Saturday, September 29, 2007

Harvest Half Marathon report

Happy, happy, happy! I ran my second half marathon today. My official time was 2:07:07.

This means I took 11 minutes off my time from July. Yaaay! My goal was 2:10, so I was pleased.

One weird thing was... I placed 294th overall. If you look at the photo, you can see that my race number was also 294. Kind of twighlight-zoney, eh? I don't know what the statisitcal probability of that is, but next time I'm going to ask for bib number 001!

A number of things went wrong leading up to the race. I was tired, burnt out, and felt like I was "not on my game". Went to the doctor. My blood was generally fine. Thyroid a bit high, blood sugar a bit low, but all within normal range. The general diagnosis: "Overdoing it." Great thing to hear less than 2 weeks before a half marathon.

Between that and the last meeting I had with my trainer where he said there was no physiological reason for the decline in my training performance and that it was mental... that being mentally tough was important (a "chat" that felt like a mental beating in itself) I went into today's race feeling a little less "sharp" than with my first half marathon in July.

My massage therapist cancelled on my pre-race appointment, and my chiropractor let loose on me a bit about how a race shouldn't just be about getting a certain time... "That's like it being all about the money for a business person. If you take that attitude, it is never good enough. It never ends. It should be a celebration of the training."

I agree with the last bit, but I wasn't sure where the tongue lashing came from... I don't think I'm obsessed with race times and in general, I think I set reasonable goals. But whatever... For a variety of reasons, I went in feeling like like the lead-up to a big event was less than ideal.

However, I owe a big debt of gratitude to Alia, who served as my chauffeur, cheerleader and race crew. She arrived at my house at 6:30 am to pick me up and then took care of me until the minute she dropped me off at my door. She's not a runner herself, but man, she is one helluva supporter.

I also owe thanks to a new runner friend who has run in the same event in previous years. Prior to the race he gave me a tour of the course, told me where the tough bits were and ran a few kms of it with me as a training run. That was huge boost psychologically and in the midst of a string of things that felt wrong, it was particularly helpful.

Alia was also the official photographer for the day. As we were looking at the photos after the race, she giggled at this one. Apparently, runners are tall people. Or at least, I make them look that way.

The race course itself was beautiful. About 60-70% of it was through a park area, with lots of trees, a river and positively gorgeous views. There were parts that were breathtaking.

My weakness in this race was that I started out too fast. I slowed down quite a bit on some nasty hills at the end. Despite the fact that I love hills and have been known to almost shriek with delight when I train on them, I was a bit spent when I got to "the killer" hill in the last 3 km.

My iPod konked out on my around 9 km, which threw me for a bit of a loop, since I almost always train with it. It did that to me in the gym last week. I'd heard that iPods get to the point where they won't hold a charge any more. I had it charging for 2 entire days before the race, so the battery was full when I started. I did manage to get it going again, but the volume was low. I knew I couldn't count on the music for motivation, but I wanted to enjoy it as long as I could.

One of the first things I said to Alia upon finishing was, "I really have to learn to keep my shirt on!"

She replied, "Yeah, you really do!"

It was between 2 C and 3 C (around 35-36 F) for the duration of the race, but I got so hot I felt like I was melting, so off the shirt came. I do believe I was the only woman running in a racer top today. But whatever. I was too hot and sweaty to care.

The usual blister issue existed, but I am getting used to it now. I brought my own first aid kit and patched myself up after the race. I knew they were bleeding, but I was able to manage it well enough that they didn't soak through to my shoes this time.

All in all, it was fun. The lead up conditions were not as ideal as they were for my first half in July, but I am happy that I ran it. It was a beautiful day and it did not rain or snow, as they'd talked about in the forecast. I had fantastic support from a dedicated friend. I managed the blisters better than ever before. Despite feeling a little tired and achy, my knees and hips felt good and strong. I managed the GI issues. (Alia and I went for eats after - and coffee, of course!) And I took 11 minutes off my time from my first half marathon in July. Yes, overall... today I am a happy, happy runner!

Monday, September 17, 2007

A few of my favorite new things...

It has arrived. The long awaited "Fixing your feet" by John Vonhof is here in my hot little hands.

P. 115 "Duct tape techniques" caught my eye right away, but I want to read it all, cover to cover. And then read it again. And possibly again after that.

There is so much good stuff here! Most people I've mentioned it to around here have never heard of it, so needless to say, I've been carting it around with me everywhere I go, showing it off as my newest prized possession. When I mentioned to one friend that there were pages and pages on how to treat blisters, the response was, "Ooh, now isn't that just yummy?"

Guess you've got to live through it to get it. Anyway, I'm thrilled and I cannot wait to get through every single morsel of it. A great big huge thank you to Michelle and Sarah for recommending it.

The other thing I have to report on is my Nathan winter water bottle. It is definitely leak proof. I really like that. It's a good, sturdy bottle, too, which is nice. It is slightly larger than my other water bottles though, so when it sits in my belt, which hold it at an angle across the small of my back, my elbow jams into it when I'm in motion. That's not fun.

