Nature’s Call

This has been a terrible summer weather-wise, unless you’re a duck. For runners, and especially for running mom’s like me who make most runs a family affair, it has been really, really bad. It’s bad enough that Environment Canada is the home page on my computer, but I also have The Weather Network on my favorites and AccuWeather on my cell. Yup, I’m officially a weather junkie. (I guess it is no surprise that this is my absolute favorite unit in the entire elementary science curriculum).

There have been several days this summer when I’ve had to postpone a run because of all the rain. There are even more days when I have checked the computer dozens of times within hours to see if that impending storm is getting any closer. It’s one thing for me to get stuck on the road when I’m alone, but the last thing I want is to be out in the middle of “it” with my boys.

But I am a risk-taker at heart – especially if it means an adventure. So, while the threat of a storm is often there, I have once or twice grabbed my dynamic duo, put the youngest in the jogger, strapped a helmet on the other and run out the door. “Twenty-two minutes, guys. That’s all we need.” And, every time, we make it – sometimes by the treads of our running shoes.

But that all changed on Thursday. Frustrated from 2 days of non-running, followed by a quick 6K on Wednesday, I had that itch. “Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Halton-Peel” was posted on every weather page. Yeah, yeah, I’ve seen that before, I thought. I checked for updates all afternoon and, like all other days when this warning has appeared, the message was the same and so were the skies.

At 6:30, when the sitter showed up (he gives me my weekly hour “therapy” session – a run without boys), I decided to go anyway. “I want to come too,” announced the oldest. “Be quick, we’ve got about half an hour – and I only needed 22 minutes.” We ran – no, we tore down the street – and our pilot/neighbour/sky-watching expert called out, “You’ve got about half an hour.” That’s all I needed.

But, 10 minutes into the run, without warning, the wind picked up. A van driver slowed down and asked if we wanted a ride. “I think we can make it,” I yelled. Stupid me. Less than a minute later, the skies opened. This wasn’t just any downpour. We ran to the corner, didn’t wait for the light to change and headed into our local vet for shelter. They were awesome: they gave us towels to dry off, offered to give us snacks and suggested that we sit in a back room on the couch. I have to find out if they take reservations for dinner too.

After hanging out at the vet’s for 20 minutes, watching wave and wave hit the streets and wondering if the lightning would ever stop, we called our power-walking neighbour, Superhero Carleen, hoping that she would drive us home.

As luck would have it, within 10 minutes, the rain slowed and by the time we got home, it had stopped and the sun started to peak through the clouds. The most frustrating part of this “run” was not that I had to abandon it, but that I paid a baby-sitter so that I could stand at the vet’s for 30 minutes while I watched it rain. On the other hand, though, it was a good thing that I had a sitter as my jogger child was safe at home, hoping that Mommy was running really fast.

Hours later, it hit me: I need to add my dog to my weather-watching strategies. He simply refused to go outside for his nature call before we left. Now, I know why.

First Massage

Today I had my first massage – ever. I’m not sure why I waited so long. My friends get massages – to relieve the stress of work, family and life – and I listen to their playbacks with envy. But, even with a decent benefit plan from work, I’ve never had any real desire to go myself.

I almost had a massage years ago, when little brother arranged for a masseuse to come to my home for a birthday present. Being the wise brother that he is, he gave me a heads-up a few days before and realized before the cancellation period was over that it was something that this sister really wouldn’t appreciate.

I suppose that a lot of my hesitation stems from the fact that I’m not a touchy-feely kind of gal (and, yes, I really do have two children, but that’s another story). But this year, despite my efforts, the aging process is kicking in; if I want to keep pushing myself physically, I better take better care of my muscles and joints.

So, today I went. Surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous, probably because I matter-of-factly told myself a few weeks ago, using the same matter-of-fact tone that I do with my boys, that I better start taking advantage of massage therapy.

And did I feel relaxed when I left? No. But my legs felt rested and that tightness in the back of my shoulder seemed to have disappeared. Being a mom, I wasn’t about to go home after and do nothing for the rest of the night – but when I hit the pillow later, I’m sure I’ll drift off quickly.

Race Report: Double Header – Day One

When I race, there is only one thing I can really control: the distance. Despite the training and the mental preparation that goes into each race, there is always so much that is left to chance. This weekend, my double-header weekend, proved that to be the case.

