Monday, October 29, 2007

Ready for New York City
Starting the run at Ironman Canada 2007. That was hard!
It's been about ten years since I ran my last stand alone marathon. Over the course of five years in the early 90's I ran six marathons, posting a personal best at California International way back in 1992. When I was a young runner, in my teens, I remember thinking that I would run a marathon before I turned 24, so I guess that's why I did my first one in 1992: I was already a year overdue. There's something about having a firm conviction about what you want to do and finding a way to make it a reality.
Since that day in Sacremento, a lot has happened. (For one, when I went back in '94, my boyfriend proposed in the hotel room. That was Lance and that's another story). I turned away from marathons in '96, finding that my body couldn't handle the mileage required of world class marathoners, focusing instead on the wonderful intensity of cross country, the 5 and 10km events, and eventually discovered triathlon as a way to satisfy my desired lifestyle of combining being outdoors, competing at endurance events and cross training. In the last seven years I have raced three Ironmans and have given birth naturally to two children: at each of these events I swore at the time it was the hardest thing I have ever done. (In the moments after each of the first of these events I swore I would never do another--birth or Ironman). Some things just make you tougher.
So, at the beginning of this year, the year I turned 40, I got it in my brain that I was going to do another marathon. I knew it would have to be a fall marathon, after Ironman training was stashed away as foundation. I considered the Royal Victoria in my home town, but then as fate would have it, when I went to race at Freihofers 5k in June, I was invited back to New York for the marathon. Once the seed was planted there was no turning back in my mind. I had to do New York. In my long career, it was imperative to do New York, and to do it this year. I said yes.
I now I find myself staring down the last few days before this famous race. Soon I will be boarding a plane and flying from Victoria to JFK, will be making a room at the Hilton my race headquarters for a few nights, I will be hydrating and stretching and thinking about calories, what to wear and reviewing my pace plan.
Right now I feel excited and yet calm and intensely alive. I'm ready and I'm strongly aware of the poignancy of the occasion--my high performance career is winding down, maybe not with this race, but soon. I feel honoured to be heading out for this famous event that runs through 5 boroughs of the big apple city (I can't wait to hear the Gospel singes in Harlem!). I'm curious to put my endurance to the test--how will I feel now that I have raced those gruelling Ironman events where the discomfort goes on for hours? I have run so many more half marathons, good ones, and my training is light years smarter than it was in '92.
After all those early years of being anxious and nervous, of being worried about being good enough, the gifts that time has given me--the gifts of family and marriage and perspective--are with me now. I am going into this race clear headed and with a strong sense of joy. I can't wait. I've never felt more like a runner than at this moment and I know I'm tough enough!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cultivating a Calm and Joyful Mind

After twenty years in sport, I have a pretty good understanding of what physiological markers I need to reach in training in order to achieve certain goals in competition. I have never yet tired of the relentless pursuit of the perfect race, nor the simple act of putting on my shoes and going for a run in the woods. My life has changed immensely in the last seven years through the birth of my two children, and parenting has rewarded me with personal challenges outside sport beyond what I ever could have imagined.

What I love to work on now is the rewarding process of becoming an astute and balanced person while continually entering the high stress playing fields of competition. I practice cultivating a continuous calm and joyful mindset, a psychological state that is like happiness and contentment with the current moment, but is also manifest in a mental clarity that creates a stillness whether things are going really well, or very poorly. I’ve been through all the intense ups and downs of sport so many times I find solace in being able to remain confident and centred through everything that comes along. When things go wrong, I feel disappointment and then I move on. When I experience a win (or a 4th, as in my most recent World Duathlon Championships Result in Virginia), I smiled and laughed with the locals, then came home to my family in Victoria and resumed taking Maia to soccer, and watching planes with son Ross, equally important events in my life.

So, a good portion of my training energy is devoted to cultivating the kind of mindset that makes me feel good. How do I cultivate this feeling, this confidence? I use my time well. When I am training, I make a commitment to myself to put my best effort into each day, no matter how tired I am, or what has happened in my personal life. I contemplate how I feel when things are going well and the positive thoughts and attitude I have about myself, the world and my training. I work on eliminating negative self-talk, self- defeating behaviour and actions that sabotage success.

I like the discipline of training my body and my mind, of practicing how I am going to be confident and joyful on race day. The more I practice being confident in training sessions, the more easily that mind-ease surfaces on race day. I like getting to races ready to perform. I expect to be nervous before major competitions as this means that deep down, I care about what I do, but with my well of calm at my centre, the nervousness never becomes debilitating. I work to be free of worry and anxiety, to be able to focus on the process of running well. This practice serves me well, as when I arrive at a big event where the athletic stakes are higher, like a world championships, I have the comfort of knowing that all the strength and courage I need are right there in my soul.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Athletes and Artists: Not So Different!

I just came across another blog--this one about art and being creative. It's called Sixty Minute Artist, and the author has 4 kids and a full time job and needed to find a way to do art to stop himself from going crazy. So he finds sixty minutes each day to make progress on a painting.

hmmmm. Sounds like some other people I know. People who need to train each day to feel normal. hmmmm. Sounds like me.

So I read his latest post and it's about how to be a successful artist. This piqued my interest because I have always believed that there are similarities between athletes and artists and writers (and probably dancers, musicians, environmentalists and a whole lot of other similar people who have a passion for something.

