Race Report – Whitby Summer Races

Whitby water
After the race; along the beautiful waterfront trail in Whitby, Ontario.

Last week was one of the mentally toughest weeks that I have had in a long time.  Running in a storm – okay, maybe that was fun.  Getting sick on my long run – not fun at all.  So when I headed to Whitby for the 10K on Sunday morning, I proceeded with caution.

Why did I pick Whitby?  First, it is one of the few longer races (yes, this summer, a 10K race is a longer race) in the GTA.  Almost all regular races have been cancelled in Toronto because of the PanAm Games and many race directors outside the GTA have dropped theirs because of the transportation difficulties that the Games have caused.  It was a long drive but the Whitby race is one of the few road races in the Toronto area all summer.  Secondly, one of my training partners, Darryl, was going and it is always more fun racing when you go with a friend.  Finally, timing was key.  The 10K in Whitby sets me up nicely for a 10 miler or half-marathon before the end of September in preparation for Chicago.

On Friday night, my coach advised against racing.  He reminded me that it would take my body a few days to recover from my 30K long run on Friday.  Finishing it as sick as I did and racing two days later was simply not a good idea.   He was right, but I wasn’t about to walk away from it that easily. I was, though, prepared to walk away from the start line if I found that I really wasn’t up to par; if I felt dizzy or sick on the course, as hard as it would have been, I was mentally ready to DNA.

Darryl and I left town at 6:00 on Sunday morning and, after a major detour (yes, we got lost), we arrived at the venue shortly after 8:00, 90 minutes before the start.  The low entry fee ($30) hinted that it was a low-key, no-frills event and it was.  There were just over 100 runners for the 5k and 10K and our race kit was an OLG cotton t-shirt.  After checking in, I headed out on my own for a short run before my actual warm-up to make sure that I was feeling okay. Whitby warming up The out and back route was going to be beautiful – a paved path along the waterfront and lots of greenery.  I noticed that the path was uneven at the edges and made a mental note to spend most of the race in the middle.  About 20 minutes later, Darryl and I did a slow warm-up together and, then, did our drills on our own.  I was feeling strong and race-ready.

Since numbers were low, the 5K and 10K started together.  I watched Darryl quickly disappear into the curved paths and found myself chasing a group of ponytailed high school runners.  I expected the course to be flat but it wasn’t; we were constantly rolling up and down hills, with a longer climb at the turn-around and another closer to the end.  The hills were in my favour, though, as I passed each of the girls (and many men) on them before the 5K turned back and I continued on, thinking that I might have the women’s lead in the 10K.

I ran the rest of the way on my own.  As I went further into the race, I found myself feeling more comfortable and picked up my pace.   When I saw Darryl on his way back and saw that he was in the lead, with about 20 seconds to spare, I cheered him on and became very focussed on my own race.  Three, four, five – only five people were ahead of me and they were all men; I was definitely in the lead of the women’s race.

After turning around, I saw that the second lady seemed to be only a minute behind me so I knew that I had to pick up the pace if I wanted to hold my position.  Over the last half of the race, I was able to close the gap between the two men ahead of me and add more space between the second lady and me.  It felt great being cheered on by runners who were still heading out.  That was all anti-climatic, though, as I neared the finish area.  I saw the photographer and worried about the drool and spit coming out of my mouth (yeah, I’m that runner), but he was only interested in drinking his water.  “What the h—?” I actually thought.  “You aren’t taking a picture?  Beautiful scenery, great lighting, me – and only me; it would be a fabulous picture.”  I quickly let my thoughts go, changed gears again (at least, I think I did), turned the corner and ran up a slight incline to finish.   The little girl who handed me my finishing medal was amazed. “How do you run faster than the 5K’s?  How do you run so fast?”  Yes, even without the photo, this was the vanity race that I needed.

In the end, the course was a tad short – about 400 metres short.  I finished in 42:08 but I think I would have finished under 44 minutes had it been an honest 10K.  Given the way that I felt on Friday night, I was happy with that.  Darryl opened the gap between him and the Number 2 Runner and was the overall winner, finishing a few minutes ahead of me.  It was a good day for both of us.

