Saturday, March 31, 2012

Head Games: From The Archives #3

"They" say that endurance running is 50% mental and 50% physical.  You obviously have to train your body for it but you also have to train your brain.  You have to find mental strategies that will get you through the tough spots that you'll inevitably experience on a longer haul.  Sometimes those mental strategies involve rewards, sometimes they involve just getting to the next kilometer and sometimes, well, they involve a whole other level of imagination.  The crazy way my brain works is evident in this blast from the past.   This is the final installment from my first half marathon hat trick in 2000:   The Canadian International Half Marathon, which is now known as the Good Life Marathon.



Hey All....

Well, this is it. My last little ditty this year. Whew. It's done, over, finito. I completed my half-marathon hat-trick and let me tell you it wasn't easy. Rising at 6 am on a Sunday morning isn't exactly my most favourite thing but I managed to drag my sorry, groggy butt out of bed and scramble over to Yonge and Bloor to catch the vomit comet that would take me to the start line of my illustrious third (and final) half marathon this year, the Home Depot Half Marathon (also known as the Canadian International Half Marathon). The weather was great running weather, not too cold and a slight breeze and NO sun. Yet for some odd reason I brought my sunglasses instead of my hat. Go figure.

The race started just north of Mel Lastman Square. I was pretty calm considering my I was totally unprepared for this race training wise. I hadn't run 21.1K since August 27th and my training routine since then had been next to non-existent. I knew I could run the distance it was just a question of how long I could keep the pain at bay. I knew my lungs were up to the challenge but I wasn't so sure about my legs. But in typical Phaedra fashion, I throw caution to the wind and say "aaaah what the hell" I hurt for a few days. Big deal. The race was pretty much all downhill anyway. No worries.

At 8:45 am sharp, the siren went off and we started out. The route was packed with people cheering. We ran straight down Yonge Street. I knew this would be a "rolling route" but that the majority of it would be downhill with the exception of "The Beast" a.k.a Hog's Hollow at Yonge and York Mills. I had met The Beast before so I knew what to expect. I conserved as much energy as I could on the downhill so I could tackle the uphill onslaught without hurling when I got to the top. The second time around was much easier than the first. It still hurt mind you, just not as much. With that hill out of the way I figured the rest of the race was a piece of cake. All downhill. I was feeling good and I was running surprisingly fast (under a 5 min per km pace). I motored along taking the occasional walking break at the water stations. I was feeling good, oh ya, I could go on for hours. This sis-tah had found her groove. That was 55 minutes into the race. That was at the top of Rosedale Valley Road. 5 minutes later it was all downhill from there.

At the bottom of Rosedale Valley Road I started to feel "the ache". That annoying ache in my knee that comes and goes from time to time. I kept going but slowed up my pace a bit. I figured, ah it will go away eventually. It was about 16k into the race that I realized uh-oh...this pain isn't going to go anywhere. And that was when the battle began.

Runners have all sorts of mental tricks to get themselves through tough times. I started by trying to distract myself. So I pictured the people infront of me running in their underwear. That turned out to be kind of a scary visual so I pictured myself lying on an floating dock in the middle of a lake on a sunny day. That worked for a bit. I then tried to think up little rewards for myself like "oh if I just make it around that next bend, there will be a whole tub of Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream with your name all over it". Unfortunately when I rounded that bend, Ben and Jerry were nowhere to be found. Completely at a loss for anymore mental tricks I began to visualize the battle going on in my head. On one side there was a little man named Matter and on the other side there was a little man named Mind. They were each wielding those foam pool noodles, and trying to beat each other into submission. Oh it wasn't a pretty sight let me tell you. The battle became VERY intense at about the 19K mark when Matter almost won out. But Mind isn't a quitter so Mind persevered despite Matter's constant cajoling about how he and his friend Pain were going to kick Matter's sorry ass. I guess all those threats of being beaten with a wet noodle finally got to Mind and he found it in him to deal the final blow to Matter in a sprint to the finish line. The time as I crossed the line: 1:47:59. My best time yet. In the worst shape I've been in, I run my best race. Go figure.

