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Run Petra Run!

Updated: 2018-03-06T09:47:09.747+00:00


I'm a liebster?


The fantastically-abbed, incredbly warm-hearted treadmill runner extraordinaire Emz tagged me.  And where Emz goes I follow.  At some distance behind her, but still..Emz and I in Boston 2011.  Yes I was starstruck.  The Liebster Award is given to upcoming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. (Upcoming blogger? Not sure about that  - I think I have been at this thing so long that all my followers have dropped me.  But I'll take all the help I can get).  The meaning: Liebster is German and means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. (I'm a sucker for being called these things so here's me jumping off a cliff for an award). Rules for receiving this award:1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.2. Then answer the questions the tagger sent for them, plus create 11 questions for the people they’ve tagged to answer.3. Choose 11 people and link them in your post.4. Notify the people you have tagged.5. No tag backs. ;)So here goes - 11 things about me:1.  I love reading.  I devour novels.  I read while I was in labour, I balanced books on my babies' heads while I fed them, I read in cars, in the bath, on the toilet, in bed.  Highbrow, lowbrow, middlebrow - it's the oxygen for my life.2. I'm finding the cycling bit of triathlon surprisingly tough.  I can ride a bike, I can clip in (and out, most of the time), I can handle myself in traffic - but I find it hard to really push myself.  If I don't commit to my ride and to really go for it, I find my heart rate dropping to a corpse-like pace.  I'm beginning to realise that all of those who have been riding bikes well and hard for some time have a bit of head start on me.3. I'm a sucker for a dare.  It's very immature but I just cannot help myself.  This weekend we were in the lake district and climbed a mountain near the Honister Pass.  To quote from Wikipedia, " [it] reaches an altitude of 1,167 feet (356 m), making it one of the highest in the region, and also one of the steepest, with gradients of up to 1-in-4 (25%)".  We saw some crazy-ass professional looking cyclists heaving their way up this pass and the idea burned into my head that I should try this.  I discussed this stupid idea with a couple of my friends who I was there with, most of whom are experienced cyclists.  They all said it was "in the mind" and I figured I have a mind like a steel trap, so why not have a go?  I had a 3 hour bikeride on the books on Sunday and so, hey presto, Sunday morning saw me cycling to the Honister Pass.  It's pretty up and downy on the way there and I was fine with that.  After a while there is less vegetation and this is where I started to talk to myself ("it's all in the mind, you're strong, you can do this, imagine how great you'll feel, yadda yadda yadda").  And then I hit the first bit where the gradient is 25%.  OH MY LORD!  I was hanging on for dear life, terrified the bike would flip backwards with the pressure I was exerting on the handlebars, I was in my smallest gear and could barely get my pedals round and all I was thinking was "[insert swearword] I won't be able to clip out if I get into trouble".  I couldn't stop myself all I could think of was clipping out.  And I managed.  So there I was on this )(*(*&*&^*&% incline out of the saddle.  And then all I could think was "man the [insert swearword] up Petra!  What the )(*(*&*&^ is going on here? Get back on your )(*(&^*%^ bike!".  So I managed to get back on which was no mean feat on that incline.  And I pushed on and up.  And then, I was nearly at the top and I was going so slowly (and grinding my pedals SO hard, and my heart rate was off the chart) and then I hit a pothole.  And fell.  Not very hard, as I was going so slowly.  And then I could not get back on again, it was just too steep.  So I walked my bike the last minu[...]

Suck it up sunshine and do your job!


Crazy times!  The past few weeks have been crazy times!  Kids are still home from school (another 4 weeks of summer holidays to go) and we've had big birthday parties, sleepovers, a few days at the beach in Wales, the purchase of piglets and a trip to London to see the Olympics (more later).Training has been a challenge.  Focus - what I was looking for in my last post - has not been easy to come by.  As always, I learn things slowly and by having truths pounded into my head repeatedly.  One morning I was on my trainer struggling to complete a 90 minute trainer ride.  I was constantly thinking of excuses to get off my bike and end this thing.  I thought of emailing my trainer and whining that I couldn't do this ride. When it struck me I couldn't, because my trainer was out doing an Ironman.  So she was not going to be available to pat my hand and tell me I was fine for not doing what I set out to do (which, incidentally, she wouldn't have done.  And I knew that.)  I sucked it up and finished the ride - without much conviction but with an inkling of understanding seeping in that sometimes I just need to suck it up.  The next week or so after that I struggled through my training - in my heart of hearts feeling a bit sorry for myself for having to do all this hard work.  At the beginning of the week I wrote to my coach and told her how I was feeling.  Her response was an incredible email with various points I'd like to share:the first year of triathlon it is hard to learn to fit all the different things in.  Certainly true - having a coach is making it much easier but I would still say the sheer logistics and planning that go into fitting it in are a challenge. It is hard. But if I want do this, I need to just do it.  Prioritise it.  And be brave about it. In this respect I am not a terribly brave person.  I like to make decisions that others approve of.  One of the things I am struggling with is right now is that in order to make my training work and my business work I think I need to make some lifestyle changes that others around me will not approve of. Training for marathons has been something I have been to fit alongside my existing lifestyle and I have been able to do it without it impacting much on those around me.  My lifestyle has changed in the past 9 years but not in a way that, I think, has had a great impact on others.  I eat well, generally, but there's also plenty of not so good food choices.  A lot of socialising around me involves alcohol and while I don't tend to drink too much, I will certainly go along with that.  Although I love my early nights and early mornings, I  will also stay up later occasionally to fit in with the bigger social schedule.To fit in half ironman training, to fit in the amount of training I want to do with my clients, to learn the new skills I need to learn as a personal trainer - I need to make some bigger changes.  This may sound sappy, but it came home to me on a bikeride this week. I was trying very hesitantly to turn my bike 180 degrees in a narrow lane.  I was going at it slowly and hesitantly and it suddenly struck me that in my mind I was willing the bike to turn but my body was not doing enough to actually make it happen - I had to be brave enough to turn the wheel and follow through.  And in Oprah-like sychnchronicity, this is what needs to happen in my life - if I want to make a change, I need to actually turn my wheels in the direction I want to go in.  At 40, I cannot burn the candle at both ends.  I need to take my training seriously, and adapt my lifestyle accordingly.  Improve my diet. Prioritise my sleep.  Get my training in every day.  And not feel - like I have been feeling - all apologetic about it.  I need to treat my own training like my job - part of my appeal, if I have any, as a trainer and a coach is my credentials as an athlete.  And while I'm no winn[...]

Thought for the day


Focus, focus, focus.  Isn't it strange how when you finally put your finger on what's bugging you the whole picture is clarified from different angles?Today's blogpost from Sage Rountree - whose dvd of Yoga for Athletes I love (but I rarely take / make enough time to do it - point taken!).  She posted how the focus that is so central to yoga is so important during endurance events like Tour de France.  I started a new yoga class on Tuesday - there are very few yoga classes around here - and was feeling a bit "meh" because we "did" so little.  I mean - all this relaxing and letting go, right? But maybe, instead, this is what I should be doing - relaxing and letting go, focusing on a few poses, rather than trying to manically get through them all? Catching up on my blogs I came across a wonderful post from Amanda - and if you don't read her blog you should, she is wonderfully honest and insightful - and I just want to quote this: Living intentionally and making our life what we want is truly open to each and every single one of matter what our life is made up of. We have choices. We hold the power to make changes in our life. Whether this means making the most of canceled plans, changing the way we eat and the activities we are involved in so we can live a healthy life, learning something new, using our gifts to make a dream come true, or even something as simple as changing our furniture around and cleaning our windows to let some light in... we hold the power to create happiness for ourselves. It starts with intention and motivation. And creating happiness for our lives doesn't have to be doesn't have to cost doesn't have to be a daunting task that leaves us defeated before we even can be something small. I've long believed in sometimes doing the opposite of me - of shifting backwards in order to go forwards, just to unstick yourself.  Now I'm adding some goals about being proactive in my life, with my business and my family.  Allocating time and energy to each in turn instead of balancing them all at the same time (well - as much as that is possible with the family around all the time).  Small goals are a good way to start - and short-term goals are a good way to begin to get some focus.  So today's goals:- workout in the morning - tick!  Did an hour on the trainer - I've been outside a lot recently (and been caught in downpours and storms and all sorts) so today I decided to shake it up and get back to some Ugly Betty viewing during a not-too-taxing bike workout.  I have another run workout to complete but that was not a brick so I will do that this evening.- spend time with the kids this afternoon - after various appointments I'm going to head outside with the two of them to blow some cobwebs out of all our heads and catch up with them both.  I'm encouraging them both to do some goal-setting for themselves this holiday.- diet-wise - well there's a hot potato that I'm not going to touch for now, other than to say I'm moving towards eating more healthily and cutting down on the not-so-good for me stuff, particularly the mindless eating I am so prone to do in reactive mode. It's hard to see how gorgeous the poppies are in the field behind me - but they really are gorgeous. I'm a work in progress and perhaps some of this stuff is needlessly sappy for you (though hey - in my biggest desperation I am still unable to get through the Secret)  but I feel some progress and much positivity.  Onwards and upwards![...]

