22 Days and Counting

It’s been a tough month or so since Around the Bay. My troublesome right hamstring took a turn for the worse a few weeks ago when I took a near tumble and strained it causing further injury. I’ve been struggling with myself trying to do the right thing by resting it, but the fear that I’m going to lose everything I’ve done over the past 4 months has kept me from really giving it a good rest. Until finally, this past Tuesday I realized I just can’t keep running through the pain.

Right from the start of that run, my leg felt sore. Worse than usual. I thought that once I warmed up it would feel better. And it did. Not 100%, but the pain that I was feeling gave way to the familiar ache of the last few months and I continued on my way. Slowly. The difference was that I noticed at the end of the run that my right leg, felt as fatigued as it normally would after I run 25-30km. In fact it felt more fatigued that it did after I ran Around the Bay. The thing was, that I had just run 7.6km.

It was then that I had to concede. I have more issues with that leg than I’ve been letting myself believe. I could not deny it any longer. I decided that was it. No more running until after I saw my physiotherapist a few days later where I would need to make a game plan to get me to the start line of my second marathon.

So after another assessment, the plan as it stands right now is lots of calf stretching, light hamstring stretching, physio treatments twice a week and no running. In fact absolutely no activity that engages my hamstrings at all. Not an easy task. I’m hoping that another week and a half of rest along with the physiotherapy will allow me to get in some easy runs for the last 10-14 days before the marathon. We’ll reassess at each treatment to see where I stand.

Right now, the challenges are: trying to figure out how to get in some cardio workouts doing an activity that does not include activating my hamstring, and keeping myself from going completely bonkers. It’s like going through the taper crazies but you’re not supposed to be tapering yet.

To paraphrase something my very wise running buddy Ginny recently said, for the next few weeks I’ll need to control the struggle between the smart and stubborn runners on my shoulders yapping their opinions at me.

If all goes well, the smart runner will win the fight and make it to the race.

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Around the Bay recap

Race date: March 29, 2015

I’ve never gone into a race with the mindset of treating it like a training run. Hell, I’m way too competitive for that. But here I am, training for the Ottawa Marathon with 29k on the schedule for ATB day so that’s exactly what I set out to do. I had to think of it as “just another Sunday LSD run”. I wasn’t sure how that would go since I really am competitive by nature but I had to give it my best shot. Luckily, my run buddy Julie had the same idea in mind so I thought, between the two of us, we had a good chance at keeping each other in check.

This race has THE best pre-race set up being inside an arena with lots of warm places to sit and plenty of bathrooms available. It also has the best finish line which is on the floor of the arena and spectators can sit in the stands, in comfort, as they wait for their friends and family to finish.

FullSizeRender (2) The forecast was for sunny but cold temperatures so we put on some warm sweaters that we could throw off at some point on the course once we warmed up. Based on the forecast, I thought I might be wearing that throw-away sweater for at least an hour into the race.

11088994_10152675281955178_7953191851255306693_oWe headed out to the start a few minutes before race time and squeezed into the corral just as the gun went off. I was running with Julie and Stacey to start. I ended up beside Stacey and then noticed Julie running right behind me which was my reminder that Stacey was racing this race, I was not. So, I slowed down and met up with Julie. Within about 500 meters, Stacey had been swallowed up by the sea of runners and Julie and I were left to run our own run. It was a lot warmer than I thought it would be, with the sun shining so bright, and before the 2km marker I was throwing off that old sweatshirt.

The race itself was good. I ran comfortably not really looking at my Garmin to check my pace at all. I ran my regular 10 & 1s and walked through the water stations to grab a quick sip. Through the rolling hills in the middle third of the race we ran most, but did walk the top half of a couple of them. Due to construction, there was a course change this year and the big hill at around 25km was taken out. The new part of the course was a nice substitution after all the hills we’d run for the first 23km of the race. It was nice though, to see the man with his big boom box playing We Will Rock You on the new part of the course and Grim Reaper had a helper this year. As we ran by, Julie gave the Grim Reaper a high five and we carried on into the final 3km of the race.

IMG_0562At about 28k I was feeling really great and decided that I would run through the last walk break and try and pick up my pace a bit. As I approached the final intersection before the descent into the arena I saw Mike who took a few (dozen) pictures as I ran by.

Down the final stretch, turn into the arena, down the ramp, turn another corner, out onto the floor of the arena and cross the finish line. I walked for a minute taking stock of things. I felt pretty good. No, I felt great! Then I heard a loud cheer of my name. I looked into the stands and saw a group of my buddies. Some who had run the race, and others who had come out just to cheer us all on. I smiled and waved. I really love my running friends!

