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!).


Mark U. said...

Having run Boston twice along with eighteen other marathons, I say with certainty that it ranks as my favorite by far. YOU qualified for Boston. Period. Accordingly, you should race it as well as you can. That does NOT mean you should necessarily plan to set a new personal record and/or another B.Q., since the course if technically very challenging. Nevertheless, if you include hill work in your training plan you'll do incredibly well and have a great experience!

Running and living said...

There is a lot in here.

Boston is a tough course, I agree, and there is a ton to see while running it. In my best marathons (including my first Boston) I am feeling great and am able to take everything in up to mile 19ish. Then I need to dial in and work it. My point is - take a look at your previous marathons and figure out how you race, whether you need to dial in the entire race or not, and then make the decision. And you may just start training and see how it goes, or decide on marathon day, based on how you feel. About FIRST! That might not be the best plan for you! Sounds like you like the slow pace long runs, so maybe Phitz is better, or Hall Higdon for Boston, people love that! If you use First, I;d suggest to add another day of easy running, and also add easy miles to the tempo and track days, so that you average 45 mile/week. Crosstrain as well, biking is really good for the hills. Then, when you start triathlon training, you can focus mostly on swimming and biking since you'll have a strong run base.

lizzie lee said...

Whatever I say here comes with all honesty, and hope that can help you.

More than individual quandaries I believe you are struggling with a major issue: where do you wanna be, and/or what do you wanna do in regards to running. If you define that first, maybe your quandaries will not be such.

1) Dec - April, I believe you should focus on running. Racing Boston or not, depends on where and what Petra is and wants. If for you the important thing is racing, there you go. If you want to smell the roses, then smell them. You have enough racing experience to understand how your body works and to adapt the strategy on race day. In 7 days I'll run New York, and I decided not to race it but to enjoy the magnanimous atmosphere NYCM will give me.

2)Plan: Every individual has different needs. If you need more running days at more manageable paces then definitely Furman is not for you. However, if I were you, I would stick to Furman until the Half race. Why? so you can measure the results and compare with other races you did with Pfitz while preparing for Boston 2010. Then, you can determine if the results were worth the fast pace effort for the long runs, and then you can make a decision. I believe in scientific studies and that's why I believe in Furman, but I also love running only 3 days a week. The only thing I really advise you is not to give up a run. If you can't keep up with the pace, then slow down. Giving up provides you that sense of failure you mentioned and the sense of not getting the job done.

3) And about your BQ, Petra, please, tell me you weren't serious my dear friend. Your 3:45 effort IS THE SAME 3:15 effort for a man. A man your age bracket doesn't have to work harder: he IS a man. And... why do you have to think on those 12 seconds. Give you all the credit you deserve Petra. Don't diminish the fact of such success, even if it was for 12 seconds!

I am not going to recommend you a protein shake but an inspirational shake. Try to watch all the inspirational movies I watched for my Eugene training (link below). They may truly help you to find out where Petra wants to be and what Petra wants to do.

ALL MY LOVE across the Atlantic....

Fran said...

I'm not such an experienced runner as you are and I don't think I can give you any good advice.

What I do think is that you qualified for Boston. Period! You didn't set the qualifying time, the organization did and you qualified. Don't feel guilty or anything about it. You deserved your race entry!

Now about that rookworst. You like Unox? I would be happy to send you a rookworst. No problem for me. Email your address if you want me too.

ShirleyPerly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ShirleyPerly said...

Sorry to hear your training has not been going as you'd hoped. If it's just one week that has not gone well, it may have been just a bad week. I'm not really sure now WW works but I have found that if I don't eat smart and get enough rest, I can't keep up with hard workouts either but the following week I can bounce back if I do better on sleeping/eating. The other reason I thought it could be is your paces are too aggressive for your current fitness level. What race time are you using to determine your training paces and is it realistic for you? If you're not sure, run a time trial or shorter race to see. With a program like RLRF that has few runs with every run at specific paces, it is important that you know the goal race pace you're using is realistic. If the training paces you're using are based on a race time you ran, say, 6+ months ago or never have run before I think it's a good idea to do a time trial or race to see where you are at now to see if that goal race pace is realistic. It'll also give you more confidence that you are indeed at the fitness level you should be to be do the training.

As for the whether to race Boston or not, I think it's completely up to you. I've run it twice, once as a race and once just to finish (part of my 21RS). I think it's a tough course to PR on b/c of the hills (esp. the early on downhills b/c they'll thrash yr quads if you go out too fast) and the large field of runners but a good race time is definitely possible. With the new 2-wave start congestion will hopefully be less.

