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Thoughts on a marathon journey

I think I have a slight cold…

This is not unusual following a race like a marathon. Apparently your immunity is lowered from excess physical exercise. While moderate exercise has been proven to help your immunity, more prolonged vigorous bouts actually lower it. This is because any exercise places your body under stress, and stress increases your levels of cortisol – not a good thing.

This last week has been interesting, I have felt quite tired and when I finally did go for a (very short) run, it felt like I was lugging around a sack of potatoes. Interestingly, over the weekend which we spent relaxing in Colville, I went for a short bike ride and that felt okay. My running muscles are obviously tired.

Anyway, I thought today I would make a list of the top 10 things that helped me on this marathon journey.

1)      Good support from family and friends – without this I would not have been able to complete the hours of training, and calmed my panicked mind, nor able to physically do the long runs.

2)      A well planned training schedule – I can’t stress the importance of getting those hours on your legs. Also you need a good running base before attempting such a long run. Your tendons and ligaments take about a year to become strong enough to handle the stresses of such a race. Sure, you can do the distance with less training, but your chances of getting injured are far greater. This becomes even more of an issue as you get older.

3)      Good nutrition and hydration throughout the whole process. During your training, during the race. Practice how you will do this during your training runs so on race day you have it all sorted.

4)      Get enough sleep.

5)      Self motivation and mind control. You need to be able to talk yourself through those last 10K of the race, and you need to be able to get yourself through your training runs. This means getting up early if needed, running in the rain and wind, even when you don’t feel like it.

6)      Good running shoes – a vitally important factor. Get your gait checked by a specialist running shop. And buy two pairs and rotate them.

7)      Get regular massages, they help to iron out any niggly bits before they grow into full blown problems. I also got regular chiropractic adjustments so do something like that as well.

8)      Don’t just run, especially if you are older. I do strength training as well to help with all the running muscles and build balance. Luckily for me, I am a personal trainer so I can set my own program, but I would highly recommend getting someone to draw up a proper program so you target the correct areas.

9)      Towards the end of your training journey, in the final four weeks, supplement your diet with anitoxidants like Vit C. I took 1000mg a day, and still got sick, but the severity was far less and I recovered a lot quicker. While I was ill, I took it three times a day!

10)   When race day comes, remember this is your race and enjoy it. Just do it the way you want, don’t get hung up on time if it is your first race. There are so many interesting things to see while running for such a long time, take time to look around and have fun. The spectators can really give you a boost along the way, and interacting with them helps to take your mind off the task at hand.

I have one final thing to add that I believe is very important. Have your post race plan in place a few weeks before, and plan your next challenge. It doesn’t have to be another marathon. So saying, I have mine and here it is:

http://www.colvilleconnection.co.nz/

And then it was all over….

A marathon is a long distance to run. Similarly writing about it takes a long time and this is why I have broken down the posts into more manageable bites. Here’s what happened after the race.

As I had mentioned, I got really sore feet at the 34K mark. In particular, my left foot was hurting the most. It was easy to ignore it while I was running as I had something I was aiming for….the finish line, but once I crossed that line I started limping. I really could not walk on it properly. After getting my medal , clearing the finish shute and meeting up with Kerry and Geoff, I hobbled off with them to find a much needed mocha  Geoff had parked the car way up the hill, and even though I had changed shoes, there was still no way I was going to make it, so he had to fetch it.

The advice is to do a short walk later in the day just to flush out lactic build up, but there was no way I would be doing that. Interestingly, I wanted to have a walk, whether that was because I couldn’t or because my body/mind wanted to, I don’t know. But there it was, I was feeling somewhat frustrated. Granted, I don’t do sick and injured very well.

That afternoon I experienced a roller coaster of soreness, tiredness, emotions, and hunger. One minute I was hungry, the next minute I wasn’t  One minute I wanted savoury food, the next minute protein, then carbs! One minute I was exhausted and had to lie down, perhaps sleep, next minute I was wide awake again and ready to go! One minute I was all sore, the next it was all better! One minute I felt like crying, and did, the next all happy again!

