Cheers for Volunteers

The running community is surrounded by volunteers.  We work with coaches, depend on race marshalls to keep us safe, and look for those handing out water and Gatorade and blankets to keep us warm when we finish racing.  A lot of race directors and their teams are often volunteers.  But the one group that we tend to forget about are the First Aid Responders.

Before I write any more, I should make it clear that some organizations are crewed by paid responders, but many are not.   What is the difference between them?  Basically, none.  They are all trained and kept up to date through practical sessions.  But an event will often go to a less expensive organization first and any payment goes directly into that medical organization to cover its operating costs such as medical equipment and vehicles; since the responders are not earning income, there is more money to put towards those costs.

We need to remember that First Aid Responders are there because they want to be.   It may not their job, and they probably are not being paid, but they are passionate about what they are doing: being there for you if you need help and looking after you if you get hurt.  So when you are handing out thank you’s at your next race, remember to wave to the bike patrol, or stop at the truck or medical tent.  We all know that a thank you goes a long way.  You might just make someone’s day.

Coming Out Of My Comfort Zone

Last week, the clocks finally moved forward.  I had been looking forward to daylight savings time for weeks for no reason other than I don’t enjoy running at night.  It is too hard to see where my feet are landing.  Add snow and ice, and I need that much more will power and stubbornness to get out the door.  Despite a winter that had all of the above, I somehow managed to keep my road mileage up.  My speedwork, though, was non-existent.  Anyone who knows me at all will agree that speed work in the dark/snow/slippery conditions is just a recipe for disaster.

So when the clocks moved ahead, I was happy to have an extra hour of daylight during my “happy” hour.  And I have actually been excited about turning up my training a notch with the addition of speed work.  The only problem is speed work scares me.

Solemate Monica
Solemate Kelly-Lynne

I’ve never been great at the fast stuff.  When I was in high school, I was unable to earn a spot on the track team but our coach handed me the 1500m, the race that nobody wanted to do; I finished last.  At university, a friend tried to convince me again and again to run cross country with her but memories of being the slowest on the track haunted me.  By the time I started running distance in my late 20’s, I was happy to run on the roads at my own happy pace; if I wanted to do a speedier workout, I just ran faster.  And I continued to run and train like that for years – actually, decades – until I started to run with Toronto Olympic Club a few years ago.  It wasn’t soon before tempo, intervals, broken miles, and ladders all became a part of my weekly vocabulary.   But, I am still slower than everybody else, partly due to my running history and partly due to the fact that my training partners weren’t even born when I graduated from high school.  So, speed work scares me.

Last week, Coach sent me my first workouts of 2018.  I had weeks to mentally prepare for this week (After all, we all knew that spring would eventually come, didn’t we?)  but I was still anxious.  How much would I be able to push myself?  How much would it hurt?  Most of all, though, I worried about what the numbers on my watch would show.  How slow am I? Really?

On Tuesday night, I parked my emotions and headed to the track.  Done.  On Friday afternoon, I headed out the door for my second workout of the week, pushing myself up hills and into the wind  for some quick intervals.   Mission accomplished: two workouts on Week #1.  And I surprised myself; I wasn’t as slow as I expected.

Out of his comfort zone. There is no going back now.

As I cooled down on the way home, I thought of my youngest who crossed his own barrier last week.  After a winter of snowboarding at Glen Eden, he finally got off the bunny hills and used the chairlift.  I booked a lesson for him and up he went – no friends, no family, just him and an instructor whom he had just met.  I told him on the way home that I was  proud of him.  “When you do something that scares you, something that is going to make you better,  and it doesn’t matter what that is, you’re growing.”

Cooling down, I realized that the addition of a few workouts to my running was doing the same thing.   Sure, they are intended to help me get stronger and faster,  but they are also forcing me to come out of my comfort zone and helping me to grow not only as a runner, but as an individual.

It’s easy to turn away from something that you don’t like; it’s hard to do something that you don’t.    And when you do something that scares you, you can only grow faster.

