Monthly Archives: April 2013

A week of reflection

This is how interested the dog was

This is how interested the dog was

I’m still a bit demob-happy after last weekend.  I did it. How cool is that?  I ran a marathon. I ran the London marathon. I’m a marathon runner!

What’s more, I have my first official race time.  And I have a personal best.  That’s got to be one of the coolest things about one’s first running race: you’re guaranteed a PB!

I’m going to have to work so much harder next time.

Unsurprisingly there will be a next time. When I was ill with virus – the very day my running number came through, the marathon magazine also landed on my doormat. Probably predictably I signed up for Bournemouth – there was a flyer in the mag. My justification and rationale at the time was (a) contingency planning – what if I didn’t get to London because of illness, (b) Bournemouth’s not far from me, in fact nearer than London, and (c) it’s the first marathon in Bournemouth. I reckon it’s good to be involved in inaugural events. I’ll be able to say “I was at the very first Bournemouth marathon”.

I remembered a funny (only in a single eyebrow-raise way) thing happened at the end of the race last week. As I hit the mat at the finish, and stopped, I had the briefest moment of doubt and insecurity about whether I should have stopped running. Was I supposed to keep going? Was it really over? I had that fleeting thing of shall I start running again. Talk about single focus. But there was nowhere to go. Fortunately you’re gently, smilingly funnelled through a sheep dip sort of constriction-thing where the timing tag is removed and where you get your medal, before being released further down into the Mall to have photo’ taken, to collect goody bag and reclaim kit bag. I saw quite a few half-slumped figures sitting on the kerb.

Obviously I emailed my coaches on the way home. The responses:  well, apart from amazing time … (1) did I want to go sub-3.30 (doh, yes), (2), if I’d been more conservative early on, and not had so much fun with the atmosphere and the crowds, well, I might have got under 3.30.

My big, and happy, reflection is I wouldn’t swap those first 12 miles for a 3-minute quicker finish time. If having so much fun and being part of London 2013 cost me those three minutes, I’m happy at the price. I got to the London marathon. I got to run the London marathon.  That’s huge. I wouldn’t trade that uplifting feeling for three minutes.  What I’m going to remember is the joy of being part of that atmosphere, part of that event, part of that moment with those brilliant crowds. I’ll remember the first half as a fabulous, soul-sunny experience. I won’t remember the increasing pain of the second half.

And anyway, two coaches have suggested I can get under 3.30. So there we go. That’s got to be the ambition for next time (October 6th). I guess that means I get May ‘off’ (well half of it, after the triathlon) then start a training programme at the beginning of June. I might have to do a proper training programme rather than cherry pick the bits I fancied doing …

The other realisation is that I did a good time, a very good time by everyone else’s accounts.  Everyone, to a (wo)man, has said what an amazing time. Incongruously, I’m beginning to feel a bit disingenuous saying this now, but I genuinely had no idea that aiming for 3.30 was a big deal. I’d scraped under four hours in training. I really did just think that with another six weeks’ training I might be able to lop off half an hour. It hadn’t occurred to me that it would be considered a pretty fast time. I was just running the speed I thought I could go. Which I’ve always described as long and slow… someone’s already said no-one’s going to believe me when I say that now.

I reckon if someone had said 3.30 is fast etc., I’d probably have talked myself out of being able to get near it, saying to myself, ooh, I couldn’t possibly be that fast, then. Ignorance (naivety?) clearly can bring achievement.

So, my legs starting working without pain on Wednesday. For two days I felt a bit like I’d been back-kicked by a horse in both legs (my quads haven’t hurt before, apart from after cycling). I ceased to need to leverage myself into and out of a seated position with my arms (my triceps will probably miss the workout). I even went swimming for some triathlon training.  And talk about idiocy … all this time I’d been convinced I’d got three weeks between marathon and sprint triathlon. I hadn’t even thought to question it or check the diary.  But on the way up to the marathon, one of my triathlon buddies, J, pointed out it’s only two weeks.  Ho hum.

