Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mind games

This is an excerpt from this week's "Marathoning for Mortals", the official Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon newsletter:

Training is 90% physical and 10% mental. Racing is 10% physical and 90% mental.

Think your way through training and the race. Start with a mental strategy and break the distance into smaller, more digestible pieces. It is much easier to mentally wrap yourself around running or walking a shorter distance than it is to think about digesting the entire distance from the start. Break it up by location on the map, or by distance, but either way it will give you a mental edge and propel your mental game.

Go in without expectations. You can never predict what race day will be like so going in without expectations won't set yourself up for disappointment.

Just like life, you will go through highs and lows in every race. Expect the lows and enjoy the highs. On the last few miles/kilometers in the race, when things are usually the most challenging, think about a run you did while training when you felt strong.

If you have a few kilometers to go, think about a training course at home and visually work your way down through those last few kilometers. Fuel your head. If your blood sugar levels drop, your mind will begin to get foggy and negative thoughts creep in. Stay fueled with gels and Gatorade on the course and maintain a constant level of blood sugar to avoid those lows.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Back on the run

Now that the softball marathon has ended (9 games in 8 days!) I can get back on schedule and maybe let my scraped up leg heal!

I didn't have to be at work til 10 this morning, so I took advantage and went for a 7K run already today. My legs and hips are a little sore/stiff from so much ball, but it was a pretty good run. Kept it slow and comfortable at just over 6:00/KM pace. I'm eager to be back on track this week, especially since today marks TWO MONTHS til the big day.

Schedule for the week looks something like:

Monday: 7K
Tuesday: off
Wednesday: 10K
Thursday: ball
Friday: 12K
Saturday: off (walking around Kingston)
Sunday: 27K

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Change of plans

Between Thursday evening and Sunday evening, I will be playing a minimum of 7 softball games. This includes double-headers in both of my regular leagues (Thursday, Sunday) as well as a tournament starting on Saturday (3 games). And if we do well on Saturday, we will play additional game(s) Sunday morning. Softball is a blast and I play on two really fun teams, but this does not bode well for long diatance running. I've decided to "skip" my long run this weekend. I was scheduled for a 26K with 28K next week, so instead I'll jump to 27K next week and should be on track for a 30K the following week.

(I can't even believe I'm talking about running these distances! OMG.)

Otherwise, it looks like a quiet week. I'm giving my legs a second day off today and I'll try to get out for some decent runs on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. So Week 12 looks something like:

Monday: off
Tuesday: off
Wednesday: 10K
Thursday: 6K + 2 games
Friday: 7.5K
Saturday: 3 games
Sunday: 5K + 2 games (won't run if we have additional games)
= ~28.5K

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The good, the bad, the ugly of a long Sunday run

The good:

I achieved yet another milestone today (this trend should continue each week if evrything goes according to plan) and ran my longest distance yet: 24K! It took 2 hours and 24 minutes for an average pace of 6:00 min/KM. That's my target max for long runs, so I'm happy with it. Overall, it was a really good run. We were up at 5:45 and out the door just after 6. Hubby drove the car to Fairy Lake but I decided to run from home (3K) and met up with him there. I ran the 10-ish kilometre loop twice and it worked out beautifully to 24K.

You can view the run here: My MotionBased

The bad:

I felt a bit of discomfort in my hip at first but kept my pace slow til I warmed up and it loosened up. For the rest of the run, I didn't even notice it. (Not exactly "bad" but I needed something to write here. :p)

The ugly:

It poured rain almost the entire time! It came down steadily for the first 15K, let up briefly, then started again. I was soaking wet and my feet were squishing in my shoes before I had even made it to Fairy Lake. Extremely uncomfortable! I completed several long runs in blizzards last winter, and it was better than the usual Southern Ontario humidity, so I can't complain too much.

Back to the good. I must have done something right as far as fuelling because I had more energy than I did last week for 21K. Dinner last night was a hearty serving of pasta at an Italian restaurant. Got up and had a protein shake (mixed with water, NOT milk) and bowl of oatmeal. I brought water mixed with powdered magnesium as recommended by my nutritionist (not a fan of the metallic taste during a run) and ate 3 Clif Shot Blocks at about 10K and again at 16K.

