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.

 

 

What’s in a Bib?

Last Sunday was the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington, Ontario.  This race has become a staple on the winter running scene in southern Ontario and, with a few thousands participants, it has also become quite competitive.  This year, it was the half-marathon championship race for the Ontario Masters Athletics, a few Olympians (Reid Coolsaet and Krista Duchene) and other national level athletes like Lucas McAneney were on the line, as were hundreds more who were looking for a challenge and a fast time.

Race Ready: Nothing Can Stop Me.

Me?  In December, I wanted this to be a goal race, one in which to push myself to achieve a certain time.  But winter’s dark, Mama N’s ice and cold, and my nasty bruise from slipping on the ice put that plan on the backburner.  I still had the race in sight, but my goal changed to finish while feeling strong – and I was totally okay with that.  For me, the Chilly Half had become a ‘no pressure’ race.

On Friday night after work, I hustled to Burlington to pick up my race kit and bib.  When I got there, I stopped to chat with Lucas McAneney from The Running Room and told him that I needed to find my race number.  Lucas told me that they had been emailed but, somehow, I missed it.  I was directed to a girl with a terminal who told me “6, 6…..6.”

“What?”  I questioned.  “Are you kidding me?”  She passed me the terminal and I saw my name with 666 below it.  I could only shake my head and laugh as I went to pick up my bib.  The ladies handing them out stood still when they saw my number, looked at each other and were speechless until one commented “You could always wear it upside down.”

A couple of speed demons: Lucas McAneney and me.

I went back to visit Lucas and told him that I liked my number better before I knew what it was.  “Ya, I don’t have a very good one,” he said.  “I got 13.”  At least I wasn’t alone.

When I got home,  Dave told me that he could have saved me the trip to the expo and picked up my kit when he was in Burlington the next day.  “Are you kidding?
I asked.  “Getting this number myself totally made the drive in rush hour traffic worth it.”    When he saw it, Dave also suggested wearing it upside down.

At yoga that night, my friend, Monica, suggested that I ask the race director to exchange my bib for another number.  “No way,” I said.  “This is the bib that I was assigned so this is the number that I am going to wear.”

And I did.  On Sunday morning, I got dressed and pinned my bib to my singlet, ready to race.  But that is another post.

 

Fall Seven Times; Stand Up Eight

A few weeks ago, Mamma N and Old Man Winter got together and decided to curse runners with a dreadful winter: wind, snow, “something-stupid” below zero temperatures and, most recently, ice.  Now I’ve been able to handle most weather that’s been thrown at us but ice?  That is another story.

I am terrified of ice.  Two years ago, while running to the Rec Centre to meet some friends for our Wednesday night workout, my left toe hit some frozen slush on the road; I went flying, my jaw hit the ground and, as my friend, Amanda, likes to say, I broke my face – in four places.  I spent 6 weeks off work and developed a near paralyzing fear of ice.   So now, when there is any sign of it, I simply don’t run.

Post dreadmill: glad to have that run done!

Last week, Mother Nature gave us three days of ice and unpredictable footing so I had to modify my training plans.  On Monday, I went to yoga; on Tuesday, I gave in and visited the treadmill at the Rec Centre for the first time in over two years (yes, I was that desperate); on Wednesday night, I napped.   By the end of the week, the thermometer reached temperatures in the low teens and I was thrilled.  The only problem was the warmer weather  led to rapid melting; that, combined with the next day’s drop in temperatures and freezing rain, left us with even more icy roads on Saturday morning.

After our interval workout on the previous Saturday in -24C weather.

My friend, Monica, and I agreed that we should run with our club, Toronto Olympic Club, in The Six.  There, we had a choice of workouts: intervals with the Juniors or a distance run with the Seniors.  We opted for a long run along the waterfront trail, a pedestrian/cyclist pathway that the city always clears of snow and ice, and joined the guys who were heading towards the downtown core.   It wasn’t long before the men pulled ahead, Monica ran behind and I pushed to keep her in sight.

When I got to Ontario Place, about 4 miles from our start, I watched the guys run away from the main road towards  Lake Ontario.  I followed them, not really sure where they were going and not wanting to be alone.  “Hey!” I yelled in my head as there was no one around to hear me.  “It’s icy here!”  Of course, it was icy.  We were right next to the lake and that was frozen.   I slowed down, watched my footing, making sure that I stayed on concrete, and tried to keep my eye on Monica’s black ponytail in the distance.  Just as she turned out of sight, a piece of ice jumped from the sidewalk, grabbed my toe and pulled me into the ground – hard.  Somehow, I managed to roll onto my hands and knees; then, I sat down and wanted to cry.  I was angry.  My knees were sore and  I could already feel my thigh starting to throb.  Monica heard me fall and came back.   I got up and started to run, then stopped and cried, not because I was hurting but because I was so mad about my fall.   I went to Toronto so that I could escape the ice and there I was in the middle of it, desperately wanting to click my red Mizunos three times and go home.

