Be careful what you wish for

Last week I did a presentation at a breakfast seminar on how to leverage the humanity within your organisation. As part of this presentation I talked about myself and went beyond my linked-in bio (humanity and all that). I admitted to the things that I really love of which running was obviously one. I also admitted to loving learning. I fundamentally enjoy having my mind twisted by different ideas, concepts, perspectives and thoughts. This really started for me when I studied Philosophy in my under graduate degree (I went on to receive a Masters in Philosophy).

The reason I am explaining this, is that I have just had one of those “a-ha” moments when you realise that you are playing the same pattern over again. I always wish for interesting conversations and different ideas. I realised today that my new approach to marathon training is exactly that. It is changing the way I think about my running on quite a profound level. When I write about those changes, they do not seem to be of any significance, but when I FEEL those changes they really have twisted my mind to a different way of thinking.

As an example, the long runs in my training plan are stated in miles but they also have a maximum time limit. This is due to the law of diminishing returns. The long runs are done with your heart rate below 140 bpm. Depending on how good your aerobic base may be, you might be able to do the miles in the time allotted, or you might not. I am in the “might not” category. On my last long run, I managed to let go of the desire to complete the full 12 miles (19.2km) stated in the plan but ran for the designated time of 2 hrs 24 minutes with an average HR of 138. I had not been able to do that before. I had run for longer than the maximum time limit in order to feel that I had done the distance and nailed the miles listed. But that is not what it is about!

The long runs are all about time on your feet. When was the last time you ran for over 2 hours? I am working up to being on my feet for 4 hours. I have totally let go of the need to cover a particular distance. Until now, all my training was about building the distance, logging those km’s, checking what pace I was doing, working out the fuelling. Now I am free of those constraints. I run by time and heart rate. And I don’t need much in the way of fuel, just some water. I am thinking about running so very differently. I am thinking about perceived effort and time on my feet. I am also enjoying myself so much more because I am not hungry or sore after the long runs.

Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it. #lifeisgood

If nothing changes, nothing changes…

T – 17 weeks.

Three weeks into the official marathon plan for my Boston Qualifying time. And I am definitely changing!

I no longer care about pace.

What? I hear all the hard core runners say. Yep, totally given it away. My watch only shows my heart rate and elapsed time. Even my long runs which have been provided in miles, have a maximum time limit so I can use that if I wish. I must look ridiculous at the pace I am running but I am beyond caring about that as well. I am focussed on my goal and I trust my coach.

I am running five times a week, every week, no problem at all.

Seriously. I have had to get up at 5.30am to fit in some of my runs and it is not a problem. Because the pace is comfortable and based on effort, there is no sense of dread. Just more of a question as to which podcast am I going to listen to and which audio books are good.

I am warm.

Now this was a surprise. During a Melbourne winter, I am always cold. Not these last few weeks. I do still feel the cold when I go from my cosy house into the cold air but it doesn’t last long. I am definitely wearing fewer layers than I usually do and it feels good!

I don’t need as much fuel.

Not that I have gotten up to any large distances as yet, but I have run for over 2 hours and all I needed was some water. Easy. Will have to think about my next run which will be closer to 3 hours….

Finally, I am feeling strangely more relaxed. I don’t feel the pressure that I have felt during previous marathon training cycles. I get a little email in my inbox every day to let me know what I need to do the next morning and I think “alrighty then”.

I am feeling very happy to be changing because if nothing changes, then nothing changes.

🙂

Run long and strong.

My heart’s a flutter

Time for an update!

It has been four weeks and I have finished the “holding pattern” for those of us that are on the Outstanding Marathon Plan, wave 4, as part of the Train Like A Mother club.

The holding pattern was an interesting experiment to get me ready for a marathon training plan that is all about my heart rate. It has been a very interesting and introspective experience.

My first two or three runs were fantastic. When you run with your heart rate no higher than 140 beats per minute you feel that you can run all day long. You also don’t feel worn out and exhausted when you get back AND you don’t want to eat the house down. All huge wins.