Had another protein shake when I got home (with glucosamine sulfate) and a freezing cold bath to soothe the muscles. And now hubby is bugging me to hurry up and get off the computer so we can go get an early lunch! Time to recuperate some of the 2600 calories (according to Garmin) I burned this morning.

Friday, July 18, 2008

What now?

Not a heck of a lot to report this week, just a few mediocre runs and some hip woes.

Monday: Attended a funeral out of town for a dear friend's father who was taken away far too soon. It was a sad day, but a lovely service. Arrived home late Monday evening, Pizza Pizza in tow. (oops)

Tuesday: Wasn't feeling very well all day and went for a run too soon after work, while the sun was still high and its heat brutal. It was a slow and heavy 5K. Pretty much BLAH!

Wednesday: Met an old pal from my half marathon clinic for a 9K run at Fairy Lake. Waited til 8PM this time so it wasn't nearly as hot, but I was still lacking energy. Overall, an okay run.

Thursday: Woke up with major hip pain in my right side (imagine that! NOT my left side) and noticed that it was affecting the way I walked - never a good sign. Played softball after work and had a really hard time running the bases. Oww! Took a cold bath when we got home.

Friday: Up with the sunrise in an attempt to beat the humidity (calling for 40C today). Hip felt a bit better so I attempted a run. Hip was not so good afterall. Had to take tiny strides and keep a very slow pace (between 6:30 and 7:00) to dull the pain. Yes, I should have turned around and gone back home but I didn't get up at 5:30 for nothing.

Planning to take it extra easy tonight and tomorrow - lots of ice and stretching, probably another cold bath or two. My mileage will be down for the week but I need to let this hip get better (no idea what I did to it?!). With any luck, I'll be okay for my 24K on Sunday. It's always something, isn't it??

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Snap shots are in

Race pics have been added to my original Rebecca Run post.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Twenty one point TWO

On Sunday morning hubby and I were up at 6 AM and drove to a local park whiich consists of a winding (mostly paved) trail forming an approximately 10K loop. We like it because the majority is flat, there are several washrooms along the way, we pass the car more than once so it's easy to re-stock water/fuel and best of all, no stop lights!

My run went really well and I was feeling good the entire time. Took 3 Clif Shot Bloks (=1 gel) at around 8K and found that I had enough energy. I completed two loops and found myself back at the car (where hubby was already finished and waiting, being the speedster that he is!) around 21K. The longest distance I had previously run 21.1 in each of the half marathons I have completed, so I was determined to reach a new milestone and beat the distance. I ran an extra 200 metres or so and finished up at 21.2K. My time was about 2:03 with a 5:49 pace, which I am very happy with.

And the mileage continues to build...

Week 11
Monday: rest
Tuesday: 5K
Wednesday: 9K
Thursday: softball
Friday: 10K
Saturday: 6K
Sunday: 24K

Friday, July 11, 2008

Building blocks of life

On Wednesday evening I met with my nutritionist (Debbie Allen, Health on Earth) for the first time and had a very positive experience. I decided to seek professional advice because I've been having a very difficult time knowing how much I should be eating, and whether or not I am fuelling my body with what it needs to continue training for a marathon. In addition (and this is not something that I have discussed here in a long time) I have been trying to lose weight. In fact, I have been successful in losing weight - over 30 lbs in 6 months. For the first time since I was 17 years old, I find myself at a "healthy" weight. I would still like to lose another 10 lbs or so and, more importantly, lean up. You'd think that I could lose weight running 40+ KM/week regardless of what I am eating but unfortunately, that is not the case.

As it turns out (and as I suspected) I am not getting nearly enough protein, which probably explains why I am hungry ALL! THE! TIME! and why my muscles are not recovering as quickly as I'd like.

Starting next week I will be following a nutrition plan which pretty much doubles the protein in my current diet and reduces the starch. At this stage in my training I don't need to be eating quite as much starch as I have been, which means I'm not burning it and therefor storing excess. In a few weeks I'll be meeting with Debbie again to re-evaluate as my mileage creeps up and I will need the extra carbs. But don't worry, I still get to have my spaghetti on Saturday nights before the Sunday long run.

In addition, I'll be drinking Genestra Endurlyte for electrolytes on Friday and Saturday (in preparation for Sunday) and taking powdered magnesium in water daily for muscle relaxation.

