Monday, February 28, 2011

Back in action.

I was just looking at the February stats and despite my positive outlook in my blog last week, I was a bit shocked to see only 117 miles in there in February.  Gulp.  But there was no way round it - I had to take time off when I felt my knee injury happen.  The good news is that I'm back on the road, however.  I started the week with a cautious 3 miler and then progressed to an 8 miler, a 10 miler and a 20 miler.  41 miles as a cautious step back - I'll take it.  My knee held up during the 20 miler yesterday and seems to well on the road to recovery. 

7 weeks out from Boston, I'm beginning to try to line up the have to's for the race:
  • I need to set myself some goals.  I have never done this before - I have had goals, secret goals, but have tended to keep them to myself as I was afraid that saying them out loud might make me look ridiculous if I failed to achieve them.  I have been reading your blogs and so many of you believe in the power of putting your goals out there and positive visualisation that I'm going to do this.  Any tips / tricks / suggested reading material? 
  • Fuel.  I have struggled with fuel in my most recent marathons, almost always being too nauseous to eat by mile 15 which has not helped the last tough miles.  My past 2 marathons were very warm and it appears Boston could be, well, any kind of weather.  This training cycle I have found myself avoiding sports drinks completely.  The thought of them right now makes me feel sick.  I have had chocolate outrage GUs every 5 miles for a long run and drunk water - it seems to be okay - but I have not practised eating while running at race pace.  I think running faster definitely affects my stomach so again - tips / tricks?  I find myself craving real food during races - peanut butter sandwiches in particular.  Has anyone practised with real food?  I have also, in the past, made "real" sports drinks - half orange juice, half water and some salt.  What are your views on that as opposed to Gatorade?  Am I missing much in terms of electrolytes etc? 
  • Race gear.  Given that the weather in Boston could be anything and that I will be doing most of my taper in sunny Florida in the 10 days leading up to Boston I'll be bringing shorts and short sleeves and one set of warmer things.  Coach Zippy's advice in a blogpost some time ago, that you should always feel cold at the beginning of a race, has stuck with me.  I have certainly been guilty of overdressing in the past and overheat very quickly, so might well just put some throwaway warm stuff on and have gloves and arm warmers to deal with the rest.  
Look at that!  Just like her mother - another happy runner!
What else people?  What should I be thinking about?  Given my recent injury AND the fact that my 10 year old is running in a national cross country championship on Sunday (I know!  It's a new passion for her and I am SO proud!) I am skipping next Sunday's half marathon and instead doing a 20 mile race the week after - Coach and I will be working out exactly how I'm going to use that race as a gauge of where I'm at and how to run it.  It will be interesting - it's a hilly course so that will be a good test for me.

I imagine that the next 4/5 weeks will be some really heavy-duty training but my unexpected 9 days off has given me real fire for March - bring it on Coach because I am READY to run. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Watching from the sidelines

Well, it was all going rather well.  I ran my first 20 miler last Wednesday, as a progression run (also a first) and felt strong and happy throughout.  I eased off with a 6 miler on Thursday and another easy 6 on Friday.  And then - out of the blue - knee pain.  Yes - you groan!  You've been there before, and so have I.  I took the weekend off and went in to see my osteopath on Tuesday.  He's not overly concerned - tight and tired quads have affected the tracking of my kneecap and he seems to think rest will do the trick.  Humph.  I'm now on day 7 (and yes, counting) of my "rest" and it's not where I wanted to be.
how to waterproof your garmin before your 20 miler

running fuel - maybe not the best but it tasted great!

But something is different this time round.  I have had injuries like this in most training cycles.  I have trained through them and taken time off and I've always come out the other end.  Jonathan has been treating my knees since my very first marathon and has this crazy memory for how tight my legs have been in previous training cycles, and he's not worried.  What's different is that I'm just not as antsy about this injury as I've been in the past.  (I've only googled it for 5 minutes people!).  I'm assuming that I will soon be on the road again, I'm seeing him today and will find out what he thinks.  Due to last year's experiment with cross-training I will get myself in the pool and on the bike - carefully - this weekend - if I can't run.  I think that if I can just stay active in the next week, I will be able to cope mentally with the fact that my training has suffered a setback.

