Race day is almost here!

I am so excited and happy.

Race day is two sleeps away and I am calmly waiting for my girlfriends to pick me up so we can head out for a weekend away in the beautiful Barossa Valley. Magic.

As I reflect on my training cycle, it has been up and down as they always seem to be. There doesn’t ever seem to be a perfect training cycle. I have done as well as I could within the parameters of my life. (Remember, running is a hobby!).

The two international trips – one for pleasure and one for work – certainly impacted my training and how I felt. Jet lag is a …. pain.

Four weeks out from race day I was a wreck and my coach and I agreed that I might have been a little over-trained due to two marathon training cycles back to back (thanks to the DNF in October).

Scaling back the effort but not the distance certainly helped to make the last few weeks a joy.

That reminds me of the true up and down of this training cycle. The ups and downs between wanting so desperately to achieve a time goal and also wanting to enjoy my hobby. I made peace with just running for a while.

Again today I am fighting with a tiny little voice that says to me, if you dont get a sub-4 hour marathon you will be disappointed. Thankfully there is a louder voice that says, if you run a smart race and finish another marathon you are a badass!

I love running. I love training. I love seeing my body become a strong machine.

And on Sunday I am going to love running among the vines of the Barossa Valley with my tribe and a group of gorgeous ladies waiting at the finish line.

Come what may.

Breaking 2

What a day!

Started with a four hour run – my last long run before race day. I got near the end and thought to myself, “I had forgotten how it feels to run this long”. It feels tiring. It feels like an accomplishment. You know how far you have come to be able to run for an hour, two hours, building up to the longer runs over the weeks. For me, despite significant attention on strengthening this marathon cycle, my hips always give me the signal first when enough is enough. I think I came close to their limit today…..

It is great to have another four hour run under my belt, or rather, in my legs. My goals for race day are to finish with an empty tank and to master the negative split. This formula will also hopefully bring me a PB. We shall see…

This afternoon I had the pleasure to be able to sit on the couch for two hours and watch the Nike Breaking 2 experiment. Totally inspiring. Eliud Kipchoge dedicated two years of his life to the experiment and finished the marathon (in controlled conditions with everything in his favour) in 2:00:25. Amazing!!

So, they didn’t break 2 hours but they came very close. It is certainly within the realm of possibility.

What was truly inspiring for me as a hobby runner, was Kipchoge’s attitude and commitment. His mantra is ‘beyond your limits’. We limit ourselves in our thinking and attitudes. We limit ourselves by what others tell us about ourselves. For me to finish my marathon with an empty tank will push me beyond my limits as I don’t like to go hard.

I have always said that in my dreams I am a Kenyan. I will be channelling Kipchoge on my jaunt in the Barossa Valley.

Inspiration is where you find it.

 

Snowy reflections

I have been extremely fortunate to have just spent a week skiing in Japan. Despite having no inclination all of my life to be anywhere cold but rather favouring the sandy, salty air and warmth of a good Aussie beach, it is quite remarkable that my husband has convinced me to brave the white stuff. And I mean snow. The wet and cold kind.

The peace of the mountains and spending all day out in clean, fresh air provided time for some soul searching and personal reflection. When the body is tired I find the mind can become clear and uncluttered.

I am also reading a book recommended by my running coach written by Joe Henderson called ‘Long Slow Distance’. It has reminded me of why I run and, sorry to say, revealed to me that I had lost my way. On top of that, I am working my way through a book called ‘Designing Your Life’ by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. I had started to focus on the achievement of running. The doing of it to reach a goal rather than remembering the joy of it. The playfulness. That has all disappeared among the time goal and desperate desire to achieve a BQ. Why? Why tarnish one of the things in my life that I love?

I run because it is my therapy, my alone time, and a way to keep my body strong and fit. I have been focussing on the wrong thing – my paces, my mileage, my preparation.

It was difficult to fit in running while we were away and I felt so guilty those first few days. Now I am relaxed and moving forward. I did plenty of exercise! The peace of the mountains provided my therapy and each run down the hill I was on my own – just me and my skis.

Running is my hobby. It should be what brings me happiness and playfulness. I am going to return to that mindset. I have enough things in my life that involve striving, achieving and having to push yourself. I don’t need to add running to that swirling pool.

Running used to make me happy. And it will again. Come what may.

Just keep running….

