Half-Marathon Training (Week 19)

Glassy river

The past week of workouts have had me fist-pumping and shouting, “YES!”

I love feeling this. All of a sudden, everything has come together.

I won’t lie, I have had plenty of times where I haven’t felt like running, or skipped my workouts and had a shitty work of workouts, times when I’ve wondered if training to run oh so many kilometres is really worth it, times when I’ve just been discouraged and felt like I couldn’t do it, that I’ll never be able to do it. And that’s just the running. There’s also been the whole learning to swim thing. I felt as if I was doing worse than most of the other people in my class, I’ve felt as if I’ve constantly been sliding backwards, I’ve caught colds and drank more pool water than I’d like to acknowledge, I’ve felt more like I’ve been drowning than actually swimming, I’ve felt like throwing in the towel and just acknowledging the fact that I’ll never get this swimming thing and I might as well stick to dry land and never go on a holiday where I’d need to be on a boat or anywhere near a large body of water where I won’t be able to stand and not keep my head above the water. (incidentally, even if I could swim, I’ve decided I’d never go swimming at Bondi, not after watching Bondi Rescue. Has there been any one person who’s swum at Bondi and not had to be rescued by a lifesaver? Why do they even let people into the water there?)

But I digress. And also I have persisted, in spite of all those discouraging moments. I’ve persisted at both running and drowning/swimming, and I’ll also acknowledge that there have been plenty of good moments along the way as well, happy, exciting moments like each time I managed to run that bit further than last week or the one or two times I’ve actually surprised myself by somehow managing to swim three or four strokes without falling apart. Before I forgot how to do it all over again.

But! Persistence, yes, persistence is the key and all of the things I’ve been working so hard for since the beginning of this year have finally magically come together. As of this week, two amazing things have happened.

One: I have finally reached the 18km mark for my long run of the week! That alone had me on a total runner’s high 🙂

It wasn’t easy, but the one thing that really helped was being mentally prepared for the long run. For those who have been keeping up with my training posts (riveting stuff, I know), you’d know I’ve been struggling a little with the mental challenges every long distance runner faces. I’ve been working on this for the past few weeks and really doing lots of mental preparation and mental visualisation ahead of my long runs and that really helped put me in the frame of mind for my 18km run. It helped so, so much – I can’t even begin to describe how much all my mental preparation has helped me – especially as the entire week has been so nice and cloudy (I am a self-confessed lover of runs on cool, cloud days and I totally hate the fact that hot weather takes so much out of a runner) and the sun finally decided to break out and shine hard and strong and hot on the morning of my long run.

But even that couldn’t faze me on a day when I had my mental go-go-runner brain switched on!

Side note: look how lovely the river looked, as pictured at the top of this post, on the day of my first short run of the week. It was as clear and glassy as Cinderella’s slipper, reflecting the sky so well, you’d be hard put to figure out which was the water and which was the sky, while the city in the distance looks almost like some fairytale towers shrouded in mist. While everyone I know was moaning about how cloudy it was and how much they missed the sun, I was secretly spinning pirouettes inside because I knew the weather was totally fantastic for a run. Play me that Garbage song, I’m Only Happy When it Rains!

I also had the additional fun of adjusting to wearing a camelpak and chewing on fuel (read: GU chomps) for the first time on a run, but more on that in a future post!

Also, admire the beauty of these black swans. I know I post a lot of pictures of the wildlife I come across during my runs but when you’ve got gorgeous animals like this swanning majestically past you on the river (yup, fully intentional pun right there), you just have to stop and take a picture…

Black Swans 2

Another reason to love the rain – it’s so good for the flowers, like this wall of gorgeous blue flowers I walked past on one of my cool downs after a long run.

Blue Flower Wall

And now onto the second awesome achievement of the week: I finally managed to figure out my breathing in my freestyle swim!