Also - life is busy. My two kids are on holiday this week and next, I'm working part-time and some home renovations are finally coming together.  I have been using my time off the road to do things I had left aside.  We were in Dublin last weekend with my daughter (the city will forever, despite what I say here, be associated with the injury) and I'm off to London next week with my son. There's plenty of distraction.
fun in Dublin despite my injury

It's weird.  I'm not even having panic attacks about my projected time in Boston and slipping away from my goal.  Maybe the BAA's convoluted new entry system for Boston has been a help.  I've got a funny feeling that the speedsters (20 minutes faster than a BQ, anyone?) will fill up the marathon long before people like myself (13 seconds to spare) get a chance.  And I'm fine with that.  I guess they had to figure out a system to deal with everyone who wanted to run it.  In my view, they've lost something essential in this process - the BQ is gone, people - you need a BQ - 20 minutes now - but, whatever.  I qualified fairly and squarely to run in THIS year's race, my hotel is booked, my flight is booked, my kids are psyched.  I have been busting a gut for my coach, and I will continue to do so when I'm able to.  I have been loving, loving, loving this training.  Who knows?  All might well be fine on the day.  And if I'm not on top form, I'll still be in good shape to soak every bit of this wonderful, amazing marathon that I'm lucky enough to be able to run.  Will I ever qualify for it again?  I really don't know.  Do I care?  Not really. The world is full of great races and great marathons and fun experiences to be had running with friends and running buddies.   Boston's a HUGE notch on my running bedpost, but there are others I still want to run.  And other blogging buddies I still want to meet.

I was reading a really moving post by Amanda recently about her frustrations about her injury and I can relate to a lot of her feelings.  But one key phrase in her blog really stood out - and it's what I'm working on this year.  Don't compare yourself to others...Be the best YOU you can be.  It went through my head when I got out of the pool on Wednesday (1400m - it felt hard!) and I saw this 25 year old standing by the side of the pool in her bikini in her amazing body.  In the past I would have hidden in my towel, but I made myself walk past her, chanting to myself "this is my body and I love it".  Nuts, maybe, but it worked.  Too much of the past 39 years have been wasted comparing myself - physically, mentally - with others and it's a useless exercise.

I will be at the starting line in Hopkinton and run the very best race I can run.  And I hope to see you out there!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

My new relationship - a cut out 'n keep guide

I mentioned in September that I had joined our local gym (again - I have joined and left three times now) and to my great surprise I have found that this time, I am using it enough to justify my membership fees (3+ times a week).  I am doing my weekly swimming lessons (though not every week, necessarily) and have worked out a weights / strength routine which I can fit in around my running and which is not too complicated (a guaranteed turn-off for me).  And I use the treadmill.  I started using it on and off this autumn and it has steadily become a firm element of my training routine.  Bizarrely enough, I feel a bit embarrassed blogging about this.  I have always believed that to train to race outside, you have to run outside.  And I still believe that. 

