Dopey training – week 17

After last week’s mega-mileage, this is technically a low mileage week although the ‘long runs’ of 5km are now behind us as we ramp up towards the big event.

I was really, really pleased with how well I pulled up after last Sunday’s 27km – I wasn’t sore the next day at all, just a bit tired so I took it easy in the first half of the week. I’m sure I could have run on Tuesday but work and other things got in the way and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take a few extra days so I headed out for my first run of the week on Thursday. I made a last minute decision to go up to the You Yangs and got there just before they shut the gate to get in. I ran our usual loop and managed to equal my best time, well under balloon lady pace despite the large hill in the middle of it. So that gave me a confidence boost.

Saturday was parkrun day and, as is often the case, I wasn’t sure how I was feeling or what I wanted to do. My friend and I settled in to 2 min run/1 min walk although I had rather speedy legs and definitely pushed the run segments to the edge of my comfort zone. And it paid off – I got a course PB and my 6th fastest 5km ever so was very pleased with that. I was starting to feel like all this endurance training was slowing me down (which I’m ok with) but, again, it was a great confidence boost to know that I can still pull out something quick if I set my mind to it.

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Apologies for the blurry photo – must be an indication of our speed this morning!

I’ve said before that my training plan tells me how far to run but my soul tells me where. For my long run today, it was being quite specific. Somewhere near the water, with trees but not too familiar. I drove a little further than usual to a part of the Surf Coast trail I’ve only done in the Surf Coast trail half marathon last year. It was perfect. The weather was warm-ish with blue skies but enough cloud to not be burnt to a crisp. The start of the trail went uphill (which I had completely forgotten) which was the perfect way to clear everything else from my mind – all I cared about was getting up that hill. The views from the top of the cliffs were spectacular and running down the other side towards the beach was bliss. I even enjoyed running along the beach today, lost in my thoughts and feeling very contemplative. It was definitely with a degree of reluctance that I turned around – I pondered whether I should just keep running but thought, in the mood I was in, that I might not stop and then where would I be? So I smiled as I let the waves eat my feet then headed back towards my car. In the last few hundred metres, I had to sprint and weave as I was being chased by some very protective duck parents, having clearly gotten too close to their babies. It made me giggle and was the perfect conclusion to my run.

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Weekly summary:

Thursday: 5km (45:58)

Saturday: 5km (37:20)

Sunday: 8km (1:16:47)

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We pause your regular broadcast for a quick rant…

I have a running friend who suggested I change my blogging name to ‘macgirl ranting’ as I have been known to do that from time to time (and, sometimes, much more frequently than that). Today’s post is another one – this time, about ranting itself, oddly enough.

Earlier this year, I put my name in the ballot for the London marathon. I knew this was a phenomenally long shot. To be honest, that was probably part of the appeal. The course itself would be amazing and invoke so many memories of my very happy years living in London but I also liked the fact that it feels like an honour to even get a place. Not in a ‘Boston Qualifier’ type of honour (as, without wheels, there is no way I would ever be fast enough for that) but in a ‘wow, I feel so lucky’ kind of way.

