Training for a marathon seems to take forever. From the moment you sign up, you start thinking about what plan you are going to follow. Then it’s actually implementing. Even harder yet….. Sticking to the plan.
So here we are 7 days out and it will be what it will be.
Am I ready?
Surprisingly, I feel ready. I did not follow the plan to the letter T or probably not even close. That being said, I still feel ready.
Shocking I know…. But I do.
I think the biggest thing is that I really adjusted expectations. I adjusted what I thought I should do with the reality if what I might be able to do. Most of all, I know that if I am not an idiot, don’t go out too fast, and do what I need to do the finish line will only be 26.2 miles away.
Easy Peasy lemon squeazy
Ok, not at all but it is in reach. I have trained. My legs have done it before. Mentally I am in the right place. I am looking forward to it.
So now this week it will be putting the finishing touches on the logistics. It helps that I have reached my fundraising goal for Sandy Hook Promise too. That takes some of the pressure off.
Last week I had a bake sale. Have I mentioned that I LOVE to bake. I also LOVE to share baked goods and message of Sandy Hook Promise. I just about sold out. Had lots of generous donations and reached my goal….. That makes it worth it.
More later this week, but just wanted to let you know I’m ready as I will ever be. Today final “long run” at only 10 miles. Went with some friends and was a good run. It’s always nice to end with a good run. This week some short 3 milers to keep legs loose.
I am at the point in my training where I am admitting that I have now failed in my training. That my training has gone off the rails. That I am not where I should be in my marathon training. That family events (passing of MIL), injuries (dealing with feet), flooding (we weren’t so bad, but dealing with flooded basement is exhausting), and just life in general has pushed training to back burner. I will say though that at least the burner is still on, so I am continuing to move foward.
This really is the time in everyone’s training where it is time to re-access and take stock. For some, they can realistically turn it around to possibly make any goals and tweak their training. Others will look at this as a time to decide weather even running is an option as they know they will not be happy with doing their best. For someone like me…. I am just adjusting expectations and I am ok with that.
Here is what I’ve got going for me….. My experience and my attitude.
Here is what is working against me….. My feet and not being where I should be in training.
So how to reconcile the two?
For me, it is and always been about expectations. Yes, I thought going into my training that I would be in a different place. My training started off great. I was following the plan. I was doing well. I was right on track, but we must remember that sometimes the tracks twist and turn. You have to be willing to twist and turn with them. So I am adjusting expectations which I am ok with. I was never going to win the NYCM. I was more than likely never going to finish under 5 hours which honestly in beginning I thought maybe just maybe would be doable. I used to be a upper middle pack runner, but those days are long gone.
I am a middle aged woman who is overweight with medical issues who also has feet that are not always happy.
For me…… Crossing a finish line of the NYC Marathon is a victory.
Now I do know for others, that not crossing in a certain time is a failure but failure is defined by how you define it in this situation.
I know my strengths. I have legs that dont give up and I do have the muscles and muscle memories to prove it. I also have the desire to get to the finish line. I also have the experience of completing 7 marathon’s (8 if you count a virtual one that I walked last year). 3 of these marathons are NY. I also have the knowledge that knowing my favorite marathon was my last in person NY which was also my slowest at 6:20:41 as I just took it all in. I ran some. I walked much, but I just enjoyed the experience. It is also the marathon that I remember the most about as I took in the crowds, the sites, and the people on the course.
I also know that I just really don’t care that much about my times anymore. OMG!!! Am I allowed to say that out loud? Yes, yes I am. Now don’t get me wrong….. everyone runs for their own reasons. There is nothing wrong with being someone who is running for time. I used to and I may again but I doubt it. I just want to run, walk and everything in between and feel good about it both physically and mentally.
Here is the thing…. I have a life outside of running. A life that I need to be on my feet for that life. For work – I am a preschool teacher which does not allow for much sitting. I love to bake which requires standing in kitchen. I have soccer games to attend and just life in general. So I can not push my body, my feet, to the point that it effects my life outside of running.
So here I go adjusting expectations …… AGAIN….. But isn’t that what life is about?
Just like when running in a crowded race, you must learn to bob and weave. So with that I am bobbing and weaving yet again.
I used to want to be a badass. I used to want it. Train for it. I used to want to push myself to and past my limits. There were no limits. There was only not working hard enough. Not pushing hard enough.