When I finally was able to see my official time I was pretty ecstatic. I was just off my 30k PB and I had run this race comfortably. Not pushing the pace at all. What this told me is that all the training I’ve been doing is paying off. At the end of the race, I felt like I could have kept going past 30k.

The weeks leading up to the race, I had started to feel tired, worn out, started to wonder what the hell I was doing training for another marathon. This run has boosted my confidence, renewed my commitment. And with eight weeks left of training, I’d say it couldn’t have been timed any better.

Official Time: 3:48:20.5

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A whole different experience

It’s been two months since I’ve written here and a lot has been going on as I continue training for my second marathon.

First off, let’s talk about this ridiculously cold, long winter we’ve been having. I know we live in Canada and it is just part of life, but this winter was exceptionally cold with more extreme cold weather warnings issued than ever before. A big part of the cold were these crazy strong winds that have been whipping around and have literally lifted me off the ground on two separate occasions. All that being said, I’ve had to move a run or two around, but the weather has not caused me to miss any runs.

Mike and I took a trip to Florida for an extra, extra long weekend in February. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending how you look at it) they also experienced a cooler than normal winter this year. The heat and humidity weren’t as bad this time and I was able to get in all the runs I planned which was great.

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13km in Miami Beach on a cloudy day

I started training with the Running Room Marathon Clinic again in January. The coaches this season are great, the members of the clinic are very supportive and I’ve made a few new friends as well.

The clinic is especially important to me because my training buddy, super-sad my biggest motivator, has  had to back out of this marathon due to injury.  Although she’s had to drop out, I’ve had her continued support as well as the support of the rest of the ladies I run with, and there are times when I have a buddy or two join me on some of my runs, but for the most part I’d be running on my own without the support of the clinic.

Next weekend is the traditional Around the Bay 30k Road Race which I will be running as a training run as I move toward the ultimate goal of the Ottawa Marathon. I’m running with two of my buddies with a few more cheering us on from the sidelines. This will most likely be the last long run with friends (who wants to run 30km++ when they’re not training for a marathon?) before I have to really dig deep within myself and start mentally preparing for marathon race day.

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Now, two months into training, I’ve settled into a routine. The long runs are getting longer and in preparation for the marathon, I’m going to try and do some of the really long runs completely solo. I’m a back of the packer, so being out on the course for over 5 hours on my own, I really need to be able to enjoy my own company. Or, at the very least, keep my mind occupied with happy thoughts. To that end, I’m looking to increase my running play list and fill it with some great, upbeat, 80’s and 90’s music. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

I’m going to Ottawa!

So apparently I’ve been bitten by the marathon bug. What was supposed to be my “tick off the bucket list one and only marathon” has become my “first marathon” and this year promises to be another busy one with a lot of plans in the works already.

So far I’ve signed up for Around the Bay 30k on March 29th and I’ve also committed myself to the Ottawa Marathon on May 24th. I’m not sure which came first but they actually fit really well together. The training program I’m following has a 29km run scheduled for March 29th so I’ll probably try and run that race as a training run. Hey, if you have to run 29km, you might as well do it in a race with a few thousand people right?

I’m really excited to be running Ottawa as my second marathon. The Ottawa Half Marathon was my second half marathon which I ran in 2012 and I really loved it. 389656_437145026303140_1622318527_n The city makes a whole weekend of it with races in the 2k, 5k and 10k distances on Saturday afternoon/evening and the half and full marathons take place on Sunday morning. A ton of people come out to participate, and to watch all the races. The course is nice, has pretty great crowd support and has sponge stations. That’s right, sponges filled with cool water just when you need them! Hopefully that hasn’t changed from a few years ago.

Training officially began this past weekend. I’ve been keeping a good base since Chicago, so I’m hoping it’ll be fairly easy to get back into the swing of the 5 day a week running schedule.

I do expect that I’ll have some challenges. Not so much with the winter training. Though I may complain about it at some point, and I am definitely not a winter person, I prefer to run in the winter rather than in the heat of the summer.

The challenges will be in getting the night time training runs in during the week. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it home in time to head to my run club meet-ups so I’ll have someone to run with. I’m fine with running alone, and in fact enjoy a peaceful solo run. But night time running is always safer in a group.

The other challenge will be getting my miles in during a five day trip to Florida in February. We took a similar trip at the same time of year a couple years ago and after training in the cold air, the humidity kicked my butt. I had a hard time running even 5km. The schedule has an 8km, a 6km and a 13km run that weekend.

