Sunday, September 23, 2012

2 weeks to go!

Only 2 more weeks to go until the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon. I can hardly believe it. It feels so close when it has felt so far away for so long now. I'm almost in disbelief that it's almost here.

It's really helping my confidence seeing how my friends from our Team In Training crew did who just completed the Montreal Rock N Roll Marathon this morning. These are athletes I did some training with and certainly compared notes with. They did it. Now's my turn!

Last week was my last long run of 32km (20 miles), and today was my last "long-ish" run of 23km (14 miles). I'm a week into my taper, and the next two weeks sees an even bigger decrease in mileage. No more speedwork, and I'm going to tone it down a level at the gym too. Not going to be trying to set any personal records for planking times or consecutive pushups. This would normally be the time where the "taper gremlins" would come along and mess with my mind as my friend Mark would describe in his blog, but so far they've been kept at bay. I think it's because this week, the mileage decrease wasn't too significant. Yesterday's run was still a very respectable distance, still over the half marathon mark (i.e., my new criteria for what can be classified as a "long run"). But I have a feeling that this time, if the taper voices try to taunt me, it'll be easier to push them aside than before my first marathon. And here's why...

  • I did 3 runs of the 32km distance, that's 3 20-milers, baby! Marathon runners would likely all agree that this the quintessential distance you have to hit at least once in training for the big day. Get 2 in, and you're better prepared. Last time I only got 1 in due to injury, and I panicked about my preparedness. I got 3 in this time. And that makes me feel confident about how ready I am. 
  • I've done so much more this time to prepare for the race, outside of my running. By adding 2 days a week of strength training, I've totally upped my game. I'm stronger than I've ever been in my life. My legs are solid. My posture is strong. I don't want to discredit the work I did before the previous marathon, but I have worked so much harder this time. Last time doing a 20-miler was not only a stretch of the imagination, but a real physical challenge that my body had never attempted before. This time those challenges were met with experience, and my accumulated strength from months and months of training. As a result, I was able to challenge myself further, not only by doing more longer runs, but having higher weekly mileage overall, and adding in strength training.
  • I've taken a lot of the guesswork out of training, I've learned a lot, and I believe I've created a plan that takes into account all my new knowledge and experience and really jives with me. It's not a cookie-cutter training plan, but one catered to me. And a factor that was absolutely HUGE for this was getting assessed at the Peak Centre and having Lewis and Mike explain to me how to train in the correct zones and maximize every training run I do. As a result, I can run longer with much less effort than before. My follow-up assessment showed huge gains in fitness. And I know how to pace myself on race day, which is something I really had no idea about last time. So I'm ready to rest because I trust in the training I've completed.
And another thing is that I understand the taper much more than I did before. I understood the science behind it and the theory, but I hadn't the experience to apply that understanding to like I do now. I know wholeheartedly that I've worked hard and there is accumulated fatigue in my body and damage in my muscles. Rest allows the body to rebuild and adapt to the changes made from the stresses of training. It takes weeks for the body to do this. It literally gets stronger and more ready during rest, not while training. It's the body saying, "I remember how those 20 miles hurt. Let's build the muscles in the areas that it hurt, so it doesn't hurt anymore now, and so it's easier to replicate that distance later with less discomfort than before". But now I actually get that this is what my body will do. Training hard longer won't make me any more prepared. Just more tired and less able to approach the race with fresh legs.

So I'll close on two notes:
  • First, this article I read recently on the taper. I agree with a lot of what it says and caught myself nodding a lot in agreement. It also has a useful graphic to explain why tapering is important: The Ultimate Marathon Tapering Guide

  • And second, this graphic timeline I recently made when I discovered how nice my shoulders and waistline are looking since I started strength training a few months ago. Wouldn't you say that the girl in the photo on the far right looks ready to take on another marathon?! I think so! Also the girl in the middle there in black, raising a medal - she earned that just a year ago at the half marathon in Victoria. Amazing what can happen in a year. Look out 2013!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Eat, Run, Eat some more, Repeat...

It’s been on my mind for some time to post about this topic. Food and running. Not talking about nutrition for runners here, no. I'm still learning about it and don't claim to be an expert. I'm talking about society’s obsession with diet and how it ties into the world of running. You know, those "rules" about eating. And those rules that can lead us to either overdoing it, or restricting oneself from the pleasure of food or from the nourishment one truly needs. You know, people saying to avoid carbs when carbs are what runners really need to fuel performance. Then there's finding faults in one’s reflection in the mirror. This overanalysis of food and challenges with managing food has unfortunately played a large role in my life. I think it’s a focal point for the majority of women, as we're expected to look and act a particular way. And it’s something I’m trying desperately to break free from. I’m almost there. 

I think this topic has come to the forefront of my mind recently because I’m at the peak of my marathon training, and therefore, I’m eating more than ever these days. Essentially when I am not running, I’m either eating, sleeping, or planning my next meal. I am burning thousands of calories a week, and therefore consuming a whole lot of extra calories too, to ensure I’m getting the nourishment I need. I joke about it. I do see humour in it. I joke about my grocery bills being the most expensive part of training for a marathon.  After a long run, I’m known to have a protein shake, take a shower, eat lunch, have a nap, eat lunch again, then I start cooking dinner. 
But with this humour comes a darker side,  a voice that creeps into my head to guilt me and ask if this is what I should be doing and warns me to be cautious and count my calories. And of course this is silly; it is what my body is asking for and I’m simply responding. It is not weakness, it is self-respect.  I have calories to consume as they were burned and if I don’t eat, my body will quite literally break itself down. I’m not working hard to build muscle only to have it break down from not eating enough.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

One month left, and getting my 20-milers in!

It's September 8th today, meaning that yesterday marked the one-month mark until my 2nd marathon, the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon. I am so excited for the race. It's going to be special on so many levels. Here's a few reasons:
  • This is my 2nd marathon, but a first in a way as the first one didn't go according to plan. I get to go in with experience of completing one before, but with a new opportunity to establish a finish time that reflects what I am capable of at last.
  • Running the half marathon in Victoria was my re-introduction into endurance running last year. It's so hard to believe that it was only a year ago that that race took place, and this blog was launched. I have achieved so much since then as a runner. I am fitter than I have ever been in my life and keep making improvements. Since that race, I have completed 5 other races: a 10km race, 3 half marathons, and 1 full marathon. Going back to run Victoria will be like a celebration of me, my love for the sport of running, and how it's changed my life. I think I will likely make this race my annual event.
  • And of course, my main reason - running this for Dad, the day after what would have been his 70th birthday, in the year that marks 5 years since his passing. I miss him dearly, and will be wearing his memory on my heart as I run for him, and make him proud.
Today I ran 32km, or 20 miles. The 20-miler runs are the distance that everyone running a marathon should reach at least once in their training, or so "they" say. It's this magic number that the experts quote as being the  number we must reach to ensure our readiness for the big show. I won't get into the theories, the sciences, etc. of the 20-miler. There's plenty of info on the interwebs to support this, if you are so inclined to read. But I will say that I ran my 2nd one for this training cycle today, and I feel like I accomplished something.