I also found that I didn’t dread getting up in the dark to run (again). I happily got out of bed knowing it was going to be relaxed and enjoyable.

And let’s talk about just how relaxed it was! I am running somewhere between 8 – 9:30mins per km. Yep! Tortoise. I have to walk here and there to get my heart rate back down under 140bpm. I had a couple of runs that weren’t fun at all because they were almost all walking. There are obviously so many factors that impact our heart rate from day to day and you have to be mindful of them. Not enough sleep is one, not eating right another and let’s not talk about how you feel when you might be coming down with a cold.

The other thing that I need to think about is how asthma affects me. Now that the mornings are getting chilly, I find my chest closes up a little bit and that is definitely going to have an impact. Or at least that is what I think has reduced my pace in the last few runs.

So how does this slow, tortoise pace work when I need to run 5:20s come October in order to achieve my goal…. hmmm….. running slower to run faster….. My coach tells me not to look that far ahead and focus on the now. We will talk race strategy closer to the day.

For the meantime I am building my aerobic base and am going to morph into a speedy cardio monster who can run for hours and hours with no pain and no anguish.

Here’s to the monster. First step is Monday morning as I start my official marathon plan. T -20 weeks folks.

I am committed. I might be crazy. And I am going to give this everything.

My road to Boston…….

boston-strong-run

I’m baaaacckkkkk!

Stop when tired picI am exceptionally excited to announce that I am BACK. My running mojo that went on holiday while I tackled a minor health issue has decided to return. And I think my running mojo has returned sun tanned, relaxed and ready for the next challenge.

I swam 2.5k in the pool on Thursday and then ran almost 15km yesterday morning followed by an easy 20k on the bike today. I am not overly tired and I have no aches or pains or gripes. Hallelujah! It feels really good to be able to do all my favourite activities.

I might need to put a caveat on my success though. It hasn’t been pretty. There was a fair bit of “legs through mud” action going on as I plodded up the hills at the end of my long run yesterday. Obviously no one I knew saw me as I would have received some concerned phone calls.

It is energising when you realise that your body is starting to be able to do the things you ask of it again. It has been a long road back after making some significant changes to my diet. I am feeling a sense of positivity that comes from having applied grit and determination.

I found myself registering for the Melbourne Marathon earlier this week. I have plenty of time to build a good base and then initiate a training plan. We all know I have a BQ in mind and this will be the race to do it. Nice and flat! I am going to give it a good crack. Whoo hoooo!

So for any of you that have lost your mojo, or have not found it as yet, hang in there. With patience and persistence comes rewards.

Dreamin’ of a BQ

“Doing a marathon in a time that qualifies for Boston by May 2016, tell her she’s dreamin’!”

Boston StrongFor those readers who have not seen the classic Australian film, The Castle, I have pinched an expression from one of the main characters. It is how I am starting to feel about my chances of achieving my dream of a boston qualifying time at the Barossa Marathon in May next year.

And for those readers that dutifully read my blog because they are my mates and do not have any inclination to run, you have to run a ‘registered’ marathon in a specified time for your age/sex category in order to be able to sign up for the Boston Marathon. It is kind of a big deal.

I am getting older so the required time is getting closer to being achievable which is one benefit of “ageing up” next year. Hopefully not the only one.

But based on my current lack of fitness and form I am starting to think that 2016 might be a preparation year. I have cut sugar (as much as I can) from my diet in order to ensure my body ‘fat adapts’ (check out this blog if you are thinking, WHAT??) and I am starting to work on my core and increasing my speed work sessions to improve my fitness. I have been tackling a minor health issue which has made me tired so my running has been cut back – hence the lack of fitness at the moment. It’s all going to be worth it. All the pieces of the puzzle are going to come together. I am good at puzzles.

Not to mention I am planning on making my own ‘gels’ for the long runs. Yes, I am going to get in the kitchen and make a mess. Sugar free gels are my goal. I think that my body has become overly reliant on sugar for its energy after having too many of those sticky things during training and racing. Time to really cement that fat adaption.

