Friday, December 31, 2010

Out with the old, in with the new - give it to me 2011!

Hope you had a good Christmas? We did - we started off the holidays with a Santa run and have been charging through the weeks ever since. And almost before I realised it - in the brief breather between Christmas, boxing day, Felix's birthday (December 27th) - and New Year - it's the 31st!

2010 was the year that did not go as planned. Har dee har har I hear you laughing - life's like that - and I knew that, but I don't think I really knew it. So 2010 came along to make that point to me. You all know that at the very last moment I found myself unable to travel to Boston to run the marathon there. It was an enormous disappointment which to some extent overshadowed my feelings about running for a long time afterwards. You may also have gathered, through my frequent cryptic references, that 2010 has also been a very challenging year for me on a personal and emotional level.

Yet, as I lie in bed thinking about everything that has happened in this past year, I feel that both experiences, unpleasant as they were at the time, have been instrumental in pushing forward personal growth and development. I joked about it at the time, but failing to get to that starting line in Hopkinton really did force me to surrender to the universe. I am not always in charge. And I was able to use that experience when things got rough on personal level - where in the past I have always tried to "fix" things and problems, I realised this summer that sometimes you must let things be as they are with people as well. Actions have consequences and instead of always trying to undo them or change them, sometimes you just need to let things unfold as they will. Oh big stuff, I know, and hardly stuff I'm done figuring out. But I do feel happier with where I stand, and stronger for battling through it.

And my running? This has not been a year of PRs or medals. My Boston training cycle was mixed - I was exhausted for a lot of it. I abandoned my training for the Nottingham marathon due to exhaustion presumed to be the result of anemia. I ran very few races. But it has been a year where my training, however unsuccessful at times, has proved a mainstay and an anchor. Having something to do, a goal to achieve, however unrealistic at times, has helped me through. And on. And in the course of this year, I also discovered how much I enjoyed biking and swimming. My progress in both areas is slow - I am still taking swimming lessons and my bike has not been out for a month due to the diabolical weather - but I have signed up for the London triathlon next summer and will be out there training for that AND my London to Paris bikeride as soon as I have finished Boston.

And let's just talk about Boston for a minute. Training for Boston is going well. I have said it before and I will bore you with it again - I love having a coach. She tells me what to do - I do it. When I panic - which I did earlier this week because I was worried I wasn't exhausted enough by my training - I email her and ask her whether I should panic and she emails me straight back and tells me no, I'm fine, I'm building a base and some speed, and the long runs are ahead of me, and then I stop panicking because, you know, she's got a plan for me! She knows what she's doing - I just need to continue doing it. And the logistics for Boston have fallen into place as well. I didn't want to blog about it any earlier for fear that my kids might read this and realise what that dastardly Santa had in store for them but our big Christmas present this year was that on April 5th, we will all fly out to Orlando for 10 days (with ALL that entails, including, I hope, some running with my Florida peeps) and then on the Friday before the marathon we will fly up to Boston and squeeze into one room at the Lenox Hotel together and my kids and husband will be able to cheer me on in the race - how cool is that? They would have been unable to join me this year, so this definitely makes running it in 2011 extra special..

There is so much to look forward to in 2011. Not just the races and the trip with my family, but I am also turning 40 and am looking forward to it. It's a milestone and I'm so happy to be heading there in good health and spirits and with so much good fortune in my life. I'm not sure yet how to celebrate it - any suggestions welcome. If you can include some travel and a race, all the better!

And last but not least - you all have made 2010 for me. You, my blogging buddies, are real people and real friends. Your comments, views and insights have been invaluable. I was lucky enough to meet some of you this year and hope to meet many more next year - either in Boston, Florida or maybe here?

Merry new 2011. May it bring you ALL you hope for. And come run with me.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Poop - or love from Minnesota.

Ah. I see the Minnesota Moose Poop has raised some comments. You're just jealous because you want yourselves some love from Minnesota! Shame on all of you potty brains - the book is amazing (and it's not too late to get Amazon to ship it to you - consider this my offer to send a loved one a helpful hint email)! Anyway - I just thought I'd delve a bit further into the poop - for journalism's sake.
Forgive the rather bad photo. Check out the link above for a better shot of the packaging.
yes I know you need to hold your computer in front of a mirror to read this. Let me help you, it says "Certified Fresh from the Producer" (so far so worrying) and then the magic words "Chocolate Panned Peanuts".
Poop in mouth (never thought I'd post that sentence on my blog)
all done

Have a good weekend's running all of you!

Secret Santa delivers early!

A few weeks ago I entered the lovely, lovely Jill's Secret Santa gift exchange - as I don't work in an office or with colleagues (that makes me sound fun doesn't it?) I feel deprived of this particular Christmas tradition and it seemed that having this giveaway between runners and triathletes would be a better guarantee than usual that you'd actually end up with a good present. I was not wrong! Santa is obviously not as flummoxed by snow and ice as Amazon has been and got his present to me early, all the way from Minnesota The North Pole! Julie (of Julie's Running blog) Santa apologised for spending more than she should have - a first for Santa - but said she just had to get this for me! Wonderful, wonderful Santa. I documented every step:

brown paper packages - exciting!

beautiful pink tissue paper - what a lovely touch Julie Santa!
And then this - a wonderful new running book AND some Minnesota Moose Poop!! I love it Julie Santa - thank you!

And thanks also go to my lovely friend Jill who set all this up. As you can see, organising it was VERY strenuous but she (with the help of Tara AND chips and beer - everyone KNOWS that stuff helps) managed to set it all up and what a great idea it is! This is just what I needed to say goodbye to the Grinch who has been living in my head this past week (not enough time, not enough money, too much )(*)&*&^*%&^% Christmas music, too many people in towns, what's with this traffic?) and to move into a mood where I realise it is a wonderful time of year to stop and think warm and fuzzy thoughts about the wonderful people in my life and all the joy they bring me. I would wish you a Merry Christmas but I won't - there's more blogging to come before then. Enjoy the weekend though - I've got my long run in already (haha!)......

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Okay, okay - I need very little - NO - excuse to post this video. Man, I love it! We European Gleeks have been deprived of Glee Season 2 until January which means that we will be watching the Christmas episode around Easter. Baaaaaaad timing! But something tells me I will still enjoy this delectable number JUST as much then. Anyway. Let's move on.

So! I was going to tell you all about training for Boston with my coach. But things got derailed there for a little while. Because, Baby, it HAS been cold outside. It's still cold outside. Last week, after I put up my post of a snowy run, the weather went totally crazy. We rarely get much snow here in England, and then, overnight, we got a foot of the stuff. The country - at least our side of it, and those who live north of us, shut down. Schools closed, roads closed. It was unbelievable. My husband has a 4X4 and spent some very stressful days making sure that the milk from our cows - vast quantities of the stuff - could be collected every day and that his various other businesses could stay operational. In the meantime, my son and I were stuck at home. I ran - a bit - but the snow was so deep that even my yaktrax were useless - snowshoes would have been the only option. I managed a 6 miler on our compacted drive by Thursday.

yes he really was over his knees in snow!
me out on my snowy 6 miler

Friday we finally got off the farm again - to the supermarket (where the shelves had been swept clean of tinned foods and milk) and Sunday I finally dug out my car and gingerly drove to the gym. I had cabin fever, I was fed up and I had my first assignment from my coach - to run a 2M time trial. I don't think running on the treadmill was ideal for this but given the circumstances it was the best I could do. And I impressed myself - on a less than stellar night's sleep, and a bit too much champagne the night before, I managed 2 consecutive miles at 7 minute miles. Yes!