Time to press the reset button.


Things have been manic for months around me.  Or at least, they have seemed manic. I haven't had more than most on my plate but for some reason, my response to what has been out there has been more or less an entirely reactive one.  I've lurched from mini to major crises, putting fires out where I could.  In the middle of that I've tried to train my clients competently, have tried (and often failed) to stick to my training schedule and have no doubt driven my wonderful and saintly coach nuts with my self-loathing after missing yet another workout (one of my favourite emails from her starts with "Petra, You are a head case."). Apart from working out and reading, a lot of the other stuff I like to do has been left undone.  Emails and letters to friends and writing my blog. Both of these activities take some thought, reflection and concentration.  I have simply not had it - flitting around from unfinished job to another.  Completely lacking focus. I have been idly wondering why I haven't blogged - but only in the sort of ADHD way that I'm thinking at the moment - 2 minutes while driving somewhere or 10 seconds before falling asleep.  Had I run out of stuff to say?  Unlikely.  I thought maybe I'd run out of inspiration, but judging by the amount of notes I've made and unfinished blog posts in my feed, I wouldn't say that is the case either.  Today everything finally caught up with me.  The kids are home from school and it struck me that my messy, all over the shop attitude is really messing up my time with my kids.  When I'm with them I'm thinking of other jobs that need doing (and often trying to do them on my iPhone) and then when I'm not with them I'm feeling guilty that I'm not enjoying them (and they're growing up too fast and I'll soon be 55 and alone and needy and miserable and yadda yadda yadda).  My usual response to these moments has been to just instinctively feel guilty and spiral into a loop of self-hatred (cue: "Petra, You are a headcase").  But today I was so tired - and tired of myself - that I decided a better response was called for - a solution of sorts.  Focus.  Finishing one thing before starting another.  Being in one place mentally at a time.  Mornings for training people, training myself and doing my admin.  Including blogs, reading and writing.  Afternoons for the kids.  First day of it today and although I'm finishing this post off at night, it's worked for the kids and myself.  So I'm back folks.  One flawed attempt at a time. Which leads me to a mini catchup.  I'm going to catch up on you - and here's your catchup on me.First Olympic distance tri complete.  Summary?  Incredibly )(*(&^*^%&^% hard.  Much harder than I thought it would be.Hard logistically. After all the planning, and all the packing lists, I found myself listening to last minute instructions in the morning and suddenly realising my race chip was in my transition box, in transition.  Which was meant to be closed at that point.  It wasn't, thankfully, and so I just had to fight my way against the tide of those leaving transition to retrieve my chip and put it on. Exhausting. I had kind of equated doing an Olympic distance tri with running a half marathon (not at PB pace).  It was not.  It was much much harder.  I was exhausted by the time I came off the bike and still had to run a 10K.That's it really.  Tiring.  Exhausting.  Hard.  Fun?  I think so... Training. Going well until about 4 weeks ago when I got a slight rotator cuff strain showing (off) pushups to a client and then carried on swimming on it.  I have been out of the pool for 3 weeks and am not sure when I'll be back.  The shoulder is, sadly, not right yet. The rest is going fine.  I've been riding and running and riding and running.  Despite the fact that[...]

And so it begins.


After years of contemplating it and faffing about and entering races and then not doing them, debating the purchase of a bike, buying the wrong size bike, selling it again and buying the right size bike, buying the wrong size wetsuit, selling it, buying the right size wetsuit, starting swimming lessons, stopping swimming lessons, starting swimming lessons again, thinking I can train myself, freaking myself out, hiring a coach - aaaaaaaaaaargh.  Finally.  I did my first tri on Sunday.I will spare you the full blow-by-blow.  I had actually written it out but it was kind of boring, even to me.  Which would, no doubt, mean it is totally boring to you.So I will give you some highlights on each element:Swimming:nerve-wracking.  It was a pool swim where people were set off every 2 minutes, slowest going first.  Coach had told me to go hypoxic and I took this seriously - halfway through I wanted to die / give up / pull out / forget about the whole thing.  Hung on in there though and finished.  10:30 for the swim and the run out of the pool to the transition area (generously will make that a 60 second run so a 9:30 swim.  Not awful).  stressful - I could not  get past the girl in front of me - there were too many people in my lane (5/6) to get long enough to swim past her.  So I eventually swam under her.  She must have been surprised to see me bob up in front of her.  She was on my toes for the rest of the swim as I slowed down a bit... Biking:Thankfully someone had warned me about the start being steep so I had my bike in an easy gear.  This was the course (out and back).  I took it a bit too easy I think - I did the 17.5 km in 39:30.  Overtook people on the uphills, lost them on the downhills.  I must be able to fix that somehow next time. Running:Again, a bit of a bear of a course (the map is a bit short because it is a 5km, run in two loops).  Loved this. The hard bits were over with - this is where I was in my comfort zone.  Yes, it was my first ever 5K but hey - that was always going to be a PB then wasn't it?  The first hill took a bit of doing but I powered up it the second time much more confidently and really enjoyed the downhill.   22:45 overall which I was very happy with as a first 5K time. Can you see I'm happy?  Happy to be done as well. Nearly there!Transitions (apparently known as the fourth discipline in triathlon):took a bit of doing!  An extremely kind and helpful triathlete I had met at the pool in the week prior had emailed me his packing list and a list of everything he does on the day before and before the race to get ready.  Invaluable!  Made me feel much more in control.  A person setting up next to me offered to look over my bike and transition areas and helped me to set it all up a bit more efficiently.  I was a bit inefficient in my transitions - the times were 1:50 and 1:39 and I think I farted about a bit too much... Equipment: 2 days prior to the race I went to a local-ish tri shop to buy an all-in-one trisuit (am wearing it above). The trisuit was great once I got over the sensation that I was naked - I kept feeling I was in one of those nightmares where everyone else is dressed and you're not.  On the bike I threw over a long sleeved top (not really necessary though).  The seating area, however, was not so comfy on this short bike ride.  Do you think I could wear a proper pair of cycling shorts over the trisuit in a longer race?  Anyone ever done this?  I also bought a new wetsuit (on account of the fact that I could not squeeze myself into the old one I had) and this was a success insofar as wedging myself into a tight neoprene skin could ever be classed as a success.  There's a lake on the farm where we live so I went out in on Saturday.  Cold. COLD!  But just about manageable in[...]

A month of firsts


This has been a month of firsts.  And probably a lot of seconds, thirds etc.  And some things which just seem to happen ALL the time, forever (like not catching up on blogs, failing to tick everything off my to-do list).  But for the purpose of this blog and because you are no doubt bored of my excuses for not being up to do date on your blogs - let's focus on the firsts:First ever 54 mile bike ride - IN THE BAG! (Can you see that it says on the photo "please do not steal images"? Now I feel guilty.  But not guilty enough to buy it...It was wet and cold.  My triclub teammates said I was brave for wearing 3/4 length leggings.  I don't have full-length ones or I surely would have worn them.  But no matter - I had invested in a new pair of gloves and I was just psyched.  Before the race I experienced another first:Yes I had to get that folded up new tire on my back wheel.  Aarggh!But YouTube is a wonderful thing and I managed to take my back wheel off - I was SO afraid of doing that before AND I managed to replace the inner and the outer tube (a pothole had pushed a stone through both).The race (or rather a sportive, but when you're not racing why split hairs?) was great.  The hills were a bear, especially for someone who doesn't train on them but in a perverse way I enjoyed them.  When I was climbing I was working SO hard I could not think of anything else - it was almost meditative.  Apart from my very heavy breathing. We took a break after the first 20 miles and then ploughed on for the last 34, eventually all riding on our own at our own pace.  I was happy to complete the ride in just over 4 hours, feeling strong and still in one piece. I even managed a 10 minute brick run afterwards!The other - HUGE - first, is that I have got off my butt and made myself work at my personal training business.  I've really put some effort in some different directions and while one of them - a franchised group exercise setup - is beginning to look less appealing to me now, I think that the exercise of going through it and figuring out how to do it has proved extremely useful.  And as a result of feeling the fear and doing it anyway, I have my first 3 clients!  I'm on my way.And this weekend is the final first - for now - my first ever triathlon.  Like with the bike race I'm excited, not scared.  I know I can swim 400m now, I know I can cylce the distance, i know I can run a 5km race (is now a bad time to confess that I've never actually run an official 5k?) - so the question is just how I handle it.  Pacing and strategy is what it's all about, in my mind, and I'm going to see how I manage this.  I have a habit of taking things a bit too easy, so I'm going to push from the outset and see how I go.  And see how I handle the practicalities of the transitions - that bit does make me slightly nervous.. Race report to follow - I'm going back to my to-do list.  If I can do a tri, I can do anything.  And repeat.  [...]