He mentions that there are 3 things that make a successful artist.

1. Curiosity 2. Commitment 3. Good work habits

Now I am smiling. When I gave my Run For Joy talk at the marathon, I spoke about the many things I feel have been a huge part of my success and how we can all find personal success if we know what we are looking for. My top three were:

1. Overcoming personal barriers. 2. Commitment and dedication. 3. Creating joyful opportunities in racing and training.

My 2 is the same as his 2 and my 1 is the same as his 3. I would even say that my 3 is very close to his 1. Just a different way of saying it.

Curiosity, though. I like that word. It has got me thinking!


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"What to do with an old box, Idea #546": Make an Alien helmet. (unkl Dan photo)

What does this have to do with anything? The box started life holding the vase that I won for coming first in the Royal Victoria Half Marathon this last weekend. The kid inside is my son Ross. The cool alien helmet was made by his big sister Maia. This photo exemplifies how I balance my athletic professional life with my family.

In case anyone is wondering how I do it, here is the short version. I left the house at 6:30 am on Sunday morning. Ross was already up, and I left him with Janet, our super-sitter, reassuring him with the usual "mummy is going for a run." That always works. It was sort of late for a 7:30 start, but this is my home town and I was pretty sure I knew where to park even on race morning. I love the drive down Blanshard before a race. I get on the highway at Royal Oak, favourite music turned up loud and pretty soon I can tell the other runners' cars: caps, running jackets, people with Ironman Canada stickers on their back windshields. It's like the pre-race rally. I nailed my parking spot, 3 blocks from the Empress.

I was already sure I was going to have a great race. I am not exactly sure why this is so, except that I have never NOT had a great race in the city, and after years of practicing race preparation, my body just seems to go on positive thinking auto pilot on race morning.

Nevertheless I was a little nervous. I was a little nervous because I had set myself up with some extrinsic goals on top of my usual run out of sheer joy and fun attitude. I want to break my course record, and I had publicly stated that I want to break that Canadian Masters record. I want to win (I always want to win, I admit. I have felt this way since I was 5 and it just doesn't go away, even though I am 40, have kids and should know better).

I was nervous, because I had a pretty strange week as far as preparing for a race goes. After three easy and moderate weeks post Ironman Canada, I built into two very strong weeks of training, and felt awesome. At the end of that 2 weeks I performed an excellent training session consisting of a 2 and a half hour run with 80 minutes of strong tempo in the latter half of the run. I had to really commit to that run. It was hard but I was determined to make it happen. I was tired for a week after that training block and had to modify most of my sessions leading into the Half Marathon.

I had a busy week with the kids too, with Lance away at the Hawaii Ironman (catch his commentary on They don't sleep well when he first goes away, and with soccer, swimming and everything else I was in full on kid mode most of the time.

In fact, I took the last 4 days before Sunday so easy that I knew I would be OK. It's one thing I know about myself, I race well when rested.

Despite the weather warnings, the morning was not cold, the wind was calm and the day was perfect for running. (that changed at about 10:30am, halfway through the race for the poor marathoners).

I can honestly say that after the horn sounded, I just ran. I ran as hard as I could and when it started to get uncomfortable at 11k, I told myself to be tough. With Ironman still fresh in my mind (that's 10 hours of tough and at least 5 hours of really really tough), I knew I could hurt for 40 more minutes, or 30, or 5). At one point I felt my right shoe slipping a little on my heel. "Oh rats, I thought. I didn't tighten my laces enough. Now my Achilles is hurting. What if I have to drop out so I don't injure myself?" I decided to stop thinking about it, as even thinking about it was slowing my pace down. I decided to cross that bridge when I got there--if it really did start hurting. Guess what? I forgot all about it. Though I will make a mental note to check my laces before longer races next time.

Coming back through Fairfield I ran past all the participants still heading out. Wow. The young guy I was running with began a conversation. I wasn't in the mood for talking but I told him my name was Lucy. He remarked, "I figured that out. It seems like everybody is cheering for you!"

With a kilometer to go, I glanced at my watch and saw 1:13 and change. That was good; I turned it up a notch. Coming around the Wax Museum into that finishing straight, I saw 1:15 on the clock and as I approached it turned over to 1:16. Knowing my course record was close, I just sprinted as fast as I could. I got the record by 1 second.

It was a good confidence booster for Worlds and New York City Marathon. Except that my legs were so sore. I could hardly cool down my legs were so sore. It's Tuesday now and they are still sore. That's another thing I know about myself. My legs get sore.

Well, the rest of the morning was just wonderful. The RVM is a world class event with world class atmosphere. I chatted with the PowerBar guys as I drank my post race recovery shake and watched them trying to enforce the 1 per athlete quota. I joined Silken Laumann, Alison Sydor and the rowers-on-fire Malcolm and Kevin for the kids run. I grabbed a beautiful latte from Mirage on Government, I finally spent my birthday gift certificate at Munroes Bookstore. Then I attended the awards ceremony, where I was graciously given the wonderful trophy vase and the BOX in which to carry it home.

Then I went home and spent the rest of the rainy afternoon indoor with my children.

I can't say enough good things about the organization of this race. Next year I REALLY want to run the marathon. Wouldn't that be awesome...the 2 mums out there. (Suzanne Evans, the multiple time winner of the marathon, has 2 children--and by the way, she deserved an equally large photo in the paper, and that's no slight to Steve O).