Handy tips for goal-setting and staying motivated!

This weekend was a bit of a special one, as Dad laced up his running shoes and joined me for his first run since his heart operation last year. We headed out into the cold and the drizzle (standard Devon) on Sunday afternoon, and managed a whole mile – up a couple of nasty hills, too! And all after a hilly 3.5-mile country walk the day before. What a legend! We’re already planning some autumn races, and Dad’s got some ambitious time goals – which my brother (bit of a fitness guru!) will be helping him to train for.

My parents have always inspired me to dream big and push myself, and seeing how far my Dad has come in the past few months really shows just how much you can achieve if you’re determined enough.

Devon Walk and Run with Dad

My lovely Dad – and a successful mile 1! Onwards and upwards from here!

It brought to mind a motivational talk I attended last month, which was all about goal setting and motivational techniques. Pretty fitting for a marathon runner, eh? 😉

The speaker – Marcus Child – raised some very interesting points, so I thought I’d share a couple with you. If you’ve got a goal or an aspiration in mind, or want a little inspiration, read on!

When you’re working towards something for weeks, months, even years on end, it’s easy to lose sight of where you’re going. For me, it’s marathon training – months of solo runs in the cold and the dark, and constant thoughts of ‘why are you doing this to yourself again!?’

To keep yourself on track over a long period of time, it’s important to keep your goal in the front of your mind. To remember why you’re doing what you’re doing – what you want to achieve, and why you want to achieve it. And the best way to do that is to visualise it.

In order to achieve big, scary goals, you need to convince yourself that you CAN. This is where visualisation comes in. But what does that really mean?

We were advised to do more than just picture ourselves achieving our goals. We were told to see it, hear it, and feel it, as if it’s already happened. To tap in to all of those senses and paint a vivid picture in our mind.

Take a marathon, for example. See the finish line, the crowds, the smiling faces of your supporters, the timing mat. Hear them cheering you to the finish, hear the commentator over the loudspeakers, and think about how it’ll feel when that medal is slipped over your head. Feel the satisfying ache in your legs, your heart pounding, the salt on your face. And if you’ve got a time goal in mind, what will that clock display as you cross the line? How will you feel when you stop your watch and catch your breath, and know that you’ve DONE it?

Remind yourself of that goal before you go to sleep. Wake up to that image each morning. Put a picture on your wall, write your goal on a post-it note and stick it above your bed, or on your fridge – wherever you’ll see it. Tell yourself you CAN, and imagine that you already have. Secure that image in your mind, and replay it over and over, as if it’s a memory.

Maintaining that purpose, that vision, that mental image over time is crucial. And whilst it can be difficult, a very simple piece of advice we were given is this:

Sleep on it.

How many times have you heard that little nugget of wisdom over the years?

But there’s a definite theory behind it, and it’s based on your ‘left’ and ‘right’ brain. As the speaker put it, your left brain asks the questions, and your right brain finds the answers.

How many times have you tried to work out a solution to a problem, only for the answer to come to you as you’re drifting off or waking up? When do you feel most inspired? For most, it’s when you’re not actively thinking about something. Drifting off to sleep, standing in the shower, running or cycling or driving or ironing…

And what do all of these situations have in common? Answer: The ‘right’ (subconscious) brain is fired up.

Based on this left/right brain theory, if you set your intention(s) before bed, your brain will then secure that image in your subconscious. By the time race day rolls round (if it’s a race you’re aiming for!), you might still feel a bit nervous, but you’ll also feel a little bit more confident, capable, and excited. (Hopefully!)

We all live under our capacity, which means we never know what we’re capable of until we push ourselves. Dare to dream big.

In the words of Nelson Mandela:

It always seems impossible until it’s done

So go do it.

– – –

My big scary goal is to run a marathon in every country in Europe. (Gulp!)

What’s yours?

– – –

Do you have any big goals on the horizon? How are you keeping yourself motivated?

If you like the ideas in this post, be sure to check out Marcus Child’s website – and download some of his MP3s! He presents it all far better than I do, and will have you fired up in no time!

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Race Review: Barcelona Marathon 2016!

Barcelona Marathon 2016 Race Review

Barcelona was marathon #3, and I had high hopes! I’d heard nothing but brilliant things about the city and I knew that the marathon had to be pretty epic. I also had my sights set on a sub-5 finish, which was pretty exciting (and nerve wracking), too!

On the morning of the race, we set off from the hotel nice and early, and within 20 minutes we were at the start area. (Thanks, Barcelona metro!) I left James by the start line, and made my way up to the bag drop. I was in and out in minutes (though there was a bit of congestion at the entrance) and the corral was easy to find and not too cramped. If only the run was this simple!