The first run was Saturday morning – The Up, Up and Away 5K Run in Findlay, Ohio. Why Findlay? It’s just past Detroit where the boys watched the Emergency Vehicle Parade on Friday night and en route to Mason, Ohio where Daddy planned to watch tennis on Monday. This run was the first half of Mommy’s big weekend get-away with the boys. The thought behind this was “Let Mommy race on Saturday and Sunday, and we can have fun the rest of the time.” Basically, it was the first of two races to keep Mommy quiet. What the boys didn’t know at the time is the races ended up being the best part of the weekend.

I had 3 goals to meet in Findlay: finish top 10 in women (doable), finish under 22 minutes (doable), break the master women’s record (doable). But, then there was the unexpected.

Surprise #1: Dinner on Friday night. Being lactose intolerant, finding dairy-free foods is always a challenge when I’m away from home. We decided to go with the basics: steak and potatoes from the Outback. While this may not be typical pre-race nutrition, it was yummy and, more important, I did not get sick.

Surprise #2: The Heat. This has been a cool, rainy summer but, this weekend, temperatures soared into the 90’s. By 9:00 on Saturday morning, it was already hot and humid. In fact, it tired my trio of male spectators out more than it did me. Now, how did that happen?

Surprise #3: Knowing the Course. I studied the map before we left home and I was prepped for the route by another runner. But I still almost ran into that dang pole – the metre high pole that would render any male childless – on the way out.

Surprise #4: The competition. I had no idea who I was running against, nor did I have any idea how I placed for an hour after the race. For me, this is the most suspenseful part of racing: at the start line, I’m eyeing every female as a potential threat; at the end, I wonder how many of those who finished ahead of me are over 40. It’s not until results are posted that I really know who my competition was.

Once results were up, I realized that I had met all 3 goals: I finished 7th, in 21:36 and broke the course record by 29 seconds. The only problem was two other women broke it before I did. The other non-master women ahead of me, by the way, were under 25.

That morning, I did exactly what I wanted to do. Nothing else mattered for the rest of the day – at least not until I had to start planning for the next day’s race.

Double Header

About once a year, we get away as a family – my husband, the 2 boys and me. This always leaves me with the fear of not getting in the running that I want or need. Family history shows that this panic is not unfounded. Usually I just don’t end up running when travelling because, despite my good sense of direction, I worry about getting lost in the middle of nowhere. Let’s face it, being female, I don’t like being out of my comfort zone and not really knowing where I am. I wildly imagine CNN news headlines – Mother disappears while jogging – and, boy, do I get annoyed when my own imagination refers to me as a jogger. This year, though, I have plans to run and can stick to them as I am off on a mother’s dream vacation.

Oh yes, the trip begins with an emergency vehicle show, the highlight being a parade of police cars and fire trucks driven by retired (read heavy-set) officers. Ooooohhhhh. Now, if the participants were currently active, my enthusiasm would go unparalleled, but this group definitely has extra tires hanging around. There is no eye candy here.

The rest of the “holiday” will be packed with equally exciting boys’ stuff. Lucky for me, though, Daddy realizes that a running mom is a happy mom – and that’s all it is going to take to keep me happy. So, I’m registered for 2 races in one weekend.

Yes, two: a 5K on Saturday morning, followed by a 10K on Sunday. This way, I can get in two runs and tire myself out enough that I won’t worry about missing a long run. I can justify taking a day off running before and after. This seems simple enough; let me have my hour of running time and I’m happy.

In some bizarre way and for different reasons, everyone is excited about this little getaway. As I am gearing up, I realize how lucky I am to have the boys’ support. But a new sense of panic is starting to set in: what do I wear? Who knows? Maybe, on this dream holiday, I might manage to squeeze in a bit of shopping time too:)

Woman versus Nature

I can run in the heat, and I can run in the cold. But I absolutely despise running in the humidity. Other than leaving my normally straight hair with an awesome wavy curl, there is nothing good that comes with humid weather. My youngest drinks a ton of water and wakes up through the night, wet or needing help in the bathroom; the fans are constantly on which ironically makes it difficult for me to sleep and adds to our energy bill. Mostly, though, I hate the humidity because it interferes with my running.

I should probably mention that I’m asthmatic. When the temperatures soar, news stations caution the young, the old and people with breathing difficulties to stay indoors. I honestly don’t see myself fitting in any of these categories so I usually ignore the warnings. Then, half-way through a run on a hot, humid day, when I’m literally sucking air, I tell myself that it probably would have been a good idea to listen.

