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!

training. the stuff that happens in between events.

I haven’t blogged as much this year and I think that comes down to the fact that I’m not doing as many events. This is a conscious decision – I had an absolute ball last year but the cost, both financial and in time, of doing so many events was unsustainable so I’ve cut back to some key, bigger ones.

As a result, I don’t blog as much. But I am running, more than ever in fact. Before Melbourne half marathon last year, I set up and followed a training plan on ‘My Asics‘ and am currently doing the same in preparation for the Great Ocean Road half marathon. I’m running 3 times a week with distances between 7km and 17km. And, so far, I’ve stuck to the plan.

It’s interesting to think that part of the reason I ran so many events last year was also because I wasn’t sure I could do the long runs without the motivation of a crowd, a starter’s gun and some bling at the end. Then I discovered I could. It really is more of a mental thing than a physical one. If you can get yourself to the start of a long run, you’ll make it to the finish. The start is the hardest part – getting out the door, overcoming internal struggles and doubts, being mentally ready to run for a long time. Once I’ve hit start on my Garmin, not finishing is not an option.

And so, the training continues. I won’t blog about it much but know that it’s happening anyway. These are the hardest kilometres – the ones run in the dark, the wet, when I don’t feel like it, when I’m tired after a long day at work. They’re also the best ones – feeling myself getting a little bit stronger and little bit faster, knowing that they’re all building up to a big event, feeling mentally strong through making a commitment and sticking to it. And knowing that, without all of these kilometres, running the half marathon (or the marathon next year) won’t be possible. This is where the real work happens – those events are just my victory lap.

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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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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?