Running and Parenting (and Finding My Poop Peeps)

Gastro-intestinal distress.  It’s a secret ailment that most runners share and, like childbirth, unless you have experienced it, you really don’t know what it is all about.  Well, for those of you who have been fortunate enough to escape the horrors of GI distress, running means that you are pounding your body’s weight into the ground, which also means that you’re shaking up the contents of your stomach.  The longer the distance you run, the more everything breaks apart.  As everything loosens, it easily passes through your intestinal tract and, sometimes, faster than expected, leaving runners desperately seeking a bathroom, porta-potty or tall grass.  If you aren’t careful, GI distress can be an absolute disaster.

When I run with friends, no one ever argues if someone needs a bathroom; we’ve all been in that situation.  And no one ever complains about the wait.  In fact, none of my friends really talk about GI distress at all – except Kelly-Lynne.  A few months ago, she complained about eating the wrong foods at work so, twenty-five minutes into our evening run, we had to stop for a bathroom.  This time, it was me who was waiting for her, which was so unusual that I teased her about it, and we somehow ended up talking about poop for the rest of the run.  By the time we finished, I asked, “Do you realize that we just spent the last 30 minutes talking about poop?  How many girls talk about poop?  That is unheard of!”  Finally, I had found a poop peep.

Years ago, my conversations about poop were limited to other moms who had to deal with the horrors of poopy diapers and poop that finds its way up a baby’s back and into every crevice of the body, places that I never would have imagined poop could crawl into until I had my own boys, poop that was so gross that Dave would jump to walk the dog on the coldest days of winter to avoid the dreaded diaper change.    But Kelly-Lynne is my first real poop peep, someone to share my greatest pre-race fears: not emptying my gut before the start, getting caught mid-race needing a porta-potty and wondering whether I can ‘hang on’ until the end.

Last night, Tammy the Hamstring derailed my plans to take my youngest and his three friends to the Blue Jays game.  I knew that Tammy wouldn’t want to sit at the game for 2 hours or more, and she would end up complaining about the train trip in and out of the city as well.  When Dave came to the rescue and agreed to take the boys, the other moms (Susan and Anna) were equally grateful and asked me to thank him.  “He still owes me,” I messaged.  “I’d rather take 4 boys to a baseball game than spend all those years changing poopy diapers.  He got off easy.”  Somehow the discussion changed to the joys of teen boys and plunging toilets of their superhuman feats bobbing inside.  Within minutes, I realized that I had found more poop peeps.

Susan and Anna are not just poop peeps, though.  They are peeps with strategies, mom hacks that are so brilliant that they make bathing a skunky dog with Vagisil seem banal, strategies that include using laxatives to break down the most frightening of exhibits or pouring Restoralax (and, yes, you can buy it in bulk at Costco) into the toilet bowl to loosen things.   A Restoralax/Gatorade concoction, they tell me, moves things along quite nicely.  Gatorade in the toilet?  Who knew?!

Everyone needs a poop peep, especially if you are a runner, a mom or a running mom.  My network feels complete but there is always room for more.

 

Taming Tammy

Taking two weeks off running was completely my idea.  I needed to remove the pressure of trying to run and to train for Chicago.  I needed to focus on healing. At the time, I honestly didn’t know if it was a good idea or not, and I still don’t, but it gave me the break that I needed.  It gave me the time to accept that Chicago will not be the marathon that I want it to be; once that happened, my frustration disappeared.

But taking the time off was still hard even though I walked Zeda, I spun my wheel on my windtrainer (because I didn’t trust that riding up and down hills in the great outdoors would be good for Tammy the Hamstring), and I went to yoga.    I survived the first week  without running but, by Day 10, I was getting antsy.  “Four more days will not make a difference” I told myself.  By Day 14, I was quite excited – one more day.   It no longer hurt when I walk, my stability was back and I felt stronger, but I didn’t know if the time off would help my running.

I decided to test the trails on Saturday afternoon instead of in the morning as I felt my body would be more awake and Tammy would be less of a nuisance.  I knew that I had to do 2’s and 1’s, and slowly.   My osteopath also gave me some exercises to do before and after: hip rotations (like using a hula hoop), opening and closing the gates, and leg swings (forwards and sideways).  I could hear my hip popping during the first set, which made me nervous, but I stuck to the plan: go out slowly, on a soft surface, 2 minutes on, 1 minute off, aim for a mile.

