Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Magical Running


There are some runs that you just want to last forever. And when they are over you wish you could bottle the essence of them to be used on those low motivational or low energy days. They are the ones that happen when you least expect them and are over almost before you realize how magical they are! I experienced one of those runs the other day. The funny thing is that the run almost didn't happen.


I live in a part of the US where it seldom snows during winter. Maybe every four years, but there is often not enough snow that sticks to offer the white blanketing. There have been some freakish weather patterns of late, and low and behold snow was on the cards and four inches and a terrible storm was predicted. It did snow on and off, but no white blanketing in the area where I live. The Saturday Club run was still going ahead the next morning – 10 miles – so I googled the weather. Outlook was cold, cold cold! 25 – 29F!

It would have been so easy to not set an alarm. Once set it would have been so easy to switch it off, roll over and go back to sleep. I am unsure how I managed to get up at 5am on that freezing Saturday morning, but I did. I double checked the weather, and then re-read the clothing guide for running in cold weather. Deciding not make the common rookie mistake of overheating, I decided to keep it light with my new 2XU full length running tights and a t-shirt under my winter running fleece. Gloves, ear warmers and a beanie for good measure. I was ready. Since we were running 10 miles, I filled four of the bottles in my fuel belt – just because it was cold didn't mean that hydration wouldn't be an issue.

I headed outside the house to find that the door was frozen on the car. A few jugs of warm water later I was able to get the door open and clear the ice of the windscreen. Brrrr, it was cold!! Drove to the meeting point and waited patiently in the heated car. Other cars joined mine in the lot and slowly we go out of the car to be briefed on the route. 27F and there were around ten girls out in all – no boys, where were they all?

We kicked off the run and it didn't take long for me to warm up and feel comfortable in the temperature. When someone's Garmin beeped the first mile I looked at my watch for the first and last time of the run – 10.38. I ran with two of the faster girls for the first mile and a half and we caught up on race gossip and exchanged news. After that I sort of just pulled away and kept running taking in the morning and the cold weather. By the fourth mile I had lost visual completely with the other runners. I kept waiting for the coach to cycle up for a chat. He never did and in a way I was sort of glad as the run was magical.

From the fourth mile the course traversed some beautiful forested areas that included serene still ponds iced around the outer edges with motionless mist atop. All of a sudden I became lost in that moment. Although I continued running I felt as though I was floating above the road. My senses were sharpened by the silence of the morning and the fragrance of the trees. My footfall served as my only companion as I passed through the streets.

I conducted a mental check of my vitals – all limbs appeared to be intact. I could feel the cold through my body but it was minimal and seemed secondary to the thrill of the run. Six miles quickly passed and I felt completely energized. I took some water to find that the water was ice cold. Hardly surprising since the sun had barely come out and it was only 27F. By the eighth mile the water in my bottles froze over and I couldn't sip it through the water spout. Nine miles and then ten – no fatigue, no aches and no pains. Heading up the crest of the hill to the finish I look down at my watch for the second time during the run and click the stop button at 1.38.34. Average pace over the mileage being 9.33 min per mile and only 3 seconds off my PR at the 10 for Texas!

I waited around in the cold for a few minutes waiting for the other runners to come in. My butt felt numb and the temperature had not yet risen. When no one appeared, I headed to the car to start it up and wait for a bit in the heating. After ten minutes I decided to head home to get into the warm house and stretch.

Later reflecting on the run I decided that it was effortless - that it was magical. Who would believe that I headed out in the early hours of the morning – on a weekend - to run 10 miles in sub-freezing temperatures and not only enjoyed it but thought that it was effortless? And to run an easy 1hr38min? If I could, I would bottle the essence of that magical run and sprinkle a little bit on my shoes every time I head out!!

(Photo: Misty Pond by Simone Wunderlich)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thanksgiving 5mi Run Thru the Woods

It was a chilly morning in Texas on Thanksgiving. We got up early to head to the event as I had been able to pick up two of the race packets needed. Registering my 2 year old for the Kid's 1 mile event was a last minute decision. The 6 year old was primed and ready for his 1 mile, as I was for the 5 mile.

Over 5,000 people had registered for the run and walk. The first event was the kids' race and I barely had enough time to walk around the traffic island with the stroller and our cold weather gear to the finish line before the first runners were returning. Wow! Some of these kids were fast!! The 6 year old finished with an awesome time of 11.34 min. This was his first "race" ever. If I was to ask him what he would put in his race report he would probably say "I ran really really fast, then got puffed and sat down for a while. Then I saw some kids I knew from school and we ran to the finish line together!" His conclusion would be "The medal is really cool and I loved the pancake breakfast afterwards!"

The coordinators had started calling for the 5 mile runners to start lining up and I was still standing at the finish line wondering where my husband and the 2 year old were. The finish line photographers had long gone and I was starting to get worried. I was worried that something had happened to them. I was also concerned that I was going to miss the start of the 5 mile race – there were still some competitors on the track and it looked like they were going ahead with the start. I started stripping down the layers in preparation for a quick transition from the finish line around to the starting line. Just as I was thinking that I would have to throw in the towel, the 2 year old rounded the corner being carried by dad. He saw me at the finish line and got down and ran / walked it in to finish in a respectable 24 min!! (Apparently he was having fun on the course and then took a tumble. Getting a bit sooky, dad had to carry him for most of the way)

I didn't waste a second. After ensuring that dad and the kids were reunited I took off to make it to the start line (the final call had already been made). I ducked under some barricades and took a bit of an illegal short cut through some brush to end up in the starting line mix - just in time for the Star Spangled Banner. Excellent!

Mile 1 – 8.34

Mile 2 – 8.01

Mile 3 – 8.32

Mile 4 – 8.43

Mile 5 – not sure of lap time (watch malfunction), overall chip time 43.34 min

It was an awesome race. It also was an awesome time for me – PR!! I tried hard to keep it slow and steady in the first mile and then to sustain the 8.30 pace. I lost that a bit in the final mile as we headed up and over the Interstate (hills, ahhhh). Picked up the pace in the final quarter of the mile, but it just wasn't enough to get it down below the 43 minute mark. Overall I placed 863rd, and was 26th (out of 162) in my age group!

We went home and everyone except for me headed to bed for a nap… tidied the house, prepped the veggies and cooked the turkey! It was an awesome Thanksgiving!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Training Schedule

Monday 30 November – Easy Run: 4 miles @ 9.35

Tuesday 1 December – Cross Training

Wednesday 2 December – 5 mile Tempo Run: 3 miles @ 8.20

Thursday 3 December – Easy Run: 4 miles @ 9.35

Friday 4 December – Rest

Saturday 5 December – Long Run: 10 miles @ 9.50

Sunday 6 December – Rest

Monday 7 December – Easy Run: 5 miles @ 9.35

Tuesday 8 December – Rest

Wednesday 9 December – Speedwork: 5 miles with 2 x 1600m @ 7.50, 800m jogs between

Thursday 10 December – Easy Run: 5 miles @ 9.35

Friday 11 December – Rest

Saturday 12 December – Long Run: 10 miles @ 9.50

Sunday 13 December – Rest

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rock n Roll San Antonio: Pace Matrix

You can see the splits I took on my watch (thus not necessarily accurate) during the race below. I have also added in the splits that were sent to me post race for the 5km, 15km and 6.1mi marks.

Mile 1

8.21

8.21

Mile 2

8.52

17.13

Oh – it is HOT!

Mile 3

9.03

26.17

5 km

27.16

Wahoo – first 5km down, three to go!

Mile 4

9.24

35.41

Mile 5

10.14

45.55

Hmmm I noted here that it took me just over 1 min to get out of a water station! Insane!

Mile 6

9.10

55.06

This was an awesome mile and I felt strong and fast and pulled some stupid antics for the photographers J (I will post when they send)

Mile 6.1

56.21

Mile 7

9.45

1.04.52

Total bottleneck - forced to a pace barely resembling a jog as road thins and crowds encroach. Unable to pass any runners.

