Race Result: Emma & Tom’s Christmas Run (yes, I know – it has been a while)

Have I stopped running????

No!

However, as this blog was originally dedicated to my journey towards my first ultra marathon (and yes, there will be more, just not every year), it seemed that after my recovery week, it should wind up.

However, I have had a few people ask me if I was going to write/blog again. And when a friend asked if I would be interested in contributing a race result as a guest blogger on her own website, it seemed as good a time as any to pick up the pen!

Sorry to redirect you, but may I please point you to my recent race results for the Emma and Tom’s Christmas Run on my friend Nell’s website? Her website is called Good Morning Runners: http://goodmorningrunners.blogspot.com/2013/12/guest-post-emma-toms-christmas-run-race.html.

You will also find some other interesting running articles on her great website as well.

In this 10km race, I had a time goal to try to run a sub-50 minute 10km for the first time. As a summary though, for those who like the stats [SPOILER ALERT]:

Knocking a sub-50 min 10km to the curb!

Distance: 10km (actually 10.89km, once you dodge & weave)

Time: 49:32.5 minutes

Position:

  • 8th in my category (40-49 F, 40 runners in category, top 20%)
  • 41st for all females (336 female runners in total, top 12%)
  • 198th overall male & female runners (674 runners in total, top 29%)

See you on the track!

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Week 29: recovery

In the past I have often had my only injuries in the recovery period following a run. This has included putting my back out, hurting my knee, hip out of alignment…the list goes on. It has taken a number of years and too many injuries for my own liking to learn the lesson that a well-planned recovery period is as critical as the actual strategy during the race itself. A lot that has been written about the recovery period, and it is worth reviewing some of the thoughts on this while planning your own recovery period. Hal Higdon has a great article on post-marathon recovery that is worth a read as a start.

There are a few key aspects that I consider when planning my recovery:

Running again. I do not run for a few days at least after the run. How long I rest the running legs for depends entirely on the race I have run. Shorter races that are for speed only will permit me to run again within a couple of days. Long races that place extreme and ongoing strain on the body need a bit more. There is a bit of a rule of thumb that suggests a day of recovery for every mile run. In this instance, I have not run for the entire week. Not even to catch a bus. It always feels a little odd as I am so much in the routine of running, but a running break is a good thing to help recovery.

This does not mean do no exercise at all. It is equally as important to keep moving as it is to rest the legs, otherwise everything seizes up. So my week was full of gym and cross training work. I went to body pump, did core work, weights work and also went to my favourite boxing class again (and have the bruised knuckles to prove it). Today (Sunday), I will be cross-country skiing in Dinner Plain, and will start running again this week from Wednesday morning – slowly but surely, and only short stuff.

Feeding to assist recovery. I am a big fan of Teresa Cutter’s work. She recently posted an article on sports recovery, and the nutrient considerations that should be taken into account. It is worth a read, and I strongly recommend incorporating some of this in any recovery planing: http://www.thehealthychef.com/2013/07/sports-recovery-better-stronger-faster/.

In the first moments after the run when I crossed the line, I headed straight for the fluids. Water and electrolytes please! I also had what tasted like the most flavoursome banana in the world. I am sure it was not. They were segments of banana still in the skin, about 2 inches in length and a bit brown from being out in open tubs for runners to easily access. I am sure if I had eaten the segments at any other time they may have tasted a little slimy, and even a little manky. However when you are deprived of nutrients for hours on end (I can’t eat lots when I run – I nibble on protein bars and consume some gels), anything tastes like it is the best thing you have ever eaten! EVER!

And then it is cake time! Yes yes yes. After each long run I usually go and have a skim milk hot chocolate (sometimes soy milk if I am just making it at home) and some cakey-thing. During the ultra I lost over 2.6kg on the day, so there was room for a bit of cake. However after that I was a little smarter about what went into my body. Lots and lots of fluids. Dinner was baked salmon with a large green salad and beetroot. I did have a glass of red wine as well, but just one. I never feel like drinking much alcohol after a long run, and in fact the more intensively I train, the less I drink (the body doesn’t like trying to run long distances a bit hung over or slightly dehydrated), so more than one glass or two of anything is a bit of a rarity these days.