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I didn’t get in. And yes, I was sad but in the same kind of way I am when I buy a ticket in the Lottery – sad to have to put away the dreams I’d fancifully been concocting while playing ‘what if’. I moved on. There are other events I can aim for next year and not have the burden of having to find the spare change required for a return ticket to the UK.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the flood of bitterness that ensued in social media threads for weeks afterwards from others who didn’t get a place. ‘It’s not fair!’ seemed to be the biggest complaint. I haven’t been in the London Marathon offices and checked their methods but my grade of 10 year olds understand how probability works and that ‘random’ means, well, random. It’s not weighted based on whether you’ve run it before or your speed or your postcode or your shoe size or brand. Some people will get picked out of the virtual barrel, many won’t. That whole ‘random’ thing again. You haven’t been picked multiple years in a row? Yeah, that sucks and I’m sorry – why not try again next year? Some were talking of previous years where those unsuccessful 5 times were given an automatic entry however they hadn’t thought of the logistics of administering that – additional time, manpower and cost to an event that really is already big and complicated enough.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into it but the big undercurrent of the complaints seemed to be a tone of selfishness – as if the person complaining had some sort of right to get into this event and, by not being picked, was being denied something they were entitled to. There were some people celebrating others getting in which was great however there were also some ‘Oh yeah, congratulations. Great that you got in on your first time when I’ve been waiting x number of years. Enjoy!’ which really annoyed me. Be a kind human. I know how I would have felt if I’d been lucky enough to be picked so am really, really happy for those who get to experience that, regardless of how many times they’ve entered or run it. You ran it before and are running it again this year? Wonderful! Have an amazing time!!

I’ll put my name in the ballot again next year and take my chances, without whingeing about the system. It is what it is and I’m completely fine with that. It would be an absolute dream come true to run it. I never thought I’d even contemplate a marathon so the thought of running that one, in a city I still think of as home actually makes me teary. And that fairytale of knowing my name was randomly chosen out of a field of hundreds of thousands of other hopefuls is actually icing on that particular cake.

Dopey training – week 16

First week back of term is not really the ideal week for training to go up to another level but it is what it is and there’s not much I can do about it. So I just got on with what the training plan told me. Be ready for a long post – it was a loooooong training week.

On Tuesday, I set my alarm for 5.45am, got up and ran around my neighbourhood. I am not at all an early morning runner, as much as I’d like to be. The thing that got me up was knowing husband and I had movie tickets that night that would give me no chance to run after work so it was early or not at all. So early it was. I’m pleased to say I actually enjoyed it. Now that it’s getting light earlier, I didn’t need my head torch and was treated to the soft, welcoming colours of dawn as the neighbourhood woke up. And I got to bask in that ‘I’ve already done my run’ kind of feeling all day. Tick.

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Tuesday night, husband and I did go to the movies but not ordinary movies – it was the Run Nation Film Festival in Melbourne and we had won tickets thanks to a parkrun competition. I think it deserves a blog post of its own but, in summary, it was brilliant. The films chosen were a perfect mix and provided exactly the inspiration I needed this week.

Thursday afternoon ended up being a hill day as my friend and I headed out to the You Yangs for our regular trek up the Saddle. I’d been getting a bit paranoid about my leg which had been doing what it does – flare up for no reason when I have an event coming up. However it was perfectly ok after the hills so which reassured me that it was all in my head.

Saturday called for 11km which meant parkrun plus some extra. We were going to Bannockburn Bush parkrun launch so we went out early and ran the course (and a bit) before the others got there. It was actually really, really lovely. It’s a very peaceful place and the fog added to the atmosphere. We took it easy, aiming for a pace that would keep us a bit ahead of the balloon ladies and achieved this without a problem. Completing parkrun afterwards was also very low stress and I had no soreness at the end as we tucked into breakfast. I did take it easy for the rest of Saturday – not sore, just a bit tired and knew we had an early morning this morning.

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Today was our long run – 27km on the training plan which suited us as we’d signed up for the Melbourne half marathon. We arrived early, dropped off our bags and then set off on some laps around the MCG to add on some extra kilometres. I think the people arriving for their events thought we were possibly a little insane but it was actually quite enjoyable. We then joined everyone else at the start line and were off, leaving our Garmins running to track our longest long runs yet.

I ran with a friend for quite a while and really, really appreciated having her there – I am sure I wouldn’t have had as much ‘run’ in me without her. It’s funny how, even without pushing you or telling you you have to, having someone there makes you instantly more accountable. You don’t want to let them down. And so it was today which was exactly what I needed.

