Bravery

At the expo: feeling ready!

Many years ago, I told my youngest that he was brave.  In his little boy mind, he didn’t understand so I explained that being brave means that you do something that you don’t want to do.

Yesterday, those words flew back to me when my friend, Wendy, posted that I was brave to stop running.  I had thought my decision was tough, hard, smart and even courageous, but not once did I think of it as being brave.   I know this seems odd when bravery and courage are synonyms, but “brave” is just that much more of a powerful word.

I thought back to that conversation I had with my youngest: being brave means doing something that you don’t want to do.   I spent the past three months determined to start yesterday’s race and, in the past six weeks, I rebuilt my strength and endurance to start and finish.  I was excited but also cautious that Tammy the Hamstring could make a reappearance.  Sure enough, she did – and at the twelfth hour – but she also settled down enough to make me believe that I could run 26.2 miles.

Before the start of the Chicago Marathon

Yesterday, I was on my guard as I started the marathon and, barely ten minutes in, I stepped aside.  I got on the sidewalk and I held myself together  while I worked my way back to the hotel.  Feeling like a failure, I didn’t  want any attention but, ironically, I was upset that not one of the hundreds of spectators I saw asked if I was okay.  I wanted to cry, but I had to be brave.

Wendy’s words helped me to realize that bravery was a huge part of this journey.  I did what I had to do, not what I wanted to do.  I am 55 and want to  be running and racing competitively for many more.  As I reflect on the past few months and set goals for the future, I know that there are going to be other tough decisions to make and I am prepared to face them.

 

It Just Wasn’t Meant To Be

Weeks ago, I took on the “whatever it takes attitude” in the hope that I would be able to toe the line at the Chicago Marathon.  I saw an osteopath who worked some magic.  I spent time with an acupuncturist who lessened the pain and improved the circulation in my glutes and hamstring.  And I found a chiropractor who is a gift to runners.

Within weeks, my Chiro got me running from 2 miles a week at the end of August to ending my training with 40+ mile weeks.  When I first saw him, it hurt to walk.  Last Sunday, and the one before, I ran 18 miles relatively painfree.  I had put in the time running, stretching, and strengthening, and I was ready for Chicago – not for a fast time but to finish what I started.

But you can’t underestimate the power of the marathon.  During the final days of my taper, Tammy the Hamstring came back to visit and she was angry.  On Wednesday night, Kelly-Lynne and I went out for an easy 6 mile run and, half-way through, I felt like my back thigh was bleeding internally.  A bit later, I thought a knife ripped through my piriformis.  Minutes later, Kelly-Lynne and I walked Tammy back home, with me holding back tears.

After two more visits to the chiropractor, who felt I was just having a muscle spasm, and an acupuncture treatment, all I could do was hold my breath and hope that I would be able to run.  Tammy needed to settle down.

By last night, I felt much better.  My leg had loosened up, and I made the decision to run slowly for the first six miles of today’s marathon and take it from there. I felt confident that I was going to be able to finish.

So this morning, I left my sleeping husband and boys at the hotel at 6:00 as I walked to the start.  Tammy the Hamstring felt relaxed; she was back under control.  At 8:00, we started to move to the start line and began our marathon.  But just past the one mile point, I felt a twinge.  Tammy had resurfaced.

It was only a few minutes longer before I realized that I wasn’t going to finish.  I was prepared to walk the back end of the course but not 25 miles, and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to run.  So I called it a day.

It took almost an hour to get back to the hotel because of the road closures, and I watched runners and walkers of different sizes and speeds pass me.  That was hard.  I wondered whether I made the right decision until I hobbled back into the hotel lobby.   It was clear that I made the best choice.

A nap, a snack and a lot of tears later, I am comfortable with my decision.  I gave Chicago my best shot but finishing today just wasn’t in the cards.  For whatever reason, this just wasn’t meant to be.

I am grateful for the optimism of my youngest who said, “Ya, but we’re in Chicago.  At least, we get a holiday together.”  And he is right.  It is Canada’s Thanksgiving and I am thankful to be here with my husband and boys.  In the end, this time together is what matters the most.

 

 

Taming Tammy

Taking two weeks off running was completely my idea.  I needed to remove the pressure of trying to run and to train for Chicago.  I needed to focus on healing. At the time, I honestly didn’t know if it was a good idea or not, and I still don’t, but it gave me the break that I needed.  It gave me the time to accept that Chicago will not be the marathon that I want it to be; once that happened, my frustration disappeared.

But taking the time off was still hard even though I walked Zeda, I spun my wheel on my windtrainer (because I didn’t trust that riding up and down hills in the great outdoors would be good for Tammy the Hamstring), and I went to yoga.    I survived the first week  without running but, by Day 10, I was getting antsy.  “Four more days will not make a difference” I told myself.  By Day 14, I was quite excited – one more day.   It no longer hurt when I walk, my stability was back and I felt stronger, but I didn’t know if the time off would help my running.

