Race Recap: The Chicago Marathon

One of my greatest fears is sleeping through the alarm on the morning of a race.  The night before Chicago, I requested a wake-up call at the Hilton, set my alarm on my phone to go off at two different times, and set my watch alarm as the last call.  On Saturday night, my head hit the pillow by 10:30 and I slept until I heard the first ring at 4:30.

As I stared out the window into the darkness, I was glad that I had woken up earlier and earlier each Saturday morning for my long runs.   I was now use to pushing myself through the wee hours of the morning;  I was ready for this marathon.  Chicago - pre-marathon My headache from the day before was gone, but I felt flat, empty.   Something seemed to be missing.   I ate anyway, had a quick shower, got dressed and left Dave and the boys sleeping away as I headed towards the start line.

By 6:15, I had found myself a spot to relax before I had to get into the corral.  Aside from my running gear, I only wore a sweater that the oldest dude had outgrown.  Since I was going to toss it into a charity bin, I didn’t need to worry about the bag check.   All I had to do was keep warm, stay loose, and visit the porta-potty every now and then to make sure I was as empty as possible.

The first corral went out at 7:30 and mine (Corral B) started to move just minutes later.  From the moment I crossed the start line, I was amazed by the screaming crowds.  I expected that they would die down at some points but that never happened.  Block after block, mile after mile, the support was incredible.  Between the feeling of being pushed from behind and the sidelines cheering us on, I knew I would be able to finish the marathon.  All I needed to do was run those 8 minute miles, all 26.2 of them.

And I did – faster than that at first.  I glanced at my watch at every mile marker and realized that my pace was too fast and I tried to pull it back.  But the runners behind me kept pushing me forward.  And I felt good.  No, I felt great.   Mentally, this was going to be a tough race.  “Stay focused,” I told myself.  “Eight minute miles, eight minute miles…. Oh no!  How did I end up ahead of the 3:30 pace bunny?”

By  Mile 8, I felt my hamstrings start to tighten up on me.  The car ride from Oakville had caught up with me.  I tried to ignore it and looked for Dave, who was going to meet me around Mile 9.  He was nowhere to be seen.

By the end of the first hour, the skies were blue.  In fact, there was hardly any shade so I started to feel the slowly increasing heat.   At  Mile 10, I was starting to feel nauseous again.  “Focus.  Pull back a bit.  You’re doing fine but watch the pace.  Eight minute miles, eight minute miles….”

At Mile 12, I saw Marcia from Marcia’s Healthy Slice and her crew wildly cheer me along.  It was just the pick-me-up I needed.  Thanks to the superb water and Gatorade tables (2 city blocks long, on both sides of the road), I had more fuel in the tank.  My pacing was back to where I needed it to be and I was looking at a 1:45 half.

Dave finally appeared around 16k and again at 19K, where he ran with me for a few (2?) blocks.  “How are you feeling?” he asked, to which I replied, “My feet hurt and I need a bathroom.”  This was a marathon in which something always seemed to be bothering me.  But even though I felt sick, my feet hurt, and my legs were getting tighter and tighter, I looked around at the crowds of volunteers and spectators and thought “I want to come back next year.”

From that point, my marathon was a bit of a disaster.  It was hot.  Apparently, it was windy too, but I didn’t notice it because I was too busy noticing the aches and pains throughout my body.   I basically walked-ran the last 8 miles of the course and watched the 3:35 pace bunny run by, followed by the 3:40 and 3:45 pace bunnies.   By then, I was in the last 5 kilometres.  I was going to finish this marathon no matter what but, please, let’s get to the finish line with at least a BQ.

And I did.  I crossed the finish line in 3:51, which gives me a 9 minute window for Boston 2017.  That window can be opened a bit more and it has already has me thinking about winter and spring training and racing.

Chicago - Windy CityAfter finishing, I headed back to the hotel to meet Dave and the boys.   We packed our bags, checked out and did what every runner needs to do after a marathon – eat a huge bowl of fruit and spend hours walking around the city.  By evening, my legs felt great and were ready for the trip back home.

