Thursday, March 26, 2009

55M and still standing

Last week I reached the highest weekly mileage I have ever run - 55M. The mileage was made up by a 6 miler with 6 x 100m strides, a 12M lactate threshold run (with 7M at 15k pace which for me averaged at a 8:27 min/mile), a 5M recovery run, a 12M medium t0 long run, and a 20 miler (1st of 2 to be run). I did all the runs bar the 20M during the week and gave myself Saturday as a rest day and then, on Sunday, ran the Ashby 20.

Now the previous week, before Silverstone, I had aimed to mimic "real-race" ideal circumstances. Sleep / food etc.. This weekend things went a bit off-kilter. It was more of a "real-life" sim. Although it wasn't a sim. But anyway. I went out on Friday night and only managed 6 hours of sleep. Saturday was hectic, running around after and with my kids. A very good, longtime friend of ours, Michael, came up from London to run the race with me. We hadn't seen each other in a long time so over turkey chili that evening we caught up and the bottle of wine was suddenly empty.. Then, my 6 year old son was so excited about Michael being with us that he woke us both up at 5:30 on race day. Good times! Anyway - that gave us plenty of time to mess around and get ready (as we hadn't managed this the night before) and shortly after 7am we were on the road to our race. Now I am clueless about British geography and didn't actually realise that Ashby-de-la-Zouche (it's really called that) was a good 90 mins away from me. Combine that with a few turns thrown in by Michael's sat nav and we just made it to the race site for 9.

The race is a very well-organised and sponsored local race. Nice because it didn't have the enormous crowds of Silverstone and it was, actually, better managed. It started on time, for one thing. 10am we were off. And then the final aspect of my unpreparedness for the race appeared - I didn't realise how hilly it was. It was a lollipop race - about 2M out and then 2 loops and 2M back. As soon as we got on the lollipop it became apparent that the hills just kept on coming - up and down. However, it was great to be running this alongside Michael and I wasn't aiming for a particular time. I was treating this as my long slow run so as far as I was concerned I was just going to be comfortable throughout. The first loop passed along easily but by the second Michael was beginning to tire (Michael is not as far along in his training cycle for the LA marathon and probably needed a hilly 20M like a hole in the head).
Me flashing my race number - honest! - at about 7M. Michael still liked me then.
A bit further in the race and out of the wind it felt quite warm

I was running Oprah, talking for Britain, but at 16M Michael told me to head off (and give him some peace and quiet?) and meet him at the finish. So I sped off and headed for the finish - realising only at 18M that the last 2M were completely uphill. Brutal! I made it round in 3:07 - a 9:20 minute mile average - which I was delighted with. I was intending to pace myself conservatively in this race, particularly given the hills in it, and I was so pleased that a 9:20 minute mile now feels so comfortable.

The goodie bag was great - a full meal of a cheese sandwich, water, sportsdrink and a cereal bar AND a big blue Aldi hooded sweatshirt. Michael came in not long after me and had, I think, in the last 4M of the race, reconsidered our love and friendship.
Here's us in our new sweatshirts. He definitely held me responsible.

Halfway through this week and I'm hitting a snag though. So far so good - 8M with intervals Tuesday night (with headlight, in rain and wind - like the good ole days), 11M yesterday (more wind but at least daylight) and 4M this morning. But by lunchtime today I realised that I didn't feel too good. I'm achy, have a sore throat and well - without giving too much away - I think I have stomach flu. I'm tucked up in bed with my laptop and I'm under strict instructions from my husband not to TALK about tomorrow's proposed 17 miler until I'm feeling better. The real snag, however, is that I'm supposed to run a 10K race this weekend. And I was going to run our local race, the Lincoln 10K. However, I also have to run 17 this week and if I have to take tomorrow off (and it looks / feels like I might) I am more concerned with getting my 17 in on Saturday or Sunday than with running the 1oK. I might be able to get in 10K on my own on Saturday (hopefully) and then by Sunday be ready for 17. So I'll have to see what happens.

In the meantime I'm using my confinement to bed as an excuse to catch up on blogging, blogs and emails (and playing on FaceBook). Wonderful Michael even brought us 3 box sets of The Wire so I might crack them open as well....

Hope all your running is going well, and that you're feeling better than I am at the moment.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why I run

I was thinking about this topic today after a post by the wonderful and wise Greg on why he runs. I agreed with most of his reasons but a new one came to me today, against the background of some other stuff in my life.

I have just made a mistake at work. Not an enormous one, but a visible one, which will cost my firm a little bit of money. I have fessed up and offered to pay up but they are being very gracious about it. It was caused by lack of attention to detail which is a general character fault which I work hard at to correct but don't always succeed in dealing with. So. That makes me feel pretty bad. I have had to fall on my sword publicly. Not so nice. And I feel like an idiot. Not nice at all. And I now feel like every bad thing that everyone has ever said and implied about me (or which I think they have ever said or implied about me) must be true as well. A truly quite horrible feeling.

