Saturday, May 21, 2011

A bigger goal. A better goal

I know, I know.  3 weeks!  It's been a long time since I posted my Boston race report - it's 5 weeks since Boston on Monday (I'm still counting, still picking up my pedal, still have my victorious finisher's photo on my desk.  Privately, I'm still basking).  But in these weeks I've been doing the following:
  • being ill for a while longer after my last blog post - my hacking cough follows me to this day.
  • yo-yoing mentally from being thrilled at my Boston race to panicking about my future.  What's next?  What's my new focus?  Faster?  Better?  Longer?  Further?  
  • just some general existential angst, yadda yadda yadda.  
  • a university reunion.  I was nervous about going but it was wonderful.  Empowering.  It's been a long time - nearly 20 years - and there have ups and downs for everyone, but we're still here and we're all excited about the future.  40 is truly something to look forward to. 
  • a half-marathon.  Yes - the usual White Peak half-marathon which I ran with Drusy, Nigel, Steve, Gary, Simon and first-time half-marathoner and friend Brad.  Given that Brad ran a 2:04 on almost no training Gary has uninvited him from future races.  I ran a 2:03 - a slight meh time  when I've run a 1:45 here before but I've run 12 miles in total since Boston and spent way too much time listening to Gary's gruesome real-life CSI stories along the way. 
Goal-wise, there is stuff on the horizon.  My first tri at the end of July.  I made the decision to stop going to my swimming classes, as we never get much swimming in or concentrate on any drills and strokes and am instead relying on books and YouTube.  Yeah, well, whatever.  I have a relay race in August in Oregon - a little bucket trip that I squidged into the family budget and timeline.  7 days during which I run the Cascade Lakes relay with my lovely friends Jen and Zach and a whole bunch of other yet-to-be-met friends, and get to catch up with sweet Emily and maybe even Amanda and drink some beer and some coffee and buy some books - I am VERY excited.  

But you know how you can just hang around and whine and just not feel altogether right?  Maybe not.  Well that's what I was doing.  Feeling sorry for myself.  And then someone really went ahead and tried to make me unhappy.  And I got really hurt and really sad.  And then really angry.  And then I decided - enough.  Enough of me.  Sometimes when you're feeling at your lowest you have to go out there and help someone else. 

A few years ago I asked a very wonderful friend of mine, Martha, what her dream was (I think I was sober, just in that kind of mood).  And she told me, after a moment's thought, "an end to diabetes".  Martha has suffered from Type 1 Diabetes for over 33 years and is one of the most admirable, least self-obsessed and self-pitying people I know.  She has got on with her life, despite its challenges, has moved around the world, has an impressive career and a lovely family.  She gives very generously of her time to lots of charities.  And following on from my question, she asked me last year to go on a bikeride with her from London to Paris to raise funds for JDRF (the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) to help them to find a cure for diabetes.  I said "yes" immediately (again, I was sober).  And people - the moment for our trip is nearly here.  I have focused the first four months of this year on myself - Boston, Boston, Boston.  That was good.  I focused May on myself.  Hmm.  Maybe not so good.  June is for Martha, and for others who live with the daily challenge that Type 1 Diabetes presents.  Just very recently, a blogging AND running buddy of mine, Maddy, found out that her son, Stone, had type 1 Diabetes.  I know it is hard to see your child facing up to a challenge you haven't had to face yourself, and I can only imagine how Maddy is feeling.  But her family is a strong and loving one, and I've met Stone, and he is a strong and loving character.  This is a challenge he can meet.  But I would like to support people like Martha and Stone and to let them know that we are behind them and will do all we can to bring an end to diabetes.

If you are able to donate anything - anything at all - please would you consider making a donation to this charity?  You can do so from the UK or Europe here and from the US or Canada here. 

And finally, you may ask - how am I going to do this?  71 hilly miles on day one, an overnight ferry crossing followed by a 91 mile ride on day 2, followed by a 72 mile ride on the final day into Paris.  Wings and prayers, people, wings and prayers.  I've gone from no biking to almost all biking in the past 3 weeks - I've now gone up to 50 milers which are going fine so I'm hoping to hit a 60 and a 40 on consecutive days this week.  I'm onto my 3rd bikeseat so far (the first, very expensive female-specific one is on ebay - it was NOT specific for this female).  2 pairs of padded shorts, chamois cream and the promise of a beer in the evening and a bottle of champagne in Paris is all I hope it will take.. 

I will be back here soon.  If I'm not out biking manically, trying to pack 6 months training into the next 2 weeks...