Even though I didn’t have a time goal, I was disappointed with my finish time and I realize now that I need to train for my next marathon with one in mind.  However, my goals in Chicago were met.  I made it to the start line and I crossed the finish line.  That’s all I set out to do.  Qualifying for Boston was a bonus and I am proud of that.   Despite the aches and pains, running Chicago was a fabulous experience and I want to go back next year.  I have left some unfinished business to take care of.

 

Travelling to the Start Line

Chicago - elevatorTwo weeks later, I am finally ready to write about the Chicago Marathon.  It was not my best race and it has taken me some time to accept that.  But, without a doubt, it is the best marathon course that I have run.  Even when my legs were tightening and I watched my pace get slower and slower, I kept thinking about how much I want to return next year.

For me, I had two goals in Chicago: getting to the starting line and, then, crossing the finish line.  I didn’t have a time goal; I had a hope but nothing tangible.  Getting to the start line was my way of challenging myself over the summer to get back into running shape, and I did.  I felt stronger and healthier than I had in years.   With my running history of not racing well at crowded events (I dnf’d in Boston in 2012, the year of the heat wave, and I had trouble coping with the crowds at the Scotiabank Half in 2013 but managed to run a 1:34 PB.), I wanted to test my mental toughness – to prove to myself that I am capable of running a big event and not dnf.  For that reason, I trained to cover the distance.  I was going to finish – no matter what.

On Friday after school, Dave, the dudes and I began what became 9 hours of driving (including a long wait at the border) to Chicago.  We bunked down for night in Jackson, Illinois, which kept us (well, me specifically) from getting too cramped from the long drive.  The next day, we arrived at the Chicago Hilton, the official marathon hotel, at 1:30.  I would have loved to have had a nap and an easy run but I had to pick up my race kit.  Chicago - expo So the two dudes caught the shuttle bus to the expo, did our part to stimulate the American economy and got back to our hotel by 5:30.

By then, my headache – unusual for me- and feelings of nausea had started.  The stress of travelling and dragging the boys to the expo had obviously caught up with me.   I hoped that the nausea was just unnoticed hunger and a good meal would be the cure.   While the dudes and I were at the expo, Dave, who had wanted to go out for dinner, screened the downtown core for potential restaurants but I suggested eating at the hotel.  “Why not?” I asked.  “Everyone staying here is involved in the marathon tomorrow so all of the dining areas are offering pasta specials.   And it is probably going to end up costing us just as much as going out somewhere, we don’t have the hassle of leaving, and there is no stress from looking for the right place and waiting for a table.”  It was the best decision of the day.  Dave and I had the pasta buffet (He supported me by eating pre-spectating carbs) and the boys ate burgers and fries.

Dinner did cure my nausea so I think I was just hungry, but my head was still pounding.  I took the boys to the pool and watched them splash and giggle.  An hour later, we headed back to our room.  It was close to 9:30 and I had just enough time to get my gear organized before hitting the pillow.

By 10:00, I had taken 2 Tylenol, crawled into bed and feel asleep instantly.   In less than 12 hours, I would be around Mile 16.

Tomorrow’s post: The Marathon.

Giving Back

In Chicago, I was absolutely wowed by the number of volunteers at the marathon.  Every few kilometres had an aid station that was two blocks long.  When I read this ahead of time, I imagined that Chicago simply had short city blocks; I expected two tables of water and, then, two tables of Gatorade manned by a small crew of volunteers.  I was completely wrong!  The first block had table after table of Gatorade – on both sides of the road – and dozens of volunteers.  The second block had table after table of water – again on both sides of the road and, again, manned by dozens of volunteers.  I imagined that the size of the stations and number of volunteers would decrease as the course progressed but they did not; Chicago knows how to look after its runners.

One of the things that I love about teaching is it indirectly allows me to give back to the running community.  IMG_2035In the fall, I coach cross-country with 3 other teachers; this year, we fielded a team of almost 300 students.  In the spring, I coach track and field.  There is nothing I love more than watching kids set goals, whether it is to build fitness or aspire to be the best, and push themselves to achieve them.

