June 30, 2012

What's up with the sidecut hairstyle?

In The Art of the Personal Essay, Phillip Lopate writes, "To essay is to attempt, to test, to make a run at something, without knowing whether you are going to succeed.... One would like to think that the personal essay represents a kind of basic research on the self, in ways that are allied with science and philosophy."

Getting used to the new do
On Wednesday, three days ago, I changed my look by shaving off the right side of my hair. I am far from the first woman to try the sidecut or undercut -- in fact I am far behind the curve, if anything.

In recent months I had seen two women sporting this hairstyle on The Voice and Duets (yes, I freely admit to watching reality singing competition shows), Lindsey Pavao and Jordan Meredith.

Cyndi Lauper and Salt N Pepa had sidecuts in the 80s. More recently UK model Alice Dellal took this look to the catwalk, while Rihanna has looked pretty fabulous with both her long and short versions of this look.

While it's hardly a unique hairstyle, perhaps even mainstream, shaving a part of your head looks and feels a little radical.

I didn't do it on a complete whim. The right side of my hair is not as full as the left, which has been annoying me for a few years, and I had joked that a sidecut would rid me of that problem.

Before going ahead on Wednesday with this drastic cut and shave -- after all it will take a few years before the shaved side will grow back to shoulder length -- I did some googling to make sure it was what I wanted and, if so, to pick up a few tips on how to do it.

It's not hard to find info on the one-sided headshave, sidecut or undercut. (There are plenty of opinions about this hairstyle too which you probably won't care about if this is what you're interested in doing.)

I watched a few videos on Youtube of women doing their own sidecuts which, aside from some useful practical tips, also give you an idea of the range of the emotions you'll go through during and the process.

Somewhat to my surprise, Tim was supportive and encouraging.

Now that my sidecut is done, I can't believe I did it; I like it, but it stands out without a doubt and I cannot help but wonder why I chose to do this.

It's only hair, of course, but growing the shaved part back to blend in with the length of the rest of my hair will take forever, especially with my curls. So, unless I go for the full head shave -- which I certainly don't plan on doing again, though I did, and enjoyed, that carefree do a little over a decade ago --  I will have my new sidecut for a while to come.

I did it because A.. I simply felt like it and B. I could. It was a gut feeling; even as I changed my mind a few times after choosing and putting the section I would cut, and then shave, into a ponytail, I still couldn't stop myself. Tim recommended I go for it, somewhat to my surprise.

Like the woman in the video, I first cut a shorter part of the ponytail - that brought it from shoulder length to just underneath my ear, getting rid of about 5 centimetres of length. Here I paused and considered stopping there, and simply bringing the rest of my hair in line with the new length which would have been a very high bob.

I knew I wanted the sidecut, even as I was scared to do it.

Tim recommended I proceed as planned, so I did. Then there was no turning back.

Relax, it's only hair...
The sidecut felt liberating and terrifying at the same time. Cool, I did it! Why did I do this? I don't recall a specific trigger for change that day, though the month of June has provoked much introspection. It is probably a symbolic culmination of everything I've thought about in the past month.

It's only hair. But hair is important, and I'd like to explore the reasons behind choosing my new hairstyle because I think it will help me understand a few other things.

"Our hair is one of the first things others notice about us and one of the primary ways we declare our identity to them," Rapunzel's Daughters: What Women's Hair Tells Us About Women's Lives author Rose Weitz says in a 2004 Arizona State University article.

"It is personal, growing directly out of our bodies," Weitz, a sociologist at ASU, wrote. "It is public, on view for all to see. And it is malleable, allowing us to change it more or less at whim. As a result, it's not surprising  that we use our hair to project our identity and that others see our hair as a reflection of our identity." 