The first part of the run went off pretty well and the kilometres flew. It certainly helped that we were surrounded by people all buzzing with event excitement and had glorious blue skies. Albert Park lake, the site last year of wind and bugs, was stunning today and my regular check-ins with my body confirmed that nothing was hurting. The only thing that was starting to get to me was that I was tired but that’s to be expected – a big part of this training plan is learning to run on tired legs.

Once we were back on St Kilda Road and felt like we were on the home stretch, I found it harder to keep up the intervals and set my friend free – time to knuckle down and just get on with our own journeys. My mantra today was ‘This is hard, yes but not impossible’ and that was enough to keep me going.

Clearly the fatigue and endorphins combined to leave me prone to random tearing up – cheers on the course from a parent of one of my students (who was running the marathon) made me teary as did hearing the cheers in the final stretch. I took a big gulp and entered the MCG. Last year, I remember finding I had to dig deep to keep running as I had run a PB and had nothing left. This year was very different – I was certainly tired but my legs and lungs were still well and truly strong enough to get me there.

However crossing the line wasn’t enough – I still had another 1.5km to go to reach my training plan distance so I got my medal, headed up the steps and found another friend who kindly offered to collect and carry my bag and do a couple of laps of the MCG with me to finish. 27km – done.

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48.7km run this week – my biggest training week ever. Will see how I am tomorrow but, for tonight, I feel great.

Weekly summary:

Tuesday: 5.6km (47:12)

Thursday: 5km (51:30)

Saturday: 11.1km (1:46:15)

Sunday: 27km (4:08:56)

parkrun tourism @ Bannockburn Bush

It appears that parkrun launch season is upon us again – last week was Portarlington’s turn and this week it was inland at Bannockburn Bush.

The team at this parkrun have been working hard for many months to set it all up, secure the funding and build a base of enthusiastic volunteers and participants. And all of that hard work paid off with a successful and busy launch this morning.

We arrived ridiculously early as our training plan called for a 6km pre-parkrun run so it was a sleepy, quiet and foggy scene that greeted us as we made our way down the gravel road to the reserve. It gave us a chance to enjoy the (chilly) morning and explore the course before the crowds arrived. By the time we were done, there were a lot more cars and people and we had time for a quick catch up with fellow local and travelling parkrunners before the briefing.

 

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The course at Bannockburn Bush is, as the name suggests, through the trees and along a delightful trail surface. Even more blissfully, it’s flat. It’s a wide enough trail for everyone and, even with the many people attending this morning’s launch, it still wasn’t too crowded, especially after the first 500 metres. It is a very easy to follow course – you head out straight then make a left for a short out and back segment before rejoining the main track where you head towards the main turn around point. From there, it’s straight back to the finish. And, if in doubt, there are a fabulous permanent sign posts along the way, ensuring you can’t get lost. Unless you try really, really hard.

It was great to see a big diversity in the parkrunners attending today with what felt like more than the usual proportion of walkers, adding further to the supportive and family friendly atmosphere.

Congratulations to the event team on a very successful launch. For those of you planning to tourist out this way, do. And be sure to visit Bannockburn Station for breakfast afterwards – absolutely delicious!

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The ups and downs of marathon training

Let me preface this blog post with an important caveat – I am not an expert on marathon training. I am 15 weeks into training for my first marathon which simply qualifies me to talk about my experiences. If I finish this thing and ever decide to do another, it’ll be interesting to reread this and see if the experience remains similar for my next marathon. But I’m getting very ahead of myself there so let’s pause and get back to the job at hand.