Every time I stood up it took me a few seconds to get my legs to work properly and to loosen up, and about half way into the afternoon, my knees started to ache a bit. There was nothing too serious though, apart from my sore foot which hurt less if I wore no shoes. It appeared to be strained. That night when I finally got to bed, I really didn’t sleep well as things were a bit achy, and I could not get comfortable.

On waking the next morning I was pleasantly surprised to find I could still walk and had no muscle stiffness. A few sore areas were confined to below knee height, and apart from my foot which was still quite sore, I was doing okay  The funniest thing was Geoff, who did not do the race, had sore knees, hamstrings and calves! How’s that for a support person!

So overall, my body did well, and I can only attribute that to following my training plan, getting in those miles and having a really solid base under it all. It honestly is so important to your overall physical, mental and emotional experience. I do believe that if you don’t prepare well, you will end up with problems during your race. Maybe I am still riding on the post race euphoria wave, but I had such a great day, and came away with a feeling I cannot describe in words. That feeling is still sitting there…accomplishment maybe, but more than that. It’s been 4 days now and it hasn’t gone away.

42.195 Kilometers

I woke up at 4.45am. The day of the race! I knew I had to eat breakfast, but my stomach was saying no thanks. I didn’t feel nervous really, just wanted to get going! So I forced myself to eat something small and light, and drank some water.
Two of the most important things to get right are you hydration and nutrition, not only before during training, but also on race day. To do this you need to practice during training to find out what works for you and I was hoping I had that sorted. My plan was in place, I loaded my GU chomps into my back pocket, all packaged into 5 equal portions.

Another thing you need to watch out for on long, sweaty runs is chafing! This can debilitate you terribly. I have worked out that although Glide is far more friendly on the clothes (does not stain) it does not last for the long distances, so Vaseline it was. All lubed up and ready to go.

Geoff drove me down to the start, and we managed to get a park quite close. It was still dark and there were so many people milling about. I found my pace group for 4hr30 and then of course I needed to go to the toilet (as you do). The queues were loooooong, and I stood there starting to panic I would not get to the start before the horn went off. 5 mins to start time and I was back waiting to run!

6.10am and we’re off, or at least the people in front are! We walk…..and finally get over the start line. At this point I am realizing that I do not have enough Vaseline smeared on myself, so am hoping there will be some along the way. The run starts well, there are hilly bits for most of the first half, but I am feeling good as I have done lots of hills in training. 2 kilometers into the race and my lower left calf starts to hurt, and it twinged and pulled all the way to 29K! I knew it wasn’t my Achilles, so at least I could push through, and as long as I stretched at each aid station I would be okay.

By the time I reached the bottom of the bridge I was still feeling fresh and apart from my calf, everything else was good. I had found a Vaseline angel at the previous aid station and proceeded to amuse everyone there with my antics while anointing myself on the run. There were Japanese drummers at the bottom of the incline, banging away and that helped with getting the motivation for the climb. I must say, the climb felt like a breeze, but I did not have a look around at the view as when I run, I tend to look along the road. Then I crested the top and off I went down the other side, and as I turned into the off ramp, the leader of the half marathon came flying past. So at least I made it over the bridge before that!

By the half way point I had lost my pace group. I was running a bit slower, and it did not worry me at all. I am normally so competitive, against myself and also others, but it didn’t matter. I knew I had to just keep going. My friend Heidi said to me when it gets tough to dedicate each kilometer to someone and why I was picking that person, so I used that from then on. I ran for my first husband, who had a brain tumour and passed away at 37. I said to myself that the pain I was feeling was nothing like his had been. And it got me through!

At 29K or so, Geoff was waiting and he jogged along with me for about 2 minutes. This was on Tamaki Drive, and as the race wound round the bays, all you could see were runners snaking along around the corner, into the distance. Each time I rounded the same corner, there in the distance was another one! Finally I reached the turnaround, and then it was 32K and I was in uncharted territory. I had never run longer.

