2015 in review

2015 was a rollercoaster year for me.

In January I was still riding the high of running my first marathon in Chicago a couple months before. I felt strong, maybe even invincible. I had signed up for my second marathon which would take place in Ottawa in May. I had maintained a base long run of 15km for the past few months thinking it would be the best way to keep me fit and at the ready to jump into training. I was pumped and ready to go!

Through January and February my training went pretty well. I was training with Ginny and the Running Room marathon clinic. I was still dealing with a sore hamstring that I’d had for months but it wasn’t getting any worse. It was just there.

A couple months into the training Ginny sustained an injury that forced her to take some time off to heal, and eventually to drop out of the marathon and I found myself basically training on my own. Well, at least I would have, had I not been part of the best clinic ever!

Sunday Run

In March I ran my first race of the year, Around the Bay 30k, as a training run. I ran it at my LSD pace with Julie. I’d never done that before – run a race as a training run. It was nice to take all pressure off and just go out and enjoy the day. The result of that race was a time on par with my PB for that race which told me that my training was paying off.

My training continued to go wonderfully until the second week of April, when about 25km into a 32km run I tripped on the sidewalk and pulled my already sore hamstring. That seemingly minor trip caused a ripple effect that lasted most of the rest of the year.

I tried to continue on with my training, but with 4 weeks to go until marathon race day, I had to stop running completely for 2 weeks to try and rest my leg and even when I started up again, it was slow and painful. Thankfully, the race was not painful at all, but my lack of training showed when by the halfway mark my legs were done. I finished the race, about 40 minutes slower than my previous marathon, but I finished it. It was a long race, and a very humbling experience for me.

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I had a lot of time to think as I went around the course on my own that day, and in the 5 weeks that followed, as I was forced to take some time off to heal my leg, and I realized that after my first marathon, I had gotten it all wrong. I had chosen not to listen to the many experts that came to talk at our clinic, or to the experienced friends in my run clubs. I should have taken more time off after Chicago – more than the 6 days I’d taken off. I should have taken at least 2 weeks off with absolutely no running to allow my body to heal, and then kept it to light running until it was time to start training for my next marathon in January.

So, when I came back from the injury, at the end of June, I decided that the rest of the year would be taking it slow, letting myself recover, and just having fun. No pressure.

I trained through the summer, increasing my distance slowly and running slowly. I didn’t have much choice on the running slowly part. I had lost so much of my strength and cardio through all of this it took a long time to get it back. In fact, I’m still working my way back to where I was. I’m almost there, finally!

I sPride and Remembranceigned up for a bunch of races that I had enjoyed doing or had wanted to do just for fun. The Pride and Remembrance 5k, The B&O Yorkville 5k, The RBC Run for the Kids 15k, Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon and ended the year with the Holly Jolly 5k run 1-P1040581which was one I had wanted to do since they had begun this run a few years ago and it did not disappoint. It was so much fun! I ran them all for fun, no pressure. At each of the races, I found myself feeling stronger, and my times were getting better.

After the Holly Jolly 5k on November 15th, I had promised myself that I would take the rest of the year to run easy, run less and let myself totally heal. And that’s exactly what I did. I was even able to resist the temptation to run the Tannenbaum 10k when it was put in front of me.

The results of this downtime has been wonderful. I’ve enjoyed the light running that I’ve been doing, I feel rested and my leg is almost always pain-free now.

Easy Run

Even with all the downtime I took, I still managed 139 running workouts including races and 1357 km for the year.

I feel like I’m ready to take on the challenges that 2016 will bring. My plan is to start off with a full training schedule up to the beginning of April while I train for Around the Bay, take a bit of a breather with lighter running through the spring with maybe a 10k in May, and hopefully start training in June for a fall marathon.

New motto for 2016 – Hill? What hill?

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Final check-in before race day

In six days I’ll be running my second marathon. Just typing those words is terrifying to me. I haven’t run any long runs since April 12th at which time I felt pretty great. Me and GinnyIt was the third week in a row with a long run in the 30km range.The pain in my right leg was only a little niggling, I felt strong, and I enjoyed a gorgeous spring run that day running the first 16km with Ginny and the last 16km by myself. It was on that run, about 25km in, that I caught myself from a near fall and further strained my right hamstring and that’s when all my troubles began. Since my last post 16 days ago, I’ve had 12 days of complete rest (even walking was painful), missed my last 2 long runs in the training schedule, and had 2 of the most painful runs I’ve ever experienced. The pain in my right leg has moved into my left leg as well and I have been struggling with myself for 2 weeks knowing that I am probably not in any shape to run a marathon. FullSizeRender (4)I was having a hard time coming to terms with that. I don’t quit. Anything. I kept telling myself (as stupid as it sounds, even to me) that I’d rather go out on the course, try my hardest and not finish, than not try at all. I had to try everything I could think of to keep this commitment I made to myself 6 months ago. This past Saturday I had a 16km race pace scheduled and decided that this run was going to be the final deciding factor as to whether I was going to run Ottawa or not. I went into the run in full race day gear, with a slower race pace in mind, popped a mild muscle relaxant before we started and hoped that this would be enough of a tweak to have a pain-free 16km run. The result was interesting to say the least. The run was totally pain-free which was great, but also, since then, I have had almost no pain at all in either of my legs even though I’ve been pretty active and gone on a number of extremely longs walks. So, barring anything crazy happening in the next few days, the decision to run has been made. I’m still terrified. I’ll be running the whole race on my own. I had been hoping to use one of the last long runs to test my mental ability by running it solo, but those runs never happened. The longest I’ve ever run by myself is about 21km, about 2.5 hours. I’m expecting to have a slow finish, somewhere longer than 5.5 hours, and I have no idea what to expect mentally. I’m keeping a positive attitude (nobody would know how terrified I am unless they read this), I’ve filled my iPod with favourite 80s music that I haven’t heard in years to keep my mind occupied and outside of itself, and I’m going to run just run the race 1km at a time. Of course, if I feel like I can’t finish, I won’t risk further injury by plowing through. I’m not that crazy. But at least I’ll know that I tried my hardest, pushed myself as far as I could, and that’s all I can ask of myself. IMG_0360 (1)

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.

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

 

It’s official!

A few days ago I received the email that confirms my goal for the year can indeed be met. I have won a place in the 2014 Chicago Marathon. What makes it even more exciting is that everyone that I was hoping to share this experience with was also selected!

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The idea of running a marathon was formed about a year and a half ago. I’d been thinking about it, but knowing I couldn’t do it alone, I put it out there to my peeps just after signing up for our first 30k race. That’s when I started this blog to track my progress along the way.

As much as Mike and other friends who are multiple marathon runners would disagree, I don’t think I’ll be inspired to run anymore marathons after Chicago. I like the half marathon distance and expect that I will go back to them once I’ve checked this item off my bucket list.

That being said, I’m really excited to be pushing myself way outside of my comfort zone. There’s a big difference between running a half and running a full, and I don’t pretend to think that the couple of 30k races I’ve run have given me even a glimpse of what I’m up against.

I have about 7 weeks before training starts and I hope to take a few weeks to rest up and really dial back the workouts before the madness ensues.

Making it into Chicago, with my running peeps and Mike, is truly a dream come true for me. It still hasn’t really sunk in. I’m having a hard time believing that it’s actually happening. I keep going from being in denial one minute to “holy crap!” the next.

But, I look forward to the challenge of the training, the excitement of the race and sharing it all with many of the people who have helped get me there.

Chi-town, here we come!

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