Mile 8

9.38

1.14.30

Foot started to ache from running on cambered roads

Mile 9

9.53

1.24.23

This was the last mile that I remained under on my Pacetat! Oh and I walked for 30/40 secs – foot killing.

15 km

1.27.46

Mile 10

10.56

135.20

Took a 40 sec walk break after the 15km mark – leg / foot felt numb

Mile 11

10.24

1.45.45

Slowed to GU

Mile 12

10.20

1.56.05

Yes I walked again for another 45 sec! Why? I just lacked some motivation after another bottle neck as the course went from two lanes down to one

Mile 13

10.41

2.06.57

Yes I am not proud but I walked up part of the hill to the finish line. Who puts a hill at the end, talk about cruel!

Mile 13.1

?

2.08.25

I pressed the wrong buttons on my watch here so was unsure what time I crossed – I thought it to be 2.09.03 – adjusted chip time was sent through to me as 2.07.56

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Training Schedule

Monday 16 November – Rest

Tuesday 17 November - Rest

Wednesday 18 November – Easy Run: 2 – 4 miles

Thursday 19 November – Tempo Run: 6 miles with 4 miles @ 8.30

Friday 20 November - Easy Run: 4 miles @ 9.35

Saturday 21 November – Rest

Sunday 22 November – Easy Run: 9 miles @ 9.35

Monday 23 November – Rest

Tuesday 24 November – Easy Run: 5 miles @ 9.35

Wednesday 25 November – Rest

Thursday 26 November – GE Run thru the Wood 5 Mile Thanksgiving Race

Friday 27 November – Easy Run – 4 miles @ 9.35

Saturday 28 November – Rest

Sunday 29 November – Easy Run: 5 miles @ 9.35

Rock n Roll San Antonio Half Marathon


What an awesome weekend! The family and I packed up Friday afternoon and headed on our four hour road trip to San Antonio. Our Hotel was in town across from the Alamo and only two miles from the race start and one mile from the finish.
My goal for this race had evolved from my intent behind initial registration. I wanted to race San Antonio because I thought it was important to have completed a Half Marathon race prior to the Houston Half Marathon next year where I will be racing against the clock. I wanted to check out the logistics behind running a marathon event – from shuttles, pre-race admin and bag check-in, packet pickup, on-course water stations, post-race recovery … and the list goes on. Also, I wanted to make sure that I could complete the distance and identify that time in the run where I will need to dig deep to fight the mental madness brain games. My time goal for the race was initially set at 2hr15min, but as the training leading up to this event was progressing very well I thought that I could run an easy 2hr05min.

Race morning didn't start out all that well for me with minimal sleep and stomach (gastro) problems. I got up super early and waited in the lobby of the hotel for the marathon breakfast and for some other competitors to walk across to the shuttle bus with. I would have loved to have had a coffee and a bagel, but my stomach couldn't handle much so I stuck with plain water. The weather at 4.30am was warm enough to be outside in shorts and a tank shirt – a sign that it was going to be a warm day! The sun hadn't even surfaced and it was hot and humid. At least this had solved my issue of what to wear or how to dress for the event had it been in the 30's or 40's. As it was by 7.30 am it was around 66F with 97% humidity! The humidity stayed constant for the duration of the race, and the temperature rose to a sticky 79F!
Three hours, numerous visits to the port-a-loo, two bottles of water and half a bottle of cytomax later it was time to line up in the race corrals. Mine was Corral 12, kicking off 20 minutes after the initial gun. I debated long and hard whether to GU pre-race as I didn't want to tempt fate or my stomach. I decided that I would tempt fate mainly because I hadn't eaten anything all morning. So, 15 minutes prior to Corral 12's actual start I slowly and carefully consumed a Vanilla GU.

The gun rang out and I ran, and ran, and ran. I know I might have started out a bit fast – it is a bad habit of mine. I think I do it to find my place and then settle at a pace. The first mile and a half was HOT and I noted the sweat dripping down my face. After my breathing settled down and I fell into a rough 9.10 pace I felt like I was cruising. The crowds were amazing. What disappointed me was some of the bands were not playing when I ran past, I had hoped to be entertained throughout the run and to hear a constant stream of music. This was not the case. Also by Mile 5 the water points became a war zone. Regardless whether you wanted to stop (or slow) for water you were sucked into the vortex and became a casualty of the stampede. At one water point I noted that it took me 1min20sec to break free – this was even though I kept to the centre of the road. At another water point I was pushed by a lady wanting to get in and out quicker than etiquette was allowing. This shocked me as it wasn't accidental.


Mile 6 came and went and I was on top of the world. A nice 9.10 pace for that mile and I strongly felt that it was not too fast nor too slow. Then the race took a turn for the worse as some of the areas went from four lanes of road running down to a tight one. Crowds piled over the sidewalks making it hard to run the outer edge of the road to pass the slowing competitors. At one turn there were barricades and police holding back the crowds, but it was still only a single lane and all of the runners were forced to run the pace of the slowest man as it was both impossible and dangerous to pass or build up any speed. After the first time this occured I found motivation and happiness in spying the Australian flag waving proudly from the sidelines. I put out the call "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!" and was answered "Oi! Oi! Oi!" No such luck for future bottlenecks and the meddlesome mind games started to kick in, telling me I was tired and that my foot was hurting and that this is stupid because there are too many people on the road.

The sun came out and made it even hotter. Mile 10 was a struggle to keep focused. By this point I had moved above my race pace. I consoled myself saying that this was OK, I could still bring it home. I could still finish the last few miles at a 9.20 pace. I still had the legs to run that or faster. But, I didn't. I couldn't. And at 12.8 miles I walked. Who puts a hill as the finish line, seriously? I had picked up pace for that final mile and was happy that I would finish under 2hr10mins and fairly close to the 2hr5min mark until I saw it… felt it. Against all the encouragement from the finish line spectators I walked until the 13 mile marker at the top of the hill and then ran to the finish line. The heat, the legs, the head – they couldn't sustain that pace up the hill and everything just switched off. It may have only been a slight rise or it could have been a steep incline – at that point it might as well have been Mt Everest. My mind consoled me that I had achieved everything I needed to out of this race, why endure further pain. The body reluctantly listened and agreed.

2.08.25!! I pressed the wrong button here on my watch. Adjusted chip time sent through to me was 2.07.56

My hat is off to all the volunteers who made this event possible. All that I encountered were very helpful My hat is off to all the volunteers who made this event possible. All that I encountered were very helpful and cheerful!! Also a big thanks to my family who made the road trip to San Antonio with me and hung out at Mile 12 to cheer me on!! Overall I had a great weekend and am happy with my run! I may not have achieved running a 2hr05min but I came in strong under the 2hr15min mark which was my initial goal! For me now it is to take away the lessons learnt from the race and continue with my training (speed work this week – no rest for the wicked). Houston – I am ready!

Question for readers and marathon veterans – is the water point war zone a common occurrence during marathon events?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Training Schedule

Monday 9 November - Rest

Tuesday 10 November - Easy Run 3 miles @ 9.35

Wednesday 11 November - Easy Run 3 miles @ 9.35

Thursday 12 November - Easy Run 3 miles @ 9.45

Friday 13 November - Rest

Saturday 14 November - Rest

Sunday 15 November - San Antonio Rock n Roll Half Marathon

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Random thoughts while running


Things I think about when I run. I am reading Haruki Murakami's book titled What I Talk About When I Talk About Running at the moment. A few chapters in and I am enjoying his thoughts and stories. But enough about him and the book - I will post a review when I am finished. J

I don't run with an IPod. I prefer the solitude of the run. I enjoy hearing the squirrels getting angry with me when I force them to scamper to a nearby tree. This is a regular occurrence on my runs and I don't know why they haven't worked out that I am not a threat to them. Just a random runner on the path. One minute I am there, the next I am gone. I enjoy hearing the rustling of the trees. Sometimes it is a friendly companion on the runs but other times it can startle and I wonder what animal is hiding in the forested areas. I hope that they too realize that I am not a threat.

