irish stew ... mmmm) and, to show how ready I was for the day, I woke up before the alarm. Again - I carboloaded - granola, banana and yoghurt - and a cup of coffee before bundling the kids in the car, dropping them off with mother-in-law, and heading down the road to Stamford. Stamford, in case you didn't know, is just gorgeous. They film costume dramas here, the town is so beautiful. Unfortunately, the school where the race started, was clearly NOT the location of a costume drama. More gritty inner city indie movie set. However, the tone for the day was POSITIVE as just before I left Susan - the wonderful - had updated her FaceBook status to say she had gone into labor. So I was just thinking of her all the time leading up to the race, thinking of the incredibly hard work she was doing and just sending her the best vibes I could find. It made time pass as we waited in a gymnasium while the wind and occasional rain swept by outside. The gym was filled with club runners and, to be honest, I felt a little bit alone and left out while everyone was chatting to their clubmates. But I got a grip, don't worry.

As soon as the race started I had the familiar experience of everyone whooshing past me. I knew this was a really tough race, very hilly for almost the entire length, so I took it really easy. My osteopath had warned me that the first 4 miles were deceptively easy - the rest was hard. I knew the key was pacing, and just coping with the hills. It was all made easier by the beautiful countryside - we ran through some beautiful villages (Little Casterton) and the fields along the lanes were beautiful - and still snow-covered. The hills made themselves known pretty quickly - they just kept on coming. But to my great pleasure I was able to cope with them and power up them quite happily. I tried to time every mile (a bit tricky as the course was marked in KMs, very unusual in this totally unmetric country) but would forget. I could see, though, that I was coming in around 9 minute miles for most miles which was better than I was hoping for. Now I know that received wisdom is that you don't run training races at race pace. But personal experience is that I do need to test myself prior to a big race in order to see what I can do, and what I can keep up. So I decided to try to hit the 9 minute mile mark and if the wheels came off, that would be something to learn and take with me into the rest of the training cycle and the race itself.

Until about mile 9 I was feeling very happy, and right about the half-way point I could myself getting tired. I hadn't drunk any sportsdrink before the race and was beginning to regret this but just in time there was an aid station with sportsdrink. Around 10M I latched onto a group of 3 club runners who were running a 9 minute mile pace and to my great delight I was keeping up with them. We bantered backwards and forwards and made the time pass and took turns leading the group. This was the first time decent runners have ever drafted behind me - it was quite amazing for me! Particularly as I was leading the charge up the hills - I didn't think I was good at them! I could see that I was close to 9 minute miles but by 18M I could also see I was just off the pace for a 2:42.. And the last .66 of the mile was awful. I could see the school we left from but was horrified to realise that this was not where the finish was. To get the full 30K in (or 18.66 miles) they had set up a great big circuit on the playing fields behind the school. It was unbelievably hard to run round this very muddy and wet pitch with the finish line in view the entire time. But finally, I ran her in. At 2:48:33. Which makes my overall pace about 9:01 per mile. Which is AMAZING, given that I a) don't normally run that fast and b) the hills! The hills!

The promised showers afterwards were unbelievably terrible - they were dirty and there was NO water pressure - the tiny amount of water just trickled out - but I was pleased not to have to drive home sweatily..

In true family-style I walked into our house tired and triumphant to be greeted by a crisis from my 8 year old - since resolved - but hey, that's what running mothers have to deal with. And as of this morning (US time) the ranks of the running moms have swollen by at least one - baby Isaac Roy arrived safely and the lovely Susan, Chasen and Isaac are all doing well. I won't post a picture - that's Susan's privilege - but I can't tell you how thrilled I am. My race shirt for the day will be washed and posted to the little runner-to-be - hopefully he'll be joining his mother on the road soon!

Till soon my friends - run strong!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

And heeeerrrreeee's ....... me

There was an article in the Times recently which was very negative about blogging and Facebook. And presumably Twitter if they were with it enough to know about it.. While there is some attempt at maintaining a balanced view, the overall tone appears to be that sharing your feelings and experiences online is part of "a creeping desensitisation towards squandering personal privacy" and they back this up with some scary stories about a woman who met someone she had never met before who knew about her child's recent accident, and others who are "so obsessional [about their blogging and getting material for it ] that the author sometimes puts the virtual life before the real one, never really living in the moment". I was really irritated by this article and until I sat down to write this post had not really put my thoughts together about why it irritated me so much. I suppose because, perhaps like many of you, I am not surrounded by other bloggers. Few of my friends blog, or read other blogs. So when I tell people I know that I blog people often seem to think this is a very strange habit, and raise some of the points raised in the Times article. And there's no denying the writer of the Times article has a point - you have to take some care in giving out details of where you live and your family and you have to exercise some judgment about the information you share with the world. And there probably are people out there who "put the virtual life ahead of the real one". But I think there are far more people out there who spend every evening zoned out in front of the TV instead of having experiences themselves. Blogging is, at least, doing something - creating something. However flawed or self-referential. Moreover, most of the blogs I read are by people who very much lead real lives and who, far from holing up in their virtual world, are probably more self-aware and "in-the-moment" in part because they write about an aspect of their life. Finally - my main blog is about running, and I am not surrounded by running. Discussing the ins and outs of training schedules, workouts, and good and bad runs is not something I can do with many people in my "real" life. My blogging buddies add a dimension to my life that would otherwise be lacking. And finally finally - blogging has created some very real relationships and events in my life. Without blogging, I'm not sure I would have carried on running after my injury last year, I would not have met Maritza, Jen, Charlie, Melisa and Maddy last year and I would have missed out on some great runs. So, while I take the points made by the writers on board, overall I disagree with them. Blogging is what you make it - and most of our lives are enriched by it.

