Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Retrun from New Zeland and comeback to running

My trip home to New Zealand was great. It was really nice to be able to spend time with my family. Even though I was injured the whole time and could not run it was a good chance for my body to heal and get completely recovered. It was the hardest thing not to run when it is something I absolutely love but the time off allowed me to get motivated again after a disappointing spring marathon and get focused for all the goals that I have planned leading up to the 2012 Olympics.

Since getting back from New Zealand in late August my focus has been on getting healthy. I am getting active release therapy three times per week by Arthur Cuenco at Professional Physiotherapy Centre in Ottawa in order to get my hip functioning normally. The sports doctor confirmed that my hip is no loner dislocated but the piriformis and sciatic nerve and all the areas around my hip are very inflamed. The active release with Arthur has worked wonders. When I first went I could barely sleep properly without pain. Within two weeks of the active release I was back to being able to cross train on the elliptical and in the pool swimming. I started to run again in the middle of September. It was the greatest feeling being able to run down the road without pain :-) Thanks very much Arthur :-)

Since returning from New Zealand two very big opportunities were presented to me:
1. I have started to train with a new coach. Steve Boyd who is based in Kingston. I am very excited to be training with him and to start the road ahead to run in the Olympic Marathon in 2012.
2. Mizuno has started to sponsor me and I have received some wonderful running apparel and shoes. The Mizuno wave precision shoe is the most comfortable shoe I have run in. I feel so grateful to be able to have sponsorship from Mizuno.

As for my comeback from injury I started very slowly building mileage slowly and mixing running with cross training. I am now able to run every day and in the past two weeks have started to do some short workouts which I am very happy about. The workouts for this phase of my training are mainly targeting 10km pace right now before I start the next marathon buildup in January. I did my first race since being injured on Saturday 16th October. The Oasis 10km Zoo run was my first fitness test to see how my hip would handle faster training. I went in to the race with the goal of running with no pain and running a faster workout. I achieved the first goal as I ran the whole race pain free! The second goal however I did not achieve. I finished the 10km race in 36:02 :-( an average of 3:37 per km. Very slow and very dissatisfying! The course was very unusual as we were running through the zoo so there were a lot of twists and turns and hills. However even taking that into account my time still would have been slow. But on the positive side: I have not been back running for long and the most important aspect is that I don't have pain anymore :-) Now I can start to get into some quality training with Steve :-)

The next few months before the next marathon buildup are going to be hard work to get back into shape. I want to be as fit as I can be and injury free come January so I can really attack the marathon training and run a fast spring marathon :-)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Recovery in New Zealand

Since running the Ottawa marathon my body has told me that I need some time off. I tried to keep running after the marathon in order to prepare for another marathon in October. However the pains that I felt during the marathon only got worse and I have since been told that I have a dislocated right hip. The doctor thinks that it was dislocated even before the marathon and that by running through the pain in the marathon I made the injury worse. Another reminder that I really need to start listening to my body. I am going to a physiotherapist three times per week and swimming in order to get the hip back in place. I am not sure how long I will need off from running but the physio is hopeful that by August I should be back jogging (I hope so :-) ).

Currently I am back in New Zealand visiting my family in One Tree Point. It is great to be back at home even if it is during the winter time. It is a good chance to let my body recover and get recharged for racing later in the season. I am hoping to be back running some half marathons and 10ks by the end of the year to get some speed back in my legs before starting another marathon buid-up next year. I am still deciding which marathon but probably either London or Paris as both are fast courses with competitive fields.

I will leave you all with some photos from New Zealand and my home town. I look forward to writing again soon hopefully when I am back running.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Ottawa Marathon: A Learning Experience

For the Ottawa Marathon I had set very high expectations for myself. My goal was to run sub 2:35. I was very excited for the race and had worked extremely hard to achieve this goal. On the start line I was very nervous but also ready to race hard and compete with the top runners. I knew before the race that the three Ethiopian runners were looking to run under 2:30. My strategy for the race was to start out with the lead pack and stay on 3:30 pace for the first 10km and then see from there where I was placed and how my body was feeling. The weather was perfect for running and I could not wait for the gun to go off. As we crossed the start line I got right in with the three Ethiopians and the pace maker for the group Rejean. I felt very comfortable for the first 3km until the first hill. I had no power and could not push over the hill. At the top of the hill I decided to back off the pace but keep the leaders in sight. However I had no energy and my hamstring was starting to hurt but I still kept trying to push the pace. I crossed the half way point in 1:16:57. Much slower than what I had anticipated. I had hoped to go through the half in 1:15. I was really trying to take in water and my electrolyte chews but my stomach could not handle it. I had cramps and I was scared of the consequences if I tried to take on more. In my head however I was determined to keep going and keep trying to push the pace. I kept in my mind that if I could just keep the pace I could still run 2:35. My body had other ideas: My legs were heavy and sore and my breathing was very labored unlike the other two marathons I have run. My pace from the half got slower and slower every kilometer. It was very discouraging and hard to stay positive at this point. I crossed the 30km mark in 1:51 where I was supposed to be running 1:45. The last 12km were very painful and I could not wait for the finish line to come closer - a horrible feeling knowing I had put so much work in and was so excited for this day.