But, there are some moments where a treadmill really is rather handy.  I have come to love it for speed workouts - without access to a track, this is the most accurate way for me to control my distance and speed, far superior to working out with my Garmin.  (I still tend to run my pace workouts outside). And then, sometimes the outside can be inhospitable (2 feet of snow, anyone?) that while going for a run might prove your bad-assedness, you achieve little in terms of a quality workout.  On balance, I have tended to do about 1 or 2 of my weekly workouts on the treadmill, choosing to do most of my recovery, tempo and long runs outside.  However, this weekend we have had treacherously high winds.  Not of an Australian speed, but still about 50km/h.  Going out for an easy 5 yesterday I had to dodge a few large branches crashing onto the country road around me, and within half a mile I packed my run in and headed to the treadmill.  Overnight the wind did not die down, and I was facing running an 18 miler in it.  So, for the first time, I contemplated running 18 miles on the treadmill.  People do it - I know.  People I like and respect - Jill, Matt, Emz - do it.  But I really wasn't sure how I was going to do this without falling off the back of the treadmill with boredom.  So I emailed Emz and asked her to do it.  And she told me.  And I printed out the email and brought sellotape to the gym and taped her email to the treadmill.  And I did it.  I ran 18 miles on the treadmill.  I did not die of boredom, I did not give up, I did it.  With a smile on my face, most of the time actually - I felt like a million dollars.  And I then realised that, given that even people in Texas are facing snowdays, I have to pay this forward.  So without further ado, I present to you the content of Emz email that got me through this - just cut along the dotted line and don't forget to bring your sellotape.


You. Will. Freaking. Rock. It.

Break it up into pieces. 6 miles x 3.

You may call this nuts but........
I run the first third [6 miles] w/o distractions [tv, music, etc].

Keep. Your. Thoughts. Positive.

You staying positive it what will get you through this & dare I say....may make this your best long run yet. ;)

Focus on your form. Your breathing.

Second 6.....turn on the tunes. You will be amazed how fast these 6 fly by.

Next whatever works. Tv. Podcast. Etc. I have seen people at my gym tie on their iPads w/rope like may want to try that?!

Last mile....kick it up one notch faster. For. Me.

Now.... Petra. You know I'm a little nuts.

Treadmill running. Is. Mental. Meaning your attitude when you hop on that mill needs to be "I've got this", "this is going to be a great run". If you hop on thinking you are going to be bored & turn "mental" in two will. For sure.

Just don't tell yourself anything even close to negative.

Keep the incline at at least 1% incline but keep it between 1-2.5% if you need a change.

Stay. Positive. The. Whole. Run.


Take a photo of the mill when you are done. :)


I did just that.  I got on the treadmill and told myself "I've got this".  I pushed every doubt out of my mind as soon as it appeared.  None of that for me today.  I ran the first 6 miles without any music.  There were people in the gym to gawk at, there were tv screens to look at (without headphones, does that count?), I made a point of focusing on my form and breathing whenever I could remember (at every km, in this imperial country we have metric treadmills for some reason).  Done.  Anyone can do 6 miles.  For the second 6 I had loaded my 10 year old's Now That's What I Call Music 77 onto my iPod.  Call me grannie (come on!  I dare you!) but I have missed some great tunes in this past year or so.  Top powersongs I discovered on these 6 miles were Milkshake (Kelis), Shut Up (Black Eyed Peas), Cha Cha Slide (DJ Casper), Jump (Girls Aloud). I was rocking along and again, the miles went past quickly.  I was varying the incline, keeping the base at 1.5 % but varying it up to 2 for 1K, up to 2.5 for 1K, down to 1 for .5K and back to 1.5% - there was no system to it but I was just trying to make sure my legs did not do exactly the same thing for too long.  For the last 6 I started off with a podcast, but I could suddenly feel my mojo slipping.  Only one thing for it - before I had a moment's further doubt, I found myself some Britney.  Three plays of Toxic and I was back on it.  I had promised Emz that I would run my last mile faster and while I had run the whole workout at the 9:30 min/mile I dropped to an 8:45 for the last mile.  Yeah, yeah - not setting the world on fire here I know but that wasn't the point.  I did it.  And I loved it! 

So not a good look.  This is why the over 35s do not do FaceTime.

See the taped-up piece of paper on the treadmill just behind my elbow?
Don't worry - I will still be doing the vast majority of my running outside.  But I am more amazed than anything that I was able to change my attitude towards something so quickly and so effectively.  I should try this on pizza, red wine and Ben and Jerry's next.  After I have some...

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Keeping it all together.

