Sunday, April 26, 2015

Training for my first marathon

It started with that email.  Sunday morning.  Early January.  A Happy New Year from the YMCA Marathon Club announcing that Sunday's 7am pack runs were resuming for the year:

"Don't wait for anything or anyone. Start this weekend and lace up the trainers, put in some electrolyte, and get to work on the fitness."

It was 6:15.  Those words spurred me straight out of bed, and off for my first long group run of the year.

Since the Auckland Half Marathon in November I hadn't started training for anything in particular, just doing about 30km a week and a few awesome hikes while on holiday.  The runners at YMCA are a friendly bunch - ranging from newbies to multi-marathoners - and many are good at putting ideas into your head.

"Sheryll, are you running Rotorua?
"No, I'd like to build up my fitness for the Auckland Marathon in November though."

The ensuing weeks increased in distance - 21km, 23km, 24km.

"So, Sheryll, are you running Rotorua?"
"I don't think so, I'd just like to see how my (recently injured) foot goes while I build up my endurance".

At home online I check out the YMCA Rotorua training plan and start following it roughly.  By mid February I have built up to 50 km a week with a long run of 26km. Admittedly the build up has been a bit rapid, but my foot has been really good, and I am lucky to have no other niggles.

"Sheryll, if you can run 26km, you can run Rotorua..."
"I might do it, I'll see how the training goes and whether I get injured or not..."

I introduce midweek long runs which gradually build up to 16km.  The weekend long runs get even longer - 27km, 28km, 29km.  I mention to my husband that I might be interested in running the Rotorua marathon and he's keen.  "I'll run the half!" he says.

It's looking possible, but I am still not fully committed.

A friend notices my growing mileage and asks "What are you training for?"
I start typing a reply.  "I'm thinking about (blah, blah, blah, excuses...)" and stop.
That just sounds stupid.
I ponder a while, take a deep breath, and type with assertion: "Rotorua Marathon!"

It took a while for that mental commitment, but once it was made and the world was told that commitment was 100%.

"So, Sheryll, are you running Rotorua?"
"Yes I am!"
" Have you got your entry in yet?"
(They're so pushy those guys!)

32km, 27km,

The week of my first 32km run was a total of 72km, and a record for me.  During those intense weeks I needed to go to bed a lot earlier, and I needed to eat so much! My hips stiffened up quite a lot and I went to see my physio.  As well as a few stretches and strengthening exercises, she recommended a leg massage. It was so amazing I felt like skipping and doing cartwheels as I walked home.

For the weekend of the second scheduled 32km run, most of the club were in New Plymouth and I'd be the only one of my pace group there, so I ran the Whenuapai half marathon.  It was wet to begin with, which I welcomed because I hadn't run in rain all summer so it was a good gear test in case of rain at Rotorua.  I'm pleased to report I had no blisters or chafing!

I ran fairly conservatively until the last 5km where I sped up to try and beat 2:10:22 (my PB) but I finished in 2:12:24.

I developed runner's knee shortly after the Whenuapai half marathon, and ITB management mode kicked in. I'd already been doing glute strengthening 2-3 times a week, but ramped that up to daily, as well as some leg lifts to strengthen my VMO.  Knee pain has resolved but my ITB is still tight and I practically live on my foam roller.

More of a worry is the hamstring niggle I developed last Wednesday, 10 days out from the marathon. I never thought I'd develop an injury during taper!  Luckily I had a physio appointment booked that evening and it was seen to early.  I haven't run since and it is slowly improving but it better #%&* hurry up.  Quite frankly I am scared to run in case it worsens. And I'm dealing with thoughts that I may even DNS, or DNF.  I am not fun to be around at the moment.

So overall, training built up consistently until about 6 weeks ago. Since then I have missed two or three runs during the week, and one 27km long run, as I played it safe with injury. I ran a half marathon race and two 32k'ers, so I'm reasonably happy with my training volume overall.

How am I feeling a week out?  Mixed up!  A week ago I felt excited, confident of finishing, but not confident to push hard as it is my first marathon after all.  Rotorua has two large hills at about 20km and 26km, and is not considered an easy course.  This hamstring issue just throws another spanner into the works.  Ignoring that though - my goal is simply to finish 'comfortably strong', if that is even possible in a marathon!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Catch-up time!