I am well into week 4 of my 20 week marathon training plan. I love heart rate training. Have I said that before? You know what I really love about it, the fact that you aren’t wiped out for the rest of the day despite doing an hour or an hour and a half of exercise starting at 5.30am. Instead, you feel quite energised. On the two days this week that I haven’t run, I have felt sluggish and tired. On the days where I have run, I have been happy, buoyant and (hopefully) fun to be around.

The weekly long runs are working their way up after 16km last week and staring down 19.5km this Saturday morning. Keeping my heart rate under 140 bpm means they take a bit of time!

I have been reading the recommended book for this cycle, Long Slow Distance by Joe Henderson. I am really enjoying it because it has case studies of people who trained to run fast by running slow. One of those is Amby Burfoot who won the Boston Marathon back in the last ’60s. It is lovely to hear about “who” he was at the time, the hippy runner. I have listened to recent podcasts featuring Amby who is now an older gentleman and extremely entertaining.

Does that mean I am using an outdated approach? Or does it mean that perhaps we have learnt a few things along the way and recreational runners are getting the benefits of what has come before us. I think the latter.

If you would like a way to run that is less likely to result in injury and you can actually ENJOY the act of running, come chat to me.  Perhaps can do spend a km or two together.

 

On the road again

Excited to report that I am back into marathon training. My 20 weeks has started and although feeling a little rusty with the routine I am happy to be back on the road again.

IMG_3421My podcasts this week have invoked some interesting thoughts. I have listened to stories of interpreters in Iraq who have worked for the US military and now find themselves at risk of losing their lives (due to the involvement with the US) with no or little ability to relocate.  I have listened to Another Mother Runner and how to get yourself motivated and stay that way after Christmas indulgence. Of course the podcast included the usual TMI associated with running, which we all love to hear from the AMR ladies. This morning it was listening to an interview with a Canadian runner who delved into the topic of the objectification and perception of women in sport and the impact this can have particularly on young girls. This is a topic that has been of interest to me for a long time and I enjoy hearing different perspectives.

So marathon training is back in swing and so is the time that I have to listen to a plethora of podcasts that make me think. I am in my happy place!

Last week I was feeling a little overwhelmed as I stared down the 20 week plan but then my mother runner community reminded me to take it one run at a time. Such a great metaphor for life. We only have the here and now – what are you doing with it?

And where is your happy place?

Happy Merry New Year

I hope you all have had a wonderful Christmas, Chanukah, or whatever it is that you celebrate at this time of year. I know mine was very full with laughter and some very touching moments as well as some frustration, stress and chaotic looking organisation. It is all part of the mixed up ball that is Christmas for me.

colorful-new-year-pictures

But this is a running blog…. As per usual at this time of year, my running gets a back seat and my mojo hides itself under the couch. I will have to dig it out soon as I have plans. I am not one for New Year’s resolutions. I have already made my plans for 2017 and the end of the year isn’t quite upon us. No surprises, nothing shocking, no revelations here…. another marathon. Another BQ attempt.

I am continuing with Heart Rate training with my coach, Mary-Katherine Brooks Fleming. I am committed to this approach for at least the next couple of years if not longer as I want to see how big an aerobic base I can build. I know I have a long way to go in this regard. I also know that I have to take a good hard look at my nutrition and work out what is the best way to fuel my body. My body. What works for me.

Running is a part of my life now and I kind of take it for granted. At times I lose perspective about how brilliant it is to have the motivation and ability to run four or five times a week. Some people don’t exercise at all. Some people cant. My mantra for this next marathon training cycle is “be grateful” and I am backing this up with “how bad do you want it?”.  I have issues with pushing myself – that is, I am not very good at it. My plan is to spend this training cycle working on that mental strength as it is a critical component of achieving a time goal.

I hope you have something to look forward to this coming year. Would love to hear your plans.

Ros

You cant win them all

It has taken me two weeks to write about my fourth marathon experience. To be honest, it is not because I am ruminating over it but rather that I have already moved on in my mind.

I was a DNF.

Yes, a “did not finish”.

Don’t worry – no medical tent for me. I just walked off. Totally, just walked off the course. It was so easy. I wandered off down a side street, called my husband and told him where he could come and get me. Simple.

The decision to do that was also simple in some regards but nonetheless extremely difficult. As I said to my husband during one of our phone calls while I was still running, my decision is between how much my heart will ache from quitting compared to the heartache of knowing I was about to run my slowest marathon.

