ADHM 2016 – a reflection!

There are few experiences in life which make you reflect deeply. Running half marathons are my personal journeys; Journeys of dedication, commitment, persistence, hard work and achievement, or so I’d like to believe.I love the process. I love the training cycle – that’s what gives me my happiness and pride.

The finish line is a beautiful place. The feeling you get when you step on that last mat which marks the end of the race, the sense of achievement and the state of being exultant makes everything worthwhile. I am not even beginning to talk about finish times here. Just the sense of crossing that finish line. But, is it always only that? For a first time half marathoner maybe, yes? But when you do something over and over again, it does become something of a goal to better. Doesn’t it? The expectation we have from our self. The pressure which makes us want to perform. But, the reality is, that nobody nails every run and it is “misleading to only share the good”.

There are people who are happy to just finish a big race but there are also people who like to compete with themselves, to feel a sense of accomplishment. I once read, “Let’s celebrate finish lines and not finish times”. Although I try hard to believe in that, when you think you have worked hard, you also want to see results. My goal, from myself this year, from the half marathon was not to do my best (2:10) but to run through all 21km of the race, like I used to and better my previous year’s time (2:21) which was my first half marathon post pregnancy.

However, this was not to be – this was my toughest half marathon (I’ve completed 6 including this one; Delhi – 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, Mumbai – 2013, Jaipur – 2012) and I have my post race body with DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) to prove it, along with my finish time (2:24:45) and the mental state in which I was. I wondered,  off an on (when I could get moments to reflect), what made the race such a tough one, post 16km? I was maintaining a happy 6:26 pace throughout, then what led to the lull? I had trained, I had some mileage in my legs but then why couldn’t I perform? Was it just a bad day? Maybe, maybe not.

This Sunday, 20th November 2016, the finish line and the reflection on that experience taught me some lessons about my running life and I am using this blog post more as a reflective piece than a commentary about my race!

Lesson 1 – THE RIGHT PREPARATION and PLAN is key! In retrospect, I realise that although I had a training plan and stuck to it, it was NOT THE RIGHT PLAN FOR ME. It exhausted me and fatigued me due to its demand of a fairly longish run during each session. In previous years, I was used to training 4-5 times a week using the the Hal Higdon novice / intermediate plans for guidance. Due to lack of time, during what is already a busy day with school and a toddler, I committed to a thrice-a-week half marathon training plan for 12 weeks. It demanded more in each run even though the frequency of runs was less. On any given week, I was running three runs approx 9km, 10-11km and a long sunday run building up to 18km. I was running on the treadmill twice a week and outdoors on Sunday.

Lesson 2 – Strength training is ESSENTIAL and I did none!  In previous years I was an avid, p90x (modified version) do-er.  This time, I over relied on running to take me through, but only on reaching the 16th km, did I understand the importance of a strong core, back, legs and arms. My body was under stress and screaming, my upper back became stiff and my legs felt heavy. I had to walk-run to the finish, to my dismay and complete shock. I had just run a 15km 2 weeks ago, 18 km a week before, then why was I not able to run through? I was clearly fatigued with no strength in my body.

Lesson 3 – STRETCH, STRETCH, STRETCH. Again, unlike previous years, I rarely stretched. My husband who is a prolific foam roller user, told me time and again “you should be grateful that you are able to run the miles you do”! He is perpetually shocked at how little I do before or after running! It is nothing to be proud of boastful about. It is plain ridiculous to ill treat one’s body. If my body is stressed or under strain of any kind, it is not going to perform for me!

Lesson 4CORRECT RUNNING FORM – A weak core and back makes you slouch once exhaustion sets in. I need to focus on my posture as I run. I especially need to remind myself to relax my upper body. Here you can find a few tips on running form.

Lesson 5 – TRAIN THAT MIND TOO. The battles of the body are won in the mind. If only I had pushed through and told myself, “I can do it”, “just another 5 to go”, “keep running”, when all you want to do is stop and sit! If only I had trained myself to visualise. Of course, I will finish, finishing isn’t hard, its HOW I want to finish that is important. I have to learn to tell myself that I will not settle for less. I want it ALL.

Lesson 6 – PRIORITISE – I can’t perform in every race! Be realistic about what you expect. Not every run will get me to my best but I should know what I want out of each race. Participation? Finish? Improvement? Personal best? I should have known that this was not going to be my day but I believed otherwise. I should have let my training runs on Sunday tell me the truth and I should have heard it. I was not running at my target pace during any of the training runs. I was far from it.

So, before my next half marathon, (in Mumbai – (7 weeks away) hopefully) here’s what I’m going to do! Irrespective of whether I get closer to my previous best or not, at least I will be able to put my hand on my heart and say, “I did the best I could” and “I gave it my all”!

  • I’m going back to the Hal Higdon training plans – they worked for me before!
  • Hills and sprints will feature in my training – Mumbai is no easy half marathon!
  • Running outdoors over running on the treadmill is going to be another change.
  • Strength training and stretching will be a core feature in my training cycle!
  • Nutrition and hydration will be priority.
  • I will find the balance in the imbalance!
  • I will be okay with not giving my 100% to everything all the time

Happy to get other tips!