And that was enough for my coach to send me, almost by return, my first week's running schedule. I don't normally detail each workout, but as this something so new I'm trying out here, bear with me while I recall my runs:
  • w-up easily 2M, then 2x1600 @ 7:33, 3min RI, then 2x400 @6:58, 1.30 min RI, then 2M cooldown. Nailed it. I was delighted when the intervals were done with - they were certainly hard enough - but I got them in.
  • 5M easy @ 9:30 min/mile. Unsurprisingly, I could nail this one too, along with my high(er) rep weight workouts after 1M.
  • w-up easy for 2M then run steady for 4M at 7:57 pace, cooldown easy with 2M. Again - got it, but it was work and I was pleased to get the tempo done with.
  • cross-train - 1 hour's swimming lesson
  • 6M easy @ 9:30 min/mile. Got this in, along with my high(er) rep weight workouts after 1M.
  • 12M long run easy - 9:45 min/mile pace. This proved the trickiest workout of them all because I wanted to do it outside and the first road I went to proved too icy to run on so I had to drive around until I could find some gritted roads which weren't too busy. And even so it was a slippery, slidey mess. And I averaged a 9:23 min/mile not the 9:45 coach asked for. I will work harder at slowing down coach!
So what are my thoughts, 1 week into running with a coach?
  • I can't believe what a relief I am finding it to hand over some control to someone else. I realise I spend SO much time thinking about training plans and paces, second-guessing myself when my runs are too hard or too easy, googling solutions to various problems and getting hopelessly sidetracked (ya think I should LeechBlock most of the internet? Probably). Now I'm only getting a weekly schedule (can't lie in bed worrying about 2o milers with 10M RP sections weeks in advance, just have to man up and do it when it arrives) and my paces are defined. And she thinks I can do them. And she knows much more than I do. So I can do them. And, for one week at least, I have done them.
  • Questions. She's there for questions on all the topics I need answering. This week I have emailed her about switching runs around (yes I can but I can't follow hard workouts with another hard workout. Bad girl - I have definitely done that in the past so her advice was needed) and going on a diet while training (not hugely advised, eating healthily was her wholly sensible advice. But I'm feeling a post coming up on running and weight so I will deal with all that in the future).
  • Goal setting. I am scared of setting myself goals, running-wise. Goal-setting is for fasties, I feel. I'm afraid of setting goals, because what if I don't meet them? But my coach has set me a goal, and while I'm not brave enough to put it out there yet, I am working on getting my head round to believing I can do it.
But it's that overall feeling of having someone "in charge of me" that I am enjoying. I have never really had a coach who had any interest in me (I was just so cr*p at sports as a kid that any sports coach who did have to have me on a team would sigh when they saw me bounding onto a pitch or a court or a playing field..). And now I have someone who is going to help me - yes me! - train. I don't have to weigh Higdon against Pfitzinger against Runnersworld and so on when I'm debating high mileage vs quality, whether to race or not - I ask her. And while I'm sure she would not want me to think she has all the answers, she has more than I have and I am just enormously relieved to be handing all that over to her.

Finally - can I end on a little rant? For over a year I have been more or less assidious about keeping track of my activities on DailyMile. I'm sure you'll agree that it's key to be able to look back through your training to see what you've done, what worked and what didn't, etc. I kind of stopped bothering when I abandoned marathon training this summer, and only half-heartedly started up again recently. But I've decided to ditch DailyMile despite its enormously attractive interface and increasingly high-profile internet presence because it's just turning into another social networking site. I know that I sound like the Grinch but people - enough already! I just want to keep track of my runs! I don't want you all to comment on each workout cause then I feel like I have to comment on yours and man - there are NOT enough hours! I LOVE reading your blogs because you put it all out there but man oh man I can't do DailyMile socialising as well. After feeling bad that I was basically turning into a DailyMile miser, I have just decided to stop recording my workouts there and start afresh on BuckeyeOutdoors. Yes - less glamorous. But it does the job (and synchs with my Garmin) and I feel I can just logon, enter my workout, and log off again. Job done. So please don't feel personally slighted when I don't say anything on DailyMile - I will see you on your blog and will show you much more love there.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Boston. And this is how I'm going to do it.

It's been 3 weeks since I last blogged and I am, once again, behind on many of your posts. Wait up people - I WILL get there. But I have not been sitting around procrastinating - oh no. Primarily this is because I have set Google up with a little add-on called Leechblock which is designed to "block" you from doing things that "leech" your time away. Like Facebook. So between 9am and 6pm, if I try to go on Facebook my computer takes me to my to-do list. Clever eh? It is still sadly lacking in a sledgehammer to beat me over the head with unless I do the things on my to-do list but it's a sweet start.

But anyway - what I've been trying to do is clear the decks, practically and mentally, for training for Boston.

Practically I've been focusing on time-consuming stuff that I can (and do) sit and waste time on, and have forced myself to make some decisions:
- I will not be doing a course in London which requires a weekly 6 hour commute. I did one this term and contemplated a different one next term, but the commute is too tiring and organising my domestic life in my absence for 36 hours even more so. So that's not happening.
- new kitchen - all decisions re design, layout, materials and contents made. Workmen lined up. Now all that needs to happen is it to happen. And that's slowly happening.
- Christmas shopping. Aaarggghhh. Usually the thought of this makes me want to curl into a ball and moan gently to myself while beating my head on the floor. But this year I decided to man up, pull myself together. I put together a budget, made a spreadsheet (yes I am comfortable enough with you all to tell you this) and bought everything online. Bish bash bosh. One evening's work. Done.

Clearing the decks mentally. Aha. A different matter altogether. Ardent readers of this blog may realise I've run only 2 races this year - the Stamford 30K in February and the World Wide half in October. With one thing and another, and that thing, it's not been a stellar racing year. Mojo has come, gone and reappeared. I've not kept track of all of my runs in one place and I've switched training plans and strategies a few times in the course of this year. I could look at this year and say it was a mess. Running-wise. On the other hand, it has been a pretty stressful year on the personal front and I have carried on running and running has definitely helped me through it. And on the eve of the last month of the year, the personal front has improved immeasurably, and my running is back on track for marathon training. So not such a mess after all, really.

So my strategy going forward? Well I contemplated the BAA marathon plan. I contemplated doing the Pfitz again. I contemplated lots of things. And I have decided to try something new (you know me - I love me something new). I'm getting a coach! I am hoping that a coach will help me adapt a plan more and train smarter. In the past I have been guilty of over- and under-training, of pushing my paces too hard and of not pushing myself hard enough. I am hoping that by developing a plan as we go along and by making changes when things are not working, or too easy, I can maximise my enjoyment and potential this April. Forgive the secret squirrel approach for now - all will be revealed shortly.

Till then my lovely friends. Hope your running is going great and for those of you racing in the next week or so - great good luck!

10 miles in the snow this morning

Friday, November 05, 2010

Scratch that.

Last post. I debated about taking it down all week because:
  • talk about Debbie Downer. Who needs that?
  • self-pity? Check. I was meant to be past that. Sorry.
  • not very well-written. I could have crafted that into a much more coherent whine-fest.
But the reason I did not take it down was because of all of your comments. You were so good! You helped me! You listened and you advised and you gently chided. Gently chiding, in particular, is very good. I needed to be gently chided. The following pieces of advice, in particular, stand out.
  • I deserve to run Boston. I will stop whining about the )(*(*&*&^*&^*^ 13 seconds. I'm in.
  • To train to run, I need to run. I will fit in bikerides and swims - because I love riding and because swimming technique takes time and I'm so not there yet - but until April 18th, I'm focusing on running.
  • I was tired. That and hormones did not make for a good training week. I won't give up on my long runs again, Lizzie Lee!
  • I have picked my training paces somewhat randomly. No - I'm going to be honest, my training paces are what comes out when you put my PR - run a year ago and not neared since - into the Macmillan calculcator. Probably not an accurate picture of where I'm at right now...
  • Fun. I was missing the fun in my run(s). I know there are some nuts admirable people out there who love race pace training runs but I love my slower runs where I just zone out and smell the roses (or cow poo which is more like it round here but still) and listen to my podcasts and clear out the cow poo in my head.
So what am I going to do? Oh I know you're all desperate to find out.