I spend my times on the run doing one of two things; thinking about the run or just thoughts of randomness. Of late I have added a lot of speed work to my program so my thoughts have been generally turning to technical running aspects: Am I hitting the right pace? Is my form correct? Can I maintain this over multiple miles? Damn, I need to maintain this speed over multiple miles. When will this run finish?

I must admit I prefer the other type of runs. The mind wanders aimlessly and jumps from topic to topic as only a woman's mind can. I recollect conversations I have had with friends; reminisce about some of the amazing trips I have been on; brainstorm small business plans and ideas. Sometimes I chastise myself for giving up running two decades ago. I recount books recently read about running and its ability to offer freedom and peace of mind.

Regardless of the topic, generally the thoughts are random. But somehow issues are resolved and ideas are filed away for later. Time spent running - time spent thinking, or un-thinking - letting go. Randomness.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Training Schedule

Monday 26 October - Rest

Tuesday 27 October - Easy Run: 5 miles @ 9.45

Wednesday 28 October - Cross Training

Thursday 29 October - Easy Run: 5 miles @ 9.45

Friday 30 October - Easy Run: 5 miles @ 9.45

Saturday 31 October - Rest

Sunday 1 November – Long Run 12 miles

Monday 2 November - Rest

Tuesday 3 November - Easy Run: 3 miles @ 9.45

Wednesday 4 November - Cross Training

Thursday 5 November - Speedwork: 7 miles with 3 x 1600m @ 7.38; 800 jogs rest between

Friday 6 November - Easy Run: 3 miles @ 9.45

Saturday 7 November - Rest

Sunday 8 November – Long Run 7 miles

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

10 things I like about …

…. the colder weather, (so far) -

  1. No more runs in sauna like conditions
  2. Endurance seems to have lengthened
  3. Running clothes aren't drenched in sweat
  4. Speed is something that can now be considered
  5. No more pools of sweat on the tiles in the office or kitchen
  6. Mosquito's are less of an issue
  7. No need to head out the door first thing in the morning, runs can happen at any time of the day
  8. Water doesn't need to be carried on runs 4 miles or less
  9. Weekend long runs are pleasant with plenty of company on the tracks
  10. Sunglasses don't fog up as much

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Training Schedule

Monday 19 October - Rest

Tuesday 20 October - Easy Run: 4 miles @ 9.45

Wednesday 21 October - Cross Training

Thursday 22 October - Speedwork: 5 mile Tempo Run with 3 mi @8.15

Friday 23 October - Easy Run: 3 miles @ 9.45

Saturday 24 October - Rest

Sunday 25 October – Long Run 10 miles

Monday, October 12, 2009

Training Schedule

Monday 12 October - Rest

Tuesday 13 October - Easy Run: 4 miles @ 9.45

Wednesday 14 October - Cross Training

Thursday 15 October - Speedwork: 5 mile total with 2 x 1600 in 7.45 with 800 jogs in between

Friday 16 October - Easy Run: 3 miles @ 9.45

Saturday 17 October - Rest

Sunday 18 October - 9 miles

Saturday, October 10, 2009

10 for Texas



Lucky 888!! Three fat ladies! Three naked snowmen! Kill Bill's Crazy 88's plus an 8! The funny thing is that the registration number on my car is 888 as well. My car is overdue for a service and this morning heading out into the 50F freezing cold, I felt that I too needed a quick oil change and spark plug replacement.


Race Overview: It was cold! I had hoped for cooler weather however this was a little too cold for my liking. To put this statement into perspective, I don't often celebrate winter or autumn - I am an Australian surf chick who has spent the last three years in Dubai existing comfortably while sunning my reptilian blood on the beach. The cold and the lack of sleep (youngest waking at 12.30am and 3.15am) had me wanting for coffee pre-race, but the long lines at the two female toilets convinced me otherwise.

The start point for the race was quite narrow at one car lane. My club members and I headed to the middle of the pack to keep warm and ensure that we didn't get in the way of the 6 minute milers. We crossed the line around one minute after the official start. After the initial position juggling the course cleared around the 1.5 mile mark. The first 2 miles couldn't come quick enough as I was parched and needed water desperately. Also needed to Gu as I was feeling flat and lacked energy, which is funny as the first two miles were completed in 18 mins! My legs felt numb as the muscles I swear were still frozen from being out in the cold. The pace between the 2 and 4 mile mark dropped to around 9.45 as I waited for the Gu to kick in. Hit the half way mark (5 miles) crossing the course clock at 47 mins. Started to flat line again at the 7 mile mark, however there was no water and had to wait until 8 miles for my Gu as I was not keen to Gu without it. I found that I was so thirsty throughout the race and I stopped at every aid station to drink some water.

I was meant to 'kick it' and pick up the pace at 9 miles. At 9.2 miles I had to stop and walk for a bit as I thought I was going to throw up – my legs felt fine but my head was hurting slightly and although I had just had some water at the 9 mile point I was completely parched. I came into the parking lot with less 400 metres to the finish and the crowd was out cheering everyone on and yelling for us to 'dig deep' and finish the race off strongly. I felt like hitting them. With 200 metres to go however I picked up my pace, went all out and sprinted to the end. Seriously, I have not moved that fast in 20 yrs!

Official time was 1:34:46 resulting in an average pace of 9.28. A personal best for the distance!


Thoughts: The time surpassed what I thought I was capable of which is awesome considering how tired and unwell I felt before and during the race. Going into my first real winter in years and with races and goals on the horizon, I really need to think how I can adapt and make this work. When I served in the military one of my favorite quotes was that of the infantry, whose role is "to close with the enemy, to kill or capture him … regardless of season, weather or terrain". I think I need to acclimatize to make this body an all wheel all terrain vehicle! Also, atypical race conditions, feeling unwell or not up to par isn't a reason to not compete as sometimes through adversity the most amazing things occur.

As we left the event in my triple 8 car a light came on indicating that the tyre pressure was not right and although we stopped to rectify it the light failed to dull. Post-race I think that this is a sign – my car is sending me a message that with a bit of tweaking and a minor service I'll be able to drive (run) off into the sunset stronger and faster than I have before. Here's hoping anyway!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The day before the 10 miler




Tomorrow is the 10 for Texas! A ten mile run through The Woodlands (north of Houston), Texas. I have picked up my race packet and was happy to find that my race number is 888. This number doesn't really hold any significance for me, but I just thought that it was a fun looking and sounding number.

Last week I was very excited about this race. It marks the first event that I will have participated in since I started running again five months ago. Over the past week however, I have flown to Australia for my school reunion and back. While I was abroad (and drinking a few ales with friends each night) my kids got sick with Type A flu – the eldest being treated for the H1N1. The day before the race and I am still tired from the flights and from late nights with sick children. I had hoped to get a slow five or six miler under my belt this week prior to the race but was unable to fit one in as the kids were home from school. I feel generally run down.

The race! It looks like it will be raining tomorrow morning. This is good and bad. If it is raining or about to rain it means that it will be pretty cool. If the sun is out tomorrow it means that it will be rather hot and humid. Although I don't want to run in the rain, I would much prefer running in the cooler weather! Based on how I am feeling at the moment, I am hoping to finish the race around the 1 hour 40 minute mark.






Friday, September 25, 2009

Born to Run



"A hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen"


Thought provoking – Entertaining – Motivating – A must read for runners and non-runners alike!


Once I started reading this book I could not put it down. It has been a while since I have sacrificed night time TV watching for a book, but this one became an addiction. I devoured it in two days and was raving about it non-stop afterwards.


I must admit that after reading the first few chapters I was questioning whether this was a fictional book. I am not that familiar with the ins and outs and personalities within US running circles. This coupled with high tales of the Tarahumaran Indians and a reclusive gringo gone grunge in the deadly Copper Canyons going by the name of Caballo Blanco just threw me for a six. As I eased into the story however I realized that what the author Christopher McDougall was doing was representing every character and their story. If something didn't make sense, it wasn't meant to as there more was to come and loose ends would be tied when they needed to be. He did an outstanding job of not only weaving a magnificent tale but also intertwining tidbits and findings about running science, history and anthropology.