As a parent, I also get involved with my sons’ activities.  Sure, there are several other things that I could be doing with my time.   But when the soccer club sent a mass email in the summer looking for coaches for both sons’ teams, how could I say no?  I was going to be there anyway, I know soccer and I am quite comfortably handling a group of boys.   soccer balls The Littlest Dude was quite happy to have Mom as Coach; the Oldest Dude said “No way!”

This Saturday morning, for the first time ever, I found myself giving back to one son’s choir and, then, their soccer club.  When I told my oldest that I was going to drive him to his choir rehearsal rather than have him take the bus, he didn’t refuse (he actually likes to take the bus) but looked puzzled.   “I’m measuring the boys for their uniforms,” I said.

“Why are you doing that?” he asked.

“When money was raised for uniforms in the spring, I told Dave (his choir director) that I’d help out.  It is an easy way for me to contribute to the choir.”

AFGM - Linbrook
Choir rehearsal for A Few Good Men on Saturday morning.

I expected him to groan as he doesn’t like me around him at choir (or soccer); the oldest dude prefers to do things on his own and have me somewhere in the background.   This time, though, he approved with a simple “Okay” and we headed to his rehearsal together on Saturday morning.  I measured almost 50 boys, guessed how much they would grow over the next year, and laughed when every single one of them looked for a place to hang his sweater rather than toss it on the floor for a few minutes.  Gotta love choir boys!

We left at 12:30, which gave me an hour to pick up the Littlest Dude and get him to our soccer game.  I have 11 ten year olds on my team and they are a lot of fun to work with.  Over the past month, I watched them develop from a group of good players to a solid team.  We are almost half-way through the season and I am crossing my fingers that I can keep them on the streak that they are on right now.

Last night, I went to be tired – really tired – from a busy Saturday.  But it was a good kind of tired, the result of volunteering and doing what I can to give back to my community.

Timing Isn’t Everything

LVA uniform circleThe past few months of training for Chicago has been a personal journey.    It hasn’t been about gaining bragging rights for finishing one of the world’s biggest marathons, nor has it been about chasing a BQ.   For me, The Chicago Marathon has about mental health, my mental health.

When I registered for Chicago, I saw it as an escape from the previous twelve months:  moving my parents into nursing care and closing the family home, watching my mother progress into the later stages of Alzheimer’s as my dad underwent rounds of chemotherapy; dealing with my own injury that resulted in a leave of absence for weeks;  facing the inevitable in the early spring.  In fact, I entered the lottery for Chicago after my dad passed as I knew that I would need the distraction of training over the summer.   At the end of May, after barely catching our collective breath, my brothers and I buried my mother just seven weeks after my dad.   I made it to the end of the school year knowing that I had something to look forward to: a summer of marathon training.

Going to Chicago has been about me – my recovery.  It has given me the focus I needed – pardon the pun – to get my feet back on the ground.  my teamThrough training, I have had to rebuild my fitness and my running mates have been instrumental in helping me do that.  I watched my mileage climb further than I thought it ever would, found some speed that I had forgotten about and, through regular yoga workouts, rediscovered my abs.  At the same time, I’ve spent the summer resting and catching up on months of lost sleep.  I’ve hung out with my boys and watched their interest in my marathon grow.   I’ve asked my husband for running advice (gasp!).

Today at lunch,  a co-worker asked me what time I’m hoping to run in Chicago.  “I don’t really have one,” I replied.  Her jaw dropped.  “You?” she asked.  “I don’t believe you.”

“I haven’t done much speed work; I’ve really only focused on building distance.  All of my long runs have been around 5 minute kilometres.  But I’m not really worried about time.  I mean, I think I’ll run around 3:30, maybe 3:45.”  She raised her eyebrows again. “I don’t really know, but I’m feeling strong,” I told her.  “Really strong.  I’m feeling fit.  I’m healthy again.”

And she added, “Cynthia, you’re smiling again.  You’ve got that twinkle in your eye back.”

Yup, I do.  And I am ready to take it to Chicago.

 

 

 

 

What Was I Thinking?

As much as I love the marathon distance, I have never really entertained running a fall marathon.   I have a classroom to set up, students to get to know, marking and assessments to complete, an open house, progress reports, cross-country coaching – and I also have the task of getting my own two boys back into their routines.  In the fall, my family, teaching and running lives collide; building mileage towards a marathon has never been in the cards.

getting back at it.
Starting to think about running a little more seriously at the end of March.

