Summer training: why’o’why!

Summer training is the best.

I’m partial because I love summer, heat and mosquitoes. Ok, too much enthusiasm, I love summer and heat, mosquitoes are just a reminder that this is not a heaven on Earth.

You suffer but in a different way. 

You know that runners just love to suffer, we do marathons for fun. But training in heat is something completely different.I don’t know about you but for me it’s the same scenario every year. I’m slower and I find it more difficult to run due to the temperature but I always always always think it’s me, that I’m out of shape. And I go back to those years when I was slower than I am now. And somehow it makes me more humble.

Temperature paradox

As we all know heat is a killer for your speed, muscles (hydration, cramps!) and overall it’s a bummer training like that..but..(talking from personal experience) it’s much better to train in summer heat and then do a race in autumn than train in winter and then do a spring marathon. Simply because if you do well or average in heat you’ll be flying in lower temperatures while training in cold weather will never prepare you for a sudden burst of hot weather in springtime.

Just summer

Forget the temperature,suffering and mosquitoes. There’s so much light, you don’t have to spend half an hour to get dressed to go for a run (winter running, I don’t miss you!), autumn races are so distant and you can always go for a swim or bike ride when it’s too hot to run! 

Do you like running in the summer?

What’s your favourite season for running/training?

Have you already planned your fall races? 

Comrades Marathon_my dream race

That’s the race I dreamt about for the last 5 years.

I was never ready. It was never the right time.

It was so intimidating.

And last year I thought to make myself a birthday gift and I signed up for.

Comrades, 87 hilly km, road race, the oldest road ultra marathon.

The Ultimate human race in South Africa.

 Why Comrades?

Comrades marathon 2019

Few years back I started to listen to podcast about Ultra Trail and although Comrades Marathon is a road race, it’s been mentioned so often and with such a passion that it became my ultimate goal. 

Comrades Marathon is a road race more less 89 km (55 miles) long held annually in KwaZulu -Natal province of South Africa and it was run for the first time in 1921. One year it starts in Durban and finishes in Pietermaritzburg and it’s uphill (like this year), the year after it starts in  Pietermaritzburg and ends in Durban (downhill edition). Something that I’d do one day if I was quick enough and injury free. I was constantly injured and slow so Comrades, so challenging and distant (literally) was for me like Boston Marathon for so many other runners.

Did I become faster? A bit but what’s changed was my perception of this goal, not my speed. I just told myself ‘now or never’. So 2019 Comrades Marathon was my ‘now’.

What I expected and what I got in return

The ultimate human race with a rigid cut off time, that’s what I had imagined. From the race reports I knew I could expect a hilly course and hot weather. Even if the race takes place in the middle of the south african winter, it’s still South Africa

Start line at 4.30 am

At the start line everyone was so chilled I had doubts if it was a competitive race. We were all hugging each other and wishing a great race to one another. We started at 5.30 am, for the first hour we were running in the dark. Still, from the first to the last km I saw (and heard!) people cheering like their lives depended on it. I have never experienced a crowd like that in a race. When you run there are two things that can fail you: your body and your mind. Physically I was ok all the way. Mentally…I was carried by that crowd for the 87 km. I floated on that energy.

yep,I floated for 10h

I feel like I’m floating now. I feel so full of this experience yet so homeless because I arrived at my summit and what should I do now? So enriched and free but what shouldI do with this freedom? Time will tell, let’s enjoy the ride.

Which emotions make you injured?

You’ve probably read a lot of theories on why we get injured and we all look for reasons why once we can’t run. Bad shoes, bad diet, too much running and so on. I’m not going into technicalities as I’m no expert on training, I wanted to gety down to the basic emotions that stands behind ‘too much’ or ‘too soon’

FEAR  AND INSECURITY

Most of us get get a day or two off running. But we won’t because we’ll going to loose our fitness! And the race is coming in a month so you can’t miss any session, even the easy run! And if you’re not running for two days you’ll get fat and miserable!

GREED AND IMPATIENCE

Running is about being consistant and patient. Your body has to adapt to the training load, you have to have time to develop muscles that will support you on the run. You have to go through easy runs, bad runs, missed runs, good and glorious runs.

