I am humbled by a message written to me earlier this week. A friend of mine has been following my running posts this spring and has decided to register for a half marathon. She is a active and proud mama of a toddler & doting wife with a busy life and she’s committed to run her first half marathon in November. In recent weeks I’ve also been asked about my new love affair with running ….mostly questions like “what am I doing different?”, and “why am I running – what am I running from?!”
I am a rookie runner; not a running expert at all…as a matter of fact, knowing what I know now, I know that for the past 3 years of running, I have been putting in a lot of junk miles. And with those junk miles I’ve racked up physio, accupuncture and massage bills that have made each running season a very expensive endeavour. Each year I try to crack a 2:00:00 half marathon. Last year I ran 5 1/2 marathons with a pb 2:01:01. This spring I decided to make a significant change to my quest.
I hired a personal trainer, Leah Goldstein, who has introduced me to a dramatically different approach to running. She brings to the trails the wisdom of an extremely experienced, seasoned and accomplished ultra endurance athlete. Equally important, she does not give me any princess treatment (I can put on a huge pout or convincing whine when pushed extremeley far outside of my comfort zone); she’s understanding, yet firm (even though at times I know I have made labouring sounds far greater & worse than when actually in labour giving birth to my 10.5 lb son!). Her training has been educational as well.
She’s taught me about heart rate; how to optimize my fitness results by calculating ( and training within) the range of my heart rate training zone. She tracks all of my stats and strategizes my training schedule. Our training together has been on a treadmill, trails & pavement; we’ve had hill sessions and “puke” sessions (puke is defined as speed interval training at the local track).
Through it all I’ve learned and accomplished so much in such a short period of time. In 3 short months I can confidentially say that thanks to Goldstein, at 42 I am in the best physical shape of my life!
Here’s a collection of ideas & beliefs and tidbit of what I have learned and adopted over the past 500km of training since mid March of this year:
1. What you put into it is what you get out of it. Even if you are having a really bad day/bad run, keep running – push through it. Alternatively, if you’re on fire, then let the adrenaline catapult you to a new pb;
2. Be consistent – no matter what comes up in life, if you’ve made the commitment to run, then run. That means everything (except of course an emergency situation)…everything else and everyone else can wait. Running every second day works best for me – it gives my muscles (and likely my heart & lungs:-) the recovery time they need;
3. Don’t stop! If you’ve committed to run 1km, them run it – even at a turtle’s pace keep the running stride. Your brain does awful things if it thinks it is allowed to walk every time the going gets a little tough. Run it out;
4. Make friends with wind, rain and hills and run on trails as much as possible:
Wind, rain and hills – My trainer had me write a mantra that I repeat. It is actually all 3 of those perceived obstacles that make you a better runner!
Trails – I’ve done 75% of my training on trails rather than pavement this year; possibly the reason why I’ve been injury free?!
5. Don’t be afraid to cry – it’s going to be hard and you are going to want to kick a rock or cry. Don’t kick the rock because it causes pain that you need to run through (trust me I did it at the top of the switchbacks – a grinding 5 minute hill 160m climb). Cry if you need to but sooner or later you will realize that it’s a lot harder to cry and run at the same time because it messes with your breathing. (And since you can’t stop running it’s like you are trying to juggle running, crying and breathing – it’s damn hard!). Save crying for later and you’ll see that they are happy tears rather than frustrated tears – and they taste sweeter!;
5. Run with a Garmin Forerunner 310XT. It talks to your computer wirelessly and has all sorts of groovy data charts, so when you walk in the door, your report card is being automatically synced produced and you can track and see your progress. (I’ve had several other gamins, some fancy ones with bezels – but if they get wet or accidentally tapped, the screen jumps to another screen and you feel like ripping it off and throwing it!) This one is slightly bigger and uber simple;
6. If you have an adversity to caffeine, get over it. That stuff is like what I imagine crack would be like – it gives you a jolt. On the days you run without at least one cup of it, you’ll regret it. (Note: I do most of my runs in the morning before I hit the trails, so it is easy to incorporate into routine). When you start running longer distances – 20+km, you’ll totally feel the 40 mg of caffeine as you suck back the gel pack and you’ll feel like your rocket boosters just lit up – you’ll be good to go for another 7-10km.
7. Epsom salt baths are your evening’s new sanctuary. On the evening of my run, I pour 1 cup of Epsom salts into a hot bath. While the bath is running I brush my teeth and get 2 large glasses of water (one to be enjoyed during my bath and one for my bedside table). I soak for at least 20 minutes – most nights 30 minutes. Towards the end of my bath I do my “yoga”, a series of legs stretches. From the bath I go straight to bed.
8. Hydrate, nourish, compress & sleep:
Hydrate – On a run any longer than 5km I take a clip on water bottle; more than 10km I add electrolytes to my water bottle; more than 15km I also take along caffeinated gel packs (one per every 7km)
Nourish – On run days I have to eat 45 minutes before my run. Typically it’s a cup of coffee, a banana and bowl of porridge with 2 heaping teaspoons of brown sugar and drizzled with coconut milk. (Note: I love having at least one cup of coconut water post-run). Over the past few months as my output has increased, my appetite & diet variety has increased substantially. I eat when and what my body wants. (My diet in a nutshell: no white sugar, no white flour (the only bread in my kitchen is g/f rice bread and the only pasta is g/f rice pasta – Tinkyada is best!), nothing carbonated nor deep fried, minimal dairy (cheese and Nancy’s sugar free, g/f whole cultured yogurt are my only vices) g/f brown basmati rice is my preferred grain, fruit & vege organic as much as possible; 60% meat/40% fish, lotsa garlic, and at least one green salad a day).
Compression – I am prone to ankle/achilles and knee twerks and quirks. This year I have worn compression tubes for every single run. I have not had one injury. I swear they have made all of the difference.
Sleep – Your body will dictate your requirements. You will feel shitty running and a lot stiffer after running if you had a late night or lack of sufficient sleep. You will need a cat nap on days you run more than 15km.
9. Celebrate your victories! Chocolate cake is my reward and I eat as much as I want – guiltlessly.
10. Visualize. I learned this one from my daughter who is a former National Team athlete. Think happy, positive thoughts and make friends with hills – or whatever your obstacle is (Saying you “hate hills” is self sabotage – your brain listens and does not filter. You need to filter the funk!) I had someone take a picture of me running up a hill on a day that I felt like a rocket. I made it my screensaver. Simple things like that help you create your own running bliss.
My first half marathon of the year is in a week. I feel I’ve trained much more efficiently this season. I hope to realize my sub 2hr goal….no, I will run it in under 2 hours! I am loving every-step-of-the-way!!
And to answer the question “what I am running from?”…….I am actually not running from anything.
I am taking the leap and running towards a better me!