Friday, September 30, 2011

I Say Hello, You Say.....Nothing?

As runners in a large city, I'm sure we've all seen it. I'm sure we've all done it at some point as well. The first time it happens you're a little shocked and you wonder "Am I supposed to know that person?" and then it happens again and again and you think "This is pretty cool."

It's called the Runner's Wave. The recognition and understanding that you too are a sole mate, a part of the crazy tribe. The Wave comes in a few different forms, but it's usually a little flick of the wrist with a slight extension of the index and middle finger. Sometimes, usually early in a run, you will get full extension in the fingers. This usually happens before fatigue sets in.
Perfecting my Runner's Wave

I find various areas of the city differ in terms of how often you see the Runner's Wave. For instance our neighbourhood, while a bit off the beaten path for runners, boasts some of the friendliest runners I've seen. I always get a nod or a wave from a passing runner. The same can be said for the High Park neighbourhood where I used to live. That area is a Mecca for Runners. Hills, park, trail and not terribly far from the Lake. That is where I perfected my Runners Wave. The area we are temporarily residing in is another haven for runners with endless trail and park systems to run through yet I am finding that the runners out this way are generally not as friendly (and I am making a large generalization here based on my limited 3 month experience).   Take my run last night for example.  I must have seen at least 12 runners in the 42 minutes I was out.  Not ONE waved.  Each one I passed got my version of the Wave and in return I was greeted with a blank stare.   I also find this to be the case on my long runs.  I will see well over 25-30 runners on any given Sunday and I can count on one hand how many actually wave back.

What's UP with that?

I get that sometimes you're in a zone and you might not notice.  I've been there.  It's not like I'm a crazy stalker that's going to follow you home.  I get that your run is your "me" time but it's not like I'm going to stop and strike up a conversation with you.  I'm out for a run, more than likely for the same reasons you are.   We are, after all part of the same tribe.  I know we're in the "big bad city" but it doesn't hurt to make an effort to make it not seem so big and bad.  So the next time you're out for a run and you see a fellow runner, make the effort to salute your fellow sole mate.  You never know who you'll be welcoming to the club.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Learning the Art of Empty Miling

Over the last few weeks I have really noticed my dependance on "the numbers" when I'm out running.  Especially over my last 2 long runs, both of which have been "crappy" by my standards.  In reality they weren't so bad once I actually mapped out my route and figured out that my shoe pod is way off.  The pissy little athlete in me stopped whining at that point but it got me to thinking about just how tied to technology I've become as a runner.  I never go out for a run without my heart rate monitor or shoe pod.  NEVER.  At least I can't remember the last time I did.  When my current heart rate monitor went in for service, I used an old one and diligently mapped out my routes and entered my workout in my training log. I understand doing that while training for a race but even when I'm not training?  Really?  What's the point?

The point is the numbers.  And sometimes, the numbers take the fun out of running.

So once my racing season is over, I'm going to practice the Art of Empty Miling.  I've been following this blog for the last little while and I have to say, I'm completely inspired to lose the technology and just run.  This fellow is an ultra runner who is all about running for the experience, not the results.  He's not a big fan of organized racing.  Our outlooks couldn't be more different but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate what he's all about.  This post is what got me thinking.  Don't get me wrong, I'm loving the year I'm having and I'm certainly not ready to throw in the towel and stop racing but I do believe there is a time and a place for some good old empty miling.  Racing forces you to be "on" and every run is supposed to have a purpose.  While enjoyable, it is also mentally and physically taxing, especially if you're seriously goal oriented like myself.   Sometimes you just need to unplug, give yourself a break from the numbers and enjoy the journey.

