"The goal is to become the unique, awesome, never to be repeated human being that we were called to be." -Patricia Deegan

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Baby Bib

Just like when I did the mini-Moe before the real thing...

I'm off to try a few days on the trails this weekend, testing out some gear for my 960k or so end-to-end attempt after winter (that's southern hemisphere winter). I've picked up some fantastic gear at Mainpeak, including this luxury bed (Hennessy Hammock) that comes with a built-in fly screen and has a separate rainproof overhang. The idea with this is that I'll be off the ground, away from the cold and the creepy crawlies, and can save weight by not carrying a tent, sleeping bag, and mattress. I've also got some new lightweight poles to try and have packed up my Icebreaker thermals, Montane rainproof jacket, and my good 'ol Canadian down booties :)

I'm going to trial my SPOT tracking function for this, as well. So if you're curious about what the SPOT thing does, try following me here between Saturday morning and Sunday night or Monday morning.

My pack at this point weighs in at 7 kg without water, holding just 2 days of food. That's bordering on unacceptable. We'll find out after this weekend what I'm missing (besides more food, probably, and more warm clothes) and what I can get rid of (the end of my toothbrush?)

I'm not exactly sure whether I'm back Sunday night or Monday morning. I want to have two full nights to trial gear, so it would be good to stay out til Monday. But that's dependent on my hip tolerating the load and finding a way to get home (unless I run, which is more load on the hip). I really feel like I need a few nights under the stars. This country girl is spending too much time in the city!

If I stay out til Monday, I might run into Kreig on his way south. Kreig is attempting an end-to-end unsupported (carrying everything/no food drops) in 14 days. That's one serious but well calculated go, from the looks of it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Recovery Runs

I'm happy with my progress since race day last Saturday. I took walks for 3 days, went to massage, and did my strength work every day. On Wednesday I ventured out for an easy 5k, which felt fine, but my hammies were a bit shocked at the ask. My "easy" pace was something like 6.12. I took another rest from running on Thursday, just walking and doing strength. Went to a yoga class as well - that instructor is so good. It should be called "yoga for runners."

Yesterday I headed out for 18k of beautiful single track with beautiful trail running people. It's just a joy to be in such surrounds with people who feel the same way. Gosh, do I sound like a hippie? Mum always said I was born in the wrong generation!

Today I went for another hour run at an easy pace to find that my "easy" has come back to 5.18. That's nice to see. My running HR seemed fine but my resting HR is still a few beats high, indicating that the endocrine system hasn't recovered yet.

And aside from my HR, I can tell that I'm feeling the chemicals from the race still, as I have been a bit nostalgic and contemplative these past few days. Herdsman Lake, where I ran today, was where I ran for the first time after I arrived in Perth 3 years ago. I found an apartment for rent on the lake, moved there, and that 8k lake circuit became my "local." My training has come a long way since then. I used to go out on every run around that lake at top speed. That's all I did. 8k sprints. I had this Excel spreadsheet that I used to track my time and pace. I'd write little comments beside each run, to try to justify the pace and look for correlations with my fastest days.

Oct 23 time 42:09 distance 8.15 pace 5:10. 2 pm, 26 degrees and muggy. Never felt so hot, as trying to hold a fast pace

Jan 2 time 46:48 distance 8.27 pace 5:40. Tired of running hot and vomity - went slow for a change

All in all, I'm enjoying these few weeks post-race to focus on strength, feed my body good omegas, antioxidants, and beetroot juice, and feel all mellow and groovy. Next weekend I hope my body's ready for a 2-3 day fastpack on the Bibbulmun Track to test-drive some gear for my end-to-end attempt. Then it will be back to speed work!

Monday, April 18, 2011

100k Record Day

Just back from Coburg (Melbourne) with a night to unpack, wash stinky clothes and otherwise regroup before settling back into being a normal worker bee tomorrow.

The 100k race became a goal for me before Christmas - probably after my 6 hr race. Being summer in Australia, it really wasn't the best time to chase records. That proved to be very fortuitous. I was better able to treat my right sided tendonopathies and start in on some more serious speed work. To maintain, I had massage, physio, and/or sports chiro at least once/week.

Race day weather was pretty good - a bit of a cold wind, which was refreshing for those running, but hard on crews. We arrived late to the track, despite the fact we were staying only 20 minutes away. I ran in to the race briefing midway and was still pinning my bibs on the front and back when I heard the 1 minute warning! Way to get the adrenaline and cortisol going early! Fortunately, Rolf and I have done this before and had systems.
The plan for the first 3 hours had me sit on a 5.05 pace with no breaks. The whole 100k race plan allowed me only one 5 minute toilet stop. Gotta get your hydration right for that! I was running a bit fast from the start, as I felt really good. So I had to keep slowing myself down. While it's nice to get some extra distance "in the bank" it's also a risky move, as one can just end up shattered well before the finish line.

