Sunday, January 29, 2012

On Any Given Sunday

Everyone has their own Sunday ritual, for some people it's church, for others it's football.  For me it's my day to go long.  It's my long run day.  Last Sunday marked the start of yet another quest.   This time I'm tackling the 26.2 mile monster.  Another 16 weeks of long runs through whatever Mother Nature has to throw at me, which doesn't seem to be much given the way this winter is going.

I really look forward to these runs, these lovely little escapades that end my week.  I run them mostly solo.  Sometimes I have company.  They give me the time to tune out or tune in depending on the situation.  They build my strength and tear it down all in one go.  They give me time to reflect and time to observe.   Some days are amazing and some I'd rather forget.  The route I take may be the same but the experience is always different.  That's why on any given Sunday, you'll find me out going long.

Geese - copyright Phaedra Kennedy 2012

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Give Me Strength!

Since my current strength training plan is coming to a close, I've been scouring the 'net for a strength training plan geared to runners.  I've found a few surprising and interesting things along the way.  And some pages I've bookmarked for future reference.  I'm surprised at the number of articles that recommend doing workouts on machines.  Really?  Don't get me wrong, machines are alright for some things but they don't engage ALL of your muscles because you're sitting or lying down.  You don't run sitting or lying down.  You are upright and you're using one leg at a time.   It makes more sense to do the work 1) standing up and 2) alternating legs (i.e doing single leg work).  This article by Eric Cressey had me laughing out loud.   It is probably one of the best things I've read on weight training for endurance athletes.  I agree with the man 110%.   Why?  Because I'm living proof of this.  I scaled back my miles and hit the gym.  I lifted heavier than I've ever lifted.  The miles I did were hard miles but my body could take it because of my strength training.

Now as my current program comes to a close (Krista's Next Level for Women from Precision Nutrition)  I am at feeling a bit at a loss, thus my online search.  I've found something that looks interesting.  It's designed by the legendary runner Alberto Salazar for Olympic hopeful, Kara Goucher.  It's got a few of my favourite moves in it:  single leg deadlifts and box step ups.  It also incorporates single leg squats into the mix which is something my massage therapist and ART guy are always telling me to do.   Given that my body is probably going to take even more of a beating this year than last year, I'm going to have to step up (single leg only!) to the plate and start doing them. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Setting Goals

As excited as I was for this year to start, I have to admit, I am still kinda hanging on to last year.  I want to move forward but I think I'm a little scared to.  I had such an amazing year last year.  I think it's only natural to wonder if this year could be any better.   I set such high expectations for myself by the end of last year.   They haven't gone anywhere but, knowing I'm going to be tackling a much more challenging distance, there is some doubt.  What if I fail?  I suppose that doesn't really matter to anyone but myself in the grand scheme of things.  I have to go out and try.   So that means taking off my rose coloured holiday glasses and taking a good look at my upcoming race season.

It's time for some goal setting and it's time for me to put it all out there once again so I can remain accountable.  So far I've actually registered for 3 races between now and the end of May.  The goal is 4 races but I also need to budget accordingly.  Race entries ain't cheap!

First up:  The Chilly Half Marathon, March 4th, 2012.  The day after my birthday.  So, no big night out for my birthday.  That will have to happen the weekend after, ha ha.  I ran that race last year in 1:47:49 on a snowy day.  Considering the snowless winter we're having now, I'm really hoping that we have a nice cold snowless day this year for the race.  It is just under 8 weeks away.  Given my current lack of top speed, I think I will have my work cut out for me.  One of the insane girls in my run group said that we're going to aim to break 1:30.  I think that's nuts for this early in the season.  I think I'm capable of a 1:40:00 with my current level of fitness.  I may re-evaluate that when I get closer to race day.