Now I think I will go and make friends with my couch, give my shoes the break they deserve and put Mind and Matter in their respective corners till next time.

That's all folks, it's been a blast. Tune in next year as I attempt to run my first marathon.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Re-inventing The Wheel

The pizza wheel that is.

If there is one food that I hands down absolutely love, it's pizza.  There is something so perfect about a good pie.  You can put whatever you want on it, and you don't need any utensils or even a plate to eat it.  It's the ultimate convenience food.  I'm always looking for tasty ways make traditional fast food healthier.  Sure, sometimes it takes more time but I think it's worth in in the end.  I've made pizza on tortillas and on pitas and flat bread, which are fast and easy to use bases.  Both are good options but personally nothing beats home made dough.  A good pizza is really the ultimate anytime meal.  It's great for lunch and dinner and it's pretty awesome as a cold breakfast too. 

Since I started following PN in late 2010 I've been trying to find something that is high in protein and a little lower on the carb scale so I can have it anytime (PN recommends consuming carbs post workout).  I tried a recipe using chickpea flour courtesy of Georgie Fear.  It was delicious.  High in protein and fiber,  but it was missing something.    Maybe it wasn't crispy enough.  Not sure.

I had seen a few recipes that used almond flour as a base and I thought that might be interesting.  I had purchased some to bake some almond cookies but I decided to use it for pizza dough instead.  Probably a smarter option for my waistline as well.  I found this recipe  and thought it sounded interesting.  I tweaked it a bit by adding some millet flour that I happened to have on hand.

The recipe went like this:

1.5 cups of almond flour
1 cup of millet flour
3 eggs
3 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp of xanthan gum 
1 tsp of granulated garlic (didn't have garlic powder)
1 tsp of dried thyme
1/2 tsp of salt.

The dough was quite wet.  I rolled it out onto a piece of parchment paper as thinly as possible.  Fired up the BBQ on high till it hit 400 degrees.  I flipped the dough onto the BBQ, closed the lid and turned the heat down to medium.  About 5 minutes later I checked on it and it had firmed up nicely.  I let it sit for another couple of minutes and then moved it onto a pizza stone to top it.  This one had caramelized onions, sun-dried tomato pesto, prosciutto, zucchini, roasted red peppers & portobello mushrooms.  It was topped with mozzarella cheese.  Yum yum.

 The final verdict:  The taste was, well, nutty.  The texture of the crust was almost like a dense cracker.  It was very crispy on the bottom and somewhat dry and dense on the inside.  The flavour was good but I've got to work on the texture.  I'm not a big fan of dense and dry.  It could just be the almond meal itself.  It could have been the millet flour as well.  Who knows.  Maybe next time I'll go half and half.  None the less, it was very filling and I only managed to eat 2 pieces before feeling full (normally I'll down 3 pieces easily).

The toppings were awesome.  Will definitely do that combo again.   Now I just need to work on perfecting the crust, one pie at a time. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Silver Lining- ATB Race Report

 It had been 6 years since I last did this race.  I was training for my first Ironman at the time and figured I was in top shape.  I also figured if I was lucky I'd be able to snag myself a silver medal.  This race gives out 3 different colours of medals depending on what time you finish it in.  For women, you got gold for anything faster than 2:15:00, silver for anything between 2:15:01 to 2:30:00 and then bronze for anything from 2:30:01 and up.  I was a lot faster in my head than in real life.  In 2006 I crossed the line in 2:40:51. I like to think it was really closer to 2:38 as I had to stop at an aid station and tape my toenail down at around the 27km mark.  Either way I wasn't even close to getting a silver medal.

I hoped that if I did this race again that I'd be able to break the magical 2:30 barrier and get my silver medal.   I had a fair bit of work to do to cut more than 10 minutes off my time.  But considering the year I had last year, anything was possible.  I was heading into this years race 15lbs lighter than the last time I ran it and much much faster.  I had high expectations for myself.  I set myself a goal of 2:20, which works out to a 4:40 per km pace. 