"If you want to understand the importance of hair, talk to a woman who doesn't have any. You'll quickly learn, as I did, that losing one's hair can feel like losing one's very self," Weitz writes in Rapunzel's Daughters. "Sometimes that's the point. In other times and places, Bhuddist priests, Catholic nuns, mental patients, prisoners, and soldiers have had their heads shaved to strip away their identity."
"For nuns, priests and (volunteer) soldiers, this can be a welcome change, marking a fresh start as a longed-for future turns to reality." 
When I decided to cut my hair from well over shoulder-length to as short as it can be cut with a pair of scissors at the end of 2000, I hadn't given my motivation much thought. It seemed like a cool change. It was just hair. Right? Wrong.

"Women who more freely choose baldness speak even more positively of it as a means of finding and expressing their identity, or of ridding themselves of a hated problem -- be it wayward hair or men's attentions," Weitz also wrote. "The sheer glee with which they recount the experience of shaving their heads suggests that maybe we should all try shaving our head at least once."

Hair pinned up
As I learned following my hair cut, followed by several short shaves, about 10 years ago, a woman with very little hair becomes a different person, changes her identity, whether she likes it or not.

I plan to explore my drive, a woman's motivation, for the partial shave in writing through a personal essay, as defined by Lopate above, "a kind of basic research on the self, in ways that are allied with science and philosophy."

June 27, 2012

The Journey of a Book

I love going to the library, any library, and we're lucky in Squamish to have a superb one too. The other day I went to pick up a book that I had requested through the fantastic and free interlibrary loans system -- John Steinbeck's Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters.

Since I finished writing my last book, a novel called From my Mother, in October, I have been searching for the next one and have yet to find it. Nine months have passed -- I have completed books in less time such as A Hundred Reasons to Run 100km -- and I still don't feel I have a firm grip on that next manuscript.

This has been frustrating, as much as I have tried to not let it bother me to avoid feeling even more 'blocked' -- though that is a term I dislike because it sounds like the blocking is beyond our control and I don't think it is.

I write daily. That, in itself, does not make a book but it is a start -- even if it is a slow one.

I have come to realize in the past month that it will mostly be a matter of giving myself permission to begin a potential manuscript, without knowing for sure if it will work out. By working out, I mean that the writing will turn into a book that A. I like and B. readers like.

But I can't get to point B until I get to point A. Unless I give myself permission to move on to the next step in the creative process, it won't happen.

For now, I am still warming up.Reading is an important part of that. Picking up Steinbeck's Journal of a Novel from the Squamish Public Library, I browsed for a few more titles and brought home Deepak Chopra's The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams and Sarah Ban Breathnach's Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy.

Chopra writes, “The fourth spiritual law of success is the Law of Least Effort. This law is based on the fact that nature’s intelligence functions with effortless ease and abandoned carefreeness. This is the principle of least action, of no resistance. This is, therefore, the principle of harmony and love.

"When we learn this lesson from nature, we easily fulfill our desires. If you observe nature at work, you will see that least effort is expended. Grass doesn’t try to grow, it just grows. Fish don’t try to swim, they just swim. Flowers don’t try to bloom, they bloom. Birds don’t try to fly, they fly. This is their intrinsic nature.”

Writers don’t try to write, they write. 

All I need to do is stop worrying about writing; I can stop resisting the act of writing by writing. There is no trying, there is only doing. As I write, the book writes itself. No need to think, analyze, justify, or even prepare. Write and trust the process of the writing itself. Trust myself.

In Simple Abundance, Breathnach writes, "If a writer has a block, it's usually because she doesn't believe in what she's writing."

I am looking for the confidence to believe in what I am writing. This time around it has been hard to find, so I must keep looking but make sure I don't get lost in the search. It seems Steinbeck is helping me help myself get unstuck. I don't have evidence of it yet but I can feel it. I can see it such as in the writing of this post.

It never ceases to amaze how often we find exactly what we are looking for in the books we choose to read. Sometimes it is what we had hoped and expected to find. Other times we didn't know what it was we were looking for until we found it.

“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imagined, do and think and feel is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become,” Breathnach cites Ursula K LeGuin in Simple Abundance.

