My new race recipe

A 2012 trip to Angkor Wat.
A 2012 trip to Angkor Wat.

Given my enthusiasm for registering for races, I’m a pretty lousy racer. Every single time I have crossed a finish line, I have complained about at least one (but usually two or three) of the following:

  • I got a stitch.
  • I had shin splints for the first 5 km.
  • I felt like vomiting for half the race though I was barely jogging.
  • I needed the loo for the entire race.
  • I used the loo during the race.
  • I ran out of fuel.
  • My back/leg/foot hurt.
  • It was too bloody hot.

After Angkor Wat Half Marathon last December, I crossed the finish line shivering from low blood sugar, complaining about every single one of the above. Which is of course why I’m travelling all the way back to Angkor Wat this weekend, via Malaysia, to try again. I need to exorcise the ghost of Dec 2013 by which I mean make it through the 21.1km without a dash to the loo.

Peninsula2014Lately, I had given up on running a decent race, you know one that reflected my training, and not my sensitive gut, performance anxiety, tight calves, inflamed ITB, pissy posterior tibialias, and the dodgy caps on my fuel bottles. Then when I least expected it, it finally happened. At the Western Australia Marathon Club (WAMC)’s 10km Peninsula Run last sunday, I crossed the finish line not only happy but astounded. I could not think of a single thing to complain about. I had run strong and consistently without a stitch, nausea or shin splint, faster than I had ever run before (48:28 according to Strava) – faster than I had ever thought that I could. Unfortunately there was no one I knew there as I crossed the line to witness this miracle so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Besides the obvious fact that a 10km distance is probably a much better distance for me (and my still tender ITB) than 21.1km, I thought about what I had done this time to see if I could possibly replicate it.

My race recipe:

  • I ate steak and drank three glasses of champagne the night before. I doubt this is in the elite handbook.
  • I slept terribly. Nothing new there.
  • I got up at 5AM (it was already bright which made it easier than those dark early starts in KL).
  • I ate a toasted English muffin with butter and jam two hours before the race. No more pre-race oatmeal. I think that may have been last year’s big mistake.
  • I ran 1km slowly then stretched before the race. I reckon this was a big factor in avoiding shin splint pain for the first half or the race.
  • I did not look at my pace while I ran but focussed on my cadence and form whilst doing short sprints to pass people all along the route. At the rate my eyesight is deteriorating, looking at my watch and actually seeing numbers will not be an option for much longer anyway.
  • I didn’t stop at the water stations as I was carrying enough in a handheld bottle. I know that if I had slowed or stopped I wouldn’t have been able to resume my running ryhthm.
  • I ate three jellybeans during the race as I’d run out of GU chews.
  • I spent 48 minutes thinking ‘I’m so glad that this is only 10km. I couldn’t run a further 11.1km’.

This unexpected PB that has given me a little morale boost after about six months of rehabilitation and self-doubt. In a way, I feel that it gives me license to relax a bit (yeah like pass the personality transplant!) and try and enjoy this year’s Angkor Wat Half Marathon.

My WAMC bib finally got an airing.
My WAMC bib finally got an airing.

The champagne and steak maybe hard to come by in Siem Reap, and the toasted English muffin at some godawful hour may also be unattainable, but I will attempt to warm up and stretch, have jellybeans and working fuel caps at the ready, and not look at my watch as I run. In addition to my multi-excuses last year, the fact that I didn’t make it to the start line in time for the starter gun as the race started 5 minutes early was a bit of a bummer, especially having travelled all the way from Malaysia and making it as far as the portaloo queue with time to spare, or so I thought. The race is starting 20 minutes earlier this year, presumably to allow runners to fall over each other in the dark before watching the sun rise over the temple at the end of their first kilometre. (Yes I’m that anal that I’ve checked the sunrise time for Sunday. Normal, right?). The bonus will be that there are so many people I know travelling from KL for the race that there will be plenty of familiar faces at the finish line. Feel free to start placing bets on which complaint I spout first – I’m thinking it will be: ‘I’m going to stick to 10km races in future’. Let’s see.