I was coming off a couple of light weeks of running due to some muscle issues so to say I was a bit worried was an understatement.  I wasn't terribly worried about the actual distance.  I knew I could muscle that out.  I was worried about my speed and pacing.  So I spent a few minutes on Saturday afternoon figuring out how to set a pace alarm in my Garmin.  I needed something that would keep me in line.  I can't be trusted to do that on my own.  Left to my own devices I'd go out like a bat out of hell and run hard till I couldn't run anymore.  Not a smart thing to attempt on a 30km race.

The other thing I was concerned about were the hills.  I have done ZERO hill training this year.  None. Nada. Zilch.  From 17 to 26km, there are a series of 5 nasty rollers (thanks to my friend Agnes for counting them!) and one long climb with a very steep pitch at the end.  Once you crest the top of that last hill, your legs are usually fucked.  I hoped that I had enough in the bank time wise to cover myself for the inevitable slow down that I figured would happen through here.

I met up with Kiki before the race and we did a nice little warm up jog.  I was having some serious stitch issues so I adjusted my fuel belt.  It didn't help.  It was so bad on a down hill that I had to jam my finger into my abdomen to try and get rid of the pain.  This was not good.  Once I did my warm up I tried to massage it and it actually hurt to put even a bit of pressure on it.  Yikes.  I spent a fair bit of time massaging it and taking my leg through the running motion.  That seemed to help.  I guess I'd see if it worked when I actually started racing.

Kiki and I worked our way through the crowd and situated ourselves not too far behind the 2:15 pace bunny.  I figured that was a relatively safe place for us to be.  We were both pretty nervous. Kiki turned to me and asked me Why the hell do we do this to ourselves??.  My reply: Because it makes us feel alive.  The laugh I got from her was so very Kiki. It was a loud guffaw that made me laugh in turn.  The laughter helped calm my nerves.   The announcer came on and the nervous chit chat in the crowd quieted down a bit.  The next thing I knew, we were starting to move forward.  The shuffle towards the line had commenced.  We were off.   Kiki & I wished each other luck and set off on our 30km journey.

I made sure I hit start on my Garmin when I crossed the line this time.  I didn't want a repeat of the Chilly Half.  I needed to have a clear idea of my pace and exactly where I was and what my time was.  There was a bit of bobbing and weaving to get around some folks but not too much.  The first few hundred meters are narrow so your speed never really gets up to where it should be.  Once we passed Copps Coliseum, the course opened up.  Of course my watch was beeping at me because I was going too slow but I quickly rectified that.  I settled into what felt like a comfortable pace.  I checked my watch: 4:25's.  Uh-Oh.  Slow down.  I backed it off and tried to keep myself somewhere between 4:35 - 4:40's.  I was feeling a bit overdressed which seems to be a theme for me whenever I've run out there.  I never seem to be able to get it quite right.  Today was no exception.   I had my CWX shorts on, my compressport full socks, a long sleeve thin but thermal shirt and my Team Running Free Singlet over it and I was feeling really warm.  Craaaap.  I don't like being hot while I'm racing.  Colder is better.  I spent a few minutes actually trying to figure out if I could manage to get my long sleeve top off while I was running.  Wasn't going to happen.  I'd have to stop and take it off which was definitely not happening.  I'd just have to deal with it and make sure I stayed hydrated.

I motored along, yo-yo-ing a bit with my pace.  I cannot seem to run at a steady pace.  At least it doesn't seem like it to me.  I seemed to be all over the map for those first few km's.  Much like an erratic bad driver, I'd speed up, then slow down, speed up, slow down.  My Garmin was going ape shit on me so I finally managed to settle into a pace that shut it up.  I think I finally settled things down just before the 6km mark.  The 6km mark was the first km marker I saw on the course.  I checked my watch and I was just under 28 minutes.  Sounded good to me.  I wasn't feeling great; that stitch I had during my warm up was just lingering.  It was like a dull ache in my abdomen.   Not debilitating but definitely uncomfortable.  I was better than when I started so I hoped that it would eventually sort itself out and go away.

