Playing All of the Cards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2XU Compression shorts – hope they help.

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

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

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

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

Back to the Massage Table

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

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

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

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

TIght shoulders: teachers’ problems

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

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

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

The Drinking Game

I have never been much of a water drinker.  My husband is constantly nagging because he doesn’t think I drink enough water.  He is probably right.  In the winter, it seems to be a non-issue; I can run for miles and miles and not have to worry about getting thirsty or light-headed.  But in the summer, especially when the temperature is over 30C and the sun is high, I can struggle; over the years, there have been a few times when I have been seriously dehydrated with shakes, dizziness and diarrhea.  I’m not sure whether it is my age, experience or having two kids that is causing me to be more careful now but, in the past few years, I have become much better at beating dehydration.

One thing that I have learned to do is drink ahead of time.  If my long run is on Sunday, I’ll make sure that I am getting more fluids into me on Thursday and Friday.  This lets me get rid of the excess on Saturday so that my bladder feels more comfortable on Sunday when I run.  Maybe it’s a female thing (after all, I have delivered two children) but this system works for me.

This summer, temperatures have been extremely high so I have had to tell myself to drink more regularly and make sure that my electrolytes are in check.  Being the math geek that I am, I have come up with a mathematical relationship that considers temperature and distance run.   On days when it is over 25C and I run 8 miles or more, whether over one or two runs, I drink a bottle of Gatorade, either during the day, after I run, or both; it really doesn’t matter how I drink it as long as I drink it.  If I run 15 miles or more on a long run day, I drink two bottles – one immediately after I run and one during the rest of the day.   After working with this temperature/distance/Gatorade relationship for the past few weeks, I find that I now automatically reach for a bottle when the math tells me to.   This has the extra advantage of putting more calories into my body, something which I am finding I need more and more of as my mileage and intensity continue to increase.

Lastly, when I am drinking water, I try to make sure that I am using a bottle or container that I really like.  After all, drinking games should be fun, right?  A few weeks ago, my oldest was buying a bag of Kernels popcorn and wanted to get a bottle of water too.  “No, you can wait,” I told him, but then I saw the Mood Water.   These bottles are so much fun it is almost impossible to not want one.  Both of us noticed that the water had a bit of a flatter taste to it, possibly due to a higher alkaline level.  (But what do I really know?  I’m a math geek, not a chemist.)  Regardless, the bottles were emptied – down to the last drop.

Most people plan their meals – what groceries they are going to buy, how they are going to cook them and when they will eat them.  But our bodies are sixty percent water so we really do need to take care that we are staying hydrated and replenishing our fluids, whether it is because we ran, gardened, walked, or even sat outside under the hot summer sun.  I have made a conscientious effort to watch my fluid intake this year and I really believe that it has made a difference in my overall health.  So, while a bit unorthodox, the number and drinking games that I play are working for me.  What do you do to make sure that you are getting enough water?

 

Marathon Training: It’s a Family Affair

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

Circa 2008, the baby jogger days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thumbs up for 19 solo miles in the heat.

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

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

Happy Feet – a year later

Finishing a training run in my Mizuno Wave Riders.

Since the beginning of April, I have logged 750 miles, or an average of 47 miles a week.  Running higher mileage like this for an extended period of time is new to me and I didn’t think that I would be able to hang onto this higher volume.  Doing a few double runs has helped me to build but looking after my feet has made a huge difference.

Many older runners will tell you that their feet start to hurt when they reach a certain distance.  My Mizuno waveriders gave me the support that I needed until five years ago when, at age 49, my feet would start to ache as soon as I reached 15 miles.   Thinking it was just the shoe, I tried a few other brands but kept going back to the waverider; I knew the sore feet were not caused by the shoe but, simply, just my getting older.  But, stubborn like a marathoner can be, I trained through these aches for the Buffalo, Chicago and Boston marathons, with my feet hurting more and more each time.  Now aches are common with many distance runners but they are that much more pronounced in older runners as our feet tend to have less fat.  Determined to not walk away from long distance yet, I needed to find a solution and turned to a chiropodist, Dr. Werkman.

I saw Dr. Werkman last August and he designed a more supportive insole for my shoes – not an orthotic, but my mizuno insole with the addition of poron, which provides more cushioning under the balls of my feet, the point of impact when I land.   It took a few adjustments to get them “just right” but they have made a huge difference in how comfortable my feet feel.  Since they aren’t traditional orthotics, this is also a much more financially reasonable solution.

My worn-down insole on the left vs newly constructed on the right.

Last week, I went to see Dr. Werkman as I knew that I was pushing the limits on my last pair of insoles.  He built this pair for me in March and, by mid-June, I could tell that they were well-worn because the balls of my feet were starting to hurt a little, something that I haven’t had in almost a year.  When Dr. Werkman saw how flat my insoles were, his eyes popped.  “How far have you run in these?” he asked.  The man is a magician.  He took my Mizuno insoles from the shoes that I purchased in June, lined them up with my old insoles (also Mizuno) and replicated them.   They felt exactly the same but the true test was my long run on Sunday.  After 18 miles, I complained about the heat and I complained about the hill at Mile 16, but I did not complain about my feet.