First Post from Perth

Right. It’s been a while. Had a few things to do you know with the whole setting up a new life all over again thing. I wonder if there’s any chance of a consultancy post in witness protection for the FBI. I’m really getting rather good at this setting up a new life lark, bureaucratically speaking at least. My other career option at the moment is as an extra for ‘Home & Away’. I now live near a beach and there are always, always surfers doing their thang in the water – and undressing beachside. I’ve been practising walking past over and over looking disinterested and I think I’m ready for camera.

Career progression aside, a month after our arrival in Perth, our lives have taken on some degree of ‘normalcy’. That is if you consider having to weave around a maze of cardboard boxes to get from the kitchen to the bathroom to be normal.

Cottesloe Beach - 1.5km from my door and I get to run here
Cottesloe Beach – 1.5km from my latest door. Sorry no half naked surfer dudes in this shot 😦

The kids are happy at school. I’ve got a new address, a bank account, a phone, a car, a SATNAV (very important!) and of course, I’ve resumed my duties as personal driver to three children. My soccer-obsessed son was welcomed into a local club despite the season being almost finished, and daughter no. 2 is thrilled to have joined a great gymnastics club with lots of cool equipment. She has committed to 5.5 hours of training – and an extra 3 hours driving for me – per week. If only I got paid for mileage. Unfortunately, I’m paying for the mileage and it will take a long time to adjust to the price of petrol here compared to Malaysia. OMG!

Even nearer than the beach, I have the river. Nice :)
Even closer than the beach, the river. Nice 🙂

IMG_7446Speaking of mileage, this summer (and now winter as I’m in the Southern Hemisphere where winter seems disconcertingly like a great Irish summer but with surfers) was definitely the season of a lot of Expat and virtually no Runner for The Expat Runner. But now I think I’ve finally, with the help of a new Australian physio, and a three-pronged approach to Rehab (more on that another day), started to improve my ITBS. Sunday, I ran 5km for the first time in 10 weeks. Two weeks ago, I could barely manage 1.8km before excruciating pain forced me to stop. The cure has involved a lot of Elvis-inspired pelvic thrusting, frequent application of anti-inflammatory gel and, counter to the advice I received in Ireland, running (on alternate days only). I’m a long way from better but I’m on track for a return to racing. For now, I’m grateful for a return to running, even if it’s only 5km. In the meantime, a slower pace along the beach has its perks. Surf’s up mate, or whatever these lovely Ozzies say.

 

In Case of Emergency

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My favourite part of racing is registering. Months in advance, I love to complete online registration. Just a few clicks and some typing, and I’m giddy with excitement and a sense of accomplishment. If only I always felt the same after the race!

Every race requests details of medical conditions and a contact number in the event of an emergency. Now this is a detail I’ve been quite blasé about; whether he’s racing with me or not, I type in my husband’s name and phone number. I recently signed up for my first race in Australia. It’s in August and as I don’t possess a crystal ball, I’ve no idea what my husband’s phone number will be come race day. So I provided his Malaysian number knowing full well that by then this line will dead. In addition he’s running too so he won’t be carrying his phone anyway. I felt a slight tinge of bad conscience but really, what are the chances that anyone will need to call an emergency number on my behalf?

All this irresponsible form-filling lit up like an Emergency beacon last Sunday at Borneo International Marathon. Hanging out after the race, I saw a member of my running club who had trained really hard for his first marathon, being stretchered into the back of an ambulance. He had collapsed at the 41km mark. When I saw him he was unconscious and quite frankly looked dead. I remembered writing my husband’s number on the back of my bib in the space allocated to Emergency Contact but I couldn’t tell if my friend had done the same as he lay in the ambulance, paramedics urgently settling him for the siren-blazing ride to the hospital. I don’t know his wife but knew that she was staying at a hotel. Though the ambulance crew assured me that they would contact her, they couldn’t confirm that they had her number. I got the name of the hospital and rushed to retrieve my phone from the baggage area, found the hotel phone number and called her. She had already been contacted and was getting ready to head to the hospital. I still don’t know if the race people called her based on the information my friend had provided at registration, or if he had a number on the backside of his bib. (Bib swappers take note!!!) Either way, at least his wife was contacted very quickly. My friend was unconscious for four hours and luckily has made a ‘full recovery’ from heat exhaustion after four days in hospital.