Well, as you know I've been "working on myself", hideous as that may sound (and it does! I know) for the past year - primarily because I'm bored and fed up with how I've dealt with various stressors in the past. And it struck me this week that my running is due for an attitude overhaul. I know I've told you that I started to run because I was overweight and felt, in all honesty, that I had hit rock bottom physically and mentally. For years, I've been running to prove to myself that I was not fat, not worthless, not a quitter. That strategy has been good in some respects - on many a cold, windy, nasty day it has got me out the door. But on the other hand, when a week like last week happens, I tend to think that really, all the negative stuff really is true after all. In other words, a bad week proves that the past 6.5 years have been a fluke. And after writing that pitiful post on Sunday, I suddenly wondered whether I might just be able to run (forgive me for sounding like Oprah) from a more positive place. In other words, maybe I could run because I can, because I love it, because it makes me a happier and more positive person. And then maybe a bad week could be a bad week. It could have reasons for being a bad week, but the reason would not be that I'm basically such a terrible person, and the bad week proves it.

Which led me to think on Boston. I am meeting lots of wonderful runners and bloggers out there. And when I think of them I think of all of these women as fast, strong athletes. All of them are - they really are. And I realised all of a sudden that I still think of myself as an interloper in their midst. The slow, short fatty who somehow managed to fluke her way into Boston. Like somehow my qualification doesn't count as much as everyone else's. If one of you were posting this I would be shouting at you that you deserved to be there as much as anyone and I would believe it. So why don't I believe this about myself? The truth is - compared to many of these women I'm meeting out there - I don't dare to take my running as seriously. I don't dare put it out there that I would like to PR out there in Boston. But I'm beginning to think that my behaviour is self-fulfilling. Asking whether it's okay for me to run Boston "for fun" is basically me asking you whether it's okay for me not to even try to run my best race. (Please don't get me wrong - I have no views whatsoever on anyone else's strategy for any race, this is simply me being honest about myself).

And so I am going to be honest with you, and with me. I want to run a great race in Boston. I am going to try to be positive in my thinking and my visualisations of myself in this race. I have pushed myself hard physically before in training and I will do that again this time. But I will also push myself for a more positive goal and self-image this time. I am going to race Boston as well as I can. That's not setting myself a time goal - that's telling you that I am going to race Boston with the best of my ability. I am going to leave it out there, my friends.

Woah. It feels scary just to say it but there you go. If I don't say it, I won't ever believe it.

And as for training - I'm still thinking on it. I'll come up with the detail and you will help me. But this, people, this is what matters. Never mind turning the body around - that happened 6.5 years ago. It's time my mind caught up with it.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I need your help.

Folks - I need your help.

This past week has NOT been a great training week. Apart from my first workout of the week (1o min warmup then 10 x 400M at 13.7 km/h, followed by 10 min cooldown) the rest of the week was tough. I was meant to do 5M at 8:15 min/mile on Wednesday. Went out into the park in London (we went down for a few days for the half-term holiday) and gave up after 2.5 miles. It was too hard - I just couldn't hold onto the pace. Thursday morning I got out there again and ran the 5M at 8:12 min/mile pace, without stopping once. Much better. Not easy - but I felt so much more accomplished. Driving home from London on Friday I decided to do my 15M on the treadmill at the gym - the weather was horrible and very windy and I was meant to stick to an 8:40 min/mile. Well - another fail. I think I managed 2.5 km before I gave up. The will to live people! I could NOT do it. So I thought I would go for a swim in the pool and do my routine of 250m warmup (100m kickboard, 100m kickboard with 2x5m acceleration each length, 50m slow freestyle) and then my freestyle pyramid exercise (50m breathing every 2 strokes, 50m breathing ever 3 strokes and so on till 7 and then back down again). But another fail! I just could not manage the long intervals - I would come up gasping for air! I am struggling with this breathing out under water business - I just seem to keep swallowing water. So I headed home, tail between my legs. Saturday morning I was at the gym, bright and early, ready to tackle that beast again. I had, by now, resolved to warm up for 5K and then run 16K (10M) at the required pace, before cooling down. I made it to 13K this time before losing the will.

I don't know what is going wrong here. Here are my theories:
  • I have said before, I don't enjoy running all my long runs at a prescribed (fast) pace. I found it hard on the Pfitzinger program when he interjected marathon-pace runs but I could do those - they were never the full-length of the run and they were not every long run either. Having said that, I'm following a half-marathon plan at the moment and looking at the full marathon plans in Run Less, Run Faster - those long-run paces look more reasonable. But I basically like running my long runs at a pace that does not make me out of breath so I can chat to a friend / listen to my podcasts = zone out for an hour or two, or three.
  • nutrition. I have been on the go so much in the rest of my life that I don't think I'm watching what I eat / drink enough. I don't eat to train. I don't think I eat unhealthily (very often) but I could definitely eat in a more targeted way. I think. Funnily enough, the most succesful training cycle I have ever had (the one leading up to London 2009) was when I was on Weight Watchers. I ate lots and lots of vegetables, drank very little alcohol and was quite assidious about post-run nutrition. What do you think?
  • General tiredness. I am not sleeping very well at the moment - for some reason, something disrupts my sleep every night and I end up being tired, a lot. Another reason for my tiredness might be continued iron deficiency? Maybe - I'm going back to have my iron levels tested. I've been off iron pills for a few months now to see if my ferritin levels have stabilised but I fear they may not have.
  • General aimlessness. The loosey-gooseyness of my training - despite the training plan I have no target race - is not helping, mentally, to keep me in the game. It was nice for a while, but now I'm feeling lacking in focus.
It's strange, because overall this has been a good time for me. After a year which has been enormously taxing on the personal front, I am getting to a good place mentally. In the best way possible really, because it's not like some of the external stressors have disappeared - it's more that my attitude towards them has changed. I am hardly there - wherever that is - but I've moved on from the bad place, from the real cr*p of the past year, and from feeling so intensely cr*p about it and myself in it. I have had help, advice and insight from so many friends, near and far, and quite a lot of them you, my lovely readers and commenters, and I have gained a keen insight into who my friends truly are - and am learning to stop worrying about those who are not. So all that has been good.

So if my life were a Hallmark movie, my running would now be amazing. You'd see me running in slow-mo, with "Chariots of Fire" in the background, medals overlapping on my chest. Not so people, not so.

So this is where you all come in. I need your practical and emotional insights and advice on my training. Let me lay it out for you:
  • I have entered two main events next year; the Boston Marathon and the London Triathlon. I intend to race shorter distances in the run-up to both - a hilly half-marathon (TBT) and the Ashby 30K (very hilly) before Boston and 2 local sprint triathlons before London.
  • I think - but please tell me if you don't agree - that this means that between December and April I will focus my attention on running, using swimming and biking as crosstraining and improving my skills in both.
  • Then, from April (but look at my caveat below) I will focus on tri-specific training - spreading myself more evenly across the disciplines.
So far, so good? Good. Then here is quandary number 1. Everyone tells me not to race Boston. I am told that by doing so I won't experience the whole sense of it, the whole glory of it. It's a hard course. And my personal worry is that if I race it and then have a bad day, I will ruin my one shot at being there. But if don't race Boston, then I need a race, maybe 4-6 weeks after Boston, where I can race. What do you think? And of course, part of me thinks, maybe I should just race Boston - give it all I've got. Not be afraid of failure, if there is such a thing. Go out with glory. Train like a demon for Boston and then Yadda yadda yadda. Make a note of your thoughts for this and hold off because here's my next quandary:

How am I going to train? Which program am I going to follow? Do I carry on with Run Less Run Faster, running three times a week and cross training? I'm liking the tempo and the speedwork but the long runs - not so sure. And is 3 days a week really enough? Or do I add cross training onto the Pfitz? Bike one day, swim one evening? Or do I find a coach to somehow mesh something up for me? I know some of you are coaches - do you do this remotely? Could any of you help me transition from running to multisport over the course of the year? Help me?

