I just got the hang of that!

For the last month or so I had been running to NO PLAN. Only running when I wanted to run. Running the sessions that I felt like and not what a program was dictating.

The main motivation behind this was to challenge myself. I have often thought that I am motivated and driven by a goal. With no goal in sight I wanted to try to still enjoy my running. The biggest driver of course was my desire to run through my next pregnancy and doing so would rely on being able to have a relaxed approach to running. So this was a great opportunity to master just that.

While it was only a short while before this plan of no plan got thrown out the window by my CRAZY MARATHON idea I still learned a lot along the way:

Plan or no plan I still love and need to run!

To be honest I expected the frequency of my running to drop without a training program but it didn’t. I still woke up most mornings wanting to run. I can’t believe how much running has become such a part of my normal day-to-day life. (Probably shouldn’t put “normal” and “my life” in the same sentence but you know what I mean)

I choose the easy route most days

Considering my love of speed work I  thought I would be doing loads of speed sessions and loving the opportunity to try lots of fun and crazy things with no regard for recovery because it didn’t matter if I pulled up sore. Not so. Most mornings I just set out for an easy run. (slacker… I know!)

I didn’t feel any more or any less recovered for or from runs

I guess this may be because I was still running the same frequency. All the same I was certainly running at a lower intensity for the most part and I didn’t feel any better or worse for it.

In summary

I honestly expected the whole running to no plan to be an ordeal like the first time I tried to switch to decaf (I literally fell apart)!!! It was anything but an ordeal. Do I prefer to run to a program… YES! I love waking up and knowing what I have to do and that each run is one part of a bigger plan. I love seeing improvements from week to week in similar sessions and I love speed sessions but clearly I just have to be told to do them!!

That said I have been known to say “I can’t wait till this race is over and I can just go and run for fun”.  I think that is normal though. Doesn’t every program hit an ugly spot? A spot when you may feel a slave to your training? BUT then you get to run that race and can’t wait to sign up for the next one because it’s just so much FUN!

See how much fun this is!?!

So the verdict is BOTH are great and both have a place in my life.

For specific goals, races and times I will always lean on the guidance of structured program that is designed to help me optimise my training. As for all the running in between these goals and races I will enjoy just running because I know I can and because I know a plan does not hold me together or keep me putting on my sneakers each day – my love of running does that!

Do you ever hit an ugly spot in your training?

Do you prefer to be training for a goal or do you just love to run?

The universe’s plan… now its mine!

As much as I like to be proactive in trying to design my life I have come to accept that there are things in life that are just out of our control. Things that are driven by the universe and sometimes the universe’s grand plan doesn’t align with our own plans. However they do say as every door closes another one opens.There hasn’t been  a door closing in my life as much as I have been sitting by the door waiting for it to open and it just is NOT opening.

Lactational Amenorrhea sounds like a dream but when you are keen to grow your family it is kind of frustrating. So here I am twiddling my thumbs waiting for my body to kick back into baby baking mode.

2 weeks ago after my 5km “not so fabulous” race…  I had an idea. A crazy idea. So crazy it seemed ridiculous at first but the more I thought about it the less crazy and wild this idea became.

After a few days of thinking it over and over I was starting to seriously consider this idea and decided it was time to float it to Big A.

Let me just say I am lucky to be blessed with the most supportive family who have always encouraged and supported me to achieve my goals. I was even luckier to marry a man who is also so supportive of me and backs my every dream and goal 100% no matter how crazy.

So once I had got the OK from Big A I did what any Type A control freak personality does –  organise the hell out of it. I worked out every tiny detail to the point where I could see it all coming together BUT I still wasn’t ready to commit.

Then this happened. I visited my Podiatrist… The king of the lower limbs. I walked in to my appointment 75% committed to my crazy idea and walked out 100% committed.

Decision made.

As of Monday 26th November I will abandon my running to NO program approach and start a 20 week training program for …

WaHoo! YeeeeeHaaaa!