Until this year.  I really don’t know what I was thinking back in April when I registered for the Chicago Marathon.  I really must have been going through a period of insanity.  At the beginning of April, I was just getting back to working out again and, at that point, I was only running two or three times a week (if that); my weekly mileage was barely at 20k.   Breaking my jaw in the winter meant that I was missing out on the spring marathon season and I was bitter about that. I needed to fill that void.   My dad had passed shortly after Easter, my mom wasn’t well and I needed something to focus on – something positive and something for me.  Clearly, training for a marathon would fill my time even if my plan was simply to just finish.  Training for Chicago was about to consume me.

Before that final click to registering, I did think about the September start-up.  “You’ll be fine,” I told myself.  “You’re an experienced teacher.  You know what you’re doing.” Clearly, I was delusional as I clicked “submit”.  Then, I started dreaming about chasing ponytails and distance goals and it wasn’t long before I was focussed on rebuilding mileage and fitness.  If the first half of 2015 was a test of my inner strength, the summer was a test of my physical.  By the end of August, I had caught those goals.

And, then, last week happened: back to school.  Suddenly, late nights were filled with laundry and planning lessons while early mornings became even earlier with drop-offs at two different schools before I arrived at my own.  And, somehow, I had also planned to make last week my second highest mileage week before heading to Chicago – second highest, over 90 kilometres of running during the first week of the school year.  What was I thinking?

labour day
Monday: my double-run day.

But I got it done.  By planning 8 runs over 7 days, which included a double-run day on the holiday, a late night run and a very early morning jog, I was able to reach the weekly distance I wanted: 93K done!

Am I tired?  Yes,  I am justifiably exhausted.  Running is going well, school is great, my kids are happy and my house is a mess to prove it.   But I am feeling like a rock star.

This afternoon, after my 93K week, I suddenly started to feel really tired, more like a rock star who had partied way too much on the weekend.  Monday morning is going to hurt.  And, once again, I am asking myself “What was I thinking?”

 

 

 

It Takes a Village To Raise a Marathoner: Part 1

There have been several key players – runners and non-runners – behind me during my training cycle but it has been my family (Dave, The Oldest Dude and The Littlest Dude) who have been behind me every step of the way.  Recently, they have been beside me too.

I didn’t truly recognize the support that the boys were giving me until the past week.  Since it was the last week of summer vacation, or the week before school starts, I had been at school every day to get my classroom ready.  As bad timing had it, my husband decided to go away for a few days to Northern Ontario.  While I admittedly enjoyed being able to hog the bed and sleep diagonally each night, I was a little stressed about having the boys on my own while getting things set up for school.   The combination of busy days, a working teen, a heat alert, an absent husband and the beginning of the last build-up towards the Chicago Marathon were bound to end in disaster.

Each night, I was able to run as planned.   The oldest dude planned for a night at home on Tuesday so that I could get to a workout with my club.  On Wednesday, The Littlest Dude rode his bike with me when I ran.  Thursday was a write-off, but I simply bumped that run to Friday.  I went out on my own early on Saturday morning and ran a disappointing 16K; the heat got to me…again.   That afternoon, with all three boys in the house, it was time for the “talk.”

16 mile fence
What a poser! Taking a break from another hot weather (37C) run.

“Look,” I said, “I have 5 more weeks.  School starts next week.  I’m already tired.  I need help around the house and I need a bit of support with my running.  It’s hot – too hot.  Some days, I need one of you to ride with me.”

They understood and it immediately showed.  The next day, I headed out into the trails for a late afternoon run, with the humidex hovering around 37C.  The oldest dude met me half-way with water and Gatorade, and he managed to take some pictures of me running.

labour day
Two hot runs with a yoga class in the middle.

Yesterday, I had two shorter runs planned with a yoga class in the middle.  When I was about to head out the door for my second run of the day, The Littlest Dude called out, “Wait!  How far are you going?  Can I come with you?”   He strapped on his helmet and stuffed my phone in his pocket.  Half way through, we stopped so he could take pictures; using my phone has become a real treat for him.