The km markers became more regular after the 6km mark.  Each one had a funny saying it as well, which made me look forward to the next one.  I wish I had a camera with me, some of them were quite funny.  But alas, I have a horrible memory at the best of times, I certainly wasn't going to remember a funny quote while I was running a 30km race.

I got through 8km in 36 minutes and change.  Excellent.  I was starting to feel better.  My nutrition and hydration were totally on track.  The stitch had pretty much gone but now I was dealing with the occasional twinge that would shoot down my right leg.  I'm assuming that as my glute muscles contracted, depending on how my foot hit the ground, they'd squeeze my sciatic nerve.  These twinges usually elicited a gasp from me and I'd alter my stride.  Luckily it was a sporadic occurrence.  I don't think it really slowed me down in the grand scheme of things but it did make me alter my stride slightly for a bit.

I was starting to mentally struggle a bit in between 8-10 km.  All of a sudden I felt like I couldn't face running another 20-22km.  So I had to start breaking things down into smaller segments.  I just had to get to 10km and then I'd only be 5km away from half way.  As silly as that sounds, that was my reasoning.  It seemed to help.  That and just before I got to the 10km mark Prince's Let's Go Crazy came on my shuffle.  Much like at the Chilly Half, that song gave me the kick in the pants I needed.  The bounce came back into my step.   I crossed the 10km mark at just over 46 minutes, which was perfect.  I figured I'd have some padding time wise heading into the hills.  

The km's between 10 and 14 were a bit of a blur.  There are 3 things I do remember from this stretch.  1) Chatting with a Team RF member whose name I didn't get.  2) A bunch of older "Biker Types" (huge generalization) sitting on their lawn, playing Eye of the Tiger and drinking beer (it wasn't even 11 am!) and 3) The Amazing House of Bacon.  That was a new one.  There were a bunch of folks who had set up a couple of tables with a skillet and they were cooking bacon.  BACON!  If this was on the run portion of an Ironman I would have stopped and chowed down for sure.  I was seriously tempted but I was just starting to get a good rhythm going so I didn't want to slow down.

It was about the 14km mark that I really started to feel good.  Which is just plain weird.  I did a 3.5km warm up so I had actually covered 17.5km at that point and I was just starting to feel good??  Hmph.  The next thing I knew, I was at the 15km mark.  I checked my watch I was at 1:08:40 something.  Sweet! That meant I had at least 2 minutes of padding for the implosion that I figured was going to be inevitable once I hit the hills in Burlington.

There was a fair bit of down hill and false flats over these next two km and I took advantage of that as much as I could.  I pushed the pace a bit running along by the Skyway.  My legs felt good and I wanted to put a bit more padding in that cushion that I had.  I knew the hills were coming up.  We came off the Skyway underpass and hit North Shore Drive.  The gradual uphill had started.  My heart rate started to climb with the terrain.  This section of hills was worse than I remembered.  I tried to go at them quickly by shortening my stride but it didn't matter what I did.  My lack of hill fitness was very apparent.  I felt like I had a parachute strapped to my back.  And the screaming in my legs didn't help matters either.  Luckily there were some good downhills as well so I figured whatever I time I lost on an uphill I could hopefully gain in back on a downhill if I let 'er rip.  Which I did.  I finally saw Gary here.  He had brought his bike and rode around the course.  I waved to him as I shuffled up one of the nastier hills.  I remember saying something to him about how much pain I was in.  He could tell I was hurting.  I was having a tough time through here mentally as well.  I started playing the reel 'em in game with myself.  I'd find someone up ahead and try to catch them.  Surprisingly, it was working!  I guess I had more in my legs than I thought.  I spied a fellow Team RF member up ahead and made it my mission to catch up to him.  As I got closer, I realized it was Matt from the Chilly Half!  I ran up beside him and said hi and we chatted for a bit.

