Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Pokemon Go Cautionary Tale

Anyone else been swept up in the Pokemon Go craze?

My sons were really into Pokemon when they were young. I knew all about Ash and Misty and Team Rocket and Pikachu and Pokeballs. And then time passed and they grew up and I forgot. Until a couple of weeks ago. All of a sudden they were talking about it again.

I had some vivid deja vu moments. My sons were going on hunts to catch Pokemon. But not imaginary ones any more. Real, virtual Pokemon. And they sounded like they were having fun. Good, clean, healthy fun. So I hopped on board.

Took me no time to catch my first Pokemon. A Charmander for Charmaine. Couldn't have been more perfect. I was hooked. The excitement of the chase. The collecting. The comparing (do you have a Vaporeon with a combat power of 933 because I do?). Hatching eggs by walking - or running - as long as you put them in an incubator first. And laughing with my Pokemon-chasing posse about the nay-sayers. Nothing wrong with a little bit of silly, childish fun. And certainly nothing wrong with a fully grown, 53 year old woman living in a virtual world for a few minutes a day.


I might need to keep my eye out for  the symptoms of Lyssa Virus after Iven's close encounter.

Not even a cheeky Clefairy can wake a tired Dalmatian
But in the last couple of days I found out that there is a dark side to living the Pokemon Life. My health and well-being have been challenged. Twice.

The first was Monday night. My middle son and I decided we'd take the dogs for a walk around UQ after work. For a bit of exercise for us and the dogs and some quality time hunting Pokemon. Oh and bonding. Let's not forget bonding.

The dogs were soooo excited to be having a walk in a new and interesting-smelling place. Especially once we got to the duck pond. Duck poo is like Old Spice to the discerning dog nose. Toby was a sniffing machine which was a little inconvenient as I was deep in Psyduck territory. I'd missed catching one the day before so I was determined to add one to my Pokedex.

The phone vibrated in my hand and there it was - the elusive Psyduck. Right near Josh and Ricky. I tapped on him and got ready to aim and fire off a Pokeball. Or two. Or even three if it took that many. And while I was in that distracted state Toby took his opportunity. He'd spotted a little cluster of real ducks down at the water's edge and he was on his own duck hunt. With me attached.


Did you know that it's really hard to stop a determined 32k retriever who has a bit of momentum and the smell of duck up his nostrils? The ducks took flight into the water thinking that would stop Toby but retrievers are water dogs and he wasn't planning on stopping. It was only my significant weight advantage and my equal determination not to go swimming in the university duck pond in the middle of winter that stopped us. Right at the water's edge. Heart racing. Breathless. With the sound of my son's laughter ringing in my ears.

But I caught my Psyduck. So it was definitely worth it.

So I survived my first negative Pokemon experience without any real disaster. Number two happened just a couple of days later. 

Wednesday I turned up at the morning run just not feeling the love. I was supposed to do a 16k with a 10k tempo portion. I'd had an ordinary speed session the day before and just felt off for the rest of the day and I wasn't feeling much better after a night's sleep so I pulled the pin on the tempo bit and just ran what-should-have-been-easy-but-felt-way-harder pace and when it turned out to be a kilometre short I didn't worry.

We had our usual coffee and my stomach churned. I went home and had breakfast and it churned some more. Worked for a few hours then had lunch and my stomach churned so much that I threw up. A couple of times. Ughh! I'd caught the virus that had struck Josh down the day before. The same Josh that I'd shared the Pokemon walk and a car ride in close quarters with on Monday just before he got sick. 

Strike two Pokemon Go!

But again, this experience had its silver lining. I'm a couple of kilos lighter today. So winning! And while I was feeling so disgustingly nauseated last night and not able to go out in the real world to hunt for virtual monsters, I used a lure and caught a Jigglypuff. When life gives you lemons it doesn't hurt to make lemonade.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Half

I just added another half marathon to the list I keep in my phone. Of half marathons I've run in.

It's probably a strange list to have in a phone but if I had it on a piece of paper and put the paper somewhere safe I'd probably forget where I put it. Because, yep memory is an issue at my age.  And the whole reason that I want a list of races that I've run is because of my memory. I don't want to forget any of them. Not a single one.