An added bonus was that the pens weren’t closed off as strictly as Paris, so no elbows were needed this time 😉 It might also have helped that there were about 20k runners in Barcelona, as opposed to 40k in Paris! Big enough for a good atmosphere, but small enough for plenty of space before, during and after the race. Ideal!

There weren’t as many loos as I was expecting though (I found a row of 4, and I think there were a couple more rows elsewhere), and there were quite a few non-runners in the queue; not what you want with less than 15 minutes to the starting gun! But I managed to get into my corral about 10 minutes before the front runners set off, which gave me plenty of time to stretch and mentally prepare for the day ahead. Barcelona was my second attempt at a sub-5, so for once I actually had a pace plan to stick to – nothing too strict, but a bit more structured than my last marathons. Gulp!

Luckily, the conditions were absolutely perfect. It was sunny, about 15 degrees, and there was a nice cool breeze (quite chilly in the shade!). After nearly frying at Paris last year, I certainly wasn’t complaining!

Barcelona Marathon Start Area

Putting on a brave face before heading off to the bag drop…

There was such a party/festival atmosphere at the start, with music playing and everyone looking fairly excited (with a touch of ‘AAARGH what am I doing!?’). There was a wave of cheers each time another corral set off over the start line, which made me smile! I also recognised the lady doing the announcements as she did the Paris Marathon ones, which brought back memories and added a touch of familiarity to the whole event (and she’s brilliant!). Definitely helped with the nerves!

We shuffled forwards, and reached the start line about 20 minutes after the gun. The organisers surprised us with a brilliant treat as we set off – we were showered in an explosion of confetti! (Pink, to match our corral colour). Looking at the ground, it seemed that each pace group got the same treatment. Such a brilliant touch, and really set the tone for the entire day! Other marathons, take note – setting off through a cloud of confetti is SO MUCH FUN!

I’d heard that the Spanish are brilliant spectators, and I have to say, the crowd support was the best I’ve ever seen. Within about 11 miles I’d already lost count of the people that had cheered me on by name, and I was getting high fives every couple of miles, too. Our race numbers had our names printed really clearly, which meant that people could easily spot them as you passed.

In a long-distance race there’s nothing better then catching your name and seeing someone smiling and clapping for you. It’s lovely and makes me all warm and fuzzy inside 🙂 At one point there was a row of students who all held out their hands for high fives – about 5 or 6 total! Such a lovely crowd!

Barcelona Marathon Arc de Triomf

Passing the Arc de Triomf, about 36k in… And mentally listing all of the tapas and paella I was going to eat inhale once I was done! 

The route was fairly flat, with a few little inclines in the first half (not steep, but some were a km or so long). The route took us right the way through the city, and past some brilliant landmarks – the Sagrada Familia, Arc de Triomf, and even a beautiful stretch along the coast. There was also a loop through a lovely park in the last 5k. However, there were also 2 long out-and-back bits, which I always find really tough; one at 18km and one at 26km. They went on for a few km each, and you didn’t see the turnaround point until you were almost on top of it, so they felt much longer than they were.

For the first half I felt pretty good, clocking mile splits of 10:30-11:00 (a bit faster than planned), with a few speedier bits on the downhills. I tried to pace myself, but I always forget how easy it is to get carried away at these events, and had to keep slowing down! Amazingly I didn’t take my first walking break until 11/12 miles, which is far better than I’d done in training. I hit half-way with 6 minutes in the bag for sub-5.

The second half had less shade, especially along the seafront and the bigger, wider avenues. It was lovely, and there was still a breeze (and a big shower to run through at about 21 miles, which always seems like a GREAT idea until I then can’t catch my breath due to the shock of cold – d’oh!), but I definitely missed the cooler early miles. I started taking quite a few walking breaks, but managed to get myself running every time the pace slowed towards 12:00/mile.

One point I will mention is that there are basically no mile markers on the course; it’s all done in km. (This quite surprised me, as I had expected a mix of the two). I was given the heads-up by the guy at the Asics stand when I went to pick up my pace band, who suggested I use the km version. I think I saw markers for miles 10 and 20, but that was it!

As I reached the 41km mark – where I belatedly remembered that the last 2km were up a very slight incline – I started to hurt quite a bit. My Garmin put me ahead of the km markers, so I had no idea exactly how far away the finish line was and how long it’d take me to finish. Things definitely got a bit tough here.

Luckily, lovely James was just up ahead to cheer me on (for about the 5th time – such a legend!), and when he saw my face he jumped in – jeans, satchel and all! – and ran a couple hundred meters with me. Before he left, he made me promise to keep running – so I did!

