Mid-March in Shorts

In my running life (about 2o years), running in shorts in Ontario at this time of year is absolutely unheard of – unless you’re Scottish and are use to running in shorts all year round, no matter how cold or damp it is, or unless you’re just plain tough. This week, though, there have been a lot of people running in shorts as mid-afternoon temperatures have been hitting the mid-teens. Today, it was my turn to don shorts and it felt great.

This was my first run with the boys since September and this led to a negotiation between #1 and me over the distance, resulting in a decision of 4 miles instead of the six miles that I had planned. After all, he reasoned, this was his first ride since the fall and his bike is starting to be a teeny bit too small, making the long 1 kilometre hill at the end more difficult. It wasn’t worth arguing over another two miles, especially when I had a 9 year old who was keen to ride his bike while his mom ran. Heck, that would be worth cutting the distance another mile – but don’t tell him.

And, please, don’t let him know that I also quickly caved to lower mileage because #2 was coming along too. Affectionately described by his grandfather as the child who is in perpetual motion (until he finally falls asleep), my now 4 year old, almost 40 pound child could not wait to get into the baby jogger. This meant I was going to be pushing 60 pounds (about half of my body weight), uphill for a good part of the run and into the wind (which I later learned was just over 30Km/hr). After a winter of running solo, going a bit shorter today didn’t bother me at all.

The three of us headed out with #1 taking the lead and #2 talking non-stop, wanting to know when we could stop and he could have his turn to run.

Balance. I ran, oldest biked and youngest got his 500m run in at the end. Life is good.

Another Sign of Spring

This morning I headed out for my week’s long run: 13 miles. Now, normally, I get my long run in on Sunday afternoon but Mother Nature (rain) and Life (#2 was baptized on Sunday) got in the way. Being off for the March Break gave me the flexibility to jiggle my running plans a bit; today, I went long.

What I didn’t plan on, though, was the surge in temperature. Last week, I found running in 8C a dramatic change. Today, when I headed out, I started in a sunny 8C and, by the time I got home, it was 14C.

Sensing that I might need a bathroom (doesn’t the body do strange things when we have to adapt to new situations?), I planned my route to pass Coronation Park, a popular park, at the 5 mile mark. Sure enough, at mile 4, I knew that I would need it. I got there worried that the doors to the facilities might still be locked but, no, there were no doors. In fact, the bathrooms had been torn down! Something else was going up in its place but I didn’t take the time to look.

Instead, I ran back to what appeared to be an alternate. No luck. I then asked two ladies watching their children play in the sunshine if they knew where other bathrooms might be and they said there might be some closer to the lake; others I asked along the pathway gave me a different message: there were no washrooms.

In my state of panic, the mother in me wondered about the toilet-training toddlers and children that were running around the playground. Surely one of them will also panic; where will they go? Couldn’t the city have planned their renovations around the excretory needs of park visitors?

Every story should have a happy ending and this one does. As quickly as I could, I left the park and ran to the Seniors’ Residence at the closest corner. Fortunately, the kind volunteer did let me in and, instead of using a cold park toilet that likely hadn’t been cleaned for days, I found myself in a spotless, pleasant smelling facility that also had warm water and a hand drier.

However, this ordeal did add 20 minutes to my run, and that did not please me at all. But all things considered, the extra time really didn’t matter.

P.S. For those who didn’t pick up on the sign of spring, it was construction. Had something new not been going up, the washrooms would not have been torn down and there wouldn’t have been a story to write about.

Signs of Spring

Out came the sun and dried up all the rain – and I am loving it. I think the best part of this is being off for the week and able to enjoy it with my boys.

Signs of Spring that I have seen in the past 24 hours:

1. Change in diet: While running in the late afternoon, I caught a fly in my mouth. Usually this bothers me but since it was the first of the year, I reacted with just a “Yuck”, thought about the little extra protein in my diet and kept running.

2. Speed work: I haven’t really done any all winter because I’ve been running when it is icy, dark or both. Last night, I was able to really push myself for the first time since September and it felt good.

3. Kegels: I suddenly have to add these back into my cooldown routine. Why? Because I can do speedwork again, have had two children and the aging process continues.