Here's the kicker: NO MORE ASPARTAME! I have to admint, I'm an aspartame junkie. It's going to be tough, but hopefully worth it. Maintaining a steady blood sugar level is key in running performance and aspartame does exactly the opposite.

I'm looking forward to implementing the changes and hopefully seeing results.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Intervals: Take One

So I attempted an interval run last night. The plan was to run 4 sets of 800 m at 10K pace (4:54) with 400 m rests.

My run got off to an ugly start when I inadvertently plunged into a mud put in my still-under-construction-neighbourhood and found myself 2 inches deep in gunk. I was SO close to turning around and heading home, but I toughened up, kicked off as much mud as I could (which of course ended up all over my legs) and continued.

I had planned a 2K warm-up which would lead me to the only one-kilometre stretch of level ground in my entire town (I am only slightly exaggerating) where I could start my intervals. Unfortunately, I way under-estimated the distance and the warm-up turned out to be closer to 3K. This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing except it was one of those runs that I just wanted to be done with. It was late, it was humid, and my shoes were covered in mud.

Anyway, I was finally ready to start my sets and took off.

Problem 1: I can't figure out how to use the interval program properly on my Garmin (I can set up the intervals so it beeps every X metres, but it won't show my my pace on the screen) so I had to keep a constant eye on my distance and keep track of the intervals. This is harder than you might think.

Problem 2: It was late and therefor dark. I couldn't see the tiny numbers on my Garmin without hitting the light button (is there a way to make it stay on?) so not only was I constantly checking my watch, but I had to turn on the light every time. May seem minor, but it was a pretty serious inconvenience last night, when I was already frustrated by the issues above.

Problem 3: I apparently have a very difficult time maintaining a steady pace. I'd be running along pretty close to goal pace, only to glance back at my watch 30 seconds later and discover that I was running at 4:30! I'd slow it down a bit, look down at my watch and the next thing I know I'm running at 5:15. I found it virtually impossible to hold my target pace.

So there you have it: my list of excuses why my first interval run essentially sucked. Taking the above factors into account, I did the best I could under the circumstances. In the end, I ran 5K with two sets of (almost) 800 m. I think I'll try the treadmill next time.

Quick run-down of this week:

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 5K w/ modified intervals :p
Wednesday: 11K
Thursday: ball
Friday: 8K tempo (6K at 5:11-5:20)
Saturday: 4K
Sunday: 21K

Monday, July 07, 2008

1st Place for my 1st 5K

The Event

Rebecca Run
Fairy Lake, Newmarket, ON
Saturday, July 5, 2008

This was a great community event from the goodie bag (i.e. race kit) to the post-race party. There was a ton of support, a nice location and amazing volunteers. We will be returning next year for sure.

The Cause

Rebecca Run raises momey for SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy). There were many children who suffer from the disease at the park in their motorized wheelchairs and some even participated in the 1K event. Along the course were signs with photos of other children with the disease and sadly, many who have passed away at a very young age. Several groups wore shirts bearing the name and photo of children they were running for. This weekend alone raised over $100,000 for the cause, bringing the total raised by Rebecca Run to over $1.1M. It was definitely inspiring to be a part of it.

The Preparations

In the days leading up to the race I was having a lot of issues with my hamstring and on Thursday I was not even able to run for 10 minutes. I bought a neoprene wrap for compression, saw my physiotherapist for some deep tissue massage on Friday, had freezing cold baths and gently stretched. Thankfully, my hamstring felt good on Saturday morning.

The night before we had taken a walk along the 5K route to familiarize ourselves with the twists and turns. It proved vauable to know that a few hundred metres into the course was a narrow boardwalk through the woods where it would be virtually impossible to pass anyone. We knew we had to get a quick start to secure a position near the front, or we'd be stuck until after the 1 KM mark.

We arrived early on Saturday and parked a few blocks away so we could walk to the starting area. We retrieved our timing chips, used the washroom and wandered around a bit. 30 minutes before the race we did a 2 KM warm-up jog. This is something that is highly recommended for a 5KM race since you essentially take off at full speed from the get-go. Once we had warmed up, we spent 15 minutes stretching gently on the grass and watching the 3K runners file in. My muscles definitely thanked me for the warm-up and I felt nice and loose when the gun went off.

