Saturday, August 31, 2013

My world champs experience . . Not the one I was hoping for :-(

August 10, 2013
World Champs marathon, Moscow, Russia
Goal: Personal best marathon time (sub 2:28) and a good placing.

Result: Absolute disaster :-( I have never been in so much pain. Even during childbirth!!!

Here is my recap:
The week leading in to the race I felt great and so excited. All of my runs had been right on pace. My last set of 1km repeats were the fastest I had done, the last tempo felt very relaxed at 3.21min/km and I was ready!!! However on the Thursday afternoon before the race I went for an easy 40min run and during the run I had a strange stitch like pain on my left side. I thought it was because I had eaten lunch a little too close to running. I had been trying to simulate running at 2pm all that week as our race started at this time. However the pain did not get better and that evening was having trouble taking a deep breath. I went to the team physical therapist to get some treatment. I was a little worried but thought it would be fine by Saturday. However on Friday it was still the same and I was pretty worried. I tried to forget about it and just focus on the race and hoped it would not happen during the race.

Race day:
I woke up feeling pretty lethargic and still with the pain :-( Not a good sign before running a marathon, let alone the world champs marathon. However I put the pain and negative feelings out of mind and went to warm up. During the warm up I could tell something was not right. Just doing an easy jog my chest felt tight. I thought it was my bra so did a quick change before the start. I met up with Krista and Lanni in the call room. We had planned to work together as much as we could during the race which we were all excited about as we were all aiming for around 3.28min/km pace. 

From the warm up track we got bused to the stadium where the start of the marathon would be. Walking out into the stadium was a very awesome feeling and one that I wont forget. We lined up and bang we were off. After such a long and hard build-up it was a very surreal feeling those first few laps of the track to finally be racing in my goal race. I got in to a good rhythm and was feeling pretty good. I was surprised that my side was not bothering me but very happy. The first 5km were great and right on pace. However around 6km that little niggle in my side started to come back. All I could think was "NOT NOW"!! "PLEASE NOT NOW"!! By 8km I was in so much pain and breathing was both painful and very hard. It felt like I was breathing though a straw. I tried to remain positive and just hoped the pain would go away so I could pick back up the pace, however this did not happen. Everything just got worse and I got slower and slower. I ended up running so hunched over to try and relieve the pain. I stopped on many occasions to stretch my side and stomach. take deep breaths, push on the area . . . anything I could think of to try and get the pain away. I thought about pulling out every kilometre since 10km but I had worked so hard for this moment and even though it was not my day I wanted to enter that stadium and cross the finish line!! Also I knew that a lot of the girls were struggling with the heat so my goal and focus through the pain was to pick up as many places as I could. For me that was the most frustrating part. My body was so used to running in extreme heat and humidity that the temperature really did not bother me. I have run in far worse in Houston. The heat definitely wold have been to my advantage had my side and breathing not been a problem. 

From kilometre 10 to the finish is a bit of a blur. The remaining memory is pain and wishing the finish line would be closer. I entered the stadium barely being able to run. Not the finish I had imagined during all those long 30km runs pushing the pace and visualizing that finish line. I was very emotional after the race. Angry, sad, frustrated etc etc. It took me a few hours to come right. Breathing was pretty painful for a few days after. However after an evening of complaining and wishing things had happened differently (thanks Gabriel and Lucas for listening and putting up with me) I put things into perspective. In the end it is just running and just one race. There are far more important things in life and there will be other races and other opportunities to perform. 

The NZ sport doctor thought it was probably a virus that affected the lungs and breathing. And possibly a strained muscle. Not sure if this is what happened but I hope I never experience this again. The doctor suggested getting more tests done when I got back to Houston to make sure it was nothing more serious than a virus.  I have had an X-ray, ultrasound, and blood work done. Nothing really significant has shown up on any of these tests. I am still in a little discomfort when running but nothing like it was during the marathon.  My focus now is rehab and getting the side and stomach 100% right. I have started to run again and am slowly building both mileage and intensity but listening to my body and backing off when I need to.

On a much happier note I had a lovely couple of weeks in Moscow with the family. A much needed physical and mental break form running. Moscow and St Petersburg are lovely cities and I am so happy we got to visit these areas together.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me and for all your kind comments following the race. It really helps to receive encouraging messages and feedback.