Next up is Around the Bay, 30km on March 25th.  The last time I did this race was 2006 when I was training for Ironman.  I pulled off a 2:40:15 which included a 2+ minute stop at an aid station to tape down a toenail.  So I could have broken 2:40:00.  I am much faster than that now.  My ultimate goal at this race has always been to break 2:30:00.  I'm more than sure I'm capable of that, even though it is a hilly course.  So I'll put a goal of 2:20:00 out there.   That puts me at 4:40/km's which will be tough but I think it's doable, especially given that I'll have a few more weeks of mileage and speed work under my belt.  Again there may be a re-evaluation of that when I get closer to race day.

My BIG race this year is the Mississauga Marathon on Sunday May 6th.  The goal here, which has been set by my friend Kiki is to break 3:20:00.  THIS will be a challenge.  My marathon PB is 3:34:07.  I know I'm faster than that now.  The question is by how much over that distance.  I have upped my mental game big time in the last year and the marathon distance is 50% training and 50% mental.  So I think when the going gets tough, I'll be able to suck it up and keep going.  I'm also hoping to re-qualify for Boston, which with a 3:20, will be no problem.

The 4th race I've registered for is the Toronto Women's Half on Sunday May 27th.  It's only 3 weeks after the marathon but I think if I'm smart with my recovery, I'll be able to go out and rock that course.  I ran it last year and ran a 1:41:37.  If I'm fully recovered, I expect to be sub 1:35 here and hopefully better my age group placing (I was 5th in my AG last year).  Which would be awesome given that this race is usually stacked with very fast ladies.  I'm also coaching a friend of mine who will be running this race so either way, I was planning on being there. 

I am going to have to learn to use my Garmin as well.  I think that will really help me with my pacing.  I guess I should actually finish reading the manual.

Making it all official:

Chilly Half Marathon:  1:40:00
Around the Bay:  2:20:00 or faster
Mississauga Marathon:  3:20 or faster
Toronto Women's Half:  1:35 or faster

It's going to be a fun and challenging season of racing!

Friday, January 6, 2012

A New Year, A New Training Partner!

I have to credit my friend Linnea for bringing this sponsorship opportunity to my attention last year.  I've never thought of actually looking for a company to sponsor me.  Being a part of Team Running Free was good enough.  But when the opportunity to be a Compressport sponsored athlete came up, she sent me the info and encouraged me to apply.  I had seen the Compressport stuff when we were in Switzerland (it is a Swiss company) and it looked awesome but it was pricey and I hadn't really yet been sold on the benefits of compression.  Fast forward 3 years and I've become a compression junkie.  I can't get enough of the stuff.  Some of the things I've used have been great, others not so much.  Either way, it's been really beneficial to me, especially in the area of recovery. Given that I am not getting any younger and I don't seem to bounce back like I used to, I've taken to using compression gear to aid in my recovery on a regular basis.
I submitted my application along with a link to my blog so they could see my race results.  I wasn't sure if I'd actually get selected.  Weeks passed and I figured I didn't make the cut. Just after I went on holidays for Christmas, I received an email from their sponsorship coordinator to say that they were going to offer me an ambassador deal, which is very similar to the Team Running Free program.  I was THRILLED.  I just got my contract today and I have to review it and send it back.  I can't wait to get my hands on their gear!!  Once I get the product, I will be posting a review so stay tuned for that.

So for 2012 is off to a great start! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

On A Cold Winter's Day

Sharp breath in.  Wind slaps my face.  Cuts like a knife.
Should have worn 2 pairs of gloves.  -13 + windchill is F-ing cold.

Westward I go, catching shelter from buildings.  City running.
Safe for now.  Wait till I hit the lakeshore.  

Sun is shining.  Sky is clear.  Cold is biting.  Finger tips are getting numb.
Yup 2 pairs of gloves would have been smart.

Under the Dundas Rail Bridge.  Past a girl with a cigarette.  Smoke Signals.

Wind tunnel and Dundas and Bloor.  Face hurts.  Time for the "neck gaiter".
Ahhh shelter.  Oh man it's cold.  Hopefully I'll make it.