Two miles run!

When I left the house, I was able to run along a straight plane but I had trouble manoeuvring corners and turns, even at a 9/10 minute mile pace.  I almost quit and went back home.  “Stick to the plan.”  After 3 sets of 2’s and 1’s, I could feel that my hips had loosened up and I was moving more easily.  After 6 sets, I was able to turn the same corner that I couldn’t get around before.  Success!   Then I went through my exercises at home for another 20 minutes.  In the end, I spent more time warming up and cooling down/stretching than I actually did running, but it really didn’t matter because I ran!

Taming Tammy

Today, I went through the same routine but ran on a mix of surfaces – grass, gravel path, road – and for a bit longer.   As on Saturday, I finished feeling good about running, but Tammy was still a pain in the butt – not as much of a pain as she was before, but still a nuisance.  As my osteopath explained, there is scar tissue surrounding Tammy that has formed a rope and it needs to be loosened.   When Tammy complains to my brain that she is sore, my body reacts by tightening up even more to protect her.  But my joints and bones are healthy, my tendons are strong, and there is lots of fluid flowing through my veins.  So I need to run – slowly and carefully – to start breaking up the scar tissue, to tame Tammy and to send the message to my brain that I am not broken; I am strong.

What does this mean in terms of the Chicago Marathon?  I have no idea.  I will be there and I will be running.  I don’t know how far or how fast but I do know it will be with Tammy, and she will be on a very short leash.

We Girls Stick Together

My husband and I started actively planning for our second fur-baby two summers ago.   We had put down our 14 year old a few years earlier and it took Dave that long to be ready to have another; he was home during the day and needed an excuse to get out; he was ready to look after 4 paws again.

Zeda at 14 months, a week after bringing her home.

We had a few things that we hoped for in our dog: good with kids, a rescue, a larger breed (e.g. lab, retriever), short hair, young enough to still be a puppy but old enough to be house-broken, and female (believing that a female would be a somewhat quieter dog).   After a few months of searching, we found 14 month old Zeda through Grand River All Breed Rescue (based in Cambridge, Ontario) and brought her home.

She is always excited when we start to run.

Today, Zeda turned three and she has been everything on our list, everything but quiet.  She is a bundle of energy who needs to be walked a lot.   Zeda is always super excited when I pull my running clothes out of my dresser because she thinks she gets to go for a run; sometimes she gets to come with me.  When I get home from work, she bolts down the stairs, sometimes barking, tail wagging, and trying hard not to jump, making me think that I am the most important person in her life.   This summer, I feel like I have become that person for her.

I am learning to admire the gardens when we walk.

During the school year, Dave does 90% of the walks because he has more time than I do.  But since I am home through the summer, Zeda becomes my girl.   To her good fortune, I have had that much more time to spend with her this summer because I haven’t been running; walking has been my way of getting outdoors.  I honestly don’t think that I would enjoy my daily walks on my own.  Zeda has given me the motivation that I need to get out the door, and I have given her the exercise, love and attention that she needs.  Somewhere in the past three weeks, walking has stopped being a chore or a labour of love; it’s something that I have started to really enjoy with her.

Today, Zeda turned three.  We enjoyed our morning walk, playtime in the yard, and cuddles, and we have our evening 5K to look forward to.   She has become my guard dog (anyone who comes to visit can attest to that), my walking buddy, my companion and my best friend.   She is still the same bundle of energy that we brought home two years ago, but I wouldn’t want her any other way.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I cried today.  It has been the first time I cried since my training for Chicago has been sidelined.  Heck, it is the first time that I have cried in I don’t know how long.  But I do know that since Tammy started acting up, the uncertainty of whether I will be able to run the Chicago Marathon has left me feeling blue.  Last week, I only ran on Monday,  when I realized that Tammy the Hamstring needed attention, so I turned to yoga and spinning on my wind trainer for the rest of the week.  The rest helped; I noticed that the range of motion in my right leg improved over the seven days as did my strength and balance.

Success! Three miles done!