My friend Lorna's pretty pink ID bracelet
My friend Lorna’s pretty pink ID bracelet

The shock of seeing him unconscious aside, the incident brought home the importance of these emergency contacts we provide. That day, my husband was nowhere nearby.  He was an still in bed, on an entirely different land mass, almost three hours flight away. He didn’t have a phone number for any friend I was with on Sunday. In fact, I don’t think he really knew who I was hanging with on Borneo. And my friends were racing, their phones stowed away in the baggage area. So, I wondered who should I have had as my emergency contact? Who would have ensured that I received the best possible care? Who would have hovered anxiously over my comatose body urging me to wake up. I suspect that given my circumstances that day – no one!

Several of my running buddies wear ID bracelets which provide essential information in case of emergency. I have held off buying one because again I don’t have contact details that will still be valid in a month’s time. However, once we get our new phone numbers, I vow to buy bracelets for both my husband, who cycles, and myself. Of course, even if I wear my bracelet, calling the number on it could be a waste of time.

Next weekend I plan to run the NM Galaxy 15km. My husband, it turns out, will be on a plane to South Korea as I curse the hills of Bukit Tunku. Until last Sunday, I’d have just shrugged and said, ‘Ah well, what are the chances of me collapsing at the race? After all, I’ve vowed to take it easy and not push hard.’  After the incident at Borneo Marathon, I’ve had a wake up call. Now, I need to find a friend, who isn’t running next Sunday, but who is prepared to take a call on my behalf – just in case.

How seriously do you consider the emergency contact information you provide at racing events? Do you wear a safety bracelet on training runs? If your partner races too, who can be contacted if one of you falls?

Juice

I recently bought a Breville juicer hoping I could use it to get more fruit and veg into my picky kids. Well so far kids-4, mom-0, but I’ll keep trying. And I’m still juicing as I happen to love the stuff and hope it will keep me strong and healthy for the jam-packed running and packing/moving months ahead.
Coincidentally, flicking through the US edition of Runners World yesterday, an article entitle ‘Get Juiced’ caught my eye. By the way, the fabulous Shalane Flanagan, my current runner’s crush, is their cover girl this month and there are several articles related to Monday’s Boston marathon.

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Back to the juice. I opted for the 1 beet/1 cm ginger/half cucumber/1 pear combo recipe from RW and it tasted great. Beet can be tough on the intestines but it is meant to be an athletic performance enhancer as it oxygenates the blood. Ginger is supposed to calm the stomach. Let’s hope they balance each other out for tomorrow’s 21km LSD!

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The One Where I Admit That I’ve been Foolish

One of the many things I love about running is how strong and powerful it makes me feel, and the fact that that I always feel better after a run than before one. Or nearly always. Today, for the first time running since my Angkor Wat Half Marathon on Dec 1, I neither felt strong nor powerful, and I finished my run 1km short of my 21 km target feeling sore, worried and annoyed. Annoyed with myself because over the past week I had pushed my pace so hard on three 13, 10 and 10km runs that not only are my legs tired even after a rest day, my foot hurts at the site of my PTT (Posterior Tibialis Tendonitis) injury. Annoyed that I may have been a bit foolhardy. This isn’t good news two weeks before my first Half Marathon of the year, the Malaysia Women Marathon (MWM).

My training program has been flexible to say the least though I do try to alternate easy and hard days and run no more than 60km a week. I love to run every day, and rarely think of it in terms of race preparation but rather as a wonderful experience in itself. The trouble is that in the past two weeks I’ve developed a taste for pushing my pace far more than I ever dreamed possible and this need for speed has become addictive. It’s hubris really, and a desire to feel good about myself, that pushes me to run faster – and of course those little crowns on Strava are also very addictive! And to be honest running fast (for me) felt good!

aqua

But my foot is complaining now so my ego has to take a back seat and I have to rest. I had physio on Friday and though my hamstrings were soft, the muscles in my calves, ankles and shins were very tight and my left Achilles Tendon was screaming (actually it was I who screamed when my PT touched it). The Achilles feels ok today but the right Posterior Tibialis is sore to walk on.

