What’s in a Bib?

Last Sunday was the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington, Ontario.  This race has become a staple on the winter running scene in southern Ontario and, with a few thousands participants, it has also become quite competitive.  This year, it was the half-marathon championship race for the Ontario Masters Athletics, a few Olympians (Reid Coolsaet and Krista Duchene) and other national level athletes like Lucas McAneney were on the line, as were hundreds more who were looking for a challenge and a fast time.

Race Ready: Nothing Can Stop Me.

Me?  In December, I wanted this to be a goal race, one in which to push myself to achieve a certain time.  But winter’s dark, Mama N’s ice and cold, and my nasty bruise from slipping on the ice put that plan on the backburner.  I still had the race in sight, but my goal changed to finish while feeling strong – and I was totally okay with that.  For me, the Chilly Half had become a ‘no pressure’ race.

On Friday night after work, I hustled to Burlington to pick up my race kit and bib.  When I got there, I stopped to chat with Lucas McAneney from The Running Room and told him that I needed to find my race number.  Lucas told me that they had been emailed but, somehow, I missed it.  I was directed to a girl with a terminal who told me “6, 6…..6.”

“What?”  I questioned.  “Are you kidding me?”  She passed me the terminal and I saw my name with 666 below it.  I could only shake my head and laugh as I went to pick up my bib.  The ladies handing them out stood still when they saw my number, looked at each other and were speechless until one commented “You could always wear it upside down.”

A couple of speed demons: Lucas McAneney and me.

I went back to visit Lucas and told him that I liked my number better before I knew what it was.  “Ya, I don’t have a very good one,” he said.  “I got 13.”  At least I wasn’t alone.

When I got home,  Dave told me that he could have saved me the trip to the expo and picked up my kit when he was in Burlington the next day.  “Are you kidding?
I asked.  “Getting this number myself totally made the drive in rush hour traffic worth it.”    When he saw it, Dave also suggested wearing it upside down.

At yoga that night, my friend, Monica, suggested that I ask the race director to exchange my bib for another number.  “No way,” I said.  “This is the bib that I was assigned so this is the number that I am going to wear.”

And I did.  On Sunday morning, I got dressed and pinned my bib to my singlet, ready to race.  But that is another post.

 

Fall Seven Times; Stand Up Eight

A few weeks ago, Mamma N and Old Man Winter got together and decided to curse runners with a dreadful winter: wind, snow, “something-stupid” below zero temperatures and, most recently, ice.  Now I’ve been able to handle most weather that’s been thrown at us but ice?  That is another story.

I am terrified of ice.  Two years ago, while running to the Rec Centre to meet some friends for our Wednesday night workout, my left toe hit some frozen slush on the road; I went flying, my jaw hit the ground and, as my friend, Amanda, likes to say, I broke my face – in four places.  I spent 6 weeks off work and developed a near paralyzing fear of ice.   So now, when there is any sign of it, I simply don’t run.

Post dreadmill: glad to have that run done!

Last week, Mother Nature gave us three days of ice and unpredictable footing so I had to modify my training plans.  On Monday, I went to yoga; on Tuesday, I gave in and visited the treadmill at the Rec Centre for the first time in over two years (yes, I was that desperate); on Wednesday night, I napped.   By the end of the week, the thermometer reached temperatures in the low teens and I was thrilled.  The only problem was the warmer weather  led to rapid melting; that, combined with the next day’s drop in temperatures and freezing rain, left us with even more icy roads on Saturday morning.

After our interval workout on the previous Saturday in -24C weather.

My friend, Monica, and I agreed that we should run with our club, Toronto Olympic Club, in The Six.  There, we had a choice of workouts: intervals with the Juniors or a distance run with the Seniors.  We opted for a long run along the waterfront trail, a pedestrian/cyclist pathway that the city always clears of snow and ice, and joined the guys who were heading towards the downtown core.   It wasn’t long before the men pulled ahead, Monica ran behind and I pushed to keep her in sight.

