Sometimes runs are amazing. Sometimes you’re just grateful that they’re over.

Today, my training plan told me it was time for my last long run before the Great Ocean Road half marathon in 2 weeks time. ‘Last’ implies I’ve done at least one other but I didn’t end up doing last weekend’s other longest run because I had a cold and didn’t feel like putting my body through it. My previous longest run was Run for the kids and that was a while ago. So it was definitely not optional today.

I got up relatively early, packed my stuff with a smile and headed to Melbourne. I’d mapped out a course and knew what needed to be done. I could feel the ‘but I’d really rather not do this’ feelings coming on as I approached my car park but just ignored them, got my stuff and headed out.

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The first kilometre sucked. I felt like I had never actually done this before and didn’t know how to run. I couldn’t get the strap right on my hydration pack. My shoes felt weird. I’d forgotten my sunglasses and was squinting constantly. I know, none of those are huge but they just added to the feeling of not wanting to be there.

Luckily for me, I know myself quite well. When I planned this route, it was with with full knowledge of my moods and tendency to want to give up when things get hard. There was no backup plan. I’d taken a myki card with me…..but there really wasn’t any convenient public transport anywhere near me, at least until I hit about the 15th kilometre, by which time it would be too late. ‘Suck it up princess and just run’ was my mantra for quite a lot of the run.

I’m pleased to say it wasn’t all as dispiriting as it sounds. The weather was absolutely perfect – crisp and with a hint of rain on the wind, that perfect Autumn weather that Melbourne does so well. Most of the scenery was interesting and diverting enough to help me forget the fact I was running a long way. And I’d set intervals on my watch so only had to think about the next 3 minutes, not even looking at how far I’d run or how long it was taking.

Probably the worst bit of the course was through the industrial guts of Port Melbourne – kind of ruggedly interesting in its own way but not exactly picturesque. Pounding the concrete was beginning to hurt my feet and I was longing for my beloved trails. There were people around which helped including a couple of speed walking men and a guy practising his skiing technique so it wasn’t all dull. I even got a ‘great job – keep going’ from a couple out for a stroll.

The last few kilometres were a lot more walk than run, partly because of Sunday market crowds along Southbank and St Kilda Road and partly because I was tired and over it. Whatever. I’m well past beating myself up over my times and I knew today was about completing the distance and time on legs. My legs were not particularly happy about that and would have appreciated far less time but they’ll get over it.

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With a smile on my face and various aches and pains making their presence known, I swung back into Albert Park with 17km done – my furthest ever long run completed by myself. Despite not particularly enjoying it, I’m proud of that. I know I can complete further distances with cheering crowds, the promise of bling at the end and the incentive of finishing before they deflate the arch but it’s a whole different proposition to go out and run that far on your own, just because some computer generated training plan tells you you should.

20170507_115342I’m celebrating with an afternoon of sitting smugly on the couch. Bring on the taper!

Talking myself into my long run

I’m linking up with Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the run – today’s topic is my biggest run challenge. For me, that’s an easy one – my long runs.

As I reach the peak kilometre bit of my half marathon training, my long runs are getting up to 17km. I have never been particularly friends with long runs and, now that they’re stretching out to these distances, we’re definitely not getting along. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them once I’m out there – I certainly do. It’s just getting out there that is the problem. I tend to spend the days before plotting out appropriate courses and trying to positively visualise myself on the run. I then spend the night before getting things ready so I’ll have no excuses the next day. And yet, I spend the morning finding excuses.

I’m not really sure what puts me off. It’s not exactly the distance – I run those distances regularly in events and don’t have any issue with them. I think it’s the whole issue of motivating myself. When it’s an event, once I’ve made it to the start line, I have little choice but to keep going. Long runs aren’t quite as easy – there’s always the possibility in the back of my mind that I might stop.

So, knowing all of this, I can honestly say I was actually very excited to be heading out on Sunday for my long run. I’d chosen the trails around Yarra Bend Park and had mapped out a course which I’d only run part of so it had both familiarity and new experiences. The sun was shining, the scenery was beautiful and I really didn’t need to talk myself into it – I couldn’t wait to get started.

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The trails along the Yarra are simply gorgeous – ranging from wide footpaths to rocky single tracks and you always feel a long way from civilisation, even though you can hear the freeway from much of the trail. It is also easy to find loop tracks so you don’t have to retrace your footsteps. I can see this becoming a favourite for my long run Sundays – such a serene place and all within an hour’s drive.

 

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training plans – changing plans

Having signed up for my next half marathon a couple of weeks ago, I hunted out a training plan and got to it. I opted for the my asics plan which is very easy to use – you put in a current time for a distance, put in the date of your event and what your training commitment is (3 or 4 times a week, easy, medium or hard effort) and it gives you a calendar of training runs which gradually increase in distance and intensity. Logging runs is straightforward and it lets you know how you’re progressing towards your overall plan.

So far, so good. However, only into week 3 and I started to notice that my foot hurt. Again. I have spent most of the last year nursing my achilles and calf through their various bursts of drama and it was clear that, regardless of how slowly this program was pushing me on, it was too fast for my temperamental foot. It wasn’t the speed – that was definitely kept low but the distance it pushed me to was a bit too much, too soon.

Instead of pushing through it or giving up totally, I’ve changed plans and, so far, have noticed my foot calm back down again. I’m back using Jeff Galloway‘s training plan with planned run/walk. I used this while getting ready for the Maui half marathon in January so I know that it works for me. Most importantly, it feels flexible. I know that, technically, all plans are flexible as you do as much or as little as you want but I have a tendency to do things because it says to. A perfect example was my run on Tuesday where I kept pushing on even though I didn’t feel like running and I was tired and my foot was hurting and I wasn’t enjoying it. Any one of those factors should have been enough to stop me but, once I’d seen that I had to run 7km, I had to run 7km.