I didn’t write this post to bore you with my injury niggles, nor to entertain foot fetishists, but to serve as a warning against doing too much, too fast. I hated the way I felt running this morning – heavy legged, and ultimately sore footed – and it means I can’t run tomorrow unless my foot feels significantly better in the morning and even then it can only be a short, slow recovery run. I know, I know, I probably shouldn’t run, even if it does feel better.

Exactly four weeks ago, I ran a personal best 21km which inspired hope of repeating the effort at MWM. After today, I am concerned that I may not be able to run the race at all. Another of the great things about running is that you learn a lot of things  – humility, resilience, respect for your body’s power and limitations, and how sometimes if you get carried away, as I have done (a few times!), that a price must be paid. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

Tips:

  • So, runners, remember rest days are very, very important so find some low-impact activity to do on these days if you can’t bear not doing any exercise at all.
  • Alternate easy and hard workouts. Hard workouts would be tempo runs, long runs, interval training, hills etc.
  • Strength and stability training of ankles, calves, quads, and glutes is a no-brainer (yeah, I’ve been lax on that one too). The core and upper body should not be neglected either.
  • Stretching out those tight leg muscles after a run is essential to aid recovery and prepare your body for your next run. Not doing so will lead to the formation of adhesions and scar tissue which will ultimately lead to pain. I’ve got into the habit of stretching my calves while I’m waiting for the coffee machine, microwave and brushing my teeth. I assume I’d be even worse off today if I hadn’t.
  • Listen to your body, preferably before it starts shouting abuse at you as mine is doing now.
  • No matter what your race goals are, if any, ultimate responsibility for your health lies with self. Running isn’t bad for you (it’s the best thing evva!), running irresponsibly, as I have done recently, can be.
  • Do as I say, and not as I have done.

When an LSD turns into a PB

Smothering with a head cold, and cursing the loss of my MacBook Pro which simply went to sleep last night and couldn’t be awoken this morning, it seems like the best thing to do between vicious sneezes and nose blowing is dwell on the past. The immediate past that is. Before my nose started to run, I had my best long run ever. Perhaps the two are connected. One was certainly more fun than the other.

laptopYesterday I ran 21km, for the first time since Dec 1, with only a brief stop at 7- Eleven to buy Gatorade, on a very hilly route, in just under 1:52. Yep my LSD was faster than any of the three half marathons I’ve run despite the route being much hillier than each of the race routes. So, why?!

Firstly, my husband ran with me for the first 10 km. At 6’4”, he’s just a bit taller than me, and his legs are at least a foot longer than mine, so he can run faster without having run more than a few kilometres in the past few weeks. It’s not fair I know, but it was helpful for keeping me paced around the dodgy 7-10km mark when there is still a LONG way to go.

The temperature was only a chilly  22˚C, the humidity a mere 88%, so the weather probably had a positive effect on performance.

I didn’t feel nauseous, nor did my stomach lurch as if a small animal had just awoken from hibernation in my stomach. This is excellent news as anyone who has spoken to me about running in the past few weeks has heard ad nauseum how mid-race nausea/stomach upset is my biggest concern.

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I had a cup of coffee and a few glasses of water, and munched on three thin gingersnap cookies before running. I ran with two 8oz bottles of Accelerade, slightly more diluted than manufacturer’s instructions, in a fuel belt, then refilled the bottles with Gatorade at 15.5km. I know the fuel stop of 2-3 minutes did allow some recovery but I couldn’t risk continuing another 6km without anything to drink. It may only have been 22˚C when I started running at 7:30am, but the temperature and sun were certainly edging up by 9:00am.

As it was Chinese New Year there was very little traffic and I did not have to stop at any road junctions; this is extremely rare and offered a great endurance training opportunity. I had a run-free day on Friday so my legs were rested. I guess this helped.

I ate two large pasta meals on Friday as it was a holiday so we ate out for lunch which I rarely do. I’m a lazy cook so lunch is often a bagel with peanut butter or if I’m feeling very culinary, I microwave two poached eggs and stick them between some toast. I’m sure Friday’s carb-rich combined with fish protein meals helped me on Saturday morning.