So  rather than sit around and be frustrated and impatient with my body I am going to refocus my energies on another goal. Yes, Little A (and Big A) are my #1 priority but he sleeps 14 hours per day (Little A that is!) so there is definitely some time each day to pursue a crazy goal.

Now there are so many things I want to share with you all but in the interest of not making this the LONGEST post ever I will split it up into 4 more posts that I will publish over the next week. Here is a sneak preview of them…

Chill time!… I’m prepping for a marathon but fully intend to sit on my butt for the next 7 – 10 days ( and I am not injured!) here I tell you why!
I just got the hang of that Running to NO plan. Everything about my experience and what I will do in the future.
So much more than running .. There is so much more to prepping for a marathon than just running. In this post I will share all my plans: nutrition, recovery, managing my niggles and balancing family life.
Running Royalty… A an exciting post to tell you what tipped my decision to train for the Canberra Marathon… THIS IS EXCITING!!!!

Of course running will move up the priority list and blogging will have to move down a little. However I do aim to share a marathon training update each week in addition to the normal mummy and running posts.

Finally I just want to point out that I have committed to TRAINING for the Canberra Marathon NOT RUNNING it. The truth is if my body kicks back into baby baking mode in the next two months I could easily ditch the marathon to move forward with growing our family. However there will come a time when I am far enough into the training when there will be no turning back and I will see out the marathon no matter what my body does. In the interest of making race preparations I have decided to give myself a deadline of February 21st to make a decision on the race. This will see me 12 weeks into my training and 8 weeks out from the race.

So anyone want to come line up at Canberra with me?

When have you been frustrated with your body?

Am I crazy?

How far out from a race do you sign up for it?

The stars finally aligned

Over the last 3-4 weeks I have began to wonder if my love of running has turned into an addiction. Rest days started to get ugly! 2 weeks ago I thought it was a coincidence that rest days just happened to be crappy days for me. But after another 2 weeks of that pattern I was a little worried that I was “addicted” to the high I get from my runs and not able to enjoy a day to its fullest without getting my run on. That is not even the worst of it. On these rest days I was short fused. crabby and dare I say it resentful!

Sound like an addict?

It  wasn’t good. I was wondering what to do and short of just running every day I wasn’t sure how to fix it. Then it happened… an awesome rest day. One when you wake up and you are grateful that you don’t have to fit a run into your day and your body is sufficiently fatigued you couldn’t imagine running anyway. Mentally you have so many other things that seem more important and you enjoy every moment of your day without even a twinge of guilt for not clocking some Ks.

What was so different about this day? It was the first day in months when MENTALLY I had wanted to rest.

I don’t have set rest days. I have 5 runs to do each week and 7 days to do them in.  Which days become my rest days are usually determined by these things ( and usually in this order)

1. How busy my day is – if it is super hard to fit the run in then it becomes a rest day

2. My program where I am in my session mix in terms of coming off or going in to a hard session

3. Physical. If my body is tired or in need of rest (you think this would fit in nicely with #2 but my body always surprises me how it recovers from different sessions!)

4. Mental. If I am just shattered or not got my running mojo

The problem with doing it this way is that I am taking rest when it is convenient first and NOT when I physically and mentally need it. No wonder 4 weeks passed before the stars aligned and I finally got a rest day on a day that I mentally needed it too.

Hopefully my new approach to running will fix this. Next week I am throwing the program out the window and running to no plan. I am literally going to wake up each day and ask myself these questions:

1. Do I feel like running today?

2. If so, what kind of run? Fast, Hills, intervals, Easy, Stroller, Treadmill etc?

3. When can I fit it in to my day?

I don’t care what I ran the day before, I don’t care if I have taken no rest days or 10 rest days and I don’t care if my training is not structured or lacks direction. I just want to run ( or not run as the case may be).