What got me onto this rant was a recent realisation that some of the meme's that make their way around FaceBook and the blogosphere are really very good things - the recent 25 things list on FaceBook was a great read for me, very revealing about some of my friends, and a fun thing to write myself. Another goodie was a meme that Aron or Jen started recently - asking interview questions of your friends. I asked Aron for some questions, and here they are. Read the rules at the bottom if you would like to be your interviewer..

What is your running history (how you got started, how long you have been running)?
I had lurched from diet to diet in my twenties but had, predictably, done nothing but steadily gain weight. By June of 2003 I had reached a low point - I was fat, not working, felt hemmed in by my move to the countryside and two tiny children - my self-esteem really was terrible. One day I bought yet another slimmer's magazine and there was an article in it by John Bingham about how he ran - slowly. It had never crossed my mind that you could do that - I knew I couldn't run fast and I thought that disqualified me from trying at all. Somehow this triggered a glimmer of hope in me. So I started running around the farm. There's a 1.4 mile loop on the farm and it took me weeks before I got round it without stopping. But I just went at it, every day, and this was the first time in my life that I had persevered with exercise. At the same time I started weight watchers online and the combination of exercise and diet finally worked for me. Over the course of the next few months I lost, in all, 25 kilos. And here I am - 5 and a half years later and I'm training for my 6th marathon. Who'd of thunk it?

If you could have any job what would it be?
Hmmmm. I would say architect - because that is what I wanted to be when I was younger and I regret not seeing it through all the way, even if only to find out I couldn't do it. But recently I have to come to believe that sometime "the place you need to be" if I can be so vague, is the place you're at. The job I have at the moment, Marketing Manager of a lawfirm, is not particularly exciting. However, over time it is allowing me to develop a much sharper idea of what I'm good at and what I enjoy - more so, perhaps, than the "ideal" job ever would. So the answer is - I'm not sure but I think it will become clear..

What is your favorite part of the day?
My instinct is to say morning because I truly am a morning person. I like to get up, go for a run, come in and have my bagel and coffee and read the paper - often before anyone else in my family wakes up. Mornings are good. But then I like the evening as well - day accomplished, everyone home from their days out at work and school - we all come together and wind down.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I could say my children, but they are not my accomplishments and their accomplishments are their own and for them to be proud of. So then I would have to say my health and fitness turnaround, as described above, in my early thirties. And what I am most proud of, in that turnaround, is that I somehow managed to overcome a degree of low-level depression and total lack of faith in myself and forced myself to do something that I never thought I was capable of doing. To go against the grain of expectation that everyone and you yourself have of yourself - looking back that was amazing. Having done it once, I hold that experience very closely because I now know that it IS possible. You CAN change things in your life that don't work.

What is your biggest pet peeve?
Oh man - I am such an irritable person! I have so many. But somehow on this beautiful Saturday morning I am totally unpeeved. OK. A few come to mind:
  • I hate it when people say "I was sat" or, worse "I were sat". The grammar! How hideous! Wash your mouth out! "I was sitting" please.
  • Littering. I can't stand people throwing rubbish out of their car windows as they drive. I honk and shout at them.
  • Excessive packaging. All the cr*p they put in inserts in magazines and newspapers, and then wrap in plastic. You can see I probably don't have a lifetime in marketing ahead of me..
And that's it. There's far more once I warm up but I'm not going to go that way .. The day is too beautiful.

So - if you want me to interview you,
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Easy peasy. Till soon!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Update from the Edge..

I know I always say this but good Lord life is busy at the moment! I have been working on this post for days and something else is constantly coming up. Not always a bad thing though - I was trying to teach my number 1 daughter (I only have one, keep your hair on) how to write an essay for school and was trying to instruct her on keeping all her topics organised etc. Then I just went back to this post and .. well, rewrote it. What a mess!