Still a lot of us want to skip the boring and miserable runs. Hint: they will make you strong and resistant. If you don’t love the process think about another hobby.

DISTRACTION AND TOO MUCH CONFIDENCE

How much confidence is too much confidence? I guess once you start to think you can do anything without paying a price. Like riunning too much too often because you’re experienced runner and you can pull it off. Or trying new kind of gel/drink on your race because you’ve done too many to count.

Sometimes though you’re too focused on other things and you don’t pay attention. Too much work to stretch or have a good night sleep. Too much to to to foam roll or book that sports massage.

Your body is not an accessory. It can be silent and carry you on for a long time but once you piss it off you’re in real trouble.

What of the above got you into trouble? Impatience? Greed?

I’m looking forward to..

It doesn’t have to be big or revolutionary. All the thigs that keep you excited and smilig when thinking about them. In casual order here are things I’m looking forward to:

New season of ‘She’s gotta have it’. (Netflix)

I’m not a huge follower of TV series, I used to be but now I’m so impatient I can’t even get through the first 3 episodes (I usually give a new serie a ‘3 episodes trial’). I was positively surprised by this one, made like some sort of movies I like, great soundtrack and an interesting main female character. Nola is New York based artist of color and her social life is…well, flourishing. To my pleasant surprise I discovered that it’s made by Spike Lee! Can’t wait for the second season coming soon!

New Skepta album

Some musicians never fail you. And I don’t mean Madonna. I love some good hip hop and I have to say that british hip hop is worth exploring. Skepta is not a newbie on a music scene and he never fails. I pre-ordered his new album coming out 31st of May and the first two singles are as good as always.

‘Igorance is bliss’ out on 31 of May!

European elections

I’m always excited about politics, you’ll never hear me say ‘oh, those politicians, they will promise you things and after the elections they will do the same old thing’. Politics is always an interesting game, I’m listening,watching, I’m worried, terrified, excited but I always participate. And, on Sunday I have actually a candidate I can’t wait to vote! Isn’t that a wonderful perspective?

My next trip

I’m leaving on 5th of June for South Africa. I’m happy and a bit worried at the same time cause I’m travelling alone but I feel this is the right moment to make this trip happen. If not now, when? I’ll tell you all about it soon!

What are you looking for in the next weeks or months? Any running related events?

What’s on your playlist?

Any good netflix serie to recommend?

What we’re doing wrong comparing to professional runners?

Once you’re hooked on running, or even before that, you try to have a sneak peek on what pros are doing. Of course we don’t believe we could run as fast but maybe there’s a secret we don’t know about? A perfect shoe or a magical pre-workout snack that will make you faster? I read a few books, listen to different interviews with professionals and here are my conclusions or rather guesses on what we do extremely different in comparison to Mebs of the world

Running too hard on easy runs and too easy on hard runs.

That’s the first one that came to my mind as I’m guilty AF. I don’t know what is it but I have to prove on every run that I can push to a certain pace, doesn’t matter if it’s raining, snowing or I’m feeling sick. On the other hand when going gets hard, like during an interval training I ….quit easily thinking I just can’t do it. Or maybe I can’t stand the constant pressure considering I’m trying so hard on all my weekly runs? Anyway, professional runners are quite slow on their easy runs comparing to their race or hard sessions and they’re so chill about it.

Me on most of my runs. Just kidding, I sweat much more.

We run and run only

I’m not going to harass you about cross training, we all know the drill: you should do strength training, try to do other sports, ecc.Pro runners do all this but also much more, they go for sports massage, prioritize sleep, eat well,eat to fuel their bodies. They treat their bodies like a lean running machine that deserves attention, we sometimes treat ours like a insubordinate kid that must be punished. We ask ourselves to run be we don’t give back if not in form of food that makes us feel bad and/or guilty afterwards. Don’t treat yourself like a dog, don’t reward yourself with food. Give yourself an additional hour of sleep, massage, stock up your fridge with good quality produce.

We try to emulate professionals but pick the wrong things

What watch do you wear, what shoes? It must be something that you’re having for breakfast that makes you so fast!- these are literally questions pro athletes get in the interviews. People want to know about their morning routine and then the only thing they get out of it is the type of juice someone gets for breakfast.Don’t get stuck on singular, specific thing. It’s not important what exactly they eat, it’s important that is quality food, that caloric intake is matching the energy expenditure. Don’t copy the specific workouts but think about the logic behind the whole plan or just get a coach.