I crossed the line in 2:39:29 well off my goal time and very frustrated at myself! After the race I was full of negativity and just wanted to go home. In hindsight I should have stayed positive and stayed with the other athletes longer and taken in the wonderful atmosphere around. I was thinking of myself too much and feeling sorry for myself and did not see everything else going on. The crowds were great and the people crossing the finish line were very inspiring - the race itself was great with all the money raised for different charities. The course even though not my strength as it was very hilly and challenging was very beautiful. I spent the whole afternoon and evening talking with husband trying to work out what went wrong. Here are my ideas.

First I think I may have peaked too early. I was feeling so amazing 2 weeks ago in the half marathon and ever since then I have had a feeling that my body was hanging on and an injury was starting . I was starting to have pains in my hamstring and glutes. I was trying to stay positive and block it out last week as I really wanted to perform well but looking back I should have paid more attention to these signs.

Second, I was not able to take in adequate nutrition during the race. My stomach was pretty bad with cramps and I did not want to risk even worse cramps by taking anything. At the half I was under 1:17 and still should have been able to manage 2:35 but I had no energy. I was 4th at half way and by the end was 7th. When a anyone ran past I had nothing in me to pick up the pace - it was an awful feeling as I am normally very competitive.

Third the course was hilly - I underestimated the course when we drove it. I found it very challenging. I think these three things in combination were the reason for the very slow time. I definitely learned a lot about my body in this race and that I really need to listen to my body more. Well, I have to look forward to the next race and correct the mistakes I made in this race.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mississauga Half Marathon and Visit to South March Public School

Mississauga Half Marathon May 16th

Two weeks after the sporting life 10km I decided to run a half marathon for training to prepare for the Ottawa Marathon on 30 May. The Mississauga half was only 2 weeks before Ottawa and I was not sure if it was too close to the marathon however I wanted to run this half marathon for two reasons. The first was to have my last long tempo run and get pushed by other people. The second reason was to practice my fluid and nutrition intake during the race and also make sure what food the day before and morning of the race digests well and also gave me enough energy. I wanted to change from using GU as I found in the Montreal half marathon that my stomach was not comfortable during the race. I needed to take in some more nutrition but did not want another GU as I was worried what might happen to my stomach. In the Montreal half I really lacked energy near the finish. For the Mississauga half I decided to try using the jellybeans and energy chews as I had heard these were easier for the stomach to digest.

It was a beautiful morning for the race. The conditions were perfect for running: Overcast, no wind and cool. 15 minutes before the start I had the jellybeans. It felt strange to be eating jellybeans while warming up but much easier to eat that GU. On the start line I saw some familiar faces from previous races here in Canada and was hoping to get out to a good start. I was aiming for a pace 3:30 per km like for my other tempo runs. I have been having trouble in training to keep the pace at 3:30 so I was hoping in a race situation that this pace would feel easier.

The gun went off and my focus was on getting the pace right. For the first 2km I ran with the first group of guys which was good however I knew at some point they would probably speed up. At exactly the 3km mark the guys took off as if the start gun had gone off again. I looked behind hoping to see another group that could push me but to my disappointment I could see nobody. However my body felt really good and was looking forward to running strong. The course was really beautiful winding through neighborhoods, parks, gardens and the water. I passed the 5km mark in 16:50 and the 10km mark in 35:10 and felt very relaxed. I was trying to focus on my breathing, stride length and energy levels. At 15km I took the energy chews and was hoping they would be okay on my stomach and give me energy. They worked really well. By about 16km I was feeling really good and ready to run strong the last 5km. I won the race and crossed the finish in 1:14:04 a new personal best during training, and a new course record :-).