This past Monday, I was cleared by my physiotherapist to try some shorter distances so I ran 3 miles that afternoon.  Tammy was still tight, but she wasn’t sore like she was the week before and I felt fine the next day.  On Wednesday, I was starting to feel normal; my hips felt like they were opening up again and I seemed to be walking properly.   At my physio appointment the next morning, I was told that the puffiness on the back of my thigh was down and the weird bruising, which started to surface when we taped my leg the week before, was disappearing.  Things seemed to be progressing and I was encouraged, so I ran again on Thursday night; this time I covered 4 miles.

This morning, everything changed.   I headed out for an easy 3 mile run and Tammy decided to start kicking me in the butt.  At the one mile mark, I stopped my watch, walked home and cried.  I have been doing everything right: my exercises, my warm-ups, rest, sleep, physio…but it hasn’t been enough for Tammy.  She obviously needs more time.

Today was the first time that I have cried since my training for Chicago came to a halt.  In the past two weeks, I have played the “what if” scenarios, including not starting.  I have toyed with the idea of walking the 26.2 miles but that is not what I set out to do; I want to run the course, not walk it.  I have thought about running part of the course and walking the rest, which I would be okay with if that becomes the plan, and I’ve considered running part and dropping out.  But not once during the “what if” games that my mind played did I cry.  Until today.

This afternoon, I decided that I am not going to run until Tammy is in better shape.  I feel that my trying to run is like playing Russian Roulette; how much more can I push Tammy until she has had enough and really bites me in the butt?  I looked into pool running as a way to supplement my training and was ready to buy a belt, but I don’t want to pool run.  When I put things in perspective, I reminded myself that running Chicago is suppose to be fun, so I don’t need to torture myself with things that I don’t want to do.  Instead, I will continue to ride on my wind trainer and go to yoga; I’m even willing to start swimming again.  If I don’t start in Chicago, so be it.  There is always another marathon.  As I walked with my youngest in the late afternoon and felt Tammy’s presence again, I realized that taking a step back like this is the best thing for me.

I am trying to stay positive but there will likely be more tears between now and October 7th while I figure out what exactly Tammy has planned for me.  Who knows?  Maybe I will be able to pull a miracle out of my butt and I’ll be able to chase my dreams sooner than I think.   Only time can tell.

A Most Unfortunate Side Effect of Not Running

During the first few days of dealing with my hamstring (now named Tammy the Hamstring.  Why not name your hamstring?), it hurt to walk but it was Zeda who really suffered.  Gone were our morning walks; our 5K afternoon walks were also put on hold until I felt more mobile.  In the mornings, I let Zeda out in the backyard, fed her and watched her sulk until one of the boys woke up and could take her around the block.

On Friday morning, Zeda went outside, roamed the yard and visited her usual spots.  She found a stick to chew, mud to dig into and a skunk to play with.  Well, somebody forgot to tell the skunk that Zeda just wanted to play.    The backyard reeked.  It was so bad that I initially couldn’t tell if it was the yard or her that smelled.  I called Zeda and did the sniff test; Dave smelled her too.  We agreed that it must have been the neighbour’s dog that got skunked because she didn’t smell all that stinky…until she had been inside for about 10 minutes.  I heard bedroom doors suddenly slam shut.  It was obvious that our Zeda had been skunked.

Zeda and I headed back outside to bathe her.  Dave bought a skunk shampoo a few months ago – the “just in case” purchase that makes perfect sense after 3 previous late night skunkings with Chase, our previous fur-baby.   Zeda had a 45 minute bath with 3 shampoos and rinses.  The next day, Dave washed her again. The smell still lingered.

While he walked her that afternoon, a fellow dog-parent told Dave, “Do you know what really works?  A female douche.  (Is there any other kind?)  It’s full of chemicals and takes the smell out.”  So, when Dave got home, he asked me to pick up a “female douche.”

“A what???”

“It’s suppose to work.  So if you’ll get one, I’ll help you with it.”

“You want me to go to the drug store to get a douche shampoo?  I know kids who work at there.  There is always one of my former students on cash on Saturdays.  They’ll talk… or start a rumour.”  Dave looked at me and repeated, “I’ll help you.  Get the product: a female douche. This is out of my territory.”

Obviously.  I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.  It was bad enough that Zeda got hit by a skunk because Tammy was being a pain in the butt and making it difficult for me to walk.  But now I had to go to the drug store to pick up a douche shampoo.  I toyed with the idea of driving to the other end of town where no one would know me, but I pulled on my big girl shorts and headed to my local Shoppers.