Spoiler alert - I don't always keep it all together.  Just this morning I was sitting at my computer staring at my virtual inbox, ignoring my real inbox, and trying to think of a way to do it all.  Oh, I have all the productivity tools and books and gadgets - one of my favourite ways to procrastinate is to read about productivity - but when push comes to shove, when it's 6am and I wake up a blind panic at ALL I NEED TO GET DONE I freeze like a rabbit in the headlights.  And do very very little. 

I was thinking about this because a blogging friend of mine - yours too, probably - Emz recently lost a "follower", because, in the words of her follower Emz had initially seemed to be a "serious runner" but on the follower's reflection seemed to have a lot of "filler posts".  What she appeared to mean with this is that Emz writes about other stuff than running, that Emz has other things going on in her life.  I was astounded by this comment.  First off - Emz is a serious runner.  Serious because she runs.  And, not that this makes her a more serious runner, but it just so happens that she runs 3:20 marathons and works really really hard at being a good runner.  So, in terms of commitment and achievement, she's got what it takes (she also has the BEST abs in the entire world but that's beside the point.  Filler, if you like).  But the real thing that astounds me is that idea that we, as runners,  wouldn't have "filler".  Or a life, as you could also call it. 

My life is full to busting with filler right now.  We are finally getting to the good bits of some major redecoration in this house, so there are endless trips to paint shops and decisions and drawings and considerations.  My kids have had all sorts of emotional stuff going on in their lives recently which I've been heavily involved with.  My husband's businesses are doing really well (thank goodness) but I'm required to lend a hand with that, and what I thought was a dormant career is proving to be waking up.  What's interesting to me in all of your blogs is not just the running and the training and the race reports - but how you're doing this in the middle of all your life, whatever your life might be like.  Even the pros - could you get more "serious runner" than Kara Goucher? - have filler - she didn't race as well as she could have recently because she spent nights by her son's bed in hospital. 

It really bothers me that there is this kind of stuff going in the running community.  You can see it in the discussions around Boston qualifying standards, discussions about race cut-off times, discussions about walkers in races.  I'm not saying we should not discuss this - we should, absolutely, debate these issues - but please don't look at other runners and tell them they are not serious runners.  Speed has nothing to do it.  Commitment is harder to measure, but a far better way of knowing.  Run your own race people - and leave others to do the same!

I'm in real ranting form at the moment aren't I?  I guess I'm trying to get my head round various things that have been percolating for a long time, and I'm wanting to work them out and move on.  Turning 40 this year can, I know, be a tough thing but I really want to take stock of thoughts and habits that might not be working anymore, and move ahead with the constructive ones.  "Filler" can take over, and sometimes you need to step back and work out which filler matters..

So onto my running - have you stopped following me yet? It is going seriously well.  I am still loving having a coach.  I didn't realise how much mental energy I was expending working out pacing and training and then trying to determine whether I was working hard enough or too hard.  Now I just do what she says.  Generally I assume that whatever she sets me to do, I can do.  Revelatory recent runs?
  • a very hilly 18 miler.  Last year I was trying to pound out all my long runs at below a 9 minute mile.  Looking back, I think I tired myself out on the long runs and thereby lacked quality in my speed and pace work.  Coach makes me run my long runs slow and so I'm focusing on form and endurance, rather than getting round quick.  There'll be a time for that, but that's not now.  The 18 miles was very hilly and because I was hitting it in 2 out and backs, the hills never stopped, but I still made it round comfortably, finished strong (and fast) and averaged a 9:07.  
  • my first two-fer - 3 easy miles in the morning, then 7 miles of 800 repeats at 7 min/miles and a 1600m at 7:11 min/mile.  Not easy, but did it.  Can't quite believe it! 
I can't quite put my finger on it but I have my mojo back.  I feel strong and able in my running.  I am prioritising it in my life, dropping other balls when I have to / am able to and - most importantly - really enjoying the training.

So onto February, which will no doubt be a month full of "filler" - bring it on!