Sunday, May 30, 2010

Marathon Training Week 2: Getting in my own way

This week was a little unbalanced as I had two days where I only ran 8 km which I almost never do. I vaguely recall reading that Christy Turlington once said that she wouldn't get out of bed for less than 10K/day. Well PiccolaPineCone does not normally get out of bed for less 15 k. Yes Christy's figure is in dollars whereas mine is in kilometers. My rationale is that if I am not going to log at least 15 km then I would rather get more sleep and pile the mileage on another day. My criticisms of my training this week are that I screwed up my long run a little and did not get enough marathon pace work in. Week in review:

Monday: off.

Tuesday: 8 km in 37:20 (too fast)

Wednesday: 6 km warm-up. 3 X 3 km w 1st km @ marathon pace, 2nd @ 1/2 marathon pace, 3rd @ 10 km pace, 500 m jog btwn. Those paces were the intention anyway but I wound up running 1é2 marathon pace, 10 km pace, 5 km pace instead which then caused me to have to take unscheduled rest breaks and the last 3 km was disaster. 3 km cool-down.

Thursday: 8.2 km in 41 minutes.

Friday: 7.5 km warm-up. 7.7 km @ 1/2 marathon pace (3:56 per km) 1.8 km cool-down.

Saturday: 14.6 km in 1 hour 14 minutes.

Sunday: Long Run. Goal was to do 30 km in 2 hours 30 minutes i.e. 5 min/km. I did the first part of the run on a route I don't know so I ran at what I thought was 5 min/km. I got to my stashed powerade bottle after 1 hr 40 min by which time I felt woozy and very thirsty. I don't think I even drank it, I think it was drawn into my parched pores directly by osmosis. Regardless I consumed it in about 10 seconds flat and felt fabulous after. At that point on I was running where I normally run which is on a road that is marked every kilometer. I kept the same pace I had been running earlier and realized I was running 4:35-4:40 per km. I deliberately tried to put on the brakes but had a really hard time doing so; I was just so pace-locked at that point it felt nearly impossible to switch gears. The good news is I never really crashed. I always felt reasonably good except for briefly puking at about 29 km. Anyway the upshot is that I did run 2 hours 30 minutes but actually covered 32.3 km in that time (gmapped it when I got home) so an average of 4:38. The moral of the story for me is that I need to start my long runs on a measured course so I start off at the right pace. On the other hand I felt good immediately following my run and still feel good now, several hours later so it doesn't seem like it was too taxing.

Total = 100 km.
Total Quality = 16.7 km

I have my training plan now (thanks coach! - i would link to your blog but a) don`t know if you want more people bugging you for training plans and b) I think most people who read this found me through you or SLG in the first place) and am psyched about it. It is a plan I really believe in, it makes sense and I can see myself actually executing (today's lack of adherence to it notwithstanding). So if I can stop getting in my own way by running too hard when I don`t have to then I think I can lay down the training for a pretty decent fall marathon.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Profound Fatigue

For the past many months, at the end of every day, I am fried. Completely and utterly exhausted. I feel silly even writing about this because I know that I have it really easy. I have one, single baby, who sleeps 10 hours a night with only two wakenings and naps during the day. One dishwasher. One washing machine. Hubby who helps out a ton at home. Year long maternity leave. I am super fortunate in many ways so I hope this post does no sound like a complaint. Rather I am interested in figuring out why I am so completely exhausted not only at the end of each day but, to be honest, most of the time.

Let me start with... it's NOT the running. Ok, yes, the running contributes but the running is no more intense than it has been for the ten years so I can't blame the increased exhaustion on it.

What has really changed, of course, is the fact that I am living in a different country, am a mommy, a housewife and am not working outside the home. All this makes me wonder how do the demands of ME being a stay-at-home mom compare to the demands of ME working in my previous job. Note the capital ME... I am in no way trying to generalize and enter the age-old, and in my mind pointless, debate about who works harder, stay at home moms or moms who work outside the home. In all sincerity I take my hat off to both groups of parents, both paths are challenging and exhausting.

