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“Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, I’ll try again tomorrow.” Dennis Edney
Picking my fall races is a challenge. It’s cross-country season, there are lots of different distances for road racing and, of course, there are a lot of marathons. There are so many great events to pick that I could race every weekend if I wanted. I sat down at the computer a few weeks ago to try to decide on which races to run. Resigned that I was not going to marathon this fall, I looked primarily at half-marathons and cross-country, but every single marathon listed seemed to jump from the screen. “Pick me! Pick me!” I caved.
I love everything about training for the marathon distance. Watching weekly mileage climb has a powerful feeling; every long run finished leaves me feeling satisfied; fulfilling the commitment to train, which means planning to eat, drink, and sleep around running builds mental strength. Most of all, I love the sense of commitment that marathoners show and the confidence that they gain in training and elation of crossing the finish line.
When I made the decision to not run the Victoria Marathon, I was genuinely upset about it, but it was the right decision to make. However, for weeks following, I was being tormented by the October line-up of marathons: Prince Edward County, Scotiabank, Prince Edward Island, Hamilton. All of them were doable, but how doable? How much fitness did I lose?
After 2 rest weeks of lower mileage (40-45k) and no long runs, I had to test myself. F
our Monday mornings ago, I woke up before dawn and finished 19K – and I felt good! That weekend, I ran 21K, met my friend, Monica, part way through and felt not so good. That same week, I made a few minor changes to my running lifestyle, which included new shoes and pampering my feet a bit more, and my third long run (another 21K) felt great. I looked at the fall racing calendar, my family calendar and my work schedule and I started to plan. “I can make this work” I thought. “I can be ready for Hamilton.”
And now it’s game time. Yesterday, I upped my game and threw a 10K tempo into my long run (giving me a total of 25K) and ran a 12K trail recovery this morning. In the past month, I have watched my weekly mileage climb from 40K to 66K, and I feel great about it. This week, I get a little more serious as I add more yoga and 2 cycling workouts to my week so that I have a stronger core and quads so that I am ready for ‘net downhill’.
I know the next few weeks are going to be a bit crazy. The boys are back in school, I have a new teaching assignment, and coaching soccer starts soon. But, for whatever reason, running a fall marathon is in me and, like I tell the kids at school, “When you want something badly enough, you can make it happen.”
This has been another summer when I haven’t planned a lot of racing as I had been training for the Victoria Marathon. After making the decision to not marathon on the other side of the country, I started planning a race schedule with events closer to home. The Summer 5K was at the top of my list; it was a new running event, and it was close to home. Knowing that it was sponsored by Mercedes Benz and organized by vrPro, it was bound to be a good event.
On Sunday morning, my teen son who has been playing around with photography for the past few weeks, offered to come with me. “I’m leaving early,” I warned him. But the idea of practising action shots was calling him. Just before 8:00, we pulled into the Mercedes Benz parking lot and, while I went to pick up my race kit, he caught a few more z’s. The start was at 10:00 and it was already hot and sunny.
The volunteers from Mercedes Benz and Kelly Arnott of vrPRO were busy getting set up. Registration was open, men were setting up the barbecue for the after-race, the Pearl Izumi van with its tent had just pulled in…and the bathrooms were ready – inside the building! In fact, the bathroom facilities were one of the most exciting parts of the race: private stalls with doors with locks that actually worked, sinks with running water, paper towels, and mirrors. It was the first time that I have had access to such a luxurious bathroom at a race.
Feeling anxious, I headed out about 15 minutes earlier than planned to warm up and was I ever glad I did! When I registered for the race, I thought “Burlington – flat. This should be a nice, easy course.” The terrain seemed flat on the course video too. But when I started to warm up, I realized how wrong I was. As soon as I turned out of the parking lot, I faced a very slight incline, which became a bit steeper as I approached the 1K mark. As I continued to run, I saw the course plateau a bit and breathed a sigh of relief, only to get to the top and – you guessed it – saw the road climb again. I turned around to head back to the start to warm up and get my head into the game, realizing that I would have to carefully pace the first half of the race so that my legs wouldn’t fry at the end.
And that’s exactly what I did. I checked my watch at 1K and my timing was exactly where I wanted it to be: 4:20. The next 1500 metres were basically uphill and I knew there were a lot of women ahead of me. “Keep it like this,” I told myself. “You have 4 kilometres left to catch them in.” It took 5 minutes to run the next kilometre (uphill), during which I picked my targets to pass, one by one. Each time, I listened for their breathing to figure out how much space was behind me and how much more of a gap I needed to open. There was one more in sight and she would not let me pass her. When I moved right, she moved right; if I ran left, she ran left. So much for a friendly local race. I threw in a surge and fought to work my way around her and had the upper hand (or foot) at the halfway point. Now, there were no women in sight – but I knew there were still 6 or 7 ahead, judging by a volunteer’s counting – and I faced the part of the course I had been dreading more: the downhill.