why I do this


I've just come back from my 5 day skiing trip in Austria.  We had a wonderful holiday with lovely friends, good skiing (surprisingly good snow despite it being April) my goggles are crooked and the angle doesn't flatter me but hey - check out that run! and a very carb-heavy diet (do they even have vegetables in Austria?).  I developed quite the passion for Kaiserschmarrn which is a messy mixture of butter-fried dough, stewed plums and whipped cream.and here I thought that I didn't have a sweet tooth.  It takes more than a few hair raising black runs to make up for this.  One of my favourite things about going away is the opportunity it presents to look at your life from a distance - to contemplate where you are, where you're going and whether you are happy with the overall direction of your life.And I've come back very happy with everything. I was happy to be skiing, but also very happy to come home.  Not everything is perfect in my life (thankfully) but I'm lucky and happy and things are beginning to come together for me professionally.Getting to 40 has been an interesting journey.  The one area of my life where I have not felt I have ever found much contentment has been my professional life.  I have jumped all over the place in my life (BA English Literature, MA American Studies, then I worked as a commissioning editor for an academic publishing house, an IT trainer for a management consultancy, a web designer for a news website, a marketing director for a law firm).  Nothing has ever felt "right", which is not to say I haven't enjoyed the jobs themselves. I have written before - many times - about the mental shift that has accompanied training as a PT. Becoming a PT has been the culmination of a major personal journey which started with me taking up running as an overweight, direction-less new mother.  And I know I keep banging on about this, but the mental shift has been the most enormous thing and I realised on this holiday that I am still struggling with it.  I have some confidence in myself intellectually, but still lack it when it comes to being a PT.  Maybe this is because I was never a confident athlete as a child (I was not athletic, nor very competent) and maybe that's the time where our fundamental sense of who we are, or what we are good at, is shaped.  I grew up expecting to make my mark, professionally, in some kind of academic field - as a lecturer or a writer or an academic.  To find myself at 40 with a PT qualification is completely astonishing to me.  Or - in all honesty - getting the qualification was hard for all sorts of mainly practical reasons.  Actually starting work as a PT is much harder because I am putting the brakes on myself.  If I really look at myself - and stepping away from my day to day life on holiday allowed me that - I can see that I still lack the confidence to actually feel that I can help others, that I can tell others what to do when it comes to personal training. And I need to get over that.  And myself.  And believe in me - believe that I can be of help, of support, of use to others in their journeys to personal fitness regardless of their goals.  And belief is just that - there does not need to be proof, I just need to have faith.  Hmmm.  Tough. ( I have been trying to read The Secret and just cannot get through it - does anyone have any tips on something I can read which motivates, encourages belief and faith and doesn't sound so sappy?  I know this book has worked for so many people I respect and value but I just cannot take it seriously. )So why do I do it?  This training, this PT business?  Because, fundamentally, I believe (there we go again) that it is good to move beyond what you know.  Because it is exciting to see what you're capable of beyond what you thought you wer[...]

Everything's coming up roses.


Almost! I could waste yet another post telling you what's not working for me right now (I'm still not caught up on everyone's posts, have left it another month or so to blog, and my inbox is groaning - this whole zero inbox thing is so not working for me right now) BUT that's the train of negativity which has now left my station - things are looking up:my career is looking up - in the course of the past 2 weeks 3 different opportunities have come my way.  Interestingly, they are all things I haven't forced into happening but which have developed more slowly and, perhaps as a result, look like they are going to be right (for now).  (Does this mean I am going to have to learn to be patient rather than forcing things into existence?  Is this the kind of painful insight 40 years have brought me to?)  Watch this space - the reveal will come soon (when my kids are back at school and I can focus).  That flu-thing I had last time?  It knocked me out for a week but I recovered, got back into the saddle.  the coaching?  Is totally working.  There is NOTHING better than being told what to do.  (Am I actually saying that?  Perhaps it's only true when it comes to training).  My coach scrapped all workouts in the week when I was recovering from flu.  Had I not had her, I would have, no doubt, been back at it too soon.  As it was, there was nothing in Training Peaks so I didn't do anything.  And recovered.  And for the past 2 weeks I have been hitting it.  Hard - for me.  This half ironman training thing is no doozie - 8-9 hours of training a week and scanning ahead I can see 10+ hour weeks!  But 3 months into this stop start process of becoming a triathlete, I am feeling a bit better about things.  While I am still not fast in the pool, I can sense progress.  The bike is also getting better, if still not very fast.  And the running is good despite the volume being way lower than what I'm used to.  But more than that, I am beginning to get my head round it.  At the beginning I was just overwhelmed with the whole thing - swimming! biking! running! transition! bits of equipment that need to be bought! aaaaaargh!  The individual elements are now beginning to assume their correct size rather than the monster proportions they were taking up in my brain.  If coach tells me to swim 2000m I now know I can actually do that.  So I don't agonize over it for days.  I've even signed up for my first sportif - that just sounds so Tour de France! - in 3 weeks - 56 miles - and I'm mildly confident that I will make it round.  Whatever was going on with me in January / February - I feel I've turned a corner on it and am beginning to feel some semblance of direction and progress again.  Blogging has kind of taken a backseat while I've been leading my life, but I need to stay in touch because the stuff shared is the stuff I need more of in my life.  Take for instance this nugget which wonderful Meg shared in her blog this evening, with special reference to dealing with teenagers:  I had just emerged from a discussion with my teenager which started off not so well - I should have read Meg's blog first thing this evening because she advises strongly to bite your tongue which I didn't do.  However, after I did bite my tongue I did my best to listen, to not offer advice, and to help along the lines above.  It worked.  (I just showed her the quote above and she pointed out that what I said to her initially was none of the above.  Painful but true.  She then said that what she said to me in response was also none of the above.  Also true. Being a parent is more difficult than training.) Thank you Megsie - I needed you back! And on a practical note - a great big elephant in the roo[...]

Still on the team?


I was reading a blog post by one of my favourite running bloggers, Lauren Fleshman, where she writes about being part of a team and how it motivates her, and also how she feels when she is not part of the team (due to injury).  "But as the injury settles in, I slip further and further away. Emails from the team remain unopened (what does that have to do with me anyway?) Therapy appointments get scheduled right over practice times (I can’t run so why be there?) Before too long, a random run-in with a teammate at the grocery store becomes as awkward as a conversation with an ex-boyfriend. By eight weeks in, I might as well be shacking up in the Maldives. I’m totally gone."I've not been injured recently, but I've definitely spent time away from my team.  You lot.  The other runners / triathletes / active folk out there, training for races and events and pushing yourselves in so many different type-A ways.  I've not been blogging, I've not been commenting, I've not been reading, I've not even been FaceBooking - I have just been out of it.I've tried to put my finger on why I've felt so out of it. I think some of it has to do with feeling lacking in purpose.  Everyone else is gearing up for a race and I'm trying to get on with some non-running goals.  Deferring the VLM was the smart thing to do, but it also took a goal and a purpose away.  And while I have a goal, athletically, in the half ironman,  I was very much grappling with how to attack that goal.  Bite-sized chunks, sure enough, but it's surprising how un-prescriptive triathlon training from books is, compared to running training from books.  And my friendly coach-but-not-a-coach had given me an impressive training schedule but I still struggled with whether I could move things around, how I measured intensity and generally this feeling of "am I doing this right, teacher?". The smart thing to do would have been, obviously, to stick with the team - you - and ask you for advice.  But instead I sank into a little slough of despond all of my own making and just flailed around for a bit.  I drafted quite a few blog posts, tried to respond to a meme I was invited to answer but couldn't find any enthousiasm for it (10 interesting things about me?  I don't think there are any). And then last week I got a grip of myself.  Yes, I still have some things to sort out before my PT business can get started - some within and some outside of my control.  I am the world's worst procrastinator when it comes to finishing my website.  That's one thing.  But I can stop flailing around when it comes to triathlon training and ask for some help.  And so I did.  I got a coach.  An amazingly heavy weight feels like it has dropped off my shoulders.  I don't have to figure it all out myself!  I do what she tells me to do.  If it's too hard, I tell her and she adjusts the next workout.  If it's too easy, same deal.  My son has been home ill with flu and Tuesday evening I felt myself going downhill.  Had I not had a coach, I would have taken myself off to the pool as planned (because if I don't do a workout it proves what a bad person / procrastinator / useless athlete I am, right?).  However, I emailed her and she told me not to go.  I went to bed early and woke up yesterday in the throws of flu.  Unlike last year, I didn't waste any time in going to the doctor and getting my beginning chest infection diagnosed.  And I'm not panicking about missed training either - I have months to go before my race and my coach will help me to sort out my workouts. So I'm back - back on the team.  I have a goal, and a plan.  Not flailing but waving.  Back on top![...]



