Saturday, August 16, 2014
The goal of my last half marathon was to do it in under 2 hours. As they had pacers there, I stuck to them like glue and made it past the finish line in 1hr58. When I went to thank the pacers, one of them said to me, "I think you've got a got ten more minutes in you. I think you could do it in 1hr50". He also suggested I run the Groomsport Half Marathon, which I did last night.
Groomsport is the village up the road from us. In fact, part of the route I ran last night is one of the regular routes I run for my training, so it is probably the closest I will ever get to racing in a very familiar area. The organisation for this run was bad - no e-mails until the night before, and no information about what to expect in terms of water stations, mileage markers, and whether there would be a medal at the end of the race (not important to some people, but I quite like having a medal put around my neck at the end of an event!) When I arrived last night, I asked if there were be mile markers and was told no, I'd need to use my watch GPS. Oops. I don't have a watch GPS, just a timer.
So, I started looking around at my fellow competitors. Most were wearing team shirts, most had fancy watches, but aside from that minimal equipment. I was the only one holding a water bottle in my hand. I then realised that this was a serious crowd of runners. Not a single person dressed in fancy dress!! It wasn't even clear where the start and finish line was. At two minutes to seven the organiser told us to get onto the road, and off we went!
No mile markers was a problem for me. I had prepared myself for an average of a 9 minute mile, but I set run keeper to tell my how I'm doing every five minutes, not every mile, so I had no way of knowing when I was going to reach each mile. So, as we set off, I just kept up with the rest of the crowd, thinking I'd slip in with the 9 minute group. 5 minutes in, run keeper diligently informed me I was going at a 7 min 58 pace. Okay, I thought, that was fast. This information though, gave me some idea of how to measure my progress. If I was aiming for a 9 minute mile, I would aim to be 0.6 miles further for every five minutes run keeper spoke to me. I'm no mathematician and I was thinking on the spot, but I figured it would get me to the finish line in under 2 hours. I got there in 1hr49.51!!
How did I do that?!?!?
This was a fast running race. There were 132 runners and I came 82nd. The slowest runner did in in 2hr38, which, is not really very slow. So, when I started I was keeping up with people who run much faster than me. It meant that for the first three miles, when everyone was still running more or less together I was average under 8 miles. As there were no markers, I wasn't fully aware of just how fast I was going. I slowed down once the pack spread out more. In fact, I ran on my own for most of the race. In that sense it was the loneliest race I've ever run, and probably the hardest I have ever worked while running because there were no distractions!
Secondly, I knew the area. This meant I knew where the hills were and where it was flat. I also knew about the ocean wind and how it would affect me.
Thirdly, the pacers at the last run did a good job of coaching me. I had now learned how to relax going down a hill, how to push going up a hill, how to catch up on pace during flat runs, be aware of relaxing my shoulders, etc. So, I was running a bit more smartly.
I learned a lot at this run. I learned that I'm capable of a much faster pace than I thought I was. I also learned how running with a faster group of people pushes you further. I wouldn't want that for every half marathon I run. If this had been my first half marathon, I would have been devastated at the end of it because I would have been one of the last people home. But, for my fourth HM ever, I think it was just what I needed.
My goal this year was to complete three half marathons, which I have now done. I now need to look at how to keep motivated into winter and whether to sign up for more half marathons than I had originally planned, or relax a little and do a few shorter distances. I miss the 10km, for example, and I'm starting to wonder if I could achieve it in 45 minutes, now.
For such a disorganised race, it pushed me to achieve something I thought would take me months more of training to do. For that reason I would do it again.
Friday, August 15, 2014
This last week celebrated the anniversary of our arrival in a small seaside town in Northern Ireland, and the beginning of a startlingly different way of living after five years in London.
My weight started creeping up in about December.
That is the graph of this last year. Since I started spark people, it doesn't look like too much, it is really just about a kilogram more:
But, we all know that weight-gain is a slow and steady thing. I've managed to bring my weight down and for the last three weeks I've been sitting right on my goal weight, which is wonderful. I'm most comfortable when the scale reads just below that, but I'm starting to feel confident that I've figured out what I need to do.