Wherever I travel I seek fruit…

We do same things and expect different results

We go for a run, it goes bad, we archive it and repeat the same thing another day. Pros seem to be more thoughtful about not only racing but training. Did it feel good, if not maybe changing something might get it better. It’s not always ‘your fault’ and even if it is, make changes. Pros very often have training journals, not only to write down the pace but also to write down the sensation from the run. They have courage to slow down or change the specific workout. That’s how you avoid injuries or draw conclusions when they actually happen.

Write down how your day and your training is going, a training journal is a great idea

Do you have a favourite athlete?

Have you ever tried to apply to your workout or daily routine inspired by another athlete? If so, what?

Weird habits_runner’s edition

Don’t tell me you don’t have one. Runners are superstitious and either we already are creatures of habit of we become ones. Once you start to run you learn that you should have your race routine, pre-race routine, pre morning run routine..anything that will rule out the failure.Of course failure comes but in the midst of routines we create our own weird habits.Here is a small list I heard of

Ironing your running clothes

Not only for the race but for everyday run. I know, I thought that technical t-shirt shouldn’t be ironed but I don’t ironing at all. There are some runners  who will iron all the technical stuff.

Listening to the same lucky playlist.

I admit, it might get a bit boring listening to the same song, I’d love to change my playlist but if you have your lucky song/playlist and it puts you in the right state of mind: why not?

Wearing the same outfit to every race

This might be quite smart move: wearing clothes you know don’t cause you trouble makes your race chaffing free.

Painting your nails red for a race (female version but I don’t judge if you’re man and doing it).

I actually do it (almost always), I love red nails, I feel festive and ready if I have my nails painted red. Do I go crazy if I don’t? I use to, then I ran a few good races without red nail polish and now I’m not panicking, I just like to have them that way.

Running around the block just to cash in the missing meters.

You know that sometimes you ran the usual route but somehow you miss the last 200 meters? Some of us will run till the pgs watch will show the complete distance.

Wearing lucky charm/buffer/you name it/ to a race

It’s the similar logic (if you can put superstition and logic in the same phrase. Oh wait, I just did!) like with a fav playlist or outfit. You feel better wearing it and it reminds you of a good race so you like to have it with you.

Do you have your superstition or habit regarding running?

Are you superstitious at all?

Do you have your running routine? Do you freak out when you miss it or have to change it?

5 things that can go wrong during a marathon

You lose your mind (and heart)

Everyone is telling these days that running is an experience you can share with others, how it’s great to run with others, how others can help you etc. I’m sure it’s true for some of us, I myself have been always a lone runner (sounds like a Bruce Springsteen song but it’s less fancy) so I can’t tell. What I know for sure is that in the end running a race is between you, your legs and a finish line, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. So if you lose it during the race other can cheer you up but it’s your responsibility to get it together. How? Try to think how awesome it will be to finish, how much you want it. Try thinking about something unrelated to running. Try to smile. I know, it sounds stupid but it works. Your brain doesn’t’ know the fake smile from the real one so it sends all the good chemicals to your body no matter what. So smile, if it really won’t help (and I assure you it will) at least you’ll look good on photos.

Shit show.

It might not get so dramatic but intestinal issues can sometimes finish your race. How to prevent it? If you have a history of IG issues during the race analyze what went wrong. On my last race it went soo wrong because it was super hot and I took some energy/electrolyte drink at a race food point. Lesson learnt: don’t drink something that you haven’t used before or take it with a glass of water afterwards. If, nevertheless, you feel like your intestine is not having the best day, try to limit the damage: slow down, look for a potty, drink water or eat banana (sometimes helps). If you run in the cold weather cover your stomach before the race (two layers of clothes might do the trick).

Wordrobe malfunction or dressing not accordingly to the weather.