I hate running downhill. In a race situation, it ends up being a real quad-buster for me, and I have avoided races like the Sporting Life 10K just because of the fast decline. Here, all I needed to do was (1) keep my pace and (2) stay ahead of the women behind me. It wasn’t long before I realized that keeping my pace was not enough as I could hear panting behind me; I was certain that it was the lady who kept cutting me off.
Sure enough, it was and it wasn’t long before we were running neck and neck, each of us trying to pull ahead of the other. Holding my pace was not going to happen; I had to pick it up. “Stay with her, Cynthia. Fight it.” We turned and the finish line was in sight. Now we were on a relatively flatter surface but into the highway wind and with about 700 metres to go, I pulled ahead. Silence. I felt the awkward stillness of her feet stopping behind. “Keep pushing. You can’t be sure that was her.” I stretched out my legs a little bit more, ensuring that I opened the gap a little more and hoped to catch two more gals who suddenly came into sight. Both were slowly down and if there were a little more real estate, I probably could have caught them, but I ended up finishing seconds behind.
Was I happy with my time? Not at all. I finished in 22:39, which is slow for me. However, the conditions were similar to the Beamsville Bench 5K that I raced last year and times were comparable. I also finished in the top 10 (whoever was counting missed a few) and first in my age group, which earned me a pair of Pearl Izumi shoes. Hooray for new shoes!
The reality, though, is I wasn’t training for this race. It was a C-race; I just threw myself into it to see what I could do: race with my head, pick up the pace when I needed to, run tough. My time wasn’t stellar but I can live with it, and it has given me some time goals to focus on while I keep chasing my dreams.
After 3 days of success stories, tears and losses, the one image that I still can not get out of my mind – the one that stands out the most – is from the opening ceremonies. Three days later, and I am still shocked that Gisele Bundchen was a part of the opening to Rio 2016.
The Olympic Opening ceremonies should do two things: promote international sport and the culture of the hosting country. The first was easily done. All athletes were invited to participate, but some chose not so that they didn’t have to spend so much time on their feet, tiring themselves out and hindering their chances on their day of competition. No matter where you live, watching your national athletes walk into the stadium fills your heart with pride. And if you didn’t see your favorite athlete, your hero, you immediately felt a sense of disappointment. Secondly, even under the tight budget when compared to recent Olympics, Brazilian culture was well represented under Fernando Mereilles’ direction in which he creatively captured Brazilian history, science and entertainment while emphasizing the international importance of the rain forest. But a supermodel? Where exactly does she fit in?
Gisele is Brazilian. That’s it. The Brazilian athletes weren’t singled out so why was she? She is fit and she is married to football player Tom Brady, but neither is a part of Olympic sport. In my eyes, Gisele was there because sex sells.
Is it the low budget that compelled Mereilles to bring her into the opening ceremonies? Was a significant donation made to the event if Gisele strutted her final walk across the stage? The question I keep asking myself, though, is “Aren’t we past the point of using beauty and sex to promote?” Clearly, we are not.
Gisele’s strut screamed, “Look at me. I’m fabulous.” It had nothing to do with sports and it did not represent Brazilian culture. It had no place in an international sporting event.
And by girls, I don’t mean daughters, friends or other women who run. I am referring to the “girls”, breasts, bosoms, or whatever anatomically correct or affectionate nickname you want to give them.
A few weeks ago, I was doing the “mom” thing: hanging out at the park with my friend, Susan, watching our boys run around with soccer balls. For some reason, and I can’t ever imagine why (heehee), our conversation turned to running.
“I wish I could run. You’re so lucky,” she commented. “It must be so nice to feel that freedom.”
Admittedly, I was surprised. Susan is a single mom of two boys who are involved with hockey, soccer and swimming. When she is not working, she is often chauffeuring them from one activity to another and, when she isn’t, you can be sure that it is because she is cooking, cleaning, and looking after them at home. I honestly didn’t think that she wasn’t interested in running or participating in other types of fitness for herself. Until now, the subject never really came up.
“You can run,” I said. “You just need to start slowly. I can help you get started.”
“I can’t. I need to find a bra that fits first. It’s too painful to run.”
Susan continued to describe one of her bras that she duct-taped together. “Both sides were duct taped so the underwire would poke me. Then the underwire started coming through the bottom.” The struggle was real.