Finally - just let me finish off a thought that's been dangling in my head for about 2 weeks now about the Boston marathon filling up so early. A lot of you have posted about it, and a lot of you have made lots of valid points. I found myself, in the days after registration opened and closed, feeling very antsy and defensive and when I actually started to think of why, I realised it was because I feel that am one of the people in the group that critics think "have it too easy" - I am in the 35-39 age group with a qualifying time of 3:45 and I'm well aware that many feel that that is too lenient, that men my age have to work harder to qualify and that there are many many women out there who are far faster than me (in my age group and often above). Moreover, I'm well aware that if they change the qualifying times by more than 12 seconds (likely) I would not have been in, at all. So I am quite aware that this is probably going to be my one and only Boston - and I am totally fine with that. I never thought I would have a shot at it, at all, and I'm going to give it my best. And then run some of the other awesome races that can be run all over the world..

So now can now all tell me how you think I should my next training year. And if you're thinking - hey, she's leaving the second half of the year unplanned - well, I'm kind of waiting to see how the first half unfolds. But if you have other thoughts on that - bring it on! I want to hear it. Till then my friends - bottoms up! (Although I'm sure you'll be telling me to make that a protein shake if I really want to get my mojo back and I might even listen!).

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Catching up with myself..

Another 3 weeks of loosey-goosey, run-for-fun fun ...

Saturday October 10th we organised a race on our farm for the WWFOR - the Lincolnshire Lollop. A whole bunch of bloggers who have been meeting on a more or less yearly basis for the WWFOR and the White Peak half were joined by other friends and family and we ran 5Ks, 10Ks, halves and full marathons in 1.4 mile loops around the farm. Toni summed it all up pretty well in this video:

Can you tell we had a good time?

A week later, another great race - a birthday present to myself. I've always wanted to run an off-road, muddy, challenging race and sometime this summer, when I was feeling blue and unmotivated, I signed up for the Salomon Turbo X Sheffield trail race. It was a freezing cold day - 2.5 degrees C when I left and pulling up at the race venue I really started doubting the wisdom of what I was doing. For one thing, everyone looked very fit. For another, they were all wearing trail shoes.. The Salomon gear tent had a sale on and I was very quickly convinced to buy my first pair of trail running shoes.

relaxing in the car before the race
race banners at the start - it was cold!

For the first time in - well, ever? - I warmed up before a race because I didn't want to do the race in too many layers (I knew I would get filthy) and I also knew there wouldn't be anywhere to leave my layers. As soon as the race kicked off, I realised I was doing something entirely new. The race started off downhill through a field and before we knew it were in the woods. I did not have my Garmin on - it's a bit too precious for this! - but for about 60/70 minutes we were running on roads and narow trails through woods. Then came the first steep incline. Like so steep that you could not run up it, you just had to slowly walk your way up and occasionally pull yourself up by a tree or a root. A flat bit at the top to catch your breath, and then it was down again - equally carefully. A flat bit at the bottom, and then up again a similar incline. And down again. I could begin to feel my legs taking a beating. We then ran on through the woods again and by this stage I had made a new friend, Marie. We were running at a similar pace and she was the one who advised me not to run the hills - wise advice this proved. She's a sports therapist and we ran on for quite a way talking about life, love, kids, work, running. We were wondering where the "real mud" was going to start as we went into what was advertised as the Turbo Zone. For the first part this was still just trail running through the woods and then - all of a sudden - the mud started. For some time - I have no idea how long but maybe about 30 minutes?- we just went through one muddy trench after the other. In the water, out of the water. Up a hillside, down a hillside, back into the water. The water was freezing but I can't tell you what fun we were all having. Everyone was trying to get through without falling over - not very succesfully - and it was the most wonderful atmosphere. There was NO competition, just people helping each other and laughing.


After about a mile or so of this, we came out of the zone and by then my legs were truly trashed. I had gone into this race thinking 10 miles were piece of cake. Although I knew the race had trails and mud in it, I had not counted on waist-deep trenches filled with cold mud. And so, by this stage, I was wet, cold and exhausted. And the race was still not over! Had Marie not been my new best friend by this stage I would have given up completely and just laid myself down in a sunny grassy spot. But on we went, walking up the hills, running down them, through the woods, past lying race marshalls (only 1K to go - yeah right!) until we finally saw the finish which we crossed hand in hand. Followed by a big hug!
Look at my new shoes! Thankfully they cleaned up nicely..

There were no showers so I stripped down to my underwear (everyone was doing it, honest!) and quickly changed into some dry clothes and drove home.
This is what I looked like when I got home - it took some showering to get rid of all of that mud!

Recovery took longer than I had thought - Monday morning I had speedwork on the books but there was no way - I could barely walk down the stairs. Instead, I took my bike out for a very leisurely 15 miler. I made it all the way to the treadmill on Tuesday but after 3K it became very clear that I wasn't going to get those fast mile repeats in on that day either. It was also my birthday, and I had a new iPad charging up on my desk at home, so I decided my decision was made and went home.

Then on Wednesday it was a drive down to London again - one day earlier than normal - to meet up with Portland running and yoga blogger Emily and her friend Cyndi who were in London for a few days. We met up with BFF Dawn and went out to Wahaca for margaritas and burritos, and generally had a great time. Sightseeing / shopping Thursday and Thursday evening I went to my Interior Design course at Central Saint Martins, the official reason for my weekly trips to London. Then Friday morning I whizzed back home again to start the weekend and my kids' autumn break. To be greeted by this:
Which, as you all know is a big deal. It's a big deal because man, this year it was no easy feat. And it's a big deal because I didn't get to run it this April. And it's a big deal because man! It's Boston! I have some thoughts on Boston filling up so early, and all that might be done to change that, but they're nowhere near crystallised enough. I'll tell you what I think when I know what I think..

The next post will follow shortly - I'm writing it right now - but I'm going to finish this one up and take a breather because there is SO much to talk about!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Planning ahead.

4 weeks into my new fitness schedule and I feel it's time to lay out some of my thoughts on how it's going, what I'm thinking and where I'm heading with it all.

How is it going? Good, overall. For the first time in my life I am using the gym regularly and the treadmill particularly as I'm finding it really helps to keep me on pace with my speedwork. I have no access to a track and so tend to run my speedwork with my Garmin on the road but I can't help but feel it's not too accurate. The wind is often really strong here so I find my laps differ simply by virtue of whether I'm running with the wind in my face or behind me. Also I think I give myself permission to slow down sometimes which is much harder on the treadmill - I'd just fall off if I did that - so I have keep the pace going. I'm taking Ana Maria's advice and giving myself some leeway on the pacing but overall I'm pleased with the workouts I'm getting in.