I drank no water during the run. I think this may be important as often I drink out of fear of getting dehydrated. I think though that too much water in the digestive system can be bad news.

What’s more, until this stinking head cold hit last night, I felt great for the rest of the day. I sprinted the last 500m of the run which means there was still something left in  my legs. All in all, yesterday’s LnotsoSD was a great confidence booster, and a worry queller, that I will dredge up from memory the next time I try race a Half Marathon (on March 16th if all goes to plan) to convince myself that yes, I can in fact do it – as long as my husband runs with me, I carry three bottles of Accelerade and Gatorade, drink no water at all, the weather is cooler than at any other time in the previous 50 years, I stuff my face with carbs, shrimp and spinach the day before, and run not too fast, on rested legs, after eating three cookies and a strong coffee for breakfast.

So that’s the post-mortem on the best run evva.

I’m hoping that a visit to a Mac store tomorrow will enable an equally essential post-mortem and file retrieval on the MacBook. I had just discovered some hilarious videos the kids had made while we lived in Norway, and was in the process of organising them to back them up, when the grim reaper from Apple heaven struck. I’ll be very upset if I’ve lost them. At least I had backed up my novel-in-progress though it was sobering to discover that in the past year, I added a mere 10,000 words to the draft. Yes, I’ve been 80% (and now 90%) finished the first draft for the past 12 months. Yikes! I blame this running lark for making me care much less about this fact than I should. Or maybe it’s the damn head cold that’s dulling my senses. Let’s see how I feel tomorrow.

P.S. In the very unlikely event that anyone from Accelerade or Gatorade’s distributor in Malaysia is reading, please don’t feel obliged to send me any freebies or testers. No, there’s no obligation at all. However, it is my birthday next month. Just sayin’. 

UPDATE Feb3: The mother board on my laptop is dead which means that effectively my MacBook Pro has gone to Apple Heaven after 5.5 years of service. The hard disk is however thankfully intact so I should be able to transfer its contents to another computer which I will fastidiously back up. I still have a wretched cold.

MWM Training Session 4

I must be getting used to this early morning running lark. Today, I woke at 4:30AM, twenty minutes before my alarm. Only a special occasion will get me out of bed that insanely early and today’s event was the Malaysia Women Marathon training clinic at Universiti Malaya.

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The plan was to run and discuss pace management under the guidance of Race Director Karen Loh  and guest speaker, Ironman Richard Tang. The plan was to run two 5 km loops, one as a warm-up and one as a time trial. As often happens, we deviated from the plan. I wasn’t going to do the time trial as I’d already put in a lot of miles this week and my legs certainly felt it. My body was saying ‘no’, so I replied ‘That’s ok, I’m exhausted too. You’ve done the warm-up so why don’t you sit your weary self down on the kerb and watch everyone else running their asses off’.
After the 5 km loop in the dark, which I and two others stretched to 6 km by getting lost, Richard and MWM mentor Lorna Wong, led some interval training work on a hill. The hill, which had featured in the 5 (6!) km loop, was over 1 km long with a gradient that went as high as 15 %. I think most runners did three intervals up and down. On the final interval, Richard allowed the slower runners to start off up the hill first, then the faster paced, and he followed behind. The idea, he explained, was that all should reach the top at the same time as they maximized their efforts to try to catch up on the person in front of them.
Now Race Director Karen always sports very pretty running skirts and the Full Marathon finishers at MWM will receive a finisher skirt, so the skirt has become an emblem of the MWM event. We bet Richard that if he didn’t make it to the top of the hill with or before Lorna Wong, the second last runner to head up, he had to wear a skirt. Here is Richard being very sporting and rather fetching in said skirt. (He’s the one with the Ironman tattoo on his left leg in case you can’t tell).
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I met several new runners today. The first question from one was ‘How old are you?’ I will never get used to such direct questions no matter how long I live in Asia! Since turning 40, I haven’t got used to the answer either; I feel like I’m speaking about someone else when I say ‘almost 43’. Another lady asked me if I was The Expat Runner. That’s the kind of direct question I’d love to hear more of. Lisa, you made my day.
Participants at the third MWM Training Clinic
Participants at the third MWM Training Clinic
ImageFinally, as unexpectedly I didn’t get lost on the way to Universiti Malaya this morning – I did get lost going home though – I turned up early enough to receive this lovely MWM notebook, which Karen offered to first arrivals at the clinic. They say the early bird catches the worm; this morning I didn’t see any worms (nor snakes nor monkeys thankfully), but I did what I am now calling a ‘lazy girl’s recovery run’, I encouraged a man to wear a skirt AND I got a notebook 😉
The next MWM clinic is scheduled to take place at Stadium Universiti Malaya. However, the venue has been booked for another event, so MWM will run the training clinic at an alternative location, yet to be decided.
All photos courtesy of Karen Loh.

