Running and Parenting (and Finding My Poop Peeps)

Gastro-intestinal distress.  It’s a secret ailment that most runners share and, like childbirth, unless you have experienced it, you really don’t know what it is all about.  Well, for those of you who have been fortunate enough to escape the horrors of GI distress, running means that you are pounding your body’s weight into the ground, which also means that you’re shaking up the contents of your stomach.  The longer the distance you run, the more everything breaks apart.  As everything loosens, it easily passes through your intestinal tract and, sometimes, faster than expected, leaving runners desperately seeking a bathroom, porta-potty or tall grass.  If you aren’t careful, GI distress can be an absolute disaster.

When I run with friends, no one ever argues if someone needs a bathroom; we’ve all been in that situation.  And no one ever complains about the wait.  In fact, none of my friends really talk about GI distress at all – except Kelly-Lynne.  A few months ago, she complained about eating the wrong foods at work so, twenty-five minutes into our evening run, we had to stop for a bathroom.  This time, it was me who was waiting for her, which was so unusual that I teased her about it, and we somehow ended up talking about poop for the rest of the run.  By the time we finished, I asked, “Do you realize that we just spent the last 30 minutes talking about poop?  How many girls talk about poop?  That is unheard of!”  Finally, I had found a poop peep.

Years ago, my conversations about poop were limited to other moms who had to deal with the horrors of poopy diapers and poop that finds its way up a baby’s back and into every crevice of the body, places that I never would have imagined poop could crawl into until I had my own boys, poop that was so gross that Dave would jump to walk the dog on the coldest days of winter to avoid the dreaded diaper change.    But Kelly-Lynne is my first real poop peep, someone to share my greatest pre-race fears: not emptying my gut before the start, getting caught mid-race needing a porta-potty and wondering whether I can ‘hang on’ until the end.

Last night, Tammy the Hamstring derailed my plans to take my youngest and his three friends to the Blue Jays game.  I knew that Tammy wouldn’t want to sit at the game for 2 hours or more, and she would end up complaining about the train trip in and out of the city as well.  When Dave came to the rescue and agreed to take the boys, the other moms (Susan and Anna) were equally grateful and asked me to thank him.  “He still owes me,” I messaged.  “I’d rather take 4 boys to a baseball game than spend all those years changing poopy diapers.  He got off easy.”  Somehow the discussion changed to the joys of teen boys and plunging toilets of their superhuman feats bobbing inside.  Within minutes, I realized that I had found more poop peeps.

Susan and Anna are not just poop peeps, though.  They are peeps with strategies, mom hacks that are so brilliant that they make bathing a skunky dog with Vagisil seem banal, strategies that include using laxatives to break down the most frightening of exhibits or pouring Restoralax (and, yes, you can buy it in bulk at Costco) into the toilet bowl to loosen things.   A Restoralax/Gatorade concoction, they tell me, moves things along quite nicely.  Gatorade in the toilet?  Who knew?!

Everyone needs a poop peep, especially if you are a runner, a mom or a running mom.  My network feels complete but there is always room for more.

 

Taming Tammy

Taking two weeks off running was completely my idea.  I needed to remove the pressure of trying to run and to train for Chicago.  I needed to focus on healing. At the time, I honestly didn’t know if it was a good idea or not, and I still don’t, but it gave me the break that I needed.  It gave me the time to accept that Chicago will not be the marathon that I want it to be; once that happened, my frustration disappeared.

But taking the time off was still hard even though I walked Zeda, I spun my wheel on my windtrainer (because I didn’t trust that riding up and down hills in the great outdoors would be good for Tammy the Hamstring), and I went to yoga.    I survived the first week  without running but, by Day 10, I was getting antsy.  “Four more days will not make a difference” I told myself.  By Day 14, I was quite excited – one more day.   It no longer hurt when I walk, my stability was back and I felt stronger, but I didn’t know if the time off would help my running.

I decided to test the trails on Saturday afternoon instead of in the morning as I felt my body would be more awake and Tammy would be less of a nuisance.  I knew that I had to do 2’s and 1’s, and slowly.   My osteopath also gave me some exercises to do before and after: hip rotations (like using a hula hoop), opening and closing the gates, and leg swings (forwards and sideways).  I could hear my hip popping during the first set, which made me nervous, but I stuck to the plan: go out slowly, on a soft surface, 2 minutes on, 1 minute off, aim for a mile.