In BC (before cocotte) times I worked 45-65 hours per week depending on whether I was travelling for work or staying in the office. While that would be a shockingly high number around here, it is about average for North America... though I am only counting concentrated work hours at my desk, in meetings, visiting customers or on the road travelling. I don't count lunch breaks or even coffee breaks so to put in 45-65 hours means I was at the office/on the road 55-75 hours per week which starts to sound considerable. Especially since I would often leave home at 4 am to catch a flight, work all day, go for a run, catch a flight home and climb into bed at oh... maybe 1.30 am! On top of that I probably did about 10 hours of domestic work per week (we has a messy house and ate a lot of convenience food!).

In contrast, now in taking care of the house & baby I work [aside for the math: groceries: 3.2, cooking: 5.25, laundry: 3, baby food making: 1.5, cleaning: 7, cleaning baby: 2, nursing: 8, feeding baby: 5.25, dressing & changing baby: 3.5] 38.7 hours per week. This of course does not count what I spend most of my time doing which is playing with la cocotte b/c that's not work! Far, far fewer working hours. So why the fatigue?

Here are my theories... although my previous and soon future job is quite intellectually demanding (at least relative to my level of intellect :)) it is less demanding in the sense that it did not require constant vigilance. I have come to realize it is not only sleep deprivation that makes parenting exhausting. It is also the constant vigilance that is required to take care of a being who has no concept of mortality, danger, injury, harm. All day long la cocotte is literally inches from danger and injury and it is my job to keep her from it which means that even going for a poop (me, not her) becomes an excursion requiring strategy and thought. Tiring!

Worrying. I have tried not to be a crazy, neurotic, worrying mom and generally have achieved this goal. I am actually a pretty chill mom. But it is impossible and probably careless to completely avoid worry. Here, in the past week alone, are some of the worries I have had: she's-eating-too-much-sugar, she's-eating-too-little-in-general, omigod-where-is-that-sock-she-was-sucking-on-did-she-actually-swallow-it?, why-isn't-the-bruise-on-her-face-healing?, why-is-her-poop-yellow, will-i-find-an-amazing-daycare?, will-i-find-a-daycare-period, she's-sleeping-too-little, she's-sleeping-too-much, we-re-spoiling-her, we-re-not-paying-enough-attention-to-her. Wow, did I say I am a chill mom? Hmmm... I guess we can add lack of self-awareness to my long list of flaws. Anyway, worrying=exhausting!

Uninterrupted sleep. I know I am super fortunate that she only wakes up two and sometimes only one time per night. However I think I actually wake up about 20 minutes before her 4am feeding in anticipation of it and it usually takes me about 20 minutes to get back to sleep afterwards. Since I usually go to bed at 10 pm, this means I get one 6 hour block of sleep and 1.5 hour block of sleep which I guess is not actually that much. Yesterday as an experiment I went to bed immediately after la cocotte (8.45 pm) and did not get up early to run and yes, that made a HUGE difference.

I continue to wonder what my life will look like as a mom who works outside the home. I truly can't imagine being any more exhausted than I currently am at about 8 pm each evening so something will have to give. Ultimately I guess someone else will be doing the cocotte watching during the day. We'll definitely eat more convenience foods than we are now. I plan on cutting my running down to 5 times a week with 70-80 km total (no marathons after Montreal for me for awhile!).  I know it can be done because I know a lot of women who do it and do it with more than one child. I am just having trouble seeing it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Marathon Training Week 1: Smart week in training

This has been a smart week in training in the sense that I felt like every run/work-out was very focussed on my goal of a September marathon. I felt like there was nothing extra thrown in and nothing important left out. I have not been this satisfied with the week's work in awhile! When I ran my marathon PB I was training extremely hard but I was not training as intelligently as possible. I basically trained for a 10 km/half marathon and threw in the long runs needed to run a marathon. I ran a ton of mileage (for me anyway) and all that netted me a low-2:54 with which I was thrilled.

However, in chatting with my shiny new coach and thinking about things in retrospect, I know there were two things I could have done differently:

 1. I tend to run my easy days way too fast and although it feels good at the time, it affects my work-out days. I am now making a conscious effort to not go faster than 5:00/km on my easy days. I am aided in this effort by the presence of la cocotte who is now joining me in the Bob on my easy runs. I am still not thrilled with baby jogging but it maes life easier on a number of levels and it has the added bonus of keeping me honest on my easy days.