Typical of me, despite yesterday’s high humidity (bringing temperatures into the high 30’s), I stubbornly headed out to run 10 miles. “Mileage is important, not time,” I told myself. Yet, I started my timer as soon as I hit the roads – to make sure that I wasn’t going too fast. Three miles into the run, I was doing exactly what I wanted – running an 8 minute mile – but I quickly realized that going back mile 6 was going to be brutal. So, I bailed at 31 minutes and headed home.

Now I’m willing to postpone a long run by a day or even skip it if need be – but not this week. I must get my 10 miler in because I’m racing next weekend – which means no long run. Two weeks of skipping long runs is simply not on this runner’s agenda, not with a half-marathon coming up at the end of September.

My neighbour tried to help out today by offering to watch my youngest so that I could run but the humidity hadn’t changed. At 5:00 in the morning, the humidex meant it felt like 32, and it was only hotter and more humid after that. So, today was another day without running. GRRRR.

Tomorrow? It’s suppose to rain – thunderstorms, actually – throughout the day and that isn’t leaving me too optimistic. But who knows what Mother Nature really has planned? I’m not taking any chances and am going to do what I have to: the 4:00 a.m. run, something I haven’t done in years, not since life before kids. I am determined to get that 10 miles in before Tuesday and this will hopefully let it happen. The alarm is set and I’ve got my shorts with the reflective piping ready.

And, if it really does rain, then I’ll just roll over and breathe deeply – hopefully with a 3 year old in my arms.

The Photo Finish

“Smile for the camera at the finish.”

I can’t count the number of times that have I seen that phrase on a race application or heard those words at a race? Nor can I tell you the number of my finish line photos that I don’t even recognize as being mine. I clearly recall looking at one marathon photo wondering who the old lady was in the picture; I was 27 at the time. Now, thanks to modern technology, race pics can quickly be deleted with one click of the mouse – not forgotten, but moved to the recycle bin (and, as if I ever want to see them again in any size or format).

This year, my race pictures have been, well, words really can’t describe them. At the end of one 10K, my greying hair suddenly turned white. If any of my students saw the facial expression at the end of a recent 5K run, they would never return to class, fearing that I would become the real teacher from the black lagoon. No matter how I run, my finish line pictures are, without a doubt, horrible.

This spring, at a 5K race in Toronto, my 8 year old decided to try out his new camera and took pictures of me running. The 2 side views and 1 back are awesome. You can barely see my face (if at all), my stride is strong and my muscles are ripped. Why hasn’t any “real” photographer tried these angles? Number 1’s pics were so good that he is now my official race photographer and, of course, he is under direct orders to only take pictures from the side or the back.

So the question I have is how do the elites do it? How do they muster up that energy to smile at the finish line. Here, for example, is Lisa Bentley, Canada’s Iron woman champ. She swam, biked and ran and she still has the strength to raise her arms over her head to smile at the crowd and the cameras. Me? I can barely find the strength to crack a smile. And they say it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown.

Well, this month with 3 races lined up, I’m set to go – and this has nothing to do with my training. On Thursday, I had my teeth cleaned at the dentist; today, I had colour added to my hair; I’ve already decided what to wear at each event. All I need now is for someone to tell me to smile.

Racing Mother Nature

Some days I wake up and the first thing I think about (well, after wondering how early my little monkey is wanting to play lego with me) is when and where I am going to run. In my house, this is a major decision as I have so many things to consider:

(1) Nutrition: When did I last eat? Have I had enough to eat to run? Did I eat long ago enough that it’s not going to come back to haunt me?
(2) Time of day: Has the 3 year old had his nap yet? If not, is he likely to fall asleep and, if so, does this mean that he is going to be up with me at midnight? (This, by the way, negates all benefits of stress-relief during that run.)
(3) Nutrition – yes, again: When did the boys last eat? Does the oldest need a snack before he gets on his bike with me? If the youngest eats, will this induce sleep during the run? (hmm, I’m sensing a theme here.)
(4) Weather: Can the three of us cope with whatever Mother Nature might bring us?

Yesterday’s was an easy decision – at 5:00, after snack, before dinner and, if you-know-who falls asleep, he can sleep through until morning. But, out of nowhere, the winds changed direction and, by mid-afternoon, a major thunderstorm watch was in effect. How dare Mother Nature get in the way today?

In true running addict form, I constantly checked the radar from my homepage throughout the afternoon. I was not going to let my mother, Mother Nature or any other mother tell me what to do. The storm was north and east; we seemed to be escaping it – for now. And, then boldness set in. “Okay, boys, we’re going now and we’re going fast.”