I decided to test the trails on Saturday afternoon instead of in the morning as I felt my body would be more awake and Tammy would be less of a nuisance.  I knew that I had to do 2’s and 1’s, and slowly.   My osteopath also gave me some exercises to do before and after: hip rotations (like using a hula hoop), opening and closing the gates, and leg swings (forwards and sideways).  I could hear my hip popping during the first set, which made me nervous, but I stuck to the plan: go out slowly, on a soft surface, 2 minutes on, 1 minute off, aim for a mile.

Two miles run!

When I left the house, I was able to run along a straight plane but I had trouble manoeuvring corners and turns, even at a 9/10 minute mile pace.  I almost quit and went back home.  “Stick to the plan.”  After 3 sets of 2’s and 1’s, I could feel that my hips had loosened up and I was moving more easily.  After 6 sets, I was able to turn the same corner that I couldn’t get around before.  Success!   Then I went through my exercises at home for another 20 minutes.  In the end, I spent more time warming up and cooling down/stretching than I actually did running, but it really didn’t matter because I ran!

Taming Tammy

Today, I went through the same routine but ran on a mix of surfaces – grass, gravel path, road – and for a bit longer.   As on Saturday, I finished feeling good about running, but Tammy was still a pain in the butt – not as much of a pain as she was before, but still a nuisance.  As my osteopath explained, there is scar tissue surrounding Tammy that has formed a rope and it needs to be loosened.   When Tammy complains to my brain that she is sore, my body reacts by tightening up even more to protect her.  But my joints and bones are healthy, my tendons are strong, and there is lots of fluid flowing through my veins.  So I need to run – slowly and carefully – to start breaking up the scar tissue, to tame Tammy and to send the message to my brain that I am not broken; I am strong.

What does this mean in terms of the Chicago Marathon?  I have no idea.  I will be there and I will be running.  I don’t know how far or how fast but I do know it will be with Tammy, and she will be on a very short leash.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I cried today.  It has been the first time I cried since my training for Chicago has been sidelined.  Heck, it is the first time that I have cried in I don’t know how long.  But I do know that since Tammy started acting up, the uncertainty of whether I will be able to run the Chicago Marathon has left me feeling blue.  Last week, I only ran on Monday,  when I realized that Tammy the Hamstring needed attention, so I turned to yoga and spinning on my wind trainer for the rest of the week.  The rest helped; I noticed that the range of motion in my right leg improved over the seven days as did my strength and balance.

Success! Three miles done!

This past Monday, I was cleared by my physiotherapist to try some shorter distances so I ran 3 miles that afternoon.  Tammy was still tight, but she wasn’t sore like she was the week before and I felt fine the next day.  On Wednesday, I was starting to feel normal; my hips felt like they were opening up again and I seemed to be walking properly.   At my physio appointment the next morning, I was told that the puffiness on the back of my thigh was down and the weird bruising, which started to surface when we taped my leg the week before, was disappearing.  Things seemed to be progressing and I was encouraged, so I ran again on Thursday night; this time I covered 4 miles.

This morning, everything changed.   I headed out for an easy 3 mile run and Tammy decided to start kicking me in the butt.  At the one mile mark, I stopped my watch, walked home and cried.  I have been doing everything right: my exercises, my warm-ups, rest, sleep, physio…but it hasn’t been enough for Tammy.  She obviously needs more time.

Today was the first time that I have cried since my training for Chicago came to a halt.  In the past two weeks, I have played the “what if” scenarios, including not starting.  I have toyed with the idea of walking the 26.2 miles but that is not what I set out to do; I want to run the course, not walk it.  I have thought about running part of the course and walking the rest, which I would be okay with if that becomes the plan, and I’ve considered running part and dropping out.  But not once during the “what if” games that my mind played did I cry.  Until today.

This afternoon, I decided that I am not going to run until Tammy is in better shape.  I feel that my trying to run is like playing Russian Roulette; how much more can I push Tammy until she has had enough and really bites me in the butt?  I looked into pool running as a way to supplement my training and was ready to buy a belt, but I don’t want to pool run.  When I put things in perspective, I reminded myself that running Chicago is suppose to be fun, so I don’t need to torture myself with things that I don’t want to do.  Instead, I will continue to ride on my wind trainer and go to yoga; I’m even willing to start swimming again.  If I don’t start in Chicago, so be it.  There is always another marathon.  As I walked with my youngest in the late afternoon and felt Tammy’s presence again, I realized that taking a step back like this is the best thing for me.

I am trying to stay positive but there will likely be more tears between now and October 7th while I figure out what exactly Tammy has planned for me.  Who knows?  Maybe I will be able to pull a miracle out of my butt and I’ll be able to chase my dreams sooner than I think.   Only time can tell.

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.

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.

 

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

How Did I Become a Soccer Mom?

For the past 2 weeks, I have been hopping around from one blog to another and have enjoyed meeting new people.  Today is my spotlight day so I am going to start off telling you a bit about me.

