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.

New Beginnings

IMG_0343I’m a believer in moving forward.   The past is a part of our lives; it shapes us; it makes us who we are.   While we must remember what has happened, we need to take out the positive – the good feelings, the lessons learned – to become stronger individuals and to keep moving forward.

In the next few days, I am going to take you into my past.   After all, you have to know a little about me so that you can understand where I am headed.  Then, I hope that you’ll continue to follow my journey and watch me chasing my dreams.