Whitby - This is how we cool downAfter we crossed the finish line, we did a short cooldown along the waterfront and found a great training circuit.  Of course, we had to stop and play.  Then we headed back for the awards (another medal, a pair of gloves and a reflective clip-on light) and back home.

This race was the confidence boost that I needed.  My race in Beamsville in July wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.  My training has been going fairly well but Friday’s run did bring me down a bit.  I was quite happy with my time in Whitby, especially since it was a C-race, and finishing first (even if it was a small turn-out) was a bonus.

With 9 weeks to go, I can continue to build mileage but, more importantly, build some tempo work into my long runs.  After the past week of training and racing, I know I am ready for it.

 

 

When Dehydration Sets In

This summer, I have been trying to do my long runs on Fridays.  That lets me get them out of the way before the weekend and I don’t need to make that same time commitment to my training, leaving more time for the family.  Since school has been out, I’ve run 4 of my 7 long runs on Fridays and the other three on the weekends.

Getting yesterday’s 30K done was touch and go.  My oldest son worked late on Thursday night so he didn’t get home and to bed until 2:30.  Like most moms, when my son is out late, I am up late too – especially when I have to get him home.  The Littlest Dude, then, woke me up an hour after I climbed into bed and I ended up tossing and turning until daybreak.    When I should have been up and out for my long run, my pillow spoke to me; there was no way I was going to be able to run 30K on less than 4 hours of sleep.

I regretted listening as soon as I got up.  I was now facing a late afternoon run, which would have been fine as my other Friday runs have been in the late afternoon, but I had really wanted to get it out of the way early.   At 4:00, I finally headed out into the heat of the day.

It wasn’t actually that hot, especially compared to the temperatures we have had the few weeks before.  In fact, with the gentle breeze, I felt quite comfortable.  I stopped at a Rec Centre for water and a bathroom break 9K in, and again at the Soccer Club, another 9K later, for more water.  As usual, I had one GU gel somewhere in between.  I had more water at Coach Kevin’s house, who was going to run the last 8K with me, and I needed a bathroom again.  That should have been my first clue that I was heading towards the danger of dehydration.

It wasn’t even 2 km later when I suddenly started to feel tired.  I attributed it to my earlier pace. “I think I pushed harder than I needed to in the first part of my run.  I’m starting to feel it now.”  Soon after that, I had to stop.  “I’m feeling sick.”  We started to run when the nausea passed, but shortly after, I had to stop again.  The rest of the run was stop-go-stop-go until I felt an ache in my lower back; at that point, I knew I needed to stop and walk the rest of the way.

On the walk home, I tried to figure out why I was running so poorly.  I should have been able to handle the distance.  It was hot, but I had run close to the same distance in hotter and more humid weather.  I kept going back to the same reason: I ran too fast at the beginning.  When I got home, I realized what had actually happened; I had become dangerously dehydrated.

dying
Chilled and cramped after stretching. Dehydration had set in.

As soon as I walked in the door, I headed to a bottle of Gatorade.  Within minutes, I got the chills and shakes and had to put on some layers.  I stretched – especially my lower back – and fell asleep on the floor.   When I woke up an hour later, I drank some water.  Suddenly, I needed the bathroom; I was going to throw up.  After that, I broke out in a vicious sweat.  I crawled into bed, water bottle and Gatorade at my side, and slept for another 40 minutes.

When I got up again, it was dark.  The feelings of nausea had passed and I finally felt strong enough to shower.  Before doing so, I weighed myself and had dropped 4 pounds (and that was after taking in a litre of liquids!).

By the time I felt like eating, it was late evening.  I found leftover roasted potatoes and sausage from the night before – perfect!  One huge plate of spuds was exactly what my body needed!

This morning, I was feeling much better.  My weight is almost back up; I am still rehydrating and eating fruits and protein-rich foods.  The aches and pains are gone.  Today is now a non-planned day off running; tomorrow will be better.

rehydration
All set for a day of rehydration!