And what else … over these months of training two people have said I’ve been a bit of influence/motivation/inspiration for them to get back to the gym, or start running.  That’s hugely humbling. I’m the most un-influential person I know, but it gives me such a warm feeling to imagine somebody’s changing their behaviour in a small way to do more exercise because of what I’ve achieved over the last several months in that direction. But, you know, if I can do it, anyone can. Over the last 16-18 months I have so, totally, utterly, gone from obese sofa slob to enthusiastic exerciser.

Have I mentioned I’m a marathon runner 🙂

London: you rock

Shivering on the start line

Shivering on the start line

WOW! What a day. What a fabulous, enthralling, joyous, challenging, painful, ‘must complete’ day. What a hot day – 13-14°C. What at atmosphere. Brilliant, brilliant, uplifting crowds, so generous, supportive, encouraging and noisy with cheering. Seamless organisation. I shan’t forget it in a hurry.

In the last ten days before the run I’d been a bit worried about the weather forecast, which was suggesting warm – 13/14°C (spot on, Ms Kirkwood). All my training, given our dreary winter/spring, has been at +/- freezing.  I remember I went out one day, I think at the end of Feb (whenever), which was notably warmer, maybe about 10°C and my body felt and reacted differently. I ran out of water.  Anyway, I talked to my physio the week before the race and she recommended I overheat/stay extra warm during the week before the run to try to get my body used to the forecast warmer temperature. Good call. I reckon keeping at least my torso extra warm (thermals all week) helped a bit. I ran through all the (five/six?) cold shower sprays that were positioned along the course, plus the impromptu hose pipe at the pub (sorry no idea of the name), must have been around mile 20, give or take.

My view from the start line

My view from the start line

Onto the race:  I was in pen 6 of 10 (nominally the 4:15 time pen).  I was hoping to be going faster. When I’d done 26.2 miles (26.4 actually) in training (March 9th), I made 3:57, so I was hoping to go better than that, with all the additional training since then. In my reading, I’d even happened across this concept/category of ‘good for age’ (quite like that idea) – or is it ‘fast for age’? It looked like London was 3:50 for my age category (though other marathons were 3:30).  I’m sure you’re beginning to grasp where my brain was going in its ambition for race day…

Anyway, I got to my pen early to make sure I was at the front (pen 5 was the nominal 4:00 pen). I waited there an hour, shivering in the frosty shade, despite being togged up in old clothes that I jettisoned just before 10am.

I can barely believe I’m about to write this but … the first 12-13 miles went by in a flash (emotional flash rather than temporal). The crowds were amazing.  My physio/coach had suggested I stay to the side as there may be more room. She was right (obviously, ex-professional marathon runner that she is). Of course this put me next to the crowds. I even had fun on those early miles, really good fun, though I think I could do this because of all the training I’d put in over the months, which meant I could do the running bit without excessive difficulty. See “Enjoy is SO not the word” for the significance of that statement.  I was low-fiving, high-fiving, middle-fiving countless kids, adults and venerables. Just absorbing the atmosphere and realising I was a part of that atmosphere.  Good feeling.

The downside was the crowds on the road. I spent much of the first 10 miles weaving from left to right, looking at feet, hopping and skipping past fellow runners, trying to avoid tripping and being tripped as I overtook a few folk. There was absolutely no opportunity to ‘run my race’. Any concept of warm up / steady as she goes etc went out of the window in the first five seconds. I had to slow, or weave, while a tiny gap in the field opened up, then accelerate through it, then make sure I didn’t slow down so much that I made the person I’d overtaken need to alter their course/speed. And try to keep calm through all of that, making that the objective my race strategy (I’ll know if there’s ever a next time).  But without prior experience it blew away any concept I’d internalised, over the course of my training, of race pacing and timing and my body’s ability to sustain it over the distance. Oh well, live and learn. Certainly my lungs were burning by the end (by way before the end), so I’d definitely gone beyond my norm. Which is a good thing, I reckon. Shows I can.

I found the pace setters particularly challenging, just because they were doing a brilliant job, but – of course – they had a huge peloton behind them that spread the width of the road.  Really difficult to get past those tight bunches.