 

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Half Marathon post baby!

I had read about it. Women running marathons and half marathons post baby! Running a personal best! I follow many of their blogs NYCrunning mama, runfargirl, hungryrunnergirl. Feel inspired, hugely!  I used to wonder if I would ever be able to run a half again. If I would be able to commit myself to the kind of honest and dedicated training it demands.

Friends and well wishers told me, and it turned out to be truer than true ‘having a baby is going to be the greatest marathon of your life’. It was, it is and ever shall it be.

I had been fortunate to have been able run throughout my pregnancy. The day I found out I had conceived (7th January 2014), I had returned after a 16km run as I was training for the Mumbai half marathon. I was training harder than ever. I had just finished the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon on 15th December 2013 and had vowed to break the 2 hour mark for Mumbai. So, I had been pushing myself! The turmoil of having to pull out a race, after putting in the kind of hard work one has to, for a half marathon race, can be unnerving, especially, when you are that close to it!

It was a big decision to not run that race on 19th January 2014. I remember the tears, the anxiety and upheaval I felt before choosing not to run. Dr Bedi had said to me that I could continue to run and workout during pregnancy, just like I was before conceiving, as long as I was not racing half marathons! Having experienced pregnancy losses in the first trimester previously, I chose to heed his suggestion. Maybe, nothing would have happened! But, I just didn’t have the heart to risk it. I did go to Mumbai, as my air ticket and hotel stay were booked and chose to cheer all the finishers including my dear runner friend, Bindu. I have not regretted that decision. There would be many more half marathons and races ahead of me but I really, really wanted this baby!

Running during pregnancy was fantastic for me! My training and workouts made my pregnancy a very healthy and smooth one. I was able to maintain my regimen throughout and ran 4-5 times a week and continued strength training. I used to love my sessions on the stability ball and enjoyed keeping my core and back strong. I gained 9kgs (19 pounds) as weighed on the machine, on the night of 6th Sept 2014, when my labour pains started.

Veera was born on 7th September 2014, at 6:03am. I ran my last run, on the treadmill, 3.5km in 30 mins, after school on the 4th of September.

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My run on 4th sept – 3.5km in 30:00

Yes, I was lucky to be strong mentally and physically. Lucky to have a doctor, Puneet Bedi, who supported and encouraged my running because he knew my body was accustomed to training and running in it’s pre pregnancy state. He never asked me to stop. He just told me to listen to my body and I did. I ran the days I felt good (which was on most days) and to be honest, never really had a to skip a workout. It was only in the last week, (week 38) that I actually had to cut short the distance and slow down my pace due to slight abdominal discomfort.

I reflect, 16 months since Veera’s birth, having completed two 5k races and a half marathon!

It hasn’t been easy. Training post baby, requires a whole new set of multitasking skills and enormous amounts of self motivation! I have learned to become more efficient, stay focused on my runs and plan my running days, with the many other multitude of things I need to get done, as a full time teacher. With a husband who travels a lot, being the primary carer, makes all personal goals, hobbies and interests a little bit harder to pursue but I have tried my best to chase all the things that drive me, make me happy and make me who I am.

There were times when I ran just twice a week or on weekends only and avoided running after work on weekdays as I wanted to spend time with Veera. It felt horrible to go for my training runs straight from work, after already having spent 9 hours away from her in school. There were days I cut short my stretching routine during the morning run, so that I could get home on time to feed Veera breakfast. Nursing her before and after runs until she was well into the world of solid food will take up another blog post altogether! The weekends are special as I get to feed her / share all meals with her. I have almost stopped strength training due to paucity of time during running cycles. I plan to restart this summer and regain the strength I used to feel proud of. I am a big fan of P90X and love the quick, short workout sessions.

Joya, our wonderful nanny has been a pillar of support. Her presence in our lives has made and continues to make so much possible for me. Her loving relationship with Veera, enables me to enjoy the things that are important to me as an individual. We are privileged to get this support and for this I am eternally grateful.

My first 5k race was in Dec 2014 (Running and Living), 14 weeks post Veera.

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My first race (5k) on 14th Dec at 14 weeks post Veera’s birth.
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With my darling daughter, Veera on the eve of her first birthday and my husband, Vijay who came to cheer for me.
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6th September 2015, another 5k.

I ran my next 5k on 6th Sept 2015 (Pinkathon), to celebrate Veera turning a year!

I finally achieved my goal of running a half marathon (Airtel Delhi Half Marathon) on 29th November 2015 when Veera was 1 year, 2 months and 3 weeks old. It was a goal achieved. Something I thought I would never be able to do again. To have been able to complete a half marathon with a toddler and a full time job made me feel very proud of my achievement. Although, I was way off my personal best (2h10m), I was glad to have crossed the finish line.

I hope to run a few races this year. I have signed up for the running and living 10k run on 13th March and hope to sign up for a few more before summer sets in. I will definitely be running the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon and the Mumbai Half Marathon in Jan 2017.