34K came and I celebrated! “Yes! Only 8K left!” I cheered to myself. And 1 second later both my feet started to hurt like I had never felt before! I think this was the part of the race where I really had to talk to myself. I just kept pushing myself on, reminding myself to use my arms to get me through. I didn’t do all that strength training for nothing and arms can pull sore legs along because when you pump your arms, your legs have to follow.

This got me through to 40K and I decided to test my reserves. So I sped up and to my delight, I still had gas in my tank. So I started running past people and finally turned the corner to the finish. There it was, like a beacon in the dark! I powered towards it and flew over the finish line! (Or at least I thought I did, and it felt like it) It was over! I had done it!

I got a drink of water, some Powerade and a banana, and had all three while I wandered around, found Geoff and my daughter Kerry, got my medal, and nursed my sore foot!

The sense of achievement was huge, and also of relief. And the thought running around in my head was “Never again!”

The day before

As I sit here eating chocolate, feeling all righteous about the massive amount of exercise I have just done, it is easy to forget all the hard work that went into maintaining a well functioning body during all that training. The problem is I am hungry, but I just couldn’t be fuzzed to put the effort into preparing a proper meal. I think I am tired….

But I digress, and jump ahead of myself.

This morning I sat down and typed up a long account of the day before the race and the day of the race, uploaded a whole lot of photos into the page, pressed publish and it all vanished into the ether. I was mad! I then had to go in to work so could not and did not fell like rewriting the entire post again. So I am back at the computer now, a few hours later, and my format ideas have changed….I shall break it down into three posts. In feel this is a better way to communicate what happened to me over the last three days. This post is about the day before the race.

I had woken up early, on purpose to get used to the early rising time. For me this is nothing new as I am often up early, either to fit my run in before work, or to head off to train early morning clients. I think it is very important to get used to running early if your race is early as it gets the body and mind into the correct space for race day. I was in two minds as to whether I should go for the recommended 3K ‘do my legs still work’ jog. I was still feeling a little off colour having the dregs of that cold I succumbed to the week before. After humming and ha-ing for a bit I decided I would do it and set off for a run that lasted 17 minutes before I gave up on the home stretch as I started to get a chafe! Anyway, at least I proved my legs still worked.

We left home a little ahead of schedule, which was good as I wanted to get to our B&B, find somewhere for lunch and then put my feet up. We arrived in Auckland and went straight to the Expo so I could pick up my race number and goodie bag and have a look around. I had thought I would feel some excitement, but all I wanted to do was get out of there and to our accommodation. So we didn’t hang around much and went to check in. After that we went to find a place that served pasta for lunch.

Now, there are many bits of info out there about pre-race fueling  One tidbit I decided to follow was to rather have a big pasta lunch instead of the traditional dinner, that way avoiding a too full feeling on going to bed and perhaps bloaty in the morning. I am certainly glad I did that and would recommend it as a strategy. That night I just had a grilled chicken burger with some kumara fries from Burger Fuel and I slept like a baby!

The afternoon passed in a really strange way…I found it really hard to sit still, I had periods of total quite, which for me is weird as I like to talk, and I just didn’t want to to talk. I didn’t feel nervous though, the nervousness had disappeared. I had my plan all sorted for the race – hydration, fuel, what to do if I felt it was too tough, made sure I had put everything out for the morning, set two alarms – another tidbit I gleaned from somewhere (interestingly, the winner of the half marathon had overslept and got to his start after the gun went off!). So everything was organised and at 8.30pm I went to bed, only to be woken up at somewhere around midnight by some idiots saying goodbye loudly to their friends in the street! However, I was so calm by then (very strange for me….maybe I was like a possum in the headlights….) that I went back to sleep and slept soundly until 4.45am, before both alarms went off.

And so it was the day of the race….

On your marks!