For the reader each character comes alive and you empathize and sympathize with them during their part of the journey. You also begin to question everything that you think you know about running that has been fed to you by the big brand names. Do I need stabilizing shoes to minimize injury or does the shoe in fact cause the injuries? Will running over twenty miles kill my joints or will it set me free?


This book has also been the catalyst for a miracle… my husband has started to run and has been enjoying it. Now, he hasn't read the book (yet) but he has spent a few hours on and off with me discussing a lot of the pertinent issues and findings brought up in the book. I think the enthusiasm and excitement I displayed along with the gleam in my eye as I shared this tale convinced him (or at least tweaked his curiosity) that there was some sense behind running.


This book has inspired me to believe that I was in fact born to run. Oh – and that I want a pair of Vibram Five Fingers (or the like) for Christmas (please Santa).

Changing gears

This week is going to signal the end of my first training phase – 0 to 10 miles in four and a half months (one of those was taken off for injury). I have improved my times consistently over the longer distances from 13 minute miles down to 10 minutes. To date I have basically been following the training guidelines of our running club coach and president – long runs on Saturdays increasing the distance by a mile every two weeks, and running three shorter runs during the week. The program is not much different than those that can be found in the non-runner training books (I have two). So, with some additional reading of various books, magazines and websites I have found a suitable training program to train for the Chevron Houston half marathon being run in January.

Half marathon I hear you say? Yes – it is part of the plan (fingers crossed) to pre-qualify by time for the New York marathon. That is the plan, the goal, but with a disclaimer. The disclaimer reads something like this: if I don't prequalify on time I won't be disappointed. I am more than happy to run for one of the many outstanding charity organization that are out there. In fact, even if I do prequalify I am still thinking I may ask to represent one of those organizations. But, we will see. I think that decision will be made post Houston half marathon.

The new program. It is more intensive, aggressive and a lot smarter. To date I have been running between 18 to 23 miles per week over my four running days. This program incorporates speed work and tempo runs dictating set times and distances. The program is 14 weeks long and will aim to bring me down from a 10 min mile to a consistent 7.58 minute mile over the 13.1 mile half marathon distance. Total weekly distance times won't change that dramatically, as I said previously this program is going to focus on aggressive training with lots of speed work. Cross training will still consist of weight sessions and I am going to add swimming. To assist in recovery I am hoping to include either a weekly or bi-monthly massage to help minimize any injuries.

This is very exciting!! As per usual I will post the weekly schedules on the site and write up post-workout comments in my Daily Mile training log. The program change will take effect from 11 October after a quick trip to Australia and the 10 mile for Texas race. I am totally psyched!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An ice bath to (not) remember…

Over the last week several people that I either know or correspond with have been using an ice bath to aid with their recovery. Ice baths can be an effective way to offset any damage done during a long run by constricting blood vessels and decreasing cellular activity thus resulting in the reduction of tissue breakdown and swelling. Some studies have suggested that there is no difference between having an ice bath or having a bath in tepid water. I bring this up because when it comes voluntarily subjecting parts of my body to frigid water or ice … well, I just can do it. Not voluntary anyway!! It is … just … too … cold!!

The recent raves about ice baths have had me cringing and turning up my nose. Then I remembered something, I have been subjected to something similar to an ice bath before and it was SO not fun.

Eight or so years ago I was living and studying in Paris when a French aid organization offered me a job in Afghanistan. I hadn't been in Kabul for more than a week when I unknowingly consumed some contaminated water. I was on a trip to Charikar, a small town north of Kabul with a colleague. He provided me with bottled water. It looked like bottled water, tasted like bottled water; my colleague even confirmed that it was safe to drink. Well, it turned out that the so called bottled water was contaminated and it wasn't long before the nasty side affects reared their ugly head.

I spent the morning multi-tasking: viewing the attractions of Charikar whilst throwing up – all while managing to keep my headscarf from falling off. Even though I felt like crap we decided to return to Kabul during daylight when it was safe to drive on the road. I spent the entire trip throwing up out the rear window. The Afghan driver must have felt bad for me as he offered me his water and the few squares of toilet paper that he had to clean myself up between bouts of vomit. We made it back to Kabul prior to lunch, which was a lucky thing for me. I was dropped off to my Guest House (residence) where I transitioned from vomiting to simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea. The fluids were leaving my body quicker than I could replace them.

There was a room in my Guest House that resembled a lounge room, however instead of chairs and sofas it was filled with deep purple floor cushions. I had crawled from the bathroom into this room and was sprawled across some cushions when my French colleagues started arriving for lunch. I was still conscious, but barely and called to one of the fellows and told him that if I was still lying there in this state after they finished lunch to take me to a hospital. It was probably lucky I did that as they more than likely would have carried on about their business after lunch not really paying any attention to an Australian chick passed out on the cushions.

Lunch finished and by that stage I was barely conscious. A group of my French colleagues bundled me into a local taxi along with one of the trusted Afghan security guards – armed with a VHF radio , no French and limited English – and headed to a hospital. I don't remember much of this other than being carried into a building lined with hard stainless steel tables and a turban wearing male making his way towards us. Then there was a bit of a ruckus between my colleagues and the Afghan hospital staff. Next thing I realize is that I am again being bundled into a local taxi. I passed out and came to as one of the girls I worked with was arguing with a French ISAF soldier. We had driven to the outskirts of Kabul to the location where the ISAF soldiers were camped. She was trying to get me access to the French military hospital claiming a life or death situation.

Lucky for me it must have been a slow day as for whatever reason they allowed us in. I remember gaining consciousness again finding myself on a field hospital table under a large light surrounded by medical staff in a scene reminiscent of the M.A.S.H TV series. I can't recall how many saline I.V. bags they pumped into me, but it was three or more. Throughout this process I was in and out of consciousness and the next thing I remember was being stripped down to my underwear and placed on a stretcher of ice and wrapped in something similar to a plastic tarpaulin sheet. It was cold and it shocked my system. I remember crying and begging them to get me out. They could have given me some drugs or maybe I passed out again, I can't remember. The next time I woke I was dressed in military pajamas on a hospital stretcher bed.

So that was my ice bath (of sorts). Being subjected to lie on ice and be wrapped in ice. I am glad that I lost consciousness again because the memories I do have of it were not pleasant. It must have done the trick though in reducing my temperature and offsetting any cellular damage. Last weekend after my 9 mile run the plantar fasciitis on my left foot raised its ugly head. I tried to placate it by sticking it in an ice bucket. Do you think I could put my foot in that bucket? Nope! I would plunge it in and pull it immediately out squealing, much to the delight of my two kids. So, my hat is off to all of those runners out there who finish up their training sessions and races with an ice bath. For me – although the benefits would be great - it is … just … too … cold!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Training Schedule

Monday 21 September - Rest

Tuesday 22 September - 4 miles

Wednesday 23 September - cross training - body pump / yoga

Thursday 24 September - 4 miles

Friday 25 September - Rest

Saturday 26 September - 10 miles

Sunday 27 September - Rest

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In the beginning I attempted a trail run…

I recently entered a competition for a pair of Saucony ProGrid Xodus Trail-Running Shoes. The task was to share your favorite trail running story. Here is the article I submitted below – fingers crossed!!!


 

I am sure that these are go-fast shoes! They certainly look it! I could have used these go-fast shoes on my first trail run.

I have only competed in one 5km Trail Run, and should qualify that with a 'so far'. This particular Trail Run was part of a family fun day organized by the YMCA and they also had a 3km walk for those not able or not wanting to run. I signed my husband and kids up for the walk. My youngest at the time was about 18 months old, so he was carried in one of those trekking back carriers.

This race was held at the beginning of summer, and although it was an early start the Texas weather did not disappoint and made sure it was amply hot and humid. Although it had been 10 years since I had done any sort of running I was feeling slyly confident – I used to run 5km comfortably circa 22 minutes. Adding a bit of fudge for not running in a decade would mean that I could finish around the 25 minute mark, right?

