Monday, May 12, 2014

Marathon training for slowpokes: Week 11 check-in

Gold Coast training log week 10 (May 5 to 11) 

Monday: 9km easy
Tuesday: Woke up absurdly late, so I did my intervals at the gym: 800 warmup, 3x1200 at 5min/km with 400m recovery, 400 cooldown - 5.6km.
Wednesday: A true rest day!
Thursday: 9km marathon pace + yoga. Boy did I need the yoga after this.
Friday: 12.25km 'easy' (starting to feel like a slog; I walked a couple of those kms and picked up the pace only after halfway, when I ran into my colleague who lives nearby - she was running too and dragged me through 2km and then I finished the rest on my own!)
Saturday: 13.5km 'easy' (definitely feeling like I was slogging through these runs)
Sunday: 17km to and around Sentosa - quite possibly the happiest, best 17km I've run in a while, which was a great relief after a whole week of feeling sluggish.

Total: 66.35km + yoga

So, it's now week 11 of 18. Two months to go. I've basically pulled together sage advice from several books (Jack Daniels plan A and Hansons Marathon Method somewhere between the beginner and advanced plan - yes, the former bases training pace on current fitness and the latter bases training pace on your time goal but I think my time goal matches my current fitness quite nicely), several wise people (Kirkie and Holly), the internet, and my gut instincts, to cobble together a marathon training plan that I think of as the Commonsense Marathon Training Plan.

Some lessons from 10 weeks of training:
- I feel like this is the first time I'm training systematically and with specific goals focused on the training process. Goals like: run >60km a week consistently. Or: Do a strength class and a yoga class each week.
- I've started doing a proper warmup that isn't just slow-jogging the first km or two. It includes leg swings, knee hugs and toe touches because that's all I can remember at 6am most days.
- There is no such thing as 100% compliance with a training plan - so the best plan is the one that maximises compliance! For me, a key part of marathon training - in fact the biggest part of marathon training - is being consistent. I found last time round that the Hansons plan was incredibly easy to comply with because I didn't need to think about how far and fast I would have to run each day ('what do you mean, fartlek? I don't like to hurt that much, why would I do it for 2 whole minutes') or do algebra in my head ('Let X be the total mileage for the week. Okay, now run 0.25X.') All I had to do was remember a number and a pace. Believe me, at 6am that's all you want to think about. That's why I still use Hansons as my base.
- It is more reassuring for me, mentally, to have run 60km or so a week consistently going into the marathon, than have done one or two killer long runs. I mean, BOTH would probably be ideal, but there is some notion that slowpokes like me who take nearly three hours to do all of 26km should not be a) doing a 20-miler because it burns us out too much to handle the week ahead [or b) running marathons, but that's my choice thanks].

So, um, this is sort of unorthodox, but this week we will be upping sticks and going to Italy for two weeks' vacation in the middle of my 18-week marathon training cycle. We'll be in gym-less hostels, B&Bs, and staying with family (my Italian cousins...doncha know? Chinese grandmothers and Italian grandmothers are fundamentally the same thing. No not really. Husband's Italian relatives.)
I wouldn't advise this in the least.
I still plan to try and get in my two quality workouts (as per Mr Jack Daniels) each of those weeks (ha ha let's see how that goes). I'll be walking and hiking enough that the mileage can go hang.

in which Mr Daniels tells me what to do

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Things my mother gave me

1. When I was a really little kid, my mum didn't run at all. It was my dad who got up at the crack of dawn to knock off 10 or 20km and then come back and take me out 'jogging'. It wasn't till I was ten, my mum told me, that she started running - mostly to prove my dad wrong when he teased her: 'You're so lazy!' Now, my mother cannot possibly be accused of being lazy, because she runs pretty much every day, 4 or 5km at a pretty good clip, and often twice a day. And does regular strength workouts. Talk about role model.

2. All of the women in my family are incredibly, pigheadedly stubborn.

3. And professionally accomplished career role models for their kids. Edit: My sister and I would probably have turned out all right either way. I realised only a lot later that not every kid had parents who both went off to work every day. And she confessed that she suffered a great big dose of mum-guilt when I would bawl as she went off to work.
Then again, I probably bawled because she was the one who spent most time with me when I was very small. And if your usual primary caregiver suddenly takes off for several hours a day and you're two years old, you're probably going to bawl. Why doesn't society put the same sort of pressure on fathers?