Well, the time has come to head off up to Auckland and run this marathon! Last night I had the worst sleep ever, and it was supposed to be a good one. I went to bed with a horrendous headache that appeared out of nowhere and had to get up a few hours later to take a neurofen, something I have not done in months! It did get rid of the headache, which does not seem to be there this morning, so that is a positive.

My cat was also being a nuisance throughout the night. She decided grooming was in order at 3.30am and when she does that her teeth squeak  So squeak  squeak  squeak she went and then she thought some water was in order so hopped off the bed and went to the bathroom door and started scratching on it for someone to open it so she could get to her bowl. The only thing I opened was my sock drawer to extract a pair of socks which I then hurled in the general direction of the door. She got the hint….

Needless to say, when the alarm went off at 5am I was in no mood to do my 3K jog suggested in my training schedule, my body was saying no way! My mind was trying to convince me that I must, but for once I have listened to my body! This whole training journey has been an exercise in learning to listen to my body, and if I never do another marathon again, I have gained some insight into how I function within my mind, and how I need to sit back and chill and listen to that small voice that is my body!

So saying…..tomorrow the mind must carry me through the final journey of this marathon adventure. I plan to take in the scenery as much as I can, and enjoy the race. I plan to walk through all the support stations to make sure I get all my fluids in and not on me, and give my legs a short break from running. I plan to smile as much as possible. The forecast is for rain, but according to http://www.metvuw.com/forecast this will not be happening until after I plan to finish the race.

As I write this my nerves are building. I feel like I am typing faster than normal and my fingers are shaky. I can remember the first time I ran a half, I felt the same. I was worried that I would not make the distance, and I did it. So I know I will do this….I am just a little scared by the whole idea!

Perhaps I should do that jog……make sure my legs still work……

Will I be able to walk on Monday?

This is the question I am asking myself today.

The nerves are finally starting to make themselves known. The excitement has given way to a certain level of apprehension at my ability to run this race. Body parts are starting to hurt, today it is my big toe and my lower back. I know from reading many articles that this is normal, and I know from my own experience when doing half marathons, that in the final week I always get these twinges, some of them quite severe! However, I am still, in that illogical place in my mind, thinking I have something wrong.

The other thing that is playing with my head is the whole process of carb loading. I am feeling bloated and fat, and it is only day one. I haven’t really changed much in the way I am eating, just added a little high quality carbs to my meals, and removed some fat. With this I need to drink more water and I am struggling to keep this up. On top of all of this I am not running as much this week, and consequently am feeling lazy and even more fat! I am not the sort of person who can sit still for long so am finding this very challenging.

And on top of all these thoughts whizzing around in my head I am asking myself “Will I be able to walk on Monday?”

5 days left to the big event!

Today is a public holiday. I am going to spend the day trying to relax and take my mind off the panic that is starting to bubble just beneath the surface of my calm exterior appearance. I have lots of nutritional material to read, so that will help with the carbo loading phase I am about to enter. It all feels a little surreal at this point.

From the day I decided to do this race until today, 5 days before the race, it seems as if no time has passed and that it was yesterday I entered. Where have all those months of training gone? It is the strangest feeling, as if at the edge of the mountain looking down a long slope, seeing the start at the bottom and knowing I have to climb out the other side to get to the finish line.

I have broken down the race into 5 parts in my head. First stage is the start to the base of the Auckland Harbour Bridge

File:Auckland Harbour Bridge Watchman.jpg

Stage two….up and over the bridge which has a length of 1,020 m (3,348 ft), with a main span of 243.8 m, rising 43.27 m above high water.

Stage three from the end of the bridge to the turn around in St Heliers Bay

Stage four to the start of the Port of Auckland

Final stage up and over the small road bridge which will feel like Mt Everest at that stage (speaking from experience as I ran over it, into a headwind, during my 25K run a few weekends ago) and then stagger the last few k’s to the finish line. I am not planning to do one of my speed-up-and-charge-over-the-line finishes this time, but if I have the energy I will definitely give it a go.

As I write all this I can feel my pulse rate increase as the nerves start to creep up on me again. All I can say at this point is I am happy to be over my cold, and really grateful I have no injuries or niggles!