I honestly didn’t know what to get for Zeda.  “Do I buy the $4.99 one or the $24.99?  Okay, let’s eliminate the ones with applicators.  We don’t want gels.  Hmmm…lemon coconut…maybe scented would be nice.  Nope, let’s get that one; it looks like Johnson’s baby shampoo.”  So I picked up a bottle of Vagisil and bee-lined for the cashier, paid for the shampoo, walked out of the store – without even asking for a bag!  – and prayed that I wouldn’t walk into somebody I know.

When I got home, Dave was ready.  He rinsed Zeda’s coat and I washed her again: over her head, covering her mouth, around her eyes and in the nostrils.  Suddenly, a purchase with an applicator made a lot of sense.   We let everything soak in her, rinsed her off and, as we did, we could smell the stench being pulled from her.  We repeated the process and, during Zeda’s second scrubbing, I asked, “Who thought of this anyway?”

“The guy I ran into while walking her.”

“No, who originally thought of this?  Why would someone use a douche shampoo on a dog? Whatever would possess them to think of that?”

And that remains a mystery.  At first, I thought that a genius idea like that had to be a woman’s.   Then, I thought it came from a  guy who panicked when his dog was sprayed, ran into the bathroom to get some soap and grabbed the wrong bottle.  I’m surprised that something so effective did not end up on the list of “accidental inventions” or a DIY life hack video.

As we cleaned up, I said to Dave, “I’ll leave the Vagisil here with her other shampoos.  It will be a conversation piece.”   I carefully placed the bottle on the toolbox next to his workbench and retreated to the safety of my kitchen.  Then, I added Vagisil to my list for my next trip to the drug store.

Playing All of the Cards

On Friday morning, I went out for an easy 5 mile run.  Half way through it, I noticed that my right adductor was tight so I slowed down; by the time I got home, the front and back of my upper thigh was sore.  The next afternoon, I decided to go out for an easy run to make sure that my leg had recovered and I’d be able to handle my long run the next day.  I felt good for about 3 miles, but as I climbed a slight uphill, I heard the back of my thigh start to scream at me.  That’s when I thought my piriformis was source of my grief.  I got home, took the next day off and waited for Physio on Tuesday.

Since then, I have seen two physiotherapists.  One appointment was pre-scheduled to work on my diaphragmatic breathing but since movement was a huge issue, Tracy worked on my leg instead; the other, with Lisa, was a routine maintenance check, again scheduled weeks ago for today, and became a  “Let’s get Cynthia moving” appointment.  Both physiotherapists said the same thing: my right hamstring, right at the top of the leg where the hamstring meets the butt, was aggravated so the muscles around it (the other hamstrings, glute medius, sciatica) are tensing up to protect it.  Well, they have been protecting it for a week now, and I’d really like the hamstring to relax and settle down so that I can get back to my running.

Since I have time these days, I also went to my family doctor who agreed with the others.  I asked if he thought there was a tear because recovery has been so slow, but he said that my leg isn’t swollen enough and I’m not in enough pain for it to be a tear.   All three professionals agree on the diagnosis: hamstring strain.  Hooray, I think.

Meanwhile, I’m not running and I’m not happy about it.  I’ve been told to take it really easy for a few more days: walking and some gentle cycling if it doesn’t hurt.  I can go to yoga but I need to be careful to not overstretch.

Meanwhile, with Chicago only ten weeks away and the Canadian 5K Championships in mid-September, I am using every card in my hand to recover quickly.

A bit of acupuncture in my back to alleviate the tightness.

Card #1: Physiotherapy: My doctor agreed that this is a must for a fast recovery.  I have been getting ultrasound and acupuncture and my right hamstring is taped for a while.

Card #2: Anti-inflammatories: My right thigh is only 2.5 mm bigger than my left, which is not really significant.  However,  it has been a week with very little progress so we are being a little more aggressive through a prescription.

2XU Compression shorts – hope they help.

Card #3: Compression shorts: Lisa suggested that I wear compression shorts all day until my hamstring has settled down.  Living in a house with ultra-conservative boys and men, I don’t own compression shorts.  Fortunately, I found a pair of 2XU shorts on sale at National Sport.  I think this may actually count as another “Hooray!”