Yes it doesn't always rain / snow / sleet on my parade at newbie triathlete training towers.  I have various bits of news and insight to (over) share with you but why not start with the good news - I had a breakthrough swimming session this week! I missed Monday's swim class again, this time due to freezing fog.  But I made a vow to get to the pool on Tuesday and I did.  I had told the person advising me on triathlon (not a coach, not a coach, but basically a coach) that I was going to "swim 200s" and he agreed.  Sounds like I know what I'm doing right?  I got to the pool feeling nervous - I just tend to get very tired very quickly when swimming and swimming 200m without stopping, several times, was not something I was confident about.  However, another swim coach keeps telling me to slow down in the pool and while warming up I had this blinding insight - that I could not run until I really slowed down.  Maybe the same would work with swimming?  I tend to pump my legs frantically in the pool and so made a real effort to slow down.  And I did.  And I did it.  I did 4 x 200m and then even added on a 400m - all fine.  I could have carried on! No land speed records were broken (400m takes me about 10 minutes - I know!) but nonetheless - for the first time I thought - I am going to be able to get to the 1900m in the next 7 months.  I will manage it.  Amazing. I have been on a high about this for days.  The other stuff - well meh.  Let me bulletpoint it for you: Virgin London marathon?  I've pulled out.  I can defer my place till next year and I found training for a marathon as well as trying to improve my biking / swimming too much.  I don't think I would have done the marathon much justice and I'm not interested in "just getting round".  A good-for-age place is an honour, like a Boston qualifier, and I want to give it my all.  In 2013. Business?  Hmm.  Eating the elephant in small bites is probably the best way to put it.  I'm not being as productive / effective as I need to be with this but will figure out just quite how and why I'm holding back and then share.  Actually, come on, let's face it.  It's still that pure fear.  I'm working on ignoring it, focusing on what needs to be done, not allowing myself to get distracted (I briefly tried to add yoga teacher to my qualifications but was made to realise by a good friend who knows me that this was just a strategy to avoid getting my head down and doing my PT).  I'm plugging away at myself though and will continue to.  I will wear my insecure self down and do it anyway.  Biking.  Ah.  This is where I need some triathlete advice.  I bought a trainer, set it up, worked out how to use my bike computer (and this is the compressed version - both the trainer AND my bike computer were accompanied by diabolically badly written manuals so there was a fair amount of sighing, swearing, and checking out stuff on the internet before everything worked).  Now I am trying to figure out how to do workouts on the bike trainer.  I bought a Sufferfest download and I enjoyed it - though found the workout HARD!  I struggle with motivation and keep telling myself that if I can run on a treadmill I can do this too...  But it's not easy.  Tips / advice?  I've tried watching my tween's Ugly Betty boxset but it doesn't get me in the mood - I think I need motivational bike stuff.  And Universal Sports does not appear to work here... I've just ordered a Spinervals DVD but am open to any other suggestions you might have. So - things are a bit mixed.  I am still working on my half ironman training schedule - trying to put something together tha[...]

half ironman half shmironman. Or no comfort zones.


I've just come back to my computer on a rainy Tuesday.  After a failed workout.  I had 2 hours on the bike on hills in my schedule and woke up at 6 this morning determined to make it happen. Had breakfast, got dressed, got the bike packed into my car (not easy as it's a mini) and headed about 10 miles away from here where rolling hills begin.  I waited for it to get light and found, to my dismay, that the day was grey.  As I got into my first mile I was very conscious that I had no lights on my bike or myself (although my jacket is a fairly luminous orange).  The second mile in I realised I was struggling to get out of my bike clips.  This is a permanent low-grade fear of mine - not being able to clip out - which can escalate quickly at any provocation.  This was such a provocation.  I talked myself down, out of the clips and got my toolkit out to see if I could loosen the clips.  Didn't have the right size allen key (although my clips are already pretty low on their setting I still struggle to get out).  And I then proceeded to have a minor panic attack.  The hills I was intending to climb in this grey drizzle are pretty steep and the thought of not being able to get off my bike if it got too hard, combined with my fear that I was not visible enough in the drizzle due to not having any lights meant that I got on my bike, turned around, and headed back to my car.  Head hung in shame, but I couldn't do this. I'm all for the cheesy inspirational quotes.  I love Oprah, I encourage others daily, I have a Lulumemon bag hanging on my wall to inspire me ("floss! Do something that scares you!").  I believe in it - I believe in not getting too comfortable with what you already know, in constantly pushing on and beyond yourself. But in the last few weeks I have found myself, on a few occasions, sitting in my car in the same situation as this morning.  Panic struck.  Terrified. Close to tears.  Unable to move forward or ahead. I hate the expression "comfort zone".  But it's very descriptive.  And I've spent so little time there in the past 6 months that I'm hyperventilating a little with all the "doing things that scare me".  I feel I've done little but do things that scare me.  Doing the course in London terrified me.  It terrified me because I was nearly the oldest one there, and was afraid of being thought ridiculous for even thinking I could do this.  It terrified me because so much of the material we covered, practically and theoretically, was new to me.  Mostly it terrified me because becoming a personal trainer is something I want to do so much and doing something you want so much can be very scary - the thought of failing at something you really want is so much more scary than failing at something you don't care about.  But I did it.  I passed every subject, practical and theoretical, the first time round.  And I came home and thankfully my family was still there, they all survived without me around as much.  Home was, and is, very much a comfort zone. But still the scary stuff continues.  Starting a new business? Scary.  And this half ironman training?  It's entirely utterly terrifying.  What doesn't help is that I am such a beginner at this.  Just working out my training schedule makes my head hurt.  Thankfully I have a coach who has been a huge help but my new training schedule is - you guessed it - scary. Most of the time I can pull myself together and tell myself to have faith.  To have faith that breaking down the elements I need to put my business in place will eventually result in me having a business. To have faith that all the sessions in the gym, in the poo[...]



(Apologies - it's a long one).Big hairy-assed goals, or BHAGs, are a recurring feature in my life.  If I'm feeling down or just a bit meh, that's the time to catch me.  Suggest something crazy to me, anything crazy, and I'll do it. Generally it works.  I've LONG been a believer in the Opposite of Me and while BHAGs aren't necessarily the opposite of me they tend to serve the same function of shaking something (me) loose and up and onward.  They basically kick me into action when I need it. But the thing about BHAGs is they are all those things - big and hairy-assed - scary.  And so right now I'm staring at two great BHAGs and trying to figure out how to tackle them.BHAG number 1 is setting up my own business.  Oh, I've sort of dabbled in that before but not in any concerted way and not with something I felt as passionately about as my personal training.  It matters so much more, and is therefore so much more scary and hairy-assed.  I waste enough of my life over at to know that the way to handle panic-inducing goals is to break them down into doable steps.  I'm doing it, folks.  I've qualified, applied for my certification and insurance, am seeing the bank on Thursday and am working on a website.  Making everything into lists is helping me enormously - keeping my head down and working through stuff point-to-point is going well and it's only when I look up that I am caught in the headlights and start panicking (what if nobody wants to hire me?  what if I'm no good?), so I'm trying to avoid looking up too much. BHAG number 2 - ah.  Waaay back in late November I was getting frustrated with the lack of structure in direction in my training.  Although I had the London marathon on my horizon this April, my training was not happening (enough) and I felt I lacked purpose.  You might have told me that I didn't lack purpose, that traveling up and down to London and doing this course and the studying and being away from my family and all was kind of eating up my time and energy and that this was okay.  And you would have been right.  But you weren't there when they emailed me that the Vitruvian half Ironman was expected to fill up within a day of opening.  Nor did you hide my credit card.  So yes, I signed up for a half Ironman in September of this year.  And all through December it seemed to be working - as a kick.  I got stuck in and started an 18 week 55 mile per week plan (from my beloved Advanced Marathoning - it really does work for me) and contacted the local Lincoln Tri club and asked to join their swimming lessons. (Quick aside - I've mentioned before how I am really not much of a "club" person.  I like to run alone and train alone, at times that suit me and that fit in with everything else in my life.  I do realise, however, that I need "proper", "good" swimming coaching.  And oh my word - have I found it.  I am the slowest, worst swimmer in the pool and yet, and yet - I am getting great coaching from the coaches and everyone else is incredibly kind and encouraging.  So far, I have not missed a session and most weeks I've managed to get to the pool for a practise session as well.  So this bodes well!)But yes.  There is a very big hairy-assed element to this half ironman.  In September of this year I want to get through a 1900m open water swim, an 81km bikeride and a 21km swim without falling to pieces.  I am realistic enough to know that just getting round is going to be my goal.  And the 21km run should be fine.  The 1900m swim and the 81km bikeride though - there's a different thing.  At present I can't actually swim that distance, nor ride that di[...]