During the week I consumed a lot of nuts and seeds – predominantly walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds – as snacks by themselves and incorporated into other meals such as salads, in my breakfast etc. Protein was high on the agenda. Any smoothies made included extra protein powder, and I made the Teresa Cutter energy smoothie a couple of times, but without the orange. I also ate kangaroo a couple of times as well as seafood and legumes, all accompanied by lots of greens!

Massage. I made sure I had a massage scheduled for a couple of days after the run. My masseur, Rupert, was quite surprised with how my body had pulled up considering I had run the ultra, two marathons and a lot more in the preceding month and a half. He did note that my quads were a little tight and suggested that I keep working with my foam roller during the week. Oh yeah. That green thing and I have a very strong love-hate relationship, which became even closer this past week.

The mental game. Sometimes after the adrenalin has gone, and the immediate post-run enjoyment and reflections have started to fade, I can become a bit melancholy and even get the post-run blues a bit. Staying mentally active and starting to plan new or different things helps me to keep that at bay a bit. Luckily I am full swing into the semester at uni and have been meeting with other researchers in the food waste area, so had a lot to look forward to on that front. Also, my friend Stacey is coming to Melbourne in October to run the Melbourne half marathon and I have agreed to run it with her, so I needed to start to plan my training for that. These two distractions gave me positive things to engage my brain with as well as new goals to look forward to – both of which have staved off the post-run blues quite a bit.

What next? A lot of people have asked me ‘what next?’ For those who know me well, you will be aware that every few years I like to do something that pushes me well beyond my comfort zone. This year it was the Tan Ultra. Last time it was being part of the crew on the Endeavour for the passage from Albany to Port Lincoln (that adventure could be its own entire blog! An incredible and life changing experience!). Prior to that it was cycling and camping from Adelaide to Canberra (1233kms). The list goes on.

Helming on the Endeavour

At the helm of the Endeavour in the Southern Ocean in gale seas

At teh Border of the Australian Capital Territory

Arriving into Canberra – 1233kms later!

Why do I like to challenge myself in this way? Behaviour change theory suggests that it is through significant interventions that lessons can be learned and behaviour can change. This does require me to be receptive and open to the lesson, of course. So I find that significant challenges introduced at certain periods of my life help me to grow. Sometimes the lessons I learn about myself are a bit of an awakening, as I know I am not a shining beacon of light, but at least they also provide the opportunity to change and improve myself.

So, in short, I do not know ‘what next’ as yet.

Will I ever run another ultra? Quite likely. I loved all of the very long runs. I think the 45km run in London was one of my favourite runs I have ever done. Will I ever have a crack at a 100km. No idea. I know how much training is involved for a 50km run, so can appreciate that it is incredibly more for a ton. I am sure if I planned it out and focussed myself I could do it. Whether I want to or not may be another story.

Time will tell.

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Week 28: ultra marathon part 2 – success

You will always be
The one I remember
To give my thanks to
For my success – Christina Aguilera

Today I officially ran 50kms. Unofficially I ran 52.94kms, but more on that later.

Polar watch with my race distance on it

52.94kms

In this much anticipated post I want to talk about success.

Success means something different to all of us, and is framed by past achievements and, let’s call them mis-achievements shall we? What we all consider success is also shaped by our beliefs: in ourselves, in what others may think of us, and of what we feel we have some control over.

This week at uni in a seminar on Behavioural Change (I l.o.v.e. my Masters program), we spent a lot of time looking at the Theory of Planned Behviour (TPB) from Icek Ajzen. In summary, an individual’s behavioural beliefs (thoughts about ourselves on taking a particular action or behaviour), normative beliefs (what we think others may think of us taking that behaviour or action), and control beliefs (how much control we believe we have over the action or behaviour) shape intention and thus theoretically behaviours or actions. Sounds a bit academic, eh? An example:

  • I’ll feel better about myself if I am healthier and fitter by running a lot (behavioural belief)
  • Running a lot will make me look good in the eyes of other fitness friends (normative belief)
  • It will be easy to run an ultra marathon if I develop a realistic training plan (control belief).