The 5km race was to start before the 3km walkers. As the runners were called up to the starting line the air sparked with that electric vibe that you find with most races - oozing excitement, nervousness and impatience. The gun sounded and we were off!! The trail was through horse paddocks and forested areas. There were slow inclines, sharp bends, and twists and turns that could put you in a pond or a mud puddle. It didn't take long for me to realize my unfit state. At first I thought it was because I went out to fast, then it was the inclines, then… it was just me not running in a decade!

Now, the 3km walk kicked off not long after the 5km start with my husband (with baby on back) and my 6 year old son. Their course deviated in parts from the 5km track. Half way through my run I remember seeing my 6 year old running and jumping a puddle on a trail over. I mustered all my energy and called out to him. He waved, smiled and continued along his path. By this time I was totally spent! Instead of getting all worked up and feeling humiliated about it I decided to put one foot in front of the other and concentrate on finishing.

That 5km Trail Run was definitely the longest run of my life, or so it felt. I was certain I was going to collapse as I passed the finish line! As I crossed over I was greeted with cheers from my husband and kids who had somehow managed to finish their walk before I finished my run!!! "Yay Mom – you are a champion!"

This is the race that kicked off my now running passion. I will get up early on a Saturday morning and complete my long prior to returning to a sleeping house. Once the house wakes we breakfast and head out to a local trail (chosen from my 60 hikes within 60 miles of Houston book) and walk, run and be one with nature. I am looking forward to competing in this event next year! And, I plan on running it "Super Fast" (to quote my 6 year old)!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Learning to listen

This week has been a strange week for me. Over the long weekend I ran 13.4 mi in two different runs and was pretty happy with the times. I have been progressively improving my pace times from a 12 min mile a few months back to averaging 10 min miles of late. After these runs I have felt pretty good too. Recovery has been good with no twinges, pains or evidence of any injuries.

On Tuesday morning I was scheduled to run 4 miles but for whatever reason I just didn't feel up to it. Now, I've had these sorts of days before and it is just a matter of getting out the door and then the legs do the rest. But there was something else there. My body was telling me that it wasn't ready to go for a run, it wasn't up to it. Instead of forcing it out the door I decided to listen and take a day off. The same thing happened on Wednesday and once again I listened and took the day off. Yesterday I was feeling good after the rest and decided to go for a run. I hadn't decided how far or long I would run for, but ended up doing 5 miles at a 9.12 min mile pace.

There have been a few colds and coughs going around recently. Something to do with school going back, change of weather - something like that? I have had a few headaches and yesterday I got a cold sore on my lip – something that normally happens when I am run down. So even though I couldn't pin point what was feeling off earlier in the week I am now glad that I listened to my body and took some time off!

I think our bodies are capable of sending us messages or signals informing us if we are doing too much. In June I ignored those signals and paid for it with some overuse injuries that had me out of action for a month. I had to start back pretty much from scratch and was extremely demoralized. Learning to listen was what that experience taught me and it is something that I plan to continue.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Training Schedule

Monday 07 September - 6 miles

Tuesday 08 September - 4 miles

Wednesday 09 September - cross training - body pump / yoga

Thursday 10 September - 5 miles

Friday 11 September - Rest

Saturday 12 September - 9 miles

Sunday 13 September - Rest

Memories of running barefoot

I read a blog post recently by a runner from Austin, Texas about 'barefoot running' in the Vibram Five Fingers (http://www.turtlescanrun.com/running-in-vibram-five-fingers ). I was intrigued and wanted to leave a response but wasn't sure what to say. I haven't seen a pair of Vibram Five Fingers up close and personal, just a few photos here and there on the web. The first time I saw a photo of them was a few months back when a fellow on twitter tweeted his excitement that they had arrived and attached a photo. They are strange looking to say the least!

But, there appears to be a growing trend of runners raving about the benefits of barefoot running – breaking your feet out of the chains (or laces) that are holding them captive in the average stabilizing running sneaker. From what I have read, their design aims to mimic the bare foot and incorporates contours of the arch and foot. It also is meant to strengthen the leg and foot and adds to improvements of balance and agility through the five separate fingers for your toes. Go figure?

Anyway, last week I met a lady from Australia who has recently moved to Texas and for whatever reason being barefoot came up in the conversation. Her comment was that her children didn't believe her when she said that we used to go barefoot to school. I remember looking at her strangely and thinking back to my school experiences and couldn't recollect ever going to school without shoes. I didn't think of it again until I read this blog post. It must have nagged at my subconscious because last night I woke up as though the lights had been turned on and remembered that four years of my high school track days were raced barefoot! And, when we were in primary school we would take our shoes off and spend most of the day barefoot. And not only that – I have vivid memories of running on the bitumen road barefoot – I loved the way my feet would tingle afterwards! I grew up in a small town on a beach – most of my life was spent barefoot!!

Wow! I trained and competed in the 800m, 1500m and 3000m races barefoot. High jump, long jump and hurdles – yep, barefoot. I also competed in some of the cross country events barefoot. The teachers at school used to laugh at me and say I was a young Zola Budd in the making. With all the hype around at the time of people wearing specialized running shoes and the like my preference was to go barefoot. I remember that I did try to run with shoes on occasion, but it just didn't feel right. Most of my training was either on the long open stretches of beach or on the grassed oval, so it didn't really matter. It was in my second last year at school I was competing at the State Championships for the 3000m in an age group up from mine and it all went a bit awry. First of all the track had some sort of rubbery track surfacing that caused blisters to form on my feet – this was nothing new, I could run on bitumen. But more importantly, most of the other runners were wearing spiked track running shoes and one competitor 'spiked' my heel during the race. After this I was resolved to go and buy a pair of addidas running shoes and a pair of my own track spikes for future competitions. But, it never felt right!

All of my fastest times were barefoot. After I left school I joined the Army – so I never ran barefoot again. My feet served 11 years of solitary confinement in khaki boots. They tried to commit suicide on occasions, normally after a 15 km run or a two day route march. It got so bad that on more occasion than not, the skin would try to escape by peeling off with the socks. It has taken me until now to realize that they were protesting about being confined and held in place by leather and laces.

Twenty-five years have passed since people used to laugh at me running barefoot, and I find it now intriguing that someone has designed these shoes to allow you to run 'barefoot'. I look forward to reading more and learning more as to how people are enjoying the experience. For now, I am content with walking a few hundred yards on the hot concrete road daily to collect my mail barefoot… I just love that burning sensation on the bottom of my feet, I find it therapeutic …..

Monday, August 31, 2009

Training Schedule

Monday 31 August - 5 miles

Tuesday 01 September - 4 miles

Wednesday 02 September - 5 miles

Thursday 03 September - Rest

Friday 04 September - 2 miles

Saturday 05 September - 7 miles

Sunday 06 September - Rest

Week total - 23 miles

Saturday, August 29, 2009

GU (featuring the Cat in the Hat)



Hello Cat!


Hello Kirst!


Are you running this race? Can you run at a fast pace?


Yes I am running this race. But, no I cannot run at a fast pace. I burn out and feel the worst.


That is no good Kirst. Do you GU?


GU? Ewww. It looks and smells like glue. GU?


GU makes you fast. With GU you don't come last.


So GU?


Yes GU!


I don't mind if I do. WOW! Who knew that GU was what you were meant to do? GU! GU! I like this GU! Expresso GU makes you fast! Expresso GU stops you from coming last!


Holy Crap!! Oh… Cat?


Yes Kirst?


Cat, what was that? This GU gives me a stomach ache. Oh Cat, why did you make me take? This GU makes me need a loo. Golly gosh what to do? With GU I cannot run fast. With this GU I'm sure I will come last. Who knew that Expresso GU would give you the urge to poo? Make you want to find the loo? Oh Cat, I don't like that! Oh, crap!


Well Kirst, now you feel the worst! Maybe Vanilla GU is right for you. Vanilla GU will make you fast. Vanilla GU makes you run a fast pace. It will help you finish the race. In future Kirst, when you GU, you will know what to do. To stop needing the loo and to stop the urge to poo, when you GU – Vanilla GU is for you!