Inspired by all those folks who come up with their own training schedules (I've never had the balls) I am starting to fiddle with the plan a bit - I feel I can, particularly as I'm "only" base building at the moment. So along with adapting the paces at times, I am taking some executive decisions. For example, the RLRF folks are pretty specific about the pace of each of the week's three runs. I think that's a good thing for the speed and tempo work but I'm beginning to rebel against having every long run paced. I'm all for marathon pace and half marathon pace workouts - sometimes - but sometimes I just want to run and not watch my Garmin. I like doing my long runs with a walk break - .05 of a mile - every mile and I like listening to all my podcasts and I like thinking things over. And when I'm breaking my neck to stay at pace I can't do these things. So I'm sorry guys - if this costs me minutes in the race, so be it. The journey really does matter at least as much as the destination and sometimes that journey needs to be a bit more leisurely.. (Having said that, I went out for 13M determined to ignore the instructed HMpace +30 seconds and averaged an 8:53 min/mile - probably not far off where they wanted me to be).

The cross training is GOOD. I am loving it. Who'd have ever thunk it? Not me but there you go - as they say round here "nowt so queer as folk" (they really do say that). Thursday was a gorgeous day and as soon as I woke up I knew I had to go out and bike into it. I biked 12M out to a friend's house on quiet country roads where I was passed by about 3 cars and 20 mamils (middle-aged men in lycra), had 2 coffees and a flapjack and a catchup in the lovely autumn sun, and then biked home again. Just wonderful. I pushed myself a bit but still only averaged 15 mph - there's some way to go. Swimming is going well as well - I've found a really nice swimming group and instructor and I find myself looking forward to the lessons. Sometimes it is nice when someone else cracks the whip and it's not ALL self-discipline. I also find it's extremely helpful to have another option at hand sometimes - my speed session was unsuccesful this week, abandoned halfway, as I was not feeling very well. I was tempted to have a go at it again today but was tired after yesterday's 13 miler and Thursday's bike ride and so I opted instead to swim 1000m. Nothing shocking but it pushed me, I pushed myself and I feel a lot better.

me at the end of my windy and wet 13 miler

Overall, this week, I feel like this program of running and swimming and biking is somehow more balanced for me. I feel less ground down than I have for a long time and the fact that there are only 3 fixed workouts a week somehow makes me feel under a lot less pressure.

And so and so and so... what's next for me? I realise I have raced very very little this year. In the runup to Boston that never was I only raced the Stamford 30K. I then ran the White Peak half with Adam and Drusy and all the other wonderful UK run net people. Over the summer all was quiet and now in autumn it has taken me a while to get back into it. But I'm beginning to think it's going to be fun to race again and so I'm putting some things on the horizon. Next week is the WWFOR and this year some the UK contingent are coming to our farm to race the Lincolnshire Lollop. For anyone who'd like to join us there to run a 5K, 10K, half marathon or an ultra (yes this is apparently happening for someone!) please get in touch and I will give you directions. You are very very welcome. Then on Sunday the 17th I have decided to give myself an early birthday present and race the Sheffield Salomon Turbo X. I've always wanted to race one of these muddy and challenging races, just because they seem like so much fun and without any pressure. I haven't managed to find someone to race with (volunteers? It's not too late - email me!) but if not, I'm going to do it by myself.

As far as all the stress I mentioned in my last email, it is all slowly ebbing away. I took Maritza's suggestion and dealt with my insurmountable list of posts in the google reader by marking them all as read and I'm starting again. Sorry if this means I haven't commented on all of your posts but at least I'm keeping up with them now. My kitchen work has ground to a halt this week - a plumbing situation - and will start up again next week. Nothing at all exciting to report basically, but that is a good thing. I'm brewing up plans for next year but am determined to get this post out so more on that next time. Time to catch up with everyone else..

Monday, September 20, 2010


I should have that tattoed across my knuckles. JFDI. 3 weeks since my last post and what have I been doing? Chasing my tail, is what. Kids are back in school - and that was a last minute rush I only had 10 weeks to prepare for, I have finally, finally, finally, made a start on home improvements that have been on the program for a good 6 months, I have been down and back to London a number of times... I even went to Paris for the day. But more of all that stuff in a minute.

Running. Running, I have been running. Training, even. As per Lizzie Lee's advice (and she's a veteran AND fan of the RLRF plan) I plunged into week 12 of the half-marathon training program and used the paces from the Macmillan running calculator. I've tweaked it all a bit - used my marathon PR (now nearly exactly a year ago and a million miles away in terms of fitness but hey) to calculate my various paces. Which are measured in minutes and seconds, I then have to convert them to min/miles and if I'm running on my (metric?) treadmill, have to then convert into km/h. Oh enough to make an English graduate get a headache were it not for the fact that the internet is overflowing with nerds who calculate this stuff for me. Week 1? Good-ish. Given the diabolical wind we have at the moment I am giving myself permission to run on the treadmill for my speed workouts. Week 2? Not so goodish - tempo workout = fail (too hard) and long run was great - ran it with Dawn - but not at the 8:40 min/mile prescribed but a 10 min/mile which felt hard enough. Eh, I'm only building a base here folks. So I'm into week 3 now, this morning's speedwork is done (nasty! 12 x 400m at 6:50 min/mile, that hurts me!). So - on balance, the running is okay. I am getting back in the saddle and the cross training, biking and swimming, is beginning to take shape as well. By the time we get to December - serious time! - I should be ready for this.

But now the rest of my life - it is bursting at the seams. Mostly with great good fun stuff. For example? Taking a day trip to Paris to meet with wonderful Jen and her husband. Jen and I ran together in California oh 2 1/2 years ago and so it was a total treat to spend the day before her birthday with her and Zach.Then with finally planning and project managing a new kitchen! I know ! Rock 'n roll! I have been on the fence with this for SO long and now - with the help of another blogging buddy, architect extraordinaire Susan, I am finally getting this party started. Photos to follow..

I am just overloaded at the moment. I feel guilty telling you this because I know many of you have more commitments than I do, and the vast majority of my commitments are wonderful but still - there you have it. Day after day is planned, packed in. I have not caught up on your blogs for about 2 weeks, there is a pile of admin on my desk - panic panic panic. This blog post is hardly illuminating or interesting - it's just going out there so you know I'm still here, I'm running, I'm training and I WILL catch up with you. Promise. Nothing material will change, but the wind turns and all of a sudden I can see clearly that I'm riding the crest of the wave again. Till then, head down, I'll be pounding out those miles and getting those things done.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Why I run

Oh I've put together posts like this before. Weight loss, self-esteem. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

It struck me tonight - 8 1/2 weeks into the summer holidays - why I run. And more importantly, why I do big nasty marathons that take it ALL out of me and leave me spent. Because of the fact that when you're out there, training or racing, you're dealing with physical breakdowns and mental breakdowns and, in my case, facing down each and every big fat demon in my head (you're useless, you're incapable, you're incompetent, you're fat, you'll fail) and knocking them on the head one after the other (I am NOT! I am NOT! I am NOT! I am NOT! I am NOT!) and there is no space in your head for the small stuff that I sweat on a daily basis.

For the daily discussions with my kids, for example. Let me recap for you some of the things I have actually, seriously, said today:
- "No, we cannot take the gerbils on holiday with us. And that does NOT make me a bad person."
- "If a gerbil told me he didn't like me that would not hurt my feelings."
- "I don't like rodents like you don't like bananas. It's not logical, it's just how it is."
- "Calling you in for supper and supper not physically being on the table as you slide into your seat (with dirty hands) does not make me a liar."
- "Just because you did not intend to break it does not mean you did not break it."
- "I don't care that everyone else gets to go to bed later than you. It's bedtime."
- "Everyone else does not actually have it better than you. Believe me."
I know. I am such a MOM! I am my own pain in the ass.

Then there's all the other stuff. Phonecalls to my accountant who hasn't filed my tax return. Or returned my calls. Phonecalls to my dishwasher repair people because my dishwasher has been broken for weeks. (That, in itself, calls for running a marathon). An ancient soft water tank in our roof bursting on bank holiday Monday and leaking big gushing quantities of rusty water into my linen cupboard.