The Course

The route took us through the trails of Fairy Lake; some paved, some gravel and some boardwalk as mentioned above. There were several tight turns and small rolling hills. To add to the challenge, the park was not closed to the public so we had to dodge some casual walkers (and Canadian geese!) along the way. We made a 3.5 KM loop bringing us back to the start line, at which point we had to run right past the finish and take another lap around the lake to reach 5K.

The Race

Just before 10:00, we lined up behind the start line in mini corals based on our expected finishing time. Hubby and I located a volunteer holding a "22:00" sign and elected to start there. Before we knew it, it was time to go! Hubby pulled away with the lead crowd immediately (we had not planned to run together) and I held on to my spot, determined not to let anyone pass me before the boardwalk. My tactic worked, although I had to dodge some kidlets. It was actually fun having younger kids (10-ish?) in the race, but they all took off like rockets and of course started slowing down after just 100 metres or so (some of them, not all).

Here we are at the start of the race - hubby is at the far right and I'm in the middle, both in blue shirts):

I held a steady pace through the first couple KM's. My legs felt great, but I could tell that my breath was short. I have never done interval training or speed work of any kind, so running at (what felt like) a sprint continuously was tough. I concentrated on my breathing and kept it under control. At the half way point, I remember thinking that's it?! I knew the second half was going to be tough.

It was around that time that we approached the lake for the first time, so I knew it wouldn't be long before the home stretch. I ran alongside a young boy who was clearly struggling and he asked me how much further we had to go. The poor guy looked like he was about to keel over. I told him we just had to pass the finish line and make one short lap around the lake and we'd be done. I told him he was doing great and assured him he could do it as I pulled away. This distracted me for a few minutes and helped me get through the difficult 2.5-3.5 stretch.

Passing the finish line the first time was painful. I was exhausted and 1.5 KM seemed like a marathon. The crowd cheering on the sidelines gave me a boost as I tried to pick up the pace for the final lap. I had to keep reminding myself how close I was and not to ease up. I noticed that the clock read 15:30 or so at the 3.5 mark, so I knew I was making great time and didn't want to let go of it now. What's a measly 1.5 KM?? It's amazing just how long it can seem.

As I rounded the last corner and caught a glimpse of the finish line, a burst of energy flooded through me (I always wonder where that comes from when just a moment before I felt I had nothing left to give) and I gunned it on the home stretch. I saw my hubby beaming as I crossed the line. I think he was more concerned with my time than his own. ;) My legs were wobbly, my face dripping with sweat and I couldn't stop coughing, but it only took a few minutes and a bottle of water to recover. We had a bite to eat and stretched on the grass as we waited to find out the official results.

Here's my finish:

The Results

My official (gun) time was 23:37 which works out to a 4:44/KM pace. I didn't know I had it in me! The results were finally posted and I was thrilled to discover that I had placed 1st (of 15) in the female 25-29 category! Here are the results: Chiptime (I'm 40th overall). Also note my hubby's strong finish at 21:18 (he placed 2nd but they gave him 1st because the guy who finished 1st in his category also placed in the top 3 overall). We were proud to accept our medals and prize (Lance Armstrong book) together. And we get to return next year as "defending champions." :)

Receiving my prize:

Back @ Home:

I absolutely loved the 5K experience and can't wait to race another. We're planning to run the Frosty 5K (takes place with the Chilly Half) in Burlington next March, which is a famously flat and fast run. Next time around I plan to do interval work on the treadmill to prepare and hopefully shave a minute off my time.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Preparing for my first 5K

I've decided to skip the interval work this week. With the race this weekend, I'm thinking it would be overkill and don't want to risk injury. Instead I'll run an easy 7K at lunch today, since I didn't get a chance last night.

Tomorrow hubby and I are planning to walk the 5K route for Saturday's Rebecca Run. It's at a local park with some narrow pathways, bridges and lots of twists and turns so I'd like to know what to expect. I'm actually really looking forward to this event. Two half marathons, two 10K's and an urban adventure race under my belt, but never a 5K. I'm curious to see what I'm capable of.

So how does one go about running a successful 5K? I found this short article helpful: How to Race the Underestimated 5K

1. warm up
2. pace myself
3. focus

Tips welcome!