I've done 23 now. Not a huge number in the scheme of things but not a small number either. And, considering number 2 was going to be my last ever, quite a big number really.

 Number 2 was going to be my last because it was awful. Horrible. Painful. Miserable. And disappointing. And it wasn't like I hadn't trained hard for it. I'd done nearly all of the training sessions I'd been set. I'd battled through a case of ITBS and come through. And I'd run a pretty okay-for-a-newbie-runner half a few months before. That one I'd finished in 2:01 and I knew I could run under 2 hours. In fact I was so determined that I put too much pressure on myself and totally fell apart on the morning of the race. Spent a lot of time in the bathroom throwing up and barely made the start line. In fact the thing that got me to the start line was the fact that I'd paid for the race and money was tight back then so I didn't want to waste it. I ran 10k of the race then had to walk most of the rest of the way. Pride and getting the t shirt and medal I'd paid for were the only things that kept me going.

That race is still my PW time - 2:20. And I swore I would never do another. Not under any circumstances. Ever!

Then I joined a running group and it was one of those 'lie with dogs - rise with fleas' kinda things. Spend enough time around people who think that doing a half marathon is a good idea and you end up warming to the idea. So I did another. And another. And another. And now there's 23 entries to my list. 23 times that I've trained for weeks to get to a starting line. 23 times I've had to quash doubts and fears and believe that I can do it. 23 times that I've had to ignore the voices in my head that have told me to stop because it's hard and it hurts. 23 times that I've seen that 21k marker and known that I've done it. I've beaten the Beast-this time anyway. And 23 times that I've felt the elation of finishing and the incredible sense of achievement - which is why I keep on signing up for races.

I have my next half in just a couple of weeks. And then I'm really not certain about the rest of my racing year. I've signed up for Sydney marathon in September but I'm tossing up with dropping back to the half for a couple of reasons. I've got a minor toe issue. A tendinopathy of the
extensor-something-or-other-scientificky-sounding of my big toe. I don't think running's making it worse but it's not making it better and I'm not quite sure how it'll hold up to the stupid long runs ahead.

And then there's the whole sub 1:40 thing that didn't happen at the Gold Coast. I don't think I'll get it in the Brisbane half because it's a hillier course than Gold Coast and I truly suck at hills. Sydney is supposed to be flatter this year and I've run some good times there on the old, slightly hilly course in the past. And then, if I don't hit the time in Sydney there's always Melbourne a month later. And Melbourne is a pretty flat course. I'm not the fastest recoverer from marathons in the world so there's no way I could attempt a pb if I ran the Sydney full.

So I have a quandary. And I'm vacillating on the best option. And I really should decide sooner rather than later. What would you do?

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Elusive 1:40 Half Marathon

Everything had gone well leading into Gold Coast half marathon. Training had gone well. Tapering had gone well. And my headspace was, well - fabulous, as was my outfit. I knew what I had to do. I knew it'd be tough. But I was going to give it a good shot. And not beat myself up if I didn't reach my goal. I even had a personal pacer/mobile cheersquad of one, Elio, to keep me company when the going got tough. It was as good a time as any to go for my sub 1:40.



Sunday saw me on the start line with 8781 other runners huddled in the pre-dawn cold. Perfect weather conditions. A good starting spot - not too close but not too far back and just in front of the official 1:40 pacer. Pondering whether I should have braved the horrendously long toilet queue for one last nervous wee but knowing it was too late so best stop thinking about my bladder because I'm sure I really didn't need to go again. Well, almost sure.

And while I was pondering the vagaries of my bladder the time had ticked down and we were off. My bladder could wait. There were bigger issues at hand. My magic number was 4:44 and I had to hit that 21.1 times before I could stop.

Kilometre 1 - 5:01. Lots of traffic. No room to just run. Keep moving. It'll clear soon.

Kilometre 2 - 4:40. Right where I need to be. Running strong but not too hard.

Kilometre 3 - 4:40. Lock in this pace and try to stick it a few more times.

