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.

 

 

Racing the Storm

One of Canada’s Olympians, Reid Coolsaet, recently tweeted “When I look back at my career, I doubt I raced to my potential but hammered out my recovery runs, said No.One.Ever.”  I couldn’t help but laugh.  Over the years, I have often been reminded by running partners, husband and coach that I am not suppose to push myself on recovery days. “They are about building base mileage,” my coach reminds me.  “The workouts are to build speed; take it easy on the other days. ”  While I am getting better and slowing down the pace when I need to, there are times when I get carried away with my thoughts and forget; my legs take off and the rest of me follows.

With ten weeks to go until Chicago and steadily increasing mileage, I was glad to have an easy 12K planned today.   So that I could sleep in a bit (I had to pick up the teenage dude from work at 2:00 a.m. so a morning run was not favoured), I decided to run in the late afternoon even though it meant running in high temperatures.   Like most runners, I stalked The Weather Network all day, hoping for a change in the forecast.  Nothing.  Even the rain and storms were consistently predicted to arrive after 8:00 p.m.

storm front of house
Storm clouds quickly rolling in. Later, I learned that a tornado had touched down about 50km (30 miles) north of us.

Just after 4:30, I headed out.  “Oh, my legs are tired,” I thought to myself as I started.  “Keep it slow.  Keep it easy.  All you’re doing is logging miles.”  I could feel the wind picking up and it wasn’t long before I realized that I was going to have to run into some gusts for part of the run.   About halfway through, while impatiently waiting for a street light to change, I saw them.  Just northeast of the town, the skies were black and I could see the clouds were getting closer to home.

The storm wasn’t going to hit us until evening but I found my thoughts turning to lightning protocol:

1. When you hear thunder, seek shelter.   I had my ears open.  There were lots of places to turn to: the stores, the soccer club, friends’ homes.  Check.

2. If there is lightning, crouch close to the ground.  Curl up in a ball to make yourself as small as possible.  Do not lie flat.   Check.

3. If you are with a group of people, spread out.  I’m alone.  No problem here.

4. Stay away from metal objects.  Check.

As I ran, my head kept turning towards the clouds watching them get darker and move closer and closer.   I worried about my husband, out on a bike ride, and wondered if he was caught in the middle of the rain and needed to be picked up.  And I thought about my boys at home, who were probably completely oblivious to what was going on outside.

Sure enough, despite the darkening skies, the dudes had no idea that a storm was on its way.  Hubby was obviously fine as he hadn’t called.  Me?  I beat the rain home by about 10 minutes but, without even realizing it, I broke the rules for my recovery run.  My watch made it clear; my pace was faster than it needed to be.   The miles seemed easy today but, tomorrow, I am pretty sure that I am going to regret them.storm back of house

Then again, tomorrow is my rest day.  I bet I can hammer out some solid rest.

 

 

Knowing When to Say When

When I registered for the Chicago Marathon, I had forgotten how hard it can be to train through the summer heat.   Well, I didn’t entirely forget but I shrugged it off, thinking that this would be a typical summer with empty promises of hot weather.

Let’s keep in mind that this is Canadian hot – so nothing near the hot, dry heat that is felt through many parts of the United States and other parts of the world.  In Southern Ontario, I have to get up by 6:30 so that I can run in cooler temperatures, not at 4:30 like my Floridian friends.  But it’s all relative.

This past week, we had the first real heat wave that we have had in two summers.  23252-sunglasssunOn most days, temperatures were around 32 degrees (about 90F) but, when you added the humidity, it felt like 38C (about 100F).  What exactly does that mean?  At my hot yoga class on Monday night, they turned off the heat, closed the curtains to keep the sun out and we still walked away drenched; even then, it was hotter outside than it was inside.

Training-wise, the heat took its toll on me.  I ran my long run on Sunday and went through two bottles of Gatorade and lots of water in the 6 hours that followed; that was a personal record.  On Monday, I went to hot yoga at Power Yoga Canada; I trained with Lions Valley Athletics on Tuesday night, another sweat drencher.  On Wednesday night, due to family commitments, I kept my run short – 8K in feels like 35C heat.  By Thursday, I was done.

I had had it with the heat.  It, quite simply, had tired me out.   My feet were slightly swollen and I wasn’t sleeping well at night.  On Thursday, when the Littlest Dude asked if we could spend the whole day together, which meant no running for me,  I knew it was time to take a day off.  I needed the physical break but, more importantly, my son needed me.

Of course, I stressed over this.  I knew that the day off alone wouldn’t matter in the big picture but I worried about the drop in my weekly mileage.   I started to calculate ways to make it up over the rest of the week.  “Do I need to drop mileage next week too?” I wondered.   And what about next week’s mileage?

“ENOUGH!  It doesn’t matter.  It is one lousy day.  And it is one day that, for whatever reason, the Littlest Dude wants to spend with you.”  My inner voice set me straight.

And, as the week is wrapping up, the day off didn’t matter.  I ran yesterday and today, as planned, and I will tomorrow.  What matters is the Littlest Dude and making sure that he realizes that I am there for him when he needs me.  And when I do head to Chicago, he will be there, looking out for me.

Tender Tootsies

Over the past few years, I have run 3 marathons.  It is no coincidence that, over that same time period, I have lost 3 big toenails.

While distance runners often do lose a toenail or two or three, my most tender tootsie is really a result Chase, my 90 pound lab cross.   Five years ago, just after getting home from a ten mile run, Chase ran to me and stepped on my right foot landing primarily, you guessed it, on my big right toe.  I cringed.  My feet were already sensitive from just finishing my run but my dog aggravated them further with his weight.  For the rest of the summer, I watched the toenail turn black, lift and, eventually, fall out.  It has never been the same.  Now, during every period of building mileage, I prepare to go through the same process, resulting in feet that just don’t sport a pedicure well.

Since the beginning of June, while training for the Chicago Marathon, I’ve watched my weekly mileage increase from 20 to 40 miles a week and that same toenail become more and more purple.  It isn’t the nail itself that is the problem; it is the blood blister underneath the nail.  As the blister grows, the tissue under the nail becomes motoenail July 13re swollen, the nail begins to lift and turn whiter and the toe becomes sore to touch.

Wearing compression socks helps relieve some of the discomfort but, tonight, I wanted a more aggressive solution.  Out came the vinegar.

After sterilizing a needle and while soaking my foot in a bucket of vinegar, I gently poked the needle under the nail so that the blister popped.  A tiny bit of blood oozed out.  I did it again; a bit more blood escaped.  After the third poke, nothing came out.  I think I drained it.  I let my foot soak a little more, dried it and covered it with polysporin.

It didn’t hurt.  Honestly.  And my toe already feels better; I’m not noticing that same pressure on it when I walk.  The real test will come tomorrow morning when I put on socks again.

Many of my friends sport lovely pedicures throughout the summer.  Sometimes I think that I should too.  That way, I don’t have to look at my mess of discoloured toenails.  But I also want to see what is going on with them from one week to the next.  More realistically, though, I want my feet to show off the miles that I’ve logged while on the road to Chicago.