Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day in the Life

Later on, when things calm down, maybe decades from now... I want to be sure I remember what the pace was like when Big & Little were just wee ones...

6.30 am: wake up to the sound of Little asking for milk. Totally hung over because last night was a sleeping pill night... get her from the pack and play (where she still sleeps because Big never gave up her crib... I used to fight her over it but now I figure she will literally outgrow it and be forced to move - already when I lie awake sometimes with insomnia I can hear the irregular thump of her various long limbs hitting the sides).

6:30 - 6:45 am: nurse and try to convince myself to get out of bed.

6:45 am: remember that Harriet, the person who cleans for us once a week is coming this morning (I am embarrassed to admit that but trying to stay in the spirit of honesty) is coming and the place is a disaster. Begin the bizarre process of cleaning up before the person who comes to clean arrives. I can never quite figure out what is an acceptable mess to leave and what is rude. For example, it somehow seems like a breach of etiquette to leave the pots from last night's dinner unwashed in the sink - I guess because I do that on a daily basis so it seems rude to leave it in anticipation of her arrival. Dirty toilets just seems wrong; disrespectful. Various odds and ends lying on the floors of our bedrooms - not good. Anyway I do what I can while Big & Little slowly wake up.

7:00 - 7:45 am: The morning battle to change diaper, dress, feed and then dress again because I always forget that I should not let them eat in the clothes they are going out in. Wrestle with Big's hair - she is very particular about her hairstyle which is a poor match indeed for my non-existent hair-styling skills. Note the outdoor temp reads 0 deg C (wah!) and dress them in many, many warm layers because...

7:45 am: Load them into the double running stroller and we are off on the 5.2 km run to daycare. Oof. Still very tired from last week-end's half marathon. Barely moving. Fairly uneventful run to daycare: one friendly thumbs up from fellow runner, one headphone-wearing pre-teen steps out directly in front of me and DOWN he goes. But hard. I pick him up. Lots of mutual apologies. He's fine. Keep going. One titanic out the front of the stroller i.e. picture this:

now take Leonardo and put in Big and take Kate and put in Little and take the Titanic and put in the double running stroller. All in all, fairly uneventful.

8:30 am: arrive daycare, drop kids, fold up stroller and store in the special spot daycare lets me use and I am off on the 6 km uphill run to work.

9:00 am: arrive at work (stopping en route to buy 500 mL of chocolate milk because I can already feel my blood sugar plummeting). Shower (yes, at work, best perk ever!), change, do an equally bad job on my hair.

9:15 am - 5:00 pm: work. at desk. all day. Good day, finally get an ant script (for any techy geeks who might be reading) to work that I have been struggling with. Some productive conversations about ongoing projects. Attend one meeting I feel ill prepared for.

5:00 pm: run back to daycare feeling just terrible.

5:30 pm: arrive daycare stopping en route to buy brownies for kids as a snack for the way home. Realize that I am cold, shivery and not feeling up to running home. This is a problem because the double stroller barely fits on the sidewalk let alone on the bus or the subway. Decide it will probably not rain tonight and leave the stroller in its outdoor parking spot.

5:50 pm: leave daycare for home. I am still in my sweaty running clothes, temperature is hovering around 3-4 deg C, am freezing. Little does not want to walk so i am carrying her having, as I do not, a stroller. Big also does not want to walk but there is not much to be done about that. I am feeling worse and worse and so damn cold. Big starts a tantrum and sits down on the sidewalk. Start thinking about taking a taxi home. Finally lure Big to the bus stop using brownies as bait. Bus is coming, hallelejah! Cram onto packed bus. Big and Little share a seat and I kneel at their feet. Big asks for her nounou (pacifier), realize I have forgotten it in the running stroller at the daycare. Big wants to get off the bus to retrieve nounou. In essence I tell her "hell no!". Little starts crying "no monkey, no monkey, mama, no monkey" louder and more urgently with every passing minute though in truth she can barele be heard above Big's screams. I promise Big a nounou when we get home (wondering if in fact we have another one at home and if I am going to have to go to the pharmacy to buy one). Big calms down. Little still demanding "no monkey" and so for the rest of the 30 minute long bus ride (yes, it takes way longer by bus than to run) the whole bus gets to listen to "10 little monkeys jumping on the bed, one fell off and broke his head, mama called the doctor and the doctor said : " (insert Little's voice) "no monkey! no monkey!).

6:25 pm: arrive bus stop terminus.
6:26 pm: get on second bus which is mercifully there and which saves us a 600 m walk (or, 15 minutes with a reluctant pre-schooler)
6:35 pm: arrive home.

6:35-6:45 pm: Big and Little run around screaming while I make grilled cheese and continue to feel progressively worse. Put on long johns, pyjama pants, sweat shirt, fleece and touque. Still freezing.

6:45 pm: Sister calls. Have a great conversation with her while Big & Little pretty much ignore grilled cheese. Little demonstrates for Sister how she can now say Big's name as well as her own.