We were now heading onto part of the course for the Good Friday 10 miler so I knew what to expect for the next few km.  We were coming up to an impromptu family run aid station so I stopped and grabbed a water to wash down the second half of my Roctane.   I lost Matt for a bit but once my Garmin started beeping at me, I pushed the pace and caught up to him.  We chatted for a bit more and then I pulled away.  I think the Roctane had kicked in.  We were heading towards the Valley.  I saw the 25km marker and could hear the "boom boom, clap" of Queen's We Will Rock You.  This has to be my favourite part of the race.  The little guy in the wheelchair blaring We Will Rock You and cheering people on.  He was there the last time I did this race in 2006.  I ran up to him and gave him a high five.  I was totally pumped.  We were heading down into the valley so I let 'er rip again on the downhill.  I passed a couple of ladies.  One of them caught up with me at the bottom and passed me.  Hmmmm.  I knew what was coming but I didn't care.  I was going to give 'er.  There was less than 5km left.  I figured I could start to entertain the idea of throwing caution to the wind.  Just as we started to climb the hill,  The Arctic Monkeys "I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor" came on.  If there was ever a song that would make you kick your own ass up a hill, that has GOT to be it.  I threw it down.  I was going to give 'er starting NOW.  I passed the girl that had just passed me.  The first part of the hill isn't actually that bad.  It's just long.  It's the last part by the 26km marker that's the bugger.  It pitches up what feels like 90 degrees.  Every fiber in my body was burning.  I got to the top and saw Gary and something like this came out of my mouth:  *gasp*  Fuck  *gasp* that *gasp* was *gasp* HARD.  I don't remember what he said to me.  I just remember my legs feeling like jello.  Once I recovered, I told him I felt like I still had some speed left in me so I was going to slowly pick up the pace.  He took off towards the finish line and I started playing the reel 'em in game again.

I could see the 27km marker up ahead and I figured at that point I'd start to push it.  I could handle 3km of discomfort.  Besides I was curious to see exactly how much I had left in the tank.  I saw a shirtless guy ahead of me who seemed to running at a decent clip so my goal was to try and get as close to him as possible.  I also happened to notice 2 women ahead of me.  If I could catch them that would be a bonus.  I cast my reel and picked up the pace. I passed the Grim Reapers at 28km with a smile and a wave.  Not today my friends, not today.

I glanced down at my watch and saw 4:19km's.  Sweet!  I was really working now.  My legs were just starting to really hurt.  No matter I had less than 2km.  I could see Copps Coliseum.  I reeled in both women and got closer to the shirtless dude.  I was really working hard.  I glanced at my watch.  I knew without a doubt I'd be under 2:20.  In fact I figured I might even be under 2:18!  I continued to push the pace.  It seemed like my body didn't want to go any faster than 4:16 km's.  Try as I could, I didn't seem to be able to push it much harder than that.  I came pounding down York Street, Elvis Costello's Pump It Up cranked.  The spectators were getting louder and the crowds were getting bigger.  I saw Gary again about half a kilometer from the finish.  I pulled my headphones out so I could hear the finish line music thumping.  The finish line is actually in Copps Coliseum so I made sure I pulled my glasses off and put them on my head so I could actually see where I was going.  Running from the brightness outside into a dimly lit tunnel on a downhill is a potential recipe for disaster.  The last time I ran this race, two people wiped out in front of me.  I didn't want that to happen to me this time around.  I made it down the ramp and into the finishing chute.  I heard Kevin MacKinnon announce my name as I came down the finishing chute.  I looked at my watch as I crossed the line and it said 2:17:17.  Take that 2:20!  Off I went to collect my coveted silver medal.

I hobbled around to the food station, grabbed some snacks and made my way up the escalator to the upper floor of the Coliseum.  I then had to go DOWN stairs to get back outside to try and find Gary.  My legs weren't too thrilled about going downstairs but at least I didn't have to tackle them sideways like some other folks did.