This year also saw me progress from 10km races to half marathons, which has changed both the way that I exercise and eat. Instead of a little bit of moderate exercise everyday, my focus changed into three training sessions a week, with one long session ranging from a 90-120 minute jog. That longer, more intensive run, left me more hungry, and also needing to eat to get the energy that I needed to do the run. Add to that many more family gatherings, especially over Christmas, and I think the scale slipping up just by that little bit makes sense. (Not to mention the stress of moving, and going from teaching, to writing a Phd, where I spend much more time sitting at a computer).
Over the last three or four weeks I changed a few things. I've started aiming to go walking everyday, for at least ten minutes. I think I need to exercise every day, even just a little bit. I've also cut down on the desserts. After our trip to Paris, I realised that Northern Irish puddings are just too full of butter, cream and sugar in very large quantities for me to have one every time we go out for a meal. "No, thank you" is starting to feature in my vocabulary just a little bit more.
We've also shifted from having dinner as our family meal to making breakfast our family gathering. (Family is just me and DH for now). This has been going on for two weeks, now. We're now eating more at breakfast - cereal, bread and a topping of some sort, and fruit and yoghurt - and substantially less for dinner, which is now a small portion of protein and salad. Although we need to get up earlier for breakfast, I'm starting to notice that we end up in bed earlier and our evenings are less stressful as we are not trying to figure out how to fit a family meal in with all the other things we need to do when our work day is finished. It also means that if I do end up eating too much during the day, I can plan a much lighter dinner, calorie wise, so that I'm not too far over my calorie limit. Although not a morning person at all, this change is growing on me, and I think it may stick.
All in all this year has been remarkable. There has been a lot of struggle as I've adjusted to a new way of being and a huge amount of uncertainty, but I've grown in my understanding of myself and my abilities. I feel more confident about the year ahead, with a better idea of what's coming my way and how to prepare for them - like managing the windy, rainy winter runs, all the family celebrations, and the ebb and flow of the academic year. I think I can build upon what I've learned, as Dr Seuss says, I know what I know!! So, on I will go.
Thursday, August 07, 2014
I read a good blog yesterday all about developing habits. It's run keeper blog, so focuses on running, but, really can be applied to any habit that one is working on:
In a nutshell, they talk about "habit loops". These are patterns that help develop habits which are: cue (a trigger, which will remind you of the habit); routine (the habit) and reward (benefit from gaining the behaviour). Sparkpeople help create triggers and rewards with their spark points and trophies, which is especially useful with weight-loss because the reward is not immediate, it takes a few months before we can see the positive effects of being skinnier with our looser clothes and starting to feel better about ourselves. The points and trophies helped me to get into the habit of thinking about what I was eating, and continue to do so when I need to get back on track.
They also talk about setting goals that are small and extremely do-able. Another thing that I learned through Sparkpeople. If I tell myself I'll just go out for a ten minute jog, I'll inevitably be out there for thirty minutes, but it's allowing myself to think of doing the goal that feels achievable that frequently gets me out the door. I also think that this leads to the permanent changes we want in our life. They have to feel like they are do-able and easy to incorporate into our lives.
I thought it was a blog worth sharing. Hoping everyone has a good day!
Thursday, July 24, 2014
My husband planned a surprise holiday for us - a long weekend in Paris! Oo-la-la!!
I love Paris and have not been there since I was 19, so to be back as an adult was just fabulous. It's a city that to me is simply a place of dreams. I love the way people walk, talk, dress, and, just be. I love all the little cafes and ornamental architecture everywhere, and, now I've learned that there are also little parks all over the place where you can sit and relax.
The aim of this trip was to relax and have fun, and, to try out the top ten patisseries in town. At first I was a little nervous of what ten patisseries would do to my already shaky weight, but I decided to go with it, and see what would happen.