I will update you again on my progress.

Happy running everyone.
I will finish with a few pictures from Russia

Very early on in the marathon . . Still feeling good here :-) With Lanni and Krista

Start of the marathon in the stadium

Watching the 10,000m and 100m final with the NZ team :-) 

Touring Moscow


Church of the spilt blood, St Petersburg

Enjoying mint tea and Russian honey cake :-)
Lucas practicing running in Moscow :-)
Lucas favorite park in St Petersburg
St Petersburg
Beautiful St Petersburg

Having fun in St Petersburg

Sunday, August 4, 2013

6 days to go and blog about tapering

Only 6 days left until the 2013 IAAF world championships begin. The marathon is on the 10th of August which is the first day of competition. I am currently in Berlin with the other NZ team members. It is great to be around some Kiwis again. I hope I can get some of my accent back :-) The support team here is great and have provided us with everything we need. I am going to the NZ team physio every day. I am enjoying the taper but am missing Lucas and Gabe lots. The longest time I have been away from them. However they will meet me in Moscow before the race :-)

Training since getting to Berlin has been really nice. A drop from 97% humidity to 50% is a lovely change!! Also the temperatures are lower. I was a little worried after training through the Houston heat as I was not always able to be on the pace I wanted. However since getting to Berlin running feels much easier. I did my fastest set of 1km reps here in Berlin which is a nice feeling :-) I arrive in Moscow on the 6th of August. I am excited to get to Moscow and see the marathon course. The IAAF have released the course map but it does not show the elevation. The marathon will be run on a series of loops starting and finishing in the main stadium. I am already getting nervous about lining up on the start line but I know I am ready!!! This has been my longest build-up for a marathon and my longest period of time without injury. It is an exciting time and I cant wait until August 10.

Now to talk more specifically about tapering:
Tapering is an essential part of a marathon build-up. Tapering is cutting back mileage. It is important to taper in order to allow your mind and body the opportunity to rest, recover and prepare for the marathon. Training for a marathon takes months and months of long hard training and dedication.
You don't want to mess that up by not resting enough. In the last 2-3 weeks there is not much you can do to improve your marathon performance but there is a lot you can do to decrease your performance by overtraining in these last few weeks. Below is a link to a paper published in the physical performance and fitness journal on tapering and the effects this has on performance. It is a good read and provides some good information. The most important points from this paper I have summarized below:
1) Decrease training volume in the last 2 weeks 41-60%
The study showed that the length of taper for improvement in performance should be individualized. Anywhere from 8-14 days showed the most performance gains. Anything less would not be enough to reduce fatigue and more reduction could lead to detraining.
2) Keep intensity the same when you drop volume. This is important so no detraining effect occurs and your VO2 max does not drop.
3) Eat a high carbohydrate diet (75%) 4 days before to enhance your glycogen stores.
The paper outlined 3 possible mechanisms to explain how tapering can positively affect performance
a) an increase in maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max)
b) an improvement in power and strength which can influence the energy cost of exercise
c) a rise in the amount of glycogen due to tapering may increase aerobic endurance

Link to paper published in the Physical Fitness and Performance Journal:

A few guidelines I stick to when tapering:
1) Mainatain a good diet and do not try new foods. 3-4 days before the marathon my diet consists mainly of carbohydrates. Up until the day before the marathon I consume only complex carbohydrates. These kind of carbohydrates are found in whole grains, vegetables, peas, beans. These kind of carbohydrates are better for you as they provide vitamins, minerals, and fibre, however they take longer to digest which is not ideal before the marathon. The day before and the day of the marathon I eat simple carbohydrates like white bread and pasta and some fruit. I also eat a low fibre and low fat diet the day before and the day of the race.
2) Limit the amount of time spent on your feet in the final week
3) Be confident in your training and stay positive
4) Do not lift weights in the final week. You don't want to break muscle down at this stage

I hope this information on tapering is of some help. I did an interview for a New Zealand radio station which I have provided the link to below:

Happy Running everyone. I will update you on my progress when I get to Moscow.