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.

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.

ūüôā

Run long and strong.

Marathon Training Plan

Here we go!

I have signed up for an online marathon training plan with the incredible TrainLikeAMother.Club. Not only do you get a detailed plan but have access to a coach, a specific Facebook group, Strava page, ¬†support videos and exclusive podcasts just for you and the other mother runners who have signed up for your “wave”.

Why did I do this you ask?

I decided that I needed a coach in order to have the best chance of laying down a Boston qualifying time. I have also had some curious goings on with my heart rate that I have researched with no success and thought a running coach could help. I reached out to some amazing runners on the Australian Mother Runners Facebook page and got some great tips and recommendations.

Then, as I was listening to Another Mother Runner podcast on my long run last Saturday, I heard Mary-Katherine Fleming talking about heart rate training. Yes, yes, I have tried the Maffetone approach before and failed miserably. However, she provided some brilliant advice and was an absolute wealth of knowledge about the how and why of heart rate training. Her passion, knowledge and approach hit a chord and I was sold.

I also have to mention that I am currently reading Mark Fitzgerald’s book, The Iron War which makes you want to go outside and get your sweat on every minute of the day. It is a fantastic book about the rivalry between Dave Scott and Mark Allen – two of triathlons greatest athletes. And those boys know all about heart rate training…..

I am going to give this a red hot go and see where it takes me. I am new at being held accountable to my training and am sure I will get frustrated with the long, slow runs but if they bring me a Boston Qualifying time then every minute will be worth it.

I am in this for the long haul. I do not see this as a short-term approach. I will race at the Melbourne Marathon in October but will also have in my sights, the Barossa Marathon in May.

All the while just focussing on one foot in front of the other because that is really all I am doing. ūüôā

Run long and strong.cropped-cropped-20x30-BVDA1858.jpeg

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?

Running this way and that….

Firstly, apologies to my regular readers for it being a long time between drinks. My work life has ramped up considerably which means very little time for any of my writing projects.

Sorry.

Did you miss me?

But I have some good news. Despite being in the usual post-race slump as my body attempts to get over the training cycle and race day that I have put it through, I am investigating some different running approaches.

I have been reading the book, Run Less, Run Faster by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr and Ray Moss. It has changed how I plan my weekly workouts. We all know that I am not particularly good at having to monitor my runs while running. What I mean by that is I haven’t mastered the ability to do a pyramid tempo run as an example because that would take too much computation time while actually out there. I am a day dreamer from way back, just ask my mother, and when I run it is with the pure delight of being able to just wander around the maze of my mind dredging up beautiful images and wild imaginings………

I am fine with a 1k warm up, run at X pace for 6km and then 1k cool down – that is totally fine – but run 1k at 6:00min, the next 500m at your 5k pace +10 secs, followed by 200m jogging, then 1km at 10k pace…. Ok, that’s a little exaggerated but you get the idea. The system put forward by these gentlemen, known as the FIRST approach, at its most basic level says one day of sprints, one day of tempo and one long run a week. Easy!

Their book does have lots of tables so you can calculate how fast you need to do each of those runs and they have training plans that lay out all manner of speed work sessions and tempo runs if that is your thing. And I do confess to having spent an awful lot of time with the calculator, notepad and an excel spreadsheet to put together my ideal training plan, but I am not training for anything in particular at the moment. This means that I took the key premise of their approach – build the different systems of your body – and adapted it.

They also recommend two cross training days where you use different muscles but still build your aerobic system. Love that. I still love to swim and bike ride. It suits me perfectly, my busy work life and family life. I feel much less pressured and can move workouts around depending on what is going on. And I am loving the speedwork. It hurts, but not for long and you feel so wonderful afterwards. Although – confession time – my speedwork isn’t so speedy as my 11 year old son can beat me with his eyes closed.

Next comes Chi Running…. I started to read the Chi Marathon book by Danny Dreyfuss but then a girlfriend sent me a YouTube video that goes through all of the exercises and theory of Chi Running. Much easier to see it than to be trying to understand it from reading it. Because I have always loved Tai Chi the idea of it resonates with me. I can’t confess to feeling effortless when I chi run but my pace has really picked up. I wasn’t much of a heel striker to start with so it must be the “lean” that is having an impact.