Card #4: Rest: Of course, and I’m milking it.  I’ve told my husband that I can’t vacuum or do any housework that involves using my hamstrings (like cleaning the bathtub), and I can only walk Zeda if we go for a slow walk.  Yes, I am absolutely taking advantage of this!  Shhhhh…..

Card #5: Stay calm:  I’m not panicking.  I’m frustrated beyond belief, but I am trying to stay positive.  I have a solid base behind me so I’m trying to look at this a short period of forced rest to that I can be my best in the fall.   But, Hamstring, be warned: if you play this game for more than three weeks, I will become a force to be reckoned with (and that’s when you’ll hear my husband and kids complain).

My advice to anyone thinking about massage is to start establishing a relationship with an RMT during  your off-season, when a strange ache that might follow doesn’t matter.  The RMT didn’t know me; she didn’t know what I could handle.  On another runner or triathlete, the same pressure probably would  have been fine but, on me, it wasn’t.  Maybe I will go back to see her, but it will be after the marathon.  In the meantime, I’m going to keep playing the cards in my hand; one of the them has to be the lucky one.

Back to the Massage Table

The last time I had a massage I was training for the Toronto Goodlife Marathon – in 2012.  I’m not typically a touchy-feely person so I never really enjoyed going but, as I felt my body start to tire during the marathon cycle, I figured it was good for me.  And it was – until one Thursday night when the therapist went deep into my right ankle; it hurt while standing the next day, ached during my long run that Saturday, and resulted in three weeks of no running.  So I never went back and I have never re-entertained the idea of seeing a massage therapist again.

Until this year.  There are many times when I know that my body is tight – my back, my neck, my legs, my feet, pretty much everywhere – and I rethink that a massage would be good for me.  I regularly see a physiotherapist, mostly for maintenance,  but she can only do so much in the time that she has with me.   So, at the end of June, I began the daunting task of finding a massage therapist.

It didn’t take long before I realized that there are a lot of RMT’s locally and I had no idea where to go.  I asked for recommendations, searched Health and Wellness facilities online, read every single biography that I could find, and made several phone calls.  I wanted one who specializes in sports massage but also has a background in athletic therapy.  Location is important (it has be close to home) as is timing (must have evening appointments).   In the end, I found Amanda, who has a degree in Kineisology, a Masters in Athletic Therapy, is a registered massage therapist, does acupunture, works with several amateur sports teams, works two miles from home, and is hard to book an appointment with.  She sounded too good to be true.  After three weeks of waiting, I finally went to see her on Thursday.

I ran early on Thursday morning instead of later in the day, showered, changed and “Oh, wait! I need to shave my legs!”  After all, I wanted to make a good first impression and not show up looking like Godzilla’s long lost cousin.  So I showered, shaved, changed, and headed out the door.

TIght shoulders: teachers’ problems

Before we started, I filled Amanda in on my needs and my previous experience to make sure that she would not go too deep into my muscles.   My needy spots were obvious: my hips, my glutes and my neck (the evil aftermath of spending most of June marking and doing reports).  My calves, though, are “jacked.”  Jacked.  I spent all winter joking with my co-workers that I was going to be jacked by June because I would run at lunch when they went out for coffee.  Ta-da!  Jacked, I am.

I was glad that I ran in the morning because I didn’t really feel like it at night.   I felt great but I thought that a run would end up feeling sloppy so I ended up vacuuming my entire house instead: floors, couches (found 35 cents!) and beds.

I’m not completely sold on massage therapy and I am watching my body as it responds to Thursday’s session.  One glute, specifically the piriformis, is noticeably tight and sore, which it wasn’t before, so I skipped today’s long run as a precaution.  I’m hoping that it is just my body’s way of reacting to the pressure put on it and I’ll be back to myself in another day or two.  I’m staying positive that this will pass, and I am keeping the other two appointments that I booked because you’ve got to love a sports therapist who calls you “jacked.”

The Drinking Game

I have never been much of a water drinker.  My husband is constantly nagging because he doesn’t think I drink enough water.  He is probably right.  In the winter, it seems to be a non-issue; I can run for miles and miles and not have to worry about getting thirsty or light-headed.  But in the summer, especially when the temperature is over 30C and the sun is high, I can struggle; over the years, there have been a few times when I have been seriously dehydrated with shakes, dizziness and diarrhea.  I’m not sure whether it is my age, experience or having two kids that is causing me to be more careful now but, in the past few years, I have become much better at beating dehydration.