And it got tough after Tower Bridge (half way). Heading through Limehouse, the Isle of Dogs, Canary Wharf, the crowds thinned out, to patches of noise and encouragement. I missed them. Folk were holding out tubs of jelly babies and slices of orange for runners.  The running was hard. A blood blister had bloomed and burst by this stage. At least I knew what the spreading stain across the top of my shoe was (it having happened a while ago in training). Not too painful though, that was a toe on the other foot. Never mind.

I’d read about the way, if you write your name on your vest, the crowds shout out personalised encouragement. It was so true. Steve (no idea) must have been going about the same pace as me (or maybe there was more than one Steve), he got lots of shout-outs.  I didn’t have my name on my vest, but I did realise at some stage that people were shouting ‘Go OMG’ (etc) (see pic of my running vest “As easy as A,B,C). So I’m adopting OMG as my new nickname.

I got through most of my mantras. Just thought you’d like to know.

Another strategy learning: I found myself ‘tucking in’ behind (following) someone for a while. I think it might have been the antithesis of the brainpower required to weave in and out of runners trying to find space.  This was evidently too much brain power for running.  I never got a chance to have imaginary conversations with my buddies. I was forced to think about how to run the race.  So following someone for a while let me switch off the brain. But that turned into a bad strategy because suddenly I’d wake up and realise they weren’t actually going at the pace I thought I should be going at. So I’d have to overtake and get the brain in gear again (and the legs). Clearly my brain hasn’t been engaged on my training runs…

Think I drank too much water. I’d read quite a few stories about people who’d over-hydrated and fell ill (out of the race) because of it. I guess because they were thinking they should drink lots of water. And there are water stations every mile, or something, so it’s very easy to imagine one should drink at every station.  Anyway, this was one of the things that was top of my mind. In training I would drink ‘to thirst’. Easy when you’re carrying a hydration sack – water literally on tap. So I decided that rather than drink ‘to miles’, i.e. every water station, I’d carry one of the bottles with me so I could drink ‘to thirst’ and only pick up a new bottle when I was thirsty.  Anyway, I started feeling nauseous with about 4 miles to go, so I stopped drinking (still carrying a bottle of water just in case). I did start to feel less nauseous, so maybe it was that.

I’m looking at the route now. The second half was tough (have I said that already), and I have little memory of several of those last few miles. I remember at some point concentrating on my arms: move your arms because your legs have to follow, so I was doing big (and what I thought was fast) arm movements. Bless Team Purple, they spotted me at 23 miles and later said I looked like was holding good form. My mental map of London’s not great, but I don’t remember passing London Bridge. I remember Southwark Bridge only because I nodded at Vintners’ Hall on the way past.

I remember thinking I was still passing more people than were passing me. That helped.  I thought about the money I was raising for Leukaemia Care. That helped. Not letting people down. That’s always good motivation.

Don’t remember Waterloo, or Hungerford or Westminster bridges. I remember trying to think how we get to Buck House from wherever I was, which was probably as good a distraction as any (and at which exercise I did very badly). I do remember being channelled down Great George Street to Birdcage Walk.  The 600m to go sign was welcome (ooh, understatement).  I love the way we Brits mix and match our units of measurement. Big, over-the-road gantries festooned with balloons as mile markers all the way round the course. Toilets marked in metres distant. 600 metres to go. How cool are we Brits?

Homecoming

Homecoming

Team Purple: you rock! The hugest of humungously huge thanks to Team Purple, both the on-location team and the home-team. For your long term support all through. For getting me there safely, and bringing me home. For setting yourselves up at various mileages, giving me segmented focus points to break up the race. For taking the dog out, and festooning my home with recycled (I’m very impressed with re-usage) Jubilee bunting. For feeding me delicious, nourishing recovery nosh last night. For being brilliant pals. Huge thanks also to my other lovely pals who texted, emailed, left messages etc. My ‘phone’s never been so noisy.