The downs of marathon training

I like to start with bad news – it’s just how I do things. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. So let’s start with the stuff I’m not enjoying. Some it I expected, some has been an unpleasant revelation but it’s all part of the experience…

  • There is no down time for things to heal. Specifically at the moment, this refers to my blisters. They are just becoming blisters underneath blisters. None of them are life threatening or run stopping. They’re just annoying. I had one that took up the entire bottom of a toe after last weekend’s long run. Then I had to deal with it and run on it again a couple of days later. Same with chafing – there are bits that I think are probably permanently scarred now, despite the copious amounts of BodyGlide I use. Whatever.
  • Post run highs are great but I also get a bizarre mix of high and exhaustion that isn’t quite so pleasant. This has only happened to me after the really long runs and manifests later that night as I’m trying to sleep. I am so tired I am sure I should fall asleep immediately but, instead, I lie in bed completely hyped. Body weary but brain and heart buzzing. It’s not until the following night that I can actually get the much craved sleep.
  • Anxiety goes up. With less than 80 days to go until take off, I’m becoming paranoid about everything. Avoiding children with viruses (not easy when I’m a teacher). Worrying about tree roots on my favourite trails in case I trip. Religiously reading blogs about others completing the Dopey challenge to try to reassure myself that I can do it. Bleurgh. Just get me to the start line already!
  • It takes over your life. I knew this in theory but, now that the kms are really ramping up, it’s really kicking in. And I’m aware that our marathon plan is much more limited than some. However all weekend activities need to be carefully measured against what mileage long run I’m completing and where I want to run that. Social invitations aren’t always compatible with pre-long run early nights.
  • Everyone has an opinion about what you’re doing. And you’re doing it wrong. I’m possibly being unfair with this one as it hasn’t been ‘everyone’ but there have been some comments that have been delivered, wrapped up as ‘advice’. For example, your plan is too long/too short/not enough kilometres/too long a long run, etc. Why do a marathon? You should stick to half marathons. You should be eating better than that. Actually that last one is particularly annoying – the assumption that, just because I run, that I also embrace all other forms of healthy living. I eat a fairly balanced diet and, due to the whole ‘balanced’ thing, it also includes chocolate and cake. Unless you are a dietician and I have made an appointment, I don’t need your advice on what I eat. It currently works for me, hence why I eat it. If it stops working for me, I’ll deal with that then. The fact that you think marathon runners should be eating lettuce leaves, blueberries and <insert latest fad superfood here> is just peachy but I’ll stick to what works for my body, ok?

The ups of marathon training

So why do I do this? Oh yes, there are certainly some ‘up’ bits and I’m pleased to say, so far, they definitely more than make up for the list above…

  • I feel strong. As my distances have grown, my speed has decreased but I have never felt stronger. Physically and mentally. I feel like I can do anything. Pushing aside the doubts that come at the start of the long run, by the time I’ve finished, I could take on the world! I ran 24km! Seriously!
  • Running and post-run highs. This is the flip side of one of the points above. Somewhere about 4km into a run, the endorphins start flowing and everything in the world is beautiful. Passing people on the trail who smile and say hello makes me happy. Someone passing and saying ‘go you’ may even induce happy tears. Trees, flowers, cows, ocean, birds – all of it makes me grin maniacally. And the huge smile when I’m done is all encompassing – not just on my face but like my whole being is smiling. I might be walking funny and make a face at stairs but I am blissfully, smugly, ridiculously happy. Euphoric even.
  • Anxiety goes down. Yes – this is completely against what I said up the top but, while I’m paranoid about individual incidents, my general mood has never been more zen. My training plan is set so I’m not dependent on my mood to run – I just have to do it anyway. And regularly. So, in many ways, it’s keeping my mental health in check. It clearly is exactly the right dose of ‘medication’ for my needs and I’m very, very thankful for that.
  • You find fabulous places to run. I can’t do long runs on the same old paths – I need variety to keep me interested on those long, lonely kms. So I spend quite a bit of time mapping out potential routes as the distances stretch out. I spend long enough doing neighbourhood runs during the week – weekends are for exploring.
  • You learn a lot about yourself. As most of my training runs are done solo, that’s a lot of hours of alone, thinking time. Once I’ve overcome the first few kilometres which always consist of ‘How do I run again?’ and ‘How do I breathe?’, that still leaves ample time to ponder. And lots of ‘digging deep’ is required. But I now know I can. I know that I can push through painful parts, talk myself out of self doubt and complete things I start. Even when they’re hard.