In this example, these three beliefs suggest that I would have a positive disposition towards running an ultra marathon, and increases the likelihood that I will do it. But I pose the question: is my success the achievement of the outcome of running the ultra marathon? Or was it all of the steps, lessons and experiences that lead to the final result?

After the run today I went to a local restaurant I like, La Camera, for an Italian hot chocolate (I love them – they are so decadent – the spoon nearly stands upright in them. Super treat days only!!) and some cake with some of the support crew that were there at the end. My mum’s partner asked how I felt after the run. That is such a large question, as it encompassed all of the ‘success’ criteria noted above. I didn’t give an answer that satisfactorily addressed that, but just talked about the physical aspect (felt fine – body was in good shape, etc), and a bit about how it felt to be running the race today (the camaraderie of other runners, warm weather, support from random strangers around the track, ease of the first 11 laps, challenge in the last 2 etc).

But now I want to try to tackle the larger question: how do I feel after all of the cascade of success that lead to me finally crossing the line this afternoon at 1.20pm?

  • Overwhelmed by the belief that others have in me, even from the start in many instances
  • Honoured by the support of my friends, family and other new connections who have so generously given encouragement as well as financial support
  • Like I have been given a few reality checks for when I have pushed myself perhaps a little hard at times
  • Sad that the run is over. As like all great journeys, planning and embarking on the new, novel and exciting is always more thrilling to me than coming home when it is over. I am sure I will have the post-ultra blues over the next couple of days/week(s)
  • Afraid that I will not be able to do something so significant again – until I set my next BHAG I guess ; )
  • Joyful in each moment I experienced when running that involved truly engaging with the world around me. I know I will miss seeing the sun come up as I run along the river most mornings, and the sight-seeing distance runs when travelling
  • Anticipatory of ‘what next’ – and slightly anxious at the same time
  • Surprised that I was capable of all of the training, knocking off the 50kms, and not having a single injury along the way!!!
  • Frustrated by having to justify why I was planning to run an ultra marathon
  • Pride in my final achievement, as well as in the long runs and quick runs I did along the way
  • Closer to others in the running community (hello Google+ friends!!), and to those who supported me throughout this journey
  • Relaxed in the knowledge that I can do anything I set out to do if I really want it enough
  • Respectful of all those who are taking their own challenging journeys (hello 12WBT friends and many of my friends and family!)
  • Appreciative of all of the space given unrequitedly by my partner so that I could go and run for hours on end by myself instead of doing things together
  • In love with the beauty that I have seen and heard on so many of my runs (kookaburras, parrots, squirrels, oceans, stars and crescent moons in ink black skies, the list goes on)

I hope that answers the ‘how I felt’ question a little more.

So what about the run?

I was blessed this morning to wake to a partly cloud sky that promised to clear. After a week of pretty full on rain, things did not bode well for the run initially. What that did, however, was to bring a depth of green to the grass and the parklands that would otherwise not have been there in this often dry city.

My morning routine involves about 15-20 minutes of stretching and strengthening work. That was done as per usual, and my foam roller and I had a lot of intimate time.

Breakfast for this creature of habit was porridge with walnuts, chopped banana, cinnamon and a couple of teaspoons of maple syrup. I went wild and added some pumpkin seeds on top. Such a rebel.

Then it was time to slather all bits that rub with Body Glide, get the kit on and walk up to the Tan. Handily I live only about to 10-15 minutes walk away from the Botanical Gardens, so running that course as well as walking to it, was not a day’s journey!

I picked up my bib (lucky number 519 – I would hear that number called out by the marshals 13 times throughout the run every time I crossed the line, so if I didn’t know it at the start, I certainly did by the end!), and did my pre-race prep: found where to pop my drop bag (extra food stuff for me in case I wasn’t enamored with what was supplied – not needed, as the event organisers had a brilliant spread of snacks and drinks!), head to the bathrooms one last time (I did not need to go once during the 5hrs 20mins! The answer: prunes before dinner the night before and dandelion tea as well), do some extra stretches and generally check out the other runners (hmmm…no placing for me today!).

Race Bib

Race bib – lucky number 519!