2. I did virtually no marathon pace work. Not sure how or why I left something that fundamental out of my plan.

I still maintain that my goal this autumn is not to PB because the course will be hilly (net uphill in fact) and the day will be hot and humid and I don't plan to put in as much mileage as I did for my last marathon due to the fact that my body feels like it is about to bust apart at the seams. However I do wonder if by training smarter I will be able to run faster than I think with less work. Wouldn't that be lovely?

So here is my first week of marathon training:

Monday - 18 km with 12 km @ marathon pace (2:55:50 pace i.e. 4:10 per km).
Tuesday - 14 km with baby jogger 1 hour 10 minutes.
Wednesday - 16.7 km with baby jogger 1 hour 19 minutes (too fast)
Thursday - 15.4 km with 3 X 1500 m: 5:30, 5:16, 5:20.
Friday - off.
Saturday - 16 km with baby jogger 1 hour 23 minutes.
Sunday - 28 km with 14 km @ marathon pace (2:55:25 i.e. 4:09 per km)

Total 108 km - 30.5 of them quality.
I'm pleased.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blogging on blogging

I began reading blogs long before I gathered the momentum to start my own. In the beginning I did not understand the unwritten rules of blogging and commenting. I thought that commenting on a blog was akin to asking a question in the middle of a university lecture i.e. something one should only do if they have read all of the material and in general come to class prepared, otherwise it is a waste of everyone's time. Then I began to realize that comments were generally welcome and did not necessarily have to be earthshatteringly insightful.

I started my own blog without completely understanding why I was doing so. Since then I have pondered why people blog and, indeed, why I myself have started. I think it boils down to the following-

Sharing the wealth
I think some people genuinely feel they have a wealth of knowledge to share and some genuinely do. Blogging to them is a form of sharing this wealth among their readers.

Seeking and offering support
The first blogs I read were those of people struggling with infertility. The network of support among these bloggers was amazing to me. Clearly these people (mostly women) draw strength from each other and blogging is a form of cheap therapy. I imagine this is the case for many other communities of people struggling with various issues.

Seeking community
There is something fundamentally human in seeking others who share common experience. People out there in the void who can, in some way, relate to our path in this life. I guess I was seeking and have found a community of runners, mommies and running mommies.

A soapbox
In the real world one must so often shout to be heard, a blog gives one a soapbox on which to preach one's deeepest held beliefs without interruption. In one's blog, one is master of the castle, one gets the first and last word. There is something very powerful about that.

Exercising the literary muscles
I have the feeling that deep down inside EVERYBODY supposes they'll eventually write a book someday. I have a friend here whose job it is to screen unsolicited manuscripts that are sent into her publishing company and she assures me that the VAST majority of people should NOT. Regardless blogging is a great way to flex the creative muscles and practice a very basic form of self expression; something that most people don't do once they are out of formal schooling.

Quest for accountability
Many people seem to start blogs when they are attempting to make an overwhelming, positive change in their life - losing weight, training for a marathon, quiting bad habit X, Y and Z. I think blogging about it gives them a feeling of accountability to the unknown audience and helps to keep them on track.

Recording one's history
Certainly a huge part of blogging has to be recording the passing of one's days. What did I do? Why was it important? What did I learn? What do I look forward to? What do I regret? A blog is basically a diary to may people, a way of making sure that what has passed will not be forgotten. But of course if the major motivation were simply to record one's history, there would be no need to broadcast it to the world which leads me to the last, and most primal reason for blogging...

I'm alive
I think fundamentally many people blog as a way to shout to a vast and largely indifferent universe: I'M ALIVE! What I do matters! I was here and I did something with my life... Call it narcissistic, call it self-absorbed. I think it is deeply and fundamentally human.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Race Report: Some Pig.

I raced a local 8 km this week-end. 4 km uphill, 4 km downhill - more or less. Strangely the race itself was run in a loop around large petroleum storage tanks, the kind that are so big that you notice them at 40,000 feet when overflying in an airplane. Yet, the roads were winding and narrow, lined with greenery and vineyards and the coourse was actually quite beautiful. Only in Italy could a loop around petroleum tanks wind up being attractive.

