Will it be Plan A, B or C?

ABC
Following the ABC’s at Climbers Rock in the winter.

We’ve all had it, a busy day when you plan to run or work out and – bam! – something gets in the way.  When this happens to me, I end up feeling anxious because I have missed something important, well, something that is important to me.

In the past year, I’ve learned to have a back up plan for those days when life gets hectic.  And let’s face it: with two boys and a full-time job, life is bound to get in the way of things that I want to do.   Plan B might be something as simple as running later in the evening rather than right after work, but having it helps me make sure that I get my mileage in.

Over the past few days, we have had some “irregularities” at home.  The Littlest Dude did some television extra work in Toronto and I did some background work on overnight shoots on Thursday and Friday.   It’s fun and different but, the overnights it messed around with our routines.  When I accepted the jobs, I was a tad worried that my training for Chicago would suffer, but I also had the peace of mind that this is a recovery week for me so my mileage is a bit lower.  On Wednesday, when The Littlest Dude worked, Plan A was to run when I got home; Plan B was to not fret it because it is a recovery week anyway.  When we got home after 9:00, Plan B came into effect.

Planning my weekend runs around the two overnight shoots, though, was stressful.  Normally, I have a long tempo run on Saturday, followed by a solid recovery run on Sunday.  But knowing that I was going to get home from filming around 6:00 a.m., I wasn’t exactly sure how to fit it in?  Plan A: If I have the energy (and sometimes I do), run long when I get home.  Plan B: If I need to sleep, run in the late afternoon.   It seemed simple enough until the short term forecast was out: 25C, feels like 30C, on Saturday afternoon.

Plan A seemed crazy but Plan B suddenly became plain stupid due to the problems I’ve been having with running in the heat.  To complicate things, I volunteered to lead a training group run for the Oakville Half-Marathon tomorrow morning so I had to get my distance in today.  “Six weeks to Chicago.  Six weeks to Chicago.  You’re almost there,” kept going through my head.  I couldn’t just skip my long run.

While on the set last night, and after bouncing text messages back and forth with my husband, I came up with something new: add a Plan C.   I could run shorter in the afternoon and do my long run on Sunday morning, with the bulk of my mileage before the group training.  Suddenly the stress of uncertainty was gone.  I had a Plan A (a possibility), Plan B (best scenario), and Plan C (not ideal but got the job done).

This morning at 6:05, I put my head on the pillow and closed my eyes knowing that I had two options left.  I woke up at noon and realized it was going to be a hot afternoon.  Plan C made the most sense; having that Plan C completely removed the stress of not running long today.

Don’t you love it when a plan comes together.

Time to Refocus

I don’t know why I love training for the marathon distance.  I’ve always been one to take on a challenge, as long as it’s reasonable; training for the 26.2 miles, for me, is reasonable.  It lets me do a lot of something that I really enjoy.  In fact, training for a marathon brings out that addictive side of my personality, the side that lets me eat, sleep and dream running for months.  And it gives me a fantastic excuse to get out of the house and away from the dudes for an hour or two – or three.  This summer, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve said “I have to go for a run”  and the boys just nod and smile.

Last week, something different happened.  My mileage increased, I felt the typical aches and pains and, without warning, I didn’t want to run.  Shocking.  It wasn’t so much that I did not want to run but I was afraid to run.  Whether it has been my asthma reacting to the muggy weather, a bit of dehydration or both,  I have had a few runs which just have not gone the way I wanted them to.  On Thursday morning, I woke up and just didn’t feel like going to my Lions Valley Athletics practice that night; I felt like that would just be setting myself up for failure.

My reasons were simple.  I didn’t want to run in the heat; I was tired of it.  Nor did I want to push myself through a tempo in the heat, especially after ending a hot run a few kilometres early the night before.  I had had it with feeling sick at the end of a workout.  And I didn’t want to run with the guys and finish last – again.  I needed to run on my own – no pressure.  So I skipped practice.

My oldest had nothing planned that night and he offered to ride his bike with me in the last part of my run.  So I headed out in the early evening and ran 11K on my own.  When The Dude met me, he was ready with Gatorade and water.  I only needed a bit of Gatorade; it was his company – silent but supportive – for the last 5 kilometres that lit a spark back under my feet.