Fortunately, finding a sports bra is something I have never had to worry about. I always wear Running Skirts strappy bra, which is comfortable, supportive and cute but, for my Double K friend, that just wouldn’t do. I started to picture previous covers of magazines with running success stories, photos of larger women who have lost inches and dropped sizes after they started to run. What did they wear? I have read about some ladies who double-barrel to give them the support that they need. We talked about designing a bra for her and finding a seamstress to make it. I was determined to find a solution. Someone must have an idea of what works. That’s when I turned to social media.
One of the groups I reached out to was Another Mother Runner on Facebook. I explained the problem my well-endowed friend was facing, and asked if they could reach out to their community. After a few days, I had dozens of responses and it became clear that Susan was not alone. Not only did we have a list of sports bras to select from, we had online sites (Break out Bras, Her Room, Bare Necessities) with great customer service that Susan could turn to for more advice.
Today, Susan headed to the Inside Story , known for its amazing customer service, for a fitting and decide on a purchase. She has narrowed it down to….
As bad luck would have it, the store doesn’t carry any sports bra that fits – period. The sales associate is going to do her best to find something that works. We are also looking at shopping online, a little easier but still a very frustrating process. The Juno bra by Moving Comfort, for example, was highly recommended for big-bosomed ladies, but we can’t find her size. Hopefully, we’ll find something that does the trick and keeps the girls under wraps before the end of the summer and Susan can “feel the freedom” that she is wanting so desperately.
Over the weekend, several messages about a weekend run were flying between a friend and me and, then, they stopped. Silence. Our run didn’t happen. And a few hours after that run that should have happened, I got another message: “Body still isn’t working and kids are being disasters….Maybe it was just not meant to be this morning.” To that, I replied, “Yup, sometimes you just have to wait for the stars to line up.”
That’s the message that I have had to tell myself for the past week. This summer, I have been building mileage towards a fall marathon. My initial goal to run Quebec City fell apart because of my son’s soccer schedule so I quickly planned other options. I really wanted to marathon in Victoria, B.C. for several reasons. I use to live in Vancouver, and I have been itching to go back. The timing worked because it was over Thanksgiving Weekend so I would have an extra travel day. Finally, one of my training partners, Kelly-Lynne, is aiming to run the half in Victoria. All signs were pointing to the west coast.
Then, last week happened. I had been waiting for a few weeks to hear back from my employer about whether I could take an extra day, and I needed to confirmation before the end of the month so that I could book my flight. Well, I am still waiting and the seat sale is over. Secondly, while my two boys really want to take an early school break, my husband isn’t thrilled about making a long distance trip (3400 kilometres, or 2200 miles) for just a few days. Lastly, my feet are starting to hurt. For the past few long runs (22+ kilometres), I have been getting achy feet. Like most runners, this always happens to me during marathon training, but this time the pain is different; it’s sharper, and it lasts a lot longer. It’s the kind of pain that makes me think that I am setting myself up for injury, and I don’t want that to happen – especially if I do decide to run Boston in the spring. And, I certainly do not want to make the long and expensive trip to run in Victoria if I am not feeling 100 percent.
All summer, my training has been going well; it has been great. My mileage has increased the way I wanted it to, and I’m feeling power in my legs that I haven’t had in a while. But the stars weren’t in line for my flying to Victoria in October, and I need to follow the stars.
Did this upset me? Yes, of course. But there is always another marathon. Whatever the reason, this one was just not meant to be. Meanwhile, I’ve slowed down a little and had an easy 10 days of training to rest and think about some different goals for the fall – maybe a little track, a bit of trail racing, cross-country, some road racing, or some pot-pourri of all. And who knows? Maybe the stars will realign themselves and I will find that other marathon.
My husband, Dave, has volunteered with the Run for the Toad 25k/50K trail race for a few years. It’s one of the biggest trail races in Ontario, and several runners from other parts of Canada and the USA fly in to participate. Dave has been wanting me to run it but the race always seems to conflict with my other running goals.
A few weeks ago, Dave asked me to participate in the training run weekend. Basically, the event organizers organize a day of running on the trail loop (12.5K) so that their volunteers can practise for race day in October. I ran the training event two years ago so running it again to measure where I am in my training made good sense. But this time, I decided that I wanted to cover 25K and use it as part of my marathon training.
“Are you crazy?” Dave asked. “It’s a tough course. It’s like running 30K on the roads.”
“I’ll be fine,” I told him. “I ran 22K last week and the week before. I have water stations and company to run with here. I’ll be okay.”