I was hoping to run 1:13 to be on 3.30 pace but I think if I had had people to push me I would have been able to achieve this. I was happy with the training run and my pace was 3.31. I am now comfortable with my nutrition and fluid intake before and during the race. I am very excited for the Ottawa Marathon and to have the chance to run against some very good athletes. A great opportunity to run a personal best :-)

The elite list for the Ottawa Marathon and an article about the top elite contenders is outlined in the links below:


Visit to South March Public School May 20th

On Thursday 20 May I was asked by South March Public School in Ottawa to give a talk to kick off their schools first track and field day. I was happy to have the opportunity to go and encourage the kids about running and get them excited for their day. There were around 250 kids in the school’s gymnasium. It was great to see the kids sing the Canadian national anthem before I gave the talk. My speech to the kids covered a little about my history, what the marathon is, nutrition, benefits of running, importance of encouraging each other and to remember that winning is not the most important thing as long as you try your hardest. After the speech I took the kids on a warm-up run around their school field. The kids then gave me a nice bunch of flowers and 3 cheers for encouragement and good luck for the Ottawa Marathon. It was a great experience and I hope that the kids were encouraged and got excited about running and being active. I hope through running I have many more opportunities to encourage the community to live a healthy and active lifestyle. Below is the link to a video that was posted on the Ottawa Citizens website about the talk to South March Public School:

Video: Elite runner talks about marathon

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sporting Life 10km Toronto, May 02, 2010

The Sporting Life 10km in Toronto was my second race on Canadian soil and I was excited to do a 10km. It was good mentally to race a shorter distance after doing the half marathon in Montreal 2 weeks ago and also to get some speed work in for the Ottawa Marathon at the end of May.

We arrived in to Toronto on Saturday afternoon and drove the course. We had been told that it was a downhill course but I did not expect it to be that downhill. There were a few slight uphills but compared to the downhill sections they did not really count.
A good chance to run a really fast 10km. I was told that the times run on this course would be 20-30 seconds faster than on a flat course.

On the start line there were 14,000 runners ready to run down what they say is the longest street in the world ‘Yonge street’ in support of kids with cancer. A really great cause. It was supposed to be raining with thunder storms but luckily it was holding off. Great running weather – overcast, 15 degrees Celsius and minimal winds.

The gun went off and my aim like in Montreal was to get out to a fast start. My body and legs were feeling really good and excited to do this 10km. In the first 2km Lucy Njeri was about 10m ahead and I was content to stay behind for a while but I decided as we were approaching the first little uphill to really push and then run hard down to try and get away and get with a group of guys. This strategy worked well for me. I really focused on the uphill and then stayed with a group of guys for the next 3km. By this time I had a quick look behind and could not see Lucy.

I went through 5km in 16.02 – a personal best however I can’t count this due to the downhill. I was feeling very strong and was hoping to run 32minutes high. At the 7km mark we made a turn and from the 7km until the end it was not downhill but flat. My legs felt a little weird going from running downhill to the flat. It was hard to keep the same momentum going. I lost a lot of time from the 7km to 8km but picked it back up after that. The last 2km I really focused on pushing to the finish. I crossed the line in 33.09. I was a little disappointed as I thought I could have run in the 32minute range however great to be back in the 33 minute range. If it had been on the flat probably equivalent to around 33.30 :-)

This 10km race was a really good confidence booster and good to get some leg speed. Now I only have 3 weeks left until the Ottawa Marathon so only a few more weeks of really pushing hard. I am really excited to race the marathon and I am hoping to run a big pb. This link is to the finish line video from the race and post-race interviews: http://runningmagazine.ca/2010/05/sections/news/video-sporting-life-10k/

(Below is the partial coverage of the race. My post race interview is at about 27 min)
Watch live streaming video from canadarunningseriestv at livestream.com

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Montreal Half Marathon – Sunday 18 April

I was excited to do my first race in Canada and my goal was to run my personal best – under 1:15:20 which was 5 years ago in New Zealand when I had just started to run. In the last two years I have not been able to get under 1:18.00

It was nice to have a lower mileage week leading up to the half although not too much lower as my main race is the Ottawa Marathon – I have been averaging 100-105 miles per week since January in buildup for the Ottawa Marathon on the 31st of May. My legs were thanking me for the decrease in miles down to 80. Training has been going well and my body was feeling prepared to run.

The Montreal half marathon served as the Canadian Half Marathon Championships. It was great to meet the long distance runners in Canada and it was a good opportunity to ask about other races in Canada. A really nice bunch of people.

Race Strategy - Since finishing racing on the track in college I have had trouble to really push myself in races so my plan for the race was to push hard from the beginning and hold on as long as I could. I wanted to finish feeling that I had nothing left to give.