Two miles run!

When I left the house, I was able to run along a straight plane but I had trouble manoeuvring corners and turns, even at a 9/10 minute mile pace.  I almost quit and went back home.  “Stick to the plan.”  After 3 sets of 2’s and 1’s, I could feel that my hips had loosened up and I was moving more easily.  After 6 sets, I was able to turn the same corner that I couldn’t get around before.  Success!   Then I went through my exercises at home for another 20 minutes.  In the end, I spent more time warming up and cooling down/stretching than I actually did running, but it really didn’t matter because I ran!

Taming Tammy

Today, I went through the same routine but ran on a mix of surfaces – grass, gravel path, road – and for a bit longer.   As on Saturday, I finished feeling good about running, but Tammy was still a pain in the butt – not as much of a pain as she was before, but still a nuisance.  As my osteopath explained, there is scar tissue surrounding Tammy that has formed a rope and it needs to be loosened.   When Tammy complains to my brain that she is sore, my body reacts by tightening up even more to protect her.  But my joints and bones are healthy, my tendons are strong, and there is lots of fluid flowing through my veins.  So I need to run – slowly and carefully – to start breaking up the scar tissue, to tame Tammy and to send the message to my brain that I am not broken; I am strong.

What does this mean in terms of the Chicago Marathon?  I have no idea.  I will be there and I will be running.  I don’t know how far or how fast but I do know it will be with Tammy, and she will be on a very short leash.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I cried today.  It has been the first time I cried since my training for Chicago has been sidelined.  Heck, it is the first time that I have cried in I don’t know how long.  But I do know that since Tammy started acting up, the uncertainty of whether I will be able to run the Chicago Marathon has left me feeling blue.  Last week, I only ran on Monday,  when I realized that Tammy the Hamstring needed attention, so I turned to yoga and spinning on my wind trainer for the rest of the week.  The rest helped; I noticed that the range of motion in my right leg improved over the seven days as did my strength and balance.

Success! Three miles done!

This past Monday, I was cleared by my physiotherapist to try some shorter distances so I ran 3 miles that afternoon.  Tammy was still tight, but she wasn’t sore like she was the week before and I felt fine the next day.  On Wednesday, I was starting to feel normal; my hips felt like they were opening up again and I seemed to be walking properly.   At my physio appointment the next morning, I was told that the puffiness on the back of my thigh was down and the weird bruising, which started to surface when we taped my leg the week before, was disappearing.  Things seemed to be progressing and I was encouraged, so I ran again on Thursday night; this time I covered 4 miles.

This morning, everything changed.   I headed out for an easy 3 mile run and Tammy decided to start kicking me in the butt.  At the one mile mark, I stopped my watch, walked home and cried.  I have been doing everything right: my exercises, my warm-ups, rest, sleep, physio…but it hasn’t been enough for Tammy.  She obviously needs more time.

Today was the first time that I have cried since my training for Chicago came to a halt.  In the past two weeks, I have played the “what if” scenarios, including not starting.  I have toyed with the idea of walking the 26.2 miles but that is not what I set out to do; I want to run the course, not walk it.  I have thought about running part of the course and walking the rest, which I would be okay with if that becomes the plan, and I’ve considered running part and dropping out.  But not once during the “what if” games that my mind played did I cry.  Until today.

This afternoon, I decided that I am not going to run until Tammy is in better shape.  I feel that my trying to run is like playing Russian Roulette; how much more can I push Tammy until she has had enough and really bites me in the butt?  I looked into pool running as a way to supplement my training and was ready to buy a belt, but I don’t want to pool run.  When I put things in perspective, I reminded myself that running Chicago is suppose to be fun, so I don’t need to torture myself with things that I don’t want to do.  Instead, I will continue to ride on my wind trainer and go to yoga; I’m even willing to start swimming again.  If I don’t start in Chicago, so be it.  There is always another marathon.  As I walked with my youngest in the late afternoon and felt Tammy’s presence again, I realized that taking a step back like this is the best thing for me.

I am trying to stay positive but there will likely be more tears between now and October 7th while I figure out what exactly Tammy has planned for me.  Who knows?  Maybe I will be able to pull a miracle out of my butt and I’ll be able to chase my dreams sooner than I think.   Only time can tell.