4. Early rises: My 12 year old dog is back to wanting to go out before 7:00 in the morning. I wish our neighbours felt the same way; big dogs have big barks and it’s only a matter of time before he catches a little night critter hiding under a bush.

5. Street games: I spent 2 hours outside today running and playing frisbee with my boys.

6. Road Races: With my boys. We live on a little court and my youngest loves to race around the circle. Today, we timed him: 30 seconds to run 75 metres. Not bad for a 4 year old.

7. Dressing less: The winter outwear is going away on the weekend if this sunshine lasts. I’m crossing fingers and toes.

By the way, I didn’t end up swallowing that fly after all. I discovered it under my tongue a few miles later and wiped it out. That time I was annoyed.

What are your favorite signs of spring?

I’m not a quitter

Thanks everyone for your advice on Around the Bay. Since running last week’s half-marathon, I’ve been consumed with the thought of running this 30K race. However, for the first time in a long time, my race thoughts have been negative, not positive, and that is very much unlike me.

Why am I worried?
1. I ran the half-marathon in 1:49 and didn’t feel ready for the race. I know I’m not ready for the 30K as I haven’t run anything more than 21K.
2. Even with March Break this week, I can’t suddenly build mileage to 30K – even with the help of my fairy godmother.
3. Daddy’s job at night and the boys’ back to school will continue to make getting out a challenge.
4. Oh yes, and I work full-time too.

So, I am not running the 30K. But, I am not a quitter either. So, I have re-evaluated my goal for this race, which I initially registered for as a means to build my mileage, and I am running 13 to 15 miles. I have to look at the course map and figure out where a better pick-up spot is for my husband so that I’m not stuck walking the last few kilometres in; then, I’ll know what I’m going after.

Whatever it is, I know that I am ready. After all, I just ran a half last week and can easily get 2 comparable runs in between now and the 28th.

And, I did meet my goal: my mileage is higher this winter than in any other for the past 15 years. So I got what I wanted out of Around the Bay. It’s all good.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

As in many parts of the USA, it is also raining here in Ontario and there is no sign of it letting up. After almost 48 hours of non-stop rain, it is really starting to irritate me.

Had I run on Thursday night, I wouldn’t be quite so fed up by now. But my mother-in-law arrived for a 4 day visit and I didn’t want to run out on her. Waiting until Friday seemed like a better idea.

But now I see that I should have followed the rule: don’t put off a run if you are up to it today. Really, I was up to it, but I was in a lazy mood. Blame it on the half-marathon I ran on Sunday. Or, perhaps it was the end of the week that just got to me. In any case, I did not run when I should have.

So now the panic is setting in. The 30K in two weeks time is becoming more and more of a worry. I’m starting to rethink running just 21K of it instead.

What would you do?

Running Magazines

At our house, we use the division of labour approach: I look after the inside while hubby tends to the exterior. Now, he hasn’t quite realized it yet but picking up the mail is an outdoor job; in the winter, I rarely get the mail.

WARNING: NEVER LEAVE YOUR RUNNING MAGAZINES AROUND UNLESS YOU HAVE READ THEM FIRST.

The problem with this is he sees my running magazines before I do. Being the A-type, gotta-have-control gal that I am, I am obsessed about being the first one to read MY magazines; in fact, there have been more than a few times when I have carried one to work and back to ensure that I will read it first.

There are a few good reasons why I never leave my magazines around for him to read first:

1. The Crease – When hubby opens it up, he neatly folds a crease down the side of the page so that it doesn’t fall back while he is reading it and eating breakfast. The new look is gone.

2. Food – Eating breakfast, hubby puts a glass of orange juice on it, leaving a ring and permanently removing that brand new look. With two boys, food is sometimes left on the kitchen table and it can also find its way to the back cover.

3. Bathrooms – Need I say more. Hubby is well-trained and does know better than to sit and read, but when the cat’s away….who knows what goes on?

4. Tech. Talk – After buying a new pair of shoes, I was recently asked by hubby what I got. “Asics,” I replied. “What model number?” Suddenly, hubby is as knowledgeable about running shoes as he is about cars and motorcycles. Whatever happened to just “the pink ones”?