For the writer, it is similar. "We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand," wrote CS Day Lewis.

Perhaps the fact that we discover revelations in the books of our choosing is not so surprising as something speaks to us from the cover, whether it's the image, the description, or a recommendation by a reviewer. Often a book has come recommended by a friend or mentor.

Sometimes a book, and its revelations, arrive via a roundabout way that took years to reach us -- Steinbeck's Journal of a Novel is one of them.

When Tim and I lived in Sydney, Australia, we began training with a group of triathletes coached by John Hill. We joined his group at the start of 2001 and met many triathletes and runners through his group and the BRATs, the Bondi Running And Triathlon Club.

Among the people we met was Dessie Suttle, though we didn't get to know Dessie until we shared accommodation with him and three others for a couple of nights when all six of us were running the 2007 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia. Dessie has been a runner since his early teens and has never stopped loving, practicing and learning about the sport. He's done many triathlons too including eight Ironmans.

Luka, me & Dessie
After Tim and I moved to Canada in late 2007, we connected with Dessie via Facebook a couple of years later. It was on Facebook Dessie noticed we were thinking of doing the Whistler 50 Ultra. Before long, he decided to come visit us here in Canada and race his first 50-miler.

He stayed with us for two weeks in which he became a very good friend.

Dessie brought with him a very well-thumbed paperback copy of George Sheehan's This Running Life (1980). I absolutely love Sheehan's Running & Being (I found a hard-cover copy of the 1978 edition in a used  bookstore in New Zealand in 2005).

Not only does Sheehan write incomparably about running, he also masterfully describes the bond between his running and his writing, one that spoke strongly to me as I began running in the same year I became a professional journalist. Coincidence, I thought at first but no longer.

"There are times when I am not sure whether I am a runner who writes or a writer who runs. Mostly it appears that the two are inseparable. I cannot write without running, and I am not sure I would run if I could not write. They are two different expressions of my person. As difficult to divide as my body and mind.

"Writing is the final truth that comes from my running. For when I run, I am a hunter and the prey is my self, my own truth. Not only my own truth felt and my own truth known, but my own truth written. Good writing is true writing. A thing written as true as it can be done. And that truth must be sought deep inside of me."

I was very excited to see This Running Life as I had not come across this out-of-print title yet and asked to read it while Dessie was at our place. I didn't get around to it then, so Dessie generously agreed to leave it with me, saying he was given the title by a good running friend in Sydney.

It took a few months, in fact until May this year, until I finally began reading This Running Life as I was trying to get my mind into the right space ahead of the Vancouver marathon. And the book certainly helped, as did Dessie's advice (via Facebook) to "Relax and let it happen."

In This Running Life I also found Sheehan's admiration for his friend and fellow running writer, Joe Henderson. "For almost as many years as I have been writing, I have been making periodic phone calls to Joe Henderson to tell him I am through, washed up; I will never again write anything worth reading. And for just as many years, he has reassured me that all will be well. He has reminded me that I have passed innumerable such crises before, and this one too shall pass.
"I go through the ritual because Joe is the only person I trust when it comes to writing about running. If I have one sentence, even one word, that is weak exaggerated or untrue, he will catch it immediately. If the writing is a fraction off-key, a hair out of tune, his eye and ear will detect it. When it comes to running-writing, Joe has perfect pitch. So if I write anything that passes his editorial scrutiny, I know I need not care about anyone else's opinion.
"What he knows is enough. Henderson once referred to running as the thinking person's sport. Subsequent events have proven him correct. Running has attracted and continues to attract individuals of all temperaments, but none more strongly than those who live in the mind."

Very high praise indeed and if a writer of Sheehan's calibre trusts Henderson, I thought I'd better read some of his many books on running, which for some reason I have not yet done. (I have read, though not followed, Henderson's Marathon Training: The Proven 100-day Program for Success of which we have 2 copies in our library here at home.)