Chicago - expoChasing My Dreams – Setting goals and going after them makes me happy.  After my long layoff this year, I still ran the Chicago Marathon and BQ’d.  When I was still on the course, I set one of my goals for 2016: to marathon in the spring and improve my time for a better corral start.

Yummy – My favorite food is chocolate.  I’m pretty good about staying away from it.  Being lactose intolerant helps.  But when I do my own baking and I know that foods are “safe” to eat, I have to really watch that I don’t eat all of the chocolate chip cookies.

Nerd – I am such a math nerd.  I love looking and analyzing data, especially when it involves running.  It’s a good think I teach math.

Toenails – I have ugly toenails – really ugly.  Running has not been kind to my feet at all.

Hot – I love hot weather runs.  I love to sweat.  I hate all of the winter laundry.  Summer laundry is so much easier.

Ice – After last January, ice terrifies me.  When I fell, I broke my jaw in four places. cropped-pw-near-trail.jpg I was off work for weeks and was forced to stay away from exercise of any kind for weeks and weeks.  Even downward dog was dangerous for me to do!  I’m not sure how I’ll deal with running this winter yet but I should know soon.

Asthma – I developed asthma when I was in my late 20’s.  For a while, it stopped me from running.  I tried and tried, but I had asthma attacks that simply wouldn’t let me run.  I go fed up and took asthma by the horns.  Over a few years, I learned to run with it, even in the winter, and can now race as a top Masters athlete in Ontario.

I am a Grade 6 and 7 teacher and, from one day to the next, each of my students has something special that makes them stand out, something that makes them shine.  It could be a passion for a sport, a favorite hobby that they love to talk about and share, or a general excitement that they bring to class.  That enthusiasm makes their eyes shine and makes even the toughest kid smile;  it defines who they are.

Ten Miler - finishMy enthusiasm for fitness and an active lifestyle makes me who I am.  Fortunately, the digital age is still fairly young so I can’t post any pictures from the Richard Simmons’ era, when I was bitten by the aerobic bug that eventually led to me teaching aerobics.  In the 90’s, I needed more of an adrenalin rush so I turned to running and general fitness training – and I haven’t looked back.   Today, if you were to ask someone about me, they would most definitely use the word “runner” in the first two sentences.

In the past 25 years, my running has only been halted three times.  The first was when I developed asthma – induced by cold and exercise (not great for a Canadian runner)  but I spent several years learning how to run with it.   I also stopped running when I was pregnant (my boys are now 9 and 14)  as I really didn’t enjoy running while pregnant .  So I turned to cross-training – mostly stationary cycling and the stairmaster.   My most recent hiatus was this past winter when I broke my jaw while running and, then, had to deal with the deaths of both parents in the spring.    After every “rest” period, whether forced or self-inflicted, I could not wait to get back to the roads.

So it has always shocked me that my own boys have not been into sports.  My husband is an avid hockey player, cyclist, tennis player and occasional runner.  Me:  I run competitively (competitive enough to claim the Canadian 50-54 title for the 8K distance).   We dreamed about raising superkids with both fast-twitch  and slow-twitch fibres, coming from his speed and my endurance.  Nope!

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The Littlest Dude (at 4), ready to go.

Over the years, we encouraged both to participate in sports but they showed a combination of low skills and an even lower interest.  They came to races with me, cheered me on, and would race the odd Kids’ event.  We’d see glimmers of potential and a bit more enthusiasm, but the boys kept going back to the things they loved: music and lego.

We couldn’t push them.  I wasn’t going to be “that parent” who dragged a screaming child to a swimming lesson or soccer game.  But I could plan my training with them in it.  I would throw one into a baby jogger or drag them out on their bikes when I ran long.  We talked running around the house a lot but, still, there was no real interest.  All I could do was hope that they would eventually realize what they were missing.

At the beginning of August, like every other August, the two Dudes and I talked about what sports they could get involved with this year.  To my surprise, they both said soccer.  My oldest has been refereeing for the past year and has taken an interest in the game as a player.  My youngest is either following his lead or was bitten by the soccer bug when we watched the PanAm Games.  Either way, it didn’t matter; they wanted to play soccer.  Soccer cleats

At the end of the month, I opened an email: “Coaches Needed for U11 Boys.”  Hmmm…. We had a quick family meeting, a few days to digest the decision and I was suddenly coaching the Littlest Dude’s team.    So now, a typical weekend for us includes one U11 game, one U15 game, a few games to referee and a load of soccer laundry.  This week, Soccer Mom also organized a practice for the team.  It looks like the boys aren’t the only ones bitten by the soccer bug.

“Where are my soccer socks?”  “Can you wash my ref jersey?”  “Who do we play this week?”  Soccer has quickly become part of the regular language in our house.  The boys are excited about it.  They smile when they talk about it.  Soccer: it defines who they are.PanAm Green Screen Andrew