This was a good race for me to recitfy last week's going-out-too-fast blunder since the climb came at the beginning of the race. I was quite pleased that none of my uphill kms went over 4 minutes: 3:51, 3:49, 3:52, 3:57. I passed through 4 km in 15:30 and then proceeded downhill: 3:38, 3:35, 3:37, 3:34. I did a better job this week of not getting demoralized when people passed me. With each passing person I tried to calmly evaluate whether I should try to stay with them or keep on doing what I was doing. I am getting better, in general, at thinking and analyzing while racing and not just giving into blind fatigue. I was pleased to dip under 30 minutes for the 8 km - 29:55. This is a much slower performance than my half marathon a few weeks ago but that was really the focus of the season and I have just been jogging or doing nothing really since then. I have essentially been coasting off the fitness I gathered for that race. I am out of momentum now though, if I don't start training again (which I did, this morning) I will definitely see a precipitous drop in fitness soon.

My major issue during this race is that this song got stuck in my head starting at 3 km. Il coccodrillo come fa is the only song in Italian I sing to la cocotte and it's cute, fun, melodious but not 5 km worth of cute, fun and melodious. At one point I actually physically shook my head as if I could dislodge it that way prompting the guy next to me to comment "dai, dai, scendiamo subito" (go! go! we'll be going downhill soon). I guess he thought I was shaking my head in resignation at the hill.

The most astounding part of the day were the prizes and give aways. This really requires pictures in order to be believed. First, came the participation prize - this was given to everyone who finished the race, as in "thanks for coming out, here is your pig":

Participation Pig! (yes that is la cocotte's hand attempting to slide some of it out of the picture).

Then I won the women's race overall; my prize was a duffel bag which was full of... pig! As in "You won the women's race! Congratulations! Here is your pig!".

Overall woman pig! Again you can see the lurking cocotte in the lower left hand corner.

But, as they say in the late-night informercials, wait! There's more! I also won my age category. Normally they don't do cummulative prizes, which I think is more equitable, but in this case they did. "Congratulations! you won your age category! Here is your (everybody all together now) PIG!".

Age category pig! This time I was not quick enough with the camera and la cocotte did succeed in dragging one package of prosciuto almost out of the frame but you can see it in the lower left hand corner.

All in all, 3 Kg of pig including 2 roasts. That's a lot of pig. I'm not complaining. The sponsor was obviously very generous, especially with the participation prizes which must have cost them a bundle. The timing is just odd because I have been thinking for the past two months of dastically reducing my meat consumption or going back to being a lacto-ovo vegetarian. But that's a topic for a different post (coming very soon).

In the meantime, if anyone who reads this blog lives in my city (hint, hint) and enjoys pork, it would be my very great pleasure to share some of this. Particularly say if there was someone whose nutritional needs were perhaps augmented right now (hint hint hint).

Running song of the day: Il coccodrillo come fa.

Friday, May 14, 2010

It is ON.

The Montreal marathon is ON. This will be my first post-pregnancy marathon; the last marathon I ran was Chicago in 2006. I've only actually ever run six marathons, correction I have STARTED seven marathons and finished six. In preparation for this marathon I have:

~A shiny new pair of running shoes: am I the only one who LOVES burying my nose into a new pair of running shoes and smelling the complete absence of foul bacteria, sweat and dirt?

~A shiny new coach: well, this coach is new to me anyway - I fired my last coach. She was me. I think I need a bit of feeling of accountability. Accountability to someone else's effort that is... i.e. someone has taken the time to think about me, my training and spent some effort and so I am accountable the time and brain power spent.

~Acceptance into the elite field: I am not in the "super elite, fly you in, put you up in a hotel, pay for your food, come to our press conference elite field". I am in the "well you're local anyway, you'll probably be in the top 10, so sure we'll give you a free entry and easy access to the start line". Again the additional feeling of accountability is something I think I need right now.