7:30 pm: stories, pyjamas, teeth brushing, video

8:00 pm: all three of us get into the "big bed". Little falls asleep nursing while Big thrashes like a fish out of water.

9:00 pm: Big decides she wants to sleep in the crib and leaves and I decide to treat myself to modern Family (my TV vice now that "How I met your Mother" has gone down the tubes this season IMHO). Should probably sleep given how I am feeling but want the treat.

9:30 pm: bedtime for mama without showering. Manage to put Little in pack & play without waking her up. Fall into feverish and fit full sleep.

Disclaimer: lest anyone think I have a total slacker husband - he is actually out of town so this wasn't exactly a representative "day in the life" but nonetheless fairly accurately captures my life on Wednesday Oct. 23.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Race Report: Fall Half Marathon

Goal: sub-1:30
Secret Wish: 1:25:00
Actual: 1:27:32 (is this what's called splitting the difference?)

So... all in all, pretty disappointing I have to say. After my 38:53 10 km I felt confident about running very close to 1:26 if not faster (not in the least because I plugged 38:53 into a half dozen marathon prediction calculators and got times ranging from 1:25 to 1:26:30). All in all, I am not quite sure why I came up short. The weather was ideal, the course, though rolling, was fair, and although the race was not extremely competitive (1:27:32 netted me 13th overall) I did find a good group to work with.

I went out right at 4:03 pace and within 200 m found a tall guy to hide behind. I shamelessly tucked in right behind him. I was riding buddy so closely that I doubt there is a single picture of me for the first 5 km:

1 km - 4:03
2 km - 4:03
3 km - 4:04 (this guys is a metronome!)
4 km - 4:11 (except when he's not)
5 km - 3:53 (overcompensate much??)

At 5 km I decided that although it was not in my best interest, I could not in good conscience continue to blatantly hide out behind this guy without at least offering to help so I pulled up next to him and asked if he was happy leading or if he would like to me to take it for awhile. "I would LOVE for you to take it for awhile." Sigh... ok.

6 km - 4:17 (are you sure you want me to take it?)

Whereupon another guy immediately pulled up and told me he would try for a kilometer, I had my doubts because he was breathing pretty hard but off he went and he was gone.

7 km - 3:50 (buddy must have run under 3:40 on that one)

So I continued to effectively lead our little group with buddy way off the front:

8 km - 4:05 (uphills begin)
9 km - 4:06
10 km - 4:12 (solid uphill)

At this point the pace felt comfortably hard and I was very pleased to be working within this little group. I got behind the original tall leader again along with another guy we swallowed up and felt content to ride this little train for as long as possible. I felt quite certain that although I might not be able to finish at this pace, that I had not gone out very much over my head.

11 km - 4:10 (continuing uphill)

At this point I got passed by a woman and moved into second which honestly did not bother me. Mostly I was just happy to have more company in the pack.

12 km - 4:08 (yes, uphill)

Right around here the pace started transitioning from comfortably hard to hardly comfortable and my little train started breaking apart. The first place woman started pulling away. Two of the guys sort of went with her but couldn't keep up and just got strung out, another guy stopped due to what looked like a back problem and suddenly our little train was gone. I was feeling less "Little Engine that could" and more Whingy Whiner.

13 km - 4:07 (still ostensibly in the zone but feeling oh, so bad)
14 km - 4:14 (steepest km of the race)
15 km - 4:17

At this point the course is a gentle downhill until the finish and I had imagined myself easily running 3:55s - 3:57s over this portion to compensate for what I was sure would be a slower pace on the uphills.

16 km - 4:21 (first downhill km)

I decided that that was a blip and that now that I was on the final stretch which was thankfully gravel (and downhill), I would for sure start hitting sub-4s.

17 km - 4:11

When I saw 4:11, I thought for sure that they had mis-marked the km. Yes, PPC wasn't running slower than planned, THAT km MUST have been long.

18 km - 4:14

That one too.

19 km - 4:15

And that one.

20 km - 4:11

Oh... forget it!!

21 km - 4:07

last 100 m - 21 seconds.

Total time, as mentioned above, 1:27:32.

About which I can only say CRAP. I honestly believe I was fit for sub-1:26. I did not wimp out mentally, I was working hard the whole way. I am not sure where those extra 90 seconds came from. It wasn't a cardio problem, my breathing was fine until the last 100 m when I was really trying to kick... it was a muscular thing. My legs were just trashed. By the time I got to the downhills, I couldn't take advantage of them because I was just too tired muscularly. I actually ran slower on the downhills than on the ups.