Thank you Cat.


Thank you Kirst.


Thank you Cat…. for that…

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New routes

I have marked out some new routes as I think I was getting too comfortable with the 4 mile route I have been running. Also as I increase the mileage for the Saturday run I also need to increase some of the weekly ones. It is only 6 weeks until my first race. Although it is only 10 miles I want to be prepared and comfortable with the distance.

The kids have returned to school and this means tighter timings. I suppose I was rather spoilt over summer with the extended time the kids spent in their various camps. There was no rushing to meet any timings for either the drop offs or the pickups. The nursery times for Mstr 2 are pretty unbelievable and I am questioning whether putting him in five days a week was really a good idea. I drop him off at 0815hrs and need to pick him up no later than 1145hrs. The timings and the distance I need to drive to and from the nursery means that I have a few hours to get everything that I need to do done. It also is not a good fit with the post-summer gym schedule. I am hoping that it will only take a short while to get used to.

I am certain that it will all work out. I am excited about the new routes – they are relatively flat so there is potential to maintain a good constant pace.

Training Schedule

First week back to school for the kids, will be a challenging week to fit all of this in!!

Monday 24 August - Rest

Tuesday 25 August - 4 miles

Wednesday 26 August - 5 miles

Thursday 27 August - 5 miles and Body Pump

Friday - 28 August - Rest

Saturday 29 August - 8 miles

Sunday 30 August - Rest

Week total - 22 miles

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Running on the treadmill

Today was the first time I have run on a treadmill. I have used them in the past for warm ups, but mainly walked as I couldn't keep steady enough to run any distance on them. But, with two kids still out of school and no husband around to mind them of an evening I had to bite the bullet and just do it.

One of the benefits of running on a treadmill is that you can complete your workout in air-conditioned comfort. Over summer I have been running in 85F plus heat. It hasn't been fun nor has it been easy. With the treadmill though, I was not only running in air-conditioning but I was positioned under a fan! A down side is that it is rather boring as the view remains the same. For me today it was three people running on a treadmill facing me, three televisions on various channels and a fire extinguisher.

The goal was to run 4 miles. The first 30 minutes flew by as I watched all the flashing lights on the machine telling me how many calories I was burning, how fast I was running and how far I had run. I was impressed at how I could maintain the speed, and therefore my pace per minute. Normally when I run I know I run fast, then slow, then a little in between and so on. Also crossing roads, giving way to traffic and hills add to variance in speed. So running at 6.1 miles per minute – a 09.50 min mile pace – was pretty cool!!

At 3.1 miles I started to struggle a bit – not from the running, but from boredom. I really couldn't keep the motivation up to stay on the treadmill. I kept trying not to look at the mileage and tried to concentrate on the fire extinguisher and the televisions. It was hard, which is probably why I hit the red stop button at 3.92 miles. I think tomorrow when I head to the gym to attempt 5 miles on the treadmill I will need to take my IPod – which will be another first!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Training Schedule

This week will be a hard week to fit training in as my husband is away all week. Some of the runs will be attempted at the gym.... we will see how we go!

Monday 17 August - Rest

Tuesday 18 August - 4 miles

Wednesday 19 August - Cross Training 60-90 mins and 4 miles

Thursday 20 August - 5 miles and Yoga

Friday - 21 August - Rest

Saturday 22 August - 7 miles

Sunday 23 August - Rest

Week total - 20 miles

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Confessions

I have found that I prefer to run on the road when I feel strong, motivated and able. I run on the paths when I want to hide away and not be seen. When I hide I am more prone to negative thoughts and walking.

I have found that I achieve something and feel satisfied if I can get out for a run. If I can't get out I feel miserable, lethargic and unmotivated. I eat chocolate fudge ice-cream topping straight from the container. I eat ovaltine straight from the jar and drink lots of starbucks.

I have found that if I eat breakfast I have enough energy to get me through the morning Body Pump or Combat class. If I don't have breakfast I am tired and cranky and crave junk food. I will eat a Big Mac and drink coke. I will leave the class before it finishes.

I have found that I am more patient with my children if I know I will go for or have been for a run. I will read to them and play with them rather than putting on the TV or a video. Cook healthy meals and take them to the park.

I have found that I have more energy after exercising. I am able to get the jobs done. I am more organized. Otherwise I feel lethargic and watch TV. Eat chocolate and burritos. Go back to bed once the kids are in school.

I have found that I can be a better friend. I have energy to spend on other people.

Running has enabled me to be a happier and healthier person. It has given me a goal and a focus. It has provided me with the energy and motivation to move forward in all aspects of my life.

What has running done for you?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Damn hot!

It is hot in Texas during summer. That may sound like a funny thing to say, especially from someone who loves the heat. I think the weather is quite nice as it hovers between the 85F and 92F mark. I find being cooped up in the air-conditioning with the windows and blinds closed quite depressing … and cold! Of late when I have been sitting in my home office working on the computer I have turned the air-conditioning off so as not to freeze in the 75F controlled climate. I shudder when I think about winter … with snow … thankfully not in Texas!


As much as I love the heat I have discovered that it is not fun to run in. I try to run of an evening before it gets dark out as I am normally tied to the kids and their activities during the day. It is less humid and normally there is a breeze so you don't feel the heat. My youngest has started nursery a few morning a week so I have been able to fit in some mid-morning runs. At this time the humidity is still in the air and the sun is beating down in its full glory. It is muggy and there is not much of a breeze. You don't need to run far or fast before your skin starts shimmering in the sunlight with drops of sweat.


I often see people out running in this heat mid-morning to midday without a water bottle (or hat or sunglasses). What are they thinking? Dehydration itself can lead to fatigue, muscle cramping and the loss of coordination. In this sort of climate heat exhaustion or heat stroke could also be on the cards. Thankfully when I have been out either running or walking the trails, or even in my car driving by I have not seen anyone keel over… yet. I am certain that although some of these people running during the hottest part will be mildly happy about the bronzing effect on their legs and arms, they will not be too happy about the onset of a headache or some cramping mid-afternoon! Never mind, nothing a Tylenol or a glass of wine won't fix!


As I am normally running distance of more than 2 miles, I make sure that I am carrying water with me. I have a trendy little water belt that hangs snugly from my hips and carries up to four 10 oz bottles of water. In this heat you need to continue to hydrate while exercising. Depending on the distance and the time of the day depends on how many bottles I carry on the belt. For example, if I am running a quick 4 mile around the block I will carry two full bottles. If I am running 6 miles with the group I will carry three bottles. Anything over 6 miles and I have four bottles. Yes it can feel heavy during the runs – especially about a third into it… but having the ability to continually rehydrate is much better than risking a dizzy spell and collapsing on the side of the road!


Here is a photo of what my 'fuel belt' looks like – it even has a pouch for me to store keys, a cell phone and some GU (energy gel) if needed!! Initially I was hesitant to use it as I thought I looked like a dofus. Also I thought I would have preferred using a camelback (water strapped on back like a backpack with a straw to drink from) for the ease of drinking. But I am glad that I went with the belt and so far it has worked well for me! The only advice I will give is to ensure that you wash the bottles after each run as they can get stinky. And, if you do wash them with detergent, ensure that you get all the detergent out of the bottles. Let me tell you from experience that sucking out the final few drops of water from a bottle after running 7 or 8 miles to find yourself sucking up detergent bubbles is not fun and rather disgusting!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Training Schedule

Sunday 9 August - Rest

Monday 10 August - 4 miles and Body Pump

Tuesday 11 August - 3 miles

Wednesday 12 August - Cross Training 60-90 mins

Thursday 13 August - 4 miles and Yoga

Friday 14 August - Rest

Saturday 15 August - 8 miles

Total for Week - 19 miles

Cultural Lessons

Once upon a time I was just a girl living on the Coast of Australia. Apart from my school uniform you would be hard pressed to find me in attire other than baggy shorts and an oversized surf shirt. When I grew up, got a job and left home I joined the military. Khaki became the dress of the day. During down time I could still be found in my baggy shorts and an oversized shirt. As time passed, I graduated to jeans and a few skirts and tops to wear out to dinners and parties. But that was it. My wardrobe with uniforms would take up two feet of hanging space.