You probably know you should rehearse that, right? The clothes for the marathon should be comfortable and perfect for the weather conditions and you should wear them especially during your long runs. That’s the best way to know if you’re clothes are really comfortable, even the softest tshirt can become a nightmare after 13 miles, you’ll never know if you haven’t tried! Still it can happen that something goes wrong. What to do? First: prevention. Put vaseline where you could have chafing, you know best, probably arms and legs, maybe your feet as well? But if your running clothes are too much (hot weather) or not enough (too cold) you have two options: dress down which is taking away some of your clothes (up to you if throw them away or tuck in your waistline) or power through. Cause when you’re cold you could of course speed up but are you able to sustain the pace? If so, go for it, if not, maybe there are some hot beverages on the food stations?

Injury

I assume you wouldn’t start a race with an injury (of course we’re all in this so we know that we would definitely go for a race with an injury). But sometimes, just sometimes it happens that in the middle of the race something starts to hurt and I’m not talking about sore muscles. It happened to me more than once: throbbing knee from the 10th km in Athens marathon and something that felt like shin splints during my Venice marathon. I’m not going to suggest to power through because sometimes it can be serious. In my case it wasn’t, I was lucky but I had my doubts in case of Venice marathon, it was my first marathon after a stress fracture so you can imagine how I was freaking out. At the end I decided to finish the race and it’s still my PB to this day but I wasn’t sure it was a good decision until the pain went away. Like a week after a marathon. I was lucky but don’t push your luck if you feel like something is not right, PB is awesome but not always you’re running for it and months without running afterwards suck.

Mother nature can be a bitch

..and there’s nothig you can do about it #spoileralert

How you can limit the damage? Training. I’m not convincing you to look out for storm and hail when planning your workouts but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Meaning going out for a long run even if it’s raining or snowing. If you can do the same run later, sure , go for it. But if you can’t go anyway, rarely a race will be postponed because of rain. Training for a marathon is getting used to being unconfortable

The common thread of all those tragedies is being mentally prepared without obsessing about it. Anything can happen, it can change your result but most probably your reaction to the unexpected will matter the most.

What is the worst thing that happened to you during a race?

What’s your limit during a race, what you wouldn’t do to finish it?


5 for Friday

All female Milan Marathon Relay: running for a good cause

This Sunday Milan will be full of runners! Between marathon runners and relay runners there will be few people left on the couch..

Let’s hope they will not stay there, we need some cheering along the way!

This year I run for AISM (Associazione Italiana per Sclerosi Multipla), an Association that helps people affected by multiple sclerosis, both patients and their families. Thanks to my friend Greta I’ll be joining another 3 women in a relay. I have to say that running for good cause is incredible: you feel faster that you really are basically you smile all the way. Finally you’re running not only for your benefit! If you want to donate (what you pay for your regular coffee would be great!), please follow the link https://bit.ly/2IcFMRx

Green monster: my shake full of goodness

You know I love my fruits and veggies but I’m not a big fan of fruit juices as they have little to no fibre. Recently I found myself in an emergency: I had to process a bunch of oranges that started to go bad (nice problem to have, I know).

That’s how I created a Green Monster: oranges blended with a lot of fresh spinach and some fresh ginger. If you don’t like spinach trust me you won’t feel the taste of it! Vit C from oranges will help to absorb iron from the spinach and ginger will do some good as well and give you that sharp, ‘zingy’ taste!

Reading: a bit of spookiness and of course running

I have two new books on my Kindle and I love them so far! The first one ‘A skinful of shadows’ is a very well written spooky story. I’m not a fantasy of horror lover and this one is not a typical ghost story. It’s about a girl living in England around English Civil War, a girl with a particular gift, trying to deal with it the best she can. The synopsis will probably won’t make you want to read it but trust me, it’s a great story!

‘The way of the runner’ is an incredible book: it’s not about Kenyan runners or obese people becoming runners! That alone should sold that for you!

Seriously, this book tells a story of fenomenon:running in Japan. I knew japanese runners were fast but I had no idea how fast and that running was such a big deal there. You probably heard of ekiden, a relay running in a japanese corporations but I bet you didn’t know that the big companies have professional running teams! I’m getting into this book and if you’re like me, a running nerd, you’d like it as well!