Somewhere around the 5 hr mark I got into the business end of things. I tried to hold it off for as long as possible, but then there it was ... to deal with for the next 4 hours.

It was also the warmest part of the day (3PM). I made a passing comment to Rolf that I thought I might have to let the 100k record attempt go. There were no more smiles from the Fire Chicken. I think it was then that Rolf calculated my laps and thought I had 3 laps in the bank. I ran on, calculating... 3 laps x 2 mins = 6 mins = 360 secs. I had banked 360 precious seconds. If I slowed 5 secs/lap more than planned, my credit would last 70 more laps.

How long would 70 laps last? From there, my thinking broke down, as I was working so hard my working memory was struggling to do basic maths! I just went back to running as hard and steady as I could, focusing on my form. A few times I repeated the "Don't wish it were easier, wish you were better" mantra. It seemed to give me strength to not let the "course" beat me.

After 6 hours, I started receiving numerous text messages from my WA running mates via Rolf. They were all so helpful - I even had a local runner come down to the track on behalf of a running mate in Brisbane. I was in a tough patch then (mental parrot bush for all those rogainers out there), so it was all I could do to register the guy in my brain and feel thankful for the support.

After 7 hours or so, it seemed that many of my fellow racers started providing even more encouragement - I think they must have sensed my exhaustion. My right hip flexor tightened up badly, which changed my form and slowed me down. I had to stop every 15 minutes to stretch it.

I found some new mind games to get myself through to the finish. Thinking that there was still over 1.5 hrs left wasn't going to work. So I told myself there were only 6 more feedings until the record. At 7.5 hours, I told myself there were only 2 more electrolytes until the record. (Two of anything is hardly anything at all, right?!?)

As I closed in on the distance, just after the 8 hr mark I needed to know exactly how many laps were left. Rolf started adding up his tick marks on paper to give me his best estimate, but he couldn't be sure he hadn't missed a lap or two. I must have sounded pretty desperate as I cried out, almost to myself, "Can anyone help me?" One walker I'd just passed called out, "Help you? You're doing brilliantly!"

It was encouraging, but she didn't know that I'd just spent 2 months specifically training, dropped a kilo of weight, and travelled to the east coast, to spend the last 8 hours running at top effort to get to that point. And darned if I was going to miss the record by a few minutes! Luckily for me, international athlete (and fellow WA'er) Mick Francis was standing by and just kept telling me to push. Then one of the great race helpers came out from the lap scoring area to tell me I was just finishing 240.

Well, do you think I could process how many more laps I needed?!? I ran on, rambling aloud, "250? Is it 250? How many laps to 100k?" Until another world class athlete, Kerrie Bremner, called out, "Yes, Bernadette, it's 250. 10 laps to go. 4k." I managed to figure out that if I held 2 min 15 per lap, that was 22.5 minutes. There wasn't quite 8hr30 on the clock at that point. The record was still in sight.

As I approached the target, the race officials came out to record official times for the laps preceding and following - in case there's a problem when they verify the laps for the record, they'll still have the correct official one. My laps right around the 100k were a 2 min 08 pace. It felt like a sprint, despite the fact that it was more like a 5.20+ pace!

Rolf thought I had 100k in 8hr48, but the organisation had me on the next lap, which was 8.50.38. I am awaiting their verification of laps, but either way, it's a new Canadian W40 100 km record. It also surpasses the Australian W40 100 k record of Helen Stanger's set in 1994.

So what happened after that?

Well, I took my planned 15 minute break to stretch and put on a long sleeved shirt. Then I went back out to see if there was enough left in the legs to get me to at least 121k in 12 hours (another Cdn record attempt). I was able to stay on pace, but after 5k my hip flexor re-tightened and I got a weird pain in one ankle that felt tendon/ligament-like. So I made the call to stop. It wasn't worth an injury, being greedy. I ran the race I set out to (well, 5 minutes slower than planned, but I'll chalk that up to all the unplanned hip stretches).

I said goodbye to all the hearty souls settling in to walk and run through the night. I left the track, but was unable to sleep. I got online updates as much as possible on the event's progress through the night. At 6 AM I finally fell asleep, waking at 9 AM in a panic to get back to the track - 1 hour left! We arrived at 9.50 to watch the heroes in the calm, sunny morning conditions, doing their best to finish their races strong. I wasn't the only one with a record from the day. I believe there was an M55 6 hr record set and two W40 race walking records set, 2 new Centurion walkers crowned, and many others set huge new PBs.

