Monday, 30 September 2013

My Berlin Marathon Race report

Support crew; pre-race
Pre-race family shot

As anyone who has known me for longer than, say, 3 seconds, you will know that it's long been a dream of mine to run a marathon under 3 hours. It's one of those things that while I believed possible, I wasn't sure I could ever achieve.

However yesterday in Berlin, I did it;


Staying positive; pre-race
I wish I could say that it was a sprint to the finish, that I remembered to take off my sunnies for the photo and that I held my arms in a victory salute. 

However, it was not like that. To be totally honest, by the end all I wanted to do was finish. I vomited about 700 metres from the finish line, and then could barely move in a straight line. By this stage, I did not care in the slightest about my time.

I was caught by a medical guy over the finishing line. After which, when he let go, I sat down in the gutter, until another medical person asked me if I was able to walk. 

It's an experience I've never had before - when you finish in around 3 hours, the other finishers around you look absolutely destroyed. When you come in around 4hours (which I have done on more than one occasion) people look jubilant. They give high fives and hug and cry with happiness. At 3 hours, it's all about lying on the ground, looking miserable, trying not to spew. 

Still, I did it, and now that the dust has settled, while I obviously would have liked to go faster, I'm really happy. (Perhaps I was a bit too optimistic when I did a 3 min pb for the first 21km! On my watch I did 84.44 - perhaps a little quick!) 

My highlights:
  • The start was great - I'm usually really stressed about getting a good start, but because it was organised in corals (I was in the 2.40-2.50 starting block - next time I'll go for the 2.50-3.00), there was plenty of space and so I could concentrate on running, rather than dodging, right from the start.
  • Lots of cool bands on the course, and great crowd support.
  • Seeing Lachlan and Henry on the course.
  • I would like to say running through the amazing city of Berlin, but to be honest, I wasn't paying much attention and could not really tell you where I was.
  • Henry laying on top of me to keep me warm at the end, and later the kisses he gave me because I told him I was feeling sick.
  • Finding a rickshaw driver to take us from the "family meeting zone" back to the front door of the hotel (I was not walking anywhere after the race - I was thinking I was otherwise going to kick Henry out of the stroller.)
  • I came 47th overall (that's on the second page of results!), and 7th in my age group (30-35). And I think I was the first Australian woman to cross the line (to be fair, Berlin is a pretty long way from Australia - I don't imagine there were too many Aussies in it!)
  • The enthusiasm and excitement of the 40 000 participants. It's so inspiring to see so many people who've dedicated so much time and energy pursuing a dream. Finishing a marathon - whether it's your first or 50th, is not easy. In particular, one guy I saw who was starting, had obviously been seriously overweight in the past and lost a good 100kg or more. Though he was still a big guy, he was doing Berlin Marathon. What an amazing achievement! Totally inspiring to see people like this!
  • All the messages I got from friends and family post-race. I was really touched; it makes it all worth it. Thanks so much!

My lowlights:
  • Vomiting several times - I think I need to change my gels.
  • The cold; it was about 6 degrees I think - after Hong Kong, this felt freezing and my legs felt more and more cold as the race went on.
  • Waiting for around 35 minutes for the port-a-loo pre-race. Everyone in that line was getting mighty stressed. Next time I will know, there are loads of bushes right near where I started!
  • Getting overtaken by a dude in a mini-mouse costume at around 36km (Japanese, obviously.) He looked to be suffering, but still, getting overtaken by someone wearing mouse ears and a red, polka-dot dress, did nothing for my mental state!
  • German Dudes getting totally naked, out in the open, post-race - when there were change tents only 20metres away! I'd suffered enough by that stage without coping an eyeful. 
  • The battle in my head that started, I'd say at around 2km - any suggestions how to deal with this running friends? The voices in my head are my biggest problem! How do I switch them off?
Post-race; Henry warming me up

Of course, the race was not all about me, anyone who has googled Berlin Marathon in the past 24 hours will see that a new world record was set by Kenyan Wilson Kipsang. How awesome!!!
It was definitely the day for the Kenyans with the top 3 men, and top 2 women, all from Kenya. Pretty great! A 41 year old German came 3rd in the women.