I did complete.  In 3:33:19. I know, I know, great time. I even managed (I wondered if I would, I wanted to and hoped my legs would obey), what I’m calling a sprint finish down the Mall. In reality it was just a tiny bit faster than I’d been doing. But I did pick up the pace. And I imagined the louder cheering that happened at the same time really was just for me. But me, being me, I can’t help but feel the faintest twinge of something at not breaking the 3.30 marker. Not too much though. At all. I got up this morning and said a quiet ‘well done’ to myself. That’s a pretty good result.

As easy as ABC

As ready as I'm ever going to be

As ready as I’m ever going to be

Here it is. Marathon day.  The day of judgement. The day of reckoning. The day of completion.

I’ve decided today is going to be as easy as A, B, C. This will be my mantra (along with any of my other mantras, as required).

Austrian Wines – my corporate sponsor for Leukaemia Care.

Blood cancers – the cause for which I’m running.

Chums – all my chums who’ve put up with me being an utter, utter running bore for the past nearly six months; the chums who’ve sponsored me to do this crazy thing; the chums who’ve helped me to keep my sanity; the new chums who’ve helped and advised in technical and personal capacities. I wouldn’t be doing this without you all, and I couldn’t have got here without you. Thanks guys.

As well as being reassured and affirmed by support from family and close friends, I’ve been sometime surprised and sometime humbled by the level of support from unexpected quarters. Thank you to everyone who has acknowledged my idiocy in supportive and encouraging, and indeed, financial, tones. I am hugely grateful and thankful to all of you.

Austrian Wines (the organisation that promotes Austrian wines) sponsored half of my running vest – see pic. For those I leave in my wake (ha, ha), the back has Leukaemia Care’s name and number. There are many occasions when I could think of using that strapline – it says “OMG! I’ll sure want a glass of Austrian Wine”. And let me just say, without prejudice, I’m a huge fan of Austrian wines. They’re some of my favourite wines in the world. The best rieslings and gruner veltliners are unrivalled. I’m under no pressure to say this. It’s what I have long believed, which is why it was a no-brainer to ask them to sponsor me.  Is it a conflict of interest with the day job? Well, rightly or wrongly, I decided not. I make no personal gain from their sponsorship. My views of Austrian wines are unaffected. They’re certainly not all great, as with wines from any other country. However, I will indeed be having a glass of Austrian riesling or gruner veltliner on completion (there’s a bottle of each in the ‘fridge as I don’t know which I’ll fancy by the time I get home).

There’s also a bottle of Champagne in the frigo, and some English sparkling wine. Some English bubblies are some of the best wines around too. There you go, I’m nothing if not patriotic. Maybe I’ll raise a glass to her Maj. It is her birthday after all. Happy birthday Ma’am. They may even all get opened, and tasted.  All in moderate (definitely, probably) celebration (hopefully).

Blood cancers have variously formed a backdrop and foreground to my life for more than a decade. Dad died from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2004. Mum lives bravely with myeloma, having been diagnosed in 2005, helped greatly by a sympathetic and compassionate consultant.

I’m proud to be running under the Leukaemia Care colours … especially (and entirely serendipitously. Seriously, utterly serendipitously) as they are orange and purple, two of my favourite colours. Purple you probably figured already. Even my nails will be sporting these colours.

My sponsorship page remains open for a few months yet, should you be caught up in the patriotic moment of fervour that is the London marathon.

Last, and far from least, my wonderful, wonderful chums. Thank you guys. You’ve been so tolerant, enduringly patient and good-humoured, every step of the way. You’ve asked how the training’s been going even knowing you would get the full blown response in minutiae.

You’ve checked the day job is ticking over at an appropriate rate too. Thanks for keeping me on both my straight and narrows. You’ve sounded encouragingly impressed when I thought I’d reached a significant moment in training; chivvying when I was feeling like I wasn’t getting to where I thought I ought to be, with the work and the running; sympathetic and supportive when a pesky virus pushed me off the training wagon.  And a couple of you have kept me training for the sprint triathlon we’re doing in three weeks’ time!

You’re all going to be in my head today, swimming around with those endolphins (see “Enjoy is SO not the word”) in one big pool party. We’ll have a great chat, though I may not remember what I’ve imagined we’ve talked about by the time I finish.

Blog on

I’m thinking the blog will continue beyond the marathon.