So a BQ in May? I could be dreamin’ but we shall see what the next few months bring.

So long as I am having fun and have a goal to work towards it is all good.

What are you dreaming of? And don’t say donuts…..

The brutal truth

It feels like a dream. Five days on and my recovery has been sensational. I have bounds of energy and am ready to tackle a good run. I promised myself two weeks off to allow my body to recover as I have pushed it too soon a couple of times in the past. And particularly after how tough I found the run I thought this was a wise idea.

Funny.

I am feeling really good.

The Great Ocean Road Marathon 2015. Set in an incredibly divine location, with a vibrant race-day vibe, and so much fun the day before with the Kids Gallop and other races.

Waves near GORThe brutal truth? It was the toughest run I have ever done and I hit almost the lowest mental point that I can think of in all my training for three marathons. I had the thought at one point that perhaps I could just drop out – can’t believe that I have admitted to that feeling. Luckily the course does not allow for that. It is a point to point along a fairly remote road. When that realisation came immediately upon my first ever thought of quitting, I knew I would get it done. It could be messy, it sure wasn’t going to be pretty, but I would be doing it along with all the others near me at that time. We were a tribe, and we were together. I also had the added incentive of my gorgeous family waiting for me at the finish line.

But let’s go back to the race start. It is incredibly well organised with the marathon and half marathon starting at the same time at different points along the road. From the finish line you take a bus to the start so you drive the route before you run it. The beauty is that you drive the route with 50 other marathoners in your bus, watching the sun come up over the ocean. Here is a dodgy photo I took from the bus that can not capture the absolute beauty of the moment.

Sunrise over GOR May 2015

I was lucky enough to be sitting with a marathon veteran friend of mine who had run the Great Ocean Road the year before. He knew what we were in for and had trained doubly hard this year to ensure he was fit enough. I had already felt a sneaking suspicion that my training would not be good enough but on the road to the start I had it confirmed.

We made light of it. He joked with me that the Great Ocean Road marathon is a metaphor for life with its literal ups and downs as well as the physical and mental ones along the way. He told me to keep in mind that I was running a metaphor. He repeated it at the start line, “Remember Roz, you are running a metaphor” with a glint of a cheeky smile on his face. I remembered it along the way and it made me smile even when I was momentarily lost.

This is how the start line looked…..

Lorne at sunrise IMG_3414 IMG_3415

The race started beautifully. I made myself head out slow knowing that this race in particular would benefit from me being measured and reasonable. The first hills were gentle and comfortable. The sun was slowly rising in the sky and the world was looking magical in the early light. I didn’t care that there were a large number of people running past me. That was ok. It was my race, my pace. I even stopped to take a photo early on from one of the lookouts.

IMG_3417 IMG_3418

And so it continued. The road wound around the coastline, beautiful slopes upwards to the sky and towards the beach and gentle curves down towards the trees. The uphills were often in the sun with the corresponding down hill in shadow. I felt like I was cruising for the first 10km and it went in a flash. The next 8km were very comfortable. Then I took my second gel and started to feel a little queasy. I ignored it and at the next drinks station made sure I had two cups of water. That helped a little and I kept on trucking, making sure I soaked in every essence of the beautiful views, the sounds of the ocean and the damp smell of the trees. I chatted to a couple of other women who were about my pace and found out there were plenty of Sydney siders in the group. They had better hills to train on than I did. One lady was on her fifth Great Ocean Road marathon – unbelievable! I received some lovely complements on my dress from the little crew that was forming as we neared the half way point and an exclamation of delight from one of the volunteers at the drink station who declared me the best dressed.

I had promised myself that, if I needed to, I was allowed to walk some of the hill just past the half marathon start line. It is the largest on the route and having given myself permission, I took that option. I felt that I was being sensible and saving myself for the long km’s ahead. I think it was the beginning of the end as I hadn’t factored in that it would then give me permission to walk a few more hills. I have never walked a “run” before.