Kilometre 4 - 4:38. Oops a little fast. Didn't mean to get any in the 30s but on the up-side the first kilometres deficit is nearly gone. Slow down a bit next kilometre. Don't want to crash and burn too soon. Actually, don't want to crash and burn at all.

Kilometre 5 - 4:36. Oops again. But seriously, slow down!

Kilometre 6 - 4:42. Yep, that's more like it. Don't think about how far you have to go. Just keep running. Those kilometre markers are ticking down nicely and you're feeling strong.

Kilometre 7 - 4:40

Kilometre 8 - 4:42. Another oops but this time it was almost a trip on a speed bump. Traffic calming measures aren't great for racing. Especially for runners who are economical with their vertical oscillation. A little bit of excitement for a moment but good recovery.

Kilometre 9 - 4:40

Kilometre 10 - 4:44. Bang on the magic number finally and almost halfway done. Still feeling okay - tired but not too tired. There's still a few good kilometres in me yet.

Kilometre 11 - 4:40. Yay, we're over halfway. On our way back to the start. This is just like my tempo runs on tired legs. I can do this.

Kilometre 12 - 4:54. Damned traffic calming speed bumps! One second I'm running along and the next second I'm flying. Then the next second I'm flat out on the road. Like a felled tree. I've never been a graceful faller. Elio retrieved my visor and helped me up. Did a mental checklist of moving parts on the run. A couple of sore spots, shoulder and the side of my calf, and a nice trickle of blood down my forearm but nothing to stop me running. Only lost a little time. My race is not over yet.

Kilometre 13 - 4:46. The running's feeling tougher now. That fall and the adrenalin rush knocked the stuffing out of me. Time to bring in the mental big guns. You want this. You can do it. More hard-core points if you can do it with visible blood.

Kilometre 14 - 4:43. 2/3 done. Only 7 to go. Just keep running. One k at a time. The quicker you do them, the sooner you can stop.

Kilometre 15 - 4:46. Glad I banked a bit before I fell over to cover the couple of extra seconds.

Kilometre 16 - 5:10. Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap. Where's a toilet?? That adrenalin rush did more than make my heart rate go up for a bit. And the man in the vest on the side of the road could only tell me that the closest loos were in the direction I was already going. The finish line is also in that direction. I hope he doesn't mean that far away because I'm not going to make 5k intact.

Kilometre 17 - 4:46. No loos but taking the foot off the accelerator seemed to help a bit. Maybe I will get to the line without shaming myself. Still not giving up. There's still a glimmer of hope. I think. Maybe. If I can just keep pushing.

Kilometre 18 - 4:47. Only 3k more. Passing the people who passed me when I stopped to ask for toilet directions. Keep running, keep running!

Kilometre 19 - 5:01. Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap. Does no one know where a toilet is?? Everyone I ask has no idea. Real hard core runner poop themselves in races and just splash water on themselves at the next water stop and tell everyone they're cooling their thighs. I don't think Elio would appreciate me being hard core seeing as we'll be sharing a car afterwards. But I do have a pair of tracky-daks in my bag and we are parked near a shopping centre so maybe I could buy some new undies and it'd be all good. What am I thinking? Look for a toilet!!

Kilometre 20 - 5:54. Found the toilet! Hallelujah. No way am I going to get my sub 1:40 but at least I'm not going to shame myself.

Kilometre 21 - 4:47. So much easier to run. So, so, so much easier to run.
The last .3 to the finish line - 1:14. And done!


1:42:42.

So the elusive sub 1:40 is still dangling just out of reach. But this race showed me that it's within my capabilities. Just have to watch those speed bumps. And lift my feet. And memorise the toilet stops.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Training The Brain

Two weeks till Gold Coast marathon and I'm ready to taper.

I've been training so, so hard for this one. For the last couple of weeks anyway. Since I surprised myself at Noosa and realised that a sub-1:40 was possible. Remotely possible. If I gave it my best shot. Work hard for a few weeks and just see what happened on the day.