 

 

 

 

Keeping Ticks Away

Tick Repellants – Chemical and Natural

While ticks have been common in southern climates, they are still fairly new to those of us in Ontario.  I’ve always been a bit worried about them but, until this year, ticks simply haven’t been a huge problem.  At the beginning of March, that changed.

One night I was playing with Zeda and noticed something on her head.  It was like a giant disgusting pimple that wiggled back and forth when I touched it; I just wanted to squeeze it but I thought I would end up with blood everywhere.  Then I imagined some tiny creature with appendages everywhere slowly crawling out and I screamed for my husband.

“Dave, there is something gross on Zeda’s head!  I don’t know what it is but she needs to see a vet tomorrow!”

Dave didn’t even look.  He simply trusted my panicked tone and took her in the next morning.  To our surprise, Zeda won the first tick of the year award, a fully engorged tick – at the beginning of March, in Ontario.  This was unheard of.  Now it was an unseasonably warm winter but even our vet was surprised.  He removed the tick, bagged it to send it away for testing, and gave us Zeda’s tick meds.  I knew that we would have to do something more to be proactive about preventing ticks this summer.

My boys are old enough that they can handle manufactured sprays which contain Deet, but those contain chemicals.  My oldest, who is often on the soccer field at night, complains that everyone pulls out bug spray after dark; he can see a haze over the soccer field and it is hard to breathe.  So, once in a while, something like Muskoil is okay, but I thought it wise to try a bug/tick spray that was more natural.

So I went back to Dr. Google, who gave me a recipe for a natural repellent last summer.  All I could remember was it had water, vinegar and essential oils.  After some searching, I found it and started concocting what my boys call “Mom’s Witches’ Brew.”  All I have to do is mix up the following ingredients in a bottle.

Mom’s Witches Brew:

2 cups of vinegar (Yes, this sounds like a lot but the scents from the Essential Oils cover the smell of vinegar.)

  1 cup of water

Secret Ingredients: DoTerra’s Essential Oils

Essential Oils (I use DoTerra brand): 10-15 drops of Peppermint, 10-15 drops of Eucalyptus, 7-10 drops of Lavendar.  (There are other EO’s that are recommended, such as Lemongrass and Geranium, and I am going to try those in my next batch.)

I make a new mixture every two weeks and keep it in a spray bottle.  Zeda gets sprayed every morning (this is in addition to her monthly tick meds), I spray my shoes when I head out for a run and everywhere else if I am heading into the trails.   Even my boys don’t complain, but if left to their own devices (like on a recent school overnight trip in a wooded area), they prefer Muskoil.

This is really quick and easy to make.  I may get laughed at by the men-folk at home when I brew my magic potion, but it is doing its job of keeping us safe.

 

 

 

 

Race Report: Canada Day 5K

Canada Day 5KMy last minute registration for the vrPro Canada Day 5K sums up my whole year: busy!  I forced myself to take a break from running over the winter, which ended up being 8 weeks instead of two, and re-building my mileage has gone slower than I expected.  Throw in a hectic work schedule and life with boys, and it has been difficult to find time to train the way I want, let alone race.  I have spent the past 5 weeks looking forward to increasing my training to the next level, writing about my running thoughts that are percolating, and start racing.  Last week, after receiving the umpteenth email reminding me that online registration closes on Wednesday at 6:00, I looked at my watch and said, “It’s 5:40.  I still have time.”  Yes, the time was right so I registered.  Easy as that.

I needed to throw myself back into the racing scene without putting much pressure on myself.   The Canada Day 5K fit the bill.  It was a low-key event on a quiet holiday, close to home and I have a history of running well there.  Then, on Thursday night, I learned that there were 600 runners registered; suddenly it wasn’t a small event anymore.

On Friday morning, the oldest dude played “the good son card” and dragged his almost 16 year old behind out of bed to cheer me on at the race.  (And, yes, he earned big brownie points as Hubs and the 10 yo were still sound asleep when we left.)  I was nervous; my stomach was a mess and I wasn’t sure how I should pace myself, other than as fast as I can.  I was glad to have my son’s calm presence, even if it was tired calm presence.  We got to Burlington before 7:30, I got my bib and shirt, and ran into my friend, Beth, who is a significantly stronger runner.