Or should I title this blog post 'Happy New Year'?  It actually has been that long since I last said hello!

Numerous drafts in varying stages of completion currently clutter my blog post folder, so instead of finishing up all those half-done stories about rather out-of-date happenings, I'll combine them all into a vaguely chronological list with plenty of photos - how does that sound?!

  • First up, we had an amazing holiday in the South Island over Christmas and New Year:
Shotover Jet

Moke Lake track

Lake Wakatipu

Lake Gunn

Milford Sound

Homer Tunnel

Lake Te Anau

Kepler Track

Lake Pukaki and Aoraki/Mt Cook

Mueller Hut track

Aoraki/Mt Cook

Mt Sefton
  • The start of 2015 marked my third runiversary, and new year equals a new training diary.  It's interesting reading back on some of my comments!

  • Last year I joined the YMCA Marathon Club, and have been running with them on their Sunday morning pack runs.  The long distances are much easier in good company, and I'm much less inclined to stop.

  • I won something!  New Zealand sportswear brand Kori Kita had a facebook competition to post a holiday workout photo, so I posted one of me running up Ben Lomond in Queenstown, and I won an awesome blue Fast Moves running skirt which is now a firm favourite.  I hope to post a review soon.

  • I'm back to running 5 days a week.  Most has been on roads around the city, but I like to duck down any of the trails that are prolific around our urban parks and coastline for a little light relief, or a tough climb as is often the case! They are all over the place once you care to look.

  • I have a new 10km PB of 56:45!  To be truthful it was actually a 9.8km race so add another minute for the extra 200m, but this is still a 1 minute improvement over my previous best in the same race. I know I can do better than this too!
  • Last weekend I ran the Whenuapai Half Marathon in 2:12:24.  About 2 mins off my PB, but I'm OK with that.  I hadn't done speedwork or tapered and it was really a training run.  It started off raining but on a positive note I got to test out all my gear for potential chafing and blister spots!

  • Bit of a sore knee since Tuesday, so had some physio and I'm working hard on my glutes and VMO and it DEFINITELY IS going to go away shortly because...
  • I'm running my first marathon at Rotorua on 2 May!  Initially I had planned to run my first marathon in Auckland in November, but after running alongside some encouraging club runners training for Rotorua, and coping well with the workload to date (ignore that little knee issue that's just popped up...), I have committed.  I am excited and apprehensive. Wish me luck!  

Hoping you have all had a great year so far!  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Auckland Half Marathon - A Belated Race Report

You know you're not particularly proud of your achievement when it takes you a full week to dash to your computer and write up a race report!  And when you do, lots of other internetty things present themselves to you that better suit your desire for procrastination - and very soon one week rapidly turns into three.

And then you finally start writing, but because you didn't actually achieve your goal, everything you write starts to sound like an excuse.  Or maybe the excuses are really lessons to be learned.  The most important lesson being:  "You can take in all the advice, but on the day you may whimsically decide that none of this actually applies to you."

I slept poorly, tossing and turning all night, continually looking at the clock, and when it finally read 3:28am I hopped into the shower.  I had slept well the night before though, which may or may not have had anything to do with the consumption of 4 glasses of wine... mmm, perhaps that's lesson #1?

Pre-race, everything went according to plan.  We managed to park close to the finish for a quick getaway, and walked the 10 minutes to the ferry terminal.  This was a semi-surreal experience in itself - with many fellow yellow gear-baggers intrepidly walking the 5am streets, converging upon the ferry terminal with their cushioned footsteps and hushed conversations of nervous excitement.

Nervous excitement being evident in the camera shake on my arrival at Devonport
Auckland CBD in the distance
The 15 minute ferry ride felt like only 5 minutes in the dark, and before we knew it we were in Devonport and heading straight for a toilet queue.  This early some of the queues were only 5 persons deep, so within a few minutes we were at the marathon start and hanging with the elites!  (PS, although they had their own allocated toilets, they still had to queue too!)

Steven contemplating what he has got himself into.
(He ran a 1:41 - his first half!)
The 3:15 pacer - maybe next year?!
We watched the elites warming up, admiring their slight physiques and bouncy strides, and generally wishing we had a few of those genes right at this moment.

