Post marathon – lessons & what next

The marathon is done, the holiday is over and I’m home. I feel very fortunate to have had some down time between the running and the returning to real life – sitting by the pool in Mexico and wandering the streets of Hong Kong gave me time to digest and ruminate on the adventure and the experience.

Lessons learnt along the way…

  • Running is 1% physical and 99% mental. I already knew this but had it clearly articulated again every day of the Dopey challenge. I adored the first 3 events – they were fun from getting out of bed to returning home again and I wouldn’t take back a minute of them. And I think partly that’s because I already knew I could do them – the distances were well within my comfort zone. The marathon? Not so much. I didn’t hate it but it was a struggle from the start. And all of that was mental. Physically, I was fine (besides leg niggles) but I was pushing back ‘You won’t be able to finish this’ thoughts all the way through. Luckily….
  • I’m stubborn. Once I start something, I’ll do whatever I have to to get it finished and nothing in life has shown me that more than this event. When my blister popped and sent pain shooting through my foot with every step, I muttered ‘It’s only a blister. Get over it. At least you have feet.’ then actually found myself grinning at my ability to say that to myself. I saw people flooding in to the medical stations to tend to various bits and pieces but wouldn’t let myself do that either. I was convinced that, if I stopped, I wouldn’t go again so the only option was to keep moving.
  • You’re so much stronger when you’re with your people. There were 2 prongs to this. I travelled to the US with my husband and 5 wonderful friends and was so grateful for their friendship and support. Running with Jill in the first 3 events was a big part of what made them so epic. And in the marathon, knowing the others were out there, and knowing my husband was at the finish line, kept me going as well as the thought of stories we’d share afterwards. Often it is that – nothing specific that anyone says or does, just knowing they’re there and they get it. I’ve said before that I might run ‘alone’ but always have my running friends in my head and that was definitely true of the marathon.

    The second prong of this is choosing an event where I was with my kind of runners for the whole time. I’ve run events before where I’ve been pretty much left in the dust on the start line and then spend the whole time on my own and it is no fun at all. I love running alone but not when I’m paying for it. Disney was amazing. I never had any moments on my own and was constantly surrounded by runners who were a range of shapes and sizes but all my speed and many of them running intervals. It was an eye opening and immensely positive experience for me.

  • The journey is the best part. This one surprised me a bit. I’ve always enjoyed running events – the hype, the start line frenzy, the little distractions along the way and the bling at the end. However what I’ve enjoyed most about this experience is the training. The consistency and predictable nature of my weekday runs. Having a training plan and being accountable to it and myself. Getting lost in my own head and the world around me on my long runs. Pushing myself outside my comfort zone with every long run I did but knowing, somehow, that I would be strong enough to do it. I think what upset me most about my injury was not getting to finish the training rather than the fear of not getting to do the event.

So, what next?

Before this, I swore I would never do another marathon. And, in the moments after finishing, I probably said the same thing. Now? I don’t know. It would have to be the right one, where the only pressure I felt was from myself and not the cut off times. But it’s not out of the question. I know I need a bit of a rest but I also know I need routine and miss my long runs. 2018 is not going to be the year for setting any more big goals – ticking off such a huge one in the first few days of the year sets you up well. However I suspect it will be a year of pushing myself anyway, because I can and because I enjoy it. And, ultimately, that’s what running should be about anyway.

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Disney 5km race recap (Dopey – part 1)

And so it begins. I have never (and will probably never again) had an event with a build up as huge as this one. It was a relief to be on our way to Epcot this morning to get it started.

My alarm went off at 2.50am and we were out the door at 3.30am, having showered, breakfasted and done our best to prepare for the cold. Our drive to Epcot was very easy and parking was fine – we got a spot not too far away from the start and sat in the car until 4am, making the most of the warmth. Once we were out, we tried to keep moving – yes, it really was cold, approx -2 C so a lot colder than we were expecting. We visited the restrooms (I know – so American of me!) and took some photos and then it wasn’t long before we were headed to our respective corrals.

I was in E with 3 of the others so had company which was great – we danced and sang to the music and generally soaked it all in. We watched the first couple of corrals file off towards the start line and then saw the fireworks to signify their send off. Before long, we too were being shepherded towards the start, seeing our own fireworks and were off.

Finally running at Disney World. Well, walking. I had decided early on not to push anything too hard, especially as I haven’t run at all in 5 weeks. However, swept along by the crowd, I ended up walking a very fast first kilometre. The first part of the course takes you onto roads around the park and I used this time to people watch – so many interesting costumes and excited faces. In fact, just so many people around in general.

After that, we were running into Epcot and my friend, Jill, caught me so we ran together, taking in the beautiful sights and uplifting Disney tunes. We spied a few characters on course but weren’t willing to join the lines so smiled and sped on by. We really didn’t need photos with characters – we were happy enough with taking in the scenery and all the glittery prettiness that is Epcot.

In what felt like an incredibly short time, we were zooming back past Spaceship Earth and towards the finish line which we crossed with big smiles. And this is where the logistics of Disney really kicked in – we were perfectly funnelled through to get our finish medals, snack box, banana, Powerade, water and heat blanket before heading to the photo stops for a picture with our medals.

