Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Welcome to my conflict

Maybe I was a little bit adventurous with my 4.30 goal when I toed the start line of Paris marathon on Sunday.

It wasn't as adventurous as my 4hr wave I had on my bib. (Haha I KNOW! Who do I think I am! 4 hours! Me!! Hahaha. It wasn't even a typo!)

I'd clearly been properly delirious when I entered the race 12 months ago. I hadn't even run a marathon at that point. 
Aim high right?! 

I have now 'run' 26.2 miles, 3 times. 

I need to be kinder to myself. 

26.2 miles is a bloody long way n a HUGE achievement. 

Specially for me. 
Rachel Stead. The non runner. 

Imagine.... The words Rachel Stead, marathon and PB in the same sentence. 

It's not a lie folks. 
It's true. 
A 25 minute PB no less. 

Today I am proud. 
Sunday I wasn't. 
My demons were shouty and loud on Sunday. 

The problem I am having is this - in my head, I can do amazing things. I can make my body run fast(er).

The reality is that my body can't actually run that fast. 
It just can't. 

But it CAN do amazing things. 
It really can. 

Just not run a marathon time that starts with a 4. 
Not yet. 
Maybe not ever.
And while I would REALLY like it to, if it doesn't, that's ok.
Cos 26.2 miles is a bloody long way. 

I need to stop comparing it.... and if I am gonna compare, I need to remember to compare it to a fatter, more sedentary, non moving, smokier, less healthy n non competitive version of myself. 
Not other people. 
And not what I (or others) think I *should* be able to do. 

That is the voice of my dad. Not me. 

In my case, thinking I can sometimes causes conflict. 

I go into battle mode between my parents voice of me 'being a bit crap and how I should be able to run faster' and my own voice of 'screw you this is amazing' .... Then massive internal conflict ensues. Cos actually, I believe my own hype of aiming high and then I fail.
This then leads to the voice of 'aren't you a bit crap?' being reinforced.

And the conflict spiral continues.

And then I get cross with myself and begin to believe that I am a fraud....
That I have no right to be doing the things I am aiming to do.
They are simply too big. That I am not good enough. 

I KNOW I am good enough. 
I have a medal to prove it. 
In fact, I have more than one medal actually.
So screw you.

I need to remember the time i wrote this blog post

Don't get me wrong, I am stupidly proud of what I achieved on Sunday. 
I ran my second stand alone marathon in what was rumored to be 23* heat AND ran a 25 minute PB. 

I hadn't trained to run Paris - my race calendar changed somewhat with the Norseman ballot. 

My training for Paris consisted of a couple (literally x2) 13.1 runs a few 10 miles runs (x4) n LOTS of bike training. 

Paris became endurance training. 
It became a very long run at the wrong point in my training plan. And by God did my hip flexors tell me about the bike training. 

My pacing for the first half was fairly solid. I had planned to set off out a pace that would see me in good stead for a 4.30
6.10 min/km or 10 min/miles for 15/18 miles would be grand. The wheels could fall off a bit then. 

John asked me to pace him n hold him steady due to the weather and heat. For 9 miles I reined him back... But I knew early on that I couldn't sustain the pace. 
Me and John looking fresh.... 

(John went on to run 4.28 in his first marathon *PROUD FACE*)

solid pacing for first 15km

My head n body weren't working together n I couldn't get them in synch. 

The dark thoughts started early n while I could shake them, I couldn't maintain a happy place. 
There was too much energy being zapped by other things. 

Happy required energy. 
Or it did for me on race day.
Usually race happy is something I excel at. The fact it alluded me made my day so much harder. 
It also confused me. 
It confused me a very large lot. 

I tried robbing energy from the beautiful surroundings, from the river, the sun, the trees, the other runners. 
But as soon as I had snaffled it, it evaded me again and was lost.
Probably as I had none to give in return. I wasn't using it effectively. I was trying to hoard it - n that's not how energy works. 

Certain songs lifted my spirits. 
There were moments of dancing, beaming and singing. 
Moments of pure unadulterated joy. 
And then, all too fleetingly, they were gone. 

My hip flexors hurt from about 5km.
I have recently been running on my toes a lot more. I've put this down to running more hills of late. 
I know my gait has changed.