Working hard hasn't meant changing things too much. Speed is still speed and it will always be done as hard as I can on the day. Friday will still be my recovery run - and I'm needing that more than ever. Saturday's long run is still a long run. Done at long run pace. Except maybe the last couple of k where I might push the pace just a little. It's the Wednesday runs that have changed.

Wednesday runs have been reinstated to tempo status. They were tempo runs last year but once summer hit they just became another longish run. But now that it's cool and I have a goal in mind, they've become a little bit faster. Actually, a lot bit faster.

These were the runs that I'm certain that made the difference to my running last year. The ones that taught me to trust my body again. The ones that retrained my brain to cope with discomfort for longer. So it was an obvious step to bring them back. But, man, they're hard work!! I'm doing 16k total and at least 10 of those will be at tempo pace - which for me is the pace that I'd like to run come GC half marathon.

This week's tempo run was particularly hard. We'd done 500m reps the day before and that had been a solid session. That'll happen when you're chasing the fast boys. And believe me - they were fast on Tuesday! Then I'd gone home and done my strength work. Speed session + strength work = very tired legs. It was raining on Wednesday when I woke up and I almost pulled the pin. I almost convinced myself that my legs were too tired and I really needed the rest day but the nagging voice in my head made me look at the weather radar. Damn, the rain wasn't going to last much more than a few minutes and I couldn't risk being called soft by my running posse so I went.



We did the first 4k easy and then I got the prod to get moving. Ughh. Wasn't feeling it at all. I just wanted to run with the group at that nice, easy, comfortable pace instead of having to push on alone. Out on my own. Out of my comfort zone.

But I did it and I was so glad that I did. Because I will be feeling tired and heavy-legged in the latter parts of the GC race. I will want to mentally quit - and if I mentally quit, I generally quit physically as well. I will wonder why the hell I even wanted to set myself a stupid goal in the first place. And when I do feel all the feelings I'll be able to remind myself about this run. About how I could still push to do what I'd set myself to do even though I was tired and hurting and didn't want to do it.

Training seems like it's a purely physical exercise but it's so much more than that. Training the brain is just as important as training the body. If you think you can't then you won't. But if you think you can, you might surprise yourself with what your body can do.

These tempo sessions are doing just that. As I run them I'm practising things I'll need come race day. Things like ignoring negative thoughts. Concentrating on where I am and what I have to do now rather than anticipating how I'm going to be 3, 5 or 10k from now. Finding out what self-talk works for me. 'Feeling strong' worked for me on Wednesday so I might stick with it and use an expletive every so often - just for effect.

Roll on Gold Coast Half. I'm as well prepared as I've ever been before a half marathon. Just have to turn up on the day and see what happens.




Thursday, June 9, 2016

Failures, Foundation Garments and Fanciful Goals

Last weekend was the City to South race. And because the course was going so close to my house I decided that it might be nice to get out and cheer on the suckers dedicated athletes who'd decided to run it.

Last weekend was also when I found out that I truly suck as a cheerer/spectator/photographer.

It started off okay. Watching the frontrunners go through. Genteel clapping while clutching my takeaway cup of coffee. So very civilised. But then the runners started to come through thick and fast. I'd wanted to get shots of all my friends running but to do that I needed to spot them early enough to actually take aim and shoot. Here's how I went.


I wanted a picture of Clare. The little dot at the pack of this group of men. She's wearing my Run Amok tights. You can tell, right?! So a fail there. But what's worse is that I know the runner on the right of the pic. Totally didn't see that he was there until an hour after the race when I was checking my photos. Sorry Rob, I don't know how I missed you.


Katie yelled at me and that's the only reason why I've even got a picture of her. I'd like to say I'd meant to take a photo of her great running form. But honestly I didn't.


Youngie also gave me fair warning of his arrival. A good 50m of warning is what I need for a shot that shows the front of the face. 


See - Elio didn't give me 50m of warning. Only got the side of his face.


Didn't zoom in on Heather so I missed another opportunity to get a good Run Amok photo. But at least you can see her. Which is more than I can say for Sue.


Poor Sue - that's her foot just visible to the right. 


And finally another butt shot. This time of Mellie. Seemed appropriate to finish the morning on that note.