A Tourist in Thailand

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They say only mad dogs and Englishman brave the midday sun, but today, I joined them. Having grown bored of my usual routes in KL, this trip to Thailand has after only one run left me feeling rejuvenated and exhilarated. There’s nothing like only having a vague idea of where you are heading, based on a cursory glance at Google Maps, to fill you with a sense of adventure. As you can see from the photos, the road I chose was wide with some spectacular cliffs visible in the distance. I’m sure every car and bike that passed thought me a crazy white woman running in the midday heat, but as my husband pointed out, I need to do such training to get prepared for my 21km leg of the Half Ironman we’ve signed up for in April. Thankfully, a Gatorade bought at 9km sustained me back to the hotel and though I spotted many an Englishman, there were no mad dogs chasing my heels today.

Strava to the Rescue (of my ego)

My husband is a very keen and competitive road cyclist who spends most Sunday mornings dragging himself and his hideously expensive (to a non-cyclist) bike up hills on the outskirts of KL. After each ride, he usually sits in front of a computer and analyses his ride data, and tells me that he’s just been declared King of the Hill, or fifth fastest ever on a stretch of road, that kind of thing. The ride data is assessed on a website called Strava. I will admit that my eyes have frequently glazed over at the sight of Strava, spotted over my husband’s shoulder. Until yesterday, that is, when it attracted my full attention for the first time.

Yesterday, being a holiday, the routine went as usual. My husband was on Strava, looking at the data from our run the previous day in Bukit Tunku. The website collates running data as well as riding. ‘You’d probably be Queen of the Hill on some of these route segments here,’ my husband said.

Whoa! Hold up a second? What!? Faster than it takes to set up a Facebook page, I registered on Strava, uploaded over 400 runs from my Garmin watch, and found that yes indeed, I had set course records (CR), personal records (PR), and even Queen of the Hill records on a variety of run segments that are popular locally. I received a deluge of virtual medals and trophies.

My Strava accolades
My Strava accolades

Now I’m not getting carried away with the glory of all this virtual ego-boosting as none of the fast runners I know are on Strava, but still. If you’ve read my previous post – no? – then off you go and do that now here and please come back.

Back? OK. Where was I? Race anxiety, that’s where I was, setting PBs in training but failing to come up with the goods on race day. Strava means that my training runs are recorded and visible so that when I do manage to run my fastest, the results are visible online, and if they are good enough, I receive a little virtual trophy for a course record, or a medal for a personal record. As someone who tends to run fast for short distances, way shorter than most races, it means I can still get recognition for my short, sharp bursts of speed. Unfortunately my happiness is a bit too dependent on recognition – other INFJs will understand 🙂

Strava is really a social networking site for people who love to run and ride, a place where it’s perfectly acceptable – indeed it’s de rigeur –  to advertise your latest athletic accomplishment, be it a 150m hill, or a 7km loop, without fear of alienating your sedentary friends. You can also comment on people’s training sessions and Like (give Kudos to) friends’ runs or rides.

Stravaprofile

I’m thinking too that it’s probably a great way of discovering new running routes too, something I’ll be facing when we relocate mid-year. The site is free, though Premium membership – my husband has it – provides lots of extras such as pace analysis and goal setting. I’m not quite ready to commit the money just yet but I suspect that like joining Facebook and Twitter, it’s probably inevitable now that I’ve discovered the site.