I couldn't find a rhythm that suited.

From 22km to about 29km I was in bits. I kept moving forward, but I was walking. 

It all fell apart between 22 and 29km
I cried.
I cried hot salty tears.
I put a plea out on social media. 

Help me. 
Help came.

(Thank you, thank you, thank you)

News came that Dave had PB'd. 
(I did little first pump at this) 

I was on my arse.
 Nothing more, nothing less. 
Everything hurt and I wanted to stop. 
For the first time in my life I wanted to DNF. 

I had no intention of not finishing but I wanted to stop. I wanted to stop so very badly. 
It would be so easy to just not move. To get on the metro. 
I knew that in order to make it stop I had to keep moving forward, but it was so goddam HARD. 

Looks a little bit pained, but smiling non the less
I took a picture of myself by the Eiffel Tower vowing that no matter how much it hurt, there was no way I wasn't not smiling. 

And then something magical happened. I went through the wall.

about to go through the wall

Then I *actually* went through the wall. 

Charlie Puth sang Left Foot, Right Foot at me. Katie Perry told me I was a Firework. Emeli Sande told me I was a Wonder. 

I beamed.

And while it still hurt, I was spurred on by the time on my watch, by the noise in my ears drowning the noise in my head.

I was going to finish my second marathon. And I was going to PB.

Ok, I would have to run a 10km at the same pace I went out in, but a sub 5 hour marathon was *just* achievable. 
So long as I kept moving. 

Run, walk. 

Keep taking fuel. 
Keep cool. 
Keep hydrated.
Keep pouring water on pulse points, on the back of my neck. 
Keep on keeping on. 

Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Then I hit the park. 
In a previous lifetime, I have run many miles round the lakes and through the trees. 
My head went again. 
I saw Svetlana, Alexey n Feydor and my heart soared. 
Sweaty hugs were exchanged and I was on my way. 

I needed a Parkrun PB.
In all the heat. 
At the end of a marathon. 
I sped up as best I could.

If I had this much in me, I could've tried harder earlier. 
My head went again.
I knew I couldn't have tried harder.
I had given everything.

Bear appeared with a flag at 41km ish as the 5 hour pacer sauntered past effortlessly, just as my watch ticked to 5.00.00
I applauded the last band and sped up some more.


5 hours and 10 minutes. 

Hard earned bling

When I think about the girl who, 3 years ago, couldn't run round the block without feeling like she might vom a lung, I am proud. 
I am very proud, in fact. 

I am proud that I have carved my body into a vaguely athletic shape. 
I am proud of my internal metronome. 
I am proud of my clever legs. 

(When did my clever legs start to look like this please!?)
These clever legs are mine, yes?

I have learned some very valuable lessons. 
I need more salt when it's hot. 
I need to use all of the energy systems wisely. And properly.
You cannot cheat them.
They know.

I need to train specifically for a marathon when I next do one. 
I need to run more than 13 miles. Twice.  

I need to be kinder to myself. 
I am not other people. 
They are not me.

While I have never been as fit as I am right now, I need to remember that I am still 'new' to this sporting lark. 

I relearned to swim at 30, introduced triathlon at 32. This is my second year of 'long' at the ripe old age of 35. Running began in December 2012. 

Norseman is coming. 
It is 5 short months away. 
As I publish this, Norseman is 17 weeks away.
123 days (not that anyone is counting)

After crossing the line on Sunday, I was never going long again. 
By Monday, I was planning my marathon rematch. 

The reality is, I can't think about marathon running for a while.
(Although I do know the date for Chester n I'm in a trio at Equinox *cough*) 

I need to take the lessons from Paris and apply them to Norseman. 

It doesn't matter that I'm not a fast marathon runner. 

What matters is the fact I kept going. 
What matters is that I dug deep n didn't give in. 
I did what I promised John I would do.... I would pace him perfectly to 9 or 10 miles. 

Paris was a valuable lesson in endurance, in pushing beyond the pain. 
It was necessary and the timing within the year (and my life) was spot on.

And as hard and as awful it was in parts..... it was perfect and I loved it. 

PB ice cream.... as big as the medal.