~113 days left to train.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

This Mediterranean Life

Mediterranean sounds better than Adriatic somehow. After living here for 8 months there continue to be things about this lifestyle to which I can seem to adjust. Let me begin with the one that inspired this post:

1. The Mollusks - They are large, disconcertingly large. They come out after the rain and surround the house. Seriously I find 3 or 4 of them on our front door mat after a good rainfall as if they are just waiting for someone to enter or leave the house so they can dash in. And I do mean dash - the guys (actually I vaguely recall that they are hermaphrodites) that hang out around our house redefine the phrase "snail's pace". I left one for 30 seconds to get my camera yesterday so I could take the picture below (dollar bill for scale) and when I came back it was gone... gone... gone. And I loathe the sensation of accidentally stepping on them, though not undoubtedly as much as they loathe the sensation of being stepped on. I've only done it once but will not soon forget the sound of that crunch.

2. Never, ever being entirely dry. My body, our sheets, the laundry, the stroller, nothing in our lives is ever entirely completely dry. I actually miss the feeling of my skin cracking and peeling in the desert-like Montreal winters.

3. The Siesta - Perhaps to identify with its warmer sister cities to the south, Northern Italy respects the siesta concept. Many businesses are shut between 12.30 pm - 4.00 pm. Okay this makes sense in Sicily where one must escape the heat of day but it seemed a little strange to be as the mercury hovered below freeezing for weeks on end this winter. I know, I know, it's a whole lifestyle and this lifestyle comes with many positives, like more emphasis on family time. I am not criticizing, just saying I cannot seem to adjust. 8 months in I still take a 10 km bus ride to get to my favorite running store at 2 pm only to realize I have to kill 2 hours and have not brought any toys or snacks with me.

4. Dinner at 8. Okay, this lady is NOT a tramp but I DO get too hungry for dinner at eight. And eight is actually EARLY for dinner, it is more often eaten at 8.30 or 9 pm. I have had acquaintances call me at 8.30 pm and ask they managed to catch me before dinner... um, yeah, I actually we ate 2 HOURS ago and I am just about to go to bed. Whatever. We eat dinner when we want at home but if we are having dinner out with friends, it STILL catches me by surprise that the meeting is set for 8 pm or later. Most restaurants don't even open until 8 pm. This has been a huge money saver for us.

5. Little nothings for breakfast. I guess if one eats at 8 or 9 pm then come 7 am there is not much appetite. Most people have coffee and a teeny, tiny little sweet nothing for breakfast. A typical Italian breakfast satisfies me for about 30 seconds.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Race Report: Sucks to your ass-mar!

In the spirit of Mother's Day... gather around children and I'll tell you a story. It's a story about a runner who took a week off of running, did not take her asthma inhaler the entire week, ate like she was STILL running (and then some) and on the 7th day she raced and went out way... too... fast.

The most important objective for the day was to run my first long run for my fall marathon. I wanted to try steveq's suggestion and run a long run with some speed work in the middle with the idea being the miles run after the speed portion on tired legs would be worth more (I think that's the idea). So I figured why not do a local 10 km race with a long warm-up and long cool-down?

-7.2 km warm-up - CHECK.

-Standing on the start line discussing with one of my competitors at what age her baby started sleeping through the night when the gun unexpectedly went off - CHECK.

-Sprinting like a maniac to get into the pack contrary to all common sense - CHECK.

-Stepping on the aforementioned competitor's heel accidentally not once but TWICE - CHECK, CHECK. She was understanding, I still suck. There is NO excuse for doing that EVER if one has not been pushed from behind (I hadn't).

-Unable to cool my heels down to a reasonable pace after starting too quickly (if one can be said to start too quickly after one has MISSED the start) - CHECK.

-First 3 km ridiculously fast - CHECK.
 3:34, 3:26 (ouch), 3:36 (average 3:32).
At this point I thought to myself, okay I should actually just flat out jog for two minutes to FORCE myself back onto a reasonable pace but at the back of my mind, a teeny, tiny, almost inaudible voice was saying `maybe you can pull this off.... go for it`.

-Next 2 km discouragingly slow - CHECK.
3:51, 3:58.
Apparently I was NOT going to pull off averaging 3:32 per km and running 35:20 or, a PB by more than a minute... go figure! 5 km split - 18:27.