But when I'm out there training or running a race I am stripped of all that. I forget it all. I am no longer a mother, a wife, a daughter. I am me, just me. I am not wearing make-up. It doesn't matter if I haven't shaved my legs. Most frequently my outfits look terrible and there's no getting away from the fact that I have short stumpy legs and will never be a supermodel. But it doesn't matter - at all. When I am running I am happy to be me.

And when I come back from my runs, I am still happy to be me. And I see that it's not all so bad, and that my children are wonderful - even when they're not - and that they are the sun and the moon to me. That my husband is the love of my life and I am lucky for each day he is in it. And that I lead a life of great privilege and good fortune, materially and spiritually, and that I am so lucky with my friends and family.

And on that warm and fuzzy note - training update. Well - T-1 update. Training starts next week. Kids are back in school and it'll be 12 weeks till I start training for Boston. Old bike given to new owner? Check. New bike bought? Check. In fact, check it out. It's LOVELY!
And this is me after my first ride on it - just before that cloud behind me burst into rain. Is it me or is my helmet ENORMOUS?
Stupid idiot footcut healed? Check. First runs in since stupid idiot foot injury? (oh and speaking of nasty outfits my son says I look like Sportacus in my purple outfit I was wearing below. Nice.)
Check and check. Oh and for those of you who worried I wasn't sweating? It's hard to capture on an iPhone but I was! Forgive the stupid pose but I was trying to highlight the "glow".

Jamoosh's Hard Core club week 2? Ah. Slight fail - only did 2 out of 3 possible sessions. Will do better this week J!

Beginning to feel much better and like it might be possible for me to feasibly start training next week. Watch this space...

Monday, August 23, 2010

You're with Stupid.

That would be me. Stupid, stupid me. After a decent early week of running, 16M which included a 6 miler with 3 at tempo (yes I know Haile is not worried yet but still) I was closing the shutters in one of our bedrooms on Friday night (anticipating 4M on Saturday morning and 10 on Sunday to bring me a satisfying 30 mile week) when I banged my foot on a sticking-up floorboard and got a nail in it. It has just lifted up a flap of skin (believe me you'll be happy I don't post a photo of this) and it's nothing serious but when I went out to run on Saturday I realised there was no way I could do so. It hurts too much to land on it. Same yesterday.

How stupid is this? This is no serious injury and yet there is no way I can run. I can't swim for a few days due to another issue (I'll spare you the TMI there) so this is now very very frustrating. I would bike, assuming that biking doesn't hurt my foot BUT I've sold my bike. Which is good news - I didn't make a killing but more or less got back what I paid for it so with a year's riding I'm happy with that - but I'm now bike-less. I intend to remedy this situation fairly immediately. My parents are staying with us for a few days so I will prevail on their desire for quality time with the grandchildren to head to a bike shop and find myself a new, sweet, ride. While I am keen to go local, the local shops only have one, maybe two brands and very little for me to choose from. Instead I have found this place, Wheelbase, which is quite a drive away (3 hours or so) but seems to have LOTS of different brands, choice and lots of expertise. What do you think?

The only thing I have managed to stick with this past week is week 1 of the Hard Core Club. I've done 3 sessions, one of which with my 64 year old mother who holds a plank like nobody's business. High standards.

So where does that leave me? I'm getting antsy about my schedule-less existence. I have been reading Run Less Run Faster and I'm thinking I might use this to train for Boston. It is quite a different program from the high-mileage Pfitzinger program which has helped me so much in London and Berlin. However, I am quite certain that one of the things that really helped with Pfitzinger was tempo and speed work, and the Run Less Run Faster program is pretty demanding on these. I would then be able to do at least one strong bike workout and one strong swimming workout per week, as well as a yoga-type workout. Training for 16 + 2 weeks (because I'm hoping to squeeze a non-running, hard skiing week in January) would mean beginning on December 13th. Given that I have 2 more weeks of children's holidays to go, this stupid foot to heal up, and a bike to buy, I will give myself the next two weeks to set things up and write a base plan starting the week commencing Sept 6th. The book recommends having a 30M base before starting as well as getting used to the fairly punishing paces. I'm not even quite sure where to start with the paces - I have never done a 5K, my last 10K was a long time ago, as was my last full and half-mary. They suggest doing 3 one-mile all-out efforts and using that time as a basis and depressing as that's going to be I think I will do that. I will then start incorporating tempo / speed into each week so I get used to that again.

So there we are - talking things through with all of you is making me feel better. I have a plan, even if it doesn't - can't - start today. I will keep you posted on bike-buying and foot-healing. Till soon my lovely ones. Oh and I have no relevant photos but I'll post this one from a sunny run a few weeks ago. I'm smiling because I've already come up this 1 mile + hill and now all I've got to do is go down it again.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blah, blah, blah. And Emz Abz.

I have mentioned my thick skull before. Truths take their time to penetrate - like rainwater on rocks, really - and in addition there's a bit of goldfish memory going on. This has proved the case with summer holidays. I have relearned several things over the past 6 or so weeks:
- even though my kids are 7 and 10, I still get precious little constructive stuff done when they're home all day. The constant interruptions, whether for provisions, help with Lego construction, arbitration in a bustup or fatal-seeming injuries, mean that I start many things but finish few.
- all though, in theory, I have "all day" - in fact, it's harder to fit my exercise in than normal. Before breakfast is a good bet.
- I must plan ahead. Kids sloping round the house for days is not good for anyone.
- summer holidays in the United Kingdom seem like a good idea when you're some way away from them and in a penny-pinching mode. The reality of the weather here (cold, damp, windy for the most part) hits you when you're trying to have a holiday in it.
- I am still a procrastinator. That's not really a summer holiday feature, it's a year-round life skill but combined with the factors above it's not helping things.

Ok. Enough with the blahs. Sport! After my heady start I have tempered things somewhat but am still, much to my surprise, enjoying the multisport and, gasp, the gym classes. After hurting my back doing VIPR I shall be giving that a miss, but the body conditioning feels good and I'm about to book in some spin sessions. My son has swimming lessons for 30 minutes every day this week so I too shall be heading to the pool for half an hour. Not much, I know, but a start. I've even - strangely - started doing some treadmill running. (This has proved extremely taxing as the treadmill counts in km/h - converting that to min/miles is HARD). The advantage of the treadmill, I have found, is hills. Now I have recently been running some hills (including one which is a mile long and has me nearly heaving into my Asics) but they're a bit of a way away and I don't always have a chance to go. And round here it is flat. FLAT! So the treadmill is rather a sweet solution. Plus, I've been told they give me abs.

Because yes. I want abs. This middle aged floppy spread - muffin top? - has got to go. I've said it before but by golly you know me by now - I just have to keep trying to do something and eventually I will do it. (My children's persistent nagging shows apples don't fall far from trees - persistence is inherited. ) I've been in touch with the lovely Jill who has been sidelined from running for a while and she and I have agreed to keep each other accountable with our schedules each week to ensure we don't lose too much fitness. One of the things she forced me to suggested we do is join Jamoosh's HardCore club. And the point of this club is this - I want to look like Emily. I will give up on the tall bit - although I hail from a nation of tall people I am a runt and what can you do about that? I will give up on the blonde bit (let's not talk hair right now people, the picture is not pretty). Even the very slim bit. But those abs. Here you go - here are her abs.
And that's not even the sweetest bit. That woman is FAST! Greased lightning! And I'm sure it's her awesome abs keeping her in perfect form even at 23 miles. Apparently, Jamoosh tells us it's not just the exercises - it's also her healthy and lean diet. And I've a way to go there, but that's for another post (though tips and tricks would be MUCH appreciated).