On the start line the weather conditions were not optimal for running as it was raining, 4 degrees and winds of 20km/hour however I was looking forward to racing and tried to forget about the weather conditions. The gun went off and I got out to a fast start like I had planned (3:20 average pace for the first 5km). I thought that the other girls would be with me but I found myself with a group of guys for the first 5km. I was a little worried when I heard one guy say ’16:45’ at the 5km split and hoped it wasn’t too fast but wanted to keep the pace up. However I dropped off the pace at the 6th km and hooked on with a group of 3 guys and stayed with them until kilometer 14. We went through the 10km in approx 34:10 (my 10km road personal best). At the 14th kilometer the 3 guys I was running with picked up the pace and by the 15th km I was running by myself which was bad as there was a very strong head wind and I found it hard to keep the pace and lost a lot of time. I ran the rest of the race by myself and this was a bad mistake as I never increased the pace again which I was frustrated about. I finished with a pb of 1:14:45 and won the race however I was disappointed as I did not give everything and push as hard as I wanted to in the last half of the race but a much better effort than the previous half marathons. A good steppingstone before the Ottawa Marathon.

Next Race – Sporting Life 10km in Toronto. We have not been to Toronto yet so it will be nice to travel to a new place and hopefully get a personal best in the 10km on the road.

2010 Race Schedule

April 2010 Sporting Life 10km – Toronto. Goal Time – Sub 34 minutes

May 2010 Ottawa Marathon – Ottawa. Goal Time – Sub 2:35

October Chicago Marathon – Chicago. Goal Time - Sub 2:32

Monday, April 5, 2010

2009 World Athletics Champs: My experience and my inside view of the marathon, By Mary Davies

(This article was published in the magazine "Runner Triathlete News", Vol. 25, No. 2, 2009).

In this article I will describe my experience competing in the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Marathon Championships in Berlin. The article will be divided in the following sections: brief history of the IAAF World Champs, the hotel and Berlin, highlights of the competition and my experience of competing in the marathon. But first I will introduce myself.

I am a professional long-distance runner. I individually compete in national and international races. I also have represented my country, New Zealand, in international events including World Championships in Athletics and Cross-country. I am 27 years old and I started running with the age of 20. Previously, I played competitive field-hockey, representing the under 21 New Zealand team. I came to the USA in 2004 on an athletic scholarship at Oklahoma State University. There I competed for the track team in the 10,000 m, 5,000 m and 3,000 m steeplechase and for the cross-country team. My best season was in 2006 when I won three Big 12 championships in Waco, TX (10,000 m, 5,000 m and 3,000 m steeplechase) and came third in the NCAA (10,000 m). Currently, I live in Houston with my husband Gabriel O. Sawakuchi, who works at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Brief history: IAAF World Championships in Athletics started in 1983. Currently, it is the third largest sporting event after the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. Tens of millions of viewers worldwide follow 9 days of competitions. This year in Berlin 1984 athletes from 201 countries competed. Before 1991 the IAAF World Championships were organized every four years. Since then it has been organized every other year. The next competition will be held in South Korea.

The hotel and Berlin: The atmosphere in the hotel was unique. Particularly, it was interesting seeing all the different nationalities/cultures, shapes and sizes of the athletes, concentrated in one hotel.

Media, press and crowds of fans were always waiting outside the hotel in hope of getting an interview or spotting athletes like Usain Bolt. Therefore, the hotel security was very high and we had to wear our accreditation everywhere we went.

The restaurant was open 24 hours a day. The food was healthy and well balanced to meet the nutritional needs of the athletes. Each day there was a buffet with so much variety – fresh warm bread, German, French and Belgian cheeses, smoked salmon, prosciutto, yogurt, pasta, rice, potatoes, a salad bar, grilled chicken and beef, homemade sauces and a wide assortment of fruits. For sure, that was one of the highlights of the event.

I tried to take full advantage of being in Berlin, a city so full of history. The architecture in Berlin is very interesting where the old and new stand side by side. Some highlights that I especially found distinguished were the remains of the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate, Parliament Building, Jewish Memorial, and the Holocaust Museum. The marathon course passed in front of most of these historic sites, not only once, but four times.

Highlights of the competition: I went to the stadium on days 5 and 6 of the competition to watch some of the events. The blue track was stunning and watching the events live was very inspirational. I especially liked watching the high jump competition between Blanka Vlašic from Croatia and the Germans’ favorite athlete Ariane Friedrich. I was thrilled at how both athletes could control the crowd - to clap at a certain rhythm or, in Friedrich’s case, to make the entire stadium silent just by placing her finger to her lips. Also watching Bolt set two new world records in the 100 m and 200 m was outstanding – very good encouragement for the marathon. After watching the events I was so excited to compete that I could not wait until the race day.

Marathon Experience: My preparation and taper for the race had gone well and I felt confident as the race came closer. I stayed calm, relaxed and focused as suggested by my coach, John Bowden. I had done the hard work, I was in great shape and therefore I needed to trust in my training and ability.