In the lead; Wilson Kipsang

So now I'm all recovered.... it's time to plan my next race! 

Post-race dinner; entree
Post-race meal: main
Post-race beer
Post-race: support crew is still smiling!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Berlin Marathon Expo

Yesterday was a big day; it was the day I went to the Berlin Marathon Expo to pick up my number (that's number F11498 - under the name "Jane Richards" for all of you following at home! Here is a link to the website, hopefully by tomorrow there will be live tracking online.)
Feeling a little overwhelmed by all the craziness. 

Now, I've been to a few Race Expos in my time, and I've got to say, this one takes the cake.

What a circus! 

Held at an airport (there wouldn't be another venue big enough), it is so big that it was spread over several airport hangers, and even spilled out onto the tarmac.

If you think they put on a good show in Kona, or anywhere else. Think again!

Some highlights;

1. Beer and sausages for sale; puts a whole new spin on carb loading.

2. The official merchandise that included kids ghetto tracksuits.

3. Test-drive BMWs, and also remote controlled cars to play with.

4. Test-drive available of those ridiculous elliptical bicycle trainer things.  Good way to stack it pre-race!

5. The fact that the entire 40 000 race entrants, and their mums, cousins and mates that they picked up off the street, decided to go to the expo at exactly the same time as me. At one stage, a South-American family of about 12, decided to stand literally on top of me, because that was obviously the best place to take a photo? I was sitting with my back against a wall. Why, why, why?? There were plenty of other spaces which would have been much nicer spots for taking photos of your entire extended family!

6. That there was so much to buy, and yet, safety pins for your race number were not included in the race pack. Fail!

While I usually love such expos because they present an awesome shopportunity, I decided to save my money and spend it at the fancy boutiques near my hotel instead. Much more civilised!

In the end, all I left with was two pairs of socks - and then that was only because all mine have holes in them.
This is just the entrance hall to get to the expo
Note the race car track,
 and the plane in the background

Too crowded! 
This is the line to pick up your race number!

Pre-race carb loading options; Beer
Official merchandise;
only around 60+Euros for a kids tracksuit.
So ghetto. 

Weird things about Germany

This is my fourth time visiting Germany; I've been to Munich, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, and now Berlin.

Here are some of the things that strike me as odd about the place;

Beware of obstacles when in the park; good to know
1. The fascination with Italian food; I like pasta as much as everyone else, but 2 out of 3 restaurants seem to be Italian. Why?

2. It's freezing cold, yet Germans are sitting outside, on the footpath at cafes, drinking their coffee or wine. I'm wearing a singlet, two long sleeve shirts, a leather jacket, and I'm still freezing my butt off. How are you not all in danger of death by exposure?

3. There seem to be hardly any children around - a very occasional baby in a stroller, but otherwise, I've not seen a single child in a cafe, or any of school age out-and-about. Where are all your kids? And yet, dogs go with you out to dinner on Friday night.

4. Following on from #3, given that your children are elsewhere, why do so many of you eat dinner so early? I know it's cold (though you don't seem to care about this anyway), so why then is it dinner at 5.30 / 6, or 7pm at the latest? You apparently don't have kids to worry about people, get out and have fun!

The ultimate in cutting edge (German) fashion; the onsie!
5. How is the German economy doing so well? The shops seem to hardly even be open, and even when they are open, lots of shop assistants are quite surly.

6. (Outside of Dusseldorf) given the amount of sausages, pork knuckle and pasta that you eat, why are you not all huge? (Dusseldorf was the exception; there were lots of larger proportioned people there.)

7. Why do you all seem to ride bikes like maniacs on the footpath, yet if you are in that much of a hurry, you very rarely jaywalk, and never press the "close door" button on the lift. It makes no sense.

8. Perhaps it's my "Australian prudishness", but I must say, I was shocked when I saw 100s of people getting massages at the Marathon expo yesterday, totally out in the open, wearing just their undies - even a woman in leopard print knickers. Is this because of your body confidence, or you just don't care? It's just not that pleasant for anybody.
However, despite (or perhaps because of?) all these peculiarities, I'm having an excellent time!

Friday, 27 September 2013

Berlin so far.