Here’s a link to my Strava profile if you want to follow me there, and I will return the favour. At the moment, I only have one Follower. My husband, of course 🙂

When Self-Doubt Takes Hold

Last week I blithely, yet proudly, mentioned to a friend that I had done a PB on the hilly 7km loop from my house through Desa Sri Hartamas/Mont Kiara. My father-in-law had just died suddenly and unexpectedly in Denmark, and my husband had flown home for the funeral, so I guess I was using my legs to blow out some mental cobwebs.

‘Oh I never run PBs in training,’ my friend replied matter-of-factly. A-ha! Of course she doesn’t. Just this past weekend she stood on the podium of a 15km race and received a well-earned trophy for third place. My friend, and probably most runners, keep their best for race day. Most runners, aided by adrenaline and motivation to succeed, can out-perform themselves when there’s a medal to be gained. However, I find that nerves get the better of me so that my adrenaline levels peak before the race begins, and I’m lucky to make it from the portaloo to the start line in time for the gun. For my last race, I didn’t even manage that!

In the run-up to the MPIB 2014 12 km race next Sunday, I have found myself crippled with self-doubt. I have a a severe case of performance anxiety, so bad, that yesterday I was wondering whether it was time to drop this whole racing lark altogether and just run for pleasure. (I’ve had similar anxiety issues about work in the past so it’s not as if my personality isn’t being consistent). Despite my injury, I’ve trained hard in the past 12 months, and I can see from my Garmin logs that my training pace is noticeably higher than it was in December 2012. I’ve also done speed-work since September, something I had never heard of a year ago. So, on paper, anyone would expect that I will run faster in this year’s race than last, when I was unexpectedly awarded 10th place and won some nice prizes and a trophy. This time, I’m terrified that on race day, I won’t be able to come up with the goods, that I will fail to get placed, that I won’t live up to expectations.

The philosophy about running for fun, running to be part of something whether it be a community or a race, has been somewhat overwhelmed by anxiety over whether I can out-perform myself (and others) in this upcoming race. I think it’s safe to say, that even if I’d been born with Paula Radcliffe’s lungs and pre-injury legs, my brain would have sabotaged any chance of World Championship medals. It must take an astounding level of mental toughness to withstand the expectations of a nation on top of one’s own expectations, at a task at which there is only one chance.

This morning, in an attempt at quelling my nerves, I ran much of the MPIB 12 km route with my husband. Last year I remember cursing aloud good-humouredly as I struggled up some of the hills. Despite the physical effort, I enjoyed the absurdity of the situation I had put myself in at sunrise on a Sunday morning. This morning I wasn’t cursing so much but aware that my suffering was self-imposed, I was metaphorically shaking my head at having signed up for a race at all! Darn, but it was hard going. Of course, running hard is similar to childbirth-once home I was hit by a sense of achievement and euphoria, the physical sensations felt en route slightly forgotten.

The route for the MPIB 12 km is very, very challenging with much of the first 5 km uphill. Anyone who completes the race in any time deserves a bloody medal – and should feel a sense of achievement and boost to their self-esteem! Somehow, in realizing this today, I recaptured a sense of why I run, and why I need to push myself through my fear of races. My body is capable of far more than my mind will ever give it credit for and my mind has been doing a fairly decent job lately of sabotaging my running joy. This morning’s run allowed me to stick two rude fingers up at the little voice that keeps undermining me, the voice that continuously tells me that I am never good enough. The endorphin effect was as short-lived as an epidural but strong enough to convince me to try to race on Sunday – with lower expectations. I’ve decided that I don’t need to do a PB on race day – even if I’ve managed to do one today in training – if the pressure to do so takes away every ounce of pleasurable anticipation and replaces it with dread. Who’s pressurizing me anyway, other than my own ego? I’m no Paula Radcliffe after all. Being capable of hauling my ass around a hilly 12km route next Sunday is simply going to have to be good enough, PB or not. Actually, getting to the start line in time, and near the front, will be the bigger achievement! No kidding!

Wherever you are, runner, walker, couch surfer, whether you’re facing a race or other less trivial challenges in your life, whatever your dreams and ambitions, I wish you all the best as we head into a new calendar year. Thanks for reading. Oh, and if you haven’t tried running, I recommend that you try it 🙂

Happy New Year.

Johanna x