To Train hard
To be at “the top of my game.”
Now……. Let me be clear……… There is NOTHING wrong with that mentality. I get it. I’ve been there. I might get there again. Who knows. I know though…… I am not nor have I been there in a long time. I’ve been swaying in the breeze…. Ever so gently just seeing where I might land.
To be honest, I am not sure where I am right now. I just know it is not the balls to the wall give it all you got place right now. I have no desire to train hard. Most days I might not even have any desire to train. There is no wake up at the crack of dawn to squeeze a run in. There is no going out at night to make sure to hit my miles.
There is just going with the flow. I know that there are many reasons for this change besides being hypopara which may have been the catalyst for change, but change is inevitable anyway. I just don’t have the same drive. I don’t have the same commitment. I don’t have my running crew as we all are in different places. We trained together. We ran together. We raced together. Most of all running was about more than running.
So as with life, things change. People move. Peoples schedules change. Goals change…..
What many runners know too is that without in person events, it just isn’t the same. I often think to when I was growing up our family Minister was a runner. Something he picked up in the service. He went out for runs just to run. This was well before running became mainstream. I thought I had that mindset, but I realize that while I do love running I can’t wait to be at a starting line again. That being said, I am also not in a rush because I want to also do it safely. The thought of a major event (if any are even coming) brings on a bit of a panic attack. Like a serious one…… Not the OMG, she’s having a panic attack meme. Anyone else???? This pandemic has changed many of us in what we once never gave a second thought to, we will think long and hard about before diving in.
I have signed up for a trail race in October. While I don’t have time to train on trails like I used to this race is a friends favorite. Plus they required a waiver of proof of vaccination. I liked that. I respect that and things like that will go a long way to getting us back to normal even if it is a new normal.
5 years ago I trained for NYC Half to finish a sub 2 half. I trained hard. I ran hard. I had a great time doing it too because this is what I wanted. I smiled along the course. I took some great photos including selfies. I can still remember towards the end knowing it would be close and turning the corner to head towards the finish line and running as hard as I could to make it across the finish line in just the nick of time…… 1:58:59 A minute to spare!
It was a great day and I am both happy with the way I trained, how hard I pushed, and, obviously, how I finished. I did what I set out to do that day.
Fast forward 5 years…….
I trained for to run a virtual NYC half in my neighborhood. I trained hard but a different hard. Hard is relative. And while this race could not have been anymore different than an in person event, I still was happy with the outcome. Going into my training, I wasn’t sure how I would run the “race.” It is hard to step up to go out and run a race when there is no start line. No horn to go off. No excitement that comes with a race day. In beginning of training, I had envisioned actually racing. There are some that can do a virtual like a in person event as far as pushing themselves. Me, not so much. Feels like just another training run and as training progressed for the half, I thought well I will just do the best that I can and that is just what I did.
So yesterday, I headed out. I started my watch and off I went. Then I turned the corner and saw a mom friend. After chatting with her a bit, I thought let me start again since I was only at .10 and thats what I did. Then before I made it another .10 my Junior in college Face-timed me. So I answered! Good thing because he was calling to ask for help as he felt like he got something in his eye when he was washing his face. After talking a bit, it was decided that he needed to go get it looked at. While talking to him, I walked which ended up being almost my first mile. With him off to go get his eye looked at, it was time to run.
So I ran.
By mile 7, my feet were hurting. I decided that might need to both get some new shoes even trying a different brand and maybe go see my podiatrist again. The discomfort is different that when I dealt with Plantar Fasciitis as the discomfort (pain) is in the ball of the foot under big toe (yeah thats a good vision). Anyway, I did stop (not stopping watch) and massaged my foot. Off I went. I did a mix of walking and running.
Then my newly returned Freshman college student called asking me to use app to order Chipolte as he couldn’t sign in. So I did. I helped that I also made sure to order myself something to eat when I got home. So I walked, ordered, and texted him the order info for him to pick up.
Kept on moving with my mix of walking and running.
Then 2:00 comes and I am still out since I got a later start than I wanted. Simply because I was sitting on the couch and couldn’t motivate myself to leave. Anyway, I didn’t want to miss my Great Nephews first birthday zoom party to sing Happy Birthday. So I walked, logged on, and sang Happy Birthday on the sidewalk. I had like 5 miles to go at this point.