So far, Berlin seems like the kind of place where the longer you stay, the more cool things you will find.

I spent my first day of freedom, somewhat overwhelmed by jet lag and exhaustion (proof; I was first off the plane, and, on arriving at Berlin airport, I managed to walk straight past the baggage carousel through the "red zone" and into the outside world, without collecting my bag.
I then had to go to lost and found baggage to get my bag returned. For your reference, if you ever have a lost (or forgotten) bag in Berlin, this is across a carpark, down a random lift, in a shed in the middle of nowhere.
I was so embarrassed that I almost cried. In my defence, the lady at KLM baggage claims told me that, "don't worry, this happens all the time." It truly wasn't obvious where to collect your bag!
Second fail of the day was when I thought I was adding parmesan to my spaghetti bolognese for dinner; it was not parmesan, it was sugar. How do you confuse the two? Idiot! I think I was more tired than I realized.)

Despite these incidents, I'm still alive, and I've managed to get through a second, entire day without harming myself or others.

Partly to save my legs, and also because I'm lazy and it's cold, I took a double decker bus tour (I got a bit confused working out where and how to get on - no surprises there!) While it was a good way to see the city, it's not really my cup of tea.

I also went to two Art Galleries (I love the peacefulness, and looking at the artworks) which was made all the more peaceful because I was on my own. I went to the Berggruen and Muesum Welt in Charlottenburg.  Lots of surrealist paintings by Picasso and Paul Klim, but my favorite thing was the incredible architecture of the Mueum Welt.

And then I went to KaDeWe - Berlin's famous department store, for a coffee and a little browse around. (I find shopping very calming in the lead up to a race - it takes your mind off things, plus after all that training, you are usually at your slimmest.)

Last night I had one of the best meals I've ever eaten. I'm staying in the hip Mitte district, and stumbled on this little place called Lebensmittel in Mitte. I had veal in a grape-cream sauce with radicchio mash and a whole artichoke. And I couldn't say no to the rhubarb cake. Incredible!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Tuesday craft: Fire Engine!

Tuesday afternoon was the last chance Henry and I had to spend time together before my big 3 day solo adventure.

And so, I figured that we should do something that we would both enjoy.

This is what we did. We made a Fire Engine! Complete with red glitter and a paddle-pop stick ladder.

A serious hobby or seriously selfish? The rise of the Cycling Widow

Even before I had a child of my own, I used to feel for the “cycling widows” of the guys in the group I rode with.

Now, before I launch into a rant, I want to clarify; not all of the cycling wives of the guys in our group could aptly be described as “widows”. From the outside at least, there were some members of our group who seemed to balance work / cycling / husband duties / and parenthood in a reasonable manner. 

However, this was not the case for all. And, especially since I have become a stay-at-home mum, I really feel for those women whose partners work long hours, and then seem to spend the rest of their time (at least 3-4 mornings during the week, then up to two half days on the weekend), cycling. Some of these guys even then spend their holidays, cycling – sans family.

Whether or not these mums and wives are working, when they are then picking up the lion’s share of childcare and household duties so that their husbands can ride, from the outside at least, this seems more than a little unfair.

And while I completely identify with these guys passion for cycling, and admit, that one of the most fun trips I have ever had was a week long cycling adventure with my buddies to Adelaide for Australia’s Tour Down Under, I do wonder at the impact such “serious hobbies” have on the family.

The irony of this is that as I write this post, I’m spending 3 days in Berlin without my husband and son. I’ve arrived earlier than them in order to acclimatise / get over jetlag / chill out (aka go to museums and shopping without a toddler in tow) in preparation for Berlin Marathon on Sunday.
And as far as my running goes – it certainly should be categorized as a “serious hobby” if for no other reason than the shear volume of time that I spend doing it.

So then, I guess my question is, when we are not elite athletes, (and aren’t ever going to be paid an athlete’s salary) how much is too much time to spend out on the roads, away from our families?

Of course, every family is different, and what works in one family dynamic won’t fit others.  And I wholeheartedly believe that where possible, every member of a family should be able to pursue their passions and interests. I’m just not sure where the correct balance lies.