Playing All of the Cards

On Friday morning, I went out for an easy 5 mile run.  Half way through it, I noticed that my right adductor was tight so I slowed down; by the time I got home, the front and back of my upper thigh was sore.  The next afternoon, I decided to go out for an easy run to make sure that my leg had recovered and I’d be able to handle my long run the next day.  I felt good for about 3 miles, but as I climbed a slight uphill, I heard the back of my thigh start to scream at me.  That’s when I thought my piriformis was source of my grief.  I got home, took the next day off and waited for Physio on Tuesday.

Since then, I have seen two physiotherapists.  One appointment was pre-scheduled to work on my diaphragmatic breathing but since movement was a huge issue, Tracy worked on my leg instead; the other, with Lisa, was a routine maintenance check, again scheduled weeks ago for today, and became a  “Let’s get Cynthia moving” appointment.  Both physiotherapists said the same thing: my right hamstring, right at the top of the leg where the hamstring meets the butt, was aggravated so the muscles around it (the other hamstrings, glute medius, sciatica) are tensing up to protect it.  Well, they have been protecting it for a week now, and I’d really like the hamstring to relax and settle down so that I can get back to my running.

Since I have time these days, I also went to my family doctor who agreed with the others.  I asked if he thought there was a tear because recovery has been so slow, but he said that my leg isn’t swollen enough and I’m not in enough pain for it to be a tear.   All three professionals agree on the diagnosis: hamstring strain.  Hooray, I think.

Meanwhile, I’m not running and I’m not happy about it.  I’ve been told to take it really easy for a few more days: walking and some gentle cycling if it doesn’t hurt.  I can go to yoga but I need to be careful to not overstretch.

Meanwhile, with Chicago only ten weeks away and the Canadian 5K Championships in mid-September, I am using every card in my hand to recover quickly.

A bit of acupuncture in my back to alleviate the tightness.

Card #1: Physiotherapy: My doctor agreed that this is a must for a fast recovery.  I have been getting ultrasound and acupuncture and my right hamstring is taped for a while.

Card #2: Anti-inflammatories: My right thigh is only 2.5 mm bigger than my left, which is not really significant.  However,  it has been a week with very little progress so we are being a little more aggressive through a prescription.

2XU Compression shorts – hope they help.

Card #3: Compression shorts: Lisa suggested that I wear compression shorts all day until my hamstring has settled down.  Living in a house with ultra-conservative boys and men, I don’t own compression shorts.  Fortunately, I found a pair of 2XU shorts on sale at National Sport.  I think this may actually count as another “Hooray!”

Card #4: Rest: Of course, and I’m milking it.  I’ve told my husband that I can’t vacuum or do any housework that involves using my hamstrings (like cleaning the bathtub), and I can only walk Zeda if we go for a slow walk.  Yes, I am absolutely taking advantage of this!  Shhhhh…..

Card #5: Stay calm:  I’m not panicking.  I’m frustrated beyond belief, but I am trying to stay positive.  I have a solid base behind me so I’m trying to look at this a short period of forced rest to that I can be my best in the fall.   But, Hamstring, be warned: if you play this game for more than three weeks, I will become a force to be reckoned with (and that’s when you’ll hear my husband and kids complain).

My advice to anyone thinking about massage is to start establishing a relationship with an RMT during  your off-season, when a strange ache that might follow doesn’t matter.  The RMT didn’t know me; she didn’t know what I could handle.  On another runner or triathlete, the same pressure probably would  have been fine but, on me, it wasn’t.  Maybe I will go back to see her, but it will be after the marathon.  In the meantime, I’m going to keep playing the cards in my hand; one of the them has to be the lucky one.

Back to the Massage Table

The last time I had a massage I was training for the Toronto Goodlife Marathon – in 2012.  I’m not typically a touchy-feely person so I never really enjoyed going but, as I felt my body start to tire during the marathon cycle, I figured it was good for me.  And it was – until one Thursday night when the therapist went deep into my right ankle; it hurt while standing the next day, ached during my long run that Saturday, and resulted in three weeks of no running.  So I never went back and I have never re-entertained the idea of seeing a massage therapist again.