Last 5 km more than a minute slower than first 5 km - CHECK.
19:42 baby!
Ok, I HATE using my asthma as an excuse and whenever I do I cannot shake the pathetic image of poor Piggy looking through broken spectacles as the savages taunt "Sucks to your ass-mar!" but definitely I learned today that I cannot take a week off my inhaler simply because I am  not running, take it the morning of a race and expect everything to be peachy. For sure the biggest issue was going out too fast but inconsistency in taking my meds was also not very helpful.

Time at 10 km split: 38:08.9
Finishing Time: 38:35.7 (the race was actually 10.1 km, why? why?).

-11.4 km cool-down - CHECK.
Strangely that is the part of the day I am the second most proud of.

-Total Mileage for the day - 28.7 km. Not bad, I consider this my first long run for my fall marathon despite the fact that it was not exactly continuous.

So, the part of the day of which I am most proud: The awards ceremony was scheduled for noon. I left for my cool-down at 10.40 am. I thought to myself I could run for 80 whole minutes if I wanted to in a place I had never been before (a rare treat these days). However at 11.10 am I got this niggling feeling in my brain and decided to turn around. I got back to the finish/awards area at 11.40 am just as they had finished thanking the sponsors and were about to launch into the awards. Yes! A new PB! I made it to the awards ceremony, ON TIME, BOTH b.r.e.asts covered and actually got my award. I even sprinted to my teammates car and back on time to get my club jacket so I would be properly attired. Yay me! Turns out that the bags of groceries I was longingly eyeing were for the age groupers but I got a very generous gift certificate for the store where I always buy my running shoes which is perfect timing b/c my current pair of shoes is already up to 603 km (I bet it doesn't surprise anyone that I track the kilometers on my shoes to the nearest decimal place :) ).

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The self-feeding baby

With apologies to those of you who read my blog for its running content, though its tagline is after all "on running, babies and Canadians far from home". Time for more baby content. (Also appologies to SLG who is getting a double dose of this overly cute post as I spammed it to her e-mail).

Hubby and I have been following the parents' bible "What to expect in the first year" with a great deal of interest and conscientiousness. It is a great book in that it tells us, month-by-month, what milestones to look out for in la cocotte's development. La cocotte, who I sometimes suspect reads the book when we are sleeping, has been producing the aforementioned milestones almost exactly as dictated by the bible: rolling over at month 3 - check, bouncing at month 5 - check, crawling at month 8 - check, self-feeding at month 9 - what's that now? Self-feeding baby? How is that even possible? La cocotte does not know a spoon from mommy's dirty running shoes (her latest oral obsession). From the time she first started solids at 6 months, we have been spoon feeding her in the literal, not figurative sense.

Yet, sure enough, "What to expect" talks this month about how important it is to not be deterred by the mess the self-feeding baby makes. Mess, the book sagely assures its readers, is part of the learning and discovery process. Parents should not, the book sternly continues, wrest control away from the baby by taking over the feeding. Oops. La cocotte's parents have clearly fallen down on the job. Every morsel of food that has ever gone into her mouth has been delivered there directly by us.

This made me think, in four months she be in daycare (sigh). With a ratio of 5 babies to 1 worker, if she isn't self-feeding by then, I wonder how much feeding will happen? With that frightening image in mind, I decided to let the self feeding begin yesterday. Here, for your enjoyment and dismay, is a photographic account of the experiment.

Focussing on the task at hand, she attempts to get the spoon into mouth.

Where is the mouth again?

Ok, can't get food in mouth but I CAN get the glass of water emptied onto my shirt!

Wait, where did the bowl of food go?

Oh, it's down there. What are you doing down there silly bowl of food?

Yup, it's down there alright and I don`t think it`s coming back.

Bye bye bowl of food.

Bowl of food, come back! I want you in my mouth!