Whatever challenges come my way, I know that staying focused on my goal, will help me to face them head on.

Look out Ottawa, here I come!

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A few km into the Ottawa Marathon – May 2012

 

The year in review

Well, my last run of 2014 is in the books! Total distance for this year is 1773 kilometres. That’s an all-time high for me exceeding last year’s 1303 kilometres. Yay!

This year was a spectacular year for me. It was a year filled with all sorts of challenges,  tons of excitement, and it was the year I learned how important commitment is.

It started with training through an exceptionally cold winter for Around the Bay 30k which takes place the end of March. This was a year that saw an unusually high volume of runners drop out of this very popular race because the temperatures had been so cold and the streets so icy, that a lot of people weren’t able to put the training in. As cold as it was, and maybe because I’m a wee bit competitive (some say crazy), I didn’t miss a single training run. There were times when I had two or three layers of clothes on (top to bottom), but I find that the hardest part of these cold winter runs is just getting out the door. Once you get going, you’re fine. And so out the door I went four to five days a week. Whatever the weather. Commitment.

The race itself was tough for me. With more than half the race left I started to get a blister on the bottom of my foot that just kept getting worse and worse. Eventually, I stopped at an aid station and tried to fix it up. I lost about six minutes at that stop and it cost me a PB but I stuck it out and finished the race with a smile. Commitment.

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Around the Bay 30k. Less than 1 km to go

In April I found out I had gotten into the Chicago Marathon. My first marathon and my A race for the year. In order to keep myself in check until training started, I decided to run the Mississauga Half Marathon in May. It would keep me going another month and then I would take a few weeks to dial it back a bit and rest my legs before the marathon training began.

It wasn’t until the gun went off and I was 20x30-MIAM1047running the race that I realized that I hadn’t really prepared myself for it. I hadn’t even looked at a map of the route.  The further I ran, the more I realized that I was running this race for all the wrong reasons. It was a great course. I ran it. I was not committed to it. I will run it again someday. Next time, I will give it the commitment it deserves.

My commitment to the Chicago Marathon began right after that race. For months I had been having severe lower back pain to the point that I could barely move after a run. In May, I decided that I had better get it looked at before the marathon training began. I knew that the training was going to require a lot including more and longer runs and I had better be in the best shape that I could possibly be in. I started seeing a physiotherapist a couple times a week and stuck to the daily regime of exercises and stretches she gave me and by the time the marathon clinic started my back was 1000 times better than it had been. I continued on with physiotherapy throughout the training to ensure that I was operating at my best.

Further commitment to my first marathon continued throughout the training. IMG_3192The schedule called for five runs a week. I had been doing three so decided that four would be fine and removed the Saturday run from the schedule. After a few weeks of training, I realized that there was a reason for five runs a week or they wouldn’t all be in the schedule so I added that run back in. Five days a week. Rain or shine. Commitment.

In July I went on a nine day vacation and was afraid, no terrified, that being on vacation and away from my regular routine and running buddies was going to blow my training. The trip involved a lot of driving and days on the road so I wasn’t able to get all my runs in, but I did manage to get both 16km long runs in and an 8km run in between. It took some planning but I mapped out routes ahead of time and knowing what my goals were it was pretty easy to get out there even if I was on my own for the most part. I found it was a great way to see more of the cities we were visiting and I was able to keep my training on track so that when I returned I was able to jump right back in with my training buddies. Commitment.

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Discovery run in Halifax, Nova Scotia

The summer brought the usual sweltering heat and humidity and running our 10406548_840057709345201_2350319251948836907_nlong 30+ km runs was a huge challenge. There was sometimes talk of cutting some of those runs short but we never did. The longer the training went, the more aches and pains we were all feeling. I started to have pain in my right leg that was diagnosed as hamstring fatigue and began more strengthening exercises. I was lucky that it never got bad enough for me to have to cut back on my training, or even worse, drop out of the race. I managed the pain and I carried on. Commitment.

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Last training run before the Chicago Marathon

The race in itself was an experience I will never forget. And when the going got tough (and it did), everything I learned in training about commitment and drive was put into practice.

The challenge in the marathon though, is not necessarily running the race, but rather committing fully to the training. Following the program as closely as possible and making sacrifices in other areas of your life when you need to. Finishing the race is the culmination, a celebration of a successful training cycle. The training will actually tell you a lot about how committed you are to the race. Looking back at my training schedule recently, I found that I had completed 92.57% of the total distance my program called for. 92.57%. Commitment.