I always follow a plan. To achieve the optimum out of your running you need to. You need to make sure you are getting the right rest, completing the right kind of sessions and building at the right rate. BUT for the first time in my life I am not about achieving the optimum. I just want to run. Will I race? Maybe! Does it completely terrify me the thought of lining up at a start line not having followed a structured plan (as flexible as they must be) – HELL YEAH!

I love plans and I know I will look forward to a new plan in the not too distant future but for now my only plan is to lace up my sneakers and see where they take me… I know it will be RUNNING and that’s enough for me.

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My pretty sneakers I mean

As an added bonus I’m hoping this “Do I feel like it approach?” rather than “can I fit it in?” approach will weed out that nasty “I can’t cope on rest days” monster. I am probably not the only one hoping for this result either. Apparently the only thing worse than a running addict on a rest day is living with a runner addict on a rest day!

What determines your rest days?

Do you run to a plan?

If you want to do it – do it!

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Yesterday I hit the treadmill for my intervals. 5 x 800s. I secretely hoped that I would achieve a 2 minute 45 second interval but in the end I had to settle for a 2 minute 47 second one as my best (on the plus side there is room for improvement!). It was a tough session, partly because mentally I was drained and partly because I pushed SO hard I was at my absolute limits but MOSTLY because it was hot.

Make no mistake about it I am not a hot weather runner. I fall apart. I get stomach cramps, feel light headed, dizzy and lose pace dramtically. I know what you are thinking – hydrate better right? I could run with an IV of fluid and still not be a “hot weather” runner. I am the queen of hydration… One of my nick names is “glug glug glug”! In the first few months of breast feeding I would put down 5 litres a day like it was no ones business.

So by the time I had finished my last interval yesterday, I was feeling pretty terrible. Little A was asleep and as much as I wanted a nice long relaxing cool down (and to clock up some extra Ks Miles for September Miles Madness) I wanted to stop MORE.

Then it occured to me – how am I ever going to become a better runner in the heat if I don’t run in the heat. Don’t get me wrong I am not suggesting choosing the hottest part of the day to head out or continuing to run when you are faint or dizzy. But after my last interval I had demolished a bottle of water and I wasn’t feeling ill just sluggish…couldn’t be bothered, too hard!

Moving my running around the weather is easy. Get up at the crack of dawn, take your rest day on the hottest day and do your hardest longest sessions on the coolest days. But what happens when one day I line up for a race and it is freakishly HOT. I have never “sucked up” a run in the heat. I dare say it would be my first DNF (which I am not scared of… I accept this will one day happen!) but I don’t want “too soft to run in the heat” to be the reason!

I realised the only way I was ever going to be able to run in the heat is if I run in the heat. Genius hey? So I continued on for my long and “relaxing” cool down.  Amazingly as every minute passed I felt a little bit better. Yes some of it was recovering from my awesome but crazy intervals but some of it was also my body adapting to the heat. If well hydrated and realistic about your pace running in the heat can be quite good (yep I am trying to convince myself!) Decreased chance of injury is definitely a big plus for warmer weather running!

In 2 weeks I will be following NO training plan but I will definitely be “training” to be an ALL conditions runner. Time to toughen up!!!

Are you a freak hot weather runner?

DOMS

Its time for a training week fortnight wrap.

Since the last training update I have managed to get some longer runs under my belt and I am starting to feel ready for this half marathon!

Thanks to the September Miles Madness I have been motivated to tack a few extra Ks on all my sessions and not just my long runs and this has seen me achieve my highest mileage week EVER!

With the exception of some specific ‘post baby’ soreness (apparently all the kegels in the world don’t strengthen you for DISTANCE running) my body has adapted well to the higher mileage.

The Hill sessions on the other hand completely shocked my body and left my hamstrings screaming. I chose very gentle hills, did extra long warm ups and kept the reps low. Even though I felt like I didn’t push very hard IN my hill sessions my legs talked about divorcing me for days after. Given how much of a shock the hills have been I am only going to squeeze two more hill workouts in between now and the race. I certainly don’t want sore tired legs like that close to the race. Its been a long time since I have experienced DOMS and in some sick and twisted way it sure felt good to know that I pushed my legs in running.