So, what went wrong?  1)  Pacing – I did go out too fast.  I ran the first 23k at a 4:45 (km) pace, when I should have been running a 5:00 kilometre.  2) Fluids – Even though I was drinking as much as I normally do, I didn’t get in enough.  It was hotter than I thought and I had no shade.  The faster pace/heat/low fluids was a bad combination.  3) Nutrition – I fuelled the day and night before, thinking I was running in the morning.  This left me feeling full so I probably hadn’t eaten enough through the day to fuel my late afternoon run.

What went right? 1) Even though the last part of my run was stop and go, I ran 30K, plus the 1.5K that I walked home at the end.  Now I can work with that distance, zone in on my pacing for a few weeks and build a little more.  2) Recognizing that I needed to stop.  I don’t want to think where I could be today if I hadn’t.  3) Family support: Once my boys saw the shape I was in when I got home, they are talking about riding with me so that I have liquids and company when I head out on my next long run.  Support vehicles are the best!

Everyone training for a marathon has to have one tough training run, one when they completely fall apart.  Yesterday, I had mine.  Thank goodness it is out of the way!

 

 

Battling Mother Nature

My training with Lions Valley Athletics fits in perfectly with my work schedule.  We meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:00, which gives me enough time to stay after school to get some solid marking done or head home to make sure the boys’ homework is done.

In the summer, though, it’s a different story.  I’m off work so I really prefer to run early, get it out of the way and have the rest of the day with the family.  There are many days, though, when training with the club gives me something to look forward to – an opportunity to escape the nonsense and noise that 9 and 14 year old boys can bring into my life.  Getting out with the club also makes sure that I am pushing myself more than I do when I’m on my own.

Tuesday afternoon, I found myself staring out the window, longing to run.  It was warm and sunny, the rain had already passed through, and rush hour traffic hadn’t quite started.  I almost got changed into my gear but, instead, sighed on the couch with a book in hand.  “I need to run with the guys tonight,” I told myself.  “I need the hill workout.”  I knew which hill we were going to use too; I didn’t want it, but I knew it would be good for me.

Just after 6:00, three of us left the Rec Centre to meet our coach in the valley.  Barely 10 minutes into our warm-up, the skies opened.   Within minutes, we were in the middle of a deluge.  Buckets of water were dumped on us, making it impossible to see where we were putting our feet.  Our clothes were soaked through, and I felt the weight of the water start to pull down my running skirt.  By the time we got to the bottom of the valley, we could hardly see our coach waiting for us in his car.   He got out and took us under a dry shelter to tell us what the workout would be.

“Um, I’m okay not doing hills today.  I’m happy to just keep running home.”  My training partners, Darryl and David, agreed.  Coach didn’t try to convince us otherwise; hills in that rain would have been a challenge and, possibly, dangerous.  He left and the three of us continued to run.

Once we got into the trails, we headed into a new adventure.  The rain was letting up but the rain and run-off from the hills left huge puddles, covering the entire width of the trail and longer than our height.  We had no choice but to try to jump over them (and I write “try” as  we often ended up landing in them) or run through them.  Our feet were already soaked  so it really didn’t matter which way we went.  Once we got to higher ground, the sun was out and there were fewer, smaller puddles to navigate but, at that point, we were carrying a few extra pounds of water in each shoe; my legs were tired.

When the rain stopped, we felt our pace drop.  The battle against Mother Nature was over; there was no more adrenaline to push us through our run.   By the time we got back to the roads, the sun was out and the sidewalks were nearly dry.  I tried to wring out some of the water clinging to my running skirt and we climbed one more long, gradual hill on the return back to the Rec Centre.

Deluge
One soaking wet running skirt but fairly clean legs, all things considered. If only you saw what ended up inside my shoes.

As I left the guys and turned down a side street, I started to hear it.  “Squeak, squeak.”  A lady walking ahead turned back to look.   “Squeak, squeak.”  My shoes!  They were so wet that they were squeaking all the way home.   As drenched as I was, there was very little dirt on me; it was well hidden in my clothes and the rain took care of any other dirt by washing it down and into my shoes.   Thank goodness because I don’t think I would have been allowed in the house if I were still covered in it.

While getting caught in rain like that can be a nuisance, it is actually a lot of fun.  The unexpected element brings a new kind of challenge and it gives us a break from the predictability of a planned run or a workout.  Both physically and mentally, it was one of the toughest workouts we’ve ever done.  And if I end up getting rained on in Chicago, because anything can happen in October, I know that I can handle it.

