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.

 

 

My Triple H Day

Over the weekend, I complained about the hills at Saturday’s race, The Beamsville Bench.   The course (a 5K course over a 2.5K loop) started on an uphill for about 700m, plateaued and then dropped,  climbed again from 2k to 3K, flattened again, and climbed from 4K to the finish.  The hills were easier than the ones that I train on but, combined with the heat on the day of the race, I had nothing left to give for the last kilometre; my quads died.

Triple H Day
Dressed to tempo on one of the hottest days of the year.

When I described what I went through to my coach, his response was simple: more hill work.  Umm, no thank you; I have quite enough as it is.   But when this week’s training schedule arrived in our inboxes, today’s workout revealed the dreaded hill repeats.  On top of that, the GTA is in a middle of a heatwave and with high humidity, so our hill workout was guaranteed to be tough.   Oh joy!  Heat, humidity and hills.  What more could a girl want?

Normally, I don’t mind hill repeats.  They are hard, but each repeat is usually just a minute long so it ends quickly, especially when you compare it to a tempo run which lasts for twenty minutes or longer.  The only real problem with hill repeats is they come in droves and the reprieve between each never seems long enough.  Without a doubt, training on hills does make me a stronger runner.  If I am going to race on them, I need to train on them too.

Sixteen Mile Creek - bottom hill
The bottom of the hill, which we had the good luck of running up twice.

By 6:00, luckily or not,  the “feels like” temperature was hovering around 35 degrees celsius so our workout was “simplified”: a 6K tempo with 3 hills.  The men took off ahead of my training partner, Kelly-Lynne, and me.  The two of us stuck together, not knowing at the time that each of us was simply trying to hang onto the other.  We pulled each other around the looped trails and up and down each of the three dreaded hills.  Teamwork.

After our tempo, all of us headed to the splash pad across the street from the entrance to the trails.  Socks and shoes came off and we walked through, letting the water cool our feet which, in turn, helped lower our body temperature.  The rest was easy: a short cool-down run back to the Rec. Centre.

Once I got home, I raved about my tonight’s run, brought to me by heat, humidity and hills.  Am I crazy?  Probably, but I know my limits and had the safety of running with my training partners.   And the next time I have to race hills in the heat, I’ll be just a little bit stronger.

 

 

 

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.