When I left the military I trekked a bit around Europe and ended up working for some humanitarian organizations in Afghanistan. Living out of a backpack I still had my shorts, jeans and a few shirts. People who know me still laugh about my 'Afghan uniform' that I wore. From memory I had three long sleeve long shirts that I inherited upon arrival in Kabul, khaki oversized long pants and some beige long pants – all with a beige Afghan headscarf. I had been out of the military for a bit by then and Europe had taught me a trick or too about being girlish, so I would wear some basic makeup comprising of eyeliner and mascara and put my hair in pigtails. The pigtails were kept hidden under the headscarf and were only seen by those few who came to my office or attended the same UN meetings that I did.

Again years passed by. My wardrobe had grown slightly, but mainly with after hour pieces suitable for a dinner out, a wedding on beach or drinks at the pub. Casual chic – the dress code for those who always looked smart with an effortless flare – was something that totally eluded me until we moved to Dubai …the number one shopping destination of the world. Shops from Australia, the US, Europe and the Middle East were represented. Shopping was tax free and during the regular shopping festivals you could be guaranteed up to 75% of items. With no clean parks or clean free beaches to whittle away the time, I turned to Dubai's national past time to spend time (and money) with friends and family – shop! Three years in Dubai and my wardrobe grew with discounted clothes from Europe and I was content. I had turned into a person who loathed shopping and feared fashion in a shopping connoisseur.

Then we moved to the US. New York? Los Angeles? Washington D.C.? No, we moved and set up house in a nice green community 70 miles from Houston. Houston I hear is lovely – but I don't really know as I have not spent any time there other than one Astros game and a visit to the science museum. Fashion is … different. There are however an abundance of great parks and walking tracks and I credit moving here as to rekindling my relationship with the outdoors and with running. But … one thing I have noticed and picked up on is the emphasis on diet and calories. Initially I found this hilarious as I always see the US as being the birthplace of fast food – fatty fast food, lots of fries and burgers dripping in mayo. So it surprised me that all of the foods advertise the calorie intake per serve and how people actually go out of their way to buy and eat the 100 calorie cookie snack packs, or the 100 calorie sliced bread. It drove me crazy as I had always been brought up to eat healthy; three meals per day with a healthy snack or two and all food in moderation. The rules were fresh fruit and veges, cheese and yogurt, grained breads and pasta, lean meats. Under my rules a Big Mac meal is something that you can have when you want it – as long as it isn't every day! Under my rules I could eat a block of chocolate guilt free!

As I gradually adapted to life in the US diet and lifestyle became bigger and bigger. I found myself reading books that emphasized the importance of you are what you eat. Books such as Skinny Bitch, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, Skinny Chicks Don't Eat Salads, French Women Don't Get Fat. Admittedly I bought and read some of these books for amusement or just for the title. Some of these books were scary – I didn't eat meat for a few days after reading Skinny Bitch, and after reading Skinny Chicks Don't Eat Salads I stopped preparing green salads with dinner (also partly because the kids don't like salads so I was throwing out more lettuce weekly than we were eating). I suddenly realized that without meaning to I had jumped on diet fad band wagon. Without meaning to I was watching my food intake and restricting certain foods just to binge on them later. Taking a deep breath I tried to forget about it all, but there were calorie reminders on every bit of food I ate. Even my husband started getting fussy with food trying to go low carbs and low calories – not eating pasta of an evening, having sandwiches without bread.

Seriously it drives me crazy. Although I understand the importance of knowing what you eat and how certain foods fuel your body I am totally over the calorie counting, the fad diets and foods that have high fructose corn syrup in them. Moving to the US has morphed me into some wannabe fitness freak that deprives the body its much needed fuel. I am done with it and going back to the regime that has worked over the past three something decades – three healthy meals a day, healthy snacks and all food in moderation. Coupled with exercise I think this solution will ensure that I can continue to wear all the clothes in my expanding wardrobe!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Keeping the Cadence

Finding my feet after convalescing has been harder than I thought. After so many years of non-running it all seemed to come back … until the injuries kicked in. But, now I have lost a lot of the condition that I had built up. I am also a lot more careful with where and when I run and have also been putting in time on muscle strengthening and stretching exercises. I think in the long run it will be OK and pay off. Although I have struggled with the longer distances I have also run some quick times.

I don't run with an ipod, mainly because I don't have a proper set of headphones that wouldn't fall out during exercise. When I was running track at school I concentrated on the 3,000 metres (approx 1.87 miles). I remember interval training sessions consisting of three to five 3,000 metre sets with a short rest in between. My coach at the time would tell me the time to run each set in 10 mins 30 secs and the recovery in between was based on my heart rate. Part of the training was to maintain a pace to finish in exactly 10 mins 30 secs. I can't sing to save my life, so I made up a silly little ditty and repeated it in pidgin English over and over again. It did the job of providing a cadence for me to run to ensuring that I would finish on time every time.

During my 4 mile run on Monday I realized that I had averaged sub 10 min miles – the fastest pace I have run all year. I was feeling rather tired and run down at the time so was surprised. I realized a bit later that I had been running with the Blues Clues theme song in my head… something that the kids had been watching all afternoon. Still not as fast as my school track days, but slowly slowy I am getting there!

"Blue skadoo'd, you can too!"

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Training Schedule

Monday 3 August - 4 miles and Body Pump

Tuesday 4 August - 3 miles

Wednesday 5 August - Cross Training 60-90 mins

Thursday 6 August - 4 miles and Yoga

Friday - 7 August - Rest

Saturday 8 August - 7 miles

Sunday 9 August - Rest

Thursday, July 30, 2009

“C’mon Mom – I can run 10”

I registered for the 10 for Texas this week, and as I was doing so my 6 year old son asked to be registered as well. I looked at him and saw that he was serious. I explained the 10 mile route that would be run on the morning using landmarks and streets that he was familiar with and emphasized the fact that we wouldn't be in the car, and that we would actually be running. He turned to me and said "C'mon, I can do it! I can run 10 miles Mom!"

As it so happens, the Community Association that is running the 10 for Texas is also running a One 4 Texas Fun Run for the kids. So I asked Mstr 6 if he wanted to compete in the 1 mile run. I explained the route to him, once again using landmarks and streets he was familiar with. He listened and responded rather confidently "No Mom, I want to run the 10, just like you. C'mon I can run 10!"

Of course he can't run the ten. I am sure that he could run the one if he wanted to. We have never really tried. Earlier in the year when I ran a 5 km trail run, he and his dad and younger brother walked the 3 km walk. There was a kids mile run at that event – but I didn't think he would be into it and didn't want to pressure him to compete so didn't nominate him. We sat and watched the kids run – and they ran. It was great to watch – and all the kids who competed got a medal, and had Mstr 6 (who was then 5) competed he probably would have got an age group trophy.

So – we ended up coming to an agreement. He would run the one and I would run the 10 and he would be waiting at the finish line with dad and younger brother when I finished. Also, he would come and do some training runs with me leading up to it – so he would be "fit and strong" enough, just like Mom. To date he has been pretty good keeping his word. He has come on two runs with me - riding his bike - and has done all the stretching and strengthening exercises that the physiotherapist recommended for me. I am really proud of him.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The ‘all-clear’

Yay! Today I got the all clear to get back into training. Although I see the Doc again next week to get the go ahead, the physio and I chatted today and think that fitting in a few short slow runs before seeing him would be a good idea. I am glad we were on the same page about the Doc as I was wondering what benefit it would have been to see him after three weeks of some physio and heaps of rest. At least after a few short runs he will be able to comment if it is some sort of long term damage or just a run of the mill overuse injury.

