January 07, 2012

Resolutions: chocolate, wine & training

Luka l o v e s the beach
A relaxed 10km was on the program today, so I asked Luka to join me. He was keen, of course. Luka loves to run, especially when there's sand, water and sticks involved. Alas, that wasn't the case this time; there was plenty of water but it was rain, rather than ocean or lake.

There was no beach either, though there were many trees and bushes to sniff along the way so we had a few short stops as I kept him on the leash.

It was nice to share a run which brought my total for the first week of 2012 to 104K. So far, so good; I love the feeling of having committed to the program with a clear focus. The training is more familiar now. Not that the sessions were complicated the first time around when I followed a similar structure for three months last year, but knowing what to expect has helped me prepare better.

It's always easy to be excited when starting something new, and it's important not to get carried away in the first week.

Among my resolutions for 2012 were to stop eating chocolate and to drink less red wine (i.e. stop having a glass before dinner). Well, I kept those until January 2; obviously I wasn't too serious about them.

What I am serious about is my training for the Vancouver marathon. Just having started the program, I am making a few changes to the way I approach it—call them resolutions if you like.

1. Easing into the program.

At the start of each new program, training toward a new and/or challenging goal, it's easy to get overexcited. Keen to improve on previous results and all fired up with renewed commitment, I know I've made the mistake of aiming for the top of a pace zone in the early sessions. Fresh legs with a fresh mind can get a little carried way.

This time, with 18 weeks of heavy training ahead, I've sharpened my expectations but am easing into meeting them by aiming for the easiest pace allowed in each session, finishing tired and within the parameters, but with a feeling that I could have run harder, instead of running myself into the ground the first week of the program.

2. Making time to plan and focus on the workout.

I am taking a few extra minutes to think through each session before I head out the door. I consider the route I am going to run, thinking through the best option for each workout. I recheck my heart rate target zones, and remind myself of No. 1; take it easy in the first few weeks of the program. I check that I am fuelled and hydrated for the session ahead and have something extra if I need it. I think about the workout's goal and how I am going to achieve it. I make sure the Garmin is charged, and the iPod too, if I'll take them.

None of the above is rocket science, it's just taking that little bit of extra time for a deep breath and making sure I know what I am going to be doing.

3. Taking it very easy on recovery runs.

This point goes back to No. 1 too; I also underestimated the challenge of the various sessions when I first followed a similar structure last year. While there are no super-fast sessions, the lactate threshold and marathon goal race pace workouts are demanding.

For example, next Sunday, my long run calls for 27K—the final 13K should be run at marathon goal race pace, i.e. 4:15 per K in my case. A challenge for sure.

4. Accepting the fatigue.

Being tired from training is not new to me. But I found last year, running record volume, that the fatigue I felt from training that much annoyed me at times. I resisted giving into it at first. Later I found that lying down, even for just 15 to 30 minutes after a session, made a huge difference. I also simply need to sleep at least eight hours every night.

So, now that I am going to run even more again, I am prepared to feel and be tired. It's simply the way it is. The yin and the yang; you run a lot, you're tired. To keep going, you must rest enough.

5. Simplifying life; focus.

Becoming who I am (34x42")
I used to paint. A lot. (Check out some photos here.) The second desk in my office is 'fully loaded' with acrylic and oil paints. There's a roll with metres of canvas waiting to be used. But at the moment I don't have the mental or physical energy to paint.

Last year I did one 'painting', reworking a large canvas to say, Always Believe 2:59. I like looking at it every day as it reminds me of a key goal. I may pick up a brush this year but don't expect to.

The same goes for the guitar. I did play last year, even took a superb blues jamming course in the summer and began a band with a few friends, though it soon turned out that making time to play together was challenging for all.

South Coast Track w. guitar
For several years I had practiced daily (and need plenty more). I was religious about it; when hiking the stunning and remote South Coast Track in the Southwest Wilderness of Tasmania with Tim and a couple of friends, I had strapped a guitar on top of my 25kg backpack so I could keep up the daily routine.

Incidentally, check out the great photo blog Tim created from that hike; we flew into Melaleuca and then hiked the 84K to Cockle Creek.

I'll get back to the paint and the guitar when I feel like doing so. They're just not a priority right now, and there's no need to feel guilty about that.

6. Riding the highs and focusing on the positives in the lows.

Some sessions feel awesome, like Tuesday's and Wednesday's this week. They aren't always going to feel like that. So that's why I take special note of the ones that feel effortless. On the days when my training isn't going as well as I'd like it to, sometimes simply having completed the session is the positive.

Monitoring your heart rate is a great way to remind yourself of the effort you've put in, even if the result (pace) wasn't what you had in mind.

7. Prioritizing.

For the next four months, my training is a top priority. I have never run daily but I've done enough training to know that this will be a major challenge. Aside from making the time to train and rest, I will no doubt need to make time for stretching, hot baths, self-massage with the TP Therapy set but also for creating the mental space needed to allow my mind to be rested enough for the next session.

8. Having fun.

This is not a new point; I run because I love it. But I always make sure I continue to enjoy the training. Or adjust it.

Tim, a passionate triathlete, is preparing for two half ironmans and an Olympic distance in the first part of 2012. He might skip Ironman for the second year in a row, as he's eyeing a fast marathon in the second half of 2012.

Tim, I & 50,000+ at 2001 City to Surf
Even as our training routines are very different, we typically share a run at least once a week. Training, racing and being fit have always been part and parcel of our life since we began sharing it eleven years ago. It's a fun lifestyle, and we always make sure to keep it that way, no matter how serious we are about our goals.

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