Well, it turns out, that there are more healthy options in Paris than one realises. Although we did indulge in pretty little cream based delicacies, we only had one at each shop, and then we shared it between us - they were far too rich for us to manage more than one. They were also so beautiful and so satisfying that one was more than enough and eating them was a pleasure. We also walked everywhere, which resulted in an average of two hours walking everyday, and seemed to balance out with our eating. There were also plenty of shops where you could buy delicious salads. In fact, when we weren't eating pastries, we were having lovely salads and fresh veg. I just could not believe how enticing the healthy options were, too!
So, I remembered something while on the trip. I already know that the key to a healthy diet is moderation in everything, rather than denial of my favourite foods, but something I had forgotten was that the secret to truly enjoying my favourite treats is to make sure that they are absolutely wonderful in every way - the best chocolate, the best cake, the best ice cream. Why? Because if they are the best I find myself enjoying them more and eating less of them, partly because the best is more expensive, and then I really feel like I'm spoiling myself. Saving up both money and calories for something I truly love is far more special than just buying a kit kat from the corner store. I had forgotten that.
The other thing I realised was just how stressed out I had been. For two days my husband and I just seemed to laugh and laugh and laugh. We were having fun, and, somehow we need to put more fun into our every day lives because I think that also helped us with our attitude and probably encouraged us to walk more, and get very fussy about which solitary pastry we would choose to enjoy, rather than just picking all of them! Laughter is a great medicine, and taking a moment simply to enjoy life opened my eyes to just how serious and sombre I was becoming.
Finally, when I was going through my photos I noticed a photo that was remarkably similar to one I had taken a few years ago before I joined spark people. I thought I'd share the before/ after picture with you:
It's not so much the weight loss that I notice in the two pictures, but the glow of health in the second one that I notice. Choosing to be healthy has made a huge difference in my life.
Oh, and I didn't gain any weight on the trip. I didn't lose any either, but I feel like I'm still on track towards my goal. Perhaps a little bit wiser about what I need.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Things didn't go well, yesterday. I sat in front of a computer screen for hours trying to get the words and the thoughts to flow, and they just didn't. Every so often I'd pop down to the kitchen for a cookie. By the end of the day I'd lost count over just how many of those cookies I had.
At about 5pm I decided it was time to stop. I was not achieving what I was hoping to and with every minute I was getting more and more frustrated and angry with myself. I was not going to get the writing done, and no amount of inner bullying was going to change the fact that I'd eaten more cookies than I should have. No amount of feeling bad about myself was going to change either of those facts, so I needed to stop and try to be more forgiving of myself.
I think I was trying too hard. I've been tracking and counting calories with the force of a Victorian school teacher and my inner cookie monster decided it was time to rebel. In thinking about it, something like that was probably due to happen. I don't respond well to strict regimes.
If I'm learning anything about writing, it's that it also doesn't like regiment. I had a goal that I felt I could reach, but the truth is that I haven't fully synthesised the concepts that I'm writing about. I have to be patient and keep grappling with it, and eventually my own arguments will formulate. I jumped into my work and forced myself to sit at the computer, when the reality is that I can't force it. Not me. I need to play with ideas. Otherwise I get stressed out.
Which leads me to thinking about food and stress.
I still turn to food when I'm stressed out. It's a quick stress relief. If I have time, I'll have a bath, go for a run, bake or play the piano - but in an immediate moment of "AAAAAAHHHHH" I eat a cookie. It stops the screaming. Just for that moment.
What can I do that has the same immediate affect but doesn't involve food?
Actually, I think I may just have had that "aha moment".
It may well be that there isn't an immediate plug for stress. It may well be that stress is the indicator that I need a serious time out. I need to stop everything and take ten minutes to re-group. Walk, sing, breathe.
I come back to the thought that I know what to do to help myself. Sometimes it's just easier not to listen and eat a cookie.
Fortunately, today is a new day. The good news is that my average weight is going down slowly. Slow is a very good thing, means it will be more permanent. I have the blessing of time, which means I don't need to rush into my work this morning so I can pay attention to my well-being. I'm almost certain that doing that will create the flow I need when I sit down to write later on.
And, yes, I threw out what was left of the cookies. Just in case I find myself returning to that old habit again today.
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