There is of course the Winchester May Day Tri which I signed up for before the marathon (thanks – I think, J!).  Three weeks to recover from the marathon and work up to my very first triathlon (a sprint one). At least I have some buddies doing this too, training has not been a solitary existence, which is kinda nice.

I have already named swimming as my nemesis – maybe only to myself, so far – in which case, swimming is my nemesis. I have decided it will be overcome. It may take longer than three weeks, but at least by May 6th, I should be able to cover off 16 lengths, slowly, with pauses at every other end, without breaking down (emotionally or physically).

Beyond that, I see the need to build endurance in the pool, i.e. not having to pause (obviously I do just mean stop) every two lengths. Technique clearly still needs working on. But I haven’t drowned yet, so it’s not all bad news. And there are no hills in swimming. In fact, I think that may have to become my first swimming mantra:  there are no hills in swimming. Perfect. How cool is that?

Then. of course, in a moment of sheer insanity (like this whole journey hasn’t already been insane), I signed up for the Great South Run (October 27, 2013). Now that’s 10 miles, which we know I can do. However, comma, I can’t do it very fast. I only run long and slow. So my summer looks like it’ll be concentrating on speed work.  I dread it, but I begin to feel intervals and I may be about to knock heads. At least I’m a member of a running club now (such a wry smile on my face as I write that), so maybe coach can help speed me up.

One summer. Two nemeses. What am I letting myself in for?

Psychological espionage

It’s just awful about Boston, I watched it unfold on the telly, just feeling limp and powerless to make a difference, and gripped by the selflessness and bravery of those who rushed in immediately to do just that.

My choice of headline for this blog post preceded the events on the 15th (I wrote this post last weekend). Obviously it relates to my own rather insignificant personal ramblings below:

I’m just, belatedly perhaps, wondering how much of the head game is in the short runs as well as the long, endurance – ‘yes I CAN keep going’ – runs.

I did my normal short run the other day: two miles flat, three ascents of St. Catherine’s Hill, one mile flat to finish. It’s only ever timed vaguely, as in ‘do I have enough time to have a shower and get to work?’ The dog comes on that one and boy does she have her very own overriding rhythm.

Anyway, it didn’t start well. I had trouble getting out of bed. Even the dog seemed unmotivated. I had leaden legs (see below for newly official, leg classification system).

Forget warm up then an attempt at faster than marathon pace. This was just about getting round (oh they so often are). Those first two miles can be such a challenge of self-conversation.  ‘Oh how can I be expected to run with leaden legs?’ Then it’s ‘Oh I’ll just do one ascent, at least I’ll have made the effort. Then it’s ‘Oh, f*ckety, f*ckety, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, I’ll just do the three miles flat, at least I’ll have been out.’ (See Mantras for that one).

Aside:  whole load more mantras:  
It will all happen
Good for general life too.

Time passes
Ditto

Don’t show the pain
I passed someone going the other way. He really looked like he was struggling (he may not have been).
And ditto.

Suck it up
When the going gets tougher than your worst imaginings
And ditto.

Bouncy legs
See new, official, leg classification system, below
This one’s really rather running specific.

I’m sure the lazy head has cajoled me into, well laziness, once or twice. I’m probably lucky I can’t remember them, because I’d like to think that generally the running head beats the lazy head. Though, in fairness, I have allowed myself to be reined in, once or twice when I’ve been over-ambitious, e.g. ‘Ooh I’ll do five ascents’ (from 1 or 2). This would have been from a time before I’d taken on board the 10% rule, or thought it really might be okay to break it. I can be SO idiotic sometimes! Also, I’d like to think, in those instances, this was a sensible head creeping in to make a mature decision.

What about all this listening to your body that we’re told to do? Body feels naff. Is that lazy head sneaking whispers in my ear or is it my body saying it feels naff? How am I, the simple, neophytic runner, supposed to tell the difference?

I reckon this head game lark is a vicious circle of rumour and counter rumour – psychological espionage.

This leads me on – only because I had these thoughts on the same day – to the new leg classification. My legs can, on any given day, wake up to be bouncy, okay, claggy, heavy, or leaden. In the absence of other information, I am making this the new official classification of running leg capability.