I was astounded that my mother was at the race before it started! I knew she was going to come later to see the end, but when I saw her not long after picking up my race bib, I just burst out laughing. Mum is almost never on time for anything, so to see her there half an hour before the start  – well, I wondered if she had gone to bed at all! A couple of others rocked up to see me off – thanks Annmarie, Michele and Liv! It was great to have your early encouragement, especially Michele and Liv who stayed all day – a long day in the sun! My dad and one of my brothers, Pete, also turned up during my 2nd – 4th laps, and mum’s partner, Mez also rocked up towards the end with mum when I had 2-3 laps left. Having a few people there to cheer me on was fantastic.

early in the run

Early in the run – beanie and jacket now off!

I was also very moved by the encouragement of so many others who did not know me at all. The partners and friends of other runners would clap me as I passed, or say some words of encouragement, asking how many laps left, telling me my form was strong etc. And most of all – the other runners. They were amazing. From the fittest to the ‘back of the pack’. From the ‘hats off to them’ 100km runners to those doing a single 4km lap. As our race bibs all had our names on them, you could address each other by name. It was common to hear ‘Looking great, Dianne’, or ‘Doing a good job, Dianne’, from runners as they passed me, or I whom I passed. I had initially thought the name on the bib thing was a bit odd, but very quickly warmed to it!

Two laps left!

Two laps left!

My attack on the track and the distance was planned out. I was going to do my usual run then race walk cycle (4km, 400m), and re-fuel at every third race walk period. I did adjust the exact distances a little, as there was no way I was going to walk up Anderson Road Hill (the Hill). That was for running only. A lot of other runners chose to use the Hill for their own walk breaks, but I knew from experimenting during my training that my shins don’t like walking up that Hill. Thus I was left with no alternative but to run it. Every single time of the 13 laps. To be honest, the first 11 ascents were ‘easy’. The 12th was somewhat slow, and the lucky last 13th was a corker. I was about half way up on the last lap and I thought about how tired my legs were getting, especially my calves. That lasted about 30 seconds. I shook my head, set my jaw and ploughed up the last stretch of the Hill with my mind focused on the joy of the slight gradual downhill that appears immediately afterwards, which also equals the road home. I knew that all I had to do was get myself up the Hill that last time and I would be able to knock the race off.

Some people have commented on how uninteresting it must be running around the same track 13 times. I guess if all I did do was look at the ground, that would probably be the case, so it is an understandable comment. However, as the Tan circumnavigates the Botanic Gardens, there is always something to look at. Also, it goes right past the Shrine of Remembrance, which often has some military event or another happening (a few weeks back it was a 12 gun salute with cannons – rather loud to run past!). Today there was a rather large event to commemorate the execution of the operation that liberated Malta. It went for about 4-5 laps somewhere in the middle of my race. It meant I did have to run through and around crowds a bit, but that is par for the course if you run the Tan!

crossing the finish line

And now it is done!

I finished the 50km run in 5 hours 20 mins (roughly – I do not have an official time yet). As noted earlier though, my unofficial distance was 52.94kms for that time. The extra nearly 3kms came from dodging, weaving, and going around and through crowds on the Tan – people, dogs, prams, military parades, etc. No matter how hard you try to run a straight line, it is not possible on this track! My actual 50km time was around 5hrs 5mins. For those interested, my marathon split time (how funny that I am referring to that as a split!) was 4hrs 15mins. That is 5 minutes faster than any of my official marathon times. Nice! Happy with that!

So I had a very successful day.

  1. I managed to finish the race
  2. I managed to not injure myself
  3. I managed to finish in less than five and a half hours (my goal)
  4. I managed to not come last
  5. But most of all, the end result reflected the culmination of successes accumulated throughout the journey – not the least of which is the grateful love and support of so many people.

To you all, I give my thanks.

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Week 28: ultra marathon part 1 – the night before

(written on Sat night while out at dinner)
It’s funny how completely rational and intelligent people hang onto superstitions.

For example, the night before a long run or a race I always eat pasta (lasagne or spaghetti bolognese) or moussaka. I usually go out for the meal, and try to eat early.

Tonight I am dining at Il Primo Posto on Southbank. I have a small table by myself at the back of the restaurant. It is jam-packed with other early diners – mostly families, and probably some theatre goers, noting the proximity to so many arts venues. The waiting staff are alert and managing to deal with the insanity of dozens of family groups with no bookings (the restaurant won’t take bookings on a Saturday night). Side note: why do parents dress their children in identical outfits when they are not twins? Were there specials on? Does it make it easier to spot them in a crowd? 