Marathon start
To be honest I felt the complete opposite - heavy and sluggish. I hadn't run for two weeks, my body felt stiff and joints rusty.  A week ago I almost certainly wasn't running this race.  But my foot improved rapidly during that time, and two days prior I decided to run.  My podiatrist was happy with my progress and decision to run, and strapped my foot to help stabilise it.  I had no idea how my foot would handle running again and had visions of having to withdraw and arrive at the finish by ambulance.  Looking back, I realise that I hadn't mentally prepared for this race like I had last year, and I think I definitely benefit from visualising and having a plan.

I did a few stretches to try and limber up, before handing in our gear, and lining up with 20 mins to go.  Steven disappeared somewhere up with the rat pack, and I found a space which happened to be near the 2:00 pacer, with the vague notion of keeping them in sight.

I had done a quick 'back of an envelope' pace plan at lunchtime on Friday.  My average pace last year was 6:10, so I planned to start out at that pace to the motorway (9km), pick it up to 5:50 to the bridge (14km), then 5:30 after the bridge, (6:30 was allowed on bridge and hills) and give it whatever I had in the final 1-2km - maybe 5:20? Maybe even 4:something?

Well the plan worked, but in reverse.  My first kilometre was 5:20.  I knew I should slow down, but I felt great, my foot had loosened up and was fine.  The lady next to me was puffing and I was breathing easy.  Maybe I could run sub-2 after all, even though none of my training indicated so.  Maybe I was different, a super-talented runner who defied all previous statistics and could pull magic out of thin air.  My head tried to slow down but my legs wanted to keep pace with the runners around me.  This is the stuff you read about all the time in magazines like Runner's World - what not to do.  But I did it.

Why, I do not know.  Maybe my legs loved running again after a 2 week break, maybe I thought I may as well give this sub-2 goal a shot, maybe I had brain fade.  Yes, that is probably it.

I started to falter around the 8km mark, which was no surprise as I had been running at 5km pace. The sun had come out and I took a moment at the drink station to down some fluids.  The 2 hour pace group passed me here.  I carried on to the busway but by Akoranga station (11km) I took the first of several walk breaks.  This is where I started getting passed by multitudes of other runners, and the demoralisation of failure set in.  It was a calm sunny 20 degree morning and slightly humid, but I felt like it was 32 degrees.  Despite being outside by the harbour, there was no fresh air.  My heart rate seemed to elevate at the slightest exertion, and at one stage I felt a bit dizzy and squeamish.  I said goodbye to my goal, and settled for the best I could do on the day.

I stopped my run walk to take photo on the bridge - always a good excuse...!
I walked up the bridge even though I ran up it last year.  Coming off the bridge I saw the first of about 5 runners on the sidelines being attended to by medics, I guess they were suffering in the heat, and I was glad I had made the decision to take things a bit easier.  For the last 4km I adopted a run/walk strategy, trying to run a bit faster during run times to make up for the walk breaks.  Overtaking, then being overtaken.  Yo-yo runner. Leap-frogger. That was me.

One thing I did notice is that there seemed to be more supporters this year cheering from the sidelines.  Starting through the streets of Devonport, at the Takapuna on-ramp, Akoranga overbridge, and especially Curran Street onwards they were out in force.  They gave me a lot of encouragement, although I probably didn't look as if they did.

Still, I managed to have a fast finish (where does that final energy always come from?) and overtook some runners in the finishing lane.  I finished in 2:14:41 - only 4 mins slower than last year, but it sure felt a lot harder than that.
To compare, last year my net time was:
48.43% total finishers
63.66% female finishers
72.36% F4549 finishers
I'm not that unhappy with my time, I'm not even that unhappy with my performance considering the warm conditions.  I suppose I've just had a lot to process after this one, what went wrong and why, what I could have done better, and how to improve from here.

Not every race can be a personal best - or where is the personal challenge? The best thing is to learn from your experiences, and I think I've learnt a lot from this one.

Or maybe it was from Runner's World in the first place...

