Saturday, April 17, 2010

Surrender to the universe - part troix

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called Surrender to the universe. With an injury in my knees and 18 weeks of training behind me, I told myself I had to accept that Boston was not going to be a PR. Instead, with your considerable and persuasive support, I decided to run it to smell the roses, to celebrate how far I've come with running and to celebrate the history and traditions of this most prestigious of marathons.

However. I may have told you before that it takes me a while to "get" things. I had to try 5 or 6 times to give up smoking before it stuck. I was on diets for 10 years before I actually lost the weight I was trying to lose. I tried to incorporate exercise into my life for about 15 years before I actually stayed off the couch of doom. I am very goal-focused but often ignore the glaringly obvious in my blind-sided quest for whatever it is I'm going for. And focus is great - you need it to achieve. But I do tend to overlook things while I'm focused. OK, where am I going with this? Well, this surrender to the universe bit obviously hadn't really been pounded into my brain as it should have done. So I had to learn it again, and take note this time.

By now you will all know that most flights from the UK and Northern Europe have been grounded since Thursday lunchtime. So far they are grounded until tonight but the status is constantly changing. I was booked onto a Friday morning flight to Boston (16th August). When this was canceled, I was rebooked for Saturday. This flight was also canceled and the first available option for me to fly out now was Monday. To arrive after the marathon. So I am not going to Boston.

I can't begin to tell you everything that has gone through my head in the past 36 hours. Disbelief. A volcano? Affecting us in England? For days and days? All planes grounded? No means of getting to the continent? Anger. I have worked my buns off for this. I have run in the snow, in the dark, in the rain, in the wind (don't talk to me about the wind. There is now, apparently, no wind. I have never had such a windy training cycle. Don't talk to me about the wind). Grief. Yes, well, I have cried. I wanted this so badly. Enormous disappointment. I can't tell you how much I was looking forward to it all. To running this race of races. To celebrating with Emily and Jill and Meg afterwards. To meeting Greg and to walking the freedom trail and mooching around Boston, to meeting Jeanne (who traveled up from Washington DC for this) and going to the ballgame on Sunday and watching nothing but talking, talking, talking about our lives and our dreams and all that good stuff. It has not been an easy year for me or my family - while we, thankfully, have our health and our jobs, we have faced some pretty major business, financial and personal challenges. Countless times I have headed out the door on a stressful morning and thought "at least I have Boston". Boston was to have been the icing on the cake of years of running and fighting my self-doubts, of the past year of major challenge.

But, amazingly, I also feel some resignation. Had my flights been canceled due to terrorism (I was last in Boston in September 2001 and was stuck there then when all flights were canceled) or strikes (I purposefully avoided booking BA flights) I would have had someone to be angry with. But this? A volcano? Talk about the universe setting me straight on who's really in charge. What can I do? The planes are grounded. The trains and ferries off of this island are full. The airports in Europe, assuming I could even get there, are closed.

Oh and somewhere in there, there is also gratitude. Talk about learning who your friends are. My BFF Dawn took me under her wing as soon as it became clear that I was going to be stranded in London for some time. There was coffee and sympathy and understanding. This woman has a knack of always being there when I need her. It's uncanny but I'll take it - a friend like Dawn comes along very rarely. And you people. Sheesh. If anything can make me cry it's you lot. From all the FB updates and text messages and posts asking for wind, for blowing, for good vibes. From all of your incredibly sympathetic text messages and comments while I was waiting. From all of your enormous and sincere sympathy when I realised, late yesterday afternoon, that I was not going to be running Boston this year. From a post dedicated to me. Even from the BAA, who seem likely to be offering those of us who are missing Monday a deferral for 2012. I really feel I don't deserve all this warmth and feeling - it's just a race, right? - but I have soaked it up and it has helped.

I am just sitting here, right now, back in my own house, feeling weird. I'm not sure what I feel. Pretty sad, mostly. Woke up at 5 this morning with that awful feeling where you know something's happened but you can't remember what and then 5 seconds later it comes to you. Oh yes. That. I can't say I am constantly as sanguine as I might sound. Because I'm not. But I will get over it. I know that too.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Some have suggested my running a marathon in the next few weeks. I might. I need to find out whether what I have in my legs is a marathon, or Boston. And the only way I'll know that is by going out for a run. So today or tomorrow I will be doing just that. Maybe I'll get a better handle on where I am mentally.

And then, on Monday, I will be following the progress of all of those I was hoping to run with - run it and enjoy it, peeps! Warm the course up for 2011!