When Sunday rolled around I was planning on heading out for 90 minutes on my own while Big A took care of Little A. But cuddling up with Little A on the bed (in the morning when he is just ALL smiles) was just too much fun… how could I leave this little guy behind???? So I suggested to Big A that I take the stroller and he come along on his bike. We decided to run/ride in to the City and have breakie along the River Torrens and run/ride home. Running home on a “big breakkie” and a belly full of coffee was a bit rough but it certainly was a nice way to mix my running up and squeeze some more time in with my two favourite people!

Tempo and Intervals are going well. I had a great Interval session last week in which I attempted 3 minute 30 second Ks. I failed. My fastest was 3 minutes 35 seconds. How amazing are these Olympic female athletes… they run 42.2km at a pace that I can’t even maintain for 1km!!!

This morning my Tempo Run included 30 minutes at 15kmp/h which is another personal best for me… Suddenly a sub 20 minute 5km seems possible and dare I dream of a 40 minute 10km!?!?!

All in all I am mentally and physically in a great place for this half marathon. Now the only problem is making sure I am geographically in the right place for this half marathon… an unexpected trip away might mean I wont be able to race the McLaren Vale Half. Fingers crossed though! Anyone know of any Virtual Half Marathons on the weekend of October 14th? I need a back up plan!

The last HooRah

Little A is just shy of 6 months which means I have been back running for 5 months already. There is nothing like having a baby to make time fly! I have well and truly made my “comeback” and can now shift my focus from regaining strength and fitness to building on and growing it.

Post baby my goal was to regain my fitness as efficiently as possible.
Enter Speed Work!

5 months of running with a program built around Tempos and Intervals has paid off and now I feel ready to crank up the Ks!

And crank up the Ks I will do as I am only seven weeks out from my next goal… The McLaren Vale Half Marathon.

So whats the plan going to look like now?

Well you may remember me saying that I want to become a Stronger Runner?
Enter Hills!

It has been nearly 2 years since I have ran a hill session. I’m not expecting these to be fun but I am looking forward to pushing myself in a new way.

I am also going to keep two “easy” runs but do these with the stroller. I am finding stroller running physically quite challenging but I know it is making me a better runner.

I will also keep one “speed” session each week and will alternate these between tempo and intervals.

Finally of course there is the long run in which I will build up my distance. My longest run since Little A came along has been 80 minutes. In the next 7 weeks I would like to increase that by 30-40minutes. So all up for the next 7 weeks my training plan will look something like this:

Easy
Tempo or Intervals
Easy
Long Run
Hills

With 2 rest days thrown in there too I should be able to comfortably manage this load.

So why the last HooRah?

After this race I’m not going to train for anything. I may or may not race but I wont be following a training program. Runs will be done when and if I feel like them for as long or short as I feel like. There’s a few reasons for this change of approach:

1) Little A will be nearly 8 months and summer will be just around the corner. I can’t wait for our first summer together… trips to the pools, walks to the playgrounds and runs to the beach. Bring it on! I know we are going to have a blast and I know there will be lots of physical activity in there and lots of Ks put on the pram but I want our activites and days to be dictated by the weather and what WE want to do not my running program.

2) I have never really done much “unstructured” running. Generally I have been training for something and following some program. I want to learn to embrace running without striving for a race or an achievement.

3) The BIG reason for the change – Big A and I have made no secret of our desire to grow our family. The last 6 months have flown by and I know the next 6 months will too. When that time comes around I want to be ready physically and mentally. Breastfeeding, Pregnancy and Running individually are all demanding of the body. For me I am finding the combination of two of them an energy burning fest(!!!) and would dare not attempt all 3 at once (Honestly I don’t have time to eat & drink anymore). As I am not ready to wean Little A from feeding just yet I am going to wean the running first. Hopefully I can find my “sweet spot” where my body can manage running and baby growing responsibilites.