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After I completed my first marathon (Yay again!) and took a couple of weeks off,  I continued to run two 5–7 km and a 15km run every week in order to maintain a good base so that I’m ready for the next round of training to begin in January. There are different schools of thought as to whether you should give your body a complete break but I feel that running less frequently and easier during the week with an easy 15km LSD on the weekend is a good balance for me and keeps me at a point where I can transition easier into that training when it does start up again. Commitment.

Yes, this year, I learned all about the importance of commitment. Having some great running buddies makes it easier to keep those commitment, but in the end, everyone is responsible for their own training and how much they put into it. Ultimately your level of commitment plays a big part in determining your success in anything you do.

Of course in order to commit so fully, I have a great support system around me. My running buddies Ginny, Julie, Marie, Stacey, Tricia, Nalini and Shamita, my daughters Michelle and Erika who listen to the stories of all my runs without complaint and with smiles, and my fountain of running knowledge and biggest supporter Mike. Thanks Mike for taking all the awesome photos of me and the rest of our running community. On training runs, in races, when you’re not running and even when you are! Without them, my blog would be almost void of pictures.

Here’s to another great year in 2015!

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What’s next?

It’s been about a month since I ran my first marathon. In that time I’ve done a lot of replaying, a lot of talking and reliving the experience with everyone and a lot of reflecting.

Throughout the entire training period, and even going right back to the day we decided to make this crazy journey, right up to the morning of the race as we stood in our corral waiting to start, I have always maintained that this would be my first and only marathon. It was something I wanted to do to challenge myself and just to experience it. To be able to say that I had run a marathon. I kept saying that I know myself well enough to know that this was not something I wanted to do again. The training takes up more time than I am willing to give to it again.

And then, somewhere in the last few kilometres of the race, after I had dropped back from my running buddy and I was running alone, after things had started to fall apart a bit, I realized I was actually thinking about what I could do differently next time. Next time? But there is no next time… Or is there?

At the end of the race, as I chatted with some of my run club friends, most of whom had way more experience than I did, when they asked if I was going to do another, I found myself saying “yes”.

That’s right. The five hours plus spent out on the course, most of it exciting, some of it challenging, and all of it indescribably amazing, had changed my mind completely. Of course I was going to do it again!

The only question now is what’s next? There are so many great marathons out there that it’s going to be hard to choose. For now, I’ve signed up, again, for one of my favourite races – Around the Bay 30k. After that, I’m not quite sure. I’ve got a few ideas rolling around in my head.

The possibilities are endless…

Change

 

Race report – The Chicago Marathon

Race date: October 12, 2014

Two years ago a plan was put into motion to train up, slowly, for my first (and only) marathon. When I first broached the idea with Ginny we figured if we were only going to do one marathon we might as well go big and so we decided right then and there that Chicago was the one. It was a major, it was flat and it was an open registration which meant that as long as we were on top of things, and knew when registration opened, we should both be able to get in. Of course by the time we were ready to register, the rules had changed and it was a lottery, and we had talked more friends into joining us on the journey. We all put our names into the lottery in March and as luck would have it, in April when they did the draw, we all made it in.

As we went through our training, I had decided that my goal was going to be to finish the race under 5 hours and 30 minutes. I thought it would be a challenging, yet attainable goal. But, as we got closer to race day, looking at our performance on the last few long runs, my goal changed. I thought that maybe a 5:20:00 would be within reach. Final decision was made. My A goal was 5:20:00, my B goal was 5:25:00, my C goal was to finish upright and smiling.

The morning of the race I was surprisingly calm. I woke up, got ready, wished Mike luck as he headed out ahead of me to make it into his earlier starting corral on time, and then a few minutes later went down to the hotel lobby to meet up with my running peeps. The hotel was a 20 minute walk to the race start area and at 6:30 in the morning it was bustling with thousands of runners, spectators, security/police and race volunteers. It was insane!

We made our way as close to the front of our corral as we could and waited for the race to start. We had to be in the corral 30 minutes before our wave was going off and in the end it was almost a full 47 minutes by the time we actually crossed the start line and our races had begun! It was a chilly fall morning but the temperature was promising to be 14c for most of the race so I wore a tank and skirt with arm warmers and a 10708568_4866046024380_2763605660359477100_osweatshirt to keep warm while I waited to start. As we inched up towards the start line, we talked to the people around us.  Everyone seemed to have a story. And there were a ton of people in our corral that were first time marthoners like us. It was quite inspiring.

And then, all of a sudden, we were off! The crowds were thick and hard to maneuver through at the start. I was running beside Ginny and after we wound our way through a few of the walkers in front of us we looked back and Tricia and Nalini were nowhere to be seen. They seemed to be swallowed up by the sea of runners behind us. All we could do was hope they were fine and continue on with our own races.