It goes without saying that from where I sit, I would much rather have a husband who is working and riding, than a husband who is working and then spends every night at the pub boozing and watching footy, but I query whether this would be how I feel if I had a husband / father for my son, who spent one night a week at the pub, as opposed to 5 or 6 days on the bike, if it meant that after his one night out, he was at home, and totally attentive to family life, instead of flat-out on the couch because he is wrecked from his long rides (for the record, my husband doesn’t fit into either of these categories – nobody freak out).

I also wonder whether a serious hobby is, or should be something that should be limited in terms of hours spent. For example, maybe I would feel the “cycling widows” are getting a fairer deal if they also had 10-15 hours leisure time to pursue their own interests. After you have kids (and even before!) it’s a tough balance.

It’s even trickier because these hobbies do come with loads of fitness and health benefits, they are a great “clean” social outlet, and on occasion the families do get together, and often become friends.

And for the talented few among us, it’s undeniable that if they are ever going to turn their serious hobby into something that pays, they need to spend a serious amount of  time in its pursuit. (Though of course, the pursuit of money is rarely the goal of such activities, and nor should it be.)

At times, I do feel guilty for the time I spend running, away from my family, but I feel that most of the time I can justify this because I’m otherwise a stay-at-home mum, and spend a lot of my time devoted to my husband and son - even if what I’m doing in my spare time is not bringing in cash. (quite the opposite in fact;  both in terms of outlay, and also in terms of opportunity cost, it’s ultimately costing a bit…. Though nothing like I used to spend on triathlon / cycling .)

I guess I don’t know what the correct solution is and there is no appropriate "one size fits all". However, I would call the true widows of cycling (and all other sports) to stand up for yourself and claim back your own leisure time; just because your partner spends all his (or her) spare time participating in a hobby that has health and fitness benefits, is no excuse for him (or her) to neglect the family, and nor should your own leisure time have to suffer. 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Racing like a lady

Readers, runners, friends; you've trained and trained and sweated and trained, and now it's time to race.

However, just because it's race day, doesn't mean that it's an excuse for all social graces and manners to fall by the wayside. Quite the opposite! Today is your day to shine....

Here are my tips on how to execute a put-together, relaxed, ladylike performance. (Guys, you can take some of these tips too - race day is not an excuse for your personal hygiene standards to slip either!)

1. Smell nice.
Sure, when you are going to training at 5.30am, you don't have time to shower beforehand. But I bet after training, you usually go directly home and don't hang around for hours, like a (literal) bad smell.
In comparison, after your race, you will probably have to wait around for awhile. In this situation, a pre-race shower certainly can't hurt.  And, an early shower  will help to wake you up and can be the time when you go through your mind everything that's about to unfold. (Also a good chance to shave your legs if you forgot to earlier - it will make you both more aerodynamic and also, more sexy.)
Further, wear deodorant. As Kara Goucher, (one of my running idols) says, "run like a man, don't smell like a man".
And always, always, brush your teeth before racing and training. There is nothing worse than meeting someone for a run or ride whose breath stinks.

2. It's ok to look pretty.
Wear (waterproof) mascara, brush your hair, wear lipgloss - whatever makes you feel good! In my first ironman, I (unnecessarily) included lipgloss in my special needs bag. It was, I admit, an idiot thing to do. As if you are going to stop mid-marathon and apply lipgloss! However, just knowing that it was there made me feel better.
I'm also a big fan of colour coordinating your manicure to you race kit. (And your race kit to your bike if you are a triathlete / cyclist.) For example, I have been known to paint my fingers and toenails in patriotic colours (green and yellow) for races. Not only did I represent, but it looked fab. Strangers even commented on the ingenuity of it!
And it goes without saying; wax where appropriate.

3. The importance of cute race gear;
Do you have special race gear? Get some.
Do you remember that feeling as a kid when you wore new clothes the first time, and the world seems slightly brighter and better. That excitement, and feeling good about yourself is just as important on race day.
Also think about your race photos; even if you look like you are in pain, at least you will have a cute outfit.
You may not be able to come first in the race, but you can at least look the cutest while racing.