Coconut oil

I’ve already told you I use coconut oil everyday but now I’ve found another use: taking off my makeup. I’ve tried that method a while ago and it didn’t go well and now I know why. Simply the coconut oil I had before was not of a great quality..The one I’m using now is simply divine. I put a small amount on my face, makeup simply melts off and I take everything with a small cloth damped previously in warm water. Then I normally wash my face with soap. Works incredibly!

Spring!

I love summer even more but I have to say that spring, longer days and everything that blossoms makes me very excited for each day! I love light, I’m addicted to it so springtime makes me feel so positive even if not everything is perfect 😉 Few weeks ago I went for my first bike ride of the season and I can’t wait for another one!


Game changer

I think we should all make an investment in something that will make us live better, feel better, run and recover better. I mean a really powerful tool: sleep.

Sleep is my favourite.

My grandma used to tell me that sleep is the best skin care you can get.

True but it’s much more that that. Lack of sleep has a true domino effect on your life, if you fix that everything else becomes easier.

Sleep and your appetite. To be concise I’ll tell you only that our appetite is regulated by 2 hormones and lack of sleep destabilizes the level of the hormone that makes you feel satiated.

So if you don’t sleep enough you feel hungry even though you have eaten enough. When I don’t sleep enough I crave sugar as a quick ‘pick-me-up’ solution.

Sleep and your time reaction Researches show (I always wanted to use that phrase) that sleep deprived people have similar time reaction to drunk people.You probably have seen it on your own example: if you haven’t slept it’s hard to focus and remember things, simple tasks can take you a long time and you’re moody. What’s worse you can’t just make up for a week of insomnia by sleeping in during the weekend. Consistency, even if so boring, is always the key.

Why we actually have to sleep?

The debate is still open on that.For a long time we thought it was all about regeneration of our bodies but the newest researches shows that the main reason might be different. Every day we see different things, receive a lot of informations and stimuli. It seems that sleep is the moment we’re saving those informations on our internal hard disk. Crazy idea, right? Consider this: we use only a small amount of our brain and during sleep our brain activity and overall body activity doesn’t just stop, it goes on.We’ve managed to land on the moon but we still are not sure how and why our brain and body function.

Did you know that the idea of sleeping 7-8 hours per night is quite new notion? It’s a XX century ‘invention’, before that time it was believed that 4 hours will be enough.

Ok, so how many hours per night do you sleep?

Are you waking up rested?

Do you wake up during the night?

Are you a sound sleeper or anything can wake you up?

Who’s afraid of the half marathon?

Are you a new runner or you’re already a runner but races are not your thing? Then you’re probably a bit afraid of your first half marathon. 21km, 13 miles, it’s not a bike ride. Even on a bike 21km is a good distance, imagine running it.

Well, I’ve done so many half marathons I don’t even count them any more.

Run baby, run!

And I’m still afraid of half marathon. Why?

Let’s face it, I’m a slow type of runner. Of course you can discuss that, everything is relative, my pace can be fast for someone or slow for another runner but in my standards I’m slow. I’m not negative, I can recognize my strengths: I’m resistant and I recover quite fast. Speed- not my forte. That’s why half marathons are a really serious test for me.

When it comes to running, the shorter the distance, fewer excuses you can have.

In the marathon or ultra everything can happen, you start at the top of your form and then, after 10-15 km something happens because it takes time to cover the distance and the load on your body is major. 10 km or half marathon..a little bit of strategy but in essence you give what you have,the faster the better.

Race adrenaline

For someone who used to race every other weekend (yep, I’ll tell you about it in another post) I ran not a lot of races last year. And I have to say it was good for me, last year was, from the personal point of view, really stressful and delusional. As a result I had little to none motivation to go out, race, ecc.#life You can imagine that in this situation standing on the start line with thousands of people wasn’t something I was looking for. #anxiety #stress #life

Now I feel better and my objective for 2019…

aaah, you thought I had no resolutions  for 2019? Think twice.

Is to do things that scare me. A bit. It’s like with exercise: a bit of stress in small doses is good, too much too often.

So half marathon it is. Or two half marathons. I’ve signed, I’m sealed (training hoping to be ready) and I hope to deliver.

What’s the distance you’re afraid of?

Are you preparing any race this year?

Are you more stressed or emotional before a race?

Any pre-race routine to calm down?