Is it Petra? Or just some crazy woman chasing her tail?


No it's me.  Absolutely me.  I know!  You thought I'd disappeared into nothingness / blissful domesticity / fallen off a train / was now giving that irritating Tracy Anderson a run for her money.  All of the above, in good time, my people.  Well, maybe not the blissful domesticity.  But let's just summarise:I have finished - FINISHED - my Advanced PT course at the YMCA in London which was wonderful and intense and challenging.  I have stopped commuting up and down to London and landing myself on beloved friends for bed / food / general physical and emotional sustenance.  I think they are still my friends.  I have unpacked my MOTHER of all bags which I dragged up and down to London every other week for the last time, inevitable without at least 3 essential items.  Oh and I'm not giving up on blogging.  I'm not quite sure whether I should somehow chase a bigger readership (views?) and not quite sure how so we'll park that thought for a while.  I'm not quite sure how much to separate my future professional online presence from my blog (in your view, would it detract from your view of your personal trainer if she put her fears, worries and insecurities out there or would you relate to that?) But strangely enough, without blogging there was no blogworld accountability and without blogworld accountability my running dries up, as does my running mojo.  So for the few of you who are still reading this - I'm back.  For the longest time it felt like my course was all-consuming.  When I was not in London, away from the family and my home, and studying etc, I was at home trying to pick up at least a few of my dropped balls and revising for all the various exams.  (In the past 3 months it has become apparent to me that I paid NO attention at all - EVER - in biology and science.  ALL the anatomy and physiology was ENTIRELY new to me).  There were some highlights - at the end of November long-time blog buddy and friend Susan honoured me with a visit all the way from Memphis: Us about to set out on a run that was YEARS in the makingAnd by 2 weeks ago, I was feeling sufficiently on top of things (or able to ignore sufficient pressing demands on me) to think about London.  April 2012, I've got a place, I've got to get my stuff together.  All this cross-training malarkey (on my course I found myself doing aerobics / plyometrics / bootcamp workouts etc) is good and well but to train for a marathon you have to go out and run.  And so 2 weeks ago I started on my 18 week up to 55M Pfitzinger plan.  Yes, tried and tested.  By me.  It seems to work, seems to push me.  And while I would like to think that one day I'll upgrade to higher mileage, given the sporadic nature of my running so far this season that would not be realistic.  So week 1 went great - much better than expected.  Yep - I even went out in the dark, headlight and reflective gear on.  Week 2, repeat of week 1 but now in London so on top of a full courseload and "social" commitments went not quite so well.  I slugged out an 8 miler with 4M at sub 8min/mile pace, stopping and starting, and I contemplated giving it up altogether, but didn't.  My 9 miler was uneventful, but slow.  And now, in week 2, I've lost my copy of Advanced Marathoning (doh) and I'm googling the schedule until I find it again.   Slick moves eh? And in further developments, I decided in November that I needed to broaden my sporting horizon.  Yes - triathlon.  And not just any triathlon - a goal is not a goal unless it is a great big hairy-assed one - I signed up for a half ironman.  I am well aware that this y[...]

I'll march my band out.


I have spent a long time agonising over this evening.  I'm 40 tomorrow and I know I should be freaked out about this.

But you've all been reading this blog for some time now.  Midlife crisis?  I think I've covered it.  The past 2 years have been rough in so many ways (though, thankfully, good in so many other ways) that life lessons have been learned at a fast pace.  I've been as close to rock bottom mentally as I've ever been, but I've also emerged, and - you'll all be relieved to hear - I've emerged stronger and more in alignment with the person I really am.

I haven't posted in a month for a number of reasons.  Firstly because between commuting to London every other week, doing full days at my course, revising for exams inbetween and then dealing with all the family life stuff that had been left undone while I was in London there was little time for anything else...  Secondly because I haven't really been training.  My ambition of training for a fast marathon (primarily to beat Sarah Palin's 1:45 recent half marathon time) has disappeared - doing a full-blown plan on top of a course that involves daily workouts which cover the range between finding your 1 rep max on resistance machines, learning how to teach "proper pushups" (I can't even do them myself), and experimenting with different methods of interval training, has just proved impossible.  Instead, I've reduced my almost daily runs to 5 miles of mostly easy work and have allowed myself a weekly 25 miles until halfway through November, when I'm going to have to nudge that up a bit... And thirdly because I've been wondering whether there is still any point in blogging.  I've been blogging for years - do I still have anything to add to this medium?  Am I offering anything others aren't offering, better and with more sponsorship, readers and support?  I don't really know the answer to the latter question.  I'm not sure how much it matters.  All I know is that when I think of stopping blogging, it makes me sad.  I have made many "real friends" and learned everything I know about running through it.  There is a huge community out there that I feel a part of.  So for now - I haven't given up on it, however sporadic my forays might be...

But onwards people.  I'm 40 tomorrow and I'm excited.  It's all good.  There's been some rain on my parade in the past but tomorrow I'm marching my band out.  And for you - younger readers - don't worry about it.  It's all good.  Yes - it takes my face a good hour to lose the impression of my pillow on my face in the morning.  But who cares.  Life truly, truly is juicy - and it gets juicier! - and I'm really having my bite.  Doing this course is the most energising, right thing for me to do - and it's good for me even if it is tough to be away from the kids and Adam and home.  I'm passionate about pursuing this career and can't wait to get started on it.

So once again - I'm going to catch up on everything in due course - and on you.  I promise.  Life won't be this crazy forever.  I'll be checking in - and then I'll truly be back.  40 - and loving it.



Oh my friends.  It has once again been two weeks and I am feeling somewhat stuck.  And overwhelmed.  There is SO much going on and I'm just not quite sure where to start, and how to start it. A list will help, right?I started my course at the YMCA in Tottenham Court Road, Central London.  It is wonderful.  It is interesting, amazing to do physical exercise as part of your learning, fun new people to meet.  But challenging on every level.  It has been a long time since I had this much to learn (last time I took classes there was no internet.  Or mobile phones, really).  So I'm struggling to get my revision in.  The opportunities for procrastination are bigger, much bigger. The kids have both started new schools.  They're both doing great - so far - but I've been hanging onto my anxieties about them both.  A friend told me once that you're only as happy as your unhappiest child.  As they're happy right now this thankfully is not an issue, but still. I like to worry in preparation. admin.  Sheesh.  I put all my admin and correspondence to one side the last week of the holidays so I could get all the kids' stuff together for school.  In this country everything has to be labelled.  With sew-on labels.  I don't really sew.  Well, I didn't.  I worked out how to use a sewing machine (practise makes perfect) and can even label socks.  Which is good, because there were lots.  But while labelling socks the post pile just grew and I'm only just emerging from underneath.  And then there's all the stuff I want to do - move my blog to WordPress yadda yadda yadda.  running.  Hrmm.  My running has been on and off all summer.  Off first, because I was recovering from bronchitis.  Then there weeks of 40 miles, and weeks of 10 miles.  Days where I thought what I needed was a target marathon in November and days where I thought I needed that like a hole in the head.  My course has not helped - the first module we are working on is gym instructor (hmm.  Let's say that is not my dream) and so due to the fact that I don't really do anything in a gym other than run I am having to familiarise myself with all the machines, how to safely use it, how to safely train others to use it, and then there's all the weights exercises.  I need to know what they are all called - suffice it to say that I've been in the gym most days slightly panicked at the practical stuff I need to learn (the theory is meaty too but I addressed that worry in my first bullet point).  This takes up a LOT of time and also, the gym I use in London limits the use of treadmills to 25 minutes.  Sheesh.  food.  Hmm.  I am not on the healthy food wagon and need to get back on it.  'Nuff said.  sleep.  All this messiness is wreaking havoc with my sleep.  Which doesn't help me sort out the messiness. Basically, I need to do what I need to do on a regular basis. Stop where I am.  Stop regretting what I have not done, angsting over things done wrong or not achieved and get a grip.  Move on.  Start. So here I am, starting.  Planning the way ahead. to organise my revision and admin time, I'm using focus booster.  25 minutes revision, 5 minutes downtime, then 25 minutes more revision or admin, 5 minutes downtime.  Worked with it today and it's good.  I can envisage 25 minutes of revision.  Running.  I'm going to train for a half-marathon in December.  At the moment my schedule, 5 days 9-5 at the YMCA in London, then 9 days back home, with a [...]

this girl's back in town.