Overall - the loosey goosey approach to training is working okay. Not more than that. I feel a lot better when I do something every day. Last week I was on my own with one of my children for a few days and so did not get a run or anything else in. I immediately felt like a slug. I only got 18 miles in for the week and I can't tell you how badly I felt about that. I was very tempted to immediately go into an agressive training program for something, anything. But I've told myself I cannot, should not. I am feeling quite good at the moment and need to stay that way for a while.

In other breaking news, my bike is on ebay and I'm hoping it will sell for enough to put towards a new one.

That's it for now folks - hope things are more exciting in your life!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The birth of multisport me - I'm lovin' it!

I know! It's been aaaagggggeeeessss again. Sorry people! After my last post we went on a week's camping holiday to Wales and as anyone with kids knows it takes 3 days to get ready for a holiday before you leave and 3 days to recover when you get back.

Not to mention endless loads of laundry etc. So I am once again waaaaayyy behind on blogs - nigh unforgivable when you lot have been out there running triathlons and doing half ironmen (women?) and running marathons with your heels falling off and all sorts of crazy stuff. Sorry! I will catch up - it's on my to-do list. Ha.

So. After my overtraining insight and post - thank you for all the amazing feedback by the way, you are too kind! - I did what I was threatening to do and joined the gym. The reason I was hesitant to do this was:
  1. I have joined and left this gym about 3 times already and have left each time because I did not use it enough;
  2. because it costs money and I'm trying to cut costs;
  3. because I have finally seen that despite being a chatty Cathy I never seem to last long in groups and gyms are a very "groupy" kind of place.
However. If I'm going to cut back on my running - a bit - I need to do something else. I like being fit and strong AND I just cannot bear to think of getting fat again. Anyone who has ever been fat knows it's just awful and losing masses of weight is hard hard work and I just don't want to climb that mountain again. So. I need to branch out! Do the opposite of me! Not let myself stumble on roadblocks that have stopped me before. So I have made the following resolve:
  • to use the gym 3 times a week;
  • to get private swimming lessons so I can improve my skills;
  • to just )(*(**&^*&%^* do it and get over myself.
One of the things that fells me is any class requiring co-ordination. As soon as someone lithe steps in front of a mirror and starts doing any kind of "moves" I screw up. My moves are not the same, my moves go in the wrong direction, I mix up left and right.. And then I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and instead of the early 80s Olivia Newton John picture I had in my mind there is a sausage in lycra moving in the opposite direction from everyone else. But! The new motto is suck it up, and suck it up I will.

So to prove this, let me present to you this week's achievements so far. Sunday - ran 10 miles easy (giving me a total of 24 miles for last week which, given that all of this mileage was run because I wanted to run is great!).
look at me! I'm lovin' that 10 miler!

Monday - cycled 14.5M to the gym (up and down hills), ploughed up and down the pool for 1000m trying to follow Kelownagirl's swimming tips, got back on the bike to cycle 14.5 miles home. Minimal transitions there people, and I was on my bike by 6am!
and now I'm lovin' 29 miles on the bike with a swim in the middle!

By the time I got home, just after 9am, I was toast but I did not get to sit down (or lie down, hmmmm) because I walked straight into summer holiday sibling strife and spent the rest of the day trying to be productive and not get my kids to kill each other. In the evening I went back to the gym (I know!) to do an hour's "body balance" - basically yoga / pilates type stretching which was hard and lovely. Slept like a log! Yesterday I ran 6M easy and then in the evening did my first ever VIPR class. Oh. My. Goodness. I have NO upper body strength. I am a weed! And this weed is feeling it today. But Jill - that means 2 consecutive days of ab workouts! So Emz, watch out - I'm right behind you. (Only joking! Emz will have showered off her washboard abs, had a three-course meal and a post-marathon nap by the time I come in..).

As for the long-term - for this year, I have no plans. My osteopath thinks I should concentrate on 5Ks and 10Ks to get faster. Somehow I cannot get excited about this plan, but maybe I will. My overall consideration is to get stronger - and my iron levels are going up, people! - and to get back into enjoyment of exercise - which is also happening. I'm going to spend the rest of August trying out the various exercise classes my gym is offering and will probably settle on a couple that I will rotate, focusing mainly on core strength and flexibility. I will get my swimming lessons organised and started. And I will buy a new roadbike. You may recall that back in November I bought a bargain Cannondale on ebay. Well, as these things go it was not such a clever move - I have been suffering with back pain on that thing and when I took it into a decent bike shop for some advice on fitting it the guy told me straightaway "that bike is waaaayy too small for you". I kind of knew that - it is titchy! - but it's a Cannondale! (Anyone want to buy a bargain Cannondale? It's probably suitable for 13-15 year old?) So in the next few weeks I am going to buy a new bike and keep that up. I am loving the fact that on a bike I can actually go places - I can cyle to people's houses (remember I live in the country - everyone lives at least 10M away from me) and then cycle home.

Overall - I'm on the up. I have some BIG plans for next year but will keep those under my (new Nike) hat for now - for now I'm just firing up my mojo and lovin' it!

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I've said it before and yes I will say it again - personal growth and understanding is a sloooooooooow process for me. Pennies just gently float down and I rarely hear them drop.

Take last night. At about 8:30, after a lovely steak (iron-rich!) supper I was at my computer when in pinged an email from Drusy who hosts the RRT. "Petra, tonight's Runners Round Table is all women and its on Overtraining. (..) I've been reading up to prepare.....and then I read your blog. You've got ALL the signs. and your doc has give the best advice! Log in to the chatroom if you're around at 9pm on Wed. Hang in there! Toni". I read it and thought "Oh Toni - I'm not overtrained. I'm just anemic!". But anyway, I did log into the chatroom. She had some great guests on the show - I was really impressed with Amelia's knowledge and advice and Tory's experience and cautious approach. As they started listing the symptoms of overtraining - tiredness, dreading runs, not sleeping well - I realised that besides my anemia I had all of these symptoms. Ah. Maybe Toni was right. I haven't been sleeping at all well, dreading runs (hell yeah!). There is no doubt that anemia hasn't helped but I think I have pushed and pushed and pushed my training to the point where it has become a much bigger problem. It was very interesting in the chatroom last night to read that really experienced runners like Matt from the Dumprunners Club are very tuned into signs of overtraining and tone things down accordingly during their training cycles - something to learn from. Amelia pointed out that running and training while anemic was like running with only one lung - I was not running well and just hurting myself, making myself worse. She said that taking a couple of weeks off, improving my iron stores and giving my body a chance to catch up would mean I could come back much stronger. Given that she seems to know what she's talking about, I'm going to take her word for it. As of today,
  • I'm going to take a month off running longer. I will do about 5M twice a week - if I feel like it.
  • I'm going to cross train by cycling and doing yoga.
  • I am contemplating joining our local gym so I can swim. Pros - lovely pool, steam room and sauna. Cons - kinda pricey and will I use it enough?
  • I am also going to focus on my diet - I am focusing on improving my iron intake and "cleaning up" my diet. Improving my iron intake is kind of complicated - you have to combine certain foods to improve the iron you can absorb. And keep away from other combos. Like caffeine with my boiled egg breakfast. Hmm. There are ups though - including oysters! Yes!
The bigger picture is that I'm shocked by my own realisation about how much I define myself as a runner - and more than that, as a marathon runner. This is not good. While I am really proud of what I have achieved and will, most certainly, be out there running marathons again in the future, there has to be more about me that I am proud and confident about. And if I can't see that, I need to work on that. As some of you have suggested, I will use my time off to focus on other areas of interest that have been lagging so that I can work on seeing myself in a more rounded way. As well as a runner..