If I had to guess I would say I was lacking longer runs in my build up; I did 2 hours once and probably 7-8 90 minute runs... I probably would have benefited from more 2 hour runs to build that muscular endurance but honestly my training program, humble as it was, strained my family more than is acceptable so...  it is what it is. More manageable would have been to lose some weight before this half; there is no denying that every extra pounds (down to a certain physiologic limit) is extra weight carried and time added. It's straight forward physics and I trained at and raced at close to 8 pounds over my ideal weight. 8 pounds a lots of minutes makes. I just finished reading The Secret Race which is a tell-all book about the world of elite cycling and I was amazed at how closely elite cyclists monitor their weight and restrict their diet. The cyclist about whom the book was written talks of going on 5 hours rides and then drinking sparking water to fool his stomach into thinking it is full, taking a sleeping pill and going to sleep to avoid eating until the next day. In fact, he even goes so far as to say given the choice between having access to more EPO or losing weight he would always chose the latter because the effect is so important. It was a pretty wild read and astonishing to me how closely they can predict improvements in performance based on weight loss.... anyhow my take home messages are, if I am really serious about running fast over the half marathon but am not willing to take any more time away from my family or lose anymore sleep than I am going to need:

1) more 120 minute runs pushing the children in the stroller if necessary
2) less chocolate cake
3) EPO

yeah, I`ll probably leave it at 1 & 2... after a nice, long break that is.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A, B & C Goals for Half Marathon

My goal half marathon is in two days - to hold myself accountable, here are my A, B & C goals - if I remember correctly an C goal is something that one is almost sure to accomplish, like the wheels would have to fall off the cart completely to not make it. B is tough but realistic, really the time that one is realistically fit to run and then just has to dig a little bit deeper for and A is totally reaching for the stars... so, here we go:

C goal: well, since the whole point of this exercise was to qualify for the 2014 NYC marathon by running a sub-1:30, this has to be the C goal. Although my 1:28 20 km in mid-August might lead me to believe a 1:30 is not a given, I feel transformed as a runner since then. I really do think that if I don't run a sub-1:30, something has gone disastrously wrong (and since I am booking TWO hotel rooms.... TWO! One for the family and one JUST FOR ME!! I will not be sleep deprived, at least not the night immediately before).

B goal: tough but realistic, hmmm.... I honestly think I am fit to run 1:26:30 so I guess a tough but realistic goal would be 1:25:30.

A goal: 1:23:30. That would be a reach. Huge reach.

I think I am good to go. Training has gone well. I am mostly injury free. Build up races have been reasonable to good. I have been getting at least 6 hours of sleep per night with luxurious 4 hours stretches sometimes. I am a woman without excuses. I am a woman who is off to bed.

Here we go.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Am I hopelessly immature or...

are photos of children inadvertently giving the finger just so damn funny??
Little is about 15 minutes old in this snapshot and it should be an incredibly tender moment between us but... finger! I wet myself laughing whenever I see it. Verdict: so damn funny.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Race Report: Occam's Razor

So I know based on my work-outs and my racing progression just about what kind of shape I am in for 10 km, pretty much down to +/- 10 seconds. Yet nonetheless on the start line I find myself thinking about "the good old days" when a "bad" race meant 37:50 and breaking 37:30 was pretty much a given. Sigh. So I'm cruising along, I have a decent first 2 km (3:50, 3:51) and then settle into a 3:53-3:56 pace. As I am running along, I wonder why I can't seem to comfortably go any faster. It occurs to me that it might be my asthma - there is a strong smell of fertilizer in the air coming from the south shore farms and perhaps that is somehow triggering my airways. Perhaps it is the persistent lack of sleep that is holding me back; nighttime continues to be a challenge. Then again it could be the sleeping pill I took at 1 am that has not worn off and is preventing me from turning over my legs faster. Or, perhaps it is because I am about to get my period and the accompanying heaviness and sluggishness that is enforcing this pace in the high 3:50s rather than the 3:40-3:45 I ran "back in the day". As I move between 4 and 5 km, another hypothesis occurs to me and I know in my gut it is the right one. I am running 39 minute pace because THAT IS THE SHAPE I AM IN. It's not the air quality, the sleep deprivation, my menstrual cycle or even the irritation caused by the "I'm sexy and I know it" sign on the back of the runner in front of me (really) nor any of the other dozens of excuses runners seem to search for... it is truly the simplest possible explanation. I am running 39 minute pace because I am in 39 minute shape. Period.

Nonetheless I do manage a final km of 3:41 which is enough to put me in lactic acid severe enough that the final three steps of the race were done on extremely shaky legs (and I am quite proud that I was able to go to the bottom of the barrel like that) good for 38:53... my first sub-39 minute 10 km in a year.

So I guess I have a choice, I can celebrate the fact that I ran to my current level of fitness, broke 39 minutes and generally ran a mentally tough race with a huge kick. I can be grateful that despite working full time and having two children I get to run about 60-75 km per week. Or I can whine and moan about how I used to be 2 minutes faster and many of the women who I used to regularly beat are already starting their cool down runs when I cross the finish line. I chose the former. I have to chose the former. Though it might be "settling", what the point of doing this if I am continually dissatisfied and mourning days gone by? Case in point, one of the women I beat today WON this race in the year it served as national championships in a time 6 minutes faster than she ran today and yet, on she runs, enjoying the effort, the comradeship and the sport. That is what I chose.