6 weeks! Oh, I know. I have been a crappy blogger.  And I could think of a whole realm of excuses (and I do, actually, have them lined up) but actually - that's ridiculous. I haven't blogged all summer because for a great number of reasons my attention has been elsewhere, with other people.  It's been good to take a break - I've consciously spent less time on FaceBook and I've even sold my beloved iPhone 4 because I felt I was just spending too much time fiddling about with it (I don't care how BlackBerry tries to sell itself, those phones aren't nearly as sexy as iPhones.  Just what I need).And while it's been really good to spend the time away from my screen and with lots of good real people, I have also missed the real friends I have out there in the blog and FB world, and I have missed the contact and accountability that comes from keeping my blog and reading yours.  So within the next week or so (give me a chance, both kids are starting new schools so there is an ocean of labelling to be done) I will be back with you all, finding out what you've been doing.And so - if I wasn't on FaceBook or messing about with my iPhone, what did I do this summer?  The highlight has to be my trip to Oregon.  Way back in January, I asked on this blog what you would suggest I do to celebrate this year where I turn 40 and Jen immediately emailed me and invited me to run the Cascade Lakes Relay with herself and her husband and their team.  My immediate reaction to this invitation was "yes" and so, on August 3rd I set off for Portland.  The trip was wonderful from the first day to the last.  My first hosts, Zach and Jen, went out of their way to welcome me into their home and show me the sights of Portland before we set off for Bend on the Thursday evening.  There I met the whole team (Left, Right, Repeat) before hitting my bunkbed.  Our van was the first to start, and so by 8:30 we were in Diamond Lake in the cold morning, waiting for our first runner to start.  And then the whole event just - happened.  It was an intense, fun, funny, tiring, emotional roller coaster - there was such a relentless pace to the whole thing and yet there was so much down-time.  The physical proximity of us all in the van meant we had in-jokes from 5 minutes in, the support we all showed each other during the legs was incredible.  There were so many highlights but things I will never forget: Deana and I at the start Van 1 - ready to go! (Sean, Kevin, me, Jen, Zach and Deana)  Look at that heel strike!  Waiting to finish our first leg (me, Jen and Deana) Oh coffee - you're almost better than sleep.. Thank you Jen... I'm out on that dock - this was how we waited for Van 2 to finish..  starting on my first leg (unsupported by our van as it was off-road) and being warned there were rattlesnakes but they apparently "are more scared of us than we are of them".  This is the kind of stuff I tell my kids and even they don't believe it...  It put a spring in my step for sure. running the night-time leg in the cold under the enormous starlit skies of central Oregon, with the marshalls following us on horseback; having a shower and a flushing toilet at the high-school gym where we could sleep for 2 hours; having an egg mcmuffin and a coffee on our way out to start our last legs - never has junkfood tasted SO good; Jen jumping out of the van and keeping me company on the tough last leg.  Only 4 miles but it was so hilly and so hot and so high - it took everything I had not to stop and walk.   But really - the thing I will [...]

The phoenix rises!


I am, finally, well.  I am, finally, back on the road.  I listened to everyone who told me to wait until the doctor said "go!", to go slow, to take it easy.  I did ALL that.  And man, was it hard! Not at the beginning, when I felt so wiped out that taking it slow was fine.  But after a while I was desperate to get out there.  Desperate! 

But while my time off has made me less fit, has added some pounds and made me overall a little softer, a little rounder, I didn't entirely let this time go to waste.  One of my lurking friends emailed me immediately after my last post and suggested I retrain as a personal trainer.  I have been thinking about training as a running or tri coach for a while, had googled personal training courses but nothing had really stuck with me.  I think the personal trainers at my gym (= muppets) really put me off.  They are mostly quite sweet but so young, so annoyingly one-dimensional, so incredibly unable to get anything that does not take place within the gym.  (Marathon training?  Uh - you need to go outside for that?).  Yes I know - a snap judgment.  But this friend referred me straight to a credible course and qualification (YMCA) and pointed out that I could so easily run bootcamps and training camps and all sorts of things out here on the farm where I live.  I have space in my house to convert a room into a gym - I'm all set!  So I have spent the past 3 weeks researching this option, working out a business plan, talking to another personal trainer who lives nearby and who has been incredibly helpful and supportive and generally laying the foundations for this plan.  I am hoping that I can start the program in September - there are still some glitches to work out timing-wise and logistically with my family but things are looking positive..

And in the meantime my chest x-ray came back clear, my bloodwork came back fine except for my old friend anemia, and so with iron pills in my hand I am making my way back.  15 miles last week and I'm hoping to get a good 25 in this week.  Our summer holidays are finally beginning (11 year old is home, 8 year old has another 10 days to go) and life is a flurry of activity for them but I'm used to this - I can get my workouts in.  Only 2 weeks to go till I head out to Portland for the Cascade Lakes Relay so I'm intending to get some twofers in this week (5 in the am, 3 in the pm) and then keep them up next week.  My speed is not great at the moment and I am concentrating on the endurance rather than the speed for this race - with so little time to go I think I just need to ensure I can cover the distances rather than try to cover them fast.  Right Jen? 

So all is good.  I am WEEKS behind on all of your blogs but about to head over there now to see what has been going on.  The future is bright!

Oh - and in an attempt to stop me running (as if) one of my friends managed to convince me to go riding for the first time in my life....  It's fine but I don't think you sweat enough. 



Since my last post, my health has improved a bit, but not enough.  I have been back to the doctor's and am waiting for results from a chest x-ray and bloodtests.  I won't bore you with the details or the symptoms but as much as I hope to wake up every morning feeling ready for the world and fully recovered, it has not happened yet.  Whatever is going on, I clearly have to take it easy for the time being.Which means my tri training did not start yesterday. I tried 10 minutes of yoga on Sunday and collapsed in a coughing fit, so I know that getting out on the bike / run / in the pool would be madness.  Which leaves me - well - reassessing?I'm not making any major decisions yet re the tri in July - I either will or I won't be able to train for it, so I either will or won't do it.  I am definitely heading out to Oregon for the relay in August, however - I've swallowed my pride and Jen and Zach are allocating me some of the shorter legs.  No PRs but plenty of fun - I am ready for that. As for longer term - a few weeks ago I was batting around the idea of a November marathon.  But I've pulled out of my London-Paris bikeride, I've pulled out of a 100K bikeride I was due to do in 10 days, I may be pulling out of my tri - right now I'm not committing to anything until I actually feel better.Prudence (a voice I seldom listen to but she has a way of being right) tells me that when I do eventually feel better - and I'm officially off exercise for another 2 weeks - I will have lost a lot of fitness and need to build things back up slowly.  My osteopath has advised me to find some shorter races to run - perhaps to run 2 or 3 half marathons in October and November and to use those to get my speed and endurance back before starting London marathon training again in December.  I will have to see. What this episode has made me realise, more than anything else though, is just how much I take my health for granted. I have been sidelined from training through injury before, but never this long due to illness.  Cross-training is not an option - there is no form of physical exercise I can take part in right now, other than walking - and as you might expect, I am struggling with this. I know in my head that running has been a big part of how I identify myself and feel good about myself - now I can feel it in my heart, because I don't feel the same.  This is no earth-shattering insight - I imagine that two good runinng blogging buddies of mine, Miss Zippy and Jill, who have both been sidelined from running for a long time, can relate to this.  What it's also allowed me to see, and this is a somewhat more disturbing insight, is that I have for some time being using running and training as a way not to focus on much else.  I have been a stay-at-home mother on and off now for years - there was a 2 year period where I worked out of the home and I've taken on various freelance jobs when they've come along - but all in all I have not taken my career - such as it is - very seriously in the last 11 years.  And while that was fine for a while, and running was enough of a focus for me to be able to handle being a stay-at-home mother, my situation is changing now and I want to find a fulfilling and flexible career for myself.  It's a scary situation to face up to but I'm trying to muster the confidence and courage that running has given me and apply it to the rest of my life.All of this will, I'm sure, be easier once I'm able to run again to take the pressure off...  In the meantime, I'm going to be brave and face the fut[...]

Bring back the balance - when can I start training again?


