Running With the Girls

And by girls, I don’t mean daughters, friends or other women who run.  I am referring to the “girls”,  breasts, bosoms, or whatever anatomically correct or affectionate nickname you want to give them.

A few weeks ago, I was doing the “mom” thing: hanging out at the park with my friend, Susan, watching our boys run around with soccer balls.  For some reason, and I can’t ever imagine why (heehee),  our conversation turned to running.

“I wish I could run.  You’re so lucky,” she commented.  “It must be so nice to feel that freedom.”

Admittedly, I was surprised. Susan is a single mom of two boys who are involved with hockey, soccer and swimming.  When she is not working, she is often chauffeuring them from one activity to another and, when she isn’t, you can be sure that it is because she is cooking, cleaning, and looking after them at home.  I honestly didn’t think that she wasn’t interested in running or participating in other types of fitness for herself.  Until now, the subject never really came up.

“You can run,” I said.  “You just need to start slowly.  I can help you get started.”

“I can’t.  I need to find a bra that fits first.   It’s too painful to run.”

duct tape
Mangled, ripped and stained – and no supportive fabric.

Susan continued to describe one of her bras that she duct-taped together.  “Both sides were duct taped so the underwire would poke me.  Then the underwire started coming through the bottom.”  The struggle was real.

 

DSC_0388
Running Skirts Strappy Top

Fortunately, finding a sports bra is something I have never had to worry about.   I always wear Running Skirts strappy bra, which is comfortable, supportive and cute but, for my Double K friend, that just wouldn’t do.  I started to picture previous covers of magazines with running success stories, photos of larger women who have lost inches and dropped sizes after they started to run.   What did they wear?   I have read about some ladies who double-barrel to give them the support that they need.  We talked about designing a bra for her and finding a seamstress to make it.  I was determined to find a solution.  Someone must have an idea of what works.  That’s when I turned to social media.

 

One of the groups I reached out to was Another Mother Runner on Facebook.  I explained the problem my well-endowed friend was facing, and asked if they could reach out to their community.  After a few days, I had dozens of responses and it became clear that Susan was not alone.   Not only did we have a list of sports bras to select from, we had online sites  (Break out Bras, Her Room, Bare Necessities) with great customer service that Susan could turn to for more advice.

Today, Susan headed to the Inside Story , known for its amazing customer service, for a fitting and decide on a purchase.  She has narrowed it down to….

Freya freya bra

Panachepanache

Enellenell

 

 

As bad luck would have it, the store doesn’t carry any sports bra that fits – period.  The sales associate is going to do her best to find something that works.  We are also looking at shopping online, a little easier but still a very frustrating process.  The Juno bra by Moving Comfort, for example, was highly recommended for big-bosomed ladies, but we can’t find her size.   Hopefully, we’ll find something that does the trick and keeps the girls under wraps before the end of the summer and Susan can “feel the freedom” that she is wanting so desperately.

 

 

 

 

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.

Running from Asthma

puffer picOne day, while having a conversation with a gentleman, he questioned, “You run in the winter?  Don’t your lungs freeze?”

I shook my head and explained that it is okay to run in the winter.  “You just dress for it, that’s all.”  I left out what I wanted to tell him – that I have asthma.

For years, I wasn’t able to run in the winter because of my asthma.  I’d go out and, within 20 minutes, my chest would start to tighten.  Every time I stopped (because, living in the city, you have no choice but to stop at a traffic light), my chest would tighten and I’d start to cough.  Often, I’d be wheezing.  Yes, it was a struggle.  I hated it.  And I started to hate winter running.  So for a few months each year, I would turn to cross-training indoors (but not the dreaded treadmill).

Fast forward to life after pregnancy.  Both of my boys were born in the late fall and, like many new mamas, there were days when I just needed to get out.  We lived in Toronto, where I could escape to the gym and park my babe at its child care for an hour.  When we moved to Oakville,  I became a home workout warrior; all of my fitness started and ended in my basement.  This was fine until after I delivered my second child.  I needed to physically leave the house.  However, it was winter – and I couldn’t run in the winter.  My lungs wouldn’t let me – until I woke up one morning and said, “That’s it.  I’m going for a run.”

run over obstacles“Are you sure?” my husband asked.