The Drying Rack
Multi-purpose sports equipment: the next day, our hockey net became a drying rack for my still soaked running shoes.

 

 

Racing the Storm

One of Canada’s Olympians, Reid Coolsaet, recently tweeted “When I look back at my career, I doubt I raced to my potential but hammered out my recovery runs, said No.One.Ever.”  I couldn’t help but laugh.  Over the years, I have often been reminded by running partners, husband and coach that I am not suppose to push myself on recovery days. “They are about building base mileage,” my coach reminds me.  “The workouts are to build speed; take it easy on the other days. ”  While I am getting better and slowing down the pace when I need to, there are times when I get carried away with my thoughts and forget; my legs take off and the rest of me follows.

With ten weeks to go until Chicago and steadily increasing mileage, I was glad to have an easy 12K planned today.   So that I could sleep in a bit (I had to pick up the teenage dude from work at 2:00 a.m. so a morning run was not favoured), I decided to run in the late afternoon even though it meant running in high temperatures.   Like most runners, I stalked The Weather Network all day, hoping for a change in the forecast.  Nothing.  Even the rain and storms were consistently predicted to arrive after 8:00 p.m.

storm front of house
Storm clouds quickly rolling in. Later, I learned that a tornado had touched down about 50km (30 miles) north of us.

Just after 4:30, I headed out.  “Oh, my legs are tired,” I thought to myself as I started.  “Keep it slow.  Keep it easy.  All you’re doing is logging miles.”  I could feel the wind picking up and it wasn’t long before I realized that I was going to have to run into some gusts for part of the run.   About halfway through, while impatiently waiting for a street light to change, I saw them.  Just northeast of the town, the skies were black and I could see the clouds were getting closer to home.

The storm wasn’t going to hit us until evening but I found my thoughts turning to lightning protocol:

1. When you hear thunder, seek shelter.   I had my ears open.  There were lots of places to turn to: the stores, the soccer club, friends’ homes.  Check.

2. If there is lightning, crouch close to the ground.  Curl up in a ball to make yourself as small as possible.  Do not lie flat.   Check.

3. If you are with a group of people, spread out.  I’m alone.  No problem here.

4. Stay away from metal objects.  Check.

As I ran, my head kept turning towards the clouds watching them get darker and move closer and closer.   I worried about my husband, out on a bike ride, and wondered if he was caught in the middle of the rain and needed to be picked up.  And I thought about my boys at home, who were probably completely oblivious to what was going on outside.

Sure enough, despite the darkening skies, the dudes had no idea that a storm was on its way.  Hubby was obviously fine as he hadn’t called.  Me?  I beat the rain home by about 10 minutes but, without even realizing it, I broke the rules for my recovery run.  My watch made it clear; my pace was faster than it needed to be.   The miles seemed easy today but, tomorrow, I am pretty sure that I am going to regret them.storm back of house

Then again, tomorrow is my rest day.  I bet I can hammer out some solid rest.

 

 

Knowing When to Say When

When I registered for the Chicago Marathon, I had forgotten how hard it can be to train through the summer heat.   Well, I didn’t entirely forget but I shrugged it off, thinking that this would be a typical summer with empty promises of hot weather.

Let’s keep in mind that this is Canadian hot – so nothing near the hot, dry heat that is felt through many parts of the United States and other parts of the world.  In Southern Ontario, I have to get up by 6:30 so that I can run in cooler temperatures, not at 4:30 like my Floridian friends.  But it’s all relative.

This past week, we had the first real heat wave that we have had in two summers.  23252-sunglasssunOn most days, temperatures were around 32 degrees (about 90F) but, when you added the humidity, it felt like 38C (about 100F).  What exactly does that mean?  At my hot yoga class on Monday night, they turned off the heat, closed the curtains to keep the sun out and we still walked away drenched; even then, it was hotter outside than it was inside.