Is there anything beyond leaden? If there is I’m lucky not to have been there yet.  Injured? Broken??

Leaden is tough enough to deal with. Every step is a conscious effort. How would I keep that up for 26.2 miles? I’m gonna need some respite in my internal refuge if that happens. And I appear to have no control over how my legs wake up. Does one just pray to the leg gods for bouncy ones on the day? Are their sacrificial rites I should be performing on the 20th to appease them?

NB.  I’d like to say that I completed the full run that day: running head 1, lazy head 0.

Hallucinations and neuroses

There’s been an increasing amount of thought-crowding around all this training as the big day approaches. For a couple of months now I’ve been living with intermittent gnawing nausea, which grows more mittent and less inter the nearer we get to the day.  Will this pass once it’s all over? Fortunately it hasn’t so far prevented me from eating as inappropriately as I ever did. I haven’t quite got the hang of nutrition the whole way through this saga.

Aside:  I’m afraid Hugh’s breakfast bars (see “Fuelling”) have hit the buffers. I’ve force-fed myself too many times. I can’t eat them any more.  They’ve been substituted for fabulous flapjack, of which I never tire.

Though I have to say, and never did I imagine I might, I’m having a huge tomato fetish. I don’t really like tomatoes. I’ve never liked tomatoes. Now I’m buying little cherry-type toms by the half-kilo and I’m snacking on them every time I make a cup of tea (every hour then). What’s that about? Is there something in tomato that runners need? (see how effortlessly I now describe myself as a runner, ark ark).  And beetroot. Almost every day. What’s in that then? And other things I don’t normally eat very often, but the tomatoes have me flummoxed. I’m even quite enjoying the flavour. Weird.

In the last few weeks, as D-day approaches, I’ve noticed other tweaking and twinge-ing neuroses abounding. When is a tweak just a brain-rush of imagination? When does a twinge become more than an excuse not to train? Ooh I’d better rest … or do I push through and do an extra core strength programme?  People say ‘listen to your body’, but these days all my body’s really saying is ‘help, I’m exhausted, put me in an unattended, darkened room for three days’.

Health hypochondria too. I keep imagining I’m about to get a respiratory tract infection. Fortunately my physio says I’m one of about 35,000 people having all these (imaginary) symptoms. This makes me feel much better.  Symptoms haven’t gone away though…

I can’t quite believe, after all this time, I’m even just a little bit looking forward to it all being over. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward (in perverse fashion) to doing the race too. But I have been feeling almost permanently exhausted for what seems like ages, probably just a couple of weeks. And I’m not even doing a heavy training programme. I’ve only ever done one long run a week, despite both coach and physio suggesting I up the length (and tempo – haven’t done that either) of a midweek run. I just never had the time or inclination. Of course, if I didn’t have the inclination I would never have the time.

And here it is now – wow, just a few days to go. I can’t believe I’m even imagining (hallucinating again) anything about creating a race strategy. Other than staying upright, keeping moving, and eventually crossing the finishing line, even if I have to crawl across.

Yet here I am. I’ve been imagining I might have faster segments and slower segments: the warm up phase, the steady phase, the first ‘speedy’ phase, a settled slower phase, a second ‘speedy’ phase to finish.  Actually this may be both neurotic and an hallucination.  All I reckon I’m actually going to be thinking about is (a) how to avoid being trampled underfoot and (b) just finishing.

But here’s the hallucination – I know my long runs have a sort of rhythm, and it’s so not the one in the paragraph above. In spite of any imaginings of race strategy, all my runs follow a similar pattern:

The warm up (quite long) – the OK phase (a few miles’ worth, usually) – the long decline from discomfort to pain – finish(ed). Within this I probably just have a slow pace and a slower pace. All things are relative I guess. And of course, that would indeed make one of them faster. Yay!

I was running with other people on the track the other week. It was a bit scary actually, having only a dozen fast folk thunder past right close by. I hope that’s not an indication of what’s to come on the day (see (a) above). It’ll really burst my isolation bubble, which so far has been how I concentrate and disappear into the run so I don’t have to think and chivvy myself so much.