I`ll get you next time bowl of food! Mmmmm yummy biscuit.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sea Legs Girl Marathon Prediction Contest

19 days to go to the Copenhagen Marathon. If you have not read about the Sea Legs Girl Marathon Prediction Contest I am hosting, you can do so here. So far the predictions are as follows:

~The Lorax: 3:21 (March 22)
~Marathon Princess: 3:18 (March 23)
~Barefoot AngieB: 319 (March 23)
~Mmmonyka: 3:16:24 (March 29)
~Sea Legs Girl: 3:19:49 (April 26)
~Moi: 3:15:55 (revised on May 4)

Still lots of time to enter your prediction. Legal Italian performance enhancing drugs to the winner!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Race Report: You can get from there from here

The B.a.v.i.s.e.l.a is one of the biggest sporting events in the town where I live and includes a half marathon and marathon among other events. The marathon and half have striking similarities to the Boston marathon: point-to-point courses that start 42.2 and 21.1 km from the finish line, runners are bussed out to the start line via a route that messes with the runner's mind because it is far longer than the race distance, the start is incredibly narrow, helicopters hover alarmingly low overhead, the course profile is extremely hilly with a net downhill (at least the half is a net downhill not sure about the full). It was fun to re-live the Boston experience without having to run a full marathon (beginning to have major doubts about ever moving back up to the full 'thon but I'll think about that later).

The major issue for me with this Bostonesque start was that the early shuttle bus departure meant that by the time the gun went off, I had been separated from my custom boob drainer for four hours and my chest was feeling really uncomfortable. So much so that when I spotted a couple pushing a pram near the start line I started trying to figure out how to say in Italian:

Is your baby thirsty? (Qualcosa da bere per la tua bimba?)
Could I borrow your baby?  (Puo prestarmi la tua bimba?)

and ultimately decided it would all be way too weird and possibly end in police intervention so I took my large-b.r.ea.s.t.e.d self to the start line and tried not to think about it.

On the start line I tried to scope out the other women (with help from my teammates who know all the local runners) and immediately spotted two women likely to kick my derriere. After a long delay (they were waiting for the marathon to reach a certain point prior to releasing us and the marathoners were running slower than expected) we were off. First 5 km climb 120 feet (annoying mix of metric and imperial but I can only understand horizontal distance in metric and vertical distance in imperial) and I tried to play it conservative, went through 4 km in 15:50 feeling, pretty tired and glum actually. I did not feel that good things were in store.

Then we hit the long 10.5 km downhill stretch to the sea... yup, 10.5 km of downhill with a net descent of 240 feet! Those 10 km went by in 37:16 ... hmmm, now that I have calculated that split it almost seems like cheating to call this race a PB. Clearly the effect of the downhill, despite strongish headwinds the whole way, was pretty huge. This section was also extremely curvy (not unlike my lactating self... ok, ok enough about the b.o.o.b.s already), I could see all around me runners who were adding dozens upon dozens of extra meters to their overall distance by not running the tangents. Don't people realize?? Running the tangents does not necessarily mean hugging the curves - one must find the furthest point visible on the road ahead and run in a straight line towards that. As the road unfolds, keep finding that furthest point and head in a straight line towards it. At least that is my strategy for minimizing race distance, I think it is geometrically correct.

The last 7 km of this race are pancake flat and are run along the route I run about 4-5 times per week so I am intimately familiar with all the landmarks. At this point, for the first time since the gun, I saw another woman. I timed the gap between at 26 seconds. I figured I was gaining on her since I had not seen her previously. I managed to close the gap to 22 seconds and then she was gone around a bend - she wound up beating me by over a minute so clearly she had a solid last 5 km! My pace, of course, slowed on the flat but not as much as I feared. I got through the last 7 km by calculating at every km marker what time I would run if I slowed down to 4 minutes per km which was somehow very heartening for a math geek like myself. Eventually I got down to the point where I was going to run a PB even if I ran 4 minutes per km and that made me feel amazing. Splits in the last 7 km: 3:54, 3:54, 3:57, 4:00, 4:02, 3:58, 3:40. I could see the clock 100 m out and I kicked it in to try and clip my personal best which I did my ONE second. :)

Then came, by far, the most challenging part of the entire day... finding my way to the awards ceremony. I don't know if I am a skilled enough writer to capture the complexity of the finish area. It was in a large piazza by the sea. Runners entered the piazza on one side, ran away from the sea, did a 180 degree turn and finished towards the sea. The runners were separated from the large spectating crowd by barricades. Further complicating the situation was the fact that there were two parallel sets of barricades for two separate events. The awards were held in the middle of the U. Once I finished and was duly shuffled down the line to baggage pick-up, I could see of no way of storming the castle and getting to the central area. I asked various officials but the combination of their harriedness and my tired brain not understanding them resulted in me making it to the podium after the awards ceremony was over. The officials were clearly unimpressed. Awards ceremonies are a pretty big deal here, more so than I am used to and my impression is that it is in pretty poor form not to show up (and clearly the 1st and 2nd woman managed to show up so clearly it was me who was not on the ball).