Training-wise, the heat took its toll on me.  I ran my long run on Sunday and went through two bottles of Gatorade and lots of water in the 6 hours that followed; that was a personal record.  On Monday, I went to hot yoga at Power Yoga Canada; I trained with Lions Valley Athletics on Tuesday night, another sweat drencher.  On Wednesday night, due to family commitments, I kept my run short – 8K in feels like 35C heat.  By Thursday, I was done.

I had had it with the heat.  It, quite simply, had tired me out.   My feet were slightly swollen and I wasn’t sleeping well at night.  On Thursday, when the Littlest Dude asked if we could spend the whole day together, which meant no running for me,  I knew it was time to take a day off.  I needed the physical break but, more importantly, my son needed me.

Of course, I stressed over this.  I knew that the day off alone wouldn’t matter in the big picture but I worried about the drop in my weekly mileage.   I started to calculate ways to make it up over the rest of the week.  “Do I need to drop mileage next week too?” I wondered.   And what about next week’s mileage?

“ENOUGH!  It doesn’t matter.  It is one lousy day.  And it is one day that, for whatever reason, the Littlest Dude wants to spend with you.”  My inner voice set me straight.

And, as the week is wrapping up, the day off didn’t matter.  I ran yesterday and today, as planned, and I will tomorrow.  What matters is the Littlest Dude and making sure that he realizes that I am there for him when he needs me.  And when I do head to Chicago, he will be there, looking out for me.

My Triple H Day

Over the weekend, I complained about the hills at Saturday’s race, The Beamsville Bench.   The course (a 5K course over a 2.5K loop) started on an uphill for about 700m, plateaued and then dropped,  climbed again from 2k to 3K, flattened again, and climbed from 4K to the finish.  The hills were easier than the ones that I train on but, combined with the heat on the day of the race, I had nothing left to give for the last kilometre; my quads died.

Triple H Day
Dressed to tempo on one of the hottest days of the year.

When I described what I went through to my coach, his response was simple: more hill work.  Umm, no thank you; I have quite enough as it is.   But when this week’s training schedule arrived in our inboxes, today’s workout revealed the dreaded hill repeats.  On top of that, the GTA is in a middle of a heatwave and with high humidity, so our hill workout was guaranteed to be tough.   Oh joy!  Heat, humidity and hills.  What more could a girl want?

Normally, I don’t mind hill repeats.  They are hard, but each repeat is usually just a minute long so it ends quickly, especially when you compare it to a tempo run which lasts for twenty minutes or longer.  The only real problem with hill repeats is they come in droves and the reprieve between each never seems long enough.  Without a doubt, training on hills does make me a stronger runner.  If I am going to race on them, I need to train on them too.

Sixteen Mile Creek - bottom hill
The bottom of the hill, which we had the good luck of running up twice.

By 6:00, luckily or not,  the “feels like” temperature was hovering around 35 degrees celsius so our workout was “simplified”: a 6K tempo with 3 hills.  The men took off ahead of my training partner, Kelly-Lynne, and me.  The two of us stuck together, not knowing at the time that each of us was simply trying to hang onto the other.  We pulled each other around the looped trails and up and down each of the three dreaded hills.  Teamwork.

After our tempo, all of us headed to the splash pad across the street from the entrance to the trails.  Socks and shoes came off and we walked through, letting the water cool our feet which, in turn, helped lower our body temperature.  The rest was easy: a short cool-down run back to the Rec. Centre.

Once I got home, I raved about my tonight’s run, brought to me by heat, humidity and hills.  Am I crazy?  Probably, but I know my limits and had the safety of running with my training partners.   And the next time I have to race hills in the heat, I’ll be just a little bit stronger.

 

 

 

Race Report: Beamsville Bench 5K

I heard the course was going to be challenging.  Hills, road, gravel, out and back: those were the descriptors that my running mates who had raced it before used.  They also sighed and, now I know why, they have only raced it once.

Weeks ago, one of my running partners, the lovely Miss Monica, asked me to race the Bench 5K with her.  With the PanAm Games in the GTA, a lot of the regular summer races have been cancelled.  The Bench, held at the Mike Weir Winery in Beamsville, Ontario, was one of the few left to pick from throughout July and August.  While I would have preferred a longer distance to help me in my prep for Chicago, I decided that testing myself with the 5K would be a good idea. Besides, how tough could it really be?  I’ve raced tough and hilly courses – well, hilly as far as southern Ontario is concerned – and I can certainly run a 5K.  After a winter off running and exercise, I am finally feeling healthy, rested and fit.