With Jeff’s plan, I don’t feel I have to stick to times or paces so I end up running a lot more on ‘feel’. Tonight’s run was magical – lots of bits where it felt completely smooth and almost effortless (almost!) and any pain was fleeting and fixed by throwing in an extra walk break. I know it’s a long road ahead – will keep you updated on how I travel along it 🙂

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on your marks. get set. GO!

I’ve signed up for my next half marathon. You may (or may not!) be surprised by the fact that I think I’m just as excited and nervous about it as my first one. I know I can cover the distance but I’m already putting pressure on myself to do better, even just by a little bit. A little bit quicker, a little bit stronger, a little bit more confident.

I started my training plan tonight and am sorry to say that my achilles is already making its presence felt. Other than that, I felt good and strong, managing to run 4km with 2/1 run/walk intervals. It’s amazing how rubbish you can feel after a long day of work, only to have that feeling completely reversed by a refreshing run out in the great outdoors.

It does help that I got to play with my new toy – my Petzl headlamp which I got a little while ago. Makes night running so easy – I absolutely love it! I turned it off for the pic so I didn’t blind you all 🙂

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Selfies in the dark are somewhat more flattering than those in the daylight!

running away from self doubt

I’ve got a rather big event coming up in 3 weeks time – a half marathon in Hawaii. It’s big for lots of reasons:-
a) 21.1km is a looooong distance which I’ve never run before;
b) we’re flying a looooong way to get there (and have built our holiday around the fact I wanted to run it); and
c) I turn one of those big numbers shortly after the event and really, really wanted to finish a half marathon before this milestone birthday.

So what’s the problem? I’m starting to think I can’t do it.

My various injuries to my left leg which have plagued me since Easter are all now sending messages to me, both while running and while moving around the house. Sometimes they even send me little messages while I’m sitting down, perfectly still. Every twinge, tightness and tingle seems to be another mental tick on the ‘will not complete’ list.

As a result of my latest injury, a calf strain, I haven’t trained as much as I wanted to. The first 8 weeks of my training went brilliantly and I was on track (and improving) whereas the last 8 weeks have been sporadic, consisting of ‘gentle’ runs and of me being too scared to up the frequency for fear of aggravating my leg further. Now I am back to running a bit, I’m realising how much my fitness has suffered and I’m finding it hard to maintain the paces I was used to. As silly as it sounds, I feel like a fraud for being slow and undertrained and am worried someone might see me on the course and tell me I have no business attempting a half marathon. I did warn you – self doubt is insidious and leads to hugely irrational thoughts.

I’m also starting to have panics about the heat and humidity in Hawaii. Perhaps something I should have thought about before planning a holiday around it but I was won over by the romantic notion of running alongside the beach, being presented with a lei with my medal and relaxing in tropical bliss afterwards. It’s only now I’m starting to seriously doubt whether I’ll make it to the finishing line.

The rational part of my brain knows that these are all excuses. That I’ve completed things before which, at the time, seemed impossible and out of reach (the City2Sea being a good example). The time limit for the run is a generous one and I’m not out to beat any records, just to finish so, rationally, I know I can walk as much as I need to in order to finish. That the twinges I feel may be twinges but they may just be products of my overactive imagination. But self doubt doesn’t sit well with rationality and it feels a bit like a tug of war going on in my head.

At the end of the day, it’s that that’s keeping me going – working through all the positives, goals achieved and training I have done, rather than focusing on the things I can’t change. I’m also making peace with the idea that, on the day, I don’t actually have to compete if I decide it isn’t right for me at the time. That not completing one event is a small blip and not the big deal my ‘self doubt’ head wants to make it out to be. But, if I don’t run, it will be because it’s not the right thing/time, not because I feel like I can’t do it.

So, it’s over to you, blog readers. What do you do when self doubt creeps in and gets in the way of you achieving your goals? Any advice to help me put it all in perspective? What strategies and mantras do you use to push past it?

when things don’t go according to plan

I know my tag line for my blog is that I’m not running towards anything but that isn’t strictly true. Like many runners, I’m the sort of person who signs up for events months in advance so that I have a goal to work to and, usually, this strategy has worked out ok for me. I don’t usually feel pressure, just like the idea of having a goal and planning my way to reach it.

Earlier this year, I signed up to run the Maui Oceanfront half marathon in January. It will be the first time I’ve planned a holiday around a race, the first race I’ve had to fly in for and my first half marathon so it’s a pretty big deal. As well as the fact that, around the same time, I’m celebrating one of those ‘decade’ milestone birthdays that always make one contemplative.

The first 8 weeks of my half marathon training plan (adapted from Jeff Galloway‘s fabulous plans) was going perfectly, right up until my second injury for the year. The last 2 weeks have pretty much been a write off with me managing a total of about 15km over that time – nothing like the planned training.

So here’s the thing – I’ve planned races before then been unable to run through illness, lack of training or life, generally, getting in the way. And I’ve always been ok with that. Ultimately, I love running and do it for fun, not to compete or finish a set schedule of events. But this one feels different. I’m worried that the stakes feel a little high – what if I get injured again? What if I don’t manage to get back into the training and can’t cover the distance? I know I still get an awesome Hawaiian holiday out of it but will the disappointment be more because of the build up?

Perhaps I’m just stressing too much. I’ve got 12 weeks to go so there is still time to build my fitness back up. I think my goal has just changed – it’s now to get to the start line uninjured and take it from there.

How have you bounced back into training for an event after injury? What have been your ‘pinnacle’ running events?