Lacking patience to wait for my next library visit, I headed to the Kindle store and opted to buy Starting Lines: Early Efforts of a Writing Runner, and Where They Led (Joe Henderson's memoirs).

"My first and most enduring literary hero was John Steinbeck. He taught me to read and inspired me to write. The first non-sports book I ever read for pleasure, without a teacher's grade hanging over me, was Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. The best writing instructions I've ever seen were in his Journal of a Novel, which solidified my habit of journal-keeping."

And that's what led me to track down a copy of Steinbeck's Journal of a Novel via the online interlibrary loans system and I requested it for pick-up at the Squamish Public Library. That's where it arrived earlier this month, and I have been reading it since.

I haven't yet put my finger on what exactly it is about Steinbeck's Journal of a Novel that is helping me slowly move forward; perhaps it is reading about the daily struggles of a Nobel-prize-winning author considered one of the greatest American novelists that is encouraging me to maintain my own daily battle and trust that eventually I will find the confidence I am looking for.

"Just as it always does – the work started without warning.  It is always that way. I must sit a certain time before it happens," Steinbeck writes.

"Of course that is the way it has to go. So simple when it finally comes to you. That's the way it is. You fight a story week after week and day after day and then it arranges itself in your hands."
Steinbeck takes himself and his work very seriously. He trusts in his ability, in his passion. Follows his own compass. "I am not writing for money now [during the simultaneous writing of Journal of a Novel and East of Eden though the former wasn't intended for publication] any more than I ever did. If money comes that is fine but [if] I knew right now that this book would not sell a thousand copies, I would still write it."

Being a writer is a long and winding journey; you cannot travel it unless you find the courage to start and keep moving forward -- writing as best you can until you can do it better because you allowed yourself to write the way you could and then persisted to improve on it.

"Most often we don't know what we're thinking until we try to put it into words. Words can act like tongs to drag a squirming idea into view, or like a set of lenses to help focus our thoughts. Words can cap gushing emotions, and trawl for memories. They can highlight and frame things when we need perspective, and they're excellent handles when we need to grip slippery emotion," writes Diane Ackerman in An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain.

"As social beasts, we trade words with others, negotiate meanings, use words as currency. Words form the backbone of what we think. So, although it's possible to have thought without words, it's rarely possible to know what we think without bronzing it in words. Otherwise, the thoughts seem to float away. Refine the words and you refine the thought, but that often means squishing a square thought into a round hole, and saying what you can instead of what you mean."

Some days will be better than others. Accept it and keep going. "For years I have looked for the perfect pencil. I have found very good ones but never the perfect one. And all the time it was not the pencils but me. A pencil that is right some day is no good another day," writes Steinbeck.

Most of all, conquer whatever it is that is holding you back by discovering it.

As Steinbeck writes, "I believe you can only be unafraid if you find out what it is you fear and conquer it."

I have been, and still am, afraid of writing my next book -- the only way to conquer that fear is by doing exactly that.

June 26, 2012

A personal (blog) record in paperback

Tim created this blog for me more than five years ago, He also wrote the first post on April 15, 2007 about the personal best of 3:08:48 I had just run in the Canberra marathon, improving on the 3:13:01 in the 2006 Gold Coast marathon. When he wrote that post, neither one of us realized then I had also won my age group -- a first at the marathon distance.

The title I initially used for this blog was The Happiness of the Long Distance Runner; while the title has changed several times since, the first one by and large still captures this blog's essence.

I was hesitant at first, writing only the odd post. There was one in May 2007, followed by another in July, and the next came in August. Then there was a gap until January 2008 -- by then Tim and I had swapped Sydney, Australia -- our home of seven years -- for Canada's West Coast.

The number of posts have steadily increased since and keeping this blog has also helped me keep tabs on my running, writing and, in a way, life in general. It helps motivate me to start and finish a thought, or at least explore it, in writing in a way that I am comfortable publishing. It's been especially helpful in the times I feel the work on the next book is lacking in progress.