When I got to Ontario Place, about 4 miles from our start, I watched the guys run away from the main road towards  Lake Ontario.  I followed them, not really sure where they were going and not wanting to be alone.  “Hey!” I yelled in my head as there was no one around to hear me.  “It’s icy here!”  Of course, it was icy.  We were right next to the lake and that was frozen.   I slowed down, watched my footing, making sure that I stayed on concrete, and tried to keep my eye on Monica’s black ponytail in the distance.  Just as she turned out of sight, a piece of ice jumped from the sidewalk, grabbed my toe and pulled me into the ground – hard.  Somehow, I managed to roll onto my hands and knees; then, I sat down and wanted to cry.  I was angry.  My knees were sore and  I could already feel my thigh starting to throb.  Monica heard me fall and came back.   I got up and started to run, then stopped and cried, not because I was hurting but because I was so mad about my fall.   I went to Toronto so that I could escape the ice and there I was in the middle of it, desperately wanting to click my red Mizunos three times and go home.

Instead, I regained my focus, and Monica and I started to run.  Even though my leg was sore, I really had no choice as it was minus something-stupid and there was no other way to get back to our car.  I think that was actually good for me as the run forced the blood to move through my legs rather than pool in my thigh.  Wearing my winter tights which had compression, something that is always good for injuries, likely helped too.

24 hours later

By the time I got home, I felt fairly confident that I just bruised the muscle;  any type of fracture would have made running 5 miles back to the car impossible.    The bulging egg-shape surrounded by what seemed to be blood travelling to my thigh to protect it told me that my body was looking after itself.   Under the advice of many, I went to the hospital the next day, where a doctor confirmed that it was “just” a bruise.

A friend once told me “Don’t get upset about the things you can’t control; do something about the things you can.”  Falling was out of my control.  It was my bad luck and I am angry about that, especially since I did try to control the surface conditions that morning.  But this did not break me.  It might slow me down for a while but it will not stop me.  “Fall seven times; stand up eight.”

Always On My Mind

Blue skies make the coldest days (-20 with the windchill) a little more bearable.

“Embrace The Cold” has become my theme for winter.  We all knew that these cold temperatures, the minus-something-stupid numbers that we have, were projected weeks, maybe even months, ago.  For those who are enthusiastic about skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and any other winter sport, the past few weeks have been perfect.  For me, the warm weather lover, it hasn’t been so great.  But it is obvious that Old Man Winter is not leaving anytime soon so I am trying not to complain; I am learning to #embracethecold.

So, like an idiot, I decided that this is the year for my 12 year old to learn to snowboard.  Over the past few years, we have gone to Glen Eden fewer times than I can count on one hand, mostly due to our being spoiled with the  warmer winters that runners love but snowboarders hate.   The dude loves being on the slopes and he is good at it, probably from spending hours and hours on his skateboard or scooter during the non-winter months.  My mommy senses tell me that he is going to want to spend time on the slopes in his teen years, and I would much rather have him learn when he is younger than take the chance that he’ll head to the hills, try to figure things out on his own and end up injured later.   Our goal is to get him out twice a week, more during a break or long weekend.  Lucky me, I get to stand around, watch and embrace the cold while he plays outdoors with a snowboard.

On Friday, when we were coming back from Glen Eden, I asked the dude how he felt he was progressing.  “Good,” he replied. “Mom, if you want to get good at something, you have to be thinking about it all the time.  I’m doing that.  When I am not there, I am going over things in my head again and again.”

That made perfect sense to me.  As a runner, I am always thinking about the run.  I plan my day around when I am going to run and I involve my family in my weekly plans so that it is a part of our week, not just mine.  Running is in my morning, afternoon and evening, in what I eat and drink, and how I sleep.  It is in my closet and on my nighttable.  For me, running is everywhere.  Whether or not my shoes are laced up, running is always on my mind.

-19C and he keeps going back for more!

I was a bit surprised by the insight that my twelve year old had. “To get good at something, you have to be thinking about it all the time.”  He has a passion and dedication  for snowboarding that I haven’t seen in anything else that he does.  He has had to sit in the snow and struggle with his bindings again and again until he could do it on his own, and he falls down and gets right back up – only to do it again.  I know that his winter on the slopes is what my running is to me.  And I know that if he wants to be successful, he does have to go back again and again.

Embracing the Cold

This morning, I headed outdoors for my morning run under cold but sunny skies.  Tonight, even though I am heading back to Glen Eden to stand around in the snow and watch him in the minus-something-stupid, I can embrace the cold.   After all, if this is teaching my kid commitment and tenacity while keeping him active, Old Man Winter can’t be all that bad.

