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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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)

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)

Dopey training – week 14

After last week’s non-training, I was well rested but a bit nervous going into this week however was also keen to get back into it. So much so, that I headed out for my first run on Monday, making the most of school holidays and the good bout of weather. I ran along the waterfront and, even though it was a bit hard, it was an enjoyable run and I was really pleased to be back on track.

Having already run, I didn’t need to do a Tuesday run but headed to the first night of ‘Run Club’ instead which was actually more enjoyable than I thought, particularly because my friends were there. I’ve been thinking I should do some strength work for a while so this was a chance to try that out. I feel like the soreness I had over the next few days was a sign that those were muscles I clearly needed to work on!

Thursday’s run was with a friend out at the You Yangs – another gorgeous day and a perfect run, not measured in speed but in smiles. We did our favourite 5km circuit up the Saddleback and even managed to spot some goats up on the hills. Perfect.

Saturday was parkrun plus and hubby and I travelled to visit family in Bendigo, playing parkrun tourists at the same time. I took it easy but still managed to beat my previous time on the course by a couple of minutes. Bendigo parkrun is a pretty 2 lap-ish course around Kennington Reservoir with a couple of unexpected inclines to keep it interesting. We then set off for another 4km walk around the neighbourhood to make up the distance.

Today’s long run had been playing on my mind all week – my longest run to date at 24km. I was happy to not be doing it around home as I needed somewhere unfamiliar so I’d found a rail trail starting in Bendigo. Flat, appropriately long and completely unknown territory for me. Husband dropped me off at Lake Weeroona this morning and it was time to begin.

The O’Keefe rail trail runs from Bendigo to Heathcote however I would be running as far as Axedale today. Once I’d left Lake Weeroona and headed north, it was very easy to find the turn off and the signage after that was perfect – no chance of getting lost. The entry to the trail is quite quirky – you run under the brick railway bridge before emerging onto the trail which is bordered by industrial parts of town. Before long, you’re heading out into farmland and then on to a nature reserve. The trail was gravel so nice and soft on the soles of my feet. I had expected to see quite a few people out enjoying the trail as it was a gorgeous day but there were only a few cyclists and walkers.

As usual, it was a constant mental struggle on this one. It’s very hard to distract yourself early on from the length of time you’ll be out there and, as much as I tried, the total distance kept haunting me. In fact, my mind gave in to tiredness long before my body did and I walked a fair bit from 15km, albeit a very fast walk. ‘As long as I keep ahead of the balloon ladies’ was my mantra and I certainly did that. I had no bodily aches and pains and my nutrition and hydration were spot on. My only real problem today was a blister under one of my toes which started for no apparent reason at about halfway.

Another week done and I’m really pleased to have this long run behind me – it certainly loomed as an obstacle to get over. The next long run will be mostly covered by Melbourne half marathon in 2 weeks time so isn’t as daunting, despite requiring 27km. And, while the thought of running a marathon still feels impossible at the moment, I’m pleased to note that I’ve covered 2 of the event distances this weekend, back to back so at least the early part of the challenge is looking doable. Shall just have to trust the training will get me through the rest of it.

Weekly summary

Monday: 5.3km (45:40)

Tuesday: 30 minute run club

Thursday: 5km (52:37)

Saturday: 9.3km (1:22:17)

Sunday: 24.1km (3:42:28)

Dopey training – week 13

It feels wrong to call this week ‘training’ as there was none of that actually going on. Yes, none. I didn’t run at all. Allow me to elaborate.

I started the week suffering from end-of-term-itis, a very serious condition known to teachers all over the world where you have no energy and no drive to do anything and all you can focus on is getting to the end of the week and the glorious, glittering holidays. That, combined with School Council on Tuesday night, meant my first run of the week was already getting pushed back.

Then I didn’t go out and do one on Wednesday either – ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ I thought to myself. Thursday came and I was struck down with some combination of mystery germs that have been circulating around my classroom for weeks. I was in bed by 6pm and there was no way I was going to even go for a walk, let alone a run. I dragged myself through school on Friday, returning to my bed as soon as I got home.