Just like me last year, the outright winner (Rick Cooke) at this year's National event had never done a 24 hr race before. He paced himself cautiously at the beginning and ran a beautiful race. He's an accomplished athlete in other areas (marathon, IM) and heeded advice from experienced ultra runners on his strategy. It was a pretty special day for him. And his massive blisters are surely helping him remember how special it was!

Oh, yeah, and a side note - apparently I may have hit my W40 6 hr record at exactly the same distance ... pending verification it looks like it was about 70.4k. That's uncanny. (Although I had planned to be there at 69.2 k and apparently still had my banked k's then). The bad news? Obviously I could run further in a 6 hr now and I'll have to do it again!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Coburg Colours

Got my gang colours. A black and yellow combo was suggested to me by a few people who say there's some connection between Coburg and football and these colours.

By coincidence, it turns out they match my shoes. Gosh, that almost sounds feminine...but don't worry, I don't even own a handbag. Just four or five hydration packs :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

RecoveryRecoveryRecovery (say it really fast)

A great running mate of mine said this a few months ago as we were climbing a big hill - there was a slight plateau before the next rise, and as we ground our way up and hit that plateau, both knowing another climb was imminent, he puffed, "recoveryrecoveryrecovery."

I love that mantra now.

It reminded me that recovery isn't just in the day or two post-race or post long run, but is even in the small moments we can grab while running something difficult. We can consciously use those small moments on an uphill plateau of just a few metres or on the back straight of a 400 mtr track when the wind's behind us. I find it does a lot to my mental strength now to imagine that even for a few seconds I'm recovering - rather than thinking I'm just becoming more and more spent with every step.

For me, the last speed session is done before race day next Saturday. I finished it well - a 15k tempo'ish run followed immediately by an 800 mtr race and a 5k race. Friday was recoveryrecoveryrecovery and then Saturday I went out slightly long to do a favourite - Serpentine. A new running mate (training for TNF100) and I headed out and ran a quad-shattering 1000 mtrs of gain over 24.5k. Very nice quality. And remarkable views. Here, you can just glimpse the white house at the bottom we've climbed away from.

I've got my Coburg toe colour scheme sorted. And coincidentally, they're going to match my Saucony Fastwitch racing flats :) I've been paying attention to who else is racing next weekend, too, because it always gives me a boost to know others are out there when I am.

First of all, there's the Relay for Life event, which is a 24 hr track event being held on a 400 mtr track in Perth. (I don't know if it's a national event over the same weekend). I know a few people going out for that.

Second, in a great coincidence, the Athletics Australia Nationals are also on next weekend (my Coburg event is 24 Hr Nationals). And that event is also in Melbourne, just 10k from Coburg, at the Olympic Park! We have some brilliant 1500 mtr specialists going out to race that (I know there are other shorter distance sprinters from WA, as well, but I don't think I've met any of them). The men's 1500 1st round is about 5.30 PM Saturday and finals for men and women are around 3 PM Sunday. So....hoping I'm not completely shattered after my race Sunday morning, I'll hobble over to Olympic Park to cheer on the Sandgropers on Sunday afternoon.

In case you were wondering, yes, I'm still on the beetroot juice :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Beets in Bulk?

I think it's time to start buying in bulk.

Today I ran the State Masters 5,000 mtr (the 10k was 2 weeks ago - previously reported). A few fast girls I was expecting didn't show up, so I didn't have them to chase. Running out front on my own (the W event ran separate from the M), I followed my race plan and recorded totally even splits until the last lap, where I managed to cut 6 seconds off the lap. I recorded a PB (which is fairly easy when you've only ever done two 5k races), shaving 15 seconds off my 5k time from just last week. But the kicker to me was that I ran a 20k +625 mtr elevation trail run on the Bibbulmun track yesterday.

I spied one of those cool 3-tiered podiums at the track today. I had it all visualised... standing on it wearing a wreath and spraying champagne all over some buff 60 mtr M sprinters assigned to put my W40 gold medals around my neck....

But, no, they didn't do that (does that only happen in F1 and the Dakar Rally?) So, instead, I had a dignified photo taken with one of the many inspirational athletes out there today. Loretta is a most elegant and accomplished woman of 69 who regularly competes in 10k and half marathons and just ran an impressive Athens Marathon last November. I've entered her world of 'short' distance and she's thinking of running an ultra next year!

P.S. Thanks to those of you who voted in the spectator-yelling poll. With over 80 reads per week on my blog, I was hoping for a better sample size, but the feedback I did get was still interesting.