Instead, I regained my focus, and Monica and I started to run.  Even though my leg was sore, I really had no choice as it was minus something-stupid and there was no other way to get back to our car.  I think that was actually good for me as the run forced the blood to move through my legs rather than pool in my thigh.  Wearing my winter tights which had compression, something that is always good for injuries, likely helped too.

24 hours later

By the time I got home, I felt fairly confident that I just bruised the muscle;  any type of fracture would have made running 5 miles back to the car impossible.    The bulging egg-shape surrounded by what seemed to be blood travelling to my thigh to protect it told me that my body was looking after itself.   Under the advice of many, I went to the hospital the next day, where a doctor confirmed that it was “just” a bruise.

A friend once told me “Don’t get upset about the things you can’t control; do something about the things you can.”  Falling was out of my control.  It was my bad luck and I am angry about that, especially since I did try to control the surface conditions that morning.  But this did not break me.  It might slow me down for a while but it will not stop me.  “Fall seven times; stand up eight.”

No News is Good News

During the summer, my doctor decided that I should have my breathing reassessed, simply to make sure that there were no changes.  We know that I have a few allergies, dust being the big one, and that I am asthmatic.   After an unhealthy last winter of colds, bronchitis and near-pneumonia, we both felt that something different may have started to surface.  So during the fall, I saw an allergist who declared that I had no new environmental allergies and a respirologist who put me through two sessions of asthma testing, only to conclude that I still have asthma.   I thought everything was status quo until a third breathing test was requisitioned, one which compared my breathing to my heartrate.

Fast forward to the end of November when I am being prepped for the cardio-pulmonary exam.  The technician checked the usuals – height, weight, pulse, blood pressure – then hooked me up to an ECG.  “Oh, look,” she said.  “You have a lot of inversions.”

“A lot of what?”

“Inversions.  See how the lines on the graph drop.  See those spikes.  Those are inversions.”

I really had no idea what she was talking about and I didn’t even notice when she walked out of the room.  But when she returned, one of the respirologists was with her, and she checked my wrist pulse, poked around my neck, and proceeded to interrogate me.  “Have you ever had a heart attack?  Do you have heart disease?  Does anyone in your family have heart disease?  Have you ever had a stroke?  Do you get dizzy?  Do you ever pass out?”  And the questions continued.

To each of these, I answered a firm ‘no’, eventually followed by a “What is going on?  Am I okay?”  The doctor didn’t want to test me as the inversions  are indicative of a heart attack; she didn’t want to do the test.  “Something could go wrong” and the respirologist didn’t want to take responsibility for it.  After finding a cardiologist who agreed on the exam, she relaxed a bit.

“Um,” I said.  “I think I’ll be okay.  I’m running cross-country nationals this weekend so I’m in pretty good shape.  And, if anything happens today, I’m already in a hospital so I’m in good hands.”

The following week, I met with my respirologist who said that the cardio-pulmonary exam was normal.  I just have asthma.  Then I asked her about the inversions, the upside-down spikes that sent people into a tizzy.  She was concerned about them as they indicate a problem with blood flow – possibly, a blood clot – and ordered an ultrasound of my heart.  “It could be nothing but let’s make sure.”

The internet can be a great tool but searching for information through Dr. Google can be terrifying.  I stayed away from it, but shared the results with two of my co-workers, to which one commented “You’ve had a silent heart attack.”

“A what?”

“A silent heart attack.  My dad went through this too.  He is okay but he needs to be monitored.”  Now I had new information so I went to Dr. Google who confirmed what the doctor and my co-worker told me.  Dave and I talked about it.

“In retrospect,” I told him, “this does make some sense.  I do get tired during the day and sometimes think I’m going to drop.  And you know how I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air – like something startles me?  Maybe it’s not an asthma attack.  Maybe my heart is jolting me awake.”

“Oh, you’re going to die in your sleep then.”

“Probably, ” I snorted.  “My grandmother did.”  And that was the end of that conversation.

Last week, I had my ultrasound and will go over the results with my own doctor in a few weeks.  “A few weeks?  That’s crazy!  What if something is wrong?” asked Dave.   I reminded him that if something is really wrong, we’d be called back to the hospital right away; we’ve been through that scenario before.  Anything minor can wait and, maybe, it is just an anomaly.  Only time will tell.