I attempted to take my third gel somewhere around 27km and the resulting gag reflex was not a good sign. Since the gels were making me feel sick I stopped taking them and by 32k I was well beyond what I had hoped for in terms of time and energy. My training had not prepared me for the course and I knew that going into it. But what I didn’t realise is how much of a toll this would have especially if I wasn’t able to fuel my body while I was out there. I kept drinking fluids from my hydration pack and taking water at the drinks stations.

Still all smiles
Still all smiles

I rang my husband to let him know that I would be late. That is when I almost lost it. Admitting out loud that I was finding it hard to keep going, that I had flirted with the idea of quitting, that I felt crook in my guts. You are usually ok if you can just keep those thoughts on the inside, in your own private vault. Expressing them out into the open, letting them free like white doves on a wedding day opens them up to being devoured by birds of prey. I choked back a tear. I told him I would get it done and that I would text when I was at the 40k mark. Of course he gave me support – it wasn’t soft and comforting support, he is not like that, it was practical, pragmatic and directed. “Stop taking the gels, you know what to do, set little goals for yourself and achieve them, it’s all heart from here, get it done, work towards getting home in less than 5 hours, you know what to do, this is not your first marathon.”

OK.

Look at the scenery...
Look at the scenery…

So off I went knowing that I had to get to the 40km mark so I could text my husband. Running at whatever pace I could muster and walking the steepest parts of the hills. I had a laugh with Matt about this being his first marathon. Why would you do that to yourself? Might be the one and only! He had been leap frogging me for most of the race as I ran the hills which he walked and then he beat me on the downhill. His first ever marathon. Totally crazy! I was sorry that I eventually left him behind. I laughed with the girl in the fluro yellow top who ran the uphills and walked the downhill. She said she found going up easier. I was encouraged by an interesting guy who I had seen talking to almost everyone as we walked the steepest hills and ran the rest. I find marathoners at my pace to be such lovely people. There for the experience and personal achievement. Happy to encourage others and be encouraged in return. Despite the physical agony of those last 14km I had some of the most special moments with the runners around me. And then there were the long gaps with no one…… Except the beautiful view.

IMG_3421IMG_3419I think it must have been the second last drink station, there was a girl about my daughter’s age holding out a banana. I had just grabbed two cups of water and asked her if she could put the banana under my arm. She looked at me quizzically and I wondered for a moment if perhaps I was slurring my words. But then she worked it out and I had the banana tucked in my elbow. That saved me and I will not forget her gorgeous face in a hurry. I gagged while eating the banana and only made it half way through but I am sure that is what got me through those last 6k. They sure weren’t pretty. Cliffy Young shuffle ALL the way.

As I came past the last drink station I saw out of the corner of my eye a guy jump out of a chair by the side of the road and dash over towards me. It was my mate Jarrod! We ran the Barossa Marathon together at about the same time last year. It was hilarious because the first words out of his mouth were, “you must be having a hell of a run.” And the volunteer at the drink station who had just given me two cups of water said to him, “don’t make her stop man, she’s nearly there!” Jarrod laughed, “don’t worry, I won’t.” He said he had been waiting for ages and wondered if he had missed me. He was surprised at how late I was. Then it clicked what he meant by a “hell of a run”. A “hell” of a run. Yep! He told me there wasn’t long to go and it was great that I was getting it done. I looked at him and asked him why he wasn’t going to run with me to the finish? I seriously had thought that he might and it had filled me with hope. But no. There were children and a gorgeous partner for him to attend to. Sigh.

gomara15_02408Those last few kilometres were beyond tough. I was going so slow, they were taking so long and I saw the five hour time click over. Texts were coming in, I could hear them beep over my playlist that I had ramped up to keep me going.

By now the roadside was full of supporters and they were clapping and cheering us all on. They kept saying, “not long now, you are almost there!” and I felt like raging at them. I am NOT almost there, this is going on forever and it is never going to end. I knew that was a little irrational so I smiled sweetly and thanked them for coming out. And then finally, there it was, way in the distance, the white shape of the finish line banner. YES!