One of my training partners, Kelly-Lynne who eats trails for breakfast, decided to join me. She knows the course well as her cross-country team trained on it when she was at Western University. Her plan was to run 12.5K and, if she felt good, she would run more.
The run started at 9:00 and temperatures were going to climb to the mid-30’s. I am fine running in heat but not when the sun is high. We knew that we needed to slow the pace down, to run something comfortably so that we would finish and feel good. My marathon pace is around 5 minutes/kilometre we thought 5:00 to 5:30 on this course was reasonable. Like any other trail, though, you can’t really pace yourself other than by the “what feels right” pace. So that ended up being the plan: run, talk, run and have some fun.
The hills: they were the challenge. Within the first 3 kilometres, I told Kelly-Lynne that I didn’t remember the course being as hilly the last time that I ran it. Ture to the nature of hills, though, every hill that went up also went down. Some of them seemed to climb forever and others seemed to go up at a 90 degree angle (especially Skeleton Hill, towards the end, which was a complete calf-buster). But the hills were doable as they were hiding under a canopy of trees.
For me, the toughest part of the course was dealing with the sun. I was able to deal with the heat but when we came from out of the trails into the open, under the hot sun with no cloud coverage, I started to feel nauseous. As soon as we got back into the shade, though, the sickness went away.
Kelly-Lynne ended up running the entire 25K with me. We realized at the end how well we actually covered the course as our second loop was only 3 minutes slower than our first – not bad with the change in temperature. Also, quite a few runners around us dropped out during the second lap. I think that running an easier pace played a big factor in our finishing, and the smart pacing was confirmed when, in the last kilometre, we passed a few runners who were way ahead of us earlier in the run.
Even though it wasn’t a race, I often had to remind myself of that. I often wanted to pick up the pace but I kept turning the dial the other way, making sure that I slowed down and respected the heat. It worked.
And now I have one more thing to consider as part of my fall racing. After the weekend, I realize that I really do want to race this course one day. Which year? Only time will tell.
When I decided to coach my son’s soccer team, I looked at the dates carefully as coaching is a 14 week commitment and it’s twice a week. I knew that the spring would be difficult as I had other things going on; from June through the rest of the summer, I have more flexibility with my time. My only real need in terms of coaching was making sure that my obligations to the team were over before I would be running the Quebec City Marathon, my marathon of choice for the fall. I diligently counted the weeks of soccer from start to finish and – perfect! Soccer ends the week before Quebec.
I don’t need to marathon in the fall. I BQ’d in Chicago last October and I plan to run Boston. My goals in and out of a fall marathon are to build a stronger mileage base and improve my BQ time. Running in August makes perfect sense as I won’t have to deal with high mileage during the craziness of back to school and registration for Boston is at the beginning of September. The Quebec City Marathon, which has been on my bucket list for years and years, is August 28th.
Hubby and I started to plan a mini-holiday to Quebec City and the province with the boys, possibly travelling into the maritimes. We looked into accommodations. Training was going well. Then, one evening, when going over the snack schedule for soccer, I thought twice.
“Um….why is Festival Day on the 27th?” I wondered. Looking again, I saw that we are scheduled to play on the week before Quebec City. How is that possible? I went back to the calendar and counted 14 weeks again. “The last week ends on the 20th! I don’t get it!” I looked at the calendar again, carefully. The players have a week off at the beginning of August! Why didn’t I realize that? Ugh! There is no way that I can coach on the 27th and get to Quebec City on time to pick up my race kit. Even if we play the first game and I fly, timing would be dicey.
I contemplated not going to the last two games of the season, our weekly game and the Festival Day event. But I always teach my boys that when you make a commitment to do something, you follow through with it to the end. Volunteer work is no different. I made a commitment to my team and the soccer club that I would coach the boys for the season. Had the marathon date been in the middle of the season, I might take off a game. But at the end of the season, it’s a different story. It would look like I quit or gave up on the team. How can I not coach for almost 4 months and, then, not be at their final game? Even if some of the boys don’t see it that way, what kind of message am I sending them? Is it okay for a coach to miss the final game and your trophy day? Not really. So, I am not going to run Quebec City. As I often tell other running friends when they have their own race conflicts, there is always another marathon.
So now the hunt for a fall marathon begins and there are only two conditions; it has to be in Canada, and it needs to be before the end of October. I’ve narrowed it down to Run Victoria (B.C.), Scotiabank Toronto, and Prince Edward Island. Before the end of July, I hope to have worked through the logistics and will register. Meanwhile, my training continues as I work towards building my base and bettering my BQ time.