“Yes!  I have my puffer.  I’ll take my time.  I’ll only be gone for 20 minutes.”  I pulled on my winter running gear that had been sitting in the closet for years and headed out the door.  “I can do this,” I told myself.  “I’ll be fine.”

And I was.  My run was slower but I didn’t care.  I was outside and running.  I got back home feeling exhilarated and powerful.  “I can do this!  It’s time to take asthma by its horns and show it who’s in charge!”

For that and the next winter, I taught myself to run with asthma.  I had to run a slower and longer warm up – to open up my lungs – in the same way that I have to warm up before a race.  I learned to use my inhaler properly: one puff while getting dressed and another (about 10 minutes later) before I head out the door.  68b71-p1290294Thanks to Running Skirts sub-zero skirts, I could comfortably carry my puffer in my side pocket (puffers in tights’ pockets just don’t work) in case I “got into trouble”.  My running partners got use to my heavier winter breathing, the constant running nose and snot-covered gloves.  Over those years, I built my winter running distance from 20 minutes to 30K.  I was the boss of my asthma.

Last winter, due to my fall and broken jaw, I was forced off all exercise for weeks.  This meant I escaped the woes of winter running and all of the laundry that came with it.  I thought I was lucky but I was dreading the shock of readjusting to cold weather running.  This past week was the first week of truly cold temperatures that southern Ontario runners have had to deal with this winter and I knew it was going to be a shock to my system.  For the past few days, friends have posted pictures of themselves running with frozen beards, frozen eyelashes and steam circling their heads.  Me?  I wasn’t ready to face that kind of running yet and stayed on my windtrainer in the comfort of my warm basement.  I was wimping out.

Until yesterday.  Temperatures were climbing and now closer to -20C.  I was ready.  On came my layers and out I went.  Within 10 minutes, I was quickly reminded that I have asthma.  Yes, I used my puffer and, yes, I took my time warming up.  But I could feel my chest tightening, resulting in that same feeling that I had many, many winters ago.  “Wow, the air really is a lot thicker when it’s cold like this,”   I thought.  And I remembered that conversation many years ago. “You run in the winter?  Don’t your lungs freeze?”

Cold 2016
Yesterday, after 5K in -20C.  Feeling great.

No, my lungs don’t freeze.  But I have to be careful.  I have to dress for it, that’s all.  I have to use my puffer and I have to do a long warm-up before I run the way I want to.  Yesterday, that is exactly what I did and guess what.  I got home feeling exhilarated.  Once again, I took asthma by its horns.

 

Race Report: Eggnog Jog 10.8K

Eggnog Jog 2015- with Dave
Pre-race at the Eggnog Jog, photo credit: Sue Sitki Photography

The Eggnog Jog is a popular race which runs out of the Terra Cotta Conservation Area, just north west of Toronto.  It is 10.8K, is unusual distance but the country roads in the area make  a 10K route difficult unless it is an out and back course. Regardless, the race draws over 600 participants; every year, it sells out so my husband and I registered early for it. This was my first race after the Chicago Marathon and the mid-December date gave me enough time to recover and work on regaining my speed.

Since the beginning of November, I spent my Saturday mornings focusing on speed work.  Knowing that the course has a challenging elevation, I incorporated hill training, mile repeats, and shorter intervals in those workouts as I could do them in daylight.  On the other running days of the week, I tempoed, did a long run (with my longest run at 17K) and just ran for the love of it.  I headed back to the yoga studio on Friday nights (and, by the way, yoga on Friday followed by speedwork on Saturday  makes for tired abs on Sunday morning).  Everything felt right.  I was ready and, hopefully, going to race a sub-50 minute race.

Dave likes this race because of the later start (10:30 a.m.).  I like it for the challenge.  The elevation drops about 100 metres over the first 2K and then climbs over 120 metres for the next 5-6K; the finish is a fast 400 metre downhill.

One of the biggest challenges that morning was deciding what to wear.  I had my LVA singlet, Saucony Sayonaras, and Sweaty band – but did I need one layer or two; tights, capris or a running skirt?  It poured in the morning and temperatures were hovering over 0 degrees at the start, so I opted for a t-shirt with my Running Skirt long sleeve and my tights.  I was worried about being over-dressed but, as it turned out, my gear was perfect for the day.