I volunteered at our parkrun first birthday on Saturday and, had I not been volunteering, would have had another day in bed – running was definitely still not a possibility.

Sunday was the first day I was possibly capable of a run but mentally wasn’t up to it. And there’s the irony – those days when you’re mentally least able to drag yourself out the door are the days your mood most needs it. But it wasn’t to be. Instead, I spent the day haunted by all the thoughts that come when you can’t/don’t run – what if I’ve lost my fitness? What if I can’t get back into it? Why would I want to put myself through it anyway? What if all of this is a waste and I can’t finish the marathon?

Thankfully today is a new day and the start of a new training week. I’m happy to have written last week off and got the rest in that I so clearly needed. I knew I had to get out there today, just to ‘get back on the horse’ so to speak, even though I knew the horse would probably kick me in the attempt. It is here that I have to pause to thank 2 of my fabulous friends who helped me more than they can know. I was getting ready to go out, feeling very apprehensive and not at all up to tackling this when I got 2 messages from friends in quite quick succession, just checking in. It was exactly what I needed – knowing that I’m not alone in all of this and only have to whisper ‘help’ in their general direction for it to be forthcoming. And so, I ran. I won’t say this morning’s run was pretty but it was done and I couldn’t ask for more than that.

Dopey training – week 12

Training ramped up a notch this week with the addition of 1 more session – a Saturday walk. Not too taxing but a reminder that it is getting serious. As it should – this week also flipped our countdown down to double digits until we take off. Definitely getting real.

My backdrop for a lovely run around the neighbourhood after work #running #runhappy

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Tuesday’s run was an easy lap of the neighbourhood block made even easier by the fact that it wasn’t freezing and was still light when I got home from work. Bonuses all round.

Thursday was hill day and I took my friend back up the Saddle. She did brilliantly and we were lots faster than last time. It was a stunning afternoon in the You Yangs – perfect Spring weather and exactly the run I needed at the end of the week.

Saturday was parkrun or, rather, parkwalk plus a bit extra to make up the required mileage. I really like that I can walk these although take them seriously and am still aiming to keep my pace ahead of the virtual balloon ladies. I managed that very successfully yesterday, as well as having a great chat with another running friend I don’t catch up with very often.

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Today was long run day and I have been looking forward to it all week. I got my stuff ready last night and was in bed by 7.30pm, just wanting the night to hurry up and be over so I could go. The forecast was great and I headed out to my favourite trail for a few hours of zen time – gravel and soft stuff underfoot, waves crashing just to the edge of my vision and surrounded by nature bursting with Spring-ness – idyllic. The hardest part was knowing it was a run of superlatives – my longest solo run, my longest training run, the furthest I’ve been in one hit on the Surf Coast trail, my biggest total kms for the week. I think all of that messed with my head a bit in the first kilometre and I found my breathing was hard, more because of rising panic than pushing it too hard. I reminded myself that kms on legs were all that mattered today and that I could walk it all if I wanted. And I took some time to enjoy the scenery and the weather, all of which brought tears to my eyes – there was absolutely nothing else I could imagine doing at that moment that would bring me as much happiness as this. So I just got on with it.

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It was a great run. I saw a few other people – enough to feel like I was safe but not enough to bother me. Ironbark basin is unfamiliar enough to keep me distracted as I wasn’t quite sure what I’d find around each corner. What I found was more and more beauty – I really am lucky to live where I do and have this in my backyard. None of it was that hard today – all body parts were playing nicely and nothing hurt. No (obvious) chafing (haven’t yet done the shower test!), my feet felt great and my left leg was not alerting me to any new or old niggles. The most annoying thing was that I got back to car having only done 20.6km so I had to do some little circuits to stretch it out to 21.1km. So proud of myself for getting it done. I celebrated with burgers with friends in town after their half marathon efforts at Cross Country Club.

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And there’s another week done. 38.6km this week, 6 hours worth of running. Wow.

Weekly summary:

Tuesday – 5.6km (46:10)
Thursday – 5.3km (55:40)
Saturday – 6.5km (63:11)
Sunday – 21.1km (3:15:44)