Until this year.  There are many times when I know that my body is tight – my back, my neck, my legs, my feet, pretty much everywhere – and I rethink that a massage would be good for me.  I regularly see a physiotherapist, mostly for maintenance,  but she can only do so much in the time that she has with me.   So, at the end of June, I began the daunting task of finding a massage therapist.

It didn’t take long before I realized that there are a lot of RMT’s locally and I had no idea where to go.  I asked for recommendations, searched Health and Wellness facilities online, read every single biography that I could find, and made several phone calls.  I wanted one who specializes in sports massage but also has a background in athletic therapy.  Location is important (it has be close to home) as is timing (must have evening appointments).   In the end, I found Amanda, who has a degree in Kineisology, a Masters in Athletic Therapy, is a registered massage therapist, does acupunture, works with several amateur sports teams, works two miles from home, and is hard to book an appointment with.  She sounded too good to be true.  After three weeks of waiting, I finally went to see her on Thursday.

I ran early on Thursday morning instead of later in the day, showered, changed and “Oh, wait! I need to shave my legs!”  After all, I wanted to make a good first impression and not show up looking like Godzilla’s long lost cousin.  So I showered, shaved, changed, and headed out the door.

TIght shoulders: teachers’ problems

Before we started, I filled Amanda in on my needs and my previous experience to make sure that she would not go too deep into my muscles.   My needy spots were obvious: my hips, my glutes and my neck (the evil aftermath of spending most of June marking and doing reports).  My calves, though, are “jacked.”  Jacked.  I spent all winter joking with my co-workers that I was going to be jacked by June because I would run at lunch when they went out for coffee.  Ta-da!  Jacked, I am.

I was glad that I ran in the morning because I didn’t really feel like it at night.   I felt great but I thought that a run would end up feeling sloppy so I ended up vacuuming my entire house instead: floors, couches (found 35 cents!) and beds.

I’m not completely sold on massage therapy and I am watching my body as it responds to Thursday’s session.  One glute, specifically the piriformis, is noticeably tight and sore, which it wasn’t before, so I skipped today’s long run as a precaution.  I’m hoping that it is just my body’s way of reacting to the pressure put on it and I’ll be back to myself in another day or two.  I’m staying positive that this will pass, and I am keeping the other two appointments that I booked because you’ve got to love a sports therapist who calls you “jacked.”

Marathon Training: It’s a Family Affair

When the boys were little, I always thought that I would have more time to myself as they got older.  I was so wrong.  Little did I realize that older boys mean more interests, busier lives, and later nights, which really means less time for me.

Circa 2008, the baby jogger days.

When the boys were little, they use to join me when I ran.  I often had one in the stroller and one on his bike.  On Sunday mornings, when I did my long run, my oldest would usually ride with me to keep me company and carry water and Gatorade.  When we finished, we would stop at the corner store and he would buy himself a chocolate bar.

But now my boys are 12 and 17.  They don’t want to run with me, they don’t want to ride with me while I run and they sure as heck don’t want to wake up with the birds on a weekend morning to keep me company during my long run.   During the past year, I have become comfortable with the loneliness of the long run.

This past weekend, as in many parts of North America, Southern Ontario has had another heatwave.  I’ve done a fairly good job of acclimatizing to the heat and I have learned to wake up really early on the days that I want to run for more than an hour.  With this weekend’s temperatures pushing into the 40’s, this weekend’s long run needed to be early.  However, both of my boys were involved in a soccer tournament, which meant early mornings, and my oldest had to work at his part-time job until 1:00 am on Sunday morning; I needed to be home early enough to make sure that everyone was up on time.  This meant that the only window I had to run was Sunday night, when the humidex was forecast at 36C.

On Sunday morning, Dave asked me what my plans to run were.  “Tonight,” I replied.  “I’m starting when it is hot but I’ll feel better as the sun goes down.”  After I narrowed down my start time to 6:30, Dave said that he would meet me at 8:15 after he finished his shift and ride with me during the tail end of my run.  So I sent him to work with 2 extra towels, a bottle of Gatorade, a bottle of water, and a change of clothes.