I kept moving. My foot was annoying. I didn’t stop. I kept up my mixture of walking and running. Besides the NYC Half, I also have desire to hit this goal for my Miles for Meaning Running for Dylan Fundraising Team. For the month of March, I am part of a team where each mile earns points where charities can win money. https://www.dylanswingsofchange.org/ is an organization founded my father of Dylan whose life was taken at Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.
Then I hit the last mile and my oldest son is trying to Face-Time me again. I, of course, answer it. I won’t lie the thought of having a good reason to walk didn’t hurt either. Kind of nice that I started and ended my “race” with him too. He proceeds to tell me that he scratched his cornea. Fun…… not really. I did that about 18 years ago and it sucks. He will be ok and just has to put cream on his eye (oh my!). He was wearing a patch as the light was bothering his eye and it hurt to have eye open.
5 years later, I can once again say that I had a great time doing what I was doing. Races could not have been any more different and I appreciate them for their differences. Yesterday was about doing what I set out to do. As a friend texted me when I was finished, “done is done. You are determined once you commit.”
I will say that today I am feeling good. I am tired but I’m always tired. I am planning to do some yoga later and take dog for a walk. Then I’ll call it a day.
Take 2! The first published before it saved changes. Those who I text regularly could recognize my crazy voice and fat finger typing without editing……. Plus, I hate when editing does not change:)
Consistency is key to anything. Repetition is what takes something and makes it learned behavior. Think when you learned your multiplication tables. Who remembers those drills, pop quizzes and all those practice, practice, practice. (yeah, maybe that was just me since math was never my forte). You didn’t learn them from osmosis or at least I didn’t. You’ll learned them because you continually worked on them. Practiced until it became instant recall. My son in college seems to be doing this with formula’s I couldn’t even begin to tell you what they are called, let alone their purpose. During the pandemic many took up baking bread. As a baker, I can attest the more you do so the better the end product. Baking bread to many was like a science experiment with many complicated but necessary steps. Over time it became easier to tell when kneading was done. When your dough had the the right texture,and eventually could just do it by feel. There was no second guessing, you just knew.
The same consistency is required with training and creating a workout routine. For most, we need to schedule time for your workout because it is not part of the routine nor necessarily something we are looking forward to (yet) . Eventually with consistency it becomes part of you and it feels strange if you miss it. I’ve mentioned before how my husband transformed himself with loosing weight through the tried and true method of diet and exercise. In the beginning, it was challenge but now he couldn’t imagine a day where he was not doing something physically active. It has become part of him and he looks forward to one of his daily workouts.
It takes bravery to step out and try something new. It takes bravery to commit to something. To put yourself out there no matter how far or near out there you may go. It takes bravery and commitment to say you are going to do something and then actually do it. Even if it isn’t working for you, it is so much easier to stay in the same place. There is comfort in the uncomfortableness of the known because while it may suck at least you know what you are dealing with. To stay with what is comfortable even if it is not where you want to be instead of tiptoeing into the unknown…… So no matter how hard it is to stay in one place, it is always so much harder to take the first step and then the second.
Consistency is needed in beginning of any plan. It is necessary until it becomes part of you.
Some will go far.
Some will go as far as they can.
Some will go fast.
Some will go as fast as they can.
Pace….. Distance…. Events…..
The most important thing is to be true to yourself. With that thought process, I’ve been plugging away on my half marathon training plan. I’ve been sticking to the program which I admit is much easier to do with a treadmill now. I used to hate treadmill running (and part of me still does), but since I’ve discovered watching shows on Netflix while running it isn’t bad. I also credit the treadmill with allowing me to reboot my training and keeping me in check with where I should be running for that reason alone I owe it some love. That being said, you can’t race from a treadmill which means you need to also do some training outside.
This week for the first time since I started following my Half Marathon training plan, I took the run outside. I didn’t watch my watch, but wanted to test myself and run by feel. I wanted to keep the run conversational for the most part, but also make it a worthwhile training run. So I chatted with myself. Tested how I felt and kept myself where I thought I should be running. Hours later I looked at my paces and info from my run and I surprised myself. I hit the paces that I should be hitting. I actually had surprisingly beautiful negative splits. Most of all and this is the best part…… I enjoyed the run. There was no beating myself up because I wasn’t hitting certain paces, that I was running too slow or any such thing. There was knowledge that I was doing what I should be doing and that was enough.