If I didn't run I might not have any perspective on this matter at all. That's what I'm like. I would think "well this proves that I am just a fat, lazy, incompetent woman who doesn't deserve to have a job at all, nor a loving family or any of the wonderful friends she has near and far". Because I run - because I am still able to drag out a 12 miler after a hellish day yesterday and before a hellish day tomorrow - I feel that I can't be all bad. Mostly bad. But not all bad. To paraphrase the wonderful Fraulein Maria, at some point in my wicked miserable life, I am able to do something good...

So I'm going to go and cook a meal for my family now and do my best not to be ratty with them all and tomorrow I'll go and face some more music. I'll run 5M before work just to give me strength.. That's why I run.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reality? Check!

Thank everyone so much for your comments after last week's post. I did indeed lay off the 15 miler on Sunday and rested and that proved to be the right decision. I had built 2 extra weeks into my training so was duplicating last week anyway and so I didn't feel too terrible about it (terrible enough - you know what you're like when you skip a run) and I think the rest did me good. So in my 2nd go at the training week I took some of the lessons learned in the previous week with me. In particular I aimed to do each workout as I should. I have, in previous weeks, been running workouts hard that I didn't need to and that (surprise, surprise) has affected my performance on days when I did need to do a hard workout. So easy 5 on Tuesday was just that. Wednesday's 12 miler turned into 14 as I was taking 2 miles off the Sunday long run to run a half - and it was a slow steady 14 miler. Friday's 10 miler had 5 1000m repeats in it at 5K pace and I was pleased with them - I did them in 7:39, 7:17, 7:25, 7:39 and 7:27. Not entirely rock solid but good enough. Saturday's 6 miler with 100m striders was on target and then yesterday I ran the Adidas Silverstone Half-marathon.

The race is about 2 and a half hours from my home and so I left early and got there on time. It's quite big - 10000 entries - and held on and around a Formula 1 track. The walk to the start was long - a mile or so - but once there it was quite vibey - food stands, music and even some sponsor shops. The race is sponsored by the same people as the London marathon so they push it really hard as a training race. Having said that, the London marathon gear I saw was UGLY so I wasn't tempted.

Carrying on the "opposite of me" vein I had prepared for this race far better than I normally do. Carboloading in the days before, drinking sportsdrink in the car on the way there and wearing the kit (more or less) that I intend to wear on the day. I was also - at some people's urging - using this race to see what I could do - speedwise. Tackle that BQ bunny right on the head, as it were...

I started off in the right place - between the 1:45 and 2:00 finishers and got chatting to a nice girl in the first few miles who was hoping to finish in 1:50. My mile splits were coming in more or less as I had hoped - underneath 9 minute miles - but when we hit 9:06 after mile 7 I could see she was slowing down and I decided to push ahead. By mile 9 I caught up with a man who I had bantered with earlier in the race and we really pushed each other to the last mile, where again I took off and pushed ahead. Without much fanfare, my splits were:

Mile 1 8:23
Mile 2 8:41
Mile 3 8:41
Mile 4 8:42
Mile 5 8:42
Mile 6 8:53
Mile 7 9:06
Mile 8 8:41
Mile 9 8:27
Mile 10 8:32
Mile 11 8:23
Mile 12 8:22
Mile 13 8:12
Mile .33 2:40 (yes that's what my Garmin tells me and plenty of other runners on the runnersworld forum complain the course is measured too long).

So. Finished in 1:54:30 which is a 4 minute PB for me (and that was February 2007 so it's been a while). A respectable time, but NOT a time that indicates I should be aiming for 3:45 in London. I was pleased with the race - apart from the few miles where I held back a bit at the beginning - I really paced myself well and negative splits are just great. I was really able to crank it up at the end as well which I liked (I didn't like it at the time but sitting down at my desk now I like it). I feel quite confident about doing a 9 minute mile pace in London which should get me in under 4 hours. All being well. So after last week's jiggles I am back on track. There is no doubt that the Pfitz is proving to work for me and improving my strength and endurance (after all, I ran this half after 35 miles in the earlier part of the week) but the improvement is steady. Which is as it should be..

There were two major highlights to the race - my family came to watch (despite the 135 mile journey each way) which is rare as my husband works Sunday mornings AND my BFF Dawn ran it as her first half in many many years as part of her training for London. She finished in 2:09 which is pretty amazing I think - my first half took me 2:15 and I'd been running much longer than she has been - she'll do so well in London.

So here's two shots of me. The official photos for this event are truly unbelievably ugly. My legs look like (Giant Redwood) tree trunks and my face is contorted into the most awful grimace. I thought about buying them just to show you how hideous they are but that seems a total waste of money, even for the sado masochist in me, so I'll spare you them.

Onwards and upwards..

Races, races, races... Still doing the opposite of me, I am racing a lot. Next Sunday I run the Ashby 20M (with my friend Michael who I haven't seen in a long time). We are aiming for a 9:30 pace which is perfect for the long run I should be doing that weekend. The week after that I am running the Lincoln 10K and the week after that I am running my second 20 miler with a Nike Team in London. And then it will be taper time..