At 6:20, I drove to the soccer club, handed over the car key to my oldest and started my run from there.  I stopped at home, as planned, in the first half hour for my first water break.  Realizing how hot it really was, I also texted my oldest: Can you, please, try to meet me between 7:30 and 8:00 with water and Gatorade?  It is so hot…. and I named a 2K stretch of road where he could find me. I had no idea when he would be leaving work, nor did I know if he would just roll his eyes and shrug his shoulders, but I hoped that he would be a good son and help me out.

The kid can take pictures too! 8:10 pm and thirteen miles into my run.

At 7:50, I was losing hope.  I ran into Coronation Park to look for a water fountain but there were none.  “How can a large public park like this not have a water fountain?” I asked myself.  I was angry and, admittedly, getting a little nervous about going another 25 minutes without fluids.  “Slow down the pace,” I told myself.  “You’ll be fine.”  And I did.  Within a kilometre of leaving the park, I saw my car pass me and turn into Appleby College.  The kid came through; he greeted me with water and Gatorade, then happily headed back home.   Me, I happily continued towards the pier where I was going to meet Dave.

When I got there, I saw Dave’s car at the TOWARF building, where he volunteers with the town’s water rescue group, but he was nowhere in sight.  Thinking that he was just changing into cycling gear, I went into the station.  “He’s right out there,” I was told but I couldn’t see him.  “Right out there on the water, see.  They were called out at 7:55.”   Of course, they were.

Thumbs up for 19 solo miles in the heat.

So I left directions to let Dave know which way I was going and headed out alone, not what we had planned at all.  But the sun was down so it running wasn’t as tough as it had been an hour earlier.  Besides, I was still fueled with that half bottle of Gatorade and water.  By the time I got back to the pier, Dave and the rest of his crew were just docking their boat.

When I started my run, it was 29C (or 84F) with the humidex at 36C (or 97F).  By the time I finished almost 19 miles, the humidex had only dropped to 34C (or 93F).   I don’t think that I could have run that distance under those conditions on my own but my family’s support got me through it: Dave, who offered to ride with me at the end (it didn’t happen but the thought of it kept me going) and my son who dropped everything so that he could meet me just past the half way mark.    Even though my family is getting older and busier and spending their weekend mornings sleeping while I’m logging miles on the road, they really are still there and supporting my crazy ideas while I keep chasing my dreams.

The Pacing Game

You know you’re a runner when you watch the countdown on a microwave, see 3:45, and immediately think “marathon time”.  And you know you’ve raised your 12 year old well when he looks at your playlist and exclaims “Mom, you have enough music to run 3 marathons!”  I’m not planning on running with music when I marathon but I’m pretty impressed that (1) his math was that quick and (2) he knows my marathon goal.

Like most runners, I often wonder about time.  How fast can I run a 5K?  If I run 5 seconds faster per mile/kilometre, how will that change my marathon time?  You want me to run how many repeats?  How much rest do I get?   Am I on pace?   Pacing is the one that is always on top of my mind.

For years, my running friends have called me a human metronome. During a 10K or half-marathon, I can quickly lock into a 7:30 mile pace.  At the end of a run with friends, when the goal is to log miles and chat, we like to guess what our average pace was, and we are usually right within a few seconds.  Even on the track, which I am absolutely no expert at, I can usually guess what my 400 metre repeats are within one or two seconds.

My friend, Monica, and I use to joke about my pacing during a long run: 7:57, 7:58, 8:01, 7:56….my miles were all where they needed to be, surrounding the 8 minute mark – until this year.  Somehow, I have lost all sense of my marathon pace.  Perhaps it has been due to the faster running that I have been doing in general, but that 8 minute mile has become elusive.   For the past few weeks, my long runs have been faster than I want them, which might sound great, but I know I need 8 minute miles so that I don’t blow up at Mile 22 in Chicago.  I also know that I need 8 minute miles when I am running continuously and don’t have a break whenever I hit a traffic light.

photo credit: W. Menczel

This weekend’s heatwave in southern and central Ontario that has given us higher temperatures and humidex levels than I can ever remember.  Yesterday, the thermometer reached 40 degrees (which is 100F); in this part of Ontario, that use to be unheard of.   While many are complaining about the heat, it is exactly what I need right now so that I can get back to the 8 minute mile.

