September 26, 2011

Second marathon win

15km into Bellingham Marathon
So, I felt awesome warming up before the Bellingham Bay Marathon yesterday morning. I did notice that it seemed windy. Overall, I had a superb day on this course with spectacular views.

I didn't get the course record, didn't even get a PB but I did lead the women from start to finish.

The volunteers and spectactors along the course were awesome and I smiled a lot. It was a great experience and I highly recommend this well-organized race. My 3:09:40 placed me eighth overall (results here and a story by the Bellingham Herald here).

About to finish as 2011 B'ham Bay Marathon champ
Tim, as usual, was a fantastic supporter and it was great to see him and Luka pop up to cheer along the way. He also took a bunch of photos, including these two. I'll write a race report soon.

Next up, the Victoria Marathon in two weeks.

September 24, 2011

A pre-race visualization

Among the mental tools recommended for athletes is pre-race visualization. I've always found that hard to do. But for the Bellingham Bay Marathon, which I am about to start in less than 12 hours from now, I decided to try by putting my visualization into words.

In early August I wrote a mile by mile ideal race scenario for tomorrow's race. At just under 11,000 words, it's a small book. I didn't look at it again until today, and decided to publish the epistel on a separate blog for those interested. We'll see how the real thing pans out tomorrow.

I found it a helpful exercise and may repeat it for another goal race. To read the pre-race visualization for the marathon, please follow the link

It's 7:55pm now. Time to go to sleep soon!

I'll leave you with this superb advice from Bill Rodgers in Bill Rodgers' Lifetime Running Plan, a book I highly recommend:

"You should try to talk to yourself constantly in a race. Assess how you're doing, how you might be able tot notch it up a bit, and continually tell yourself how well you're doing, what you've already accomplished, and what you have left to do. During my races, I talk myself through the whole thing. ... I don't think I'm a particularly tough runner mentally, but I've learned the tricks of the trade. You can beat people who might be as fit as you by talking yourself through a race with positive remarks."

September 21, 2011

I have worked my ass off

Indeed, I have worked my ass off in more ways than one. First, the scale tells me I am a little shy of 60 kilograms (or about 132 pounds). That's about as light as my 176-centimetre (5'8") frame gets. Losing weight wasn't a goal in preparing for the Bellingham Bay Marathon though I was pretty sure I wouldn't be gaining pounds while running more weekly kilometres than ever at an average 104km for nine straight weeks, before starting a three-week taper (dropping to 90km, then 70km, and then 40km—of course not including the 42.2km race that final week).

My weight tends to stay around 63kg. I love food, good food which in my book usually means healthy stuff. I love fruit (fresh and dried) and vegetables. Among the staple dinners is a pasta bolognaise, recently with buffalo mince. Others are curries with anything from steak (beef or buffalo), to chicken, tofu or chickpeas (the latter another recent addition to the menu), with rice and plenty of veg.

Rarely will I decline a glass of red before or with dinner, though more than two glasses will have me drunk so I don't go there, not often anyway. In the past six months, a beera Sleeman or any brew from our local Howe Sound Brewery, which produces stunning and award-winning stuff; my favourite might have to be the King Heffy—accompanied dinner, too.

With a chocaholic partner, it's hard to resist a few pieces of dark chocolate. I also blame Tim for introducing me to the new President's Choice ice creams, though I must admit to loving Haagen-Dazs before him.

For breakfast, I'll typically have Alpen (no added sugar) or, more recently, the delicious Bircher muesli recipe from the second book I edited, Reconnect With Food: Eat Your Way to Triathlon Success by Teresa Rider. During the day, there are plenty of carbs involved; ham-cheese sandwiches, or a thick layer of peanut butter on a slice of bread (German or sour dough).

With my goal marathon this Sunday, I feel good at 60kg. My key consideration in the next few days will be to eat and drink well, fuelling for the marathon and making sure to stick with tried and tested nutrition that won't cause stomach upsets on race day.

What I will also do in the next few days is to remind myself that I have worked my ass off in the figurative sense. While some people seem to think I was born running 3:07 marathons, that is certainly not the case. It takes hard work to get into the shape I am today.

Some people may break 4 hours in their first marathon; I didn't even break 4:15. In my second, I just managed to stay under 5 (4:46). I love running, and being a runner, but it takes dedication to get faster. Last Saturday afternoon, for example, I was still tired after my second week of taper (work and other things naturally play a role) in which I still ran about 70km. I had a 13km run to do that day and didn't feel like it.

I convinced myself that what I really needed was a hot bath with Epsom salts and a day of rest from running. Soaking in the bath, however, I couldn't relax or enjoy; I had followed this training program and now I was just coming up with excuses a week before race day?

Instead of getting dinner ready, I changed into my running gear and went for my training run a little after 6pm. My legs were fine, tired but fine, and I was stoked for sticking to the training program. I know from experience, as I wrote in an earlier post, that I have a tendency to skip sessions in the taper, and my level of fatigue simply didn't justify doing so.

So, I am having a ton of fun training for marathons, and I am super-excited to race this weekend. Having said that, it's good to consider the hard work you have put in as you get your mind ready to dig deep. Sunday's will be my 10th marathon in five years, the slowest of which I ran in 3:15.