Just try to stop me. photo credit: Doug Smith

Since the first discussion that surrounded my heart, I have run an 8K national cross-country race, a 10.8K race with brutal hills, the Boxing Day 10 miler in freezing temperatures and I have continued to run status quo.  No one told me that I can’t run but, at the same time, I am being a bit more cautious with my timing and intensity.   I am trying to find more me-time:  rest time, quality time with my boys and time to relax.

Am I worried?  Not really, but I am aware that there could be a problem so I am always thinking about it.  But I also know that I’m healthy and fit, and that speaks volumes to me.  If this turns out to be something more than an anomaly, I’ll deal with it then.  But until I have something concrete to go by, I am going to keep chasing my dreams.

 

 

 

 

Race Report: The Eggnog Jog

Checking out the hills at the Eggnog Jog.

The Eggnog Jog may sound like a friendly race but it is on an unforgiving course.  After a quick downhill first mile, you spend the next 5-6 kilometres climbing hills until the roads flatten and you can finally cruise along a downward slope into the finish.  It’s the kind of route that leaves you thinking “never again.”

I’ve raced this  course 4 or 5 times and each time I do, I finish thinking “never again”.  Yesterday was no different.  In fact, yesterday, I realized how much the race is like delivering a baby.  Even though I always complain about how much the course hurt, the memories of that pain somehow subside, I end up registering again and the cycle repeats itself.

There are many reasons that I like the Eggnog Jog.  As much as I hate to admit it, I do like hills; I would far rather push myself up and down a hill than do speedwork running around an oval.  Also, being an early December race, unpredictable weather can also be challenging; this race tends to fall on one of the first really cold days that winter bring and, as expected, Sunday was cold.  We started to feel the chilling effects of the Alberta clipper and, in Georgetown, we also had the first snow of the season, which just happened to arrive about 20 minutes into the race, resulting in some slippery road surfaces.  Lastly, with local triathlons, duathlons, and marathons finished for 2017, this race can draw some strong competition.  Sure enough, the competition arrived.

Meet Lynn Bourque, another masters runner who is also my age.   We met years ago as competitors but have become friends, dubbing ourselves Betty and Veronica.  This fall, we both raced the Oakville 10K together, finishing 0.9 seconds apart.  At the Hamilton Road2Hope Half-marathon, we started in a downpour so we decided to work together; within the first kilometre, I watched Lynn pull ahead of me and it wasn’t long before she was out of sight.  I was excited to see her in Georgetown, but I was also nervous about potentially jostling with her for position over a few kilometres of hills.

I took the start of the race conservatively as I knew the hills were waiting near the 3K mark to test me for the next 5-6 kilometres.  During the fast downhill start, I watched many women, including Lynn, push ahead of me.  As much as I wanted to keep up, and I knew that I could for a while, I knew that the smarter thing to do was hold back so that I had more to push myself up the hills when I needed to.    By 5K, I had caught up to all of the women who had passed me at the start, and I spent the last half of the race trying to stay ahead of one.  I turned my pace up a few notches when we finally hit the flats, and it became a game of catch and release until the last two kilometres, when she pulled ahead enough to gain 27 seconds by the finish.  I was quite happy to learn later that she was 20-24, less than of half my age!

50-54 Age Group Winners!

In the end, I crossed the finish line in 50:53, which gave me an average pace of 4:43 per kilometre (remember, it is a 10.8K course), a 7th place finish on the female side and a first place 40+ finish for women.  Even though my time was about 90 seconds slower than it was two years ago, I am really happy with my result as this fall has been about running, racing and having fun.  If I can do that and still run relatively well, I’m doing something right.  This makes it easy to finish 2017 with some big hairy goals for 2018 – but I’m not ready to verbalize those just yet.

 

Tuning Into Your Surroundings

As we are moving into Fall, it is important that we constantly remind ourselves that it is getting dark earlier.  I don’t mind running in the dark but, unlike winter, fall nights can be pitch black as there isn’t any snow for the light to reflect from.  I am careful to run as early as I can after work, wear visible clothing, and not take chances.

Over the past several weeks, the Town has been resurfacing Upper Middle Road, a major road which runs across our little piece of suburbia.  Multi-bar crosswalks, the kind that reminds me of a Beatles’ album cover, have appeared at many intersections along it.  The first morning I saw them, I was blinded by their whiteness and complained about how ugly they were.  That same evening, though, when finishing a run, I realized that I would be that much more visible to cars when I cross those intersections; without a doubt, the bright white lines were going to make things safer.

“Beatle Bars” along Upper Middle, designed to make pedestrians more visible at night.