Saturday, May 07, 2011

learning my lessons - or will I ever?

MIA again - I'm sorry.  Shortly after posting my Boston race report I went to the doctor's office with an increasingly annoying cough and was diagnosed with a chest infection, given a course of antibiotics and told to take a week off exercising and to take it easy.  Not my natural mode of being and not what I wanted, but I was feeling so lousy that I listened and did it.  The downtime did give me plenty of opportunity, however, to go over and analyse my marathon and my training and to work out what did, and what didn't work.  Let's start with the one thing that didn't work:
  • my pacing.  In all brutal honesty, I never quite believed I was capable of a 3:40 marathon.  I struggled with the 8:20 min/mile all winter.  Not that I couldn't do it, but it was harder than it should have been for a marathon pace.  I couldn't pull it out during my 20 mile race, and I never "slotted into" the pace during training, the way you should.  It's chicken and egg, I know, but I never had the true belief that I could run this pace for a marathon, and if you can't believe it, you won't do it.  Quite that simple. My coach did what she could to instill confidence in me, but I just wasn't quite there.  As it was, I did actually run on pace for the first 14M.  But my legs were starting to cramp there already, a sign I would have to slow things down to finish at all..  So I don't think that, on the day, I had that pace in me.  If I had been really honest with myself, I would have acknowledged that on the day (because I did know that) and would have set out for an 8:25 - 8:30 min/mile pace.  Small difference, but I think I could have held on to that pace for longer.  There is no question for me that I need to focus more on the mental aspects of running and racing.  Ginny recommended Running Within, which I've started reading, to help with that.  I'll keep you posted.  Ironically - having said everything I've said above - after running Boston I think that I could actually run a 3:40 marathon in the future. 
Now the things that did work:
  • Nutrition.  A big fat success mark here.  I have struggled in previous marathons with nausea which prevented me from taking any nutrition on after the halfway mark.  In addition, I often found I needed to use portapotties, or bushes, during the race.  Not this time!  As far as the nausea goes, coach advised me never mix sports drink and GU - which I have, unwittingly, done during races.  I ran with a handheld waterbottle during this race so that I could always wash a GU down with water when I needed to take one.  As far as not needing to make a pitstop is concerned, coach warned me against overhydration (which I tend to do, I drink a LOT of water during the day generally) and so, on race day, I had a cup of coffee and sipped some sportsdrink on the bus while I had my bagel.  No more.  I made three (nervous) pitstops in the athlete's village but that was it.  Nothing during the race.  
  • Having a coach.  This REALLY worked for me.  I loved knowing only the schedule for the week ahead. It meant I did not freak out about what was to come and tackled each workout as they were sent to me.   I loved her confidence in me and the specificity of her training advice - when she told me I had to train at a certain pace, I just had to do it.  And I did it.  While I did not make the race pace that she felt I could do I ran the race stronger than I have ever done and I think it is due to how well trained I was for this race.  Finally, having her to consult whenever I had a freak-out or a setback made an enormous difference -  her calm and confidence stopped me spiralling into self-doubt and worry. 
  • My strategy.  I am SO pleased with the judgement calls I made during the race.  I am very happy that I went out at my intended pace.  I wanted to give it my all, and during the first 14 miles I did give it my all as far as pacing was concerned.  But I am even more happy that when it became clear to me that I would not be able to hang onto this pace for much longer, I just flicked a switch in my mind.  I just thought "this is my shot.  This is my Boston.  I am going to enjoy this, I want to enjoy this race and get that medal." And I did it.  I did slow down, especially on the hills, but I sped it up again when they were behind me.  I high-fived lots of kids, I YMCA'ed when the music started up, I looked around me, I tried to smile, and I just soaked up the atmosphere.  I didn't walk, I just pushed as hard as I could with my pace.  I ended up with my second fastest marathon time ever - only 1:20 slower than my PB - on a bear of a course and with a smile on my face.  
And hey, thanks to moving up an age group this year, I've actually requalified for Boston.  With less than three minutes to spare, I don't think I would get in this year, however, but it's a good feeling.  And, more importantly - I have qualified for a good for age place in the London marathon next year!  As it's the Olympic year the London marathon is going to be an even bigger event than normal, so I'm really excited that I've got a guaranteed entry for the race. 

My summer plans are busy, busy, busy though I'm not putting as much pressure on myself.  But they deserve, and will get, a blog post of their own.  For now, I feel I have wrapped up Boston and I am ready for the next thing!