Upper Middle bridgeHe rode ahead most of the time, only stopping to take a few pictures.    As I followed him, I found myself feeling like a runner again.  I felt strong, I felt fast, and I was happy.  And somewhere along the last 5K of my run, I found my confidence again.

Although I still don’t know exactly what it was, I needed to prove something to myself.   Looking back, those 16 kilometres were a turning point in my marathon training.  They made me realize that my training is going well, I’m stronger than I think, and I was indeed ready for a long tempo run on Saturday morning.

More importantly, though, it made me realize that I have the support of my family while I chase my Chicago dream.  My boys aren’t just giving me the smile and nod when I tell them “I have to go for a run.”  They get it.  They have seen the time, sweat, dehydration, aches and all the challenges that come with marathon training.  But they have also seen how important this goal is to me and my drive that has gone into reaching it.   Now that I see that, I have different kind of energy and a new focus to carry me through the last 7 weeks of my training.

#Chasingmydreams while #ontheroadtochicago.

 

 

The Daily Double

One of the joys of marathon training is watching your weekly mileage grow and grow and grow.   There comes a point, though, when my body can only handle so much, when I start to feel aches and pains and worry about the potential for injury.  For me, the magic number is 45 miles per week; as I get closer to and above 50 weekly miles, my body feels like it is starting to break.

A few years ago, my coach and I worked around my aches and pains by adding a few shorter runs to my week when I was in the late stages of the marathon cycle.  This meant that once or twice a week, I would run in the morning for 20 to 30 minutes and, again, for my usual evening run.  This let me add 3 to 6 miles to my weekly total without any extra stress – and it let me get use to the idea of running on tired legs.   That year, I was able to reach 60 miles a week (twice).

double run
My morning started with a run under blue skies. I loved the way the trees seemed to form a bridge over the evening clouds.

 

Last Wednesday was my first double run in my Chicago prep.  In the morning, I ran an easy 5k when the sun was high.   As I started, I was quickly reminded how tired my feet feel when they have less than 12 hours of rest.  This forced me to run at an easier pace and work on my form.  I thought about stretching my stride and how to land.  By the end of the third kilometre, I felt that I had my rhythm back and ended my run feeling much more comfortable than when I left.   In the evening, Monica and I hit the trails for another easy run.  We finished 11K later, leaving me with a daily total of 16K.

This Wednesday, I looked forward to my double run.  After a morning physio appointment, I ran a comfortable 5K and diligently did my calf exercises.   stretchRather than do my heel drops inside on the stairs, this Canadian running mama grabbed one of the boy’s hockey stick for support.  Standing on the curb, I slowly lowered my heels and raised them to stretch out the muscles in my lower legs.  Like last week, I felt great when I finished my morning workout.

double run2
After Run #2, finishing with a humidex in the mid-30’s.

I headed out for my second run in the late afternoon which, due to family commitments, was the only time I was able to run.  I felt fine when I started but when I got to 5K, I was starting to have trouble breathing.  By 6K, every step was effort; soon after,  I realized that I was overheating so I turned towards home.  By 7K, I called it a day.  My breathing was completely off as I was having trouble running for more than 2 or 3 minutes at a time.  Home I walked.

I checked the temperature when I got home and was not surprised to see that the humidex had it at 35C.  Finishing my run when I did was a smart decision, but it angered me that I didn’t hit my mileage goal.   One side of me told me to let it go; the other told me that I had to make it up before the end of the week.

The only thing that I was certain of is my need to drink more water.  Between the hot yoga classes and the runs in humid conditions, I need to make more of an effort to drink more water and make sure that I am replacing electrolytes with Gatorade.

Walking away positively, I was glad that I still managed to run twice in one day, even if my second run didn’t go as planned.  Last year, when training for the Goodlife Marathon, I only had 2 weeks with double runs and I’m already at that point now.  With 7 weeks to go until the Chicago Marathon, I should be able to have a few more weeks to play this “daily double” game.  And if things go well, I might even try it twice in one week.

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.