Canada Day 5K winnersBy the time we were toeing the line, I realized that there were many other fast runners and a very competitive Masters group.  In fact, I noticed more greying masters at the front of the line than I did sub-masters.  I started to play with numbers. “Sub-22,” I told myself. “Go out at 4:20, you can do this.”  I had my eye on Beth, who would run sub-20, two other women who were in my time range, and a handful of men whom I could pace off of.

The out and back course had everything from concrete, to stone and to sand.  Within the first 5 minutes, the clouds opened and that meant we were running through wet sand between 2k and 3k.  I don’t know how much it slowed me down, but it definitely did.  Beth was out of sight before I hit 2K, I passed the women I was worried about by the 2K mark, and I’m not sure what happened to the men that I was following for a while; suddenly, they were – poof! – out of sight.  In the last 2K, I chased two kids – around 12 years old, I think.  After I passed one, I kept encouraging the second so that he wouldn’t slow down and I had someone to follow. Canada Day 5K finish In the last 200 metres, I was quickly reminded that kids are able to turn into the extra gear much more easily than I can; he jumped forward and finished about 15 seconds ahead of me.

Canada Day 5K prizingBut I was happy with my time.  I was the 7th female (and Beth was first female!) and 1st in my age group (50-54).  I wanted sub 22 and I got it – 21:24.  And I won a sportswatch, which I was ready to give to my son until I saw it was pink.  Sorry, kiddo!

I’m glad that I got this race out of the way.  I got an accurate test of my fitness level, finished ahead of a few women whom I was sure would beat me, and a time that was exactly where I wanted to be.  This has given me the confidence boost that I need and has already made it easier to set some running goals for the summer and move me into the fall.

The Challenge of Change

Like most kids, my 9 year old is often keen to try something new.  But he also loses interest very quickly.   If I am lucky enough that he does stay interested, it is usually due to sameness of the activity – whether it be the structure of the same day and time, the routines surrounding it, or the “no surprise” approach.

Last week, after we started riding our bikes in the mornings, I completely expected him to be bored within days.  He isn’t.  Without even thinking about it, I have managed build consistency around our cycling and that has kept him motivated.   We ride in the morning; he picks the route; we always plan to add a bit more distance each time.  Consistency.

This week, I have been trying desperately to get him to do something different.  “Let’s ride north this time,” I suggested.  “Nope, I’m good,” he replied. “I’ve got a route planned.”  And he did – the same route as the one before but a little bit longer.  Last night, I almost tasted a mommy victory when I got him to ride with me while I headed out with my running club, somewhere different and farther.  At first, everything seemed fine but, once he realized it wasn’t just me he’d be riding with, he walked away.

Tonight, I changed my approach.  I gave him incentive.  “I’m going for a run into the trails and I need you to come with me.  I want to take some pictures in Sixteen Mile Creek so I need you to carry my phone.  That’s right.  I told my kid that he could carry my phone around with him – on his bike.  The coolness factor overpowered him.  “Wait, can I watch the end of this show?  It’s only 13 more minutes.”  Sold!  I had a cycling photographer.

Sixteen Mile Creek - bottom hillKnowing that he prefers trails to roads, we started on a gravel path for the first 2K.  Sure enough, within those first 2K, he was bored.  But as soon as we got into the trail system, the adventure began.  We had the challenge of hills, the beauty of green space, and the excitement of being alone to pull us deeper and deeper into the system.   When one hill became too difficult to ride, I walked up his bike while he found places to climb and take pictures, pictures that I didn’t really need other than to make his presence feel valued.  Four kilometres into the our ride/run, we decided to take a slightly longer route as it would be less hilly and an easier ride home.

It wasn’t long before we realized we were lost, and another adventure began.   We worked our way out of the trail system and navigated back to familiar streets.  Again, he pulled out my phone to take pictures.  This time, he tried his hand at action shots.

Postmaster RunWhen we got home, he asked if he could ride with me again.  He has goals: to ride downhill, to ride part of the way up the big hill, and to learn to take some cool pictures.  To me, that sounds like time well spent together.