My PB of 3:07:10 is from three years ago but I am convinced I can go faster. My third-fastest is 3:08 from the 2007 Canberra Marathon, so you can imagine how pleased I was in May this year to run 3:07:41. For this race, I have worked my ass off—in the past 12 weeks and in the past 12 years since that first marathon in 1999—and I am ready to give it all I've got.

September 15, 2011

Mile repeats at 5km race pace

With 9 days to go until the Bellingham Bay Marathon, I am enjoying the taper. After the usual rest day on Monday, I had an easy 11km with 8 x 100m striders, followed by an even more cruisy 6km recovery yesterday.

This morning had a total of 13km including 3 1-mile repeats at 5km race pace. After a warm-up of about 4km I did the first in 6:12 along the completely flat Loggers Lane in Squamish. The cool morning with a splash of rain was perfect.

After a jogging rest of about 3 minutes, I did the next mile in 6:08. It was great to hit my goal times, as I have struggled and mostly failed with that in the past month, and feeling relatively comfortable doing so. The final one took me 6:04, and I was thoroughly happy on the recovery jog back home.

I am running 69km this week, and am very much enjoying the taper. Unlike some people, who feel uneasy with doing less training, I even tend to think about skipping sessions in the taper. But so far I've managed to resist the temptation.

The extra time, and energy, freed up by running less is allowing me to focus on completing my first novel, From my Mother, hopefully before the marathon. After a lot of hard work, it is truly almost done. Today I received the CIP data Cataloguing in Publication from the Library and Archives Canada.

The cover is complete.The website is up, as is the Facebook fan page. So, I'd better get back to finishing that manuscript.

September 05, 2011

Time to taper!

Last week's 110km brought the distance run in the past 9 weeks to 936km, or a weekly average of 104km. The Bellingham Bay Marathon is now 19 days away, and it is time to taper, give my body a rest to gear up for race day. My program has a three-week taper, beginning this week with a decline in volume to about 90km. That may not sound like much, but after last week's 110, I sure will be able to tell the difference of running 20km less.

I have often heard from friends that they don't like the taper as doing less training makes them restless. I am the opposite, as I love easing off the training volume. I have thoroughly enjoyed boosting my running mileage to a new level. But it has also left me tired, and I cannot wait to put some laziness into the next three weeks.

In the taper, you can feel your body absorbing all that training, and slowly but surely recovering to reach a peak by race day. Meanwhile, your mind gets filled with that mix of excitement and nerves about putting all that hard work to the test. I love the taper because it means I get to race soon. Few things are as exciting as racing a marathon. You never know how the day will unfold, and one must expect the unexpected, even if it is all about executing a detailed plan you have made over the previous months of training.

I feel very prepared for this marathon, my 14th and my 10th in six years, as my training has gone well. There is no guarantee I will run a PB -- it has been three years since I last improved my marathon time. But that is what makes it special. While I have the lofty goal of running 2 hours anything one day, any improvement in my 3:07:10 PB from the 2008 Victoria Marathon will be a good outcome.

My hope is, of course, that I will smash that time, and that's what I'll be gunning for: my race plan calls for a 4:22 pace, a magic number that has been swirling in my mind for the past nine weeks. In an effort to help visualize race day, a recommended performance tool for all athletes, I have been writing a mile-by-mile visualization of the Bellingham Bay Marathon with the help of course maps, profile, etc. It's about 11,000 words so far.

I stopped a couple of weeks ago, focusing on finishing a novel (my first which I began working on a year ago) because I felt tired, tired, tired from the training and felt that the visualization was suffering from my exhaustion. I had also received positive and encouraging feedback on the manuscript for the 55,000-word novel, titled From my Mother 

Cover of my first novel
The story is about an experienced marathoner, named Nadia who, as she embarks on her biggest challenge yet, a 100-kilometre ultramarathon, has plenty of time to think about her maternal grandmother, who immigrated to the Netherlands in the early 1950s, escaping Czechoslovakia after the Communist coup d'etat. As the ultrarunning granddaughter struggles with unexpected obstacles in the longest race of her life, Nadia realizes those of her grandmother must have seemed far more insurmountable. She also realizes the ancestor she has always felt so close to is surrounded by mystery.

After completing a second revision of this manuscript, I am now rewriting a few parts based on the feedback from the readers and am hoping to complete my first work of fiction before the marathon.

I do want to complete the pre-race visualization as well as it has been very helpful to pour over the course maps, profile and landmarks, while reading up about the area as I imagine what ideally happens where and when. I was hoping to publish it before the race but I don't know if that is feasible. However, less running means more time, and energy, for writing so I will try for sure.

I am certainly not the only writer who uses running as a way to both inspire and work through manuscripts. The other day I read in The Faith of a Writer by Joyce Carol Oates, "Running! If there's an activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can't think what it might be. In running, the mind flies with the body; the mysterious efflorescence of language seems to pulse in the brain, in rhythm with our feet and the swinging of our arms."

"In running, 'spirit' seems to pervade the body; as musicians experience the uncanny phenomenon of tissue memory in their fingertips, so the runner seems to experience in feet, lungs, quickened heartbeat, an extension of the imagining self. The structural problems I set for myself in writing, in a long, snarled, frustrating and sometimes despairing morning of work, for instance, I can usually unsnarl by running in the afternoon."