It was my husband’s turn to shine today.   I got home from school and discovered that he had done some dusting – the first of the three jobs he has for the week.  After I have been doing all of the cleaning for the past two months, it was a relief to have someone else take over part of it.

From the beginning of my training for Chicago, I knew that the start of the school year while finishing my marathon build-up was going to be a challenge.   Today, I have finished Week 1 of the three most difficult weeks.  Everyone at home is doing what they can to take away some of the day to day tasks and keep me running.  All I need to do it keep chasing my dreams.

 

 

 

 

Will it be Plan A, B or C?

ABC
Following the ABC’s at Climbers Rock in the winter.

We’ve all had it, a busy day when you plan to run or work out and – bam! – something gets in the way.  When this happens to me, I end up feeling anxious because I have missed something important, well, something that is important to me.

In the past year, I’ve learned to have a back up plan for those days when life gets hectic.  And let’s face it: with two boys and a full-time job, life is bound to get in the way of things that I want to do.   Plan B might be something as simple as running later in the evening rather than right after work, but having it helps me make sure that I get my mileage in.

Over the past few days, we have had some “irregularities” at home.  The Littlest Dude did some television extra work in Toronto and I did some background work on overnight shoots on Thursday and Friday.   It’s fun and different but, the overnights it messed around with our routines.  When I accepted the jobs, I was a tad worried that my training for Chicago would suffer, but I also had the peace of mind that this is a recovery week for me so my mileage is a bit lower.  On Wednesday, when The Littlest Dude worked, Plan A was to run when I got home; Plan B was to not fret it because it is a recovery week anyway.  When we got home after 9:00, Plan B came into effect.

Planning my weekend runs around the two overnight shoots, though, was stressful.  Normally, I have a long tempo run on Saturday, followed by a solid recovery run on Sunday.  But knowing that I was going to get home from filming around 6:00 a.m., I wasn’t exactly sure how to fit it in?  Plan A: If I have the energy (and sometimes I do), run long when I get home.  Plan B: If I need to sleep, run in the late afternoon.   It seemed simple enough until the short term forecast was out: 25C, feels like 30C, on Saturday afternoon.

Plan A seemed crazy but Plan B suddenly became plain stupid due to the problems I’ve been having with running in the heat.  To complicate things, I volunteered to lead a training group run for the Oakville Half-Marathon tomorrow morning so I had to get my distance in today.  “Six weeks to Chicago.  Six weeks to Chicago.  You’re almost there,” kept going through my head.  I couldn’t just skip my long run.

While on the set last night, and after bouncing text messages back and forth with my husband, I came up with something new: add a Plan C.   I could run shorter in the afternoon and do my long run on Sunday morning, with the bulk of my mileage before the group training.  Suddenly the stress of uncertainty was gone.  I had a Plan A (a possibility), Plan B (best scenario), and Plan C (not ideal but got the job done).

This morning at 6:05, I put my head on the pillow and closed my eyes knowing that I had two options left.  I woke up at noon and realized it was going to be a hot afternoon.  Plan C made the most sense; having that Plan C completely removed the stress of not running long today.

Don’t you love it when a plan comes together.

Time to Refocus

I don’t know why I love training for the marathon distance.  I’ve always been one to take on a challenge, as long as it’s reasonable; training for the 26.2 miles, for me, is reasonable.  It lets me do a lot of something that I really enjoy.  In fact, training for a marathon brings out that addictive side of my personality, the side that lets me eat, sleep and dream running for months.  And it gives me a fantastic excuse to get out of the house and away from the dudes for an hour or two – or three.  This summer, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve said “I have to go for a run”  and the boys just nod and smile.

Last week, something different happened.  My mileage increased, I felt the typical aches and pains and, without warning, I didn’t want to run.  Shocking.  It wasn’t so much that I did not want to run but I was afraid to run.  Whether it has been my asthma reacting to the muggy weather, a bit of dehydration or both,  I have had a few runs which just have not gone the way I wanted them to.  On Thursday morning, I woke up and just didn’t feel like going to my Lions Valley Athletics practice that night; I felt like that would just be setting myself up for failure.