Tonight, Kelly-Lynne arrived at my house for an easy run.  It was still early (6:3o) and we planned to be finished before dark.  In true training partner style, we laughed as we greeted each other in bright pink shirts; apparently, we both knew that we needed to make ourselves visible to traffic.   Kelly-Lynne and I spent a good chunk of time running on sidewalks; we ran facing traffic when we took the road.  With less than a mile to go, we came to a red light at one of the “new” corners of Upper Middle Road.  Both of us stopped, made eye contact with drivers to make sure that they saw us, and ran across the “Beatle Bars” to the opposite side.  The light turned yellow while we were crossing and red – just as we were reaching the other side.

I had just put my left foot down on the sidewalk when a car rushed through a right turn on a red light, barely missing my right leg.  I screamed ‘Hey!’ and looked at Kelly-Lynne, who was on my left and she also jumped out of its way.  A lady who was walking two dogs gasped, yelled or somehow reacted as I bolted after the car, wanting to get its license plate; to my surprise, the driver pulled over and stopped.

“You need to watch where you are turning!” I yelled at her.

“I know.  I am sorry.”  The driver was in her 50’s or 60’s and had a man, possibly her son, in the passenger seat.

“You nearly hit my friend!”

“I know.  I don’t know how I missed you girls; you’re in bright colours.  I was distracted.  Is your friend okay?”  I looked at Kelly-Lynne, asked if she was okay, and she was fine.  I was fine.  Fortunately, neither of us got hurt but this woman made a right turn on a red light without stopping, nearly hit us, and that was not okay.  I was angry.  I looked at the man in the passenger seat again and realized that he was probably the source of distraction.  He showed no emotion – no reaction whatsoever.  Suddenly, I felt sorry for her.  I was still angry, but I got it.  And she stopped when she could have kept going.

“You need to slow down,” I said.  I wasn’t yelling anymore; at least, I don’t think I was.  I felt calmer, still angry but calmer.

“I know,” she repeated.  “I’m sorry.  I was distracted.”

“You need to slow down.  Nothing is worth rushing through a light for.  Nothing.  Just be careful.”

“I know.”

“Be careful,”  I repeated and I turned from her so that she could drive away.  When I got back to Kelly-Lynne, I repeated our conversation.  Kelly-Lynne told me that the driver in the car behind told her, “You girls were absolutely right.”

And we were.  We did everything right.  We wore the right colours and we crossed at the light.  We didn’t take chances.  But more important than anything else is we were paying attention to what was going on around us and that let us react.  Truthfully, I have never felt that I have been in that much danger before; I can still feel the car brushing against my right side as I write this.

Tonight, Kelly-Lynne went home to her husband and I tucked my boys in bed.  A split second could have left this with a different ending.

 

The Cynthia Arm

If you have been running with the same person for a while, or if you have watched the same person run often enough, you begin to notice their stride and gait until you can eventually recognize it from far away.  Years and years ago, my husband commented on “that thing I do with my foot.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You swing it out, or you kick it out.  I don’t know.  It’s just weird.  But I can see you from a mile away.”

Of course, I still carefully look at every photo of me running.  Am I doing “that thing with my foot?”  Yes.  And, even though I have known about it for years, I haven’t been able to change it.  I have always attributed it to my one leg being longer than the other; my body has had to accommodate for that when I am running.   You can see it here when I raced the B&O 5K Championships last September.

A few weeks ago, when at a morning practice with TOC, Coach Greg was able to watch my gait more carefully.  “You’re swinging your hips,” he told me at the end of the workout.

“What?!”  I was surprised, but it made sense and tied in with the foot kicking/swinging action that has been going on for years.  Now that my chiropodist has put in a bit of a lift inside my shoe, I am noticing that my hips are feeling straighter and, hopefully, “that thing [I] do with my foot” is disappearing.

These foot kicking/hip swinging idiosyncrasies of mine, though, seem to have created another unique feature: the Cynthia Arm A few days after Coach Greg pointed out that I swing my hips when I run, Monica told me that my left elbow sticks out.  Again, this was met with a “What?!”

“It sticks out – probably because you’re swinging your hips.”  And I swing my hips because one leg is longer than another and….Somehow I felt like singing: the leg bone is connected to the hip bone, and the hip bone is connected to the….

“Don’t worry about it,” Monica said.  “It’s your thing.  It’s like the Andre-arm.  We’ll call it the Cynthia Arm.”

Well, if it works for Andre de Grasse, maybe I should just leave it alone.  Perhaps my elbow will get me into the same club as the cool kids; maybe that’s my secret to becoming a champion, to going to the Olympics.   I wonder if I need to put an insurance policy on my elbow; after all, it has become my trademark.

Or maybe I should just work at tucking in my elbows more,  straightening my hips, pointing my toes forward, and keep on singing “Dem Bones.”