Friday, February 22, 2008

Heading south for the spring

John and I are getting packed up for our annual trip to Antarctica for the marathon. After the winter we've had (rough), it seems a little weird to be heading south to more cold but it is their summer so it shouldn't be too bad. Actually, it really isn't. Since it is summer down there, the temperatures are typically around 20-35 degrees Fahrenheit so it is very much like Chicago winter weather.

We fly from Chicago to Buenos Aires and hang there for a few days to allow all the runners to arrive from all over the world. There are two ships with a total of 200 runners and many are trying to complete a marathon in all seven continents. One of the best parts of this expedition is meeting all these runners. So many stories and plenty of time to get to know them.

We then fly to Ushuaia,the southernmost city in the world! It is a beautiful city with mountains everywhere and the open sea, which is the gateway to Antarctica. We board the ship (actually two ships) and sail across the most turbulent seas in the world, the Drake Passage. I get sea sick in the tub so this is not my favorite part of the journey...but well worth it otherwise I wouldn't be returning for my fourth expedition. Check it out [caution: I had to turn off the volume while watching as I got sea sick at my desk on dry land - a new record for me:]

Anyway, once we cross the dreaded Drake, the crew [that would be us] sets up the marathon course for a day while the runners go site seeing and then the marathon is the following day [if the weather permits]. Course set up is quite demanding and old school. We mark with flags and markers so we leave no trace. It is quite an event, but having a GPS makes all the difference in the world. They use to mark it with a site marker....can you imagine?

This IS one of the toughest marathons in the world for a few reasons. One, it takes 6 days to reach the start line and by the time you get there you've been through miles and miles of travel in planes, buses and a rocky ship. And B, you don't really know what the race course is going to be like...once it was hip deep snow in areas and -20 wind chill. The next time, 35 degrees F and mud over your shoes!

I have a slide show from last year. Check it out...I will update with more after we survive this year's expedition.

Until March 19th...


Monday, February 11, 2008

A Real Winter...

Typically by this time in the winter season I am counting the hours until the warmer weather arrives but there is something mysteriously fun about having a 'real' winter. We've been hit with five major snow storms, record lows and sleet, rain and a tornado. I call this 'character building' weather. It makes me appreciate the warm weather when it does arrive.

When I was a kid, I remember the snow being up to the roof of our garage and how excited we would get when school was canceled. We use to play for hours and even attempted making a sled luge from the garage [never panned out and it was never a good idea].

So as yet another snow storm rolls into the Chicagoland area today I am planning my play time wisely. Snow shoes are at the door waiting and my mittens are being washed as I write.

Until then, I'll stick with my winter goal of cleaning out my office. Its a great time to do it, but its not as much fun as plunging off a roof!


Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Refreshing Recovery

I recently had the opportunity to meet and talk to World Record Marathoner Paula Radcliffe. She is a running phenom who is blazing the trail for all female athletes. Not only is she the fastest female marathoner in the world, she is also the fastest marathon mom in the world too! After giving birth to a baby girl in January of 2007, she won the New York City Marathon last fall! Simply amazing.

Okay, so back to talking with Paula... One of the questions I asked her was how she recovers from a marathon race. Her response was both predictable and surprising. Predictable in that she takes time off. Something most of us mortal marathoners don't do enough. Surprising because she really takes time off. No running and easy cross-training for an entire month! I guess I expected a graduated progression back to running like most of us do but she said invests four weeks to recover mentally and physically from the demands of her training regimen as well as the race.

So, as a coach and runner I was very intrigued with this method and decided to try it this month. I ran the Disney Marathon with my brother January 13th then another half marathon the next weekend and it was the perfect time to do it. I am happy to report it was one of the most effective recovery periods in my running career. I am finishing up my fourth week. I have done only easy cross-training and included activities I enjoy like yoga, cycling and walking and I haven't run a step in a month! It was funny at first because I almost felt guilty not running but soon enough I was in the flow of a new regimen and reaping the benefits.

So, having rested from running for one month I am eager to get back to a training regimen and have a rejuvenated sense of energy and motivation to do so. Mostly because my body has had time to relax and recover and I've had time to enjoy other activities my marathon regimen (and the holidays) wouldn't allow for like seeing movies, visiting with family, Bikram Yoga, snowshoeing. I am no Paula Radcliffe but I better understand her recovery strategy. She trains hard. She races harder. So it makes perfect sense that her recovery is just as hard.

It easy to overtrain or under recover.

It takes discipline to recover wisely.

Happy Trails,