4. And what we lack in genetic predisposition to athleticism, we make up for in sheer bloody-mindedness.

5. An understanding of what privilege is. My mum was the first person in her family to go to university, and paid her way through it by tutoring younger kids.

6. A love of books and of reading and learning. (This extends to both parents and a lot of my family. One aunt, who is 73, managed to get a biochemistry PhD after having two children because, as she put it 'I just liked learning so much I didn't really want to stop'.)

7. Allowing me to stick with ballet lessons and drop the piano, because I was a terminally restless kid who could not sit still to practice.

8. Not being (too much of) a tiger mum. Or a helicopter parent.

9. I have to admit that the term 'mamalete' makes me twitch and think of Marmite or marmalade, but I like the notion.

Happy Mother's Day! 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

May you get what you deserve

When I was doing my A-levels, my favourite economics lecturer used to tell us before major exams: "And may each of you get what you deserve." He wasn't being cruel, just very British. (Why did we have some British teachers? He was hired almost thirty years ago when the country didn't yet have enough trained economics and literature teachers so the school system had to be jump-started by borrowing some from the UK. And then they didn't want to go back, so we happily kept them.)

The point is, when it comes to exams, you certainly get back what you put in. No one expects to roll up to an exam, or not even complete the exam, and be handed a certificate of completion.

This seems to be lost on some of the people who entered the Run350 half - last weekend's half that wasn't, which got cancelled because of a huge storm with thunder and lightning.

Most people were super gracious and understanding about the cancellation. Nearly all of the half-marathon participants I know just decided to a) go home and sleep, b) do the 10K instead, or c) go off and run 21km on their own after the rain had stopped. (And if you're me, you're a pigheaded stubborn little twit and attempt an ill-advised long run.)

But on the organisers' Facebook page, some people were asking for their finisher shirts and medals!

To the organisers' credit (in terms of averting a PR disaster, not in terms of educating the public about what you are and aren't entitled to), they kindly offered to give finisher shirts and medals to the half-marathon entrants who brought their bibs to their warehouse.

And then people started complaining that the collection hours were too brief, the warehouse too far away, et.c.

I understand if this was your first half marathon and you're a little put out by not being able to take part in the event at all. That's unfortunate. Sometimes these things happen - it's real life, after all. There will be other races.

But races get cancelled for far stupider reasons than participant safety in a storm (such as running out of water, ahem Sheffield Half Marathon!.) Runners should at least be glad the organiser is looking out for them.

Some people were saying 'I paid for it, so I should get the finisher shirt and medal'. No, you paid to run an organised event. You even got the goody bag - which already includes a pretty nice tech tank - ahead of time. There's a reason it's called a finisher shirt - you get it because you've finished. Obviously this isn't life-or-death stuff, but this entitled attitude sort of irks me. Also, if you are capable of running 21km, you are also definitely capable of walking less than half a km to the warehouse from the nearest MRT station. May you get what you deserve!

This also applies to putting in the hard work to train for a race. You can't really bluff your way through 42.2km.

Am I just being an old-school hardass curmudgeon about this stuff? What do you think? 

In this month's reading material, I am taking a tiny break between books of 1Q84 to read Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series of supernatural steampunk detective fantasy romance novels*, which are light fluffy reading with a wicked sense of humour. I'm also just now getting stuck into 'Delusions of Gender' by Cordelia Fine, which aims to debunk a lot of the pseudoscience that claims men's and women's brains are hardwired differently. I'm only in the introduction right now but I promise you a review later!

*the genre-slicing and cross-breeding is getting a little ridiculous. Can we agree to just call them 'novels'?

Gold Coast training log week 9 - April 28 to May 4
Monday - 9km easy + TRX
Tuesday: speed set: 3[(40s hard/ 20s easy) + 3min active recovery]
Wednesday: yoga
Thursday: 10.3km tempo
Friday: 9km easy
Saturday: 25km (extremely hot and humid - took me 3 hours, 4 waterbottle refills, 1 pack of shot blocks, and 2 Endurolyte caps. I ended up at East Coast Park, which fortunately has plenty of bathrooms - with paper! - and had to wring out my shirt, rinse it, and wring it out again before putting it back on. Everything was a soggy mess. My shorts were soggy. My socks were soggy. My shoes were soggy. I froze my tail off on the bus home. Public transport in Singapore is a never-ending freeze-thaw cycle.)
Sunday: 8km easy
Total: 66.3 km, TRX, yoga