Sometimes that is more than enough. I know that if I pushed myself that I could hit faster paces, but for now this is not a tradeoff I am willing to make right now. I also realized that this was enough. It is always enough. I might actually be able to push myself faster and harder, but the cost to do so is one that I am no longer willing to pay. We all have to decide what we want. What we are willing to give up. What we are willing to trade off. What we are willing to work for and what is not worth the work. These are individual choices that no one can make for us. There is no one size fits all and that is ok.
What choices are you making today? Remember not making a choice is still a choice, so choose wisely my friend
My NYCM Virtual Medal from last year. Without cheering crowds, physical start of finish line or any of the normal things a marathon bring back in October I completed 26.2 miles walking. Yes, walking… walking and more walking. It was long. It was peaceful. It was grueling leaving me with more blisters than I ever got running a marathon. Most of all it was satisfying knowing that I accomplished what I set my mind to. Although I am not sure I will ever intentionally walk a full marathon again, this medal will be a reminder to keep moving forward even when you dont feel like it.
I realized something now too. I have now completed 8 Marathons. 2016 I actually ran 2. NYC and a trail race. So this led me to realize that I have now completed 4 marathons post hypopara and 4 hypopara. So the next one will obviously mean that I will have completed more post hypopara. Yes, that does mean that I am thinking of doing a marathon this year. Hopefully it won’t be virtual, but who knows.
I have seem some events be held, but these do seem to be trails. I have also seen some events open registration for fall events. I honestly am not sure if I would feel comfortable doing a big or even smaller in person event even if I get vaccinated. I say if because even though I am eligible as a child care provider, there seems to be no appointments to be had. I have happily watched friends in the healthcare field post their “I’m vaccinated” photos but now I’ve heard of people jumping the line who have gotten vaccine that annoy me. People without health conditions that do not need to leave their home for work. I’m actually not sure why they were proud of themselves, but they thought nothing of jumping the line. I admit, I will judge them for doing so.
Anywho…… I am happy to see vaccines rolling out. My Mother and some family members eligible have gotten theirs as well. I watch numbers of vaccines administered and I know they are doing amazing numbers and my turn will come soon enough. I’m just anxious as is everyone else in the world. I know once vaccinated, you must still be cautious but I guess it would give a small sigh of relief. I can’t wait to know what that feeling that is and I know it’s just around the corner.
All that being said, I do think it is going to take a long time for things to return to normal. We certainly didn’t even think we would be approaching a year of this. Remember the innocent days of almost LAST YEAR when we entered a strict lockdown. We all thought that we would just be doing it a few weeks and we would flatten the curve. Silly us. Although it and we did make a difference. There was only so much that we could do. I mean much more was asked of previous generations. We were simply asked to wear a mask and stay home.
So as things open up and return to normal, we will all have different levels of comfort. We might even get some anxiety with things that used to be normal and enjoyable. I can’t imagine going to an event with 50,000 runners with 3 waves. It just would make me hyperventilate. Then thinking about random high fives, taking food from strangers, and all the fun things that happen along the way. It just seems like too much………. for now. We will get there again, but I do wonder how big events like this will be done this year. I believe by November, events like this will be able to happen. I just think there will be changes and maybe this first year it is not the huge even we all know and love. I guess we will wait and see.
I do know that I want to complete a marathon. I realize that I think it would be cool to be able to continue to say that I’ve run a marathon every year for 10 years. So that means I’ve got a few years to go. Some people streak a mile a day. That is too much for me and really don’t have that level of dedication. I like the thought for a marathon streak as I think it’s easier. (Ha! – truth).
Anywho, I have not thought for what I will do or where but it does ramble in the back of my mind as so many other thoughts do, Right now though, I am focused on continue with my Half Marathon training which is going well. This is my only goal. I also know that by completing this goal, I will be in the right position to start formulating and planning a fall marathon.
There is a song I remember singing in church as a kid.
“It only takes a spark to get a fire going. And soon all those around can warm up in it’s glowing.”
I’m not sure why out of all the songs we sang this one stuck with me, but it did.