I love the outdoors. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know that I run on the coldest days of Canadian winter and in the ridiculous heat of the summer. I’ll do whatever it takes to help my kids find their way outdoors, even if it means wandering around aimlessly while they are kicking around soccer balls at the park or shooting hoops on the street, because they would rather be playing outside. And I think it is great when my friends and co-workers begin a fitness regime that takes them for walks or runs into the trails.
When the Pokémon Go app came out, you would think that I would have been excited about that. After all, it is designed to get people off the couch and exploring the world. Last week, kids came to school, tired but proud of how much they walked the day before while looking for Pokémon. “If it gets kids outside and moving,” many friends said, “it’s a good thing.” In that sense, it is. The intention is to walk and hunt for Pokémon while paying attention to your surroundings. Instead, within a week of its launch, the media released numerous stories surrounding accidents and harm that are a result of the app’s users not being careful.
Technology is to be respected and using it while mobile does not give it the respect it deserves. In the same way that it is illegal to text and drive, kids (and adults) need to use sound judgement when playing the game. I, personally, have already seen 3 Pokémon incidents: (1) a grade 8 student, who was walking down the hall at school while looking for eggs to hatch, walked into another student, dropped his phone and watched the screen crack; (2) a neighbour held his phone while riding his bike, dropped it and lost control of his bike when he went up a bump on the curb that he didn’t see, admittedly because he was looking for Pokémon; (3) while running yesterday, I saw a group of 10 boys without helmets on their bikes, eyes on screens and calling out Pokémon hunting-like calls, while riding oblivious to traffic on a busy road: stupidity at its best.
But kids aren’t stupid. They are smart enough to find what they seem to believe are “safer” and “more efficient” ways to catch Pokémon, but they still aren’t respecting the technology in their hands. Today, one mom told me that she saw one boy riding with his phone taped to his handlebars. Another described a scene that takes the search for Pokémon and egg-hatching to a new level; she saw a group of 9 year olds at the park on motorized scooters, going crazy fast without helmets, and obviously looking for Pokémon. It has no longer become a “whatever it takes to get kids outside” game, but a “whatever it takes to collect Pokémon.” My own 15 year told me about the hack that a group of 14 year olds shared with him, a way to change your settings so that you can sit on your couch and capture Pokémon without even having to go outdoors. Perhaps this group of kids actually has the right idea. Yes, it is a hack and we all know that hacking is wrong. But these kids aren’t wandering streets, unaware of what is going on around them, and they are playing from the safety of their own homes.
What this game really needs is a common sense upload, perhaps one which can hatch from a Pokémon egg because it would be priceless. Until the developers come up with one, my kids aren’t really interested in playing and I’ll be following them around aimlessly while they chase soccer balls and shoot hoops.
For the past few months, I have been struggling with my shorts, not running or athletic shorts, but casual day to day shorts. I can wear them to school, running errands, around the house….They are a very practical piece of clothing for me. But as styles are getting shorter and tighter, I have struggled to find shorts that (1) I like, (2) fit the budget and (3) aren’t too tight or too short, but don’t make my legs look like sticks. And they get double points if I can find a pair that are light and comfortable enough that I can wear them while playing soccer with my boys. It has become the impossible task.
On the weekend, I made one last attempt to find one – just one – pair of shorts. After combing through several shops, I gave up, went home and pulled out my yoga shorts. Now these aren’t true yoga shorts because my prudish husband does not like it when I wear anything tight (which, on another note, makes wearing running tights in the winter rather interesting).
These are actually running shorts, which I wore for cross-country but have since crossed the threshold to the yoga studio. I ran into a friend wearing the same style at the grocery store, I have seen moms wearing them at their kids’ events, and many girls are wearing them at school because they don’t violate dress code. Maybe, just maybe, I can wear these casually.
On Tuesday, I put them on when I got home from school. They aren’t too short; my butt is covered. In fact, the backs of the 50+ year old thighs are hiding well under them too. They aren’t tight; Dave won’t complain. They’re stylish. “I’m good to go,’ I thought, and I headed to the kitchen.
“Ooo, look at Mom in her shorty shorts!” the littlest dude called out.
“They aren’t that short, are they?”
“No, they’re okay. Wait! You aren’t wearing those to soccer practice are you?”
“Mom, you are NOT wearing those shorty shorts to soccer! You need to change!”
“I hate my other shorts. I feel like an old lady in them.”
“Mom, let’s think about your age. Your other shorts are just fine.”
I’m glad that I’m his mother, not his daughter. It seems that my son has inherited the “prude” gene and I am still on the hunt for a pair of shorts. Maybe I should buy a pair of shorty shorts and wear those around. Then, no one will complain when I wear these.