In the morning of the race I woke up at 7 am as the race did not start until 11:15 am. I had breakfast three hours before the race, consisting of two bananas, a cup of coffee and a bagel. Then, I met the other two New Zealand marathon members, Fiona Docherty and Shireen Crumpton, at 10 am. We were then transported to the race start and escorted to the first warm-up area. I did a 10 minutes jog, some drills and stretches. Next, 30 minutes before the race, I moved to the call room, where the IAAF officials checked the athletes’ bib numbers and chips. Once there, it was a waiting game until we were called to the start line. My adrenaline level felt high and I was pretty nervous.

Because of the hot weather most of the athletes, including myself, had ice bags and cold towels to keep our bodies cool. My aim was to make the hot temperature an advantage. From training in the extreme heat and humidity that the Houston summer brings (as you all know) a temperature of 85 degrees was nothing.

The course consisted of four 10 km/6.2 miles loops with the last loop having an extra 2.2 km/1.4 miles. I had my race nutrition stationed at the refreshment stops. Each country had a table with the country’s name and designated people to hand out our drinks, energy gels and water. Throughout the race I made sure I properly hydrated myself. I was lucky enough to have the New Zealander Valerie Ville – the shot-put Olympic and World Champion, handing me my liquids.

Just before the start I could notice that the atmosphere was tense and all the athletes were focused on their goals for the very beginning of the race (not falling down, first mile pace, etc). What an experience just at the start line! When the gun went off I got out strongly. My goal pace was 3:40 min/km or 5:55 min/mile. I ran the first part of the race with the leading group. At about 15 km/9.3 miles I realized that the pace was a little fast so I slowed down to my pace. I ran by myself for about 9 km/5.6 miles until the group with two of the USA runners, Tera Moody, Paige Higgins and a German runner, caught me. This allowed me to get back on pace and re-focus.

I felt good and strong, passing through the half marathon in 1:17:11 and on pace. The atmosphere was exciting, with cheering crowds lining the streets, helicopters buzzing overhead and motorbikes driving alongside us with television cameras.

After passing the 35 km/21.7 mile mark my legs started to feel the buildup of lactic acid – a burning feeling. I tried to keep on pace and stay with the group I was running with. But they had a finishing kick which I could not follow. I ran by myself from the 38 km/23.6 mile mark to the finish line. This last 4.2 km/2.6 miles felt very long. Having sight of the group I was previously running with helped me to keep strong.

My splits for the marathon were: 5 km 17:50; 10 km 35:54; 15 km 54:20; 20 km 1:13:10; Half-marathon 1:17:11; 25 km 1:31:35; 30 km 1:50:44; 35 km 2:10:00; and 40 km 2:30:11. I finished in 2:38:48 a 4 minute PR, placing in 35th individually. The New Zealand team placed 8th in the women’s marathon World Cup.

My goal time before the race was 2:35:00. Therefore I was disappointed with my time as I felt I was in better shape. One of the mistakes I made was that I started too fast with the leading group. The consequence was that I ran by myself for a long period of time. The right tactic for me would be to stay with the chasing group. This was only my second marathon and I should admit that the mistakes I made were in part because of lack of experience. Thus, I still have a lot of room for improving my race tactics and endurance.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in the World Championships Marathon and to compete with such great athletes. What a great experience and great motivation to keep improving.

My next year’s goal is to run under 2:30:00 for the marathon and under 1:12:00 for the half-marathon. My overall goal is to compete in the 2012 Olympics Marathon in London. Two of the races I have planned for 2010 are the Houston Half-marathon and the Chicago Marathon. At the Chicago Marathon my goal is to meet the qualifying standard for the 2012 Olympics.

My training comprises seven days of a full-time schedule. I average about 100-115 miles (160-185 km) per week. My next step is to find good sponsors so that I can excel further in my training and achieve my goals. Oddly enough, I had to pay my own way to Berlin just race in the World Championships as the New Zealand federation would only pay to send what they deemed to be their very best athletes. But the opportunity to represent my country and gain the experience of running against the world's best was too much to pass up.

As I write this, I am trying to enjoy a couple of weeks off but as every runner knows it’s hard to take time off when running is such a passion. By the time you read this, I will be back at it - hard at work as I prepare for the Aramco Houston half-marathon!

These pictures were from the 2009 World Marathon Champs in Berlin. The first picture is the New Zealand Women's Team: Fiona Docherty, Shireen Crumpton and I. The second picture is of me after the marathon. The third picture is me with Usain Bolt. The fourth picture is of Shireen Crumpton and I watching the final day of competition at the stadium.