Shortly afterwards (before the 42km marker), my Garmin hit 26.2 miles, and read 5:00:26. If it was closer to the course markers, I probably would have felt more inclined to speed up for a sub-5; but as it was, I still had a good way to go, relatively speaking. But when I saw (what I though was) the finish, I sped up and clocked a sub-11:00 mile – which at that point was the marathon equivalent of a sprint finish 😉 …

… Only to turn the corner and remember that I still had another 100m to go. The second sprint finish was slightly less comfortable:

Barcelona Marathon Finish Line

Right at the finish… I was seriously hurting at this point. (Though apparently not as much as the guy behind me!)

I had to just grit my teeth and keep going, because who slows down on the finishing straight!? (Note to self: don’t speed up until you SEE the finish line. Ooops).

But the extra effort was worth it, and I crossed the line in 5:05:28 – which is an 11-minute PB, and 21 minutes faster than Paris Marathon last year!

Barcelona Marathon Medal

Another medal for the collection! (I was too exhausted to clock that it’d been put on backwards…)

I’m SO pleased, and SO proud. It shows that I really have made progress, and have the ability to run a sub-5 (maybe even 4:45…) if I push a teeny bit more! As it stands, I think I actually prefer having 5:05 as my official time rather than 5:00:26 – being so close would have seriously bothered me! 😀

And I’m happy to confirm that I did indeed have my tapas and paella – straight after the race! (Priorities, people).

Barcelona Marathon Paella Feast

Food has never tasted quite so good.

Thanks, Barcelona! 😀

Now it’s another 3-week taper before Rome Marathon on April 10th. Glutton for punishment? Me? Never!

– – –

Are you running any races this spring? 🙂

Bushy Park 10k: The sub-60 attempt

I’ve been working on improving my running pace since the summer. Back in August, my 5k PB was 29:59 (9:40/mile), and had been exactly that for nearly 2 years. A couple of weeks ago I finally got myself into the 28s, and decided that it was now time to work on my 10k. Gulp.

My last 10k race was at Bushy Park back in 2013, where I crossed the line in 1:01:59. My goal was to average sub-10:00 – nailed it! But I decided that I really wanted to get down to sub-60. This would mean running at an average pace of 9:39/mile, which was a pretty daunting thought.

I have a very understanding boyfriend. (Also, I might have paid for his place and then bribed him with stew). Whatever the reason, I managed to persuade him out of bed at stupid o’clock on a Sunday morning, to run 5k in the freezing cold, and then wait another half hour for me to finish the 10k (at which point it was STILL freezing cold). He got a medal, a protein shake, and a lot of cheers for his sprint finish, so I think it did him some good 😀

Bushy Park 10k Final Stretch

The final .2 was SO hard. I couldn’t even muster a smile – all James got was a half-hearted thumbs up. But it waaas an 8:17 sprint finish, so I’m sure he’ll let me off!

As usual, I set off too fast at the start, but managed to slow myself down and hit 9:38 for the first mile. I then accidentally stayed at the slower pace, clocking 9:45 for mile 2, so I had to get a bit of a move on for mile 3! This hurt, and keeping it up through slippery mud and a thick layer of leaves was pretty hard work. I think I did the first 5k in over 30:00 (at which point a lot of the people around me headed off to the finish – not that I was jealous, or anything!)

Mile 4 was my favourite, and I settled into a comfy pace that I managed to keep up until about 8k. This was when I hit the muddy leafy bit again, at which point I wanted to cry and/or walk/sit down on the floor and strop. But instead, I channelled my inner adult, and got the f*** on with it. And then I nearly ran into a gorgeous stag, who chose that moment to wander into the path about 2 feet away. Pretty good time for a distraction, to be fair!

Bushy Park 10k Sprint Finish

The elusive mid-foot strike! It exists!

My inner adult got me through mile 6 in 9:26, which made me glad that I hadn’t walked or stropped, after all. But then I discovered that pushing yourself through 10k at what was recently your 5k PB pace can REALLY hurt. When I saw the finish line I pushed a little bit harder (I think I stopped breathing for a second or two), crossing it with a sprint finish of 8:17. Result!

Bushy Park 10k Medals

D’aw, isn’t he lovely? And the medals have Christmas puddings on!

After I caught my breath a little, and decided that I wasn’t going to throw up (it was a close call), my smile came back. And then a few happy tears, because 59:23, you are (provisionally but I’ll take it) MINE! (Edit: The official results are in, and I did it! 59:23!)

I wangled a 2:36 PB. Yes, I did.

Bushy Park 10k Bobble Hat

And then I broke out the bobble hat. Because, bobble hats. And it was still freezing.

– – –

Did you run this weekend? How did it go? 🙂

Barcelona Marathon 2016: The game plan!

Marathon Training Week 0Do you set yourself time goals when training for a marathon?