Lasagne, salad and garlic bread

Lasagne, salad and garlic bread at Il Primo Posto

I have ordered Dale’s homemade lasagne and a green salad with a balsamic dressing, and have some garlic Turkish bread to accompany it (read: to mop up the sauce if it is good, as it would be uncouth to lick the plate in public). I am not sure who Dale is, and suspect he did not really make it at home, but hey! A little artistic license never hurt anyone. Post meal comment: It was a stock standard lasagne. Not brilliant. Not awful. Tasty, but just ok. It pales in comparison to the splendid lasagne served at Emporio della Pasta in the Crown Casino complex just a few minutes walk away. Roughly the same price, but definitely not the same quality.

After dinner I will stroll back home, work on a uni paper and do some chores before having a shower and heading to bed. As I will be getting up at 5am, I aim to be in bed by 9-9.30ish. Bet it stretches to 10-10.30pm (post script: yep, sure did). I do tend to faff a little when getting ready for bed. One of the pre-bed routines will be to lay out my running gear for the morning. I do this almost every day I run or go to the gym as I get up so early. The few minutes taken at night give me a few minutes extra in bed in the morning. I will also lay out my gels, snacks, electrolyte fluid and the like.

Once more – superstition: I will wear the exact same gear that I have done every long run in during my training for the ultra. It has proven it works, so no point changing it now! So from the ground up:

Shoes Asics Gel Nimbus 14’s. ordered from the US especially for the occasion. They are the exact same limited edition model I bought in San Francisco last year when I was running around the world. Lots of miles and memories. And they are purple.    : )

Asics Gel Nimbus 14s limited edition

Asics Gel Nimbus 14s limited edition

Socks 2XU knee-high compression socks. Some articles I have read from other runners are dubious on the value of ‘expensive’ running gear such as compression wear. I used to be in the same camp. Then I bought by first pair of Skins leggings. Never looked back.

Leggings 2XU thermal compression leggings. It is still winter here, and it takes a good few kms for my legs to warm up. Also, the compression aspect aids in looking after my quads, hammies and calves (esp with the socks underneath!). I used to dread the idea of running in leggings. No way would I ever have the body for that. Ok, I still have cellulite and a few odd bumps and curves that look a tad funny, but I am approaching that stage in my life when I care a lot less about what others think about how I look. The leggings are practical, and help prevent chaffing to boot, particularly when accompanied by a good slathering of Body Glide.

Underwear Bonds cotton hipsters. Black. Simple. Comfortable. Don’t ride up my arse. Is there really any other function they need to serve?

Sports bra Moving Comfort Rebound Racer. At $89 for a sports bra it had better be good! It is. Nothing moves. Nothing. As the tagline says, “Support your girls with the best”! And they look good! Sometimes I wander around the apartment in just my leggings and the sports bra at times in my fantasy of being an athlete, and the kit plays a big part.

Other undergarments 2XU white compression vest. It will be cold early, and as I don’t want to wear two long sleeve tops, it will aid in keeping me warm.

Running singlet Adidas v-neck ‘R4YL’ singlet. I have worn this in every race winter or summer. It has the picked synthetic material from where I have pinned innumerable running bibs (for the non-runners out there: the number on the front). It is still pretty much white as well, much to my amazement! Thank you Napisan.

Jacket 2XU lightweight running jacket. Great wind breaker. Slightly spray resistant. A good-sized zip pocket in the back. I can pop it on or off throughout the race with no problems and just tie it around my waist without it weighing me down.

Gloves Adidas. As it won’t be freezing tomorrow I won’t need the heavy-duty wind breaker gloves, but will still need the lighter weight Climacool ones. My Raynaud’s Disease dictates I look like my hands are going to the snow almost regardless of the weather.

Beanie my hair is short so my ears get cold. I will start the run wearing one of my lighter weight running beanies, which I will probably pull off around 5-10kms into the run, weather dependent. Then it will be tucked easily into the pocket in the back of my jacket.