4) Finally mastering “unstructured running will be essential if I choose to run through my next pregnancy. Running while pregnant requires you to listen to your body and each run will be taken on a day by day basis (if at all!). I suspect following a plan would be futile.

So here goes my last HooRah before I attempt to master “unstructured running”!

Any unstructured runners out there? Whats the secret?
Did you run through pregnancy?

Adelaide Marathon 10km Race

Pre – Race
Like all races these days I try not to think about them or more specifically get excited about them until its the morning of. Mostly because now I have this little guy who is completely dependant on me and quite frankly “unpredictable”, I know that there is always a chance that something may crop up and I will have to forgo a race.

“Go run Mum, I’ll look after daddy”

So as I walked to the start line with Big A and Little A, I had a mini-panick attack. I had no race plan, I hadn’t even spared this race a thought! Arriving at the start with only 5 minutes to go didn’t leave much time to do anything either. I said goodbyes to the boys and made a dash for the loos. Cutting it fine …. I know!

I made it back just in time for the count down. Usually I would join the back of the pack but today I was going for a PB and negotiating traffic can chew up precious seconds so I nestled in to the middle of the eager to start (it was about 9 degrees!) pack of runners.

My race plan was formulated in the first 500m. I was going to run at a pace that I thought I could JUST maintain for 10km and then give anything I had left in the last km. A 10km race pace for me is running at about 7/10 for perceived effort. In the first Ks I glanced at my Garmin and was a little freked to see the number 13 on my speed screen… but I felt comfortable so I went with it.

This turned out to be the perfect plan.

My Time
I crossed the line in 46 minutes and 22 seconds. My race pace must have been smack on as my splits were very even:

4.39
4.41
4.40
4.38
4.39
9.24 (oops missed a km marker! average = 4.42)(2.06km)
4.27 (.95km)
4.36
4.34

The Course
Do you remember me saying that I was scared to run the Adelaide Marathon because of the twisty turning course. Well the 10km still had some loops and turns (but nothing like the marathon). I think the course was inspired by the London Olympic Marathon course with its 111 turns!

Despite the winding nature of the course and nearly colliding with a pole in the middle of the foot path AND nearly being taken out by a runner who didn’t see the fountain in the middle of the path, I loved the course. The South East corner weaved through the botanic gardens and was all new running territory for me.

The last 200 meters came off the road, up a path and into an oval. It was awesome to finish a race along a path lined with supporters and friendly faces.

Highlights
Looking back on the race there are so many things that make me smile. Here’s just a few:

1. Shaving 13 minutes and 38 seconds of my last 10km time in just 17 weeks! I know this is largely thanks to the massive “returning” to running gains after baby but I still put in all the hard work and clearly my training program (written by me!) wasn’t too shabby either!

2. How in tune I have become with my body and pace in all things running. To achieve those (almost) EVEN splits on “feel” I was pretty happy!

3.Seeing hubby and bubby at the 9km marker. Even though I had arranged to meet the boys at the finish line. Big A surprised me a couple times along the course. The 9km sighting was completely unexpected and gave me that final kick I so needed!

4.This was my first race in which I have associated myself with a charity and run for a reason. It added a whole new dimension to the experience and I thank everyone again for their support. It sure feels good to mix my passion with giving back to the community.

Final thoughts
I have to confess I didn’t go into the race confident of achieving my goal. In the 2 weeks leading up to the race Little A had been teething and quite unsettled. This meant that a lot of my runs were done with the stroller (at a slower pace). Having not ran much at my desired race pace I was a little psyched out as to whether or not I still could. Turns out the thing that “did my head in” actually makes me a better runner. But I’ll tell you all about that in another post dedicated to the wonderful BUT challenging world of “stroller running”.

So now that I have achieved my 10km goal whats next? Well this is worthy of another post too so stay tuned to hear about the next training goal and race in 7.5 weeks… my last HooRah!