Monday, April 12, 2010


You guys! Are amazing! Just go back now and see ALL the comments you left on my blog last week. I asked for a slap round the head and none of you really did it but instead you completely brought me round. Changing your attitude can be very hard - I find - but change it you did. I did everything you told me to do - I rested up, I enjoyed my time with the family in Holland, I did a little bit of running. Instead of worrying away at the problem of what to do in Boston you all gave me permission not to think about it for a little bit and I started to get very very excited about what lies ahead.

As some of you said, going into Boston with a little bit of an injury (time off has done my knee good, what can I say?) takes the pressure off enormously. I'm going in this to run this and enjoy this, not to PR. The last 2 marathons I've run - London and Berlin - I really really pushed myself and while I am thrilled I did it, I did not experience much of the marathon itself. I was just fighting. I never knew I could fight like I did and that's a great thing to know about myself - that fight made Boston possible. But Boston is no fight. Boston is the reward. So that is what I'm going to do. I have often been a really happy racer - smiling for the race photos - but in London I ended the race with black lips and severe cramps and in Berlin I was in the medical tent for some minutes and ended up running under a foil blanket despite the heat - so I want to get the happy racer back. I'm even contemplating running watch-less - my only worry about this is that I will end up going out too fast. Without a watch I won't slow myself down enough at the beginning, I fear. Thoughts?

Finally, finally, finally. I do know my post was really self-indulgent. Thank you for bearing with me. And for pointing out that there was more to it than purely aiming for a PR. As if to underline that point, I just read Lizzie Lee's most recent post. Read it, and make sure you click through the link that she puts in there. OK - the humble pie has gone down..

So let's end this as I started this - THANK YOU! I don't know what I've done to deserve friends like you lot but I've got you and I thank you. (BFF Dawnie emailed me from her holiday after reading all the comments - she lurks! - to check that she was still my BFF. ).

Me after my last 10 miler last Saturday in Holland - and yes that is sweat on my lens. Happy happy happy!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

surrender to the universe

Someone bought me a t-shirt once that said "surrender to the universe". It's something I'm not very good at - while I don't tend to think of myself as a typical type A (too many sloppy habits, I think) in truth I am quite controlling. I find it hard not to push for things to happen in a certain way, and much easier to drive myself to doing something than to sit back and let things happen for themselves. However, I am (very slowly) learning that most of the best things happen for me, and to me, when I'm not hell-bent and head-down pushing for a particular goal, but when I force myself to take my hands off the tiller and let myself see where I float. The problem, I think, with being too driven, is that I lose sight of whether what I'm driving myself towards is a good thing to be striving for in the first place. I lose touch with intuition and instinct when I'm too focused on a certain outcome.

Well, it's one thing to realise this - and that has taken me long enough, and I can't say it's truly sunken in - but quite another to live life according to these rules.

As I've said before, running is not something I grew up doing, or thinking I could do. I was and am pretty incompetent at most sports and grew up concentrating on my intellectual achievements rather than expecting anything of myself physically. My occasional attempts at getting fit in my twenties felt doomed before they even started - aerobics classes and sudden sprints around a park only seemed to prove that I was uncoordinated and incompetent. And unfit. It wasn't really until I found myself completely adrift from the goals I had set myself in other parts of my life (married, not working, mother of two small children, pretty broke rather than single, succesful career woman who put off having a family until she had everything materially and professionally in order) that I came to running. By that stage I had nothing left to prove, or lose (apart from, oh, 30kgs hanging around my belly, boobs and behind) and, thanks to John Bingham, I realised I could run slowly. Slowly, over time I improved and moved from the back of the pack to the midpack. Early last year, inspired by Jen who had told me that I could do it, I resolved to take my training to a new level and to do the Pfitzinger program. It worked for me in that I became much faster, much stronger and managed, in two marathons, to take well over a minute per mile over my previous PB and to Boston qualify. Completely beyond my wildest dreams, this.

And as you know, since December I have been training hard to get to Boston as strong and as fit as I can. I have had my ups and downs, my on weeks and my off weeks, but on the whole, things have gone okay. Until about 2 weeks ago, that is, when I developed runner's knee in my right knee, where I'd never had it before. I took time off, iced it, treated it, babied it and thought I was back to form last week. You read my post - I was back to happy times. However, after yesterday, my last long run of the season, it flared right back up again. I know what to do - I need to take more days off, and take it very easy now until the marathon. If I miss the last workouts of my taper, so be it.

