Amazing bodies

Our bodies are truly amazing and completely confusing. I have been undertaking a detox in order to rectify a small health issue that I have and as a result I am struggling to run. Hence the lack of blogging of late. I have also quit sugar (as much as you can when you enjoy prosecco) as mentioned in a previous blog.

It is outrageous. When I do head out for a run I have to run/walk as I just don’t have the energy to do anymore than that. It is quite disconcerting and everytime I feel the need to walk, I feel surprised.

My goal was to be running between 15 – 20k long runs by the time the Christmas holidays arrived so that I would be in a good place to start Marathon training in late January.

Nuh-uh. No way.

I have downloaded a new training plan thanks to AnotherMotherRunner website which is geared towards getting a PB. I think I might have to delay the start and aim for a different race.

Heartbreaking as that is I really have to listen to this amazing body of mine. They tell you what they need. The things you don’t listen to is your negative self talk but that is a whole other blog.

What are your plans leading into Christmas? What is your body telling you? Are you nailing it?? Love to hear a sensational story of someone achieving their exercise goals. Tell me all.

 

Running Away

I thoroughly enjoyed a blog today over at Fit is a Feminist Issue about Angry Running or Running as Running Away. There was a great story about her running home barefoot and drunk from a party.

It is interesting that there is a number of motivational running photos which portray running as a way to deal with anger and frustration. I cannot deny that I have found running to be a very effective way to dissolve stress. I am certainly one of those mother runners that can be a bit cranky if they don’t get their run in, or their bike, or a swim. Actually even a good walk will sort me out to some degree.

There is a picture somewhere of a dad talking to his kids saying something like, ‘you had better go clean up your rooms, mum missed her run this morning so we don’t know what sort of crazy we are dealing with today.’ Not completely sure how I feel about that and I know it to be true of me.

Really, I find running to be fun most of the time. I don’t consciously use it for emotional state management necessarily.

Many of us find it hard to put aside time to meditate or quieten our minds and running helps me to make that time. So I wonder about all the people out there who don’t have exercise as a regular part of their daily life. How do they deal with stress, anger, frustration? They can’t all be finding time to meditate!

Running has made my life a better place to live in. It has given me something that is all mine, time to reflect and quieten my mind, personal aspirations and goals to achieve and it helps me to turn to the light and not stray to the dark side which I have propensity to do. It can also be a lot of fun. Especially when you run with other people. It is not all about running away.

Why do you run?

What does a runner do when running is not their friend anymore?

Running is not my friend at the moment.

Saying that out loud breaks my heart.

Running and I have been friends for a few years now and have developed a deep, satisfying bond. Running helped me through PND and has revealed that solid core of concrete I always knew I had inside me, but rarely got to feel.

But right now I am tackling a pretty simple health issue and the treatment is making me so very tired. Very, very tired. My energy levels have plummeted like the feeling you get as you hit the wall during a marathon. Running 6k is taxing. 10k is becoming out of reach. So much for my dream of a PB half marathon in Spring. Even the thought of running that far is making me feel like curling up under the warm covers. And this from a woman who has declared the marathon her favourite distance.

I am desperately clinging to my friendship with running, trying to make something work, not wanting it to fade. The reality is that I might have to give it up for a week or two and return to the bike. For some reason riding doesn’t seem quite so hard.

Perhaps my love of running has been too intense and this is a necessary hiatus. Nah. I am just making a choice to get my body healthy and the downside is a short term energy slump.

Sigh

So what does a runner do when running can’t be their friend for a while?

My Playroom

My children are lucky enough to have a space in the house which is their ‘playroom’. I was lamenting with another mum at work how I have to remind them to tidy up their playroom and that “it is not MY playroom.”

The other day I found myself adding to that sentence suggesting that I would not have their kind of toys in my playroom if I had one.

Then I wondered, what sort of toys would I have in my playroom (keep it clean, please) and this brought the realisation that I actually do have a playroom.