It certainly is worth looking into especially if you have troubles with your knees, ITB, or shin splints. I am hoping it is making me look a little more graceful. But then again, who is watching? I am running in the dark every morning and often with a bit of rain thrown in and the wind! That arctic, icy wind is beyond lazy, it doesn’t make way for anyone.

So despite not writing about it, I am still out there or on the treadmill – whatever I can get to work. I secretly dream of being able to run a PB at a half marathon race in the spring. Just have to get my long runs a bit longer and faster without feeling so tired afterwards.

Next step is to sort out my fuelling. Amazing how badly you can eat when you don’t take enough time to plan…..

How are you going this winter? Still getting out there? Trying anything new?

 

To run or not to run….

My head is a crazy, swirly mess at the moment and I am hoping that will be short-lived (please!).

I am in one of the most beautiful parts of Australia at the moment on a little mini-break and the mornings are perfect for long runs. Cool, fresh, hint of wind, light early and the most perfect temperature. A far cry from my home town of dark, cold, wintry, wet with constant indecision as to how many layers to wear for a run.

And yet, I am not feeling overly motivated to run. I want to run. My body feels ready to run and my mind says, yes lets go, the night before. Come morning, I turn over and hide myself from the world until it is too late to fit in a run. Why? What is that all about?

Am I worried that it is too soon after the marathon? It has been three weeks today.

Am I worried that it won’t be a good run so don’t want to do it if it isn’t going to be amazing? I really don’t understand this mix of emotions that I am feeling about running.

I love running. I love being fit and I feel that it is the right time to start ramping up again so I can build on the fitness I developed for the marathon. I desperately want to continue to be fit and strong so that if the mood takes me I can sneak into the Melbourne Marathon in October.

I guess it is just another one of those times when you just have to go with it. Let the kangaroos roam around the top paddock, jumping here and there. Eventually they will settle on a spot to graze and all will return to calm. Ah, I look forward to that time again.

 

We are built to move…..

I am getting a bit tired of the “sitting is bad for you” tale that is being spruked around the place.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t disagree completely but having looked at some of the research it isn’t sitting that is the problem, it is our CHAIRS. Active sitting is fine – squatting, sitting cross legged etc.

And this is because our bodies are built to move…… ¬†Here is a lovely Ted talk on the topic. Gives me permission to fidget when sitting…. ūüôā

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 Рunbelievable! 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 ‚Äúrun‚ÄĚ 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.

Freak out!

If you are in a similar age group to me, you might be hearing that song from the 70s, Chic РLe Freak when you see the words FREAK OUT! I can tell you that it is going round and round in my head at the moment.

Sure, it has its good points as it makes me want to get up and dance but it also has its down side.

Why am I singing it all the time?

Because it is time for me to FREAK OUT about my marathon training. I am about 3 weeks behind where I “should” be according to my plan thanks to an illness and the most amazing conference thingy EVER.

I have a chatty achilles tendon that is annoying me. Ssshhhh.

I haven’t lost any kg’s to help me run faster so I am still mighty slow.

AND I had the great pleasure to do some hill repeats in one of the most beautiful parts of Victoria on Saturday and realised, holy moly, that the hills on the Great Ocean Road are going to be epic and I am nowhere near anywhere towards being hill fit!!

Hence we are at FREAK OUT stage.

So, what’s my plan? Same as always. One foot in front of the other and when that doesn’t work, drink some concrete and harden up.

I will finish that marathon come hell or high water. Or should I say come hill or wet weather.

Enjoy my song of the week….

 

The joy of a great physio

Bless him.

My physio is amazing. He is a runner so he understands what I am talking about, the kinds of problems I experience and my desire to be able to keep going.

He keeps up with the latest research and is all about neuroplasticity and the mind-body connection among other things.

We had a great chat about Vitamin D and magnesium, schools for the kids, plyometrics and his Christmas holidays.

I have got some great exercises for my Achilles tenderness and lower back issues.

What a great way to spend half an hour.

If you don’t have one – find yourself an amazing physio. They are worth every little penny and more.

#gratitude