Last month, partly motivated by finding a way to safeguard all the writing I have done for it in the past five years and partly because of wanting a physical copy as a personal record, I looked for, and found, a way to download the entire blog's text with Blog2Print.com into a PDF-file. It only costs $7.95, well worth it to me.

Next I turned the PDF into a text file, getting rid of all the images, and discovered I had written more than 200,000 words. I spent a couple of weeks quick-editing the file for errors and layout so I could turn into a paperback, a printed record of everything I have written on this blog between April 2007 and May 2012.

It's turned into a tome of 496 pages. I designed a simple cover for which I chose to use an image taken at about 15K into the 2011 Bellingham Bay Marathon as it's relaxed and happy.

Today I received the proof copy of this paperback. My only plans with it for now are to clean the interior file up further with another edit and to improve the layout for my own personal record, that of The Happiness of one Long Distance Runner.

When the universe conspires...

This year my birth month June decided it was time to slap me across my face in an attempt to wake me from a semi-conscious slumber concerning various aspects of life. It smacked me hard, not once but twice, as if to make sure the message really got through.

It did. I heard it loud and clear both times. I was reminded of the most important relationship we have in life -- that with ourselves. I have been working hard to understand what is going on.

As Deepak Chopra writes in The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, "You must learn to get in touch with the inner most essence of your being. This true essence is beyond the ego. It is fearless; it is free; it is immune to criticism; it does not fear any challenge. It is beneath no one, superior to no one, and full of magic mystery, and enchantment. Access to your true essence will give you insight into the mirror of relationship, because all relationship is a reflection of your relationship with yourself."

He also writes, "Whatever relationships you have attracted in your life at this moment are precisely the ones you need in your life at this moment."

And so I am grateful for this challenging month of June. The first smack came at the start of the month. It is a long, and naturally one-sided, story should I choose to tell it here and one that involves close family relationships.

So I will only say that, most importantly, the event triggered what one may call, as Brene Brown said in her superb Ted talk embedded below on The Power of Vulnerability, a Spiritual Awakening aka Breakdown. While initially it felt like the latter, I now realize, and choose to consider, it the former.

Anything that makes us unhappy in life is an opportunity to look at the reasons why that is so. And then consider what we can do about it. I cannot control what other people do, think or feel. But I can control how I think, feel and act. And that is enough. I am enough.

Like the universe's first slap, the second was also a culmination of neglecting obvious signs. For the past month, I have struggled with extreme tightness in my legs that, while being superbly released by my sponsor Chief Chiro, keeps returning and has now resulted in outright pain following Sunday's Scotiabank Half Marathon.

Finishing in 87:02 in the Scotiabank half, I was eight seconds off the PB I ran in April this year. I was pleased with my race on Sunday. I won the F40-44 age group, see division results here, as this event takes the top 3 open and top 3 masters out of the age categories. I was 12th female and 4th masters woman behind three inspiringly swift women who ran 78 (1st) and 82 (2nd & 3rd).

However, as the day progressed my right leg, in particular my heel, got so sore I had trouble walking. Clearly, I need to change something in my body's flexibility and strength if I want to get rid of the increasing level of tightness that keeps reccuring despite regular ART treatments.

I take it as the universe's way of asking me, "So how serious are you really about your running ambitions? For years, you have been talking about increasing strength and flexibility but you keep telling yourself it is beyond your energy and time. Well, here's an ultimatum so you'd better do something about it."

Bikram yoga might be the answer. Tim has been going to the Squamish-based Bikram Yoga Sea to Sky classes recently -- an initial blast in December and then as a regular part of his triathlon training for the past month -- so on Sunday night I went along with him. It felt great, though absolutely exhausting, and I think it helped. I could walk a little better the next morning, though running was out of the question, so I went again on Monday evening. I am going to try to go tonight again to take advantage of that first introductory week and see if it is something I can add to help my body -- and mind.

The universe has a great way of teaching us about ourselves and it certainly has done so for me this June. I am getting the message loud and clear, and have chosen to act accordingly.