First things first - my running is going very well. Thank you for all your concerned comments but at the moment I seem to be coping with the rigors of the Pfitz (particularly when I think, at times, of the presence of cousin Hanz - see Terry’s comment on my last post on the strange lovechild of Pete Pfitzinger and Hal Higdon dreamed into existence by Terry himself and strangely comforting). Unlike training for previous marathons I started this training program off with a higher base (between 30 and 40M per week) and I can really feel that I haven’t slacked off the running since Chicago – I’m overall stronger. Nonetheless, I am taking care and stretching and rolling and icing and even seeing my osteopath preventatively every 3 weeks or so. I really want to make this one work!

After my ominous update last week I got lucky. Although I missed 2 days of running - the 8 miler and the 5 miler - by Sunday I felt sufficiently recovered to try the 15 miler (though I didn't tell my mother - I know you read this! - that I was doing it). I met up with Sally and she has been having fun with mapmyrun and picked us a challenging 15 miles - one slow long hill with a nasty steep bit at the end, and another short steep hill - which we made our way round. Not fast - I began to feel my 2 days in bed by 12M - but still, we made it. I decided to not bite into my 2 spare weeks yet and just carry on into week 3 and have, as of today, completed that. The 8 miler was done in a snow storm on Monday evening - my strides were an effort, but not fast. The 11 miler was leisurely and really quite pleasant and the 2 four milers were lovely and slow. However, today's 16 miler was tough. We have had a week of snow and ice and the ground is now rock solid and icy. It's hard to find a safe road to run in - this being England we've run out salt so only the main roads are free of ice. This being England we're not used to driving on ice and snow and so when we drive on the country roads we don't really slow down. It all brings to mind Steve Runner's tales of Oxford drivers - lethal stuff. So I opted to run the 16 miler on the farm. Boring to do it in loops of 1.4 miles but safe. It proved unexpectedly hard. My legs are tired, partly from the mileage but more from the snow and ice I think - the ground doesn't give at all and you have to run carefully to get any purchase on the surface. I've given up on getting YakTrax - the UK importer has no stock and doesn't seem to think he ever will again. The other thing, however, that got to me, was the fact that I didn't carboload appropriately yesterday. Adam and I went out to an unbelievably tortuous political dinner where the catering was astonishingly awful. I passed on the shoeleather-like roast beef and the gravy that looked like vomit and had a few potatoes and some limp vegetables. Not the fuel of champions and I really felt it. I was all dizzy and light-headed at 14 miles. Still - I got her done.

The upcoming week is even more challenging. 4M this morning, 10M on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, 11M Thursday evening and 5M Friday morning. Then Saturday off and Sunday is topic no. 2 (subtopic of running really but I'm trying to be organised here).

Going back to the opposite of me, one of the things I always "forget" when I'm training for a marathon is to run some practise races. Warm-up races, whatever you call them. Get in race training and pace training and gauge your progress kind of races. Just before Chicago I quickly ran a half-marathon but while it was a confidence booster I didn't maximise its potential in terms of race-training. Haha! Now that we have the new improved model of me - the one who plans in advance, is ready for all eventualities and doesn't get overwhelmed by her life (okay that last point is going too far) - I am race training!

So, back to my (real) impulsive nature - I've signed up for 3 races in advance of London and 1 after. And that only takes us to mid-May. Stand back and marvel:
15 February - Stamford St. Valentine's 30K. THIS SUNDAY! It's a well-known London training race, lots of people come from all over to run it because races over the half-marathon distance are hard to find. The terrain is pretty punishing, very hilly, and obviously the weather can be pretty brutal as well. Added to this, I think this is not a race for slowies. My osteopath (2:40 marathoner) runs and wins it from time to time, a friend of mine took 3:20 to run it (which is not that shameful for 18 hilly and windy and cold miles) and was the last one in. However, I'm not expecting to win it, quite happy to come last and looking on it as a character-builder. I fear it will deliver.
15 March - Adidas Silverstone half-marathon. A different race - MILES away from where I live but run partly on a formula one race course, another famous pre-London race and, most importantly, my wonderful best friend and first-time marathoner Dawn will be running it. So I'm heading out there to run this half-mary with her.
29th March - Lincoln 10K. Strangely enough the one I am least looking forward to. I am no fan of short and fast (being short and slow myself) but once again I am doing the things that terrify me most. So off we go - our local 10K.
And then - 3 weeks post the London marathon! - May 16th the White Peak half. There are two reasons I'm running this. Drusy and Sally. Drusy is going to run it, ran it the last time when I so foolishly ran the full, and we didn't meet. So this time we will. Sally is going to run the full. She'll probably meet me half-way and overtake me.. No matter though – with London behind my only reason to hurry will be the unforgettable bacon sandwiches at the end.

So there you have it – running according to me. There’s various other things to address and update you on – life’s rich tapestry and an amazingly insightful interview with myself – but that will have to wait. At least I can get this update on there. Till soon my lovely running buddies – stay strong and don’t give up!