One thing that I have learned to do is drink ahead of time.  If my long run is on Sunday, I’ll make sure that I am getting more fluids into me on Thursday and Friday.  This lets me get rid of the excess on Saturday so that my bladder feels more comfortable on Sunday when I run.  Maybe it’s a female thing (after all, I have delivered two children) but this system works for me.

This summer, temperatures have been extremely high so I have had to tell myself to drink more regularly and make sure that my electrolytes are in check.  Being the math geek that I am, I have come up with a mathematical relationship that considers temperature and distance run.   On days when it is over 25C and I run 8 miles or more, whether over one or two runs, I drink a bottle of Gatorade, either during the day, after I run, or both; it really doesn’t matter how I drink it as long as I drink it.  If I run 15 miles or more on a long run day, I drink two bottles – one immediately after I run and one during the rest of the day.   After working with this temperature/distance/Gatorade relationship for the past few weeks, I find that I now automatically reach for a bottle when the math tells me to.   This has the extra advantage of putting more calories into my body, something which I am finding I need more and more of as my mileage and intensity continue to increase.

Lastly, when I am drinking water, I try to make sure that I am using a bottle or container that I really like.  After all, drinking games should be fun, right?  A few weeks ago, my oldest was buying a bag of Kernels popcorn and wanted to get a bottle of water too.  “No, you can wait,” I told him, but then I saw the Mood Water.   These bottles are so much fun it is almost impossible to not want one.  Both of us noticed that the water had a bit of a flatter taste to it, possibly due to a higher alkaline level.  (But what do I really know?  I’m a math geek, not a chemist.)  Regardless, the bottles were emptied – down to the last drop.

Most people plan their meals – what groceries they are going to buy, how they are going to cook them and when they will eat them.  But our bodies are sixty percent water so we really do need to take care that we are staying hydrated and replenishing our fluids, whether it is because we ran, gardened, walked, or even sat outside under the hot summer sun.  I have made a conscientious effort to watch my fluid intake this year and I really believe that it has made a difference in my overall health.  So, while a bit unorthodox, the number and drinking games that I play are working for me.  What do you do to make sure that you are getting enough water?

 

Marathon Training: It’s a Family Affair

When the boys were little, I always thought that I would have more time to myself as they got older.  I was so wrong.  Little did I realize that older boys mean more interests, busier lives, and later nights, which really means less time for me.

Circa 2008, the baby jogger days.

When the boys were little, they use to join me when I ran.  I often had one in the stroller and one on his bike.  On Sunday mornings, when I did my long run, my oldest would usually ride with me to keep me company and carry water and Gatorade.  When we finished, we would stop at the corner store and he would buy himself a chocolate bar.

But now my boys are 12 and 17.  They don’t want to run with me, they don’t want to ride with me while I run and they sure as heck don’t want to wake up with the birds on a weekend morning to keep me company during my long run.   During the past year, I have become comfortable with the loneliness of the long run.

This past weekend, as in many parts of North America, Southern Ontario has had another heatwave.  I’ve done a fairly good job of acclimatizing to the heat and I have learned to wake up really early on the days that I want to run for more than an hour.  With this weekend’s temperatures pushing into the 40’s, this weekend’s long run needed to be early.  However, both of my boys were involved in a soccer tournament, which meant early mornings, and my oldest had to work at his part-time job until 1:00 am on Sunday morning; I needed to be home early enough to make sure that everyone was up on time.  This meant that the only window I had to run was Sunday night, when the humidex was forecast at 36C.

On Sunday morning, Dave asked me what my plans to run were.  “Tonight,” I replied.  “I’m starting when it is hot but I’ll feel better as the sun goes down.”  After I narrowed down my start time to 6:30, Dave said that he would meet me at 8:15 after he finished his shift and ride with me during the tail end of my run.  So I sent him to work with 2 extra towels, a bottle of Gatorade, a bottle of water, and a change of clothes.

At 6:20, I drove to the soccer club, handed over the car key to my oldest and started my run from there.  I stopped at home, as planned, in the first half hour for my first water break.  Realizing how hot it really was, I also texted my oldest: Can you, please, try to meet me between 7:30 and 8:00 with water and Gatorade?  It is so hot…. and I named a 2K stretch of road where he could find me. I had no idea when he would be leaving work, nor did I know if he would just roll his eyes and shrug his shoulders, but I hoped that he would be a good son and help me out.