I made my way outside just in time to see some WTP ladies finish (yay Carm & Karen!) and I scanned the crowd for Kiki.  As I was scanning the runners I saw some familiar tattoos.  Lo and behold, my Tattooed Wind Blocker from the Chilly Half was racing.  It looked like he was on pace to make it under 2:30 as well!  A few minutes later I saw Kiki.  I cheered her on and then ran inside to try and find her but it was total chaos.  I hung around for a while and then wandered back outside to get Gary.  He read the stats to me as we made our way back to the car.  I ended up making the top 10 in my age group out of 485 women.  I came in 60th out of 2902 women!  I was really floored by the 10th place in my age group.  This is a big race with a lot of elite runners.  The fact that I cracked the top 10 was beyond my wildest expectations.  But, I think what I'm most proud of is the fact that for the first time, I actually managed to smartly race a race on my own AND manage a negative split.  At Scotia I had someone pace me.   Here it was just me, my Garmin and my judgement.  It also proved to me that with a little more speed work a 3:15 marathon just might be possible.

I do know one thing; the next time I run this race, I'm going for gold.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Looking for my Game Face

Tomorrow I'm slated to tackle the oldest race in North America;  Around the Bay 30km.  I had high hopes for this race at the beginning of my training.  Not to say that I don't have high hopes any more, they are just being tempered by my reality as of late.  I'm coming off some leg issues and I barely eked out 29km last weekend.  I can't even begin to imagine racing 30km.  My original goal was 2:20.  I think if I'm smart and I pace myself properly that may still be doable.  That's 4:40/km's.  I do know I'm not going to race it like I did the Chilly Half.  My thought process going in to that race was to just run as hard as I could for as long as I could.  It totally worked that day.  This race is 9km longer.  9km is a long way if you've already covered 21km.  It's also a long time to suffer. 

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a wee bit scared.  I know that if I managed to run 29km last week, then I should be able to run 30km this week.  But the memory of just how slow and uncomfortable last weeks 29km is still lingering in the back of my mind.  I know that the only person who really cares about my time is me.  Nobody else.   So what does it matter you ask?  It matters because if I don't make my time, I will feel like I failed.  Absolutely ridiculous, I know.  The fact that I went out and did it, doesn't seem to count for anything when in reality, it should.  It doesn't mean I am any less of a person because I didn't make my goal time.  This is the curse of a hard headed competitive runner.  In fact it doesn't mean anything in the grand scheme of my life.  It's a small dot in the larger picture.  Learning to let go of these expectations is a slow going process. 

So I'll have to be smart tomorrow, which, when I'm left to my own devices, doesn't usually happen.  I am going to spend this afternoon relaxing & trying to figure out how to set my Garmin to keep me on pace.   I'm also going to spend some time trying to find my game face.  I'm sure it's here somewhere, I just need find it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

8 weeks in: Mississauga Marathon Training Update

I am officially at the halfway point of my 16 week training program.  These last 4 weeks have been challenging to say the least.  I managed one almost perfect week of training and then it all went to hell in a hand basket.  Work got stupidly busy and I ended up sidelined for almost a week with some muscle & sciatic issues.  Not where I had hoped to be at this point in my training.  I've missed weeks of speed work and had to cut last weeks 29km run short.  I managed 22km before I had to call in the sag wagon.  Turns out I buggered up my adductor muscle, my hamstring and my glute medius, all of these incredibly tight muscles were putting pressure on my sciatic nerve.  Excruciating.  And just the kick in the pants that I needed to actually take care of myself.  One A.R.T session had me almost back to normal.  I took an entire week off and did an easy 7km run on Saturday.  It went well so I decided to tackle my 29km again on Sunday.  Success!  It was slower going than normal but I didn't care.  I got out and did it relatively pain free.  And in shorts to boot!  Woohoo!