Let me take you back a few weeks. I have participated in an outstanding 20 week heart rate training marathon plan. During week 18 I completed an enhanced, anaerobic threshold run, the numbers from which informed myself and my coach that I could run a 3:45 marathon on a perfect day. My official BQ time needs to be 3:55 (although more likely around 3:52). I was extremely excited and a little bit in disbelief.

Two weeks before race day the weather turned and I started to get horrendous hayfever. I did everything I knew how to do to get it under control. I thought it would all be ok. The Saturday before race day I was so overwhelmed by it that I had to take a nap to reduce some of the effects. Perhaps that should have been the tip off. Perhaps someone I little less one-eyed, blinded by their training numbers, might have been able to see the writing on the wall.

Race day was warm and windy. Much warmer than the conditions I had trained in and also the wind was gusty from the north – hayfever wind. I popped an antihistamine and headed into town and the start line with a friend. I was so hopeful for his race after all his efforts as well. It was great to be hanging with him amongst all the excitement of a marathon start line. I love the atmosphere.

img_5962 img_5959 img_5958Long story short. At about 5k I was going slow but was ok with it. By 10k mark I knew my plan was out the window. At 15k I rang my hubbie to tell him not to hurry into the finish line as I would be a while. At 20k I started to think about whether I should just pull the pin. I was having trouble keeping my HR under control and my pace was awful. My nose wouldn’t stop running and my lungs were starting to hurt.

Not fun.

I did enjoy chatting to a New Yorker who was running his first marathon – that distracted me for a while.

The most heart wrenching part of the run was finding out that my brother, sister-in-law and their kids had come down to see me. My brother jumped into the race and ran with me for a few km’s encouraging me to keep going. He was the person who had inspired me to run in the first place. It hurt my heart to think that I would let him down by quitting.

After hugs with all the family including my husband and kids, I was on my own again running into the head wind at a slog of a pace. Despite a previous walk break my HR was still out of control. I was hating it. I had 14k of head wind left ahead of me. I just couldn’t stomach the thought. This is not my first time at the rodeo. I had pushed through adversity at my previous marathon.

I had nothing to prove to myself, or to anyone else.

So I decided not to. Running is my hobby. I do it for fun. I wasn’t having fun. I turned right, I started to walk, a looked back over my shoulder at the other runners still moving up the road, looking tired and defeated. I thought, “no thanks”. I am done. There are better ways to spend this Sunday morning.

I rang my coach. I rang my husband. My race was done. No regrets. It just wasn’t my day.

You can’t win them all.

I did get to enjoy the sting of disappointment. The ache of a breaking heart as all your effort and plans turned to nothing. As a dear friend told me, I deserved that sting, that pain. It was mine.

I was incredibly unwell for the week after the marathon so I have no regrets about my choice. I am now turning my mind to getting stronger and hopefully faster and will try again for a BQ next May. For now, it is back to enjoying running and having more time with my family.

Thanks for all your support.

 

Taper time!

T – 10 days until marathon day. Obviously I am excited and nervous. No different to normal.

I have to apologise for not posting very often on this site lately. There have been a number of things going on. Firstly, my work life is exceptionally busy which is a great thing, however, creates time pressures. These flow into my ability to keep everything ticking over in my home life and we have had some extra demands there this year as well.  Totally ridiculous that I added marathon training to the mix. But I do love it.

There is also a private facebook page for all of us that are training via Mary-Katherine Brooks Fleming’s heart rate training program. I have posted there regularly and have had the immense pleasure of being part of an amazing tribe of mother runners. If this kind of virtual group training appeals to you, I can highly recommend the Train Like A Mother (or Father) heart rate challenge. I guess I have satisfied my desire to pour out my feelings and thoughts on marathon training through that medium and have neglected this blog. I will remedy that!!

not-going-to-staySo, where am I at? I am a week and a half out from race day. I have run five to six days a week for the last 20 weeks. Missed only about two runs and have no sign of over training or running injuries. That, my friends, is absolute magic. The magic of MK and heart rate training. I have had to put my ego aside over and over again to deal with the slow paces that I run. I have also had to put aside my favourite winter boots as they are getting tight on my newly bulked up calves. I have re-evaluated my nutrition, increased my meditation, learnt how to assess perceived effort and that small things add up to big things. I am #winningatlife.

good-and-badDuring the course of the training I have undertaken Enhanced Anaerobic Threshold runs which provide some interesting pace and heart rate numbers. I have plotted these into an excel spreadsheet, digested them, and tomorrow morning I get to chat to my coach about paces for race day and how to run a smart race. I cannot wait to hear her perspective.

