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?