As you can imagine, I am so disappointed. I had hoped that my knee was a temporary blip, and though I don't think it's anything deeply serious, it is clearly not in great shape and if I want to get to the marathon start at all, I need to give it a chance to heal up and for the inflammation to go down. And more so, of course, I am disappointed because I feel that I'm unlikely to put in a strong performance on marathon day. I want to rail against the fates and shout that it's not fair - this was meant to be my moment and I wanted to arrive at the starting line in tip-top form - not recovering from injury. Last night (at 3am, when else?) I compulsively went over my running stats from training for London and Berlin and I can see that I was a lot faster before those races, even before I got injured this time. I'm not sure what went wrong - maybe 18 weeks is too long to train for me. Maybe I'm just overtrained. Maybe I peaked too soon. Whatever.

But I'm back to where I started, aren't I? I can't control it all. Even if I were to arrive on marathon day in tip top shape and faster than ever before, bad weather or bad karma or whatever else could throw me off what I set out to do. Amazing how I've gotten so greedy so fast - to go from not running to being annoyed at not setting a PR at Boston...

So what is the point of today's blog? Well, I guess I'm trying to give myself a talking to. I'm sure you all agree I need it. I need to know - to understand - that it is how it is. I have done what I could to get ready for Boston. Whatever happens on raceday, happens. The only thing I can choose, I guess, is to really really enjoy it all - regardless of my time. Hard to let go of race time and pace, but once again, maybe the things I find so hard to do are the things I should be doing most of all.

So come and meet me in Boston, all of you who can, and let's have a great time. And if you think I need it, you can give me a quick slap around the head as well. Tell me to grow up, and enjoy. All I can change is my attitude right?

Friday, April 02, 2010

Back on top.

Will you believe that I've been offline for over 2 weeks? Eerie that it co-incided with my knee injury - it was very weird to be off running AND off the internet. I couldn't endlessly google knee injuries, couldn't endlessly lurk on your blogs or FB and I couldn't go off running either. The washing and ironing got done, a room that needed clearing out got cleared out - amazing what happens when you can't run or surf the internet.

Touch wood, I think that injury was just a warning shot across the bow. As in - this is not so bad, but you have to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! Last year it was about 6 weeks before the Berlin marathon(I think), this year 4 weeks before Boston , but still. Perhaps I should be just a little more careful with myself when I'm tired and my muscles are tight. A day of rest might just have avoided this. Just sayin..

I followed my osteopath and all-round running Guru's advice to not run over the weekend after I hurt my knee - thereby missing most of a week's training. Besides getting to jobs that needed doing, I iced my knee, took glucosamine and massaged my knee with Ibuprofen gel.

10 days ago I went back to Jonathon who told me the swelling had gone down some. I did 4 easy miles the day before to test things and although I was not pain-free I did manage to carry on and through. Jon then revised my schedule for the week, reducing my speed session to a 6 miler session with 4x1200m repeats, my 11 miler to an 8 miler and my 20 miler to a 17 miler. The speed session went so-so - I aimed to get between 7:10 and 7:30 min/mile in those intervals but only managed on two out of the 4 intervals. My 8 miler was okayish - not painfree but okay. I took Friday off and met Sally on Saturday morning at 7am to do 17 miles. This, unbelievably for both of us, is the first time we've run together since we each lost our wheels in the course of the Berlin marathon. She's been injured (calf, shin and knee issues) and to see her hobble while she warmed up I couldn't believe she was doing this. We are both back to wearing our orthotics (I think we're both a bit superstitious about them - they're our blankies when we're sore) and in addition I put on a ChoPat knee strap I bought last time I was injured. And I don't know whether it was the orthotics, the knee strap, the much slower than usual pace for both of us (9:40 min/mile) or just the cracking conversations we always have but we did it. And it didn't hurt me!.

It's amazing. 2 weeks ago I was obsessing that I was slow and listless. I could feel that, for whatever reasons, I was not in the top form, mentally and physically, I was in last year for London. Having had a week off training and having faced, in my darker 3am moments, the prospect of not making it around the Boston course, I have turned a corner. Right now I feel that I might just be able to make it round the course. And that's just great. I am meeting so many of you out there - Greg, Jeanne, Emily and Meg and hopefully many more of you! - and I am so looking forward to being in Boston during such an exciting week and running in such a historic race and, generally, THAT I, PETRA, AM RUNNING BOSTON WILL YOU BELIEVE IT? that I think I can cope with the fact that my time will not be amazing. I know that many of you will be watching it online - I promise to beam and wave at every camera I see. I guess I'm truly not going to win this thing, but I'm okay with that.

To top things off, things have been going a lot better this week training wise and - as you can see by this blog - I am back online. I am smiling again - see?