The kid can take pictures too! 8:10 pm and thirteen miles into my run.

At 7:50, I was losing hope.  I ran into Coronation Park to look for a water fountain but there were none.  “How can a large public park like this not have a water fountain?” I asked myself.  I was angry and, admittedly, getting a little nervous about going another 25 minutes without fluids.  “Slow down the pace,” I told myself.  “You’ll be fine.”  And I did.  Within a kilometre of leaving the park, I saw my car pass me and turn into Appleby College.  The kid came through; he greeted me with water and Gatorade, then happily headed back home.   Me, I happily continued towards the pier where I was going to meet Dave.

When I got there, I saw Dave’s car at the TOWARF building, where he volunteers with the town’s water rescue group, but he was nowhere in sight.  Thinking that he was just changing into cycling gear, I went into the station.  “He’s right out there,” I was told but I couldn’t see him.  “Right out there on the water, see.  They were called out at 7:55.”   Of course, they were.

Thumbs up for 19 solo miles in the heat.

So I left directions to let Dave know which way I was going and headed out alone, not what we had planned at all.  But the sun was down so it running wasn’t as tough as it had been an hour earlier.  Besides, I was still fueled with that half bottle of Gatorade and water.  By the time I got back to the pier, Dave and the rest of his crew were just docking their boat.

When I started my run, it was 29C (or 84F) with the humidex at 36C (or 97F).  By the time I finished almost 19 miles, the humidex had only dropped to 34C (or 93F).   I don’t think that I could have run that distance under those conditions on my own but my family’s support got me through it: Dave, who offered to ride with me at the end (it didn’t happen but the thought of it kept me going) and my son who dropped everything so that he could meet me just past the half way mark.    Even though my family is getting older and busier and spending their weekend mornings sleeping while I’m logging miles on the road, they really are still there and supporting my crazy ideas while I keep chasing my dreams.

Happy Feet – a year later

Finishing a training run in my Mizuno Wave Riders.

Since the beginning of April, I have logged 750 miles, or an average of 47 miles a week.  Running higher mileage like this for an extended period of time is new to me and I didn’t think that I would be able to hang onto this higher volume.  Doing a few double runs has helped me to build but looking after my feet has made a huge difference.

Many older runners will tell you that their feet start to hurt when they reach a certain distance.  My Mizuno waveriders gave me the support that I needed until five years ago when, at age 49, my feet would start to ache as soon as I reached 15 miles.   Thinking it was just the shoe, I tried a few other brands but kept going back to the waverider; I knew the sore feet were not caused by the shoe but, simply, just my getting older.  But, stubborn like a marathoner can be, I trained through these aches for the Buffalo, Chicago and Boston marathons, with my feet hurting more and more each time.  Now aches are common with many distance runners but they are that much more pronounced in older runners as our feet tend to have less fat.  Determined to not walk away from long distance yet, I needed to find a solution and turned to a chiropodist, Dr. Werkman.

I saw Dr. Werkman last August and he designed a more supportive insole for my shoes – not an orthotic, but my mizuno insole with the addition of poron, which provides more cushioning under the balls of my feet, the point of impact when I land.   It took a few adjustments to get them “just right” but they have made a huge difference in how comfortable my feet feel.  Since they aren’t traditional orthotics, this is also a much more financially reasonable solution.

My worn-down insole on the left vs newly constructed on the right.

Last week, I went to see Dr. Werkman as I knew that I was pushing the limits on my last pair of insoles.  He built this pair for me in March and, by mid-June, I could tell that they were well-worn because the balls of my feet were starting to hurt a little, something that I haven’t had in almost a year.  When Dr. Werkman saw how flat my insoles were, his eyes popped.  “How far have you run in these?” he asked.  The man is a magician.  He took my Mizuno insoles from the shoes that I purchased in June, lined them up with my old insoles (also Mizuno) and replicated them.   They felt exactly the same but the true test was my long run on Sunday.  After 18 miles, I complained about the heat and I complained about the hill at Mile 16, but I did not complain about my feet.

The 12 weeks ahead in preparation for the Chicago Marathon are not just about logging the miles.  They involve a lot of self-care; looking after my feet is just one part of that, one step to keep me chasing my dreams.