5. Competition – Non-running husband announced last week, after reading my iRUN CANADA, that there is a fall marathon in Hamilton, just 30 minutes from home. This was on my list of “maybe’s” until hubby said he’s thinking of running it. I guess it wasn’t enough that I had to plan my schedule around music concerts for the boys. Now, I have to contend with my husband’s new running goals too.

Now, I am being supportive of his new venture, and I have told him that he can run Hamilton if that’s what he wants to do. After all, he and the boys have been very supportive of me for the past year and there is always another marathon for me to do – if I even go that route.

And, now I’m definitely going to start hiding my running magazines!


The Snow Princess Melted

The Chilly Half-Marathon Results:
Time – 1:49:39
Chip Time – 1:48:32
Division Place (45-49) – 21/224
Gender Place – 143/1671

This was not my best race, but I couldn’t realistically expect to have run any faster. A rough fall of pneumonia and a calf injury (warning: do not support your almost 40 pound child on your leg with your heal in the air or you may create an incredible knot that won’t go away for a very long time), I had very little base mileage – okay, none as of December 1st. Carrying my 40 pound sleeping child one cold January night resulted in a back injury that kept me off running for another two weeks. That left me with 4 long – if you can call them that – runs: 2 – 8 milers, a 10 and an 11.5 miles. So, realistically, I expected to finish between 1:45 and 1:50 and, that, I did.

The morning started off fine. Even Daddy wasn’t complaining too, too much about getting up early for Mommy’s half-marathon. Careful planning the night before meant that #2 didn’t find a reason for a last minute temper tantrum about what he needed to take or what he should wear (last race, he insisted that he should wear a t-shirt in zero degree temperatures). Once we got there, parking was simple and there were no outrageous line-ups for the bathrooms – pretty amazing for a venue hosting well over 3000 runners.

I waited at the start line with #2 and noticed my heart rate was starting to climb as it does before any race. But this time was for a different reason. When I write “start line”, I don’t mean at the side; I mean in the corrals with my four year old son, surrounded by thousands of half-marathoners. Daddy and #1 were nowhere to be seen and I wasn’t about to leave my treasured spot to go looking for them. With less than 5 minutes to go, I did think about walking away and starting late – but that idea only irritated me more. With less than 3 minutes to go, I looked at #2 and joked that he might be running with me (we spent all week prepping him for running with Mommy at the end). In the last 2 minutes, I did it; I pulled #2 out of the line and started looking for Daddy, who nonchalantly walked up to us and said, “I’m right here.” Fortunately, I didn’t have time to comment; instead I rushed back to the corral in time for the 10 second countdown.

Weather conditions were atypical with temperatures close to 12.5 degrees celsius at the end. Starting temperature was about 4 degrees and the first two kilometres were into the wind which brought the temperature closer to zero, pretty much been training in. Once we turned around, though, the wind was on our backs and I quickly overheated. By 5K, I was pulling off my hat and gloves, and by 6K, my outer layer was around my waist, leaving me with just my base layer. Between 4K and 9K, I was uncomfortably hot. By the time we headed back, there were only 8K left. We ran straight into the wind, which was much better and I quickly found myself pulling my outer layer back on. But I had such a terrible first half of the race that I just couldn’t hold my own for the second half and ended up walking quite a bit. Still, when all is said and done, sub-1:50 is respectable.

The biggest disappointment, though, was losing my fleece glove. I carefully tucked both into the back of my tights at 5K and pulled them out at the finish. Somehow, I managed to run 16K with a pair of gloves hanging out of my backside but I lost one when juggling them, a bottle of water, banana, cookies, medal, #2’s new-found treasure (a rock) and holding his hand. This pair was the first running gear that my husband bought for our first Christmas together 18 years ago, making them sentimental and comfortably well-worn. My moans about losing one made Daddy laugh. His solution is simple: buy another pair. Men!

Hmmm. My husband just gave me the go-ahead to go shopping. I guess it’s not such a disappointment after all.

The Snow Princess

This is not about some new Disney princess; it’s about me.