4. Take off your sunnies, slow down and smile for your finisher's photo;
I have had a number of finisher's photos taken where I look more than a little special - and not in a good way. These are buried in a draw somewhere.
It is for this reason, that I'd recommend practicing your finishing pose - when you are absolutely exhausted, that "air punch" or little hop you imagined would make you look hard-core, may just make you look silly.  And it's all been captured on camera - your moment of "glory" remembered forever.
Also try to smile; a grimace, tears, or gritted teeth often looks instead like you are busting for the bathroom. The reality is, you are not going to be looking your best - don't make it any worse.
* This rule only applies if you are coming down the finishing shute on your own; if it's a sprint finish for your spot in Kona / sub 3 hour marathon, GO! Do whatever it takes, even if you vomit / collapse / etc, that's totally ok. All ladylike niceties should go out the window (temporarily) in order to win / get a fast time / achieve your goal.

5. Beat the boys, and have a massive smile on your face when you do it;There is nothing more ladylike!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Pre-race rituals; what not to do

There is tons of information out there on what you should do leading up to a race - taper, but not too much! Carb load - again, not too much! Get more sleep, do pickups, stay off your feet, practice visualisation - the list goes on, and it's all pretty confusing.

However there is not much info on what not to do.

Yet this is a topic on which I'm well qualified to speak on; I don't always handle nerves well and often freak out int the lead up to a race.

For example, on race morning in Kona, a friend asked me if I was ok. He said he had never seen anyone so nervous at the start of any race ever.

On another occasion, during the start of an ironman, I had a panic attack in the water because I was so nervous. It was not cool; it ended up being my worst swim ever.

I almost threw up, not at the end, but the start of my first marathon because I was so nervous.

More recently, I couldn't sleep for a week before a race I had coming up. The race was a 5km race, and there weren't even any prizes!

What follows is how to avoid getting yourself into the above-mentioned (and worse) situations;

1. Don't google;
This is pretty much the only advice I'd also give a new mother. Don't google what you should have done, what you could have done, what race plan you should stick to, how the new workout in vogue is a 20 mile run with 12 miles hard in the middle, while wearing a plastic garbage back. Chances are you won't have done it, and knowing what everyone else has (or has not done) will only stress you out because by now, it's too late.
Try instead to have faith in your own training and your own race plan.

2. Don't get drunk the night before;
One year, before I was running competitively, I had about 6 drinks before Sydney's City to Surf. Suffice to say, I was in major pain during the race.
Similarly, a brother of mine, before his first marathon, eased his nerves by consuming quite a bit of alcohol. He survived, but he suffered. Not recommended.
In fact, I would recommend not getting drunk as much as two nights before (a tough ask, I know); I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I did so during the lead up to both my first Olympic distance tri, and also 1/2 ironman. Not only can you still feel it in your legs, but you will likely be the only one at race check-in with a hangover. It's really not a good feeling.
Before my first Olympic Distance Tri; I've had better days

3. Don't forget to check the weather forecast;
I woke up the morning of my last marathon to see snow bucketing from the sky. By breakfast time, there was about 8 inches of it, and it snowed all through the race. In the lead-up, I'd checked the average temperatures, but not the forecast for that day. Idiot! I got soaked and froze my butt off. By 18km, I was not happy. It's not rocket science, but be prepared for all weather types.

4. Don't eat crazy amounts of anything;
It used to be thought that you should carb load in the lead-up to the race. This idea, though not discredited, has been called into question a little. Whatever you do, don't change your diet dramatically in the name of carb-laoding or anything else. I had a friend who told me she once ate two loaves of pumpernickel bread the day before a race. Let's just say the bathroom stops may have slowed her down a little.

5. Look cute on race day, but not too cute; 
I'm all about the idea that if you look good, you feel good on race day. But before one race, I spent so much time doing my hair that I made my friend and I late and we almost missed the start. Somewhat embarrassing!
And while it's great to get cute, new race gear, make sure you've tested your fancy new kit; think about your finisher's photo - blood stains in the nipple region are not a good look on anyone.