I tried to quietly get my award and leave but they were having none of it. Yup, they did a SECOND awards ceremony in front of the whole piazza and thousands of spectators with JUST ME on the podium. Ok, yes, I have a large enough ego that I like people to know I am a fast runner. I admit that. But honestly... awards ceremony for JUST ME in front a huge crowd.... not my style. I have not felt that awkward and uncomfortable since my first high school dance as I stood against the wall wearing glasses and braces conspicuously NOT being asked to dance (Question: Everyone seems to have sob stories about how uncool they were in high school. Everyone. So who WERE all the well adjusted cool kids in high school? My theory? No one. Those kids who were perceived as "cool" were equally uncomfortable and awkward and did not think of themselves as being "cool"). Sorry, huge tangent.

Anyway as they did the award ceremony, I imagined they were saying: "And in third place, the canadian who was too slow and moronic to make it to the podium on time...." (they were NOT saying that... ) and that made me smile and not look quite so awkward (I hope).

So, at last, I have BEATEN my arch rival, even if only by one second on a bit of a cheater course. Whatever, I'm celebrating it!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Race report: In brief

Time: 1:20:50
Place: 3rd
Fastest km: 3:35
Slowest km: 4:02
Goals achieved: 2/5
Babies borrowed prior to start to drain my very milk heavy chest: 0 (but oh how I wish...)
Award ceremonies missed due to my stupidity and incompetance: 1
Extra award ceremonies held JUST for me: 1
How much I wished I knew Italian for, "please just give me my prize and I'll go quietly on my way without doing another ceremony":
Satisfaction: extreme.
Fatigue: profound.

More later.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My bag of tricks

In preparation for the half marathon tomorrow I have decided to write a post about my bag of tricks I use to keep on keeping on when the going gets tough.

1. Break it down: and down and down and down. I find it really helpful to break the race into manageable chunks. This is hardly a novel concept but I find as I get more fatigued, I make the chunks ever smaller until I am literally telling myself to just get to the next traffic light... the next parked car.... the madly barking dog... and as I make my way to each milestone I tell myself that ALL I have to do is to get there and then if I really want to, I can stop. And in the moment, I actually manage to convince myself that is true (that I will stop if I really want to). I have convinced myself of this over a dozen consecutive times. One part of my brain must be incredibly persuasive while another must be very easily fooled.

2. Reassess: sometimes I find that I simply assume I am feeling bad, as in, I am 20 miles into a marathon, running on a PB pace therefore I must feel awful. However, if I make a mental sweep of my body, checking the various components, I am sometimes pleasantly surprised to realize that I don't actually feel that badly. It may sound strange that I might not automatically know that I am feeling strong but mid-race assumptions can mask my actual state.

3. Float: If I am feeling really terrible, I will allow myself to deliberately slow down until a fixed landmark in order to recoup. I recently started trying this during intervals. In my 6 X 1 km work-out, I would float the middle 300 m and I found that my total time was exactly the same as when I ran the whole interval even with the added benefit that it felt easier (which I know is counter to the basic rule of running efficiency i.e. that it is most efficient to run at an even pace).

4. Believe in the pain of my opponents: sounds very Klingon-like and a little bit mean-spirited but I do find it helpful to remind myself that everyone around me is likely suffering as much as me.

5. Walk: Yup. I walk sometimes. In fact my marathon PB was done with 3 walking breaks. One of my strengths as a runner is that I respond very well to tiny snippets of rest. This means that when I am starting to fall apart, it is often very effective for me to take a walking break (usually one minute in length and timed such that it occurs around a water station so I can take advantage of the break to get hydrated). I find when I am falling apart, a one minute walking break usually only slows my mile time down by 30-40 seconds and the next few miles are appreciably faster than before the break.

Which of these tricks will I use tomorrow I wonder?