My reasons were simple.  I didn’t want to run in the heat; I was tired of it.  Nor did I want to push myself through a tempo in the heat, especially after ending a hot run a few kilometres early the night before.  I had had it with feeling sick at the end of a workout.  And I didn’t want to run with the guys and finish last – again.  I needed to run on my own – no pressure.  So I skipped practice.

My oldest had nothing planned that night and he offered to ride his bike with me in the last part of my run.  So I headed out in the early evening and ran 11K on my own.  When The Dude met me, he was ready with Gatorade and water.  I only needed a bit of Gatorade; it was his company – silent but supportive – for the last 5 kilometres that lit a spark back under my feet.

Upper Middle bridgeHe rode ahead most of the time, only stopping to take a few pictures.    As I followed him, I found myself feeling like a runner again.  I felt strong, I felt fast, and I was happy.  And somewhere along the last 5K of my run, I found my confidence again.

Although I still don’t know exactly what it was, I needed to prove something to myself.   Looking back, those 16 kilometres were a turning point in my marathon training.  They made me realize that my training is going well, I’m stronger than I think, and I was indeed ready for a long tempo run on Saturday morning.

More importantly, though, it made me realize that I have the support of my family while I chase my Chicago dream.  My boys aren’t just giving me the smile and nod when I tell them “I have to go for a run.”  They get it.  They have seen the time, sweat, dehydration, aches and all the challenges that come with marathon training.  But they have also seen how important this goal is to me and my drive that has gone into reaching it.   Now that I see that, I have different kind of energy and a new focus to carry me through the last 7 weeks of my training.

#Chasingmydreams while #ontheroadtochicago.

 

 

The Daily Double

One of the joys of marathon training is watching your weekly mileage grow and grow and grow.   There comes a point, though, when my body can only handle so much, when I start to feel aches and pains and worry about the potential for injury.  For me, the magic number is 45 miles per week; as I get closer to and above 50 weekly miles, my body feels like it is starting to break.

A few years ago, my coach and I worked around my aches and pains by adding a few shorter runs to my week when I was in the late stages of the marathon cycle.  This meant that once or twice a week, I would run in the morning for 20 to 30 minutes and, again, for my usual evening run.  This let me add 3 to 6 miles to my weekly total without any extra stress – and it let me get use to the idea of running on tired legs.   That year, I was able to reach 60 miles a week (twice).

double run
My morning started with a run under blue skies. I loved the way the trees seemed to form a bridge over the evening clouds.

 

Last Wednesday was my first double run in my Chicago prep.  In the morning, I ran an easy 5k when the sun was high.   As I started, I was quickly reminded how tired my feet feel when they have less than 12 hours of rest.  This forced me to run at an easier pace and work on my form.  I thought about stretching my stride and how to land.  By the end of the third kilometre, I felt that I had my rhythm back and ended my run feeling much more comfortable than when I left.   In the evening, Monica and I hit the trails for another easy run.  We finished 11K later, leaving me with a daily total of 16K.

This Wednesday, I looked forward to my double run.  After a morning physio appointment, I ran a comfortable 5K and diligently did my calf exercises.   stretchRather than do my heel drops inside on the stairs, this Canadian running mama grabbed one of the boy’s hockey stick for support.  Standing on the curb, I slowly lowered my heels and raised them to stretch out the muscles in my lower legs.  Like last week, I felt great when I finished my morning workout.

double run2
After Run #2, finishing with a humidex in the mid-30’s.

I headed out for my second run in the late afternoon which, due to family commitments, was the only time I was able to run.  I felt fine when I started but when I got to 5K, I was starting to have trouble breathing.  By 6K, every step was effort; soon after,  I realized that I was overheating so I turned towards home.  By 7K, I called it a day.  My breathing was completely off as I was having trouble running for more than 2 or 3 minutes at a time.  Home I walked.

I checked the temperature when I got home and was not surprised to see that the humidex had it at 35C.  Finishing my run when I did was a smart decision, but it angered me that I didn’t hit my mileage goal.   One side of me told me to let it go; the other told me that I had to make it up before the end of the week.