The kids jumped. It was going to be an adventure. “Let’s beat the storm!” cried one. “We have to get home first,” cautioned the other. We were all keen but, as we walked down the driveway, the spitting began.


Nothing was going to stop me now. “If it rains, we get wet. If it pours, we get soaked – and we’ve done that before. If we hear thunder, we high-tail it home – and we’ve done that before too.”

We ran, and we ran fast. It continued to spit, the drops got bigger, and then they stopped. We still weren’t going to take any chances; we’d been caught in downpours more than once. So, even though we faced a long hill, followed by a gradual incline (you get the point, right?), we didn’t slow down. And, as our luck would have it, we were greeted at the top of the hill by a boom of thunder.

“Quick, 1K left, go straight home!” I yelled to my little cyclist.
“You’re old enough! Stay in eyesight! Go!”

And we weren’t far behind. We won this race. As soon as we literally got onto the driveway, the clouds exploded; we made it home.

Now that was satisfying.

If the Shoe Fits

As expensive as they can be, shoes are the only things in my entire closet that I’m willing to pay full price for. I blame my mother for this. As children, my brothers and I were religiously taken to the shoe store every 4 months to see if our feet had grown into the next size. I suppose I should really be thanking her as none of us have had or do have any problems with our toes, feet, knees or hips today – and with our combined ages being well over 100, that’s pretty impressive. However, this means I am now programmed to return to my favorite running shoe store whenever I sense that my shoes are nearing the end of their running days (only, of course, to become my favorite playshoes).

Last month, I went to replace (sniff, sniff) my ASICS, the pair that had seen me finish my half-marathon training, run during the winter for the first time in years, and helped me win many age group awards. With a resume like that, how could I not want this year’s version of the same model? So, I tried the same size, the size below (just to make sure) and bought a 9 1/2, the same size I had worn for years.

Within the first week, I had a black toenail. By the end of the second week, the same toenail on the opposite foot had also blackened. This made no sense to me at all and, when I checked the size of these and their predecessors, they showed that they were the same. “Darn,” I thought. “I did need the 9’s.” So back to the shoe store I went.

After retrying the 9’s and commenting that they were definitely too tight, and lacing up umpteen other makes and models of shoes, I realized that the unforeseenable had happened to my feet: they shrunk. I didn’t think this was possible, especially when all of my female running mamma friends complain that their feet got bigger after childbirth. Not me, though; mine had to be different from the others – an abnormality. And worse than that is they had shrunk 1/4 of a size. Now I had the crisis of figuring out what to wear on my feet for the rest of my running days. This was decidely worse that finding that perfect dress for a formal event.

After retrying many of the not-so-badly fitting shoes and likely trying the patience of the sales associate, I walked away with a pair of Mizuno’s. They are not the prettiest shoe but, for me, they were the most comfortable. And, today, a week and 35 kilometres later, my feet and toes are happy. If the shoe fits, wear it.

The Vanity Run

Yesterday, I glanced at myself in the mirror as I headed out for my 6K run and thought “Girl, you’re looking good.” I was right. At this time of the year, and half-way through the summer holiday, I’m rested and my colour is great. Wearing shorts and a tank, my leg and arm muscles jumped out. It’s not about the run that matters but about how good I look. This was vanity at its best. Within seconds, though, that moment vanished as my three year old bounced up shouting, “Mommy, I’m ready to go for our run!” So, off we went – me on foot and him in the baby jogger.

In typical 3 year old fashion, he got excited about the garbage trucks that drove by. And, so did Mommy. Ohhh, maybe they’ll honk at me, I thought. Wait a minute! I’m pushing a flipping baby jogger. What guy in his right mind is going to honk at a mother?

Years ago, I remembered, truck drivers were always waving at me. In fact, not a day of running went by when there wasn’t a friendly hello. But that was years ago and in the big city. Here, in a small-town, people are much more conservative, I told myself.

Wait a second!! I use to get honked at here. But then reality clicked. I am now a mother, I have two children, I cannot just wear a jogbra and shorts anymore because I have two children (and scars to prove it); I must keep myself covered. Oh, how I miss those days of wanting complete strangers to see how good I looked.

Wow!! Somehow did honk at me! I haven’t lost it. Then, a young voice cried out, “Hello, Mrs. O’H.” Ah, one of the kids from school. They love seeing me run. I waved back, picked up my pace and was overtaken by another moment of vanity.