Okay, so I've got this )(*(&*^*%^& chest infection and I've cancelled my London to Paris bikeride.   Of course my doctor told me not to cycle London to Paris when I saw her on Monday.  Given that I was running a temperature and had creaky lungs there was no surprise there but honestly, in my madness, I was still thinking "maybe?".  But don't worry people, if the doctor hadn't put the kibbosh on my racing plans, friends and family made sure to do so very quickly.  Of course - 5 days after starting my antibiotics I am perking up.  Out of bed, halfway human again.  Still partly thinking that maybe I could have done?  But given that I pant when I climb up the stairs I know, I know.  So I am being prudent (SO boring) and taking 2 weeks off - a whole other 10 days to go! - and getting a proper examination before I slowly go back to exercise (I hope). Anyway - that's by the by.  I'm not the only person who's ever had to sit out an event, and it's happened to me before - I'll get over it. But here's what gets my goat.  Many people have said to me, when they found out I was ill, that I was ill because "I do so much exercise".  In their eyes, I think, I wear myself out and "overdo" it.  My initial reaction at these comments is intense irritation and anger and I throw it back at them - I like exercising, I like training and anyway - I know a large amount of people (most of you) who train harder than I do and dedicate more of your lives to your sport than I do.  But reflecting on my reaction I realise that it's not really what people say to me that matters as much as what I feel they're attacking.  I realise that I get so angry because I feel like they are asking me to cut back on something, often the main thing, that I do in life for my own self-fulfillment and enjoyment.  Like many of you, I have a family and friends and a home and personal issues and occasionally a job that put demands on me.  All of these are good things and I am lucky to have them, lucky to be wanted and needed in so many different ways.  But sometimes I feel pulled in too many different directions.  When I'm asked to be somewhere for someone I go, almost without questioning.  And the more demands that are placed on me, the less I tend to question whether I should always accede to them, the more I just tend to flip from one to the other.  Yes - I find it hard to say no.  As far as this chest infection goes - who knows what caused it?  Maybe running Boston was tougher than I thought, I was tired afterwards and flew home on a germy plane,  I didn't take enough time off before starting up running again.  All true.  But I can tell you that in the last few weeks I was feeling increasingly overwhelmed by the rest of my life and how tiring that was.  I spent very little time exercising precisely because I was doing so much other stuff.  And I was beginning to long for a training schedule because I know how dedicated I am to following a schedule and how, when I'm training, I make smarter decisions on which of the demands from the rest of my life I should be responding to.  When I'm in training, I know I have limited time for the rest of stuff and so I am focused and directed.  So - in contrast to what people say to me - I think that training actually forces me to balance my life.  And makes me happy.  So as soon as I can, I will get my training head back on. can you see one of the sweet things in the rest of my [...]

Man macht und Gott Lacht - part two


So yes - I have not blogged much.  I've been absent from FaceBook (no bad thing) and have not commented much on your blogs (a bad thing - I'm sorry).  I don't know about you but in the weeks leading up to an A race, the rest of my life seems to go by the wayside.  The focus is on my race.  And then - when it's over - the rest of my life comes roaring back at me.  So that has some been some of what I've been doing.  Kids stuff, house stuff, admin stuff etc.  Workout-wise I have been on my bike as much as I can, and I find it SO much more time-consuming than running so even less time for blogging.  Enjoyable, but time-consuming. Expensive too!  In the past weeks I've invested in a new pair of bike shorts (needed more than one pair for a 3 day trip, after all), a waterproof jacket (found out on my one ride in the rain that the jacket I have is not waterproof), and various smaller bits which all seem to have added up. On the upside, I look very cool.And then there's something I haven't really blogged much about because I kind of didn't want to think about it.  I told you I had a chest infection after Boston.  Something like that (an infection after exhaustion after a serious effort) was to be expected so I didn't really pay it much heed, took my antibiotics and got back to my life.  Over the past 5 weeks I had noticed that my runs were slow, that I was still coughing on my bike and on my runs, but I thought I was on the road to recovery.  However, this Friday I woke up in the night with a pounding headache and by Saturday morning I felt totally lousy again.  Last night my husband took me to the duty doctor at the hospital and yep - my chest infection is back, or never really went away really.  This time I have been put on more powerful antibiotics which I'm hopeful about as Adam, who has also been suffering has finally improved after being on these particular antibiotics and an inhaler.  So here I am - 4 days before I'm meant to set off on an endurance event (230 miles in 3 days) and I'm in bed feeling lousy.  Am I going to do it?  I don't know.  I'm going to see my own doctor tomorrow and get her advice on it but I do realise it's beginning to look unlikely.  Right now I can't even imagine getting on my bike, let alone riding it for hours for 3 days.  But on the other hand, it's an event I was looking forward to and, more importantly, it's a fundraising event for a cause I feel very strongly about and I am really unhappy about dropping out of it.  Right now, I guess, it's out of my control.  I'll have to see how much I pick up in the next few days.For those of you who have already donated - thank you.  Regardless of whether I'm able to cycle the challenge, the money will be going directly to JDRF and will go towards finding a cure for diabetes.  For those of you who have not yet donated, it's not too late and, as of yesterday, my friend Martha's parents are matching the contributions made on either the UK or the US website.No shocking insights to share with you this post other than listen to your body - don't end up doing what I've done and go out there too quickly after you've been ill. I very much hope that I will still be able to ride this week but even if I do, I will not be doing it with the fitness I would have liked.  So it goes.Good luck to all of you out there who are racing in these next few weeks (or raced them yesterday, Jen and Amanda) and as I am now bed-ridden I hope to be[...]

A bigger goal. A better goal


I know, I know.  3 weeks!  It's been a long time since I posted my Boston race report - it's 5 weeks since Boston on Monday (I'm still counting, still picking up my pedal, still have my victorious finisher's photo on my desk.  Privately, I'm still basking).  But in these weeks I've been doing the following:being ill for a while longer after my last blog post - my hacking cough follows me to this day. yo-yoing mentally from being thrilled at my Boston race to panicking about my future.  What's next?  What's my new focus?  Faster?  Better?  Longer?  Further?  just some general existential angst, yadda yadda yadda.  a university reunion.  I was nervous about going but it was wonderful.  Empowering.  It's been a long time - nearly 20 years - and there have ups and downs for everyone, but we're still here and we're all excited about the future.  40 is truly something to look forward to. a half-marathon.  Yes - the usual White Peak half-marathon which I ran with Drusy, Nigel, Steve, Gary, Simon and first-time half-marathoner and friend Brad.  Given that Brad ran a 2:04 on almost no training Gary has uninvited him from future races.  I ran a 2:03 - a slight meh time  when I've run a 1:45 here before but I've run 12 miles in total since Boston and spent way too much time listening to Gary's gruesome real-life CSI stories along the way.  Goal-wise, there is stuff on the horizon.  My first tri at the end of July.  I made the decision to stop going to my swimming classes, as we never get much swimming in or concentrate on any drills and strokes and am instead relying on books and YouTube.  Yeah, well, whatever.  I have a relay race in August in Oregon - a little bucket trip that I squidged into the family budget and timeline.  7 days during which I run the Cascade Lakes relay with my lovely friends Jen and Zach and a whole bunch of other yet-to-be-met friends, and get to catch up with sweet Emily and maybe even Amanda and drink some beer and some coffee and buy some books - I am VERY excited.   But you know how you can just hang around and whine and just not feel altogether right?  Maybe not.  Well that's what I was doing.  Feeling sorry for myself.  And then someone really went ahead and tried to make me unhappy.  And I got really hurt and really sad.  And then really angry.  And then I decided - enough.  Enough of me.  Sometimes when you're feeling at your lowest you have to go out there and help someone else.  A few years ago I asked a very wonderful friend of mine, Martha, what her dream was (I think I was sober, just in that kind of mood).  And she told me, after a moment's thought, "an end to diabetes".  Martha has suffered from Type 1 Diabetes for over 33 years and is one of the most admirable, least self-obsessed and self-pitying people I know.  She has got on with her life, despite its challenges, has moved around the world, has an impressive career and a lovely family.  She gives very generously of her time to lots of charities.  And following on from my question, she asked me last year to go on a bikeride with her from London to Paris to raise funds for JDRF (the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) to help them to find a cure for diabetes.  I said "yes" immediately (again, I was sober).  And people - the moment for our trip is nearly here.  I have foc[...]

learning my lessons - or will I ever?