The best laid plans of mice and marathon runners

Robert Burns wrote a poem in 1785 called Ode to a Mouse. In this poem is the following verse:

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Basically this means “No matter who makes a plan or how good it is, things can still happen to make the plan fall apart.”

And so they have……

On Thursday last week, Geoff started a nasty cold. By Tuesday this week I had caught it. I went for my usual run on Tuesday morning the day I encountered that silly man. The run went well, I was feeling good afterward and then by lunchtime I had started get a scratchy throat. This rapidly progressed into a sore throat and a general feeling of lethargy and miserableness. Yesterday was no better, in fact I felt even more miserable as well as extremely stressed out that I was missing another run and the race is 10 days away! The entire afternoon I tried to calm myself down and did not succeed. While the little logic that was trying to come through from my tormented mind was trying to tell me it will be okay, I will get better, these things happen, I have trained and all will be well, my emotional egg was almost overflowing and I would not see reason.

This is the worst possible place to be in, as when you are stressed your cortisol levels go up and suppress your immune system even more…..round and round the hamster goes. To top it all, last night I had the most horrendous nights sleep, on the couch (Geoff was coughing) and woke up in such a foul mood.

This led me to start thinking about the reaction I was choosing to all of this. We are totally in control of how we react to things, events, words, everything, I decided to stop then and there. I will be okay and need to concentrate on getting better and stop stressing about the runs I am missing. I will make the 42K, I have done the training and I have a strong will. And guess what…..on a positive note? Today it is dreadful weather and I have the perfect excuse! “Can’t run today, I have a cold!”

An aside in an otherwise normal taper week

I ran early this morning, 9K in total with 3K fast in the middle. It was 6.30am when I headed out and I was thinking to myself that next week I need to get up earlier to prepare body and mind for the incredibly early start to my marathon day. The race itself starts at 6.10am and I need to be there 20mins before to settle in and catch the pre-race briefing. Knowing me I will want to be there half an hour before, so factor in a half hour walk down to the start line, I will have to leave where we are staying at 5.10am. That is after I have some breakfast….you get the picture…..

Anyway, back to my run this morning….

That time of day is always interesting. As you head out, the roads are reasonably quiet, and within half an hour the amount of traffic has trebled and things have become pretty noisy. I always like to stay away from going-to-work traffic while running. People are in a hurry, focused on their day, not really paying attention very closely to non-wheeled things. There is this man, who I nearly ran over yesterday, who does not seem to share this idea. Yes, he wears a hi-viz vest over his luminous red t-shirt, but the idiot runs against the traffic, in the cycle lane, in the morning rush traffic. All this when there is a perfectly good footpath 1 metre to his right! I can only imagine what would happen if he encountered a cyclist going the correct way on a corner. On second thoughts, it may be better not to imagine as I am sure it would be quite messy.

At least I know first aid……

Two weeks left!

Today I ran 16K, second last longish run before the Big Day! There are actually 13 days, 13 hours and 19 mins (as I write) to D-Day! I must admit to a few small nerves beginning today, not a bad thing I guess, just have to keep breathing…

I discovered another thing about myself during my run today. It was a nice flat run from my house over to the base of The Mount, and I found myself getting tired towards the end. Perhaps this is when the nerves started as I was thinking to myself “I’m getting tired now, how on earth can I run 42K??” After I had finished and was chatting to Geoff about it I realised that towards the end of every run I do I feel tired. It happened yesterday as well, and I only ran 5K. So when I start to flag at the end of the race I will know this is normal for me and I won’t panic.

This last week has been quite a challenge nutritionally though. I know I have to cut down on the carbs for a bit and up the protein, and I am so used to the way I have been eating for all these weeks that I have found it difficult. Perhaps this next week will be a bit easier. Another thing I noticed this last week was that I have been more tired than usual. Yesterday after running 5K and having my shower I decided the best place for me was on my bed, wrapped in a duvet and having a nap! So that’s what I ended up doing….

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