Path to the Brickworks
Copyright Phaedra Kennedy, 2011

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pulling the Pin

It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I generally have a really good reason.  I bailed on a race this morning.  I can count on one hand the number of times I've pulled the pin on a race.  I don't like to do it and there is often a big mental dialogue that goes along with it.  I feel like because I've made the commitment, I have to do it, no matter how crappy I may be feeling.  Which is just ridiculous, especially if it's not an A-race.
This week has been particularly busy, there have been a couple of very long, tiring days which have left me feeling really run down.  I feel like I'm toeing that delicate line between succumbing to a cold or being able to fight it off.  Given that the race today was "just a race" I figured it would be wise to pass on it.  The more important goal of this weekend is to get my 26km run in tomorrow and that is even questionable at this point.
I've got 4 more weeks till my A-race and at this point, I have to make sure I listen to my body and give it the rest it needs, if that means bailing on a race then c'est la vie!  It's just one less race shirt I'll be adding to my collection.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lessons Learned

It had to happen sooner or later.  Every training session I expect at least one and today was the day.  I had the worst run I've had in a very long time.  I knew from the first 5 minutes that it was probably going to be an ugly one.  My pace was slower than normal and my heart rate was higher than it should have been.


I tried to ignore it and just focus on my form.  My legs weren't feeling too hot either but I figured I just needed to warm up.   So I chugged along my normal route, knowing I was going to have to add on a bit at the bottom end to make up the 24km I had to do today.  I had a 10km race page segment I had to do in the middle of the run so I figured between 45-50 minutes in, I'd start my race pace.  My goal was to run 4:30's for 10km.

I kept checking my watch, noting my ever climbing heart rate and slower than normal pace.  I could feel the annoyance building.  Then I started to get a stitch that I couldn't get rid of.  I was starting to get cranky.  The negative thoughts started.  What if I'm overtrained?  What if I'm getting sick....I don't think I can get through this run....The race pace portion is going to suck.....

STOP.  I had to reframe the situation.  Ok, so I'm not having the best day.   What can I do about it?  Nothing except suck it up and keep moving.  I start having a mental dialogue with myself; "All you can do is do your best.  Yeah the race pace portion is not going to be pleasant, so just do what you can".   So, 50 minutes in I take off and my heart rate almost immediately spikes to 170.  And I'm not even running 4:45's.  Ugh.  Well, it is what it is.  All I can do at this point is keep pushing and see how long I can last.  I figured if I could hold on for 50 minutes, that would be at least 10km maybe more.  I managed 40 minutes and that was enough.  I actually had to stop and walk afterwards.  Something was definitely not right.  I was bonking hard.

I finally started running again and thinking about what the issue could be.  I started going over the last couple of days in my head when it dawned on me.  I spent a large portion of yesterday morning encased in black neoprene, in the sun, then swimming in some seriously rough water and I hardly drank anything.  Well d'uh!  That would explain the fatigue, the achey muscles, the elevated heart rate and the lack of sweat that I was starting to notice.  I was extremely dehydrated.  About 3km from home, I stopped to get some Gatorade.  I drank about half the bottle on the spot and topped up my 2 flasks.  I hobbled my way home and as soon as I walked in the door, I filled up my water bottle with the remainder of the Gatorade, more water & some BCAA's (to help my muscles recover).   I drank that down while stretching.   Post shower I downed another bottle and then took a bottle with me when I was out running errands.  Now I"m having another bottle of electrolyte drink.  Hopefully that will help get me back to normal.  I should know better than this by now.  But once and while, I forget.   Then something like this happens and smacks me back to reality.  Let's hope I've finally learned my lesson.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Till We Meet Again

"My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me."  - Henry Ford

Best Buds; March 2011

Last Thursday I said goodbye to my closest friend & confidante; my partner in crime and my fellow Ironman training partner; Sue Cadman.  I had been dreading this day for months, ever since she told me about "The Move" back in February.  Her husband Rick had been offered a great opportunity to work in the U.S so they would be re-locating to San Francisco for 2 years.  Very sad news for both of us. 

Some people come into your life in the darndest ways and Sue was no exception.  We first met in 2001 on a rather nightmarish shoot at my studio.  She was the account executive and I remember sitting at the big table in the studio chatting away with her.  I had just run my first marathon and she was telling me about her boyfriend Rick who was training to run either New York or Chicago (memory is fuzzy here!).  The shoot wrapped up and we went our separate ways.