Despite the training I had done, when I started the race, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I had 3 goals: to run as fast as I could, watch my pacing and try not to let any women pass me.  I took the first 2K conservatively as I knew that I had to start an evil climb right after.   In those first kilometres, I heard a woman talking to a man – something about keeping up – and picked up my pace enough to open a bit of a gap.  From that point on, I didn’t hear her again.

Once I got to 3K, I started to play cat and mouse with a few men.  They would run ahead of me, I would pass them, they would work to pass me again….It became a vicious cycle.  At 7K, another male runner caught up to us and, then, another at 8K.  I tried to stay with them but they were both stronger than I was – and finished less than a minute of me.  Once I got to 9K, I turned on what power I had left and gave myself another boost at 10K.

Eggnog Jog 2015
Racing the last 400m of the Eggnog Jog.  photo credit: Sue Sitki Photography

 

As I made the last turn towards the 400 metre finish, I focussed on stretching out my legs, which was tough to do when my quads were still burning from the rolling hills.   I saw the clock read 48:something and gave it everything I had to finish in 49:12.  About 20 seconds later, another woman ran in and called me a “powerhouse.”  Never in my entire life have I been called a powerhouse; it felt great.

 

I had no idea where I was in the final standings.  I felt that I was close to the top but, as I didn’t see any women ahead of me, I didn’t know if I was chasing 2 or 3 or more.  I was thrilled when I found out that I finished Third Overall.  It was a great way to end the season.Eggnog Jog 2015 - awards

 

This course was tough and I promised my husband that I would do my cooldown by running back out so that I could cheer him in.  I tried to convince a few other runners who finished ahead of me to jog with me and they looked at me as though I had horns coming out or my head.  So off I went on my own; the things we do for love.   I found Dave around the 9K mark and ran with him until we neared the finish line, when I let him close his race alone.

Both Dave and I got what we wanted out of the Eggnog Jog.  Dave wanted a goal race, a chance to push himself to run the 10.8K distance regardless of the time it took.  Me, I wanted a goal of running a sub-50 and I got that.  Best of all, though, was the chance we had to race together.

Race Report – Whitby Summer Races

Whitby water
After the race; along the beautiful waterfront trail in Whitby, Ontario.

Last week was one of the mentally toughest weeks that I have had in a long time.  Running in a storm – okay, maybe that was fun.  Getting sick on my long run – not fun at all.  So when I headed to Whitby for the 10K on Sunday morning, I proceeded with caution.

Why did I pick Whitby?  First, it is one of the few longer races (yes, this summer, a 10K race is a longer race) in the GTA.  Almost all regular races have been cancelled in Toronto because of the PanAm Games and many race directors outside the GTA have dropped theirs because of the transportation difficulties that the Games have caused.  It was a long drive but the Whitby race is one of the few road races in the Toronto area all summer.  Secondly, one of my training partners, Darryl, was going and it is always more fun racing when you go with a friend.  Finally, timing was key.  The 10K in Whitby sets me up nicely for a 10 miler or half-marathon before the end of September in preparation for Chicago.

On Friday night, my coach advised against racing.  He reminded me that it would take my body a few days to recover from my 30K long run on Friday.  Finishing it as sick as I did and racing two days later was simply not a good idea.   He was right, but I wasn’t about to walk away from it that easily. I was, though, prepared to walk away from the start line if I found that I really wasn’t up to par; if I felt dizzy or sick on the course, as hard as it would have been, I was mentally ready to DNA.

Darryl and I left town at 6:00 on Sunday morning and, after a major detour (yes, we got lost), we arrived at the venue shortly after 8:00, 90 minutes before the start.  The low entry fee ($30) hinted that it was a low-key, no-frills event and it was.  There were just over 100 runners for the 5k and 10K and our race kit was an OLG cotton t-shirt.  After checking in, I headed out on my own for a short run before my actual warm-up to make sure that I was feeling okay. Whitby warming up The out and back route was going to be beautiful – a paved path along the waterfront and lots of greenery.  I noticed that the path was uneven at the edges and made a mental note to spend most of the race in the middle.  About 20 minutes later, Darryl and I did a slow warm-up together and, then, did our drills on our own.  I was feeling strong and race-ready.