I will also be wearing a Fly Active wristband or two with some Gu in it. I won’t need to wear my fuel belt as there are fuel stations every lap, so I can leave my drop bag with extra Gu, my electrolyte drink and some protein bars there. I prefer to run as light as possible and hate carrying anything if I can help it.

I think I believe that if I follow this schedule and plan, it will ensure I will be well set up for the run in the morning. I guess we will see!

See you around The Tan!

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Week 27: challenge

This week marked the end of the month of July. A pretty awesome month in general. I will blog separately with a month in review. Of significance during July was a special challenge.

The “July Challenge” was held within a Google+ running group that I am in. Someone had the idea of a girls vs boys challenge to see who could run the most miles for the month. As there were more guys than girls, the equitable decision was made early on to take an average for each group each day (i.e. add up the miles for all the gals and divide that by the number of women, then compare with the male average), and it was all recorded on Google Docs for all to see.

There was a bit of jocularity and some flash hashtagging going on up front (Kristi is queen of the hashtags for sure!), but it settled very quickly into an encouraging daily routine. Everyone posted their run(s) for the day if they had done one, and it was rare not to have at least one ‘+1’ on your post, usually accompanied by some encouragement (or a bit of fun big talking).

In the end the gals won by an incredibly close 4 miles, however the guys had pulled out all stops with a lot of 2-a-day runs in the last week or so to try to catch up. For the month of July the 31 of us men and women ran a combined 4,358.81 miles (7014.82 kms)! That is a remarkable 140.61 miles (226.29 kms) per person! What is even more significant during the challenge is that many people ran PBs of distance, time or frequency, almost by accident.

I ran a total of 201.19 miles for the month (323.78 kms). That is more than 10kms a calendar day. On the evening of the 30th July one of the guys had posted a comment that I had less than 9 miles to run to hit the 200 mile mark. My scheduled run for the next morning, 31st July, was to be a leisurely 6.5kms (just over 4 miles). Spurred on by Ken’s comment, I revised my run schedule for the week and swapped a mid-distance run planned for later in the week so I could hit the 200. I went out in the cold drizzle of a Melbourne winter’s morning with 9 miles in mind, and part way through the run decided I would round it up to 10 miles (just over 16kms), just to be sure. That was nearly 10kms more than I had planned to run, but it was easily achievable as I had allowed the time, having risen at 4.30am and scooted out the door at 5am. I didn’t want to hit the 200 mile mark for any competitive reason amongst the group. I did it because it seemed a shame to be so close and not to have hit it when I knew I could. So I did, and it was all thanks to the encouragement of one of the guys.    : )

In regards to the PBs and personal achievements, I don’t think anyone really wanted to beat each other as it went along. And I feel that the results we all achieved were not even driven by any desire to necessarily better ourselves.

I ran that little bit more almost every time just because.

Because it was OK to run, since everyone else was (ah – the power of normative behaviour drivers!!).

Because I was accountable to everyone in my team (#gothegirls) as well as the opposition, and needed to post something pretty much daily, except when I was travelling (I was on holidays in Singapore, Dubai, London, Brussels and Paris during this time as well – please read my Eat Travel Run posts for details).

Because I was part of a team and had responsibilities.

Because it was fun.

So I guess some of the morals of this story are that 323.78 kms on paper may look like a chore, and could have been a chore. However, thanks to the camaraderie of the virtual running group that I am a part of, I was able to overachieve without significant effort. AND had fun along the way! Strength can be unearthed through the encouragement of others, and there is no end to your own possibilities.

To quote Katerina’s Wish by Jeannine Mobley:

It won’t be a chore, it will be a garden.

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Week 26: tapering

Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. You’re only here for a short visit. So don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. Walter Hagen

Wow. Week 26. Out of my 28 week training schedule. SERIOUSLY???

It has been 182 days of training to finally reach the point of tapering for two weeks. That is akin to slowly walking up a mountain with a full backpack (that feels like it is getting heavier on some days) and base jumping down the other side! The trick is: how ready am I to jump??

Tapering is a tricky part of race preparation. It is the second shortest amount of dedicated time to a given activity in training (recovery being the shortest), and is often overlooked or full of anxiety. I can keep running the same distances and frequency, surely! Have I done enough long runs? Shouldn’t I just get a few more short ones in now – it feels odd/weird/wrong running less? 