MIA again - I'm sorry.  Shortly after posting my Boston race report I went to the doctor's office with an increasingly annoying cough and was diagnosed with a chest infection, given a course of antibiotics and told to take a week off exercising and to take it easy.  Not my natural mode of being and not what I wanted, but I was feeling so lousy that I listened and did it.  The downtime did give me plenty of opportunity, however, to go over and analyse my marathon and my training and to work out what did, and what didn't work.  Let's start with the one thing that didn't work:my pacing.  In all brutal honesty, I never quite believed I was capable of a 3:40 marathon.  I struggled with the 8:20 min/mile all winter.  Not that I couldn't do it, but it was harder than it should have been for a marathon pace.  I couldn't pull it out during my 20 mile race, and I never "slotted into" the pace during training, the way you should.  It's chicken and egg, I know, but I never had the true belief that I could run this pace for a marathon, and if you can't believe it, you won't do it.  Quite that simple. My coach did what she could to instill confidence in me, but I just wasn't quite there.  As it was, I did actually run on pace for the first 14M.  But my legs were starting to cramp there already, a sign I would have to slow things down to finish at all..  So I don't think that, on the day, I had that pace in me.  If I had been really honest with myself, I would have acknowledged that on the day (because I did know that) and would have set out for an 8:25 - 8:30 min/mile pace.  Small difference, but I think I could have held on to that pace for longer.  There is no question for me that I need to focus more on the mental aspects of running and racing.  Ginny recommended Running Within, which I've started reading, to help with that.  I'll keep you posted.  Ironically - having said everything I've said above - after running Boston I think that I could actually run a 3:40 marathon in the future.  Now the things that did work: Nutrition.  A big fat success mark here.  I have struggled in previous marathons with nausea which prevented me from taking any nutrition on after the halfway mark.  In addition, I often found I needed to use portapotties, or bushes, during the race.  Not this time!  As far as the nausea goes, coach advised me never mix sports drink and GU - which I have, unwittingly, done during races.  I ran with a handheld waterbottle during this race so that I could always wash a GU down with water when I needed to take one.  As far as not needing to make a pitstop is concerned, coach warned me against overhydration (which I tend to do, I drink a LOT of water during the day generally) and so, on race day, I had a cup of coffee and sipped some sportsdrink on the bus while I had my bagel.  No more.  I made three (nervous) pitstops in the athlete's village but that was it.  Nothing during the race.  Having a coach.  This REALLY worked for me.  I loved knowing only the schedule for the week ahead. It meant I did not freak out about what was to come and tackled each workout as they were sent to me.   I loved her confidence in me and the specificity of her training advice - when she told me I had to train at a certain pace, I just had to do it.  And I did it.  While I did not make the race pace[...]

I came, I saw, I conquered. Or Boston 2011.


Hoo-ah!  This is going to be long one because people - what a ride!  I've been home 3 days, jet lag has hit us like a sledge hammer (nobody's asleep until midnight and getting everyone up in the morning is impossible, even when there are chocolate eggs hidden in the garden..) Laundry, various domestic problems (no water, no hot water, no internet - we've fixed everything but the first thing) - it's so easy to slip back into it all.But I'm resisting that - because I'm going to bring you - blow by blow - my Boston marathon experience. Yup - sit back and pop a cold one, because this is, finally, it.As you know, we all flew to Orlando for 10 days before Boston.  This worked out great - apart from the fact that the kids enjoyed it enormously, I got some hot-weather training in, and we were all relaxing together it also gave me an opportunity for the first blogger meet-up of this trip - I got to meet someone who I have been wanting to meet for years - Shirley-Perly!Sorry for the poor quality - we should have made more of an effort to get our cameras right!Shirley and I managed to overlap in Orlando for about 36 hours so I can't tell you how grateful I was that she made the effort to drive across town to come and pick me up from my hotel, take me to the Track Shack where she occasionally helps out, help me pick my tri-gear (yes!) and take me back again.  We talked the whole way - like the old friends we are.  Shirley has always been inspiring to me - not only because she has achieved so much (50 states marathoner?  Multiple IronMan?) but even more because her attitude has always been one of encouragement, support and a deep desire to get everyone on board with the fun and enjoyment of this exercise and endurance lifestyle. She did a great job on selling living in Kona to me - the least I can do is go and check it out sometime soon...On Friday April 15th we headed north to Boston - after last year, our arrival in Boston was completely uneventful.  But there was no mistaking just how excited Boston was about its marathon - this is our hotel, the incomparable Lenox Hotel.    Not only was the place festooned with marathon posters, the staff were also incredible - helpful, kind, attentive.  Situated about 50 yards from the finish line, we could not have picked a better place.  So straight off, we all headed down the road (5 minutes) to the expo.  Bad photo but you get the idea.  Big moment.  Even bigger moment when I realised 5 minutes later I had lost my race number.  Hrrmmm.  Had put it down while picking up the 5K race bibs, and the people there very kindly hung onto the numbers for me, knowing full well I'd come speeding, pale and sweaty, into there very shortly.  I then sent off Adam and Felix - the 8 year old - and the 10 year old and I had a wonderful time browsing the expo, buying an alarming amount of booty before heading back to the hotel.  The kids and I on this momentous moment. some support from SophiaView of the finish from a bus in front of our hotel.The days before the marathon went by in a blur - Saturday morning the lovely Greg came miles in to meet us, walk with us to REI to buy some coats and fleeces (it was COLD!) and cope with the bickering and taunting and general mayhem that is traveling with kids.  Then in the afternoon I went off to meet lovely Emily, who was not running but staying with her sister near Heartbreak Hill an[...]

On setting goals - Mann macht und Gott lacht?


Ok.  Deep breath, here goes.  Setting goals.  For Boston, and onwards.On this morning's 8 miler I was trying to figure out what I find so hard about setting goals, and why I find it so hard.  And the truth of the matter is not that I find it hard to set goals.  I know what I want to achieve.  But I'm afraid I might not achieve them.  And that's why I don't like to tell people.  Like I can just have my secret goal, play it cool, and then do a great big fistpump if I do achieve it.  And don't have to deal with it in public if I don't.  Instinctively, I feel like the kid in the playground - if I put it out there what I want to do and fail to achieve that, will you think less of me?  Oh, I know that is cr*p but still - I think that's what lies underneath my fear of outlining what I really want.But then all the self-help / motivational / inspirational / St. Oprah philosophy that I somewhat shamefacedly have started to get into says that you have to put your goal out there, to be accountable, to make it real.  Building in all sorts of caveats is a way of detouring from your goal.  Keep it simple - focus.So, my goal for Boston.  I've played around with different kinds of goals - time goals, experience goals, effort goals.  My coach has never messed around.  Right when we started, early in December, and I ran my rough and ready first 2 miles on the treadmill, she told me what my goal was.  A 3:40 finish.  Yup.  That was scary, which is why I haven't put it out there any earlier.  That would be a 5 minute and 47 second PR on a harder course.  Hard.  All through the months of December, January, February and March, this goal seemed to dance in front of my eyes.  Really? Me?  She thinks I can do this?  Only last night I was driving myself nuts, comparing my training notes from this training cycle to my (entirely different) training cycles for London and Berlin, and worrying that I was not as fast as I was then. But today I got to thinking.  Despite the fact that I BQ'ed in Berlin (and faced some pretty big DNF demons along the course) my best race ever was London. Why?  Because - shortly before the start - someone I had just met told me not to be coy about it - to go out hard and hammer it as best I could.  I had not trained all this time, he told me, to just be conservative.  Be smart, by all means, but leave it all out there.  And just like that, I let go of my old racing strategy (which had always been to start slowly and see if I could pick it up, which I rarely did) and I hammered it.  And well, I did hammer it, right up until mile 25 when it hammered me.  But that was fine.  I was always fine with my time, and my missed BQ.  I had left it out there, there was nothing more I could have done.  I had focus, I committed to my goal and I went for it.So, my friends - I'm out there and I'm doing it.  I'm going for a 3:40.  I have a race strategy - thank you Coach! - and a plan.  But more than that, I have an attitude.  There are things I can't control about the race - weather, illness, injury, whatever.  But I can control how I'm going to go in.  And I'm going into this balls against the wall, my friends.  All out.  I am giving my goal all I've got, all I've put in, all I've trained for.  2 weeks[...]

Lining up.


Yes it has been a while.  And no, I have not been hanging my head down low worrying about my 20M race.  Your comments were wonderful and helpful, and I moved on.  Instead, I have been "doing the rest of my life" and training on the side...  Not the priorities a pro would have but my profession IS the rest of my life and training is the icing on the cake.  Some days...Life that have happened in the past 3 weeks:- the remodel of our kitchenThe project has taken MONTHS but was completed 2 weeks ago.  It has taken a LOT of cleaning and dusting since, but we're loving it.  - spent time with a much-loved friend from Holland who I had not seen in too long.  2 days of shopping, talking and drinking wine ensued.  Interspersed with a NASTY twofer which included 3M at 7:32 min/mile.The fuzziness was in the camera, not in my mind!   - attended my daughter AND my son's school plays:Sophia as "little Alice" in Alice in Wonderland (sadly, there were no good photos of Felix's play) - moved into my new study and unpacked all the books which have been boxed for nearly 2 years!But do not fret.  In the middle of the various domestic crises (today's crisis is the discovery of moths eating our carpets, we've already overcome the weekend where we had no electricity and the main drain was blocked) I have kept my eyes on the prize.  This one:I have been training, hard.  And I have been planning.  Boston is coming close.  Packing up and organising a family of 4 to travel for 16 days is not for the faint of heart, let me tell you.  But having a goal focuses the mind.  Now - to be fair - my children's goals lie firmly in Orlando.  10 days of theme parks.  (Tips on healthy, wholesome restaurants would be VERY gratefully received).  But on Friday April 15th our gang travels from Orlando to Boston and then the focus will be on the marathon.  I am looking forward to meeting people, going to the expo, and - of course - the race.Of which more shortly.  I am pondering a post on goal-setting, but I'm scared to do it.  Scared to put myself out there.  Give me another day or so.  I will be back.[...]