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Tomorrow I will run

This training cycle has been a real mixed bag, where I've experienced both the highs and lows of running in a zig-zag fashion.  There has been a lot of inconsistency and missed runs due to injury, Arthur's Half recovery, even travel to a funeral, but also some nice long runs and a couple of confidence boosting tempos - which is what I'm going to have to focus on tomorrow to keep all my negative thoughts at bay.

One morning down south we managed to fit in a nice 10km rural loop - lots of newborn lambs :) 
 My niggling foot that I never told you about flared up big time on my 18km run 2 weeks ago and I haven't run since.  Let's call it a forced taper.  I visited a podiatrist (prerequisite - had to be a runner!) and he doesn't think it is bony which is reassuring, but I have some foot biomechanical issues he'd like to sort out after this half marathon.

If you had've asked me a week ago I would have said it was 90% likely that I wasn't running tomorrow, but magically over the last few days my limp has disappeared and the pain has gone, and my foot suddenly feels the best it has in 6 weeks.  Podiatrist guy is happy for me to run, and so the decision is made - tomorrow I will run!

But my confidence is flat.  My legs feel like their arterioles have degenerated. I've spent the last 2 weeks moping around the house, and u-turning into a positive race mode is not happening quickly.  I need to think happy thoughts, go pick up my race number, soak up some pre-race atmosphere, get my gear ready, and make a race plan!


So I did:

It was a sea of yellow bags outside the Viaduct Events Centre,
although this snap doesn't really do it justice!

The obligatory shot of my name on the race car...

The souvenir T-shirt is nice this year - it fits!
I don't think I'll be running a sub-2.  I'll be taking it easy to begin with to see how my foot handles running again, and ramp it up a notch if I start feeling confident.  My guesstimate time is 2:06:15 - well that's what I put on the Tauranga Half competition, if I get that I win an entry!

Let's leave with some positive thoughts:

  • I'm looking forward to the ferry trip over to Devonport in the early morning - it's kind of surreal!
  • I'm excited about Steven running his first half marathon!
  • Go Michelle - I hope you get your sub-2!
  • Looking forward to seeing Jody volunteering at the finish, yes I might need you to remove my timing chip for me!
  • Luke will be waiting for us at the finish - if he get's up in time!
  • I'm happy that I can run at all - really :)
  • The support from YOU!  Little things like "run strong" from supergeneric girl and "good lucks" from across the Tasman really help when you're feeling a bit down!
  • Anna Frost left this quote on her facebook this week - "Think easy, light, smooth and fast" - that's tomorrow's mantra :)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Running in the Footsteps of Lydiard

Yesterday I had the pleasure of running Arthur's Half - the little sister to the Lydiard Legend Marathon.  It was the 10th anniversary of this iconic event, first organised in 2004 not long before Arthur Lydiard died.  The course is based on the local training routes of Arthur and his athletes, in the Waitakere ranges on the western outskirts of Auckland.

I've always wanted to run this race.  I remember Arthur visiting our school when I was about 15 and he left a huge impression on me then.  Even if he did talk about running for an hour at a time - my 'training' at that stage involved running a kilometre down the road to the Whitestone bridge and back as fast as I could!

We picked up my number on Friday night from the event base, and did a recce of the course while we were out that way.  I'm so glad I forced convinced Steven to drive it because having knowledge of the course really helped me on the day.  Always do a course recce!

The first 8 km or so undulate through the suburban streets of New Lynn and Glen Eden to Oratia, with a few small climbs to warm you up (and some nice downhills to compensate).  Then the real fun begins - with a long climb up Carter Road.  Starting gradually and ending with a few steeper bits, it was actually over sooner than expected even though I did quite a bit of walking.  By this time of day the low cloud had cleared, the sun had come out and it was humid+++.  At the 11km drink station someone mentioned it was 100% humidity - I'm not sure how true that was but I was certainly sweating a lot - and it might have explained why I was feeling sluggish.  I'm really glad I decided to take my small Nike handheld - I nearly left it behind but decided on it at the last moment. Lucky, because as it turns out I had drunk everything in it by each drink stop, where I filled it up again - as well as another full cup for myself!  I took a GU gel before the 6km and 11km drink stations, and although I opened another one at the 16km drink station I couldn't stomach it.  When I finished the race it was still in my hand!