I’m a bit worried about running with lots of people…

Evidence of additional hallucination is that I’m daring even to speculate that my remedial glute exercises (see ‘Glum Glutes”) may be beginning to work.  But the question is, it’s all very well standing/ kneeling/ lying in my living room (with my glass of wine / watching the telly / cuddling the dog … delete as appropriate) concentrating on tiny glute-growth movements, but how on earth does that convert to them automatically (autonomically?) doing their thing on the run? Will they/do they supersede my previous modus operandi – i.e. using my thighs and hips?

Maybe it’s like driving. Who now remembers how to drive? All the movements become automatic at some point (which is separate from all the bad habits most drivers develop). There’s a technical word to describe that, isn’t there? Automaticity?

The other, arguably much more significant, question, of course, is will I have a cute bum at the end of all my glute exercises? Now that would make the investment worthwhile.

Re-training

Hill training - enough to make one a little wobbly

Hill training – enough to make one a little wobbly

I was not a well bunny in the middle of March, had a bit of a virus (see ‘Floored by an ignoble infection’). I had to stop training. Had a week off running and nearly a week off all forms of exercise. Though on the plus side, I may have had an interesting mental breakthrough with swimming when doing so not fully fit (definitely a later post). Hypothesis yet to be tested.

It’s amazing how much fitness one loses in just a week. Fortunately I was seeing my physio. I really ought to call Michaela my part time coach too – I quiz her mercilessly whilst in session and she generously answers all my questions and offers to answer more as they arise.

She said to start re-training at just 20 minutes – on a day I should have been running about 20 miles. Aarrgghhh. The running, slowly, was OK. Bit chesty but okay. The keeping my sanity, knowing what I should have been doing, was much trickier.  Next day 40 minutes. Next day 60 minutes. That was a tough one. I had really heavy legs. Actually not really heavy legs. I’ve had leaden legs before, they just thump in an elephantine fashion and they’re arduous to pick up on every stride. Weighty, weighty, weighty.

This time my legs were sort of clunky, angular, edgy, tin-man sort of legs: slower and foggier rather than heavier. None of the normal fluidity, grace and effortless elegance that occurs – in my imagination, obviously. None of the ‘I don’t really need to think about what my legs are doing, because they’re doing their stuff’ sort of scenario. I did need to think about them and motivate them and almost consciously move them.

Fortunately this was short lived. I did a short hill session the next day and the legs were less clunky and cranky, and have been okay since … as okay as they ever are.

My mental muscle certainly got a workout during re-training.  The wherewithal to NOT run, not gym, not swim, not tennis, is so much greater than to go running, gymming, swimming.  I suppose I’ve had five months of single focus. No compromise. No deviation. No hesitation. No repetition. Oh yes, quite a lot of repetition actually, forget that one. Being forced to change that brings on its own anxiety about not regaining form in time for the, now very close, event.

I have been getting back on track, fortunately (pun not intended). It’ll all be fine, she said, adopting one of her several mantras.

Enjoy is SO not the word

Enjoyment? Oh yes.

Enjoyment? Oh yes.

People ask if I enjoy running, or they say ‘enjoy your run’. Enjoy is SO not the right word here.  I wouldn’t describe long-running as enjoyment. Or short runs, either.

Which of course begs the question how would I describe it? And why am I doing it if I don’t enjoy it?

Firstly, it’s not a question of not enjoying it, just not actively enjoying it. And not actively disliking it either (though it is pretty horrendous sometimes). Secondly, I’m running for a good cause. But I think it has to be more than that. There has to be something personal, some personal motivation in it, otherwise I don’t see how I’d keep going. How would anyone keep going? It’s not a huge amount of proper fanciful fun, for sure.

It’s challenging, and I do perversely like a challenge. Is it slightly masochistic? Maybe, to a degree, but it’s not pure masochism. Probably best not develop that train of thought in an open forum.