The only thing that I was certain of is my need to drink more water.  Between the hot yoga classes and the runs in humid conditions, I need to make more of an effort to drink more water and make sure that I am replacing electrolytes with Gatorade.

Walking away positively, I was glad that I still managed to run twice in one day, even if my second run didn’t go as planned.  Last year, when training for the Goodlife Marathon, I only had 2 weeks with double runs and I’m already at that point now.  With 7 weeks to go until the Chicago Marathon, I should be able to have a few more weeks to play this “daily double” game.  And if things go well, I might even try it twice in one week.

Battling Mother Nature

My training with Lions Valley Athletics fits in perfectly with my work schedule.  We meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:00, which gives me enough time to stay after school to get some solid marking done or head home to make sure the boys’ homework is done.

In the summer, though, it’s a different story.  I’m off work so I really prefer to run early, get it out of the way and have the rest of the day with the family.  There are many days, though, when training with the club gives me something to look forward to – an opportunity to escape the nonsense and noise that 9 and 14 year old boys can bring into my life.  Getting out with the club also makes sure that I am pushing myself more than I do when I’m on my own.

Tuesday afternoon, I found myself staring out the window, longing to run.  It was warm and sunny, the rain had already passed through, and rush hour traffic hadn’t quite started.  I almost got changed into my gear but, instead, sighed on the couch with a book in hand.  “I need to run with the guys tonight,” I told myself.  “I need the hill workout.”  I knew which hill we were going to use too; I didn’t want it, but I knew it would be good for me.

Just after 6:00, three of us left the Rec Centre to meet our coach in the valley.  Barely 10 minutes into our warm-up, the skies opened.   Within minutes, we were in the middle of a deluge.  Buckets of water were dumped on us, making it impossible to see where we were putting our feet.  Our clothes were soaked through, and I felt the weight of the water start to pull down my running skirt.  By the time we got to the bottom of the valley, we could hardly see our coach waiting for us in his car.   He got out and took us under a dry shelter to tell us what the workout would be.

“Um, I’m okay not doing hills today.  I’m happy to just keep running home.”  My training partners, Darryl and David, agreed.  Coach didn’t try to convince us otherwise; hills in that rain would have been a challenge and, possibly, dangerous.  He left and the three of us continued to run.

Once we got into the trails, we headed into a new adventure.  The rain was letting up but the rain and run-off from the hills left huge puddles, covering the entire width of the trail and longer than our height.  We had no choice but to try to jump over them (and I write “try” as  we often ended up landing in them) or run through them.  Our feet were already soaked  so it really didn’t matter which way we went.  Once we got to higher ground, the sun was out and there were fewer, smaller puddles to navigate but, at that point, we were carrying a few extra pounds of water in each shoe; my legs were tired.

When the rain stopped, we felt our pace drop.  The battle against Mother Nature was over; there was no more adrenaline to push us through our run.   By the time we got back to the roads, the sun was out and the sidewalks were nearly dry.  I tried to wring out some of the water clinging to my running skirt and we climbed one more long, gradual hill on the return back to the Rec Centre.

Deluge
One soaking wet running skirt but fairly clean legs, all things considered. If only you saw what ended up inside my shoes.

As I left the guys and turned down a side street, I started to hear it.  “Squeak, squeak.”  A lady walking ahead turned back to look.   “Squeak, squeak.”  My shoes!  They were so wet that they were squeaking all the way home.   As drenched as I was, there was very little dirt on me; it was well hidden in my clothes and the rain took care of any other dirt by washing it down and into my shoes.   Thank goodness because I don’t think I would have been allowed in the house if I were still covered in it.

While getting caught in rain like that can be a nuisance, it is actually a lot of fun.  The unexpected element brings a new kind of challenge and it gives us a break from the predictability of a planned run or a workout.  Both physically and mentally, it was one of the toughest workouts we’ve ever done.  And if I end up getting rained on in Chicago, because anything can happen in October, I know that I can handle it.

The Drying Rack
Multi-purpose sports equipment: the next day, our hockey net became a drying rack for my still soaked running shoes.