I started off this quarter of my training plan with a very successful week of training.  Work seemed to have evened out, I didn't have any shoots happening, so all was good.  I didn't have any weight workouts scheduled either so I did my long tempo on the Tuesday morning.  Work did get a little busy and I ended up missing my Thursday run with the group so I did my intervals on the Friday night.  Then I did my easy run on Saturday and a progression run on Sunday.  By Monday my legs were fried.  I discovered that I can't run 3 days in a row anymore.

Scheduled Mileage:  58km  Actual Mileage:  57.24km - AWESOME!

The following week things at work were still relatively quiet. I wasn't feeling great though so I opted to skip my Tuesday night run with the group.  The last thing I wanted was to get sick leading up to the Chilly Half.  I opted to ride my bike instead.   I managed to get out and join my run group on Thursday for a short interval session.  My hamstring was feeling a bit tight so I was a bit apprehensive about the race on Sunday.  I made sure I stretched well and foam rolled it.  Saturday was my birthday and I figured I wanted to go into the race with totally fresh legs so I skipped my Saturday run.  Sunday was race day.  I did a decent warm up, raced and neglected to do a cool down.  So my mileage this week was less than stellar.

Scheduled Mileage:  56km  Actual Mileage:  33.32 km-  Uhhh...yikes.

All hell had broken loose on the Friday before my birthday so I knew that this particular week would be very challenging workout wise.  My hamstring was also still really bothering me and my legs were still feeling the 1:31:00 half I ran on the Sunday.  I still managed to get out and do a few runs but I didn't make it out to my group runs at all.  The Sunday I was scheduled to do 29km but I had to call the G-Man to come and pick me up at 22km.  That's when I realized I was in trouble.

Scheduled Mileage:  61km  Actual Mileage:  40.07 - better than last week but still....!!

After my disastrous run on the Sunday I knew I had to get in to Pivot and get myself sorted out.  Running was out of the question until my legs felt better.  No matter, we were shooting on Monday and Tuesday, which meant long days.  Wednesday I finally got in to Pivot to have some A.R.T work done.  Oh god.  There was not going to be any running after that.  We were also doing casting that day and then I was off to see The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys with my sister and her friends.   No time for a run.  Besides, my legs didn't want to run.  I had a hard enough time standing at the concert.  The PT told me that I would probably hurt for about 48 hours or so.  He wasn't kidding.  Thursday was beautiful and I desperately wanted to go out and run but I figured I'd give my body the time to heal.    Saturday I went out and did a very easy 7km run.  My legs felt great.  Virtually no pain.  I figured that I'd try to tackle 29km on Sunday.  I headed over to Marie Curtis Park with my friend Kiki and we ran along the Lakeshore portion of the Mississauga Marathon course.  I normally wouldn't attempt to do a 7km increase in mileage from one long run to the next but I figured I'd have to give it a go as I'm scheduled to do Around the Bay 30km next weekend.  Kiki and I toughed it out.  My legs were pretty pissed with me by about 26km.  But, we did it.  It was a bit slower going than normal but I didn't care.  I did it AND, it was virtually pain free.  That was huge.  Just the boost I needed.

Scheduled Mileage:  68km  Actual Mileage:  36.69km.  Disastrous.  But it is what it is.

This week looks fairly decent in terms of work.  One shoot on Wednesday so hopefully I'm able to get out to my run group on Tuesday and Thursday.  I had another A.R.T session with Peter this morning which hurt like hell but he was impressed with how much looser everything was feeling so I think my first torture session with him last week really helped.  I'm going in again on Saturday for a tune up before Around the Bay. 

Fingers crossed that the next 8 weeks are relatively uneventful!

The Happy Camper in her new shoes - March 18th, 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ok, So I'll Never Be a Foot Model

It's started again.  The transformation of my feet.  Or shall I say the dis-figuration of my feet.  As my mileage increases so do the callouses on my feet.  In fact I think with each km increase I probably add a millimeter to each callous.  That adds up to a lot.   I have ugly feet at the best of times (they're very Barney Rubble-esque) but once racing season starts, ugly reaches a whole new level.  The ugly usually starts after the first race of the season.  The faster paced running and the way my feet hit the ground usually result in a) some kind of blister and inevitably b) a black toenail.  I've worn the blister guard socks and those seem to work but since I've discovered compression socks, those are all I want to race in now.  So I usually body glide my feet before putting the socks on.  I've also taken to taping up my callouses with moleskin which actually seems to work wonders, at least in training.  I haven't put it into practice in a race yet but I think I'll do so next week at Around The Bay. 

I am staring to develop a black toenail on my 3rd toe.  This is usually where it happens.  There's only a small hint of it now but I guarantee you that by the time I finish Mississauga, it will be totally black.  Thank goodness for dark nail polish!  As unattractive as they may be, my feet put up with a lot of abuse.  They have covered more miles than I can remember.  They've taken me on all sorts of adventures and they've crossed numerous finish lines.  So it's okay if they're not pretty.  They show the battle scars I've earned with every mile I've run and I'm proud of that.  And besides,  I never aspired to be a foot model anyway. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive about heading out for a run today.  My leg felt better but I wasn't actually sure it would be better.  I've only had one A.R.T session so I didn't have super high hopes. I actually decided to get on my bike this morning for half an hour and get my legs properly warmed up before I went out.  I also opted to take my birthday Newtons out for their first trip.   It was supposed to be sunny and 15 degrees today but Mother Nature flipped us the bird and gave us fog and a drizzly mist so the temperature never really got about 7 or 8 down by the lake.   No matter, I busted out the capris and a vest.  White legs be damned. 

I worked up a good sweat on the bike, hustled upstairs and got my self ready.  10 minutes later I was out the door.  My first few steps were tentative.  I was expecting some kind of pain or discomfort.  Hmmmm....nothing!  My steps grew a bit more confident.  Still good.  Yes!  I settled in to a comfortable easy pace.  I only had 7km to cover so it was off to Marie Curtis Park and back.   The shoes were nothing short of amazing.  I never cease to be amazed at the difference between my "winter" trail shoes to my "summer" road shoes.  Both are Newtons but the trail shoes are so much more rigid and a fair bit heavier, which obviously makes sense.  They just don't seem to be that way when I'm wearing them, until I put these ones on.  They're like slippers.  Cushy neon yellow slippers. 

I literally bounded along to Marie Curtis.  I'm not sure if was the shoes or the fact that my legs just wanted to go.  Either way, I was happy.  I'm pretty sure I was grinning from ear to ear as I went along.
That's probably why I got a few weird looks from folks.  No matter.  I made it out to the park with NO issues.  I turned around and ran into the wind on the way back.  I did feel a few odd twinges and pinches here and there but nothing that was constant like on my last run.  It's still not 100% but it's close.  Good thing I have another appointment scheduled for Monday morning because I'm thinking I'm scheduled for a 29km re-do tomorrow.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Finding Balance

I know I've been a bit quiet as of late but that's because there hasn't been much happening in the way of running.  When I'm not running, the creative juices don't seem to flow.  It doesn't help that My Real Life has managed to consume almost every waking moment of these last few weeks and has sapped me of any desire or ability to operate on any other level than GO GO GO mode.   Don't get me wrong, I rather be busy than bored but there needs to be some balance.
I've also managed to bugger up my hamstring, glute medius and my adductor muscle in my right leg.  Oh yeah, it's a doozy.  The hamstring niggle had been there for a while and got progressively worse over the weeks.  I think my half marathon a couple of weeks ago was the straw that broke the camels back.  I should have known that my weeks of long speed work, fairly inadequate stretching and not having the time to really take care of myself (i.e going for a massage) would manifest themselves in something like this.  My long run last Sunday was uncomfortable from the get go.  It was supposed to be 29km but I only managed 22.  How I managed to tough out 22km I don't know.  I hobbled around all afternoon and the next day.  Of course I went into freak out mode for a day or two until I finally got into Pivot on Wednesday and had some A.R.T work done.  Holy hell I had forgotten just how painful that stuff is.  Luckily it's all just incredibly tight and overworked muscles.  A few treatments should