But it wasn't only my photos that failed. My brain had a little processing issue - fairly normal for a person of my vintage but really inconvenient when you're trying to cheer people on by name. There were no less than ten people whose names I remembered only once they were well out of earshot. I'm sorry. And I'd apologise to all of you individually but I've already forgotten who you are. Sorry for that too.

But, luckily, my brain is the only thing that's failed me this week. My body seems to be working just fine - at least as far as running's concerned. We did a 3k time trial at speed and I've managed to improve from my January time by 12 seconds. This could be because it's a lot cooler. Or it could be because I've been training diligently and consistently since then. OR it could be because I bought a new running bra. Which promised up to 50% less bounce. Less bounce = less turbulence created while running = greater speed. At least it does in my head.


I only bought the high impact bra but apparently Berlei make a bra for extreme impact. What on earth does extreme impact involve? Running into a brick wall while doing your best Usain Bolt impersonation??

I'll definitely be wearing that bra come Gold Coast half marathon. I'm going to need as much help as I can get to achieve what's been festering in my head ever since I ran Noosa half. My big audacious goal for this race is to go sub-100. 

There it is. I've said it out loud. That would have freaked me out a year or so ago - to lay it on the line like that. But today it doesn't worry me. I might make it. I might not. If I don't, the world will still keep turning. People won't turn away from me in horror because I'm a failure. And I'll get to try again another day. 



Monday, May 30, 2016

Noosa Half Marathon

If I only had one word to describe my race on Sunday that word would have to be satisfying.

I had no real goals or expectations leading into the race. I just wanted to go sub 1:47 because it's a New York qualifier. And I wanted to be able to walk away from the race knowing that I hadn't given up mentally at all during the race. Because I feel like I had given myself permission to ease up in every race that I'd run this year. Not proud of that - but it is what it is.

I raced in Noosa last year and ended up shocking myself with a 2 minute PB. There's nothing like a PB to make you feel warmly towards a course. It's pretty flat. And it's in a lovely part of Queensland. Didn't take much to convince Iven that it was a good idea. Iven also thought carb-loading was a good idea. The bit about him not actually running didn't really factor into it.


The race started at 6:30 Sunday morning and I'd organised to meet my posse at 5:45. Enough time to check out the loos, go for a short warm up jog up Hasting Street and pose for a couple of pre-race pics. Ten minutes to start time and we wove through the runners lining up to get a decent starting position. Just a short wait and we were off.

I didn't really have a plan apart from holding it together mentally. No pace goal apart from staying under 5:00 minute k's. The 1:40 pacer balloon ran up past me in the first kilometre and stayed just in front of me for some distance. The temptation was to stick with him but I was pretty sure I wasn't in 1:40 shape so I suppressed the urge to kick it up a half a notch. It was way too early and I wanted to stay strong till the end. 

I've given up racing with music most of the time. So it was just me with my thoughts. And a few hundred other runners. Trying to stay relaxed but strong. Trying to keep my head conversation positive. Not a hard task in the first couple of kilometres. But telling yourself that you're feeling strong when you've only run 4k is a whole different ballgame to believing it at 17k. 

I couldn't spend the entire 21.1k telling myself I was feeling strong so I looked for distractions. Like the dead possum in the middle of the road on the way out. Pretty sure it was a ringtail. The dead possum on the way back was more likely a brushtail and probably hadn't been dead quite as long. CSI Noosa - the animal episode. A moment of silence for remembrance - not that I actually knew either of them - but it seemed like the right thing to do and I didn't have anything more pressing at that moment. Apart from running and breathing.

                                             

Noosa is a double loop course. I'd run through the 10k marker at 48:30-something and I was happy with that. By the 11k marker we were heading back out again. I was still feeling fairly strong. Surprisingly strong. But my 'surrender' point is always about 3/4 of the way through any race and that was still a while off so I wasn't congratulating myself yet. I've had the wheel fall off my cart too many times not to know that it's not over until you press stop on your Garmin.