At 8:30 this morning, I left the house feeling confident. By 10:00, as we started to warm up, I realized that I was going to be in for a tough day.  First, it wasn’t an out and back course; it was two loops.  Miss Monica and I jogged it, which started on an uphill for the first 700m, flattened out, dropped gradually and climbed again for  the last kilometre.  Lucky for us, being a 5K course, we were going to be able to race that loop twice and go around it again for a cool-down.

I started the race well, going through the first kilometre in 4:18 and the second, I believe, in 8:28.  Somewhere between those kilometres, I pulled ahead of two other women; every time, I heard them breathing closer to me, I tried to surge a bit ahead.  After climbing the hill at the end of the first loop, I felt that I had opened a gap, but I  wasn’t really sure how big that gap was. My race fell apart, though, at the end of the second loop.  Even though I tried to use the flat and the slight downhill to relax my legs, it wasn’t enough; the last kilometre was a beast.  I struggled to get over the final hill and, even though I have raced and trained on much tougher hills, this was one of the toughest finishes I have had.

Cooling down with a lap around the course and a few extra kilometres gave me time to reflect on why the course seemed so difficult.  I found out later that all times were slow; ladies who finished ahead of me were 1.5 to 2 minutes slower than usual; my time was about a minute slower so I felt positive about that.  By late afternoon, after I got home feeling exhausted, needed a nap and lots and lots of liquid, I realized that it was the heat, not the hills, that did me in.  We had started at 10:30 when the sun was already up, humidity was high and there was no shade.  Summer racing is tough.

I wanted a challenging course and I got it.  But I walked away with a few other perks.  Monica finished third overall and I finished 7th (in 22:37), but being 51, I was earned the top master prize: a running hat and a bottle of Mike Weir’s wine. Beamsville wine

The best part of the day, though, came from the medal they gave me.  As we were leaving the winery, a younger lady asked me if everyone got medals.  “No,” I replied, “Only the award winners.”

As she walked away, I looked at Monica and said, “Ah, she wanted a medal.  I’m going to give her mine.  I don’t need it.”  I walked back to her.  “Here, you can have my medal if you want.”  She looked surprised. “Really, it’s fine with me.  If you want a medal, you can have mine.”

To that, she took it and said, “Thank you.  I don’t want it but it’s his (pointing to whom I assume is her boyfriend) first race and I wanted him to get a medal for it.”  While walking away to catch up with Monica, I turned around and saw him smiling, proudly wearing a “gold” medal around his neck.

He earned that medal.   In the same way that we often praise the faster runners for their times, we have to remember that the new runners, the slower runners and the back of the packers are working just as hard.  It’s all relative.  For experienced runners or those new to the racing scene, the Beamsville Bench 5K is a tough course.  Anyone who finished it is a winner.

Making Time

A lot of people ask me how I find time to run.  It’s simple.  I don’t find time; I make time.  Every run has to be scheduled into my day, around work and around family.  There are some days that this means getting up at 5:30 in the morning and running in temperatures colder than 20 below and others when I head out the door after 9:00pm.  I love running in the summer because, as a teacher, I have more flexibility and can schedule other activities around when I want to run.

Last Saturday, as on many Saturday mornings, I headed out for my long run before my husband and boys got up.  When I got home, things were different; I was greeted with panic by the other early riser.  “Where were you?” the littlest dude asked. “I thought you were kidnapped!”   I promised that if I left again when he was asleep that I would leave a note telling him when I would be home.

Gone runningThis weekend, I made time for my long run on Friday night as Southern Ontario faced a heat warning all weekend.  This meant that I would avoid the worst heat but would also have more time for the boys on the weekend.  On Saturday morning, with Dad and the boys still asleep, I was heading out the door for a short run, when I suddenly remembered: “I promise I’ll leave you a note or my running clock.”  I set the time for 10:15, left the clock at the bottom of the stairs and headed out the door.