For the past few years, I’ve wanted to run the Princess Half in Disney. However, there are several prohibitive matters:
1. Location – Disney World is in Florida, a 2 day, non-stop drive or 3 hour flight from Oakville, making it a logistically difficult race to attend.
2. Work – Our March Break begins on March 12, 2010. As a teacher, it is difficult for me to justify taking this time off work.
3. Boys – Of course, I would have to take the boys to Disney, but they would end up missing school. Now, they might not be upset about this, but Mom and teachers would.

So, Disney – at least for this year – is out of the question. Instead, I’m staying put and running the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington, Ontario, named after the typically cold temperatures and the distance. Between my wish to run Disney and plans to run the Chilly, it only seemed appropriate to dub myself “The Snow Princess”.

Ironically, after putting on my crown, the snow started to melt. In the past five days, temperatures have soared from zero to 10 degrees celcius. The Princess has requested slightly cooler temperatures than the 12 degrees predicted for tomorrow as she hasn’t had a chance to really acclimatize, but her pleas are being ignored.

So, the Princess will rise to sunny skies and her support crew – Daddy and the two boys – will take her to Burlington. There, she will run 13.1 miles while her Prince and children wait. They will cheer for her, meet for her at the finish line and take her home to the comfort of a hot shower.

That’s the way some days should be: all about me.

My New Trick

I got home from Monday night’s run really excited – not because I finished my last long run before the half on Sunday (and, I really doubted until that night if I would get my 11 miles in). I was excited because I learned a new trick.

This is one of many tricks that I’ve acquired to help me run through the winter. As an asthmatic, winter running is hard – really hard. I dread stopping at traffic lights or finishing my runs because that is when cold and moisture hit my lungs; and, when it does, I begin to cough and sound more like a regular smoker than a regular runner. This has forced me to stop running for many, many cold seasons. However, this winter I have been determined to not let my asthma stop me; instead, I have learned to better control it.

On Monday, 6 miles into my long run, I found myself at yet another traffic light, trying to control the coughing fits. That’s when I wondered what would happen if I tried to mimic my breathing so that it matched the breathing when I ran. As I approached the next light, I moaned knowing that I was headed towards another moment of misery but when I stopped, I remembered my plan: one quick breath in, three breaths out.

No coughing. One in, three out. Still no hacking. It was working. The guy in the car next to me probably thought that I was having an orgasm but my breathing was controlled. The light signalled green and I headed towards the next major intersection.

By the time I finished my run, I seemed to have mastered my new technique. I was on a runner’s high, not from running but from what I was able to do when I wasn’t running.

What tricks do you have?

Olympic Dreams

The past two weeks have really made me think about our Olympic athletes – about their natural talent, their work and drive to become our nation’s best and the sacrifices they have made to get there. I can only imagine the amount of hours they have given up from family and friends and the choices they have made about education and careers.

As a mother, I am constantly making choices – not sacrifices – to chase my own dreams. Do I run tonight or do I help my son with homework? Should I wake up my sleeping child so that I can put him in the baby jogger or should I run tomorrow instead? Which race does the family want to do (how far is the drive? is there a kids’ event? what swag will we share?)?

On Tuesday, I finally did something I had been putting off for weeks; I bought new running shoes. Between the boys, the boys’ activities, work, desperately trying to maintain some sort of order in the house, and store hours, it has been next to impossible to find the time to shop for shoes. So, on Tuesday night, after a friend picked up #1 for choir practice, I sacrificed my sons’ nutrition. Instead of grocery shopping, I decided to take #2 with me to the Running Room. Within ninety minutes, I had not only calmed him down from a major temper tantrum, but I was also able to drive downtown, buy shoes, and return home before #1 got back from rehearsal.

Like the Olympians, I made a sacrifice. I was tired of my feet hurting once I hit the 7 mile mark so I did what I needed to do; I went shopping. I then prayed that their teachers were not in the habit of checking my boys’ lunch bags, as I now had no choice but to feed them packaged cereal bars, apple sauce and crackers the next day. What was I thinking?

Okay, maybe comparing myself to an Olympic athlete is a bit of a stretch. I guess I’ll have to wait until the Mommy Olympics arrive.