For my first marathon, I didn’t dare put a time – I didn’t even know if I could manage the distance. I just wanted to run with my parents, raise some money for charity, and cross that finish line. Tick, tick, and triple tick!

For Paris, I tentatively decided that I wanted a PB. I upped the cross training and strength work, stuck to those mid-week runs, and clocked a personal worst on the day. (I might have overlooked the whole speedwork thing!) But on the plus side, it was sunny and beautiful and I enjoyed every mile… So I decided I was happy regardless of the time.

For Barcelona, I’ve finally decided to set myself an actual time goal: 4:59:59.

At the risk of sounding like a loon, my A-goal would be 4h40, though that seems a bit ambitious given my current PB of 5:16. Goal B would be sub-4h50, and Goal C is anything under 5h00.

Whilst I’m still a little bit dubious – 26.2 miles is a long way, and anything can happen – I’m feeling pretty optimistic. I’ve been picking up the pace over the summer, whittling my 5k PB down from 29:59 to 28:52, and I have a 10k PB attempt in a couple of weeks at Bushy Park (sub-60, I’m coming for you!). I just hope that I can hold a faster pace as the miles increase!

It’s worth a try, right!?

I’ll be logging my weekly progress on the blog, so stay tuned 😀

– – –

How do you feel about marathon time goals? Have you hit any new PBs lately?

 

Marathon Training and a 10k Race

So I did my 5-6 mile treadmill run today! Wooo!

10ktraining
Turns out I look really attractive after an hour on the treadmill! (NOT). And this is AFTER the splash of cold water to the face, and 2 face wipes .. I did take a picture before that, too, but decided that putting my VERY red and sweaty face up on here and giving you guys no option but to look at it was a bit harsh!

I may or may not have set the wrong alarm last night, and woken up 20 minutes after I was supposed to have left for the gym. Boo. This meant that as punishment I got to lug my entire gym kit (along with my usual big heavy metal bike lock, work stuff, and lunch) all the way to work with me on the bike! The hills were OODLES of fun. As was the wind. My quads love me right now.

You might sense some sarcasm 😀

To be fair, cycling home after my run this evening (the gym is about 1.2/1.3 miles from home, so I had 6 miles to cycle to the gym from work and then a mile and a bit to get home afterwards) was extremely tough, and I probably would have struggled if I’d run this morning as planned! Better to struggle a mile from home than 7, right!?

On a more positive note (or rather, on another positive note, given that despite running at 6pm rather than 7am, I still got my run in!) I got a great deal on an awesome marathon nutrition pack from High5 recently. It’s a fun little box full of awesome running goodies (see the picture above), designed to get you through your entire marathon, as well as your pre-race fuelling and recovery afterwards. It includes:

high5
It’s awesome! And the best bit is that it’s all assorted flavours (unlike the usual multipacks of gels etc), so I get to try out all kinds of things! I already have 2 tubes of the Zero electrolyte tablets (the pink grapefruit ones are my favourite), because they fizz up and turn the water funky colours and taste like Refreshers – winning – but the rest of the stuff is completely new, and I’m excited to test it over the next few months!

As (briefly) mentioned, I’ve entered the Bushy Park 10k race this Sunday:

bushy10k

This is the one and only 10k race I’ve done so far, and my current PB (which I got this time last year) was 1:02:47. I managed it with fantastic support from Mum (who inspired me to keep pushing by making it look effortless) and Dad (who was an absolute hero and held back to run with me the whole way, encouraging me when I wanted to stop). I think this race is going to be quite nostalgic, as silly as it sounds, as it marked the beginning of my running journey. It was my first ever race, and the furthest I’d ever run at the time. It’ll be interesting to see how fast I can finish it without the help from Mum and Dad! (I’ll be thinking of you guys!)

In an ideal world, I’d love to cut it down to sub-1hr, but I think I’m looking at 1:01:xx. To be honest, anything under 1:02:00 would suit me just fine. I’ve tentatively pencilled in another couple of 10ks (also Bushy, as it’s a nice location, has pretty scenery and offers a nice flat course) over the next few months, so I’ll have plenty of opportunities to improve. Maybe sub-1hr should be an end-of-2013 goal.

The thing is, whilst I’m a lot fitter than I was last year, the lack of running I’ve done recently has made me feel a lot less prepared than I’d have liked. The cycling has helped with breathing/heart rate, and I can maintain a faster pace over 5k, but I’ll have to wait and see whether my legs can cope with upping the speed for this distance. A sub-30 minute 5k does suggest that I shooould be able to wangle a sub-1hr 10k, but have I trained enough to get there this time round?

I guess the torrential rain they’ve forecast is a pretty good incentive to run faster ..