Fast forward to 2003.  Gary and I had been dating for a year and had just moved in together.  I had been introduced to the world of multi-sport racing, having done my first duathlon the previous September and I was now focused on working on my swimming so I could do my first triathlon.  Gary convinced me to join the St. Lawrence Masters Swim group that he trained with.  So in early 2003, I showed up at the pool and got put in the slow lane.  Slowly but surely I got to know the group.  I quickly moved up a lane into the lane beside Gary.  I remember being introduced to Sue and thinking that she looked really familiar but I couldn't figure out where I knew her from.  The group did a fair amount of socializing so we got got know each other a bit better.  I remember saying to Sue "You look so familiar, I'm positive we've met before."  She said the same of me.  We started going over places we might have met when I asked her where she worked.  As soon as she said Carlson Marketing, I remembered exactly where we met.  When I told her she laughed and we reminisced about what a nightmare that shoot was.  What a small world. 

We continued to swim at St. Lawrence for a bit until we bought our house out at Lakeshore and Islington.  St. Lawrence wasn't so convenient anymore but we still hung out with the group on a regular basis.  We joined the Bally's at 427 & Dundas on the recommendation of some of our swim group that had moved out to the West End.  There was a pool there so that's where we started swimming.  The west end members of the group socialized a lot and we got to know Rick and Sue quite well, especially at the annual Thompson Birthday Pasta Parties where the wine flowed and the pasta was plenty.  There was an awesome New Year's Bash at the Thompson's as well that involved more wine, lots of great conversation and the loss of our camera in the short cab ride home.  Those were some good times.

Despite all the social interaction, the real bonding didn't start to happen until just after Sue's 30th Birthday in 2005.  It was a birthday extravaganza of Epic Proportions that involved drinks and cake at the Madison, followed by a chartered street car ride to the Gladstone for some drunken karaoke.  That was followed by another ride on the chartered streetcar to some bar off King Street.  I don't remember the name but I remember it was tiny and packed.  Rick figured that all the triathletes would bail after the Madison, which was pretty much the case, with the exception of Gary and I.  And John Hahn.  We stuck around to the bitter end.   I remember there was a lot of beer, tequila shots and some shirtless dancing by John.  I'm pretty sure Rick kept his shirt on, which would have been a first. 

After that evening, the true seeds of our friendship were planted.  There were many nights on the town with the Cadmans and company.  Sandwiched between their Ironman training of course.  Those two know how to work hard and play hard.  They had been bitten by the Ironman bug and were training to do Ironman Lake Placid in July of 2005.  We had spent a couple of training weekends with them in Lake Placid and it was logging those long miles on the bike with Sue that our friendship truly blossomed.  Gary and I weren't able to go down and cheer them on on race day as we were racing in Bala that day but they had a big group of the tri-gang  there to cheer them on.  Gary and I signed up for Lake Placid  the very next day.  Our A-race that year was the Canadian Half Ironman in Ottawa on the September long weekend.  In true Cadman fashion, Sue & Rick came out to cheer us on while they were up visiting Sue's parents.  That's the kind of people they are.  Always ready to support their friends, no matter what.

2006 saw us spending even more time together.  We had signed up for Lake Placid and Sue & Rick had decided to tackle Ironman again, this time in Coeur D'alene, Idaho.  We were invited up to Cabana Cadman in Dorset with bikes in tow, to spend the weekends swimming, biking, running, drinking and helping out around the cottage.  Just weeks after their race in Idaho, Sue & Rick were there in Lake Placid to cheer us on.  We have a ton of great photographs from that day courtesy of Rick.