No. No. and No!

In A Step Beyond: A Definitive Guide to Ultrarunning, Kevin Setnes discusses Arthur Newton’s ninth principle of running: resting before the race (i.e. tapering). Newton was ahead of his time. Born in 1901, he was a forefather of distance running as we know it now, introducing standards we all adopt as common place such as the long slow distance (or LSD as I prefer to call it).

Tapering has been studied and refined by coaches and runners worldwide ever since. In short, the key is to drop back the mileage in the week(s) leading up to a race to ensure the legs are fresh and the mind is sharp. To quote Owen Anderson of Running Research News:

Tapering works by producing an incredible array of positive changes for athletes, including augmented glycogen stores, increased aerobic enzymes, expanded blood plasma, upgraded economy, better repair of muscles and connective tissue, improved neuromuscular coordination, and heightened mental confidence.

Upgraded economy??!! Count me in – love me a business class seat!

So how do you do it right? There are as many articles on this as my arm is long. It varies depending upon the race distance and the runner’s capabilities and fitness. Regardless, the goal is to cut back the kms run by at least a quarter each week. So for me, running 80+km weeks of recent times, I should drop to a max 60km this week (check – I clocked 58.86kms for the week), 4okms max next week, and finally no more than 20kms in total in the week leading to the run. Sounds like a plan!

OK, so I like to use running as a metaphor for life. How does tapering fit in? Tapering makes me think of stopping to smell the roses. So often in life I find myself ploughing full speed ahead onward and upward. This leaves little time to actually appreciate the pinnacle of whatever I am trying to achieve or the moment that approaches. Creating the space in life around an important event or goal aids me in ensuring I am in the best mental and emotional space possible to enjoy it or gain as much as I can from it.

Back to Mr Hagen – we’re only here for a short visit.

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Eat Travel Run: Dubai 2

Back in Dubai for a couple of relaxing days before heading home. It was an interesting time to be in town with Ramadan being on and the considerations around that as a tourist and as a runner.

Eat

When I used to travel a lot for work during my time in the private sector I stayed in hotels not unlike the one we stayed at in Dubai this time around: the Sofitel. A common meal for me to eat if I was staying in and having room service was always the club sandwich. It was often one of the cheaper items on the menu, but also usually substantial enough for me. With Ramadan on while we were in Dubai and restaurants are closed until sundown, the best options for tourists are either to eat in the privacy of your hotel or grab stuff from a supermarket and make it in your room. We chose to order a club sandwich off the room service menu to share for lunch. It did not disappoint. We decided to have a ‘bed picnic’ as the bed was big enough to host a family, and besides, mum didn’t want to get out of her new favourite outfit: the pyjamas she was given in business class on the flight over from London!

On our last night in Dubai – our last night of our holiday we went on a desert safari (more on that below). As part of the safari, we ate a bedoin style meal at a desert camp while watching traditional dancing. The food was right to my liking – lots of middle eastern foods. Falafel, hummus, olives, lamb kofta, etc. Meat galore! Exactly what I was after following my marathon run earlier in the day! We were greeted into the camp with a cup of Arabic coffee and fresh dates. Once again, dates – mmmm! Fresh dates are so moist and sweet, as opposed to the quite dry ones we tend to have back home. Very very moreish!

Feasting at the desert camp

Feasting at the desert camp

Travel

As promised from last visit, the spice markets were a serious destination for us this time. As it was Ramadan, they were not open until sundown, but that was perfect. It was cooler and the sights and sounds (and smells) are different in the evening in the older part of town where the souks are. We experienced the typical hassling of the vendors trying to steer you to look at their wares and entice you into their shop. We ended up going into a few. In each one they offer some samples of dates, nuts and other items to taste and smell. Once again, mmmmm…..fresh dates! We bought quite a bit of stuff for ourselves and as presents. Hopefully we can get it back into Australia, as I know the customs department are pretty picky!