All in all I'm feeling positive. Thank you ALL of you for such lovely wonderful kind and generous comments. I am looking forward to this period of trying some new things and some new attitudes. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Doctor's orders

I've started to write this post so many times. In fact, there are about 5 versions of it saved as drafts in my blogger account. I really wasn't sure about where to go with what I was feeling, physically and mentally, and all the different posts reflected the various different things going through my head.

Because my running has not been going so great. This past weekend I had to face the fact that in the first 5 weeks of this training program I have never, not once week, hit the mileage I was meant to. Most weeks I was a few miles short but every week there was at least one workout I could not complete. My stomach ache has not got worse but not got better either. And I am exhausted. Just worn out. I have been dragging myself out onto the road. And dragging myself through my workouts. I found myself on an evening, about 10 days ago, lacing up my shoes and saying to my husband that I really didn't want to go for a run. "Well don't then" he said. And I said to him that I had to. If I didn't run, I told him, I wasn't a runner anymore, and if I wasn't a runner anymore then I don't know who I am. This statement just burst out of me and I was so shocked I headed out straight for my run. But that thought keeps coming back to me. Is it true? Do I think it's true? What do I mean by it?

You all know me by now. I am the girl who never did any exercise, who ended up living in the countryside with a husband and two tiny children, not working, overweight and somehow, amazingly, I started to run. Very slowly, but I did it. I threw myself at WeightWatchers, for the umpteenth time but for the first time while exercising, and it worked. I lost weight I had been hanging onto for a decade, and more, and found myself in the course of this. I started running races, ran my first marathon (4:55), started blogging and found this incredible world out there of other runners. Running has transformed me, physically but also very much mentally. It has sustained me through some very tough times and has given me something to feel good about when I've felt I was achieving very little in other parts of my life. It is the thing people know about me. When they see me they ask me what event I'm training for, how many marathons I've run and I proudly tell them. I also tell them that if I can do it, so can they.

Through all the various stuff that has gone in my life, particularly in the last year, running and being a runner has helped me to stay the course, to feel worthwhile and valuable. I could tell, in the past week, that my training was not on course. But I felt utterly incapable of knowing what to do with myself without it.

Then I went to the doctor's for the results of my tests this morning. And relax - there's nothing too serious going on. My tests came back negative so I'm going to have a scan to check out what is going on with this mild but persistent pain in my lower abdomen. While I was there I got chatting to my lovely GP, who is a runner and a mother and who I really like, and we checked out my iron levels again. Which are still very very low despite the fact that I've been taking iron levels on and off for a year now. I told her I was exhausted and feeling very rundown and she told me that with my iron levels where they are she is not surprised. My body is constantly trying to replenish its diminished stores and trying to push myself to run 50+ miles a week is right now asking too much of it. I said to her that I had been thinking that maybe, just maybe, I should not run my planned marathon in September and she just told me straight that she thought I shouldn't. I shouldn't train that hard, and shouldn't push myself that hard, with my body in the condition it's in at the moment. She said I was ignoring what my body was telling me (true) and that, if I made it across the finish line at all without giving up halfway, my recovery would be very very long. Our priority right now, is to do something more constructive and long term about the anaemia (for once, I'll spare you the TMI but I'm pretty certain I know why I'm anaemic and how to resolve it - it's just a bit, well, involved).

On the way back I phoned Dawn. My BFF who totally understands me and the state I'm in - and why this all matters so much. She realises how much of my identity is caught up in my not only being a runner, but a marathoner. And how hard it is to let that go, even for a while. But she pointed out that if I got things sorted in the next few months I would have plenty of time to train for Boston. And be a much stronger runner when I'm out there.

So I'm ditching the Robin Hood marathon for this year. I'm taking a step back. I'm not giving up on running but for now, I'm going to be running 5-10 milers. I like being fit and I want to stay out there, but I'm benched for this marathon season.

I'm okay with this. Apart from anything, I'm so tired. I'm not missing those sloggy 14 milers. But I will miss you all - feeling a part of it. I'll miss running a marathon this autumn. I'll, basically, feel left out. But I'm a big girl - don't feel sorry for me. I'm going to get over myself, follow you guys and cheer you along. I'm saving myself for Boston..

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Where am I?

Where am I? Where have I been? Not here, that's for sure - it's been nearly 4 weeks since I posted! And not on your blogs - I am shockingly behind on everyone's blogs. I have been away from you, my internet friends, for various reasons:
- lack of time. We went away on a week's holiday to the Isle of Wight which was wonderful and glorious. Especially glorious just to be with Adam and the kids. We camped in an Airstream trailer and went to the beach. We even - very bravely and not for very long - swam in the Atlantic.

As soon as I came home things just went into overdrive. There were trips to London to sort out our flat there for new tenants (and us! more of that another time), there seem to be endless events at both my kids' schools (some of which require picnics which need to be shopped for and cooked for) and generally - it has been a struggle to just fit the running itself in. Which I have managed, mostly..

- lack of oopmh. I know - not again. But yes, again. My runs in the past 2 weeks have been tough - really tough - primarily because I seem to be suffering from a really painful stomach and related (?) GI issues. I ran a race recently (more later of that) and by mile 13 of the 17.3 miler I had to go off in the bushes and dry-heave. I know - TMI - but that's never happened to me before. Last week I had 16 on the books with 10 at RP. While I managed the RP I had to shoot into a field by mile 9.5 of the race pace section and I then felt so awful I only managed 14 miles. Last night's 10 miler with 5 at LT was the same story - I completed the 2M warmup, the 5M at RP (with a totally respectable, for me, pace of 7:52) only to find myself completely sapped of energy by the end and just struggling home for the last mile, missing out another 2M. I have been googling my symptoms and some seem to suggest this might be dehydration. I can't think that's the case - I drink so much water all day and while I'm out running. And because of my stomach, I find it impossible to drink sports drink or eat gels / shotblocks - again, this is not going to help me go long. In all honesty, I have been so busy that it's only yesterday that I realised that this - my stomach ache and all - had been going on for a good 2 weeks or so (and I have it all day, not just when exercising) and I've made a doctor's appointment for tomorrow. I seem to be susceptible to stomach viruses which is why I didn't take note immediately, but enough is enough.

Knowing our health service, however, it will be about another 3 weeks before I get any results. So int he meantime, this leaves me in a situation where my long runs, in particular, are hard to get through. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about this. Partly as an experiment, partly through time shortage, I'm going to have to do tomorrow's long run (17M) in 2 parts (the doctor's appointment is right in the middle of my running slot) so what I think I'll do is 7M before breakfast and then 10 after the doc's appointment. We'll see how I get through that and whether that might be the way forward for a little while, at least.

In other news - I WON A PRIZE IN A RACE! Yes I know!
Let me paint the picture - it was the first-time running of a new local race, and 19 people entered the event I ran in - an 18 miler (except it was short). I ran the first nearly 9 miles with a 55 year old who gaily chatted for the entire time while I kept thinking I was setting off too fast.. After the turn (where my running buddy SuperSal was marshalling) I let him go which was a good thing because my GI issues got worse. I couldn't bear the feel of the race belt across my stomach so twisted that round my arm and, as I said above, I even pulled off the course for a while to see if I could feel better by being sick. No go. However, I decided there was no option to it other than to slog it out, and so slog it out I did. And when I walked back to my car to go home, I was told to stay to receive my prize! Prize! I was the 3rd woman in - the first woman got overall first, the second was older than me by 16 years and came first in her age group (yes I know you are less and less impressed with me now) and then there was me - 1st in my age group, 35-45. I think there were at least 4 women who were slower than me ;). But I did beat a joggler.

So that's it from me folks - I'm going to catch up with all of your blogs and I'm sorry this is not a very sparkly post - I hope to be back at full sparkle soon. Hope all of your running is going well?