Yesterday, I headed out for my long run at 6:30 with three goals:  10 miles, a half-marathon or anything longer than 15 miles.  With weeks of 18 mile runs behind me, I felt that I could run that distance again – if Mother Nature cooperated and if I paced it properly.  No matter how far I ran, I knew that I had to be slower if I wanted to reach any of the goals.   Well, there is nothing like a heatwave to force the pace down as all of my mile splits were predicitable and well-timed: slow to start, faster miles on the downhills, slower on the ups and into what wind we had.  At Mile 10, I was feeling good; at Mile 13, I was feeling strong; but during Mile 14, on a favorite but challenging uphill, with the sun high, I noticed my heartrate starting to climb and I thought “This is crazy.  I have kids to worry about.”  So I called it a day at 14.1 miles.

Cooling off after 14 miles on a hot, hot day.

When I got home, I was mad at myself as I probably could have run at least one extra mile before “common sense” took over.  Then, I started to think about the pluses: I got out and ran, and I ran more than 13 miles; my pacing was good as I averaged a 7:57 mile;  I didn’t feel drained at the end of my run and had the whole day ahead of me.  As I saw other runners post their 30K runs, I had to keep reminding myself of my positives.

The temperatures this weekend and in the days ahead are extreme but, in terms of pacing, they are exactly what I need.  In the same way that running through the cold and icy winter made me stronger, this hot weather is forcing me to really focus on pacing and find my inner clock again.

The Power of Time

Getting back to work after running at lunch always leaves me feeling on top of the world.

In Grade 12 English, one of the themes that kept popping up again and again was the power of time.  “Time has the ultimate power over man” was how my teacher phrased it.   As a seventeen year old studying world literature, that idea made perfect sense but it wasn’t for many years that I truly understood those words.

More recently, I was complaining to a colleague about my huge to-do list at work, to which she gently reminded me that “we don’t own our time.”  Memories of Grade 12 resurfaced again.  “No,” I replied, “which is why we need to learn to control the time we are given.”

I do manage my time well; as a working mother who is running high mileage weeks, I have to if I want to get everything done.   One way that I have been able to do this is to run during my lunch break.  I have exactly 50 minutes, which usually means 45 by the time I get out the door, but really leaves only 35 minutes so that I can clean up and change before I put on my teacher hat again.   In my running life, it means that I can run 3.5 miles a few times a week to keep my mileage up; once or twice a week, I can creatively find time for another mile.

My secret to a quick clean-up: Wet Ones!

In January, my coach said that he wanted my mileage over 40 miles a week.   I initially thought that he was insane and doubted that I could really run that kind of distance over a long period of time, but I took his advice to heart.  Adding in a few easy lunchtime miles has made what seemed to be a lofty goal almost effortless; in fact, I feel stronger than I have in years.   Running at lunch has the added bonuses of letting me escape the drama that breeds in a Grade 7 classroom, fills my body with fresh blood and gives me the mental strength that intermediate teachers often need.

With summer holidays less than a week away, I am planning my time – time with the family, time to write, and time to run – and I realize how much I really enjoy my lunch runs and plan to keep them as a part of my training. And now that I have a bit more control over the time that I am given, I’ll use it to build on the base that I set over the past six months, keep chasing my dreams, and catch that unicorn

Coming Out Of My Comfort Zone

Last week, the clocks finally moved forward.  I had been looking forward to daylight savings time for weeks for no reason other than I don’t enjoy running at night.  It is too hard to see where my feet are landing.  Add snow and ice, and I need that much more will power and stubbornness to get out the door.  Despite a winter that had all of the above, I somehow managed to keep my road mileage up.  My speedwork, though, was non-existent.  Anyone who knows me at all will agree that speed work in the dark/snow/slippery conditions is just a recipe for disaster.

So when the clocks moved ahead, I was happy to have an extra hour of daylight during my “happy” hour.  And I have actually been excited about turning up my training a notch with the addition of speed work.  The only problem is speed work scares me.