6. Pack your own race gear;
In another half-ironman race I did, I had the guys at the bike-shop pack my bike up for me into my bike bag.
When I arrived at my race destination, I had only one wheel.
Luckily the guys were able to ring around and get someone to lend me another wheel.
Still, while I didn't have to do the 90kms on a unicycle, my bike looked pretty silly - only one Zipp wheel, and it was on the front. Though I just pretended it was the "new thing" in time-trial bikes. (Triathletes will believe anything.)

Gold Coast 1/2 ironman; notice the single Zipp wheel on the front

7. Prepare you race kit properly;
I was a little inexperienced doing my first Olympic Distance tri.
Because I didn't usually get flat tyres in training, so I didn't really think I'd get a flat on race day.
Think again!
I got out of the water in 2nd place! This was pretty crazy as I was just hoping not to be the last person out of the lake.
Of course, literally within 3km, I had a flat tyre. I had a spare inner tube, but no pump, or tyre levers. What was I thinking?
A kind lady lent me her pump, but having never changed a tyre before, (practice this before! It's not difficult, but there are tricks to it) I could not get the tyre off the rim of the wheel.
In the end, I used my teeth to rip the tyre from the rim of the wheel. Perhaps not the best idea.
My teeth are now fine, but given tyre levers and CO2 canisters are rather small and fit easily into a pocket nor saddle bag, I'd say you are better off changing your tyre the conventional way.

In summary; do what I say, not what I do. Be prepared and don't freak out!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

This week in running

A recap of this week in running;

Accidents caused by "selfies" on smartphones may lead to a ban on smartphones in the Hong Kong Marathon; only in Hong Kong!

Today's Sydney Marathon results; the fastest man was Willy Kibor Koitile in a time of 2.13.48, the fastest female was Biruktayit Degefa in a time of 2.32.46. That's fast!
Special congratulations to my friend Phoebe, who finished her first marathon in 4.25.21! What an amazing achievement! Congratulations!!!

This time last year, it was a family affair in Sydney - my mum did the full marathon, me and my brother Martin did the 1/2 marathon, my brother Edward and his girlfriend Sunny did the 10km Bridge run, and my sister Alice watched 13 month old Henry so that I could run!

Today was also the Siberian International Marathon. Not a race I'm keen on doing - one for the more adventurous!

Some upcoming races that you might be interested in; get ready to register for next year's Hong Kong Standard Chartered Marathon , entries sell out quickly. For something a little less full-on, there is Discovery Bay 10km and Victoria to Peak Challenge.

Despite a lot of events coming up around Hong Kong, there won't be much training going on in the next few days. Brace yourself for Typhoon Usagi - it's supposed to be the worst in at least the past 30 years! It's getting pretty wild outside right now. (Though not as wild as the supermarket with its empty shelves this morning!)

A song to run to; the lyrics are appropriate for track runners.

Running quote of the day:
"Life is short.... running makes it seem longer" - Baron Hansen

The Williams / Richards / Wolfers / Penning family running team at Sydney Running Festival, 2012

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Berlin Marathon 2013: key preparation stats

I'm really excited because in only 8 more sleeps, I will be waking up to race on what promises to be the world's fastest marathon course (what's interesting is that a lot more men have run fast times in Berlin than women). On 29 September 2013, I will be trying to set a PB at Berlin Marathon.  Super excited!
Here are some of the key statistics involved in my preparation;

1. I started my 18 week program on 10 June. That's almost 4 months preparation for an event that will take me a bit less than 3 hours!
The running shoes that I plan to wear race day. 

2. Over that period, I've worn 8 different pairs of running shoes, and run 193 times - my plan was to run 196 times, but I've had to take a couple of days off from training because I was tired.

3. My longest run was 42km, my shortest run was around 5.5km.

4. My fastest kilometre was 3.27, my slowest was around 7.30.

5. I've run in two typhoons (had I stuck to the letter of my original training plan, it would have been three - but I brought my last long run scheduled for tomorrow, forward by a day because super typhoon Usagi is scheduled to hit Hong Kong tomorrow.)

6. I ran twice on my birthday, twice on my son's birthday, and once on my husband's birthday. I might try to plan that a bit better next time!

