Sunday, February 24, 2013


My running has been a little patchy over the past couple of weeks.

Patchy running is not a good idea when I have a half marathon to run in three weeks' time.

I managed to get in my scheduled (as per the very slap dash training plan) 10 miles today after attempting to run them yesterday. My stomach flat out refused to play nice yesterday and I gave up after 5 miles.

The good news is, even though my running has been patchy, I am hitting my long run targets. The bad news is my mid-week running has been appalling.

I actually really like getting in a run before work during the week. My day is always so much better after a run. The comfort and warmth of my bed in the morning has been overriding my running conscience recently though. This was not helped by travelling for work and being forced to run on the treadmill at the gym.

I. Hate. The. Treadmill.

I worried that there is going to be more work travel on the horizon. A lot more travel. So I am going to have to make peace with the treadmill and reinstate non-negotiable mid-week running.

Especially as:

Yes, despite the debacle that was the registration process for the Chicago Marathon, I am a confirmed entrant. I am fairly terrified of the idea of doing this but also massively excited. I was so excited that I was stalking the site, waiting for the registration to open on Tuesday. Luckily my stalker-ish tendencies paid off as I was registering at about 11:50 and done by 11:56, even though the official registration open time was 12:00. I think by getting in early I avoided the system overload and subsequent meltdown that caused so many others so many problems.

I may be able to grind out a half marathon on my current training base, patchy weeks or not. But there's no way I'll get away with skipping workouts and fuelling myself on vodka and bar food (another side effect of work travel) and finish the marathon, let alone achieve the finish time I would so like to have.

Please feel free to remind me of this frequently, as I am sure I will soon forget. Especially if I have a vodka soda in my hand.

Monday, February 4, 2013

It's a matter of perception

During my time at university, I spent a significant amount of time studying psychology. It was a field that I found extremely interesting but one I ultimately discovered was not the right career choice for me. Luckily, all that studying didn't go astray - I get to use things I learned in my Cognitive Psychology, Social Psychology, Human Associative Learning and Perception and Attention courses quite frequently. I don't use what I learned in my Psychopathology course too often though - but that's a good thing.

Having spent so much time studying psychology, it shouldn't come as a surprise to me then how my perception of the following three things has changed in the six months since I moved to Chicago.

1. Distance, particularly how it relates to running
Anything less than five miles seems like nothing to me now. Which is not to say that I find running five miles (or greater) easy. Five miles just doesn't seem that far.
I believe there are two reasons for this:

Reason A - the more I run and the further I run, the more running becomes routine and therefore the "shorter" distances become "easier". It would appear that the concept of training is a sound one!

Reason B - I am still hardwired to think in kilometres. Therefore, when I hear five miles, my sub-conscious thinks five kilometres. This is an example of how much "auto-processing" happens in our minds and that sometimes we really need to challenge our thinking. I'm not going to challenge my thinking here though, it's a very handy mind twist to have in my arsenal.

2. Weight
I want to run more and I want to run "better". Better is relative only to me and my ability. I've been getting faster and I've been suffering fewer injuries (yay!) and while much of this is due to more consistent training, some is also due to losing weight over the past 12 months.

I try not to get too obsessive on this topic as I don't believe it's good for me to do so. I've been chipping away at losing slowly, making small changes here and there to find a way of life that's sustainable for me. I think I'm about 1/3 of the way to where I want to be (I'm not stuck on a hard number - I set small progress goals but my ultimate goal will be decided at what feels right).

Moving countries was not easy - I had to learn new brands, new foods and new ingredients - but that made it fun too as I had new thing to experiment with. Changing from kilograms to pounds has been mind-tricky though, and not in a good way. My default brain setting for weight is kilograms. So, similar to the miles/kilometres thing, when I hear five pounds my sub-conscious says five kilograms. This means I think my changes are more successful than they really are. I am definitely challenging this mind twist - visual comparisons of one pounds versus one kilogram are helpful.

3. Temperature
I love winter. I love cold weather. I love snow.

Look, snow!
At the turnaround on my Saturday run

I get cold, don't get me wrong. But I would rather be cold than be hot.

The more time I spend in a Chicago winter, the lower the temperature my definition of cold kicks in at. If it's 20 or above, I'm defining the temperature as "cold but not that cold". Six months ago that definition applied to temps in the 40s.

I think this is more acclimatisation than a change in temperature scales because the difference between celsius and fahrenheit is just too hard to translate in my head. I think choosing to love the cold helps too - that's Cognitive Psychology 101 (you feel what you think). Hmm, note to self, should probably stopping saying I don't like hot weather.