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Ginny and I around 5k

The first 10k of the race flew by. Ginny and I were running comfortably together as we had on our training runs and taking in all there was to see. The crowds, the runners, the amazing city. It was quite spectacular. As we passed each mile marker, a quick glance at my pace band showed we were ahead of the pace a little bit more each time. At this point we had wound our way through part of the downtown area and were now up at the north end by Lincoln Park.

The next 10k took us along the lake and through some beautiful residential areas. I’d never been to this part of Chicago before. The crowd support was amazing here as well. At 20k or so, we saw Ginny’s family for the third time on the course. The girls were waving and James was snapping pictures on his phone shouting words of encouragement as we went by. We were still running at the same pace. It hadn’t really changed from the time we started and we continued to gain more and more time ahead of the pace band. There were a few times when I noticed the pace got a little fast but we quickly checked ourselves and fell back to that comfortable pace right around 7:00 per km.

By the halfway mark of the race we were back downtown with the huge crowds again. The course took a turn to the west and we were still running at that same comfortable pace. So far we had stuck to our 10 and 1’s – running for 10 minutes and walking for 1 minute – and stopping for a sip of water at every water station. I had made the decision to carry a fuel belt with only two bottles, both of which were filled with Gatorade, and getting my water at the water stations which were situated about every 2 miles or so along the course.

As we approached the 30k marker I looked at the pace band and saw that we were now about 3 minutes ahead of plan and we had both just run a 30k PB! Looking at the stats later confirmed the official 30k time was 3:44:18. It was just about this time that I started to have some gastro issues. My stomach started turning and I was feeling a little light headed. I ran for a bit longer hoping it would subside, but it wasn’t getting any better so around 32km I told Ginny to go ahead shouting “Go Ginny!” as she ran on, and I took my first unscheduled walk break. I put on my iPod and started running again.

The last 10k were hard. Really hard. My 10 and 1s became 5 and 1s, then 4 and 1s, 3 and 1s… But the one thing I didn’t do was stop moving forward. 756057-1231-0031sI remember everything that happened through the entire race, but this last 10k is a blur. I mean, I remember everything, but I couldn’t tell you exactly where things happened. I saw one of my training buddies Shamita being taken care of by the medics at one of the aid stations and hoped she was ok. Somewhere around 35km I started to get cramps in my quads. I’d never experienced cramps during a run before. Luckily they weren’t as bad as they could have been and I was able to walk them out fairly easily every time they started. I quickly learned why they have bananas at the aid stations later on in the race. Maybe around 39-40km I was taking a walk break and saw Shamita run by me. Happy to see she was back in the race, I ran to catch up to her and see how she was. We ran for a few minutes together, I wished her well and took another walk break as she continued on ahead of me.

Not long after Shamita left me, I looked ahead and saw James and the girls waving at me. I ran over their way waving, so happy to see them. I asked James how Ginny was doing and was happy to hear that she had finished well ahead of her goal! I gave a big thumbs up as I ran by. Seeing them there and hearing about Ginny’s awesome finish was just what I needed to give me the motivation to kick it up a bit.

I saw the “800 metres to go” sign, turned off Michigan Ave. towards Grant Park, and up an incline that I’m sure felt bigger than it actually was as I passed the 26 mile marker. 200 metres to go as I made the final turn towards the finish. Seeing that finish line was incredible. The girl running next to me said “Oh my god, there it is!” and I screamed “I know!” And then we both heard the announcers say our names. “That’s my name!” “Mine too!” and we high fived. The finish was right in front of me and as I approached, I remembered something someone in my run club said to me a few days before I left. “As you cross the line, put your arms in the air and smile, no matter how much it hurts.” And that’s exactly what I did.756080-1165-0003s

Once past the line, I stopped my Garmin, congratulated the girl who was running beside me, another high five and I continued through the finish chute to collect my medal and headed off to find Mike, Ginny and the rest of the Toronto contingent. As I walked back to the hospitality tent, I looked at my Garmin and saw that my time would be somewhere around 5:23:32. I had missed my A goal, but was comfortably ahead of my B goal and I was pretty happy with that.

First marathon complete and what an amazing experience it was!

What did I learn? Well, they say that if you’re not hurting at the end of a marathon you didn’t try hard enough and now I understand what that means. I believe that running is about 90% mental and 10% physical, but a marathon is a test of both your mind and your body. It is meant to push you to your limit and far beyond. And on October 12, 2014, in Chicago, I think I passed the test.

Official Time:      5:23:27

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