7. I've run in three races in two countries, and had three podium finishes.

8. I've run with Kenyans, Australians, British, Irish, Hong Kongers, Taiwanese, and Americans.

9. Amongst others, I met and ran with elite Kenyan runner Joel Kemboi, and I also met Tom Knoll - he came 6th in the original Hawaii Ironman! Coincidentally, both these men told me they have also run Berlin marathon. They were both very inspiring.

Meeting the extraordinary Tom Knoll -  this year he is planning to run across America for charity. Not bad for 80!

10. I was attacked by a dog once, and saw wild dogs on two other separate occasions (luckily my coach, Thomas Kiprotich scared them away!)

11. I've bled through my running shoes 3 times (but that was my own silly fault because I hadn't cut my toenails.)

The "blood shoes" - the brownish stain at the front is my blood
12. I consumed around 20 energy gels (a relatively moderate amount since my record was 27 in one day during my first ironman event in Malaysia! Not recommended), around 5 bowls of pasta, and, I estimate between 60-70 bagels.

13. I think this will be my 11th marathon (this doesn't include marathons in ironman or ultras.) I'm planning to take off around 1 hour 20 min off my first marathon time, which I completed in Sydney in 2005.

To conclude this post, I feel like I should thank Lachlan and Henry for supporting my running, my coach Thomas, and his wife Nerida, and all the other excellent people I've run with. There's a lot of time and energy that goes into getting someone to the start line of a big race.

Watch this space for race week updates!

Friday, 20 September 2013

Home Alone

On Tuesday, my darling husband pointed out to me that today is a public holiday here in Hong Kong, and would I mind if him and another dad friend took our boys to Ocean Park?
So now I'm sitting here alone, pondering what I should do.
Endless possibility!!!
When I do have this kind of time to myself, I'm never sure whether I should try to pack in as many activities as I can - break out my sewing, sort through my clothes, get a foot massage - all the things that I can't do with a toddler on the loose, or if I should be totally lazy and watch DVDS and read magazines and drink coffee.
It's a tough dilemma!

Remember this book? I know exactly how Mrs Large feels; I long for the day when going to the toilet is once again a solitary pursuit.
*For a different adventure our two renegade boys went on, click here.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Training in the Asian Heat, Racing in the European Cool

For the past four months, I've been slogging it out, running on average about 9 times per week in order to prepare for Berlin Marathon, next Sunday 29 September. Apart from this being the most I've ever run, it's also been the hottest and most humid conditions I've ever trained in. I've spent many nights at the track when it's been 32 degrees Celsius, with 98% humidity. And some days have been even hotter than that. Suffice to say my preparation has been hot and wet.

Racing in Kona; a really hot day

Now, it doesn't take a sports scientist to tell you that this kind of weather will slow you down. And anecdotally, many of my Hong Kong running friends have assured me that for any PBs I run here, I can make an adjustment for about 10-30 seconds per kilometre (30 seconds / km faster brings my 10km time close to 33 minutes! Pretty happy with that!)

What is really interesting though, is that these anecdotes are supported by science. Training in the heat (if not necessarily the humidity), has been likened to the "poor man's altitude training".

To date, there have only been a few studies conducted, and even then on relatively small sample groups of elite athletes. Nonetheless, in brief, the evidence suggests that as the body tries to cool itself, blood is diverted to the skin, which over time leads to increased plasma production and an increased blood supply. Essentially, this is the same result as if you had trained at altitude. Further, as it adapts to the heat, the body becomes more efficient at cooling itself. The conclusion is that, particularly in endurance events, you are likely to stay comfortable for longer.

However, there are limits to these benefits. Any gains made by heat training may be void or even have a negative impact if you plan on racing in extremely cold temperatures. Further, because of the limited nature of the studies, it's difficult to say whether it's worthwhile for recreational runners to jump on the treadmill in all their winter gear. (I've tried this and trust me, I'm not sure it's worthwhile, if for no other reason than I felt like a fool and looked like an idiot.)

Nonetheless, as far as this sample size of one goes, I'm willing to believe, and put this research to the test; the forecast for Berlin next weekend is about 4-17 degrees celsius, so compared to Hong Kong, the conditions seem idyllic. No excuses for not running a PB then!

For more info, check out this study conducted at the University of Oregon in 2012, and this study conducted by the University of Otago.

See also The New York Times and Runners World.