When I got home, I was later than expected but things were okay.  The littlest dude saw my note, his brother was up with him and not a word about my absence was mentioned.  I was off the hook.

It is only a matter of years before this scenario will be reversed, when my sons are out at night (not morning) and I will be wondering when they’ll get home.  Right now, I’m loving these years when they are looking out for me.

 

Tender Tootsies

Over the past few years, I have run 3 marathons.  It is no coincidence that, over that same time period, I have lost 3 big toenails.

While distance runners often do lose a toenail or two or three, my most tender tootsie is really a result Chase, my 90 pound lab cross.   Five years ago, just after getting home from a ten mile run, Chase ran to me and stepped on my right foot landing primarily, you guessed it, on my big right toe.  I cringed.  My feet were already sensitive from just finishing my run but my dog aggravated them further with his weight.  For the rest of the summer, I watched the toenail turn black, lift and, eventually, fall out.  It has never been the same.  Now, during every period of building mileage, I prepare to go through the same process, resulting in feet that just don’t sport a pedicure well.

Since the beginning of June, while training for the Chicago Marathon, I’ve watched my weekly mileage increase from 20 to 40 miles a week and that same toenail become more and more purple.  It isn’t the nail itself that is the problem; it is the blood blister underneath the nail.  As the blister grows, the tissue under the nail becomes motoenail July 13re swollen, the nail begins to lift and turn whiter and the toe becomes sore to touch.

Wearing compression socks helps relieve some of the discomfort but, tonight, I wanted a more aggressive solution.  Out came the vinegar.

After sterilizing a needle and while soaking my foot in a bucket of vinegar, I gently poked the needle under the nail so that the blister popped.  A tiny bit of blood oozed out.  I did it again; a bit more blood escaped.  After the third poke, nothing came out.  I think I drained it.  I let my foot soak a little more, dried it and covered it with polysporin.

It didn’t hurt.  Honestly.  And my toe already feels better; I’m not noticing that same pressure on it when I walk.  The real test will come tomorrow morning when I put on socks again.

Many of my friends sport lovely pedicures throughout the summer.  Sometimes I think that I should too.  That way, I don’t have to look at my mess of discoloured toenails.  But I also want to see what is going on with them from one week to the next.  More realistically, though, I want my feet to show off the miles that I’ve logged while on the road to Chicago.

Things Come in Three’s

My Parents, 1965
My Parents, 1965

Life is about balance.  For me, that means juggling my life at home with work and fitness.  Sometimes, that is easy; others, it is a struggle.  This year, finding balance has been one of the biggest challenges ever.

At the end of January, all fitness activities came to a halt when I broke my jaw.  It was a running accident, a freak accident at the end of January.  I was heading out to meet my club at a local recreation centre when, on a poorly lit road,  my toe caught hold of a chunk of ice, sending me flying.  My chin hit the pavement and I broke my jaw – in four places – and had not choice but to take time off work and all fitness activities.

A few weeks later and while I was still off work, doctors discovered a large mass of cancer on my dad’s brain.  He had been living with cancer for years and had undergone a variety of treatments, the most recent being radium injections in the fall.   My brothers and I had hoped that this would destroy the cancer cells but, instead, the disease became more aggressive.   At the beginning of April, I took another leave from work as we buried my father.

The beginning of 2015 had brought me a physical and an emotional challenge.   I was grateful for my job teaching at a school close to home.  I was able to return to work both times, forget about the things that were going on in my life away from school and focus on the kids in my classes and the runners that I coach.   This only lasted for a few weeks, though.

At the end of May, my brother called me to tell me that my mother went in her sleep.  She had Alzheimer’s/Dementia and we expected that we would say good-bye to her sometime before 2016.  That day came earlier than we thought; seven weeks after our dad died, we said good-bye to our mother.

Many people believe that things come in three’s.   Myth, old wives’ tale, fact or fiction, I don’t know how much value I have in that.  But I do know that the stresses that I faced during the first part of the year – my broken jaw, the uncertainty of my parents’ health and their deaths – are gone.   For that reason, I dubbed July 1st as the start of a new year, 2015B.  It is a fresh start, a new beginning, a time for me to set some goals and go after them.