Thursday, June 16, 2016

Training The Brain

Two weeks till Gold Coast marathon and I'm ready to taper.

I've been training so, so hard for this one. For the last couple of weeks anyway. Since I surprised myself at Noosa and realised that a sub-1:40 was possible. Remotely possible. If I gave it my best shot. Work hard for a few weeks and just see what happened on the day.

Working hard hasn't meant changing things too much. Speed is still speed and it will always be done as hard as I can on the day. Friday will still be my recovery run - and I'm needing that more than ever. Saturday's long run is still a long run. Done at long run pace. Except maybe the last couple of k where I might push the pace just a little. It's the Wednesday runs that have changed.

Wednesday runs have been reinstated to tempo status. They were tempo runs last year but once summer hit they just became another longish run. But now that it's cool and I have a goal in mind, they've become a little bit faster. Actually, a lot bit faster.

These were the runs that I'm certain that made the difference to my running last year. The ones that taught me to trust my body again. The ones that retrained my brain to cope with discomfort for longer. So it was an obvious step to bring them back. But, man, they're hard work!! I'm doing 16k total and at least 10 of those will be at tempo pace - which for me is the pace that I'd like to run come GC half marathon.

This week's tempo run was particularly hard. We'd done 500m reps the day before and that had been a solid session. That'll happen when you're chasing the fast boys. And believe me - they were fast on Tuesday! Then I'd gone home and done my strength work. Speed session + strength work = very tired legs. It was raining on Wednesday when I woke up and I almost pulled the pin. I almost convinced myself that my legs were too tired and I really needed the rest day but the nagging voice in my head made me look at the weather radar. Damn, the rain wasn't going to last much more than a few minutes and I couldn't risk being called soft by my running posse so I went.

We did the first 4k easy and then I got the prod to get moving. Ughh. Wasn't feeling it at all. I just wanted to run with the group at that nice, easy, comfortable pace instead of having to push on alone. Out on my own. Out of my comfort zone.

But I did it and I was so glad that I did. Because I will be feeling tired and heavy-legged in the latter parts of the GC race. I will want to mentally quit - and if I mentally quit, I generally quit physically as well. I will wonder why the hell I even wanted to set myself a stupid goal in the first place. And when I do feel all the feelings I'll be able to remind myself about this run. About how I could still push to do what I'd set myself to do even though I was tired and hurting and didn't want to do it.

Training seems like it's a purely physical exercise but it's so much more than that. Training the brain is just as important as training the body. If you think you can't then you won't. But if you think you can, you might surprise yourself with what your body can do.

These tempo sessions are doing just that. As I run them I'm practising things I'll need come race day. Things like ignoring negative thoughts. Concentrating on where I am and what I have to do now rather than anticipating how I'm going to be 3, 5 or 10k from now. Finding out what self-talk works for me. 'Feeling strong' worked for me on Wednesday so I might stick with it and use an expletive every so often - just for effect.

Roll on Gold Coast Half. I'm as well prepared as I've ever been before a half marathon. Just have to turn up on the day and see what happens.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Failures, Foundation Garments and Fanciful Goals

Last weekend was the City to South race. And because the course was going so close to my house I decided that it might be nice to get out and cheer on the suckers dedicated athletes who'd decided to run it.

Last weekend was also when I found out that I truly suck as a cheerer/spectator/photographer.

It started off okay. Watching the frontrunners go through. Genteel clapping while clutching my takeaway cup of coffee. So very civilised. But then the runners started to come through thick and fast. I'd wanted to get shots of all my friends running but to do that I needed to spot them early enough to actually take aim and shoot. Here's how I went.

I wanted a picture of Clare. The little dot at the pack of this group of men. She's wearing my Run Amok tights. You can tell, right?! So a fail there. But what's worse is that I know the runner on the right of the pic. Totally didn't see that he was there until an hour after the race when I was checking my photos. Sorry Rob, I don't know how I missed you.

Katie yelled at me and that's the only reason why I've even got a picture of her. I'd like to say I'd meant to take a photo of her great running form. But honestly I didn't.

Youngie also gave me fair warning of his arrival. A good 50m of warning is what I need for a shot that shows the front of the face. 

See - Elio didn't give me 50m of warning. Only got the side of his face.

Didn't zoom in on Heather so I missed another opportunity to get a good Run Amok photo. But at least you can see her. Which is more than I can say for Sue.

Poor Sue - that's her foot just visible to the right. 

And finally another butt shot. This time of Mellie. Seemed appropriate to finish the morning on that note.

But it wasn't only my photos that failed. My brain had a little processing issue - fairly normal for a person of my vintage but really inconvenient when you're trying to cheer people on by name. There were no less than ten people whose names I remembered only once they were well out of earshot. I'm sorry. And I'd apologise to all of you individually but I've already forgotten who you are. Sorry for that too.

But, luckily, my brain is the only thing that's failed me this week. My body seems to be working just fine - at least as far as running's concerned. We did a 3k time trial at speed and I've managed to improve from my January time by 12 seconds. This could be because it's a lot cooler. Or it could be because I've been training diligently and consistently since then. OR it could be because I bought a new running bra. Which promised up to 50% less bounce. Less bounce = less turbulence created while running = greater speed. At least it does in my head.

I only bought the high impact bra but apparently Berlei make a bra for extreme impact. What on earth does extreme impact involve? Running into a brick wall while doing your best Usain Bolt impersonation??

I'll definitely be wearing that bra come Gold Coast half marathon. I'm going to need as much help as I can get to achieve what's been festering in my head ever since I ran Noosa half. My big audacious goal for this race is to go sub-100. 

There it is. I've said it out loud. That would have freaked me out a year or so ago - to lay it on the line like that. But today it doesn't worry me. I might make it. I might not. If I don't, the world will still keep turning. People won't turn away from me in horror because I'm a failure. And I'll get to try again another day.