June 22, 2012

Getting ready to race 21.1K

While I am not so sure how venture capitalist Kevin O'Leary, Mr Wonderful from Dragon's Den and Shark Tank, became my Active Release Techniques therapist, I completely understand why I flew into a rage when he had the nerve to call me less than an hour before my treatment to cancel it. I was so mad that I lacked sufficient energy to express it to him, though I tried hard.

"How dare you, Kevin O'Leary, cancel this session I so desperately need before Sunday's Scotiabank Half Marathon?" I yelled into the phone. He didn't seem to care, so I hung up on him to find someone else to release those tight running muscles but now everything was going against me still; moving as in slow motion, I just couldn't get there in time.

Suddenly it was 9:59am and there was no way I could not make the 10am appointment with another ART therapist, I cannot remember who, by the time I woke up.

A strange dream indeed but it shows I was very much looking forward to today's 10am appointment with my truly wonderful sponsor Chief Chiro. Last week I took four - yes f o u r - days off running as I did not like the increasing level of tightness in my Achilles.

On the fifth day, Monday, Chief Chiro's Dr Paul Fleming released a whole bunch of tightness in both my calves, especially the right one, and,  importantly, gave me the all clear to try a run later that day. He also assured me I did not have Achilles tendinitis or tendinosis as I feared the symptoms in my right calf had been indicating in the past week or so.

Achilles problems have the potential to get very scary and should not be ignored by any runner, which is why I was both extremely cautious and worried.

Trusting, and relieved at, his professional opinion, and raring to go for a run after four days off, I did 19K that same evening including 8K at 4:10 pace. Naturally, I felt somewhat tired on Tuesday's easy 10-11K.

On Wednesday it was time for the fifth weekly John Hill speed workout. Meeting on the track, I was reminded of the previous session we did there with him two weeks ago: 10 400s with 200m jogging recovery. I had suffered through that one, for several reasons including some that had nothing to do with running though had eroded my mental endurance, as I ran the laps in as fast as 76 seconds and no slower than 81 seconds.

We did a 20-minute warm-up of easy jogging around the dirt track, curious to find out what John had planned for us this time. It was 5 400s with a 400m jogging recovery. The first 400 was meant to be a warm-up, run at about the same pace as we had in the previous session of 400s, before then speeding up for the next four repeats.

John's goal for mine was to do the first in 77-78 seconds, and then speed up to 72-73 per lap for the next four repeats. Woah.

As a final warm-up, he had us all do 4 striders which in this case meant about 75 metres of sprinting; we eased into the first one and then did all-out efforts for the next three striders.

For the main set, like in the previous session, we were divided in two groups. A few boys were keen and started fast, too fast for my goal I felt, so I hung back and finished my first lap right on target in 78 seconds. I felt tight overall and that first 400 in 78 seemed a struggle. 

The second one, while faster, felt much better, and I was pleased to run the next 4 400s in 73-74. While a hard effort, it felt so much easier than those 10 400s had and it was done before I realized it. I knew I had paced myself well, leaving something in the tank.

Physically, there was a lot of tightness in my back and my running felt very ugly in the final 200 metres of the final hard lap, constricting my movements. The tightness was also in my lower legs, though - as Paul had - said, not in my Achilles. The tightness had shifted to the lower inside heel of my right leg, a good sign indeed, I thought.

John had us do a cooldown that included 4 200s at 10K race pace, which was nice. Speed is relative.

Besides tight and stiff, I felt great after these 400s. Never before have I run around the track at sub-75 seconds. And I'm sure I can learn to run 400s faster. The thought crossed my mind that if, and that's a big if, I could run four consecutive such laps, I could do a 4:59 mile. That would be pretty cool.

I have never raced on the track. Perhaps it is time to try and see whether a sub-5 mile is a goal worth pursuing. I'll ask John about that next Wednesday.

First things first, getting ready for Sunday's Scotiabank Half Marathon! 