And there they were, my husband and my children. I opened my arms wide as I saw my husband went to take a photo and the roadside crowd put out their hands for some high fives. My kids ran to me and started to run alongside me. I had to make them slow down!!

I cracked the biggest grin. I was there! I was here! It was all behind me. I made my children hold my hands and we crossed the finish line together. It was so beautiful to be with them, to have seen my husband, to be at the end. As soon as I was over the finish mat I stopped and bent over holding myself up on my legs. The gentleman with the microphone called my name and said how glamorous I looked in my dress. He came over the talk to me and the kids. It was very sweet. We had a laugh and I thanked him and all the volunteers for their amazing support.

gomara15_24064
A few steps further forward and there were the volunteers with the medals. I asked the kids who we should get our medal from but I already knew. There was a gorgeous woman with a huge smile on her face and I said it had to be her. She then asked my daughter if she wanted to put the medal around my neck. How beautiful was that! Of course, she did. I lent forward and there it was. The memento to show that I had made it all the way under my own steam. Another pic with the kids and there was my husband with cuddles and food.

After collapsing on the grass for a while, I managed to creakily make my way down to the beach to put my legs in the freezing cold ocean. It was delightful and there was a large number of marathoners out there enjoying the natural ice bath.

So that was it. That was my run on a sunny Sunday morning.

It was tough. Physically and mentally.

It was also the most magical, inspiring, and affirming run of my life.

The views are spectacular, the other marathoners I met along the way were gorgeous, the volunteers incredible with their support and encouragement. My time does not reflect the amazingness of the run, what I learnt, what I saw, what I heard, felt, smelt and who I met.

They are just numbers….  44.5k in 5:06  6:53 pace.

 Proud? Not really.

 Satisfied? Yes.

 Sure of who I am and what I can do, how much grit and determination I have at my core under my soft, effusive exterior?

Abso-bloody-lutely.

The movie we play in our heads…

In my line of work we talk a lot about the movie that you play in your head. What is the story that you are telling yourself about your capability as a leader of people? As an expert in your field? As a parent? Is the movie supportive, encouraging and courageous? Or is it actually letting you down, undermining your ability, dampening your spirit?

This is also true of the movie we play in our heads when we think about our upcoming event. On those long training runs you can spend a lot of time thinking. Thinking about race day and how you will feel. Some moments the movie in your head is sensational as you feel strong and powerful, smashing the hills. Other times you are dragging your feet, shuffling every step forward inching to the finish. Slogging it out.

The Great Ocean Road marathon is renowned for its beautiful scenery, uplifting vibe and never ending hills.

The movie I had playing in my head looked something like this….

runner up a steep incline

I was feeling rather over whelmed and a little panicked about what race day would bring, especially if the rain decided to come in sideways as it has been known to do. And what about those hills! So many hills. They had brought down some of the fittest runners I know….. how was I to contend with them? I haven’t done enough hill training. I haven’t done enough training for the Great Ocean Road marathon. I am just a middle-aged mum, why do I think I can run 44km?

As I spoke to people and mentioned which marathon I was running they would look at me quizzically and say “that would be really hilly wouldn’t it?”

“Yes”, I would reply, “I must be crazy.”

What kind of message is that!!!!

So I have changed the movie in my head and am now feeling really excited. I can imagine myself breathing exceptionally fresh, country air. Settling in among a group of like minded runners who are there to enjoy the run, not to race. Taking time to look up and around me, smell the salty sea air, enjoy the twists and turns of the road as it curves, dives and plunges like the waves beneath it. I have always been a beach baby and what better way to bring my two loves together than a marathon that skirts the ocean. I almost don’t want it to be over. I want to keep on imagining the smell, the sounds, the feelings of being free, outside, alone among my tribe.

Waves near GOR

What a gorgeous place…..

Skenes creek GOR

And let’s not forget, in my dreams I am a Kenyan…..

Kenyan GOR

It is going to hurt

I am feeling rather underdone, under cooked and if I was a piece of chicken you might be concerned with getting salmonella poisoning.