I was running around the 4:50 mark. With a few high 4:40s thrown in for fun. I wasn't watching my watch except to look down whenever it beeped to see that I was still under the magical 5:00 mark. I had no idea of cumulative time but I knew I'd go under my 1:47. Way under my 1:47. Probably under 1:45. I just had to keep pushing as hard as I already was. 

The far turnaround point was a welcome sight. Just a little over 5k to run. That's like running back to Southbank from New Farm Park - just without the water stop under the Storey Bridge or in the Botanical Gardens. Trying to chase down Jodi and Andrew. Less than 25 minutes more of pain. Or should I say discomfort because that's less negative.

I started to count down around this point. And, paradoxically, my paces were starting to count up - just a little. I was working really hard now and it was hurting but there was no way I was giving up now. I wanted to see how close I could run to last year's time even though I was convinced that I wasn't quite in the same running shape. 

Three kilometres to go. That's just like a three k time trial. Yep, they suck and I hate them but I can run 3k hard if I have to. Generally not after I've already run 18 k - but no excuses. Damn, a photographer and I've got no one to hide behind. Do I want to look like I'm dying? Hell, no. Let's make it look like it's fun. Let's fool the masses into thinking that they too will have a great time if they run hard for over 90 minutes.


Two k to go and I started to feel an embryonic stitch. Oh crap - not now. Breathe out hard. Push against the diaphragm. Yep, that helped for just a couple of minutes and then it was back. Whatever. Just have to suck it up and make the best of it. No one ever died from a stitch. That I know of.

And then there was just one kilometre to go. I still had no idea of my overall time and I didn't really care. I was tired, I had a stitch but I was still giving it all I had. I could hear the loudspeaker. Getting closer. Iven cheering me in. The finishing arch. Sprinting (okay not actually sprinting - just pushing it up a gear). And then I could finally stop my watch.

1:40:37. Only 8s slower than last year. Maybe I'm in better running shape than I thought I was. At least my head is in good running shape - if that makes any sense. I didn't wave the white flag once. No retreat, no surrender!

Seriously nothing beats the feeling of achieving better than you'd believed yourself capable of. Except maybe seeing your friend smash her PB. Awesome run Jess! And then meeting a celebrity vet who turns out to be as nice as he seems to be on TV. Dr Chris was pretty impressed with how fresh we looked after running a half marathon. Probably didn't quite smell as fresh as we looked but the man spends his days smelling poo, pus, farts, wee and vomit so I'm guessing his nose might be forgiving when it comes to sweat.

What? You've already run? I don't believe it! 

So that's half marathon #22 done and dusted. #23 happens in just over four weeks time and I've got goals for this next one. Goals that I'll pretend aren't goals because I don't like the pressure of goals. A few more weeks of solid training and we'll see just how close I can get.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Moments Of Clarity

I had a moment out on my run yesterday. A moment of stunning clarity.

I will not be able to do this forever.

No, I'm not sick. Not injured. Not psychic. Just 53 and realistic. And I know realistically that something, someday will most likely happen and I will have to give up running before I die. Unless I die while I'm out on a run - which really doesn't seem like that bad a way to go.

It'll be a sad day when that happens. No more early morning alarms (hmm, maybe that bit's not so sad). No more taking in the morning as the sun comes up. No more feeling the freedom and joy of running fast. No more laughing until I pee myself just a little at something that someone's said (which really doesn't happen very often - honestly). No more post-run coffee. No more feeling the satisfaction of having worked out before most of the city is even awake.

But rather than dwell on what I'd be losing, I looked clearly at what I had. There. At that moment. Right in front of me. A magical crisp, clear morning. A flat mirror-like river that still looked pretty with the lights of the city reflected in it. The Story Bridge lit up like a rainbow.


Friends around me. Feeling strong. Running strong. Without any niggles or pains. An undeniable feeling of contentment. Of satisfaction. Of joy - probably endorphin related. 

So I took a mental picture to tuck away in my head with the other mental pictures of special moments. I'll bring it out and look at it when I can no longer do what I can do now (assuming that dementia hasn't hit) and try to remember the gratitude I felt on this day. Not focus on the loss but focus on how lucky I've been to find a passion that endured.

Yep, yesterday's run was one of the best.