Yesterday, Thursday, I ran an easy 8.5K and was very grateful I'd be seeing Chief Chiro's Dr Leah Stadelmann the next day for a treatment, as evidenced by my weird dreams last night.

She did a superb job this morning, working on everything from my back to my glutes, lower legs and feet. I am not exaggerating when I say that my body feels brand new, amazing! That, importantly, also helps the mental attitude, i.e. confidence, I feel towards the race.

Like last year, I have an elite starting spot for this half. I hope to race better, though, as I was very disappointed with my 89:44 a year ago. It's hard to gauge how half-marathon race fit I am at the moment, as I had a break after the Vancouver marathon, then got started on a different type of training.

Since the May 6 marathon I have yet to do a week of 60K, about half of what I was running each week on average in the first four months of the year, but I have run faster than ever for 400m (73 seconds), the mile (5:42 on the road), and 2 miles (12:12) on the road. None of those were single, all-out efforts but part of a set of repeats. 

Two weeks ago I ran an undulating 10K in 40:02, though did not feel I paced that one well on a course I covered for the first time. 

I am aiming for a Sub-87 on Sunday, hoping to improve the 86:57 PB I ran in the Sunshine Coast half in April. We'll see if the body agrees.

For the occasion I have (finally) bought a new race top, another Zoot, in bright pink and orange thanks to the prize I got for winning a 10K in Stanley Park in April. The 10K was sponsored by Sport Chek, so thank you.

Points for discovering this Zoot number go to Tim. The dark purple Zoot top I bought in 2007 when I still lived in Sydney, Australia, has been my attire in most races since, so it was high time for a change of outfit!

June 11, 2012

A tough but great 10K test

The Sandcastle 10K was a great, but challenging, run. My plan called for an average 3:50 pace, with a faster start as (much of) the first K was downhill.

Coach John Hill had asked if I wanted to try for a Sub-39. He had warned me that if I was struggling by 5K, I'd be in trouble. While a net downhill course that finishes with a fast final kilometre, there are plenty of undulations, especially in the second half.

I had not done this race before. Long story short, I reached halfway in 19:33 and finished in 40:02. My splits, according to my watch, were 3:44, 3:44, 3:53, 3:53, 4:20, 4:30, 4:24, 4:11, 4:03, 3:20 (!). 

It was fun to try this pace, it just didn't work out this time. I simply faded on the undulations in the second half, though tried to keep running as hard as I could. I didn't feel bad, but didn't feel great either. There was no extra zip.

As John suggested, I let go on the final downhill using 'helicopter' arms to keep me steady. John had been at 3K and 5K to cheer on his runners, providing splits.  He was also about 500m from the finish and told me to 'kick my butt' to gain a little extra speed.  

I finished 3rd woman overall. It's a great 10K, well organized and it finishes in a beautiful spot though unfortunately Tim, Luka and I couldn't stick around this time. I'd like to do this race again, with experience on the course. Here are the results.

Thanks to Chief Chiro's Dr Paul Fleming for the pre-race treatment.

June 09, 2012

Time to test 10K speed

Tomorrow I am racing a 10K in White Rock, BC. It's been five weeks since the Vancouver marathon and the recovery from my 3:00:29 effort there seems to have gone well.

My plan to take it easy during the four weeks after the marathon changed, not surprisingly perhaps as I joined a 10-week running clinic coached by VFAC's John Hill, hosted by the Squamish Titans.

John, based in Vancouver, comes to Squamish every Wednesday to coach a session of fast running.

The first was on May 23, 2-1/2 weeks after the marathon during which I had run twice; a 60-minute trail run with Amy on May 17 and a tempo run with the Squamish Titans on May 21 in which I covered 7K at 4:15 pace following a 2K warm-up on a flat out-and-back course marked each kilometre set out by Volker.