I was still struggling along during my two practice swims this week. I had finally figured out the key: exhalation. I wasn’t concentrating on exhaling enough whenever I put my face into the water during my freestyle. Once I started doing that, it got  a lot better. Also, I was still turning my head too much when it came time to lift my head to take a breath – I sort of figured that if I followed the stroke of my arm and tried looking over my shoulder, it gave me more time to breath. So that wasn’t fantastic – and I still wasn’t going more than six or eight strokes before having to stop and regroup each time. But on the day of my swimming class, I nervously got into the water as my instructor watched me, took a deep breath and started freestylin’. I started exhaling as soon as my face hit the water. And this time, I thought, ‘okay, let’s see what happens if we just turn a little and try and stare at the ropes separating the lanes of water in the pool instead of going for over the shoulder and up at the ceiling.’

And that was when I finally found that imaginary bow wave that was like a unicorn that everyone kept talking about but, try as hard as I might, I never found. Instead, what I was always found was water in my face and my nose – until that day.

I was so excited! I had finally found my bow wave! And I was swimming along, exhaling, inhaling, getting that breathing right, doing everything a freestyle swimmer should!

And then I got too excited and I forgot to exhale and I ended up inhaling a mouthful of water and I had to stop and try to get some air while spluttering.

Even my instructor is excited. I’m not quite sure if she’s excited just because she’s been thinking that I would never, ever be able to get it and wondering what else she could try to get me to figure it out. But who cares – she’s excited and I’m excited and I can finally friggin swim!!!

There’s still plenty of work to be done. I find that I get pretty tired quickly and when I get tired, I stop concentrating on exhaling and inhaling properly and that’s when it all goes downhill again. I’m reckoning it’s a matter of practice, to make the whole business of exhale-inhale-exhale second nature, and just a matter of practising yet even more to get my stroke rhythm right because right now. But who cares – I finally got that damn breathing right!

On a less exciting, but just as amazing, note – we also worked on my backstroke during class. She’s given me some points about how best to keep my legs up and kicking right instead of all bendy and wonky – (keep your legs straight, kick from the hip, point your toes and do lots of flutter kicking with your ankles at the surface of the water). After working on those kicking drills for a while, she also had me kicking while keeping one arm extended over my head, close to my ear, and the other arm extended straight by my side, with my hand resting against my hip. In that particular drill, she had me flutter kick for six counts, then switch my arms at the same time, so the alternate arms would rest at head and hip, then flutter kick for six counts again, then simultaneously switch the arms again. That was a little awkward and unbalanced, but it helped with figuring out how to switch my arms in a windmill motion for the backstroke. Then we took the counts out, and I flutter kicked and windmilled my arms down the pool and realised I was finally backstroking like a proper backstroker!

The backstroke is definitely much more fun, easier and relaxing than the freestyle. But I’m determined to nail that freestyle down like a badass, and I’m looking forward to swimming more than ever!

This is a pretty long post. But I’m indulging myself because I’m pretty chuffed about the week (my pride and modesty now no bounds) and also because I think this is a great example of showing how perseverance is truly the key to getting what you want. It can be a long, hard slog, it can feel discouraging, there will be plenty of times where you feel like a total loser because you’re gasping and spluttering while the toddler in the lane next to you is diving and sashaying through the water and grabbing the little hoops they play with in their baby swim class like a miniature Michael Phelps and you’re totally sure the parents watching from the bleachers off the side are having a quiet snigger at you and feeling smug about how they learned to swim from the time they were two years old and their parents quietly and confidently chucked them into the backyard pool and told them to ‘sink or swim.’ You will feel like you’re never gonna get this, but keep going at it like a determined little shabby train that thinks it can, and I promise you, there will come that magic day where everything suddenly seems to come together and you suddenly realise, oh, holy shit, I got this. I actually got this.

And that is what makes all the hard work you put in before totally worth it 🙂

This was what my week in training looked like:

May 12th to 18th:
Monday: 45 minute swim
Tuesday: 9km run
Wednesday: 8km run
Thursday: Rest Day
Friday: 20 minute swim
Saturday: 18km run
Sunday: 45 minute swim

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Yay for hitting your 18km milestone!!! And finding that Running Mojo! Sounds like you had a GREAT training week!

    • MarilynChin

      Thanks! I think I’m still on a high from it 🙂

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