Nose & mouth covered.  Fingers numb.  Eyes watering.
I'd kill for something hot right now.  How much farther?

Into High Park.  Hit the trails.  Take shelter.
Much better.  Beautiful morning light.  Time for a picture.

Up Spring Road, along the top loop.  Wind at my back.
I think I can feel my hands warming up.

Queensway, cross.  Lakeshore.  Stop.  Red Light.
Wow, look at the lake.  Looks like smoke on the water.

Green light, go.  Down to the water to take a closer look.
Water is warmer than the air, steam rising off it.  Picture didn't do it justice.

Brutal wind.  Ducks don't seem to mind.  Glasses fogging.
Halfway home and dreaming of a fire and a hot bath.

Humber Bay Park.  Into the trails.  Tall grass paths give shelter.
Steel bird statues.  Pretty cool. 

Back onto Lakeshore.  Contemplating a coffee stop.
Only 4 more km.  Git 'er done.

In and out of the shadows.  In and out of the wind.
Legs are tired.  Will need a good stretch.

Down First St.  Prince of Wales Park. Back to the water.
It's really cold down here.  

Onto Lakefront Promenade.  Follow the slanted road to 3rd.
Check out our house twin.  They're still not in.  Too bad.

Check my distance.  Might have to add a bit at the end.

Up 7th to Morrison.  Past 10th to 11th.  Turn around.  Meters from home.
12:01 km.  Good enough.  Time to light a fire and have a bath.

Next time I'll be more prepared for a cold winter's day.

All photographs copyright Phaedra Kennedy 2012.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Ultimate Clean Slate-Part Two

My second goal for the year, and really, this should be for life, is to look for the positive.  By requesting to write a positive and inspiring blog post for her blog, my friend Kirsten has inspired me to find that positive in my life.  It is there.  It's made itself known several times this year, mainly in the area of my running.  It needs to find it's way into my everyday life.  I have to find a way to make it so.

This may seem strange to some people.  Some folks were just born with a glass is half full outlook.  Some people have to work at it.  I am one of those people.  So the first step for me will be to make a conscious effort to think positively.  I can't allow myself to look at things in a negative light anymore.  I can't allow myself to automatically default to the worst case scenario.  I have to re-adjust my perspective. Perhaps that means I need to make a list of positives every day; focus on the good in my life rather than the bad.  Either way, it's time for some re-framing.  As my husband says, there are no setbacks, only opportunities for growth.

2012 will be the year that my glass becomes half full, of that I'm most positive.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Ultimate Clean Slate- Part One

Here it is.  A New Year.  The Ultimate Clean Slate.  What are you going to fill it with?

I've never really been one for resolutions.  I prefer to set goals.  They just seem more concrete.  You (generally) need a plan to reach them and a plan keeps you accountable.  At least it does for me.

The one thing with a plan is that sometimes it becomes all about the plan and I lose sight of the actual journey.  In a world where I always seem to be chasing finish lines, I don't seem to pay much attention to the roads I take to get me there.  That is one of the things I aim to change this year.  It is one of my goals; to be more present in the journey.   Over at Precision Nutrition in the Lean Eating program one of the challenges that is set out is to face your difficult / difficult.  Since I'm not actually IN that program I don't know the exact specifications behind what that task entails but from what I can gather it is supposed to get you out of your comfort zone.  For me, I'd say that being present is my difficult.  I have a hard time with this.  Perhaps it's because I always feel the need to be busy.  Always on the go.  I can't seem to sit still for very long, I'm always flitting from one thing to another, never really soaking up the full experience of anything and in turn, never really dealing with anything either.   I'm not really sure why I do this.  I do know that I am missing out on a lot by doing this.

No more.

It could be as simple as running without music so I can actually hear the birds singing.  To eat more slowly so I can actually savour and appreciate what I'm eating.  To try and stop the chatter in my mind and focus on one thing for more than 5 minutes.

It won't be easy.  But nothing worth doing ever is.