I’ve been humming it recently because I have been feeling a spark again. A spark of fire. A spark of motivation. A spark to do more. I am not sure where it is coming from, but I like it. I am feeding the low flame to keep it from burning out. I think it is easier to snuff out the flame of motivation then to get the flame burning brightly. I miss the fire. I miss the motivation.
This 30 day challenge has been very helpful. Some days I will take forever to get motivated to get into the garage aka home gym, but once I’m there I never regret it. I also realize that one thing that I often do is going in flaming hot and then burn out. Push too hard. Do too much. Don’t pace myself and make it unsustainable.
There is no reason to do any of that. The goal is to keep moving. I am not training for anything.
The summer before my surgery left me Hypopara I ran the NYC Half in the Spring 1:58:59 for a pace of 9:04. I ran a local 5K in the summer in 26:26 with a pace of 8:30. Then just weeks before my surgery I ran the NYC Marathon in 4:56 with pace of 11:18 and while that may not seem stellar that was due to not running a smart race. I literally, figuralively, and realistically was at my physical peak in 2016. I was ready to chase that 4;15 marathon. I had unlimited energy. There was no stopping me………. or so I thought.
We all know the expression, Nothing is impossible. One it’s face everyone wants to cheer it but really it’s not true. Some things are impossible. Some goals will never be reached not for lack of will but due to reality. We have to create goals that are within reach. If I were to set a goal to PR a race right now, I realistically would not be able to reach it. But if I were to set a goal to finish a race (if there were such a thing as live events), then that would be in reach. So in life it isn’t so much as failing at our goals, but setting goals that our realistically attainable. Just because goals are attainable does not mean that that you don’t need to work and work hard to reach them.
In thinking of where I want to go with my fitness goals, I think I need to readjust how I am setting them. I’ve been focusing on pace with my running but I think at this time I need to think about training by heart rate for a while. From there I will then be able to determine what realistic goals I can set with my running. Until then I will just learn more about heart rate training. In working with weights if I tried to lift weights like I did in my Crossfit days, I would injure myself. Why would I think it would be any different with running.
So here is to living in reality and working with what you’ve got. I’ve got a lot to work with mostly my ability to keep plugging along and not give up. So I will just keep plugging along.
It is a weird world right now. It is a strange and hard time right now. Even those of us getting by and staying healthy are adjusting to all the changes in our day to day lives right now. We are trying to keep it as normal as we can when there is no normal. There is just getting by.
This is the time of year many of us would start thinking about goals for the New Year. Things we hope to accomplish. Races we want to race. Distances we want to conquer. PR we want to set. As with everything in 2020, goals will be harder to set. More challenging and sadly in some cases unattainable for now.
We do not know what 2021 will bring, but we do know that all the bad juju of 2020 will not be wiped away at the stroke of midnight New Year’s Eve. I really feel that it will end much better, but it will have a bumpy beginning.
Normally I set goals. Never resolutions because I just don’t like them. I set goals. Some easily attainable. Some that need a lot of work but are still attainable. Then there are the goals that are a stretch. Goals that I have to work my ass off to reach and push myself to get there.
A few years ago, I set a goal to run a sub 2 Half Marathon. I worked with a coach. I ran often. I ran fast. I trained hard. Then the day came and I ran the NYC half in 1:59. NYRR just announced that this race will not take place next year as it is in early March and the way things are going they know that there 2021 is going to start off much like 2020 has ben all year.
2021 will be different. Simpilier…
I am setting a goal of being more connected. Now those who know me personally might be rolling their eyes and wonder how someone like me could be more connected I could be. My goal to be more connected is not about upping my online connections, but my personal connections. To be more connected to my day to day life. to disconnect a little more often from online world. To focus on the people in my life.
As I work on setting my personal goals, I saw this……
I have been participating in the Sandy Hook Promise 14 Days of Action. This is part of not just remember Sandy Hook but by honoring them by taking part in actual action. So while I think of my personal goals, I will think about some short term goals to help others. This is what I’ve come up with:
Support local small businesses this Holiday season.
Donate regularly to locate food bank
Still working on
Still working on
No matter what we do or don’t do with our goals, we must know that next year might not be the year to make big goals. Then again maybe we need big goals. Right now, I just need to keep trucking on my C25K program and see what happens.
So many of us get caught up in the glory days of our past. Reminiscing about glory days…. Reminiscing is one thing, but getting lost in them is a whole other thing.