The streets are my playroom.

That is where I go for imaginary play, to mimic life in order to make sense of it, to escape from responsibilities.

Running is my playroom and I am so glad that I don’t really have to grow up.

Pity there is not a lot of time for running in my life at the moment. I need to make time for my playroom.

Where is your playroom?

Ditching the numbers

I am taking the plunge, I have ditched my Heart Rate monitor and am paying less attention to the numbers in order to improve my numbers.

Since the marathon I have been a bit sluggish and tired despite having undertaken a recovery approach which took into account my need for a long rest after these kinds of events. I have been obsessing over my high heart rate and frustrated by thinking that I am not fit enough. (Come on, I just trained for and ran a marathon!). I even wore my HR monitor to bed the other night to see what it is like when I am sleeping. The results were not what I expected…. (‘sad face’ as my 11 year old would say).

It was at this point that I decided I was a bit crazy and getting a little obsessed. I had already made up my mind that the next few months are about strengthening my core and increasing the amount of swimming I do in order to build my overall fitness. Now I am totally determined to increase my strength and fitness but without the HR monitor and with a focus on running form rather than pace.

I won’t give up my Garmin just yet as I feel that the distance and pace data is handy when looking at how you are going during a training cycle, but I am not going to look at it when I am out there, enjoying my running.  I recently read an article about getting into your running flow and it recommends this approach for working out the appropriate pace to run on any given day.

ColorChart-300x195

Yellow is for easy runs, recovery runs, long runs.

Orange hovers around the lactate threshold for tempo runs, long repeats and helps us to run faster at easier efforts.

Red is for intervals and hill repeats.

This will be how I plan my effort for my runs, not what pace I feel I “should” be running. I think I spend too much time in Orange and need a bit more Yellow and Red.

It is liberating to be ditching the numbers and get back to focussing on how I “feel”.

How do you plan your runs? How much attention do you pay to the data? More than you pay to your body?

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.

 

Must be going crazy

My life is ramping up. Do you have those times when things take on a sense of acceleration?

Almost always with the return of the children to school after the summer holidays I get a week of peace and then life slowly increases intensity as they get busy again. I don’t usually notice it particularly until I realise that I haven’t done any washing as I have a half naked child in need of a school uniform. They are then on the brink of tears and you know that, once again, you have earned your “mother of the year” trophy.

This year is a bit different as not only have they returned to an active school life but I have increased my paid workload, significantly. Add to that the fact that I am not giving up training for my marathon and you can see that I am heading towards the tornado. Or perhaps that is just what my house is going to look like for most of the year while I continue to apply my mother’s wisdom of “just rise above it”.

And do you know the other crazy thought I added to my list today? I want to write more blogs. I would like to write one every day if I could but am thinking that increasing to twice a week might be a little more realistic considering that I am currently on the “when the mood takes me” approach. Well, mood and when I get a spare minute to unclutter my mind and my desk to have the space to write.

How is your 2015 shaping up? Are you going to attempt crazy things like writing more in order to keep your sanity?

In my dreams I am a Kenyan

Or an Ethopian….. but today I would settle to be the 20 year old boy I saw running laps of the park when I was out walking the dog this afternoon.  ….sigh….

I love seeing someone who can really “run”. The seemingly effortlessness of their stride, the way their heels kick up at the back, the slight smile on their face as they power along. There is no huffing and puffing, slouched shoulders or grimace of determination. Just a look of peace or ease.

I think I feel like that for the first 5 minutes of a run and then I have to settle into a slower rhythm or I wont make the distance! I doubt I ever look like that.

But when I “think” about running, that is what I imagine in my mind. When I think about going for a run I can visualise myself powering along with a beautiful running form, away with my thoughts, enjoying the moment.

Perhaps that is why I can motivate myself to go for a run because I imagine it is going to be so amazing. How I ever cope with the reality of it I will never know.

In my dreams I am a Kenyan. How about you?

Mary Keitany