You know it’s gonna hurt a little but you don’t do it for the hurt. Why do I do it? For the completion (see ‘Mantras’ post). For the measurement. For the measurable improvement. Progress can be measured. In minutes. In miles. In lessening levels of discomfort. In increasing portion of race done in lost time/on automatic pilot. Must it be for the endolphins? I know. I know. I just love to call them that. Forget swimming with dolphins.  I have them swimming in my head. Much more smiley image.

I am definitely motivated by the challenge and the milestones e.g. 10 miles 12, 15, 20, 26.2… I can measure achievement in how many miles I’ve run. In how many times I’ve ‘run’ up a particular hill.

Aside: I made it up St. Catherine’s Hill FIVE times the other day. There’s a first, not only because of the number of times I ‘ran’ up the hill, but also because I lost the dog – for the only time, I hope. That got the heart pumping more than hill. Then I had to run up the hill again to look for her because she was nowhere to be seen/heard/hear me (and take notice). That caused wobbly legs, a jittery heartbeat and a faint head. Unusual training technique, it has to be said. One I hope not to repeat. Suffice it to say I found the dog, but it was a dodgy 20 minutes.

I’m motivated by the discipline of training.  Not sure I should write that because I haven’t been following one of the many training programmes in the magazines/on the web. I’ve been picking and choosing the bits that look ok and do-able to me. Maybe I only like the discipline when I’ve created the programme. I haven’t got my head (or body) round interval training (2 mins at X speed; 1 min at Y speed; repeats) at all. Done none.

Done hills. Cross training. Core work. Stretching. Running. Yasso 800s. Do I enjoy any of it? I’ve had to look up ‘enjoy’ in the dictionary now, just to confirm I’ve got the correct interpretation: “to receive pleasure from, take joy in; to have a good time”.  I guess I enjoy it once it’s over. Maybe it’s that simple and that’s all there needs to be.

It is definitely about completing. I may start out with fanciful ideas of improved finish times. But usually part way round I’ve realised I’m being asininely ambitious in my head, aiming for things my body simply can’t achieve,  and then it just becomes about completing.  Just finishing is good. Enough.

The whole time thing is much less critical. I’m noting approximate finish times. But I don’t have a swanky smart-watch thingy.  We already know the idea of intervals turns me cold. I’d rather focus on the long run, try to feel it; internalise the ebb and flow of faster and slower phases (relatively speaking, of course), and build up an internal momentum picture and rhythm of my overall speed.

There is something about a ‘being inside oneself’ experience on these long runs. The working with and against oneself scenario. But maybe these are just traits of the first timer. Should I do another marathon (how funny is that?) maybe, god forbid, I’ll start fixating on interval timings.

Back to challenge and achievement, I read recently that just 1% of people run a marathon (no source for that stat, but we’ll go with the flow with it). It’ll be quite fun to be part of a 1% club. I’ll enjoy that.

Ah. That’ll make it my second 1% club … which inevitably means I’ll need to find a third. Rule of three. Anyone got any ideas?

Mantras

Regularity and rhythm?

Regularity and rhythm?

OK, it’s April fools’ day, so, just for a bit of fun, here is the growing list of mantras that have been helping me get me through my training, in no particular order. I have no idea which suite of mantras I’ll be needing on the day.

I’ve also been working on building my mental safe-house, to where I can retreat in my imagination when the going gets tough/comfortable/a.n.other as yet unimagined scenario. I’m keeping this to myself.

Must complete
This one is a regular.

It will end
Thanks Jo, good one to have.

Everything’s fine
Good for general life, too.

It’s all good/everything’s good
Ditto

Every hill has a summit
Used quite a lot, training round hilly Winky.

There’s not a hill in the world that doesn’t have a summit              
If it’s particularly bad and I need a long sentence to get me going just a bit further (Everest is in my head).

Hills are good
Who am I kidding?

Slow and easy
The only pace I know; the rest is aspirational. Usually used on hills.

Shoulders: low and loose
When I think I’m going faster (who am I kidding?)

One, one, one
Always a 100% success rate.

Bum, bum, bum               
Trying to get my glutes pulling their weight.

F*ckety, f*ckety, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck
Just because it’s all so tough sometimes. Usually followed by ‘must complete’.