On May 23, John had 2 x 2-mile repeats on the road in store for us. He provided everyone, about 20, with goal times based on recent race times. Mine were 6:10 per mile, or 12:20 for the 2-mile repeats. I hadn't planned on running fast so soon after the marathon and asked John who said it should be fine as the fitness from the marathon should be kicking in.

I took his word for it. And he was right. I did the first in 12:19 and the second in 12:12. That works out to paces of 3:24 per K and 3:22 per K respectively. John helped pace me in the final K of the second 2-miler, which was great.

With plenty of runners in the group, we all have someone to run with, or to chase, or to breathe down our neck. Highly motivating! John had paired me with Tim and Sean for this session, and the three of us were a little surprised at our ability to reach the goal pace. A great start to the clinic.

John wrote individual programs for everyone, covering the next two weeks.

I ran 10K easy the following day and did 18.5K on Saturday. Sunday had 45 minutes easy to rest up for Monday's tempo run. John had given me 16K in total including 13K at 4:15 pace. There were six of us and Roger had set out a 4K lap on flat trails, marked each kilometre.

While I did 13K at tempo, I pressed the wrong button on my watch and only timed part of the run, 10.84K at 4:23 per K.

On Wednesday (May 30) John had 2 x 1-1/2 mile repeats, followed by 1 x 1-mile in store. He gave me a goal time of 6:00 per mile, or 9:00 for the 1-1/2 mile repeats, and a 5:50 for the final mile. Especially the latter sounded challenging to me, as I am not aware of ever having run a 5:50 mile.

This time Sean wasn't there and Tim was holding back as he was gearing up for the Oliver Half Ironman on the weekend, so I was 'on my own' at that particular pace for the first two repeats. I was glad to do both in 8:57 (3:43 per K), but wondered how much I'd have left for that last mile?

As it turned out, more than enough. I ran 5:42 (3:33 per K), spurred on by John in the final half, and partly by Jody who had started off a little quick thinking the final repeat was a half mile, though he held on well in that unexpected second half mile. 

The next day I ran 10K easy, before doing 21K on Saturday in Oliver. On Sunday I 'ran' as a spectactor cheering on Tim who had a great day in his first half Ironman (and triathlon) of the season, finishing 5th in his age group.

Monday didn't leave time or energy for a run. On Tuesday night I ran about 90 minutes easy with Luka.

Wednesday we met on the track where John had 10 x 400s for us (200m jog recovery). The goal he gave me was 77-78. That was hard work from the start! Thankfully I had both people to chase and people on my heels, and finished all between 76 and 81, with most done in 78-79 (about 3:17 per K). A tough workout for sure!

After the session John wrote out my program for the next couple of weeks, as he does for everyone in the group, and asked if I'd planned any races in that period. When I mentioned my plan to do the Sandcastle 10K on Sunday, he said: You gonna go Sub-39?

Hmm, well ... happy to try as he's been spot on with the challenging Wednesday goals he gave me for the past three weeks. My fastest 10K, as he knows too, is 39:39 which I ran in the Vancouver Sun Run in April. John said that people who run a PB in the Sun Run tend to do better again on tomorrow's 10K course.

The Sun Run was the first time in four years I ran Sub-40, having done it only twice before in early 2008. Based on my 3:00:29 marathon, I should be able to run a faster 10K. Merv's for example puts the 10K equivalent at 38:40.
Sub-39 is the plan for tomorrow. I trust John's goal for me and am looking forward to racing for the first time after the marathon.

Tim's gonna watch this one, as he's still recovering from the half Ironman. He told his Dad on the phone tonight, making sure I could hear it, "She thinks she can run faster than me." Tim ran a superb 38:42 PB in the Toronto's Yonge Street 10K in last month.

As an extra boost of confidence, Dr Paul Fleming from Chief Chiro in Squamish worked to loosen my calves today as I was very worried about the new level of tightness despite my efforts with self-massage, rolling and Epsom salt baths. My concern that it was an Achilles problem was unfounded, he said, which was a huge relief. Thanks so much for the great (last-minute) treatment and the reassurance Paul!