As I said, I’m only part way through this journey but, at this point, am feeling very lucky to be on it and wouldn’t change it for anything.

Dopey training – week 15

We’ve ticked over the halfway point in marathon training now so, in out and back terms, we’re on our way home. Except that the return leg of this journey is longer and subject to more freak outs than the first. Between now and marathon day, there will be a whole heap of ‘furthest distances ever’ and I’m firmly pushing them from my mind and just concentrating on the week of training ahead.

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This week was a low mileage week after last week’s mega effort. I didn’t end up running on Tuesday so pushed it out to Wednesday instead, heading out to my favourite trail and making the most of the beautiful day. I hadn’t realised how fatigued I was until I started running and it was like there was no fuel in the tank. Even the first kilometre felt impossible. I consoled myself with the fact that I was bound to feel tired after the weekend and just to take it easy. Any pace faster than the virtual balloon ladies is ok.

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Friday was a better run – I was looking for somewhere different and went to Anakie Gorge which I’ve walked before but never run. It was the perfect trail and exactly what I needed. It has a few vague inclines but nothing too taxing, a mix of scenery and enough variety to the trail surface to make you work a bit.

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Saturday was another parkrun launch, this time at Portarlington and was a relatively easy 5km with my favourite running people. It was our last ‘short’ long run of the training plan which isn’t a bad thing – it’s always felt kind of wrong to not be running further than 5km on a weekend. In fact, I nearly went out for a run today to celebrate (commiserate?) the last day of school holidays but decided to do some gardening instead. Next week – Melbourne half marathon (plus warm up and cool down to stretch it out to 27km)!

Weekly summary:

Wednesday: 5km (45:10)

Friday: 5.9km (55:28)

Saturday: 5km (40:02)

parkrun tourism @ portarlington

International parkrun day, celebrating 13 years since the start of this amazing movement, is a really cool day to have a launch. And so we all gathered this morning at Portarlington, wearing our parkrun apricot ‘uniform’ to a launch another event into the parkrun family. The skies were blue, the clouds minimal, the sun shining and the waves gently lapping not far from the start line. Glenn, parkrun Ambassador (formerly known as Territory Director) welcomed us, followed by Event Director, Fiona and, in what felt like record time for a launch, we were at the start line and off.

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The view from our car park before walking up to the start

The course is a very easy to follow out and back, following the coastal path after starting at the big tree at the top of the hill. As such, it’s a nice downhill run to start (although the astute amongst you will have registered what that means. What goes down and all that…). The path is gravel and very easy to run on with enough width to cope with us all plus the benefit of grass alongside in case of those pesky runners that insist on running side by side (ie, me and my friends this morning). The trail can only be described as picturesque with views of the bay throughout, often close enough that you could almost touch the water. There are some undulations, probably more than you thought, but they’re not terrible or long and, before you know it, you’re turning around and heading home.

I ran today with my 3 running besties and it was just the best sort of run – not too hard but hard enough that it felt like I’d worked for it. Yet easy enough for chats as we went. It was another morning when, particularly reflecting on its 13th birthday, I felt very grateful that parkrun existed and that I had found it. I’ve said it before but it seriously is life changing stuff.

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Just at about the time when I was feeling like I might have had enough and be ready for breakfast, the finish line could be seen although its placement was a minor cause for concern. Naturally, it’s at the top of the hill we came down at the start. Not a big hill but still a hill which is not the most welcome sight at the end of a 5km run. Still, we ran it and crossed the line, happy and done.

A huge well done to Fiona and the event team at Portarlington – this one has been a long time in the making and it was great to see so many from Balyang welcoming them to the parkrun family. A gorgeous course, friendly crowd of volunteers and definitely one I’ll be back to. Even with that little incline at the end 😉

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