After the Carter Road climb, the course begins to descend to Scenic Drive.  It took me a while to recover and get into descend mode, there was still a long way to go and I didn't want to thrash my quads too early.  But I settled into a short stride/quick turnover pace and soon started gaining on the others and overtaking them. Then they overtook me at the 16km drink stop.  Then I gradually reined them in again!  Once through Titirangi Village it was 5km downhill all the way, so here I really tried to up my tempo - I felt great and it was fun to run fast!

Well, I thought I was running fast...!

Let me tell you that the final stretch of Godley Road is a longer than long 2km, if that is possible. Even when you have made a mental note of this particular fact while doing the course recce!  A guy passed me on the flat (not sure if he was a marathoner or halfmarathoner) but he was going at a nice clip so I hung in behind him.  Until I realised we weren't even at the golf course and I would never be able to keep up his pace til the end, so I eased off a bit.  I actually walked for a few metres to catch my breath again, and then it was a final surge around the corner and along to the finish.  Looking back I am disappointed in myself for not keeping up with that guy.  I don't know why but I always doubt myself and get scared of becoming too breathless - something makes me give up when things get tough.  I found this advice from Kilian which I might tattoo on my forearm for when this next happens:

I ran through the finish chute and suddenly there was a guy standing right in front of me smiling and holding out a 10th anniversary Arthur's Half medal to place around my neck - I was speechless - my Best Running Moment ever!

My Anna Paquin moment!

Someone called from the sidelines and it was Sheree, who I had chatted to while running through Glen Eden - about our injuries of course!  She gave me a congratulatory hug and vice versa, and in the moment I forgot to wish her a good hamstring recovery and best wishes for the Waihi 60k which she is running in a month - so I'm doing it right now!

All the best Sheree!

Here are my results:
Time: 2:15:51
10/25 in F40-49 age group
154/206 overall

My only other road half marathon was the Auckland Half which I ran in 2:10:22 last November, probably a faster course.  Carter Road was a bit of a killer today, but then I still had a fast finish.  I'm going to say my performances were about equal!

As usual the volunteers were great and supportive, but I have to make a special mention about the wonderful spectators!  Along Carter Road, which is semi-rural, there were a few families standing at their gates cheering us on, some with placards waving. Coming into Scenic Drive where we joined the marathon course there was quite a group of people encouraging us, and throughout Titirangi Village the people in the cafes were standing and clapping - it was so nice to see and made you feel like an elite athlete really special and inspired - awesome support 100% appreciated!

I really hope I can run this event again next year.  I think what I loved most about this race apart from it's meaningful history, is that long final descent - you can have a fast finish and it leaves you on a massive runner's high!  I love my trails, but roads are great too!

Have you ever run Arthur's Half or the Lydiard Legend?  Tell me about it!
If not, tell me about your weekend of running!
What keeps you going when the going gets tough? (Obviously, I need tips here!)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Goal Setting vs Injury

As I begin training for the Auckland half marathon this week, I am hoping that I can still reach my goal of a sub-2 time. I get really annoyed at the stupid injury that prevented me building a solid base over the winter months.  That would have been handy.

But instead of dwelling on that, I get out my trusty foam roller, and do another set of clams and bridges to keep my ITB happy.  And I try to think about how my first half felt kind of easy and how I know I can do so much better.  And as I run up my local hill that happens to be a similar grade/distance as the Harbour Bridge, I actually pretend it is.

When I'm really desperate, I thank goodness my injury even happened - after all, technically I am more biomechanically sound than before!

At the end of the day you can only do what you can do, and I'm definitely not giving up on my sub-2 goal. Lately I've built up my mileage to around the same level as this time last year.  I hope to run more kilometres in training this year - via longer long runs, and an extra day of easy running thrown in during the week. Last year I felt like longer speedwork intervals benefited me more than the short ones, and I also felt improvements with tempo runs so I'll make sure to include them regularly too.  As well as regular runs up my local "harbour bridge" :)

Let's see how I go!

Do you think I can do it - drop 11 minutes off my time from last year?
If you're a half-marathoner, do you have any special tips?
What's your favourite half marathon workout?

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