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.


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.


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?

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

It’s the little things

Aug 2013 Winter SunriseWow, it has been a while since I posted…. sorry guys. Life has gotten in the way of my running and blogging.

But I am here to tell you that life is GOOD! And it is the little things that make it good.

At the moment I have extremely sore legs from doing squats. I have decided to get back into the ‘runner style’ strength training in preparation for the start of my next marathon training cycle. I love having sore legs from squats even if I do look strange when I walk.

Yesterday was a ‘rest’ day and I was not happy about it because as I got a sniff of the morning air when I let the dog out at breakfast time. The air had that beautiful combination of sweet smelling sea air combined with the scent of fresh greenery. One of those perfect running mornings when the air you breath in seems to give you extra strength due to what is floating on the wind. Love it.

And then this morning, I got to run in the rain. I love running in the rain (if it’s not too windy). Everything is much quieter and still with the rain. The air is fresh and you know you are a true runner as well as a little crazy.

It is the little things that I love about running.

What are yours?

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

I don’t know whose quote this is (wish I did) but I heard it on a podcast this morning and it really resonated with me.

It made me think about how we often try to get different results without changing anything.

I know many people have big goals for 2016. By that I mean big goals for them. Whether it is around their eating, their fitness, their careers,  it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we all need to recognise that for us to achieve what we might have in mind, we need to change.

How do we change?

Often through grit and determination and habituating new ways of being. The other way we change is through challenge.

Challenges change us. Hopefully most often for the better.

Do you have any changes you would like to see that could be instigated through setting yourself up a challenge?

Put your beginner pants on

every_expert_was_once_a_beginner_poster-r4606d721690f422081ec6b54390f749b_w2j_8byvr_512Oh yes, I am feeling like a beginner again.

There are a number of things that have contributed to my lack of fitness and consistency with exercise. I decided there is no point in listing them here. The fact is, I am starting again and I just have to accept it.

I have decided to make the most of it.

Rather than thinking, “I am so far behind where I used to be, I cant believe I let myself get this way.” I am thinking, “nailed it! 5k without walking!”

I am setting the kind of goals that any beginner runner would set for themselves:

  • A measured increase in distance each week
  • Noting pace at the end of each run to see if there is a pattern or improvement
  • Include one day of speedwork each week

The next thing for me to do would be to decide on a race that I can work up to.

Having lost so much of my fitness has actually been rather frightening. I don’t really understand why I feel that way about it.  Frightening is a pretty strong word. I guess I was feeling so healthy and strong and all of a sudden it was just gone. It was like a switch went off when I wasn’t ready. You’re snuggled up on the couch at night reading a book and one of your kids turns off the light for a joke. You lose your place, your orientation.

My body doesn’t do very well staying still. I will get it moving again and in all the right ways.

What are your goals? Are you starting again?

The benefits of cross training?

I am having a ball.

Let’s put it out there. I HATE the cold and up until a year ago would choose a beach holiday over any other kind. Give me sand, surf, a whole lot of sunshine and I will smile all day long.

Last August I hit a turning point in my skiing. It was a matter of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” as my husband and kids are all pretty good. After lots of panicked moments, adrenaline sweats and patient instructors, I finally was able to make it down blue runs in a semi ok fashion (by then of course my children were skiing black runs – doh!). More importantly, I was able to enjoy the peace of the mountainside and relish in the fresh, crisp air.

So when our friends asked if we would like to ski the States with them during our summer, I said YES! And it has been an experience. Due to the freezing temperatures I have not run for nearly a month now but for the last eight days I have been skiing, and skiing, and skiing.

With the particular ski resort we are staying at, it was formed by a glacier so it has these patches of flat parts after down hills. This means you have to use your poles to dig in and push yourself forward. So not only are my legs getting a work out on the downhill, my arms are getting a work out too.

Solitude Ski ResortAdd to this the difference in altitude and I am wondering if I am actually getting fitter while we are away! Ah, the benefits of cross training. My running muscles are getting a well deserved break and other muscles are taking up the task. Physically I feel really good and mentally I am almost ready to start marathon training again.

A side bonus is that I seem to be losing weight on this holiday which is amazing considering the quality of the food in the States (sorry guys, it is a bit questionable).

The benefits of cross training? Using different muscles, exercising a different part of your brain and mixing it up. All pretty perfect if you ask me.

Oh, and I still hate the cold. Lucky I have something to keep me occupied.

How and when do you cross train?

Feeling good

I am feeling good! Such a relief after my last blog. Saying that, I am not running. Not at all. Can’t remember my last run in fact.

Do not fear, I am exercising. We are on a family holiday of a lifetime and have been walking incessantly.

Now I am at the most beautiful ski resort and am spending hours sliding down mountain tracks. I have none of the energy issues that I was experiencing a month ago. I think this break from running and my life in general has been really great for me.

Just wanted to reconfirm the point I made in my last blog. We really need to be listening to our bodies and hearing what they tell us. I thought it was possible for me to just keep on running without a decent break but the truth is, I am much better for this hiatus.

The true test will be when I start marathon training in late January.

Happy New Year everyone. I hope you have set some great goals for yourself. Me, I am just taking it one day at a time and loving it.

Living the dream.