I am hoping to get out with the group on Saturday morning for a short 5 mile stroll!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lacking Motivation

The past few weeks have been a little bit difficult. Life has gotten in the way of any fitness regime, and I am still under medical advice not to run. I have been feeling a run down and haven't been sleeping or eating well. Also feeling quite lethargic and lacking self-worth. It is strange that in the absence of exercise –a task that expends a great amount of energy – life can feel drab and leave you feeling with even less energy.

I have forced myself to pick up some books to read in the hope to find some motivation that I can connect with to get me over this hump and encourage me to get to the gym to do some non-running training. In a book that I started rifling through yesterday I found a testimonial that I related to. The following excerpt taken from The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer by David A. Whitsett, Forrest A. Dolgener and Tanjala Mabon Kole and reflects similar thoughts and feelings that I have had and over the past few weeks have revisited.

"… On the brink of middle age and 80 pounds overweight, physically my best years are behind me. I used to be quite an athlete, but until the time I started the training program I hadn't run in 14 years! For me exercise consisted of trying to keep up with the demands of three budding adolescents as a single working mother while finishing the last semester of my undergraduate degree. (It had taken me 19 years to get through college! The only other things I've done that long are wear the same bathrobe and breathe! Marriage, children, divorce, and trying to make a living have a way of intervening, and two decades can pass before you know it.) I work too hard, and play too little. I'm so busy meeting everyone else's needs, I forget to consider my own. I would like to take better care of myself, but most of the time I am just too tired to care. I have dreams, but little energy to make them happen. I usually just take life as it comes, rather than going out after it. And I want more, but I don't make it happen.

"Running a marathon was one of those dreams…

"… My family's lack of initial support had nothing to do with my current situation. I had done it to myself, and I had to accept that and take responsibility for getting myself out of it. In that mental moment, I started my training and vowed that I was not going to let anyone or anything keep me from doing this – including me. I got off the couch. I went outside and hobbled one block. One block – that is where I started! Nineteen weeks later I ran 26.2 miles!"

(The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer, Whitsett, Dolgener and Kole, 1998 pp 11-12)

This book that I have just started reading is based around a marathon training class that the University of Northern Iowa has offered on occasion. 15 weeks long and all who did the course successfully finished a marathon. I am looking forward to delving into the chapter to read other student's testimonials and stories and learn more about the training program that they embraced.

For me – last night I sat down and mapped out my goals for the next 15 months leading up to the 2010 New York Marathon.

  • 10 October 2009 – 10 for Texas
  • 15 November 2009 – San Antonio Half Marathon (NY qualifier)
  • 17 January 2010 – Houston Half Marathon (NY qualifier)
  • November 2010 – New York Marathon

There may be a few other activities between January and November next year, but my initial goal is to train for the two half marathons to run a qualifying time of 1 hr 37 mins that will provide me with a guaranteed entry for the New York race. But for now, it is baby steps to allow my current injuries settle down. Physio and yoga are on the cards for the next two weeks, a prescription for the body and soul.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rest and Recovery

I finally got in to see the Doctor today. It was all rather painless – walked in, filled out the paperwork, had some x-rays and was seen by the Doc.

The good news is that it is nothing too serious - patellar tendonitis and planter fasciitis, both very common and easily fixed with some rest and physiotherapy. The Doc said that overuse was the cause for these. Going from 0 miles to 9 miles in a matter of 6 weeks may not have been the smartest of ways to ease back into running, or fitness in general. I think my program needs to adapted slightly to increase the cross training. Maybe to include more cycling (yuck) and swimming (double yuck). I think I may agree to a few yoga classes and possibly some light weights?

Looks like I will be missing my running groups 10 mile run this weekend. This run was meant to cap off a 12 week program starting from 5 miles and going to 10. Funnily enough I started four weeks into it from 0 miles!! No wonder I am getting some training pains from overuse!! The good news is that I can take a break from this heat and humidity and chill in the pool – even if it is swimming some laps. Three weeks should be plenty of time for me to rework my training program and prepare to get out there!!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Training Pains

The 10 Mile graduation run for my running group is next week, July 11 and I am not sure if I will be able to run. I haven't been out for a run for over a week. The hills, or rather the dips on our last 8 mile run caused one of my knees to swell and life hasn't been the same since. The arch on my left foot has a constant dull ache and to be honest I think it is the primary source of the knee pain I am having.

The good news is that I have found a great sports doctor who has come highly recommended and have an appointment to see him next week. I am hoping that it is a simple problem of the wrong sort of shoes or something. With a bit of luck, maybe I will be up to running the 10 miles next weekend. Although the longest I have run to date is 8 miles I think the power of positive thinking will allow me to complete the 10. Injury free is the aim and the prerequisite for the run!!

As I am abstaining from running, I am going to try to do some pool walking, bike riding and swimming to keep up the fitness level. This is the training that I am missing for the week –

Saturday 4 July – 9 miles

Sunday 5 July – OFF

Monday 6 July – 3 miles

Tuesday 7 July – 4 miles

Wednesday 8 July – 60 mins cross training

Thursday 9 July – 3 miles (Dr appointment!!)

Friday 10 July – OFF

Saturday 11 July – Course Graduation Run – 10 Miles

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Training Schedule

Sunday 21 June - OFF

Monday 22 June - 3 miles

Tuesday 23 June - 4 miles

Wednesday 24 June - 60 mins cross training

Thursday 25 June - 3 miles

Friday 26 June - OFF

Saturday 27 June - 9 miles

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lesson two – applying the body glide

For the naïve and inexperienced runner, a lot of things can go wrong during the run if you are not prepared. Now most people take it for granted – and it is fairly obvious – that in order to run any distances you need the appropriate running attire. Generally this means a pair of good quality running shoes. You can run in whatever clothes you want, however one must take into consideration the general comfort level. If you are living in a hot and humid climate, short and a sleeveless running shirt should suffice. So we have shorts, shirt and shoes. The three 'SH'! The fourth 'SH' comes when you realize that now you have to actually run…. #@IT!!

I found out the hard way a few weeks back that there is more to this running thing than just putting on your shorts, shirt and shoes and heading out to pound endless miles on the pavement. After completing the second of two long runs I came limping home with severe chafing on my thighs and some minor chafing under my arms from the rubbing on the shirt. So Lesson One was "use Body Glide to stop chafing". This was an obvious solution – passed onto me by fellow runners from my Saturday morning run group and also as detailed in several running books and magazines that I have since read.

Hmmmm, Body Glide. Good, Body Glide.

Lesson Two – "apply the Body Glide liberally to all areas that are prone to chafe". This conclusion came half way into a 4 mile run (in 87F heat, and yes it was hot) as the thighs started to chafe again. Thankfully it wasn't to the extent of previous experiences; there was no bleeding this time. But, it still hurt. What had happened was that I applied the Body Glide and missed a bit on one thigh. It was only a smidgen of a bit, but that smidgen was enough for me to stand up and take notice. Ouch!

8 miles on Saturday! Body Glide will be applied correctly! I can't wait to see what Lesson Three will be!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Solution – body glide

The week before last was pretty full on with training. I was trying to play catch up for the days I had to miss due to no sitters. School is out and summer is finally starting to kick in to add to the lack of flexibility for run times. Within one week I completed an eight mile run and then backed it up with a seven mile run four days later with the running group. These runs went well – felt great and completed in pretty good times. I have got to a stage where I can complete these distances without walking, something that adds to my excitement. One issue that I have had to deal with however is the chafing.

The chafing began around the six mile mark of my eight mile run. It was sore. It was raw. It was on my thighs and due to my shorts rubbing. But it wasn't that bad and after a day it was fine. The seven mile however was another story. I decided to wear my Nike shorts which were shorter than the ones worn on the previous run. After one mile I could feel the chafing and at the end it had grown to the size of my palm and had drawn blood. And OUCH! It was sore and raw for the next three days!

The up side to this is that I found the solution. Body Glide!! An anti-chafe balm. I haven't tried it out yet, but everyone has told me that it works and doesn't stain your clothes. I am now waiting for my husband to return from his latest trip for me to head out in the heat and try it out on a short four mile run!