Solemate Monica
Solemate Kelly-Lynne

I’ve never been great at the fast stuff.  When I was in high school, I was unable to earn a spot on the track team but our coach handed me the 1500m, the race that nobody wanted to do; I finished last.  At university, a friend tried to convince me again and again to run cross country with her but memories of being the slowest on the track haunted me.  By the time I started running distance in my late 20’s, I was happy to run on the roads at my own happy pace; if I wanted to do a speedier workout, I just ran faster.  And I continued to run and train like that for years – actually, decades – until I started to run with Toronto Olympic Club a few years ago.  It wasn’t soon before tempo, intervals, broken miles, and ladders all became a part of my weekly vocabulary.   But, I am still slower than everybody else, partly due to my running history and partly due to the fact that my training partners weren’t even born when I graduated from high school.  So, speed work scares me.

Last week, Coach sent me my first workouts of 2018.  I had weeks to mentally prepare for this week (After all, we all knew that spring would eventually come, didn’t we?)  but I was still anxious.  How much would I be able to push myself?  How much would it hurt?  Most of all, though, I worried about what the numbers on my watch would show.  How slow am I? Really?

On Tuesday night, I parked my emotions and headed to the track.  Done.  On Friday afternoon, I headed out the door for my second workout of the week, pushing myself up hills and into the wind  for some quick intervals.   Mission accomplished: two workouts on Week #1.  And I surprised myself; I wasn’t as slow as I expected.

Out of his comfort zone. There is no going back now.

As I cooled down on the way home, I thought of my youngest who crossed his own barrier last week.  After a winter of snowboarding at Glen Eden, he finally got off the bunny hills and used the chairlift.  I booked a lesson for him and up he went – no friends, no family, just him and an instructor whom he had just met.  I told him on the way home that I was  proud of him.  “When you do something that scares you, something that is going to make you better,  and it doesn’t matter what that is, you’re growing.”

Cooling down, I realized that the addition of a few workouts to my running was doing the same thing.   Sure, they are intended to help me get stronger and faster,  but they are also forcing me to come out of my comfort zone and helping me to grow not only as a runner, but as an individual.

It’s easy to turn away from something that you don’t like; it’s hard to do something that you don’t.    And when you do something that scares you, you can only grow faster.

 

 

 

 

Run Like the Devil

Last Sunday morning, I listened to my husband tell me that I should wear my race bib to the Chilly Half Marathon upside down.  “Be 999,” he said.  “That’s a fun number.”

“No way.  This is the number that I was assigned so this is the number that I am going to wear.  Besides, now if I have a bad race, I can blame it on the number and everyone will understand.”

Even though I had the worst number imaginable, I didn’t really care.  I actually thought it was a little funny.  In fact, it helped me to relax a little; I knew that this wasn’t going to be one of my faster halfs, but I did want it to be a respectable race.  In November, I squeaked under 1:40 on a downhill course (1:39:59), and I raced in 1:42 on the Chilly course last winter.  This year, anything under 1:40 would be good.  Maybe Bib 666 would let me run like the devil.

Post-race: with my participant’s medal and AE3, Athletic Energy Nutrition.

Knowing how a lot of people react when they see or hear ‘666’, I wore my jacket to Burlington and I kept it on as long as I could while warming up.  Just before the start of the race, we listened to race director Kelly Arnott, the mayor of Burlington who welcomed and thanked Kelly for the fundraising that her event does for the city, and a minister who wished us a good race.  I was tempted to ask the minister to bless me before I ran, thinking a bit of divine intervention might counteract the devil’s number.  Instead, I just took off my jacket and hoped that no one would notice.

My race plan was to go out at an 8 minute mile pace and bring it down to 7:30 by the 3rd mile.  Even with a windy start, my first mile was 7:38.  “Too fast,” I told myself.  “Bring it down.”  The next few miles were under 7:30 but I was feeling strong.  On this out and back course, I was really looking forward to turning around when the wind would push me home for the last 5 miles, but that did not happen.  If anything, the wind seemed stronger; surprisingly, my mile splits stayed fairly consistent.  I was having a good day.

I picked up my pace quite a bit in the last mile, dropping down to 7:19.  When I made the last turn before the finish line, I could barely see the time on the clock change from 1:36 to 1:37.  I was excited that I was finishing under 1:40 but also knew that I had some work to do if I wanted to keep my time under 1:38.  I tried and, while my legs felt like they were turning over faster, they were just holding steady.  Regardless, I finished in 1:38:12, fast enough for a third place finish in my age group and 88th of 1200 women.   I was especially happy as this was the fastest half marathon that I have run in a long time; maybe there is a bit of a speed demon in me after all.