Finally - looking into the future and races beyond London. 3 weeks after London I will be running the White Peak Swift Half. Old-timers on my blog might remember I ran the full there some time ago without training for it - a painful and humbling experience I dod not seek to ever repeat. I have been asked to run a 10K in London for a charity we support at work but I'm not sure yet - I will decide closer to the time..

And then - this year's bucket trip.. My parents came across recently and we planned a great October trip. They are going on a 5 week holiday in California and I will be flying out to San Francisco to meet them, probably on Friday October 9th. They will drive me to Susanville, CA and then on Sunday I will run the beautiful Bizz Johnson marathon there. After that, the plan is that we head up on the Monday to camp for 3 days somewhere in the Redwood National and State Park . We will probably head down to Healdsburg on the Thursday (for a soft bed and a shower, and a glass of wine) and then on Friday I will say goodbye to my parents and drive to see Maritza, just outside of San Francisco! So I am very very excited about this plan - and if anyone has advice on must-sees, must-do's etc. in the general area, please send them my way..

I'm into my peak week now - 55M total with 18 down. So it's early to bed, plenty of carbs and I'll talk to you at the weekend. Good luck with your running everyone!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Hubris / biting off more than I can chew? and chickens coming home to roost...

So what I omitted to tell you in my last post was the conversation Sally and I had while out on our 18 miler. One particular part of our conversation at least. I was giving Sally my blow-by-blow account of the Stamford 30K (when you're running 18M with a friend you have the time and audience for this kind of conversation..) and Sally said - well that puts you on course for a Boston qualifier in London. I asked her how so, as 9:00 minute miling gets me round a marathon in 3:55 - not the 3:45 which is my age group qualifying time. Sally's logic was that Stamford was so tough that I should be capable of the 8:30ish pace necessary to qualify... Abandoning reason for a minute I got swept up in the reverie of the thought. Wow. BQ. Can you imagine? The glory and triumph would be mine.

Now Sally has an agenda. She BQ'ed last year. (I'm sometimes amazed that she's still my friend. Remember - I took her out for her first 10 miler. That was me! And now look at her. She's like a whippet!) So of course Miss Sally wants me to qualify so we can both trek out to Boston together next spring..

Anyway - I've rolled the idea around in my head for the past week or so. You know what I mean. Obsessively checking race calculators etc (to run 3:45 I must run a 10K in x, a half in y etc).

But then I've had a few runs in the past 2 weeks which have slapped me round the head with a reality check. I had an 11 miler on the treadmill, with speedwork, which didn't work. And yesterday I was intending to go out for 15 with 12 at race pace.. Well. It did not happen. I was SO tired. I barely made it to 6.

So let's recap here. My running is going really well. Really well. I'm running comfortable around the 9 minute mile mark and I'm happily running a mileage I could only have dreamed of in the past. The Pfitz is definitely helping me to up my game - enormously.

But I also have a life. A busy and fairly stressful job. 2 little kidoodles who need various bits of time, input and attention. A husband who ALSO has a busy and stressful life. This past week my wonderful parents were with me and I ended up staying later than my normal 9:30 curfew a few nights. I wouldn't have missed it for the world but it's undeniable that I'm paying the price for it now. Late night (with parents) and early mornings (with type A 6 year old) mean that I am shattered. Chuck in a 45+ mile a week training schedule and you can see there is no make-up in the world that can cover the bags under my eyes.

In the spirit of doing the opposite of me, I'm thinking I should not be pushing my luck. If I can get round in 3:55 that would be a massive (17 minute) PR. Last year I had no idea of how I would ever get to that time. Now I'm thinking that, with everything going my way, I can do this. But going down to 3:45 is, I think, over reaching for this race. I think that with a few more training cycles I can do it but right now it's too far to go in one fell swoop. Too risky for injury as well...

So here I am - what do you think? I asked my osteopath when I went for my tune-up the other day (he's suffering from over training at the moment, by the way, it even happens to the pros) and he said - devil's advocate - "can you imagine how you'd feel if you got round in 3:48? You'd think maybe your start was too conservative...". Thanks Jonathan. That helps. But thinking about this - say I had the wind in my back, perfect weather, energy levels that I can only dream of - and I got round in 3:48? What I would think is "omg what a PR and that BQ is definitely possible"....

Now onto the pressing matter of today. I'm meant to be going out for 15M with 12 at race pace. I set out for this run yesterday but abandoned it as I was just exhausted. Ran 6M instead. Today is the last day in my silver bullet extra week of training - as of tomorrow I am caught up with the Pfitz program and following the 6 weeks to goal (or 7 weeks today) program to my goal in 7 weeks. What do you think I should do? Should I skip the 15M and give my body a chance to rest, before the last hard 7 weeks of training? Or try to get this 15M in somehow? Thoughts, opinions and commiserations welcome...

I have no running photos to share at the moment - my camera really is bust, I fear, but let me take this shameless opportunity to show off my lovely daughter who is going to a new school in April and has just got her new uniform through - is she not gorgeous?

I hope all your running is going well and would love your input on my running, racing and personal strategy..