The 12 weeks ahead in preparation for the Chicago Marathon are not just about logging the miles.  They involve a lot of self-care; looking after my feet is just one part of that, one step to keep me chasing my dreams.

 

Review: goodr sunglasses

Back in April, I first saw goodr sunglasses on Instagram and instantly fell in love with the fun colours.  However, l have learned that there are many things that I see on the web and can’t find in Canada, so I just oogled over them from afar and became more and more envious of every runner I saw sporting them in an Instagram post.

It wasn’t long, though, until The Runner’s Shop  posted that it is the only Toronto retailer selling goodr glasses.  My heart jumped, my fingers twitched and typed, and I soon had my own pair in my hands.

So why Goodr?  First, I love the colour; it is fun, bright and cheerful.  I also love the reflective lenses because, when I am outside and  talking to students at school (or dealing with the odd issue that can come up), it means that students are drawn towards the bright pink frames, but they can’t see my eyes.  As a teacher, this is a true benefit of the glasses and should also be mentioned with the other details on the box.

As a runner, I really like that the glasses do not bounce or slip.   I do, though, sometimes have difficulty with the lenses.  When I wear goodr sunglasses running on the road only, I can see well, but I have trouble differentiating between the sidewalk and road when I am wearing them and running from one to the other*; I always feel compelled to slow down so that I don’t fall flat on my face (because I have done that before and it was disastrous).  I don’t know if this is due to the reflective lenses, but I don’t have this problem with other sunglasses that I wear while running.  (I should point out that I have the same trouble when I am running under different types of light, such as moving between shade and sunlight, which I am told is due to aging eyes.)  So, when I am wearing my goodr glasses and running, I stay on the road and adjust my pace when I need to move on or off the sidewalk.

Goodr makes an affordable pair of sunglasses that is giving me my money’s worth.  At $39.99 Canadian, I can wear them to school, while I run at lunch, at the pool, walking the dog, driving….the list goes on and on…and I don’t worry about them.  I dropped them once, a lens fell out and I popped it right back in; there wasn’t even a scratch on the frames.

Pink Sunglass Day? Who knew?

In my house of boys and men, I love my Goodr sunglasses.  And I love that I got the pink as I don’t have to worry about someone accidentally wearing them – unless it happens to be Pink Sunglass Day.

 

Disclaimer: the views and opinions mentioned above are solely the opinion of the author’s.  No form of compensation was provided.

Raising Runners – or not

A strong start.

Last week, my twelve year old and I took the Go Train to Toronto.  Initially, I had planned to spend the day alone, visit with a friend and wander aimlessly through downtown Toronto.  But the dude asked if he could come with me.  At first, I hesitated because it would mean that he would be taking the day off school (mine was a legitimate personal day), but he really hadn’t done much in class the week before other than play outside and watch movies.  And here, I had a twelve year old boy who wanted to spend his day with me – away from all distractions –  and I probably don’t have many days like that left, so I gave in.  Together, we headed downtown.

“Mom,” he asked while on the train, “Can we do the Runway Run again this year?”

The Three Amigos, Runway Run 2016

This came out of the blue.  The Runway Run is a 5K at the end of September on the Pearson International Airports tarmac.  We ran it a few years ago with two of his buddies and, for boys who love planes, it is a very cool event.  We ran past planes, had the option to go inside a few of them after, hung out in a hanger and, basically, just had a fun morning.  But my son didn’t run well; despite a good start, he started feeling sick and ended up walking/running the last half of 5K.  I thought he was going to be turned off running forever, and I was genuinely shocked when he asked if he could run this race again.

“Yes!  Let’s do it!”  Then, I realized it was just a few weeks before the Chicago Marathon and worried about my own goals so added, “I may not race it, but I’ll run it.”

“That’s okay,” he said.  “The boys and I want to do it again.”

We spent the afternoon walking through the downtown core.  We visited the OVO store, Drake’s flagship store on Dundas Street (which he had been itching to visit since fall) and bought one very expensive t-shirt.  We went through Trinity Bellwood Park and I had a lovely reminder that he is still a kid when he asked if we could stop to play at the climbers.  We walked back to Union Station, stopping at Harvey’s for a hotdog, fries and chocolate milkshake along the way.  Then, we went home.  That was our day: a total of 10 walking kilometres, a t-shirt, and a hotdog and fries.

On the train back home, I asked the question that had been on my mind all afternoon.  “Do you want to run through the summer?  I mean, do you want to train with other kids?”  My club, Toronto Olympic Club, has a fantastic program for juniors, and I have been hoping that, one day, one of my own boys would run with me there.

“No.”  My shoulders dropped.  “I’m not really interested in running.  I just do it for fun.  I play manhunt, capture the flag and soccer, and I know I’m fast.  But I also like basketball and scootering.  Don’t worry, Mom.  I’m going to stay active this summer.  I want to play outside.  I just don’t want to run with TOC.”

I felt deflated but proud at the same moment.  As much as I hope that my boys will also become runners, I was relieved to hear that this one would rather spend his summer outdoors than gaming or watching television.   And he does want to run; he just doesn’t want to commit to it and I am totally fine with that.

How can I be sure that I do have a runner in progress?   Before we got to Harvey’s, he complained, “Mom, I’m starving and my legs hurt.  I feel like I’ve run a marathon.”

Parenting done right.

 

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.