It’s definitely a relief to have the first event done. I’m exhausted and not sure how I’ll get through the rest but am pleased to say that, so far, my leg feels great. I did run across the finish line as a bit of a test and it passed with flying colours. Next up – 10km. See you in the morning!

Dopey training – week 12

Training ramped up a notch this week with the addition of 1 more session – a Saturday walk. Not too taxing but a reminder that it is getting serious. As it should – this week also flipped our countdown down to double digits until we take off. Definitely getting real.

Tuesday’s run was an easy lap of the neighbourhood block made even easier by the fact that it wasn’t freezing and was still light when I got home from work. Bonuses all round.

Thursday was hill day and I took my friend back up the Saddle. She did brilliantly and we were lots faster than last time. It was a stunning afternoon in the You Yangs – perfect Spring weather and exactly the run I needed at the end of the week.

Saturday was parkrun or, rather, parkwalk plus a bit extra to make up the required mileage. I really like that I can walk these although take them seriously and am still aiming to keep my pace ahead of the virtual balloon ladies. I managed that very successfully yesterday, as well as having a great chat with another running friend I don’t catch up with very often.

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Today was long run day and I have been looking forward to it all week. I got my stuff ready last night and was in bed by 7.30pm, just wanting the night to hurry up and be over so I could go. The forecast was great and I headed out to my favourite trail for a few hours of zen time – gravel and soft stuff underfoot, waves crashing just to the edge of my vision and surrounded by nature bursting with Spring-ness – idyllic. The hardest part was knowing it was a run of superlatives – my longest solo run, my longest training run, the furthest I’ve been in one hit on the Surf Coast trail, my biggest total kms for the week. I think all of that messed with my head a bit in the first kilometre and I found my breathing was hard, more because of rising panic than pushing it too hard. I reminded myself that kms on legs were all that mattered today and that I could walk it all if I wanted. And I took some time to enjoy the scenery and the weather, all of which brought tears to my eyes – there was absolutely nothing else I could imagine doing at that moment that would bring me as much happiness as this. So I just got on with it.

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It was a great run. I saw a few other people – enough to feel like I was safe but not enough to bother me. Ironbark basin is unfamiliar enough to keep me distracted as I wasn’t quite sure what I’d find around each corner. What I found was more and more beauty – I really am lucky to live where I do and have this in my backyard. None of it was that hard today – all body parts were playing nicely and nothing hurt. No (obvious) chafing (haven’t yet done the shower test!), my feet felt great and my left leg was not alerting me to any new or old niggles. The most annoying thing was that I got back to car having only done 20.6km so I had to do some little circuits to stretch it out to 21.1km. So proud of myself for getting it done. I celebrated with burgers with friends in town after their half marathon efforts at Cross Country Club.

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And there’s another week done. 38.6km this week, 6 hours worth of running. Wow.

Weekly summary:

Tuesday – 5.6km (46:10)
Thursday – 5.3km (55:40)
Saturday – 6.5km (63:11)
Sunday – 21.1km (3:15:44)

Dopey training – week 2

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that week 2 of training has also involved a ‘modified’ plan. My 2 x 45 minute runs weren’t 45 minutes (one longer and one shorter) and my long run was longer than I needed. And I had a hike thrown in there for good measure. All of this is partly thanks to the flexibility of school holidays – I know it will get a lot harder to get the kilometres in once Term 3 hits. More than any other statistic, I’m proud to have managed 1035m of elevation this week…and my calves are feeling every metre of it.

Tuesday started with exploring a new running route close to home – there is only so many times I can run around my block without lapsing into a boredom coma. My new route is quite scenic and reminded me how lucky I am to live where I do – there really is more variety than I give it credit for and no reason to get bored.

We then headed away for a few days camping in the stunning Grampians National Park (Gariwerd) and enjoyed an amazing hike from Halls Gap to the Pinnacle. It’s not an easy hike at all but I was really pleased to find that it was nowhere near as strenuous as I remembered. I last did the whole thing as an unfit 14 year old and I think it had haunted me ever since. I couldn’t stop grinning as we powered up the hills, steps and rocks to reach the top. Coming down was more of a challenge with some horrid metal steps to navigate but I felt very grateful for the opportunity to be out in such a beautiful landscape.

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These steps were not fun, especially in trail shoes which kept getting caught in them.

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We made it to the Pinnacle!

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Silent Street – one of my favourite places in the Grampians

Parkrun on Saturday saw us adventure to Frog Hollow – a slow one as my calves were definitely still angry with me about the hike.

And, to end the week, I joined the Surf Coast Trail Runners on their introduction to the You Yangs. A bit funny really as it’s just up the road from me and is the home of the parkrun I am a Run Director at but it was a wonderful chance to find some new trails that I hadn’t explored before. I had been rather nervous in joining this run – scared of holding everyone up and I was very glad that I had 2 great running friends join me which helped make it a positive experience.

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Photo courtesy of Matt @ SCTR

Weekly summary:

Tuesday – 7.3km (59:58)
Wednesday – 10.5km (4:49:04) – hiking
Saturday – 5.0km (39:10)
Sunday – 11.6 (1:56:18)