 

Transition time

Sunday’s Long Run done.

Boston is just 5 weeks away and I have reached the moment of a 1000 questions: How much more mileage can I push myself into?  Why am I so slow today?   Is this a real ache or is it a figment of my imagination?  Is this cold really gone?  How much longer?   The list is truly endless.

If there is one item that is more important in my training than any other, it’s the long run.  Now this may not be true for everyone, but for me it is.  I need the psychological confidence that I can handle long distance week after week.  Two weeks ago, when I found myself on meds for a sinus infection that I seemed to have been fighting for weeks, I refused to skip my long run.  Instead, I took one day off while waiting for meds to kick in, then plowed through 15 miles after work the next day.  Last week, I worked 2-3 miles around the Chilly Half-marathon.  Week by week, like all marathon trainees, I keep adding a bit more to my long run.

Despite this, I found the thought of running 16 miles yesterday overwhelming.  For whatever reason, the first milestone past 15 miles was becoming a mental obstacle.  I was also completely on my own, again, and the temperatures dropped a lot in the past week.  But I knew that I had to, absolutely had to, get it done.

Transitioning into New Balance 1080’s, my marathon shoe.

So I headed out at 8:00 a.m. in my New Balance 1080’s.  Four miles later, I stopped by the house, as planned, and changed into my new 1080’s, my marathon shoes which I am just breaking in.  Six miles later, I decided to continue to run further away from home before turning around so that I wouldn’t have to run past my house to reach the 16 miles that I was aiming for.

And it worked.  By the time I got home, I logged 16.2 miles.  The best part of this was my last four miles were 15 seconds/mile faster – planned – and I wasn’t feeling exhausted.  Even this morning, 24 hours later, I found the dreaded recovery run fairly easy to do.

Doggie kisses: proof that, even in sub-zero temperatures, I am a human salt-stick.

I wasn’t confident when I left my house, but I got back feeling great – mentally and physically strong.  Yesterday told me that I am where I need to be with my training and I will be ready for Boston 2017.

Cold Winters; Warm Feet

A Saturday morning surprise – lots of snow to plow through on a long run.

One of the things I love about living in Canada is being able to truly experience all four seasons – until we get into the coldest days of the winter.  Then, life as a runner isn’t all that great.   Some days it means sliding, not running, along sloppy snow/slush-covered roads; others entail running straight into a biting wind that hurts your face;  and, then, there are the days that it is so cold that you don’t just see your breath, but your lungs can also feel the thickness of the air while you run.   Fortunately, we haven’t had too many of these days but, when we do, everyone complains.

Over the years, I’ve learned how to layer for the different types of winter weather that we can get; what we can’t double or triple, though, are our socks.  It is so important to wear the perfect pair.  Like summer socks, I want something that is comfortable, blister-free and, if possible, a more anatomical fit.  In the winter, I want all of the above and warmth.  This season, I finally found the perfect sock.

During the break, I went to the Running Room to replace what has been my go-to winter sock: double-layered and blister-free.  I pulled them off the rack, only to put them back.   They didn’t feel right.  The quality wasn’t there any more.  Clearly, it was time to make a change.

I scanned the walls and noticed Feetures brand, a product that I have seen quite a bit in sporting goods stores. I hadn’t heard anything about their socks, but I was pulled towards the packaging.  “No blisters” and “merino” on the winter running socks had my immediate attention; “lifetime guarantee” kept it.  These weren’t cheap, though.  In fact, they were about $10 over my budget.  But these socks wooed me.  They were a soft wool, had a L/R foot anatomical fit, and made promises that most long distance runners would succumb to.   These seemed to be the right socks.  Lured by their cushioning, warmth and promise to keep me blister-free, I bought them.   All I needed was another cold snap so that I could try them out.

Within days, Mother Nature dropped the temperatures for us.  Since purchasing my Feetures, I have worn them three times and they have not disappointed my feet.  The fit is great and my toes have not felt cold at all, which is unusual for me.  Yesterday, I ran in them for 21K in a windchill that gave us -20C temperatures and the Feetures winter running socks did everything they claimed they would and more; they made me want another pair.

 

***These opinions are solely my own.  This blog post is not endorsed or sponsored by Feetures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.