I am realising that one of the amazing things about training for a marathon is how much you LEARN even when it is not your first time. This is my third training cycle for a marathon and you would think that I know what I am doing.

No.

Absolutely no.

Positively no.

Decidedly no.

Uh-uh

(just a little Donald O’Connor reference from Singing in the Rain for you, but I digress).

So what I have learnt this time around is:

  • That my particular body needs a longer time to build up to the distances as compared to what many of the marathon plans say will work.
  • I can’t afford to focus on increasing my protein intake for fear of dropping my carbohydrates as I just can’t run long if I don’t get enough.
  • Getting sick and going away for a weekend when 7-8 weeks out from the marathon is very poor timing in terms of my base building.
  • I need at least two days to recover from my long runs regardless of distance or perceived fitness.
  • Dropping out of swim squad to make more time for running is actually detrimental to my running. Go figure.
  • Long distance running has no effect on my baby belly (the kids are probably a little too old for me to be holding on to that one but never mind).
  • Staying focussed on my long runs is important but they are not the be all and end all – I have to do speedwork in order to improve my times and leg strength and this sometimes means sacrificing my mid-week mid-distance runs which is a huge source of frustration.
  • You can never do enough hill training/stair climbing EVER. It continues to hurt.

And I have been reminded that I am a slow runner and do you know what? I don’t care. I really don’t care. Truly.

I have been reading Ben Kaplan’s ‘Feet don’t fail me now’ (great book) and it reminded me that your time for a marathon is not worth much at all compared with the actual doing of a marathon.

Remember: THIS IS MY HOBBY!

With all the ups and downs that I have had in my life during this training cycle it has been less than ideal. I am working more and dealing with greater demands in my life than I have for some time, and that impacts on my stamina and mindset.

I feel very underdone, under cooked for facing the hills of the Great Ocean Road in just over four weeks time. But what the hell! This is my hobby. I love running and I am going to head out on my big, long run this weekend with a smile on my face. It just might be disguised as a grimace. He he.

It is going to hurt. That is all.

 

Holy Toledo Batman

Yes, yes, it is “that” time of my marathon training. I hit the wall during my long run on Easter Monday.

Holy Toldedo Batman!!

I know why they call it “the wall” but it feels much more like a very long, sludgy, muddy river bed that sucks your feet into its depths and releases them only with much pulling and effort, issuing slurping sounds with each reluctant lift of the foot.

I slogged through the last three kilometres of my 33k run which, to my credit, did contain hills. And when I finally stopped, I thought to myself, a thought I have had many times before…

“Holy Moley!”

How am I going to run 44km in just under 6 weeks time on a course full of hills and likely to be sporting outrageous weather conditions?

The answer came clear as the beeping of my Garmin watch on a still autumn morning, the same way you have done it before, one foot in front of the other, over and over again. With all the other crazies.

Still, not a good sign to have hit the wall on a medium distance training run so I have done an assessment of my nutrition, my training plan and rest days. Definitely need to improve my nutrition and make sure I get the carbohydrates that I need. Time to start a food journal again.

No matter how tough it was and how tired I have been for the two days since, I adore marathon training. It makes a part of my soul sing.

I am definitely a little unhinged. Perhaps just like a man who wears a skin tight bat costume…..

🙂

Batman

You know you have…

..too many Ironman friends when you don’t expect anyone to be impressed that you ran 30km on the weekend even though inside you are high fiving yourself all day.

..too many fast runner friends when you are embarrassed to admit your time goal for the marathon is “to finish it”, and really that is the absolute truth when you think of all the hills ahead of you.

..too many runner friends when you find yourself including ‘fartlek’ in everyday conversation.

..become addicted to the running high when you are explaining your week’s routine to girlfriends and they look a little shocked but you don’t think you have trained hard enough.

..entered the hard core part of your training plan when your husband’s eyes are glazing over as you mention a niggle or potential injury brewing.

That is where I am right now and loving it!

Time to get in that sweat locker and stay there until taper.

Magic!!!

As Ben Kaplan would say “Feet, don’t fail me now!”