The highlight of this leg of the journey has been the incredible service and experience at the Sofitel Jumeirah Beach. Other than a slight hassle with our reservation (not in their system!), nothing was too hard, and often they anticipated our needs or exceeded expectation. For example, the lady who checked us in at the front desk had noticed on my passport that it had been my birthday the previous day, and arranged for a beautiful chocolate mouse cake to be delivered to my room that evening. I did not spot it straight away when we got back from the spice souk, and was completely surprised when I saw it on the buffet in the room. Small actions such as this really made our stay at the Sofitel extraordinary and incredibly relaxing.

Mum in the foyer of the sofitel

Mum in the foyer of the Sofitel

On our last night we went on a desert safari. I could write an entire blog and more on the safari. It was fantastic, and well worth doing if anyone is thinking to come to Dubai. We were picked up from our hotel at 4.30, along with an Australian couple, Guy and Alicia. Including our other tour companion already in the 4WD, Marianne, the five of us made up the group that our wonderful guide, Emam had to suffer with. We were pretty chatty as a group with each other as well as with Emam, so the drive out to the desert went pretty quickly. Incredibly, it rained for a few minutes on the way out there, which was amazing as we couldn’t see any clouds and it was 42 degrees outside! The first part of the tour involved a short and easy drive across a few dunes (where we spotted some oryx) to a small shaded area where we watched a falconry demonstration. Such beautiful birds! We then went dune bashing for about 45 minutes. What great fun! Our guide/driver, Emam, was clearly very experienced, and ended up assisting a few other vehicles that had gotten bogged in the soft sand. We stopped to take some photos in the dunes before heading to the camp for the feast, dancing, tattooing, camel rides, and shisha smoking among other activities. It was a great night. Our group did mix a bit with others – there were about 20 odd cars from the same company doing the same tour; but we mostly chatted and had a great evening together. Emails swapped at the end, new friends made, and memories created.

An oryx spotted during the desert safari

An oryx spotted during the desert safari

Mum and Marianne watching the falconry

Mum and Marianne watching the falconry demonstration

Dune bashing with Emam at the wheel

Dune bashing with Emam at the wheel

Mum and I on the dunes at sunset

Mum and I on the dunes at sunset

Guy and Alicia approaching the camp

Guy and Alicia approaching the camp

Henna tattoo work on my right leg

Henna tattoo work on my right leg

Mum getting a henna tattoo on her arm

Mum getting a henna tattoo on her arm

Run

I only did one run in Dubai, and chose to do that entirely inside. Smart move on many fronts. If it had only been a short one, I would have done it at night, but it was going to be a long one. My scheduled distance was 41.84km, so I decided to round it up to make it a full marathon (42.2km). It was Ramadan, so there were a few considerations that I needed to take into account. It is not possible for Muslim people to consume food or fluids from sunrise to sundown during Ramadan. Similarly, it is culturally impolite for visitors and tourists to consume food or drink in public either as mentioned earlier. I need to drink quite a bit of water and some electrolyte fluids during a marathon, as well as eat some food  (peanut butter Gu and a protein bar), so I spoke with the gym staff the day prior to work out how to manage this. I was advised to lock my food and water in a locker in the ladies change rooms of the gym and just would need to go int the change rooms and take any refreshment requirement needed in there, away from the eyes of any staff or others who may be practicing Ramadan. So I set up my locker with all of the odds and ends inside it for my refuelling needs, and headed int the gym to claim my treadmill. The gym was very well equipped. There were three treadmills, and as it was over 40 degrees outside, I didn’t think I would need to fight with anyone for use of a treadmill for 4 and a bit hours. Correct assumption. Only a handful of other people came into the gym for the entire time I was there. The most frequent visitors were the staff, who would pop in roughly about every half an hour or so and offer me a freezing cold moist towel (in place of water)! Once again, amazing service from the staff. Running on a treadmill for about 4 hours 20 mins odd can be a bit tedious. Thank goodness for cable sports channels and multiple TVs! I managed to see an entire match of rugby league, some motor racing. wrestling, a bit of soccer and some cage fighting. The time went pretty quickly with such distractions, and before I knew it, lunchtime had passed and I was finished. This was my last long run before the ultra. Now my weekend runs start to progressively decrease in length. I have enjoyed them, as opposed to dreaded them – something that I was surprised about to start with.

My locker set up for fuel

My locker set up for fuel

Next stop: home!

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