(part 1/2 - since blogger says my comment is too long)

ShirleyPerly said...

Re: training focus, I agree with the others about running being primary focus Dec-Apr and then shifting yr focus to tris after Boston. I would NOT recommend adding biking & swimming workouts on top of Pfitz (I tried to do and it was way too much). Biking has actually been my primary form of hill work since I don't have much hills by me. I'd say it's been very helpful for climbing hills but going down hills is another matter.

Lastly, I certainly think you earned your spot into Boston fair & square like everyone else. As I understand it, the qual times are set not by equiv men/women race times but rather so as to ensure a well-rounded field of runners based on gender & age. So you can't and shouldn't compare your times with what men have to run or other age women, etc. The qual times may get stricter in the future but everyone will always have a shot at qualifying. I know several who've qualified for the first time in their 50s & 60's after having been running for 10+ years. So keep running, my dear. I think you are just getting started as far as Boston is concerned!!

Emz said...

I think "lizzie lee" covered most of it. ;)

I'm the weirdo who LOVES the long runs at marathon pace.

Love the last photo.

Aron said...

I am having the same thoughts as Boston right now too - to race or not to race. For now I am worrying about CIM first but its definitely something I have been thinking about. I think for me, if I do decide to race, I have to make sure that I will be ok if I don't get that A goal and won't cross the line feeling disappointed. I think with where we are at now though, I think no matter what Boston will be amazing... its Boston!! That being said I don't think I can not train my butt off for it, since it is Boston. (how many times can I type that city lol)

I also like having some freedom with my running and not having to run a specific pace every single run. Check out the BAA plan, its very flexible and gives you a lot of freedom with paces. I have really liked it so far, but am thinking about going back to Pfitz for Boston since he has a 12 week plan. Not sure yet though :) Definitely email me if you want to know more about the BAA plan.

Also, as much as I LOVE my bike, the second I dropped it and started just running is when I was back "in tune" with my marathon training. For me, I had to focus and biking was a distraction. I will pick it back up post marathons.

Drusy said...

Petra, you DESERVE to run Boston! A bunch of other people also did and couldn't get signed up in time, but that's just luck. How many times have you failed on the London Marathon ballot? And its one of those big milestones for real runners - and you ARE on of those!

I just run for fun, and it seems to me like you're pushing yourself so hard that its just not fun anymore. I'd slow the long runs down and enjoy your time alone.

Marathon Maritza said...

1. You earned Boston. You got the qualifying time they asked you for. It took HARD WORK to do that. You DID it. :)

2. I think you are just pooped, my friend. When workouts start to not go as planned, I always find myself in this rushed, making-up-for-fails state of mind and I eat poorly and sleep less and it's a cycle. Rest and start anew the next week.

3. I have no idea what to do about Boston given that I've never been. I'll leave that to the experts. That being said, I do believe you could probably do both. Enjoy the race. But no one is telling you to dilly-dally either.

XOXO email me how it's going! I miss you!

Anonymous said...

I can only speak to you in terms of balancing the whole marathoner/triathlete identity and let me tell you they do not least for me. It is pretty easy to go into tri training from marathon training however the reverse has been very difficult for me.

Also I found it difficult while I was training my half ironman that I focused mostly on running since I knew I had two marathons coming up in the months post-half ironman.

I think you will feel some relief if you just focus on marathon training. Don't get me wrong you can still go swim and bike as you please, but don't let any tri goals slip into your head until that time has come. Also let your body recover after Boston. I have had a lot of issues with not letting myself recover enough.

CONGRATS on Boston! You deserve it as much as the next person.

Runner Leana said...

Congratulations on Boston! I'm not sure if I have the right advice, but here goes! I would say that if you want to have a good race in Boston, then go for it. I'm not sure when the London tri is, but I would say that after Boston is done you probably want to switch your focus to multisport instead of finding another marathon to race.

I do believe that bike training does help running, so if you do want to bike or swim one day then go for it. But don't put a lot of pressure on yourself to do it.

There we go, my two cents! Good luck!

Unknown said...

For me running is fun..You just try to love and enjoy what your doing so that you will have great time....

keen shoes

Susan said...

I applaud you for posting this. This is why we have blogs -- to put it all out there!

Alisa said...

YOU TOTALLY EARNED your boston spot---don't even go there.

I can say this since I'll never qualify for Boston---if I ever got to that start line, I'd cruise to enjoy the experience. A lot of times when people are "racing" they miss out on the experience of the race. That's my advice, take the 26.2 in Boston to remember why you love to run.

I think having all runs at a prescribed pace would be really hard for me too.