That probably wouldn't happen if I were a bit taller or not so short waisted, but as it is, it's not ideal for me for running. I would definitely use it as an every day water bottle or if I was wearing a back pack with a side pocket where it could stand up straight.

And so, the quest for the perfect water bottle continues... but we're getting closer.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

An interesting use for a blog - tracking 911 calls

In my last post I complained about how tired I am and how much I've been sleeping lately. Tonight there was little sleep to be had. I was woken up by my neighbours' fighting again. This happens every 5-6 weeks, usually on a Saturday night/Sunday morning. They fight, they scream, they yell profanities, there's thumping (which we think might be the girl being slammed up against the wall by the fella, but we have no proof), she cries and pleads for him to stop.

Tonight I gave the wall a thump to let them know that the noise carries. I regret that now, as it only served to escalate the situation. He started yelling profanities at me through the wall. That carried on for about half an hour, after which I called 911.

I am hesitant to call the police because I fear that the fellow's temper may, at a later time, be turned on me, my car or my property. I've mentioned the situation to the president of our condo board, but only informally. But I understand that her hands are tied and she can't do much because she's doesn't witness or hear the situation herself. So tonight I called the police again - for the second time.

I was wondering how long it had been since the first call to the police and then remembered that I'd blogged about it. November 5, 2005 was the first time I called. That's almost two years ago. I feel that I've let thing go on for too long, because I hear them fight and I get scared myself and because I don't want to cause a fuss.

Tonight, as last time, the police came. The guy who lives next door swore there was no fighting. I think tonight he said something about me being crazy, though I can't be sure. Like last time, the police left and nothing happened.

I've now put my concerns in writing for the board. I mentioned that this was my second call to the police. In my letter to them I noted when the first call was. I must say that I never thought I'd end up using my blog to track 911 calls!

The noise that wakes us up is distressing. (And I say "us" because they've now woken up one present and one past tenant as well.) The fact that we believe the girl is in danger of physical harm is even more disturbing. What's most exasperating though is that the police come and then leave again and nothing is done.

Well, here is 5:00 a.m. and I'm going to try to go back to bed for a while...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Running lull

They said it would happen. I knew intellectually it would happen to me, but I didn't expect it so soon. Not in the first year. Not when I'm was so fully of energy and zip and excited about every single run. Not when training was the highlight of my day.

If I look back in my training log, I can see it building up... my love of training slowly dissolving as I got more and more tired.

I showed my trainer some running stats from my log last week. They demonstrate a consistent decrease in performance over the past month. I feel like I have no resilience and I'm tired all the time. And I am... sleeping 10 hours a night if I can get away with it.

He said something to the effect that there's no physiological reason for the decrease in performance... that it must be mental... that mental toughness was very important.

I was crushed. Choked back tears. Went away and wept... internal resources too low to fight... feeling angry at the irony of it all, thinking that a tough person wouldn't cry.

I want to run. I want to run just about as much as I want to finish my PhD successfully. And that's a lot.

I'm not particularly smart, reasonably intelligent, yes, but not brilliant by any means. And I'm not particularly athletic, in reasonably good shape now, yes, but definitely not in Olympic form. What I have are discipline and determination. And that's all. But no matter how I feel, I rarely miss training. If I do miss training, there's got to be a good reason.

I understand that plateaus are normal. But this... this decline in performance, coupled with exhaustion and a growing disdain for something I know I love, this is not normal. It leaves me asking what the heck is wrong with me?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Get 'er done!

Oooh, I've just noticed that I haven't posted in over a week. Bad Blogger! It's been a busy week. First week back at school and life at the office was particularly hectic this week, with a big grant proposal due and a one-day conference in about a month, that I'm co-organizing.

I am not teaching this semester, with a view to getting my thesis research well under way. I saw the university filled with wide-eyed frosh this week and thoroughly enjoyed the surge of energy that they brought to campus. I had pangs of sadness about not teaching. I will miss the students. I won't miss the hours of corrections or preparation, of course, but you can't have one without the other, I guess.

This week my running has been less than stellar. I have found myself more tired than usual and I was unable to complete my scheduled speed training on Tuesday and my incline training on Thursday left me gasping. I felt like I was going to collapse, so I cut it short and went and did some yoga for about 20 minutes. I took Friday completely off training. I felt run down. And I haven't been looking forward to my workouts at all. I have learned that this is a sign that I am doing a bit too much and need to back off.

Besides, I had a 15-miler (25 km) planned for today. I wasn't sure I could manage it, and taking Friday off was one way to pump up my energy reserves a bit.

I didn't feel like going today, but I did. I just thought, "Get 'er done!" It wasn't the most stellar run I've ever had, nor the worst by any means. I got it done and I was happy that I achieved at least one running goal for this week.

My conditioning days are fairly intense and I don't know if I'm over training a bit (which I tend to do), if I'm anemic (which I'm also prone to) or just tired. So, my plan is to ease up just a bit and charge the batteries.

And with that, I will sign off with the hopes of catching up on my blog reading soon.

Night, night.