Friday, 20 April 2012

Long Distance Lessons

In an attempt to feel positive about my less than stellar return to running and essentially having to start my training from scratch - I have decided to use this opportunity to revamp and revitalize my routine. This year is shaping up to be a BIG YEAR - filled with big plans and big goals - and that is going to require some big changes.

While I used the first 8 weeks of 2012 to train and run my first Half Marathon, looking back I can honestly say my approach was far from perfect. Mistakes were made and there is definitely room for improvement. I jumped in whole heartedly with both feet to complete my mission before D-day, which gives me points for gusto but doesn't mean my approach was well researched. I learned a lot from my very first distance race and in the research I have done since then. And I don't plan to fall prey to same blunders this time around.

This time around I will...

Train for Longer and with Greater Distances

When I hit the 16 km mark I started to feel my body shut down. I slowed way down and my legs were tightening up. I kept saying "Just 5 more kilometers. Just 30 more minutes. PUSH", but those were the longest 5 kilometers of my life (and probably the slowest)! But this is where I think I learned an important lesson about my body and my training.

During my 8 weeks I did a lot of 15-17 km runs. That was my typical long run distance. So it makes sense that this was the distance my body was most comfortable with. If I had more time to train (aka what I will do for my next race) I would run the full distance more often so my body can be more comfortable with it.

I blame it on my defective ticker and my genetic short-comings, but I know I will never be the kind of person who can just get by on straight adrenaline. Its just not enough to balance out my irregular ticker - it needs more training than that. Lesson learned!

Also Run Less and Uphill

So I must confess when setting out on my mission I shied away from a lot traditional running plans. You know the ones that talk about splits, Fartleks, hill repeats, and speed work? Yes, those things scare me. Mostly because of my *cough* genetic shortcomings and robotic heart. I had always thought that those techniques were outside my wheelhouse.

But as part of my running research I started reading Ryan Robert's ebook The Ultimate Beginner's Running Guide and learned a few new things. I learned that in fact incorporating hills is a "great way to build the strength in fast fast twitch muscles, while also building cardiovascular (breathing) endurance". Hmmm...interesting. So perhaps hills are exactly what my defective ticker really craves?! In other words, hills are definitely on the docket this time around!

Strength Training is a MUST! think this probably pretty obvious to most runners. And I am slightly embarrassed that I have stress this for myself, but I am a Cardio Queen and Strength Training has never really been my strong suit. But if you talk to anyone, read any article, consult any resource - they will all tell you that if you want to see changes in your body and performance then you need to strength train.

Okay! Jeeze! I got it this time! I am going to commit to 3 strength training sessions a week.

Nutrition is Your Friend

So if you were following along then you may recall my many rants about my struggle with Nutrition, the Stress Binge, and the Marathon Mindset. Luckily it is not just me that struggles with all things nutrition, because this topic also came up in Ryan Robert's book.

He includes a great section on Hydration and Nutrition and talks a lot about their importance to our bodies performance. He focuses a lot on eating balanced meals and incorporating whole foods to fuel our bodies. This clearly an area where I can make improvements. Nutrition has never been a major focus of mine. I think I focus on it enough to be considered a generally healthy eater, but I also like food. I like food that is bad for me, but tastes good, but literally has no nutritional value what so ever.

And as a gal with so many physical limitations and things working against her (a robotic heart mostly), Nutrition is probably the one area I could really make changes that count. So this time around I am all about Clean Eating!

Running is 50% Mental

It really is mind over matter. Training for my half was a great distraction for all things Dday related. It was a great stress release and helped keep me calm, cool, and collected. But running my very first half the day before my surgery was probably a *little bit* of unnecessary pressure.

There are nerves involved in any race, but this was a whole other level. Because as much as I was so happy to run my Half Marathon, completing the race meant that my surgery was looming. That race was not light, fun, and frilly. It was serious business. I had put a lot of weight into this one run and my one performance. It meant everything. It was a symbol of my year and my struggle. And I think all that pressure made everything more difficult.

But this time around, all these races are just for me. They aren't going to be to prove something or make some grand statement. Instead I am just running for fun, to enjoy the process, for my health, and to take care of me.

I learned a lot from my first half and from my recovery. And both are going to help me come back stronger and better than I was before.

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,