We spent much of the summer of 2007 hanging out at Cabana Cadman and it was after a few cocktails on one of those hazy summer afternoons, that I got roped into doing another Ironman.  The selling points were many:  Sue as going to do it so we could train together and, the really big deal, it was going to be a European race so we'd get to travel together.  IM Austria had just sold out so we opted for IM Switzerland a couple of weeks later.  That summer was a fun one.  There was the crazy August Long Weekend bash that garnered me my nickname (Lady G) along with many other good times up at Cabana Cadman.  Rick and Sue also bought a house in the West end that summer and joined the rest of the club that had moved out that way.   The party that they hosted on New Year's is legendary and is hands down the best New Year's party I've ever been to.  That was the night that ILYM was born (ILYM=I Love You Man, said many a times that night while dancing drunkenly in the basement) .  A nickname that still stands to this day.

A whole new Ironman adventure awaited us in 2008.  We bought matching bikes, the first of many matching things; most of which were bought completely separately of each other, without either of us knowing the other had it.  This was typical of Sue and I.  Two peas in a pod when it came to picking out matching workout gear.   They started swimming with us at Bally's so we pretty much took over the pool when we were training.  We also did some of our weight workouts together.  When the warm weather came, we started riding together up at Cabana Cadman.  No topic was taboo on our long rides.  We talked about everything.  Sometimes we didn't talk, we just rode and sat in the comfortable silence that comes with friendship.  We invented silly songs to get us through the miles.  I'll never forget singing a rather crude song about Emes Hill and some woman named Pitter who I always said was in the shitter whenever we rode by that sign. 

Switzerland arrived and I think all 9 of us that were racing were on the same flight.  We did all our workouts together (including a great swim workout in which I perfected the "taper time" dance in my wetsuit), met for dinner with our coach who was also racing.  Race day came and we scrambled to find each other race morning.  We couldn't start the day without wishing each other luck.  We ended up making our way over to the water together  as the women had to start on one side of the pier and the men on the other.  We stood side by side, and gave each other a hug and wished each other the best of luck.  It was an emotional moment.  Sue totally kicked my ass that day.  She put together a great race.  I saw her once on the run and I remember saying "As much as I love you, I am NEVER doing this again, no matter how many cocktails you give me!".    She laughed.  That was easily one of  the hardest races of my life.  I had a tough time all day and I was so happy to see Gary, Sue and Rick waiting for me at the finish line.  I hugged them all and broke down, vowing never to do another Ironman again.

3 years later, I still feel that way.  Although I suppose if Sue decided that down the road, she wanted to do another one, I'd probably join her.  That's what friends are for, after all. 

I know that this move is only temporary but it's still not easy.  Despite the fact that our lives have taken different paths since that Ironman and the training miles are no longer shared (at least at this point), we have remained close friends.  There is no reason that should change.  That's what Skype and Face Time are for!  The positive side to this is that we have a place to stay in San Francisco and I know my partner in crime would jump at the chance to join me in running the Bay to Breakers so, I won't say goodbye, I'll just say, 'till we meet again.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Change In The Weather

As much as I hate to say it, it's getting to be that time of year again.   The air is noticeably different.  The humidity less frequent.  Yes folks, fall is on it's way.  The temperature tides are shifting. I witnessed it first hand up north this weekend.  The trees have started to change.  Never mind that it's only the beginning of September and "they" say we're supposed to have an Indian Summer.  Fall will be here before we know it.

I, for one, look forward the return of fall.  Don't get me wrong, I love summer - the long lazy days, the sunshine and blue skies - all of it is wonderful.  But there is something about the fall that I just love.  Fall is definitely my favourite running season.  The air is so much easier to breathe and I'm generally not covered in a layer of sweat and grime when I'm done a long run.   I love going out for an early morning run in the cool, crisp air.  Especially when the sun is shining and the leaves have started to turn.  Absolute heaven. 

For me, fall brings the end of triathlon season but ushers in a whole new running season.  There are multiple fall marathons to participate in along with a myriad of other shorter distance races.   It's nice to be able to take the fitness earned over the summer while gearing up for a longer A-race and test it out at a shorter late season race before the snow falls. 

The end of fall is usually when I take stock of my racing year.  Did I reach my goals?  What would I do differently?  Is there something else I want to try?  Fall is a time of reflection and re-evaluation.  It's time to relax, put my feet up and hope that my toenails grow back in time for another beating come January.