Since numbers were low, the 5K and 10K started together.  I watched Darryl quickly disappear into the curved paths and found myself chasing a group of ponytailed high school runners.  I expected the course to be flat but it wasn’t; we were constantly rolling up and down hills, with a longer climb at the turn-around and another closer to the end.  The hills were in my favour, though, as I passed each of the girls (and many men) on them before the 5K turned back and I continued on, thinking that I might have the women’s lead in the 10K.

I ran the rest of the way on my own.  As I went further into the race, I found myself feeling more comfortable and picked up my pace.   When I saw Darryl on his way back and saw that he was in the lead, with about 20 seconds to spare, I cheered him on and became very focussed on my own race.  Three, four, five – only five people were ahead of me and they were all men; I was definitely in the lead of the women’s race.

After turning around, I saw that the second lady seemed to be only a minute behind me so I knew that I had to pick up the pace if I wanted to hold my position.  Over the last half of the race, I was able to close the gap between the two men ahead of me and add more space between the second lady and me.  It felt great being cheered on by runners who were still heading out.  That was all anti-climatic, though, as I neared the finish area.  I saw the photographer and worried about the drool and spit coming out of my mouth (yeah, I’m that runner), but he was only interested in drinking his water.  “What the h—?” I actually thought.  “You aren’t taking a picture?  Beautiful scenery, great lighting, me – and only me; it would be a fabulous picture.”  I quickly let my thoughts go, changed gears again (at least, I think I did), turned the corner and ran up a slight incline to finish.   The little girl who handed me my finishing medal was amazed. “How do you run faster than the 5K’s?  How do you run so fast?”  Yes, even without the photo, this was the vanity race that I needed.

In the end, the course was a tad short – about 400 metres short.  I finished in 42:08 but I think I would have finished under 44 minutes had it been an honest 10K.  Given the way that I felt on Friday night, I was happy with that.  Darryl opened the gap between him and the Number 2 Runner and was the overall winner, finishing a few minutes ahead of me.  It was a good day for both of us.

Whitby - This is how we cool downAfter we crossed the finish line, we did a short cooldown along the waterfront and found a great training circuit.  Of course, we had to stop and play.  Then we headed back for the awards (another medal, a pair of gloves and a reflective clip-on light) and back home.

This race was the confidence boost that I needed.  My race in Beamsville in July wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.  My training has been going fairly well but Friday’s run did bring me down a bit.  I was quite happy with my time in Whitby, especially since it was a C-race, and finishing first (even if it was a small turn-out) was a bonus.

With 9 weeks to go, I can continue to build mileage but, more importantly, build some tempo work into my long runs.  After the past week of training and racing, I know I am ready for it.

 

 

What’s In Your Pocket?

10672333_1605563229722205_5049302564460780315_nI love my running skirts, but not just any running skirt.  The original, designed by the running twins, Cindy and Christy Lynch at www.runningskirts.com, are comfortable, fashionable, and designed with performance in mind.  For me, one of their best features are their pockets.

Being asthmatic, I almost always carry my puffer with me when I run.  It’s cumbersome; about the same size as a gel pack but rounder and solid, my puffer can’t be squished or shoved anywhere.  side pocketsThe runningskirts.com pockets are ideal as the stretchy mesh panels at the side of the skirts means that the pockets can hold a lot.  In fact, this was one of the biggest reasons I first tried running skirts back in 2008.   Needless to say, I was hooked by their comfort and practicality and haven’t gone back to shorts since.

The pockets in a running skirt are also great on days when I have a long run.  Yesterday, as part of my Chicago Marathon prep, I headed out for my long run of 13 miles.  I needed my puffer, especially with the heat, but I also wanted two Gu’s and my iPod shuffle.  Thanks to Running Skirts, I was able to carry everything easily.

Yesterday, Coach Kevin wanted to take some pictures but commented that he couldn’t carry his phone while running.  “Well,” I said, “if you wore a running skirt, you could easily fit your phone into the side pocket.”   He thought about it, but I knew that I couldn’t convert him – yet.

What are your must-haves when you’re on the run?  What’s in your pocket?