Lets be honest too. Often we skip over the sleepless nights of baby rearing saying how easy it was then. Remembering when we were in school think we had no cares. Forgetting both the social pressure and pressure to do well. We romanticize with most of our past this way.
There is really nothing sadder than a middle aged man or woman who is still living their glory days. Reveling in when they were star quarterback quarterback, cheerleader or any such thing. Having something amazing in front of you, but thinking it doesn’t compare to what you once had or worse dreamed of having. There is also nothing sadder than an athlete who keeps trying to hold on to their glory days too. In all of these cases, they are usually missing out on what is right in front of them.
Days you ran faster.
Days you ran further.
Oh what used to be.
Often we get so caught up in where we were that we forget to look forward to where we are going or even where we are now. Sometimes if we take off the rose colored glasses we also remember that our glory days are not as great as we make them out to be. We see this with people talking about their childhoods usually in comparison to the way kids are growing up now. They forget that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be even if it was good. They look at it fondly forgetting the bad and while no one wants to focus on the bad, you can’t pretend it wasn’t there.
Now I am not saying that we should focus on the bad, but by discounting it sometimes it allows you to be stuck in the past because the future or present will never live up to it. Besides, they aren’t wrong when they say you can never go back.
Not going to happen.
Remember but don’t live in it.
Our lives change. Not just as an athlete, but as a human our lives change, our circumstances change and sadly our bodies change (and age). Now all that being said, you can be proud of your accomplishments. You can brag about them even, but what you can’t do is let them define where you are now. Most of all when you stop doing that you might just realize that you are able to enjoy today more than you did yesterday.
I’ve found that with my walking. Giving up where I was or thought I should be has allowed me to focus on where I am today. Now I am not saying that I will never run again because part of me already wants to run. That being said, I am enjoying learning what my body can do today. I have been walking at least a mile a day since June 21rst. I can walk more frequently and further without the physical downside when I was pushing to run (remember that whole Hypoparathyroidism thing).
Yesterday, I went out for a long walk as part of my NYC Virtual Marathon Training. I knew that I wanted to walk at least 8 but 10 was really my goal. When I reached 9.5, I met someone I know that was out walking and joined her. We chatted and I ended up hitting 11 miles. While I did end up with a blister (not uncommon for 3 hours on your feet) and I did need a short nap, I was not out for the count. I also realized that I need to stay true to this walking marathon training as the worst thing I can do is second guess where I am right now. The worst thing you can do is to try to make a major change in your training when you are in midst of it. I would only be setting myself up for failure.
Yes, I could most likely start running agin and I would be able to do it. The question is why would I be doing it. I would be doing it because I feel like it is expected to be doing it right now. When I tell people that currently I am not running and committed to walking, they do scratch their heads a little. It is not the norm to admit that you need a step back. It is not the norm to say that you are going to push it to the edge. It’s not the norm to admit that sometimes you need something different.
Then again as my friends can tell you……
I am not normal.
I’m ok with that.
Try it. It is freeing to break expectations. It is freeing to be who you are now. It is freeing to just be.
So I did a thing. As often, I did it on a whim. I did it without agonizing over it. I did it without really thinking about it. My sister mentioned it and off I went.
What did I do now you wonder?
I signed up to virtually complete the NYC Marathon.
Now you might be wondering how I am planning to do this when I am only walking right now and have committed to walk through the end of the summer. Easy Peasy…. I plan to train and mostly walk 26.2 miles.
Seriously…. Once I signed up and thought, “What did I just do?” I searched for walking plans. I actually think since it is a virtual event this is more doable because I don’t need to worry as much about meeting a cut off time. Plus lets be honest, last year I basically power walked 3/4 the in person NYC Marathon.
I have been mentioning that I’ve been thinking about goals. Completing a marathon length event was actually one. Remember how I have said that I have completed a marathon every year since 2014? I did not want this year to be any different and now it will be an official event. So while this may seem like it has come out of left field, it really hasn’t. Completing a marathon this year has always been rattling around in my head. I just wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it happen. Now I am.
I have not settled 100% on a plan but I have narrowed down already My walking this last month has set me up to be ready to roll into this plan. Walking 103 miles last month puts me in a good spot to start. Plus we all know that I need a goal.