The Power of Change

Last night, I was reminded by a close friend that I have been spending the past several months stepping out of my comfort zone in my running world.   Somehow running stagnated for me.  I was still running and enjoying it, but I wasn’t getting anywhere.  With the exception of a few close friends, I was running alone and my times were becoming stale.  I was racing relatively well, but I wanted to do better – and I needed to push myself more.  I needed to get out of my comfort zone.

With Olympian, Nate Brannen, at the B&O Yorkville 5K Canadian Championships.

The first real change I made was race the Canadian 5K Championships in the fall.  This is an elite event with many Canada’s fastest distance runners.  Toeing that line scared me and, as much as I wanted to be a part of that event,  I was afraid to enter.  As a masters runner, I just didn’t think I was good enough to be a part of it.  After eyeing the race for a few years, I finally swallowed my fear and applied for a bib, gulped when I was accepted and nervously pulled myself to the start line in September.  After finishing, I was so glad that I made that effort as I realized that it was one of the most prestigious races that I would ever do as I got the chance to race with 200 of Canada’s best runners.

Next, I did something that frightened me; I entered the Boston Marathon.  Five years ago, in 2012, my family and I drove to Boston, the year that temperatures were insanely hot.  Between the heat, worrying about being able to finish feeling well enough to drive back to Ontario to work the next day, and being pushed so hard by another runner that I ended up on all fours with gravel stuck in my palms, I decided to dnf – never an easy decision and especially at Boston.   Over the past five years, this race has became a bit of a monkey on my back and I had to get rid of it; I have to finish that race.  In September, I applied to run Boston 2017 and was accepted.  In eleven weeks, I will be back, ready for anything that can be thrown my way.

Third, I decided to try something new: this blog.  Many know that I have been blogging for years but, like my running, my blog was stagnating.  To put things in perspective, I lost the time that I use to be able to put into blogging as my boys are now older (and busier) and my teaching assignment has changed (also resulting in busier days).  But writing about running is something that I really enjoy and, if someone is reading about it, then writing becomes even better.  Somehow, I needed to make time to record my thoughts and I needed a fresh start.  So I bought my own domain and am still working at rebuilding my blog, but I am slowing finding more time to write and am loving it.

And, suddenly, I am excited about running again – truly excited and, like a junkie who just can’t get enough, I needed more.  I wanted one more change to light another spark.  So last week, I returned to my former club, Toronto Olympic Club, to train under its guidance.  I think it takes real courage to go back to something that you once walked away from and my return to TOC is no exception.  I left the club two years ago, on good terms, because it was simply too difficult for me to get to practices when I lived in a different city.  That distance still exists but I realize how important it is for me to have the coaching and encouragement to physically challenge myself.  For now, my coaching is primarily remote, but my heart still skips a beat every time I open my training log to double check my plan for the day, when I lace up, and when I sit down to record my run.  And, on Sunday, I was thrilled when I got to wear the club colours at the Robbie Burns race.

Last night, my friend helped me to see that these changes are not just helping me come out of my comfort zone, but they are helping me to believe in myself.  The two go hand and hand, and as one gets stronger, so will the other.   It’s 2017 and I am strong, I am focused and I believe in myself.  It’s going to be an amazing year.

 

 

 

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.