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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Pride and Remembrace 5k race and injury update

Race date: June 27, 2015

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus since the Ottawa Marathon, trying to recover from this stubborn right hamstring injury. I took a full 4 weeks off, and then, just to get my legs moving and test them out before the Pride and Remembrance 5k run, I did two very short runs. Both were slow and sluggish.

The day before the race, I saw my physiotherapist for my weekly appointment. I was sore and achy and starting to believe that this stupid hamstring is never going to get better. It’s been almost 5 weeks of total rest and I feel like it’s not getting any better at all… Well, except that I don’t have to sit on a pillow at work anymore, so I guess that’s something. My physio applied some kinesiology tape to my leg, showed me how to do it myself and gave me instructions to stretch my quads and hip flexors before I run.

Within a few hours of leaving her office, the pain in my leg was almost gone, but I wasn’t holding out much hope that it would lessen the pain that I felt on both of my short runs the week before because I had tape on my leg for those runs as well.

So, I’ve been looking forward to this race for months! I went out last year to spectate and it looked like so much fun I couldn’t wait for registration to open this year. This is a small race with a maximum of 1500 entries and they were all Me and the girls at pridespoken for. It’s also known for its amazing after party with a fantastic atmosphere, great music, food and cake from Dufflet Bakery. Mike and my daughters were going to come and join the fun as well. Neither of my daughters had ever been out to a race before so I was looking forward to them experiencing the excitement.

Because of my injury, the plan going in was to run easy and just have fun. No pressure. Based on the two runs I did in the last week (both were painful, slow and I found out just how much cardio I’ve lost in 4 weeks),Me and Julie I thought I would probably come in around 38 – 40 minutes. We met up with Julie and a couple other friends at the start line, took a few photos and then Mike and the girls went to find a good place to watch the race and we headed into the corral to wait until the confetti flew and the race was on!

We went out nice and easy, Julie letting me set the pace. The course is flat along Wellesley with a couple of small inclines as you circle around Queen’s Park (twice) before heading back along Wellesley to the finish. Julie and I chatted the whole way getting caught up with each other and enjoying the costumes of runners and the marching band along the course. I was really happy when I realized that I wasn’t feeling any of that familiar leg fatigue, ache or pain I’ve grown accustomed to. From beginning to end I was pretty much pain-free! Just a small niggling at the top of the right leg but that was it. I was also happy to be able to run for 21 minutes before taking a 1 minute walk break. That was the longest I’ve run continuous since the marathon over a month ago and nowhere near how I did earlier in the week. I didn’t bring any water and it was warmer than I thought so I did need to take advantage of the water station, and we took one other mini walk break before turning towards the home stretch.

1-_DSC6522 (2) I saw a lot of familiar faces along the final stretch. Friends who had already finished their race, or who had come out just to cheer. I crossed the line and was pleasantly surprised with the time I saw.

This race was both a PW (personal worst) and a PV (personal victory). It produced my slowest 5k race result to date, but it was also a victory because I ran it comfortably, pain-free and faster than anticipated. In fact, I couldn’t believe how great I felt!

Five days later, as I write this, I’m cautiously excited to share that I have had about 85-90% less pain in these 5 days, than at any time, in the past 5 months. I have to wonder what it was that caused such a drastic change. Did the weeks of rest I’d had finally kick in, was it the taping of my leg, or was it the magic that is the Pride and Remembrance run? Whatever the reason, I cross my fingers (and my toes) that the momentum keeps going.

My short term plan is to increase mileage and number of runs slowly over the next few week and hope that I’ll be back to regular training for my fall half marathon soon.

Official time: 36:39

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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)

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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Sometimes you CAN change a leopard’s spots

At the end of our absolutely incredible run Thursday night in which everything felt fantastic, we pushed ourselves harder than usual and I’m sure I experienced that runners high they keep talking about, Tricia and I stood around chatting and watching a film crew set up a scene on the street for about 20 minutes or so. When I finally headed home I decided to run the 700m back to my condo. But when I started to run I had the worst pain I have ever felt in both knees and my back. It was excruciating! I couldn’t run at all. I thought to myself this is what people must feel like when they’re 40 km into a marathon and they’ve had a really tough time of it.

I’ve been going to physiotherapy for the last few weeks ahead of the marathon training trying to fix a couple of things (my back being one of them) in the hopes that they won’t worsen with the increased miles I’m about to put my body through over the next few months. So, when I got home, it was obvious to me that I needed to do my physio stretches. Getting down onto the mat was almost impossible. I was having trouble bending my knees and my back was so tight I felt like I was 90 years old.

I went through the daily routine that’s been increasing as the physio sessions continue, with more care than usual. I mean, I always do them, but this time I was really concentrating to make sure I was doing them right. That my body was lined up properly and I was using the right muscles for each exercise. When I was finished I added a fairly long set of back stretches. I have to say, those stretches felt amazing!

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The next morning when I woke up, I immediately noticed a huge difference. My back had absolutely no pain at all. For the first time in months, I was totally back pain free! I felt great! I went through the day in amazement, stopping often to think about whether there was any pain and marvelling at the fact that the answer, for the most part was an astounding no.

Now, at the end of the day, as I’m writing this, I can say that the pain has, for the most part, been absent all day. There have been a couple of very small twinges in the area of my back that I started going to physio for, but nothing at all like I’ve had.

Tonight I got down on the mat and did the same routine again. Only now I have a new attitude. Before I was doing it in the hopes that I could lessen the pain. Now I do it because I can see, if done right, the pain can be removed totally and I can enjoy a much better quality of life and hopefully that means running pain free. If there really is such a thing.

All I know for sure is, I’ve never been a post-run stretcher. Sure, I know I should stretch, but I’ve never bothered with it. As of this morning, I am reformed! Not only will I stretch as a post-run activity, but as a daily activity whether I run or not.