Do I feel that I have a BQ in me?

Yes.

Do I feel that I can execute it on race day?

Hmm… there are too many factors out of my control such as the conditions and whether I will get a good night’s sleep. Then there is my inability to hold strong and let myself off the hook during the race. It is a very old pattern and one that keeps me from pushing. I think it comes from being an asthmatic – if it feels hard, then stop. When I ran some of my race pace miles I let myself off the hook. It is ok if I run 5:25s rather than 5:15s as you have to think about how you will feel after running them for an hour… etc etc.

So the question really is, how bad do I want it?

Which then always leads me to, why do I run marathons? What do I get from them? What are they really about?

Feeling strong is always the first thought. Quickly followed by, they are something just for me. I also feel incredibly fortunate that I CAN run, that I can have a hobby and recreation time. Running makes me happy and more happiness in this world cannot be a bad thing.

Why would I like a BQ?

It is a romantic notion really. To run the infamous Boston Marathon. To have a time goal that puts you in touch with your cohort. I cannot imagine the atmosphere of such a race.

I am sitting in a space of gratitude, of excitement and the pressure that I place on myself. No one else cares what time I run my marathon. As Dimity McDowell mentioned in her blog recently:

pressure-is-a-privilege

I do feel privileged. And a little self absorbed. LOL

Dealing with the craziness of taper I am reminding myself.

My body is fit, my mind is strong, the hay is in the barn.

There is nothing more I can do. I will tell the truth on race day when all will be revealed. And in the big scheme of things, it is just a matter of running a long way for no reason whatsoever. Many think I am crazy, but for those of you who are part of my tribe, you know why we run…..

In my dreams I am a Kenyan.

 

Runs to test your mettle

Always an important part of marathon training to have a couple of runs that test your mental and physical resilience. Well, I had one of those last weekend. My long run included intervals at 10k pace. The last set of which was hard to hold. But I did it.

Then, I had to get my heart rate back down under 140 bpm for the final 9 miles. After waking your heart rate up with some faster pacers, it doesn’t always want to comply. Actually, it never does. There were a few choice words coming out of my mouth as I had to slow to a crawl to get my HR back to where my coach tells me I need it. It was tough. It was long and slow. You have to “lean in” to these runs because what you do here will set you up for when things get tough on race day (if they do).

I kept reminding myself how much I want this. I kept thinking about the finishing line of the marathon and a huge PB. That didn’t help to get my heart rate down either as I would find myself starting to feel quite excited. I have crossed the Melbourne Marathon finish line before and know how it feels, what it looks like, what it sounds like. Creating all of that visual in my mind certainly got my heart racing. Dang! I imagined hugging the fellow runner next to me in excitement as I see the time on the clock. Cheering to the officials, thanking them for their time. Hugging and kissing my husband and kids for all their support to get me to that moment. You can see why the heart rate went up….

I took my ear buds out, focussed on my breathing and got into the moment. That works. Nothing like a bit of running meditation to calm things down and make life a better place.

Whatever techniques get you through those long, tough runs, you can draw on again on race day. You have to get that practice in. Totally critical. As scary as they always feel when I look at my training plan, I know those tough runs are going to put me in good stead. I am not just training my body but also my mind and it is all going well so far.

Happy mental strength to you all.

Bit of trust, bit of patience & a whole lot of love

My regular readers know that I now have a coach and with this comes a facebook and strava page. There is a bunch of us all training for a marathon with the same coach – about 100 I think. It makes for a busy and interesting facebook group.

Not only that but we are all undertaking a Heart Rate Training plan. This means running slow to run fast. But that’s not all! Maybe not a set of steak knives, but there are plenty of other bonuses to having our coach and HRT plan. There are super short strength circuits to do, bosu work and using bands to improve hip strength. On top of that, amazing nutrition advice and weekly podcasts on EVERYTHING. This is the kind of training program that changes your life.

I am at week 10 of a 20 week plan and have hit the mid-plan blues. Seems there are many of us that are feeling a little sense of tiredness and being a little disheartened. All part of the process I am sure.

In response to a long thread on a facebook post I decided that at this stage of a training cycle it is all about having three things.

  1. Trust in the process,
  2. Patience in your development, and
  3. Feeling the love.

Love of running, love for your community and the love of your coach. And she always tells us that we are #coachedandloved.

Question is, what am I going to do to get my motivation and energy back? What do you do in these circumstances?