Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Last Word On Canberra

Three days and the muscle soreness from running Canberra is finally abating.

I wasn't this sore after any of my half marathons last year and I'm pretty sure that the culprit was the many hills/inclines/positive gradients that Coach Chris said weren't there. I don't know why I ask him about hills when he doesn't feel them. That's the second time he's lulled me into a false sense of security.

I was a little disappointed with my run on Sunday if I'm going to be perfectly honest. Not that I thought I could have given any more in the race. It was more the lead up and the failure to manage my anxiety and how much that physically takes out of me. But I know that the first race of the year is usually one of my most anxious so it should all be up from here. I hope.

I was also a little disappointed in something I saw on the course. It was a sign on the side of the road that was warning motorists that the road was to be closed due to a 'fun run'. This was about 15k into both the marathon and half marathon courses. At that point 'fun' was the last thing it was feeling like. I thought it was a little demeaning to what thousands of us were all doing. But I guess it's easier to put 'fun run' on a sign than 'serious endurance event with incredible athletes of vastly differing abilities but all with one goal - to achieve their dreams!' Might have been too hard to read all that while you're driving at 80k along the parkway so I'll forgive the sign writers.

But disappointment aside, there's always positives to take away from every race. Like the camaraderie of a group who all love to do the same thing. We are such kindred spirits. In fact one man felt such a kindred spirit that he took it upon himself to tuck the size tag back into my singlet around the 8k mark. I totally get it - it had probably been bothering him for the last 7.9k and he wanted to save his fellow runners from the annoyance.

And there was the joy of being able to run on such a beautiful day in a different place. Way nicer to run when the temperature is 10C and dry than 22C and humid. 

 And then there was the satisfaction of getting the media coverage that I so rightfully deserve for my feats of athleticism. You may not have noticed me in the first picture so I've zoomed it in - just for those of you who were never good at finding Wally.

Would I do Canberra again? Definitely. And maybe I'd do a few tempo runs on Hillside Tce in the lead-up now that I know what I'm in for.

Next up - Great Ocean Road in four and half weeks. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

After a big weekend like the one I just had, it's hard to know exactly where to start so I'll start at the beginning.

Saturday morning I woke up hours before my alarm was meant to go off. It had started already. My heart was racing and there were cold fingers of anxiety wrapping themselves around my intestines and squeezing. My brain was working in over-drive trying to keep everything together. It was amazing that Iven could sleep with all the noise that was happening inside my head. I was fighting a losing battle and when I finally admitted this I took a little white pill and managed to get a few more fitful hours.

The internal battle started up again the moment my alarm went off. This time I didn't try to fight it. I just took the pill and got myself ready. I was so pissed off and disappointed with myself. I know in my head that I can sit on a plane for an hour and a half and I can spend a couple of days relaxing and sight-seeing and catching up with friends and I can run 21.1k. But somehow this message gets lost between my brain and my adrenals and these waves of helplessness take over and I'm rendered almost comatose.

Iven got me to the airport and just knew that the best course of action was to walk me in and sit with me until I had to get on the plane. We were pretty early so I talked to the flight attendants at my gate and told them I was a nervous traveller and would it be possible to board the plane early? They were so lovely and reassuring. They said to just come up when they asked for passengers that needed assistance boarding. A little ironic that I need assistance to board yet I'm running a half marathon the next day.

The flight was over in the blink of an eye - mainly because I slept pretty much the entire way. One side benefit of those little white pills. And when we arrived the anxiety had settled and I felt blissfully normal. Actually, I felt a little excited because I was about to spend the rest of the day with one of the nicest people I know. KD was picking Elio and I up from the airport and I was going to have a one-on-one sight-seeing tour of Canberra for the most of the day.

But once she dropped me back at the hotel, those little flutters of nerves started up again. All I had to do was meet up with my friends to go to dinner. It shouldn't have been hard but tell that to my cortisol-secreting organs. Another white pill - but it was either that or eat no dinner at all and that's never a good idea before a half marathon.

Of course dinner was great. Of course there was nothing to be anxious about. Of course we talked and laughed and laughed and laughed and talked. It was a great night.

Sunday morning came too soon. It was about 2:00am when my anxiety head woke me up. Ughh! Four hours until my alarm was supposed to go off. Four hours of my head skittering around like slaters under an upturned rock. I wasn't going to make it to the start line if I couldn't settle down. Another white pill and I slept till the alarm woke me up. Then it was just a matter of forcing a banana down, dealing with things that need to be dealt with (yes, I do mean the toilet), getting dressed and meeting everyone down in front of the hotel. I'm pretty sure I totally had them fooled that I was calm. Or maybe not.

The morning was perfect. Blue skies but cool. The start area wasn't crowded and we found the rest of the group for a pre-race photo. 

For the first time ever I didn't have to hit the porta-loos. And that's not necessarily a good thing. A short walk up to the start. A little wait and then we were off.

 The goal for the first kilometre was to keep it easy. Hard to do when it's mostly uphill. My legs didn't feel great - a little bit jelly-like and that's not because I've started to celebrate Easter early. Too much adrenalin and cortisol and too much mental energy spent just getting to the start line. I told myself that they'd warm up. That I'd work my was into the run. That I could only do what I could do on the day and that would be enough.

And they did improve. A little. By kilometre 6 they were starting to feel okay. That lasted till about kilometre 11. And that's when the mental games really began. Try to stay focussed. Run the kilometre you're in. Look for your friends on the out and back sections. Distract yourself with the views - the lake, the autumn leaves, the spectators. Breathe in the smells and the crisp fresh air - but do it quickly because you're working really hard.

The hills just kept coming. They were never steep. Just long and slow and relentless. The uphill kilometres dropped my pace to around 5:20 and the downhills seemed to be consistently around 5:08 except for the spectacular 4:54 which was probably an error of judgement.

Every kilometre that ticked over was internally cheered - another one down where I didn't walk. I told myself that if Trudy (a friend who was just behind me) caught me I could walk some of the uphills. But the competitive part of me was damned if I was going to let that happen so I slogged onwards.

And then finally we were into the last kilometre. I saw KD on the side of the road and that gave me a huge lift. I high-fived the kids lining the streets with their hands out and their smiles made me smile. Someone yelled that we only had 500 to go so it was time to sprint. Yep, that wasn't going to happen. And then it was all over. Hooray!!

The group assembled for a post-race pic and to share war-stories. Elio and Ian ran PBs. Congratulations to both of them. Most of us found the hills challenging. But we all finished with a smile on our face.
Special thanks to Trudy for letting me use her photos.

Today I'm a little stiff and sore but satisfied with my 1:50:52 finish time.  

My first race of the year is usually the worst as far as anxiety goes so I'm expecting my next will  be a lot calmer. At least I hope it will be.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Four Days Till Canberra

The countdown is on. Four days till Canberra. So far so good. My inner crazy lady has so far not come out to play and I'm taking a lot of encouragement from that.

Last year before my first interstate race I spent the whole week before in a stomach-churning state of anxiety culminating in a quick trip to the doctors for a script to get me through it. So already I'm counting this trip as a win.

I even had a moment last night when I got excited about going - so nice to feel like a normal person for a change. All it took was a few texts back and forth with a lovely friend who lives down there. It was a reminder of why I'd chosen Canberra in the first place. Any day I get to spend time with Karen is a good day. Between her and my in-laws, I've got most of my free time covered. And that's a good thing because less free time = less time to think = less chance of being a crazy lady.

I'm so happy with my state of mind that I've set myself some goals for the race. My first is to get to the start line without drugs. If I can do the whole weekend without breaking into my stash I'll be happy.

The second goal is to eat on Saturday. Believe me this can be no small task when I'm nervous. My stomach just closes up and I can't force anything down. It's great for weight management but not so great for running an endurance race.

The third goal is to run it under 2 hours. Can you see what I'm doing here? That's right - I'm putting absolutely no pressure on myself to perform. That can (and will) happen once the gun goes off and I get caught up in the race excitement. I know I can run under 2 hours - I've been doing that on my long slow Saturday runs every week. And by taking away any pressure I've got a better chance of meeting my first two goals. It's a plan that's almost genius in its simplicity.

And I have a mantra - "You can only run as fast as you can run." How's that for no pressure? No expectations - I'm just going to do the best that I can do on the day.

I just have one favour to ask. In the spirit of putting absolutely no pressure on myself, please no mention about race times in the comments section.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

No, It's Not A Chore And Yes, I'm Delusional.

Today I found out that I've been deluding myself for years.

That's probably not a surprise statement to some of you who are convinced that I am slightly delusional. Just add that to the long list of mild psychiatric disorders that I like to claim. Mild enough so that some people don't notice and mild enough so I haven't been locked away yet. And mild enough so I haven't felt the urge to buy any cats lately.

The tip-off that I've been delusional was going in to the brand new Coles supermarket at our local shopping centre. And the thing I've been delusional about is thinking that grocery shopping is a chore. Apparently it's no longer meant to be a chore. It's meant to be an experience, according to the employee at the entrance who told us to enjoy ours. 

I've been doing it all wrong for decades now. Every Thursday I grab a trolley. The trolley-grabbing is like the start gun and the aim of the race is to get around every aisle and complete my list in the shortest time possible and without knocking over any pensioners. Because knocking over pensioners really slows you down. Especially if their body somehow becomes tangled up in your trolley and you can't dislodge it. It's like deploying one of those parachutes on a dragster.

Grocery shopping had been considered a chore since the dawn of time, or at least the advent of supermarkets and supermarket trolleys. But some genius (who I'm convinced never does their own grocery shopping) has decided that we need to enjoy our grocery shopping experience more. We need to saunter down each of the aisles at a bridal walk speed, taking in each and every offering on display and weighing up the merits of white bread vs wholemeal vs wholegrain. Or maybe bread rolls would be a better option?

And if you happen to be faced with a decision conundrum, well now you can spend time pondering it over a cup of freshly made, barrista-poured coffee. With a muffin for only $4:00. In the little coffee nook with the mood lighting. Yes, I'm being serious!!

We were met in almost every aisle by a smiling assistant who enquired about our day. Or whether we needed any assistance finding a product. Thanks, but my day so far has been disappointing, having just seen possibly the worst movie ever (Noah, if anyone's interested). And no, I don't need assistance unless you'd like to run interference for me so I can get out of here quicker.

I'm not used to shop assistants who smile and offer help. I much prefer the ones that sneer and treat you with disdain. At least I know that they're sincere. But this 'niceness' seems to have become an epidemic - I'd noticed on Thursday that the staff at the Woolworths around the corner had lifted their game, terrified that they'll lose what they'd previously taken for granted - their customers.

All that sweet insincerity just got on my one last nerve left intact after the two and a half hour travesty that was Noah, but the tension was broken when we passed a hearing aid shop on the way out. A woman was out front spruiking for free hearing tests. I asked Iven if he was interested. His response? 'Interested in what?' He hadn't heard what she was saying. I'm thinking that she was heading for a very slow day if her target market isn't getting her message.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Disco Lights, Spiders Webs and How To Get To Sesame Street.

Yesterday was our last time running trails for the next few months. We're in the middle of autumn (even though the temperatures still feel like it's summer) and it's quite dark when we meet at the beginning of the session.

It was dark enough yesterday for Coach Chris to encourage us to wear lights so we'll be more visible to cars, bikes and each other. Being the coach, he has special lights - not just the one you can get from Kmart for the back of your bike. No, his light has a bank of separate lights and different flashing modes. And being that it was the last trail run for the season, he'd put it on disco mode.

It was a little disconcerting for those running directly behind him. We're used to the steady on-off-on-off style of flashing. We're all hard-core trail runners (stop laughing Chris). We don't need fancy. We disdain fancy. We openly mock fancy - which I pretty much did when I said it looked like there was a party going on in his pants. I'm sure no one would have taken that the wrong way.

Our intrepid and fearless leader was out in front forging a path through the thick forest. Okay, that might be an exaggeration but there was a couple of trees. And where there's a couple of trees there's usually a couple of spiders. A couple of industrious spiders who've been hard at work all night creating a lovely home for themselves - that Coach Chris promptly and carelessly destroyed.

It was at that moment that the disco lights became relevant.

Okay, that might be a little mean. Coach Chris looks nothing like the man in that GIF. A man who runs up to 200k a week will never be as heavy as that. So I found a more relevant one.

And that made this picture that he sent last night funnier than it should have been.

I mentioned before that our Coach is a fearless and intrepid leader but I forgot to also mention that he is also tenacious. He decided that he'd find his way to Sesame Street by hook or by crook. And he did it by the only means that a man of the modern generation has at his disposal. He asked a woman. And the woman he asked had all the answers and told him where to go.

I have Siri set to the male voice and when I asked him he had absolutely no idea where we were in the first place. 

Looks like I'll have to change my Siri setting.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

2014 - The Year Of The Rollercoaster.

I wrote in my last post about my irrational fears about travelling to races. So it seems even crazier that I spend some of my day yesterday doing this.

Yes, I've registered for the Melbourne Marathon again. Because there's no better time to do something scary than when you're already scared. This time I'm hoping will be a hell of a lot better than last. It could hardly be any worse.

Today I'm planning on registering for the other races that are on my mental to-do list - the 10k at the Gold Coast and the Jetty to Jetty half. 

I told my husband all this last night and he had difficulties keeping his eyes from rolling to the back of his head.

"So you're telling me that you're getting nervous about going down to Canberra BUT you're signing up to other races?"

Yeah I had no answer to that except that one day, if I do enough travelling and racing, I might not get nervous at all. There was a time when this actually was my reality - before I got sick and knew just how weak my body could be. I have a clear memory of standing on a start line with my heart rate in the 50s and actually feeling relaxed. I figure that if it happened once it can happen again.

Here's how my racing year's looking so far -
April - Canberra Half
May - Great Ocean Road Half
July - Gold Coast 10k
         Jetty to Jetty Half
August - Sunshine Coast Half
October - Melbourne Marathon

2014 looks like it's going to be an 

I hope I manage to ride with a smile on my face like these girls.

And not with a mouth full of chunder.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

I'm Going To Do Something Wild And Outrageous

I'm doing something a little bit wild and outrageous soon.

I'm running my first race of the year in less than a fortnight. Yeah, I know - nothing wild or outrageous there.

But I'm running this race interstate. Again - neither wild nor outrageous, especially considering that the place I'm going to is Canberra and the wildest thing that happens down there is the bickering between political parties in Parliament House.

The reason that this trip is wild and outrageous is that I'm doing it BY MYSELF.

No, I didn't accidentally press caps locked at the end of that sentence. It's capitalised because travelling by myself is a big, fat, hairy deal to me.

I know that to most of you it's not something that would bother you. It's such a non-event that doing it doesn't even make you blink. But I'm not like most people. I like to think I'm special. Or should I say 'special'?

I have a interesting history with plane travel. And a lot of it involves vomiting. On the plane. And in the terminal. Some has involved being wheeled around in a wheelchair. Being upgraded to business class because I seemed so sick. All because I was nervous.

Sometimes my anxiety has me teetering on a fine wire between normality and insanity. Okay, I might have exaggerated that just a little bit but I'll do what I have to to justify using cute doggy GIFs.

I am slightly better at aeroplane travel than I used to be. Thanks in part to mind-altering drugs. I don't even actually have to take the tablets to cope. As long as they're in my handbag I can pretend that getting on a plane is really no big deal. I can sit relaxed in my chair and just go with the flow.

But if I'm going to be totally honest and before you all get too impressed with my feats of courage, I have to admit that I'm not going to be totally on my own. There's a small contingent of GaleForcers heading down. One of them, Elio, even gave me his flight details so I could be on the same flights after he heard that I get a wee bit nervous about flying. And on Saturday I came clean with the whole vomiting-wheelchair riding extent of it. I've got to hand it to him - I didn't even see him flinch. Either he knows a lot of other crazy ladies or his Mum brought him up so well that he's too polite to show his horror.

The reason that I like to travel with family is that they already know the extent of the crazy that happens when I get nervous. And they have to put up with it because they love me. Or maybe it's because I cook and clean for them, but I choose to think it's because they love me. Letting non-blood relatives in on the act is a totally different challenge. But I've often said that GaleForce is like my other family so I guess it's time that this other family met their crazy aunt. I'm hoping that we have so much fun on the weekend that I won't have time to be nervous. I'm hoping that it's so much fun that Bronwyn Bishop sanctions us for laughing too much (sorry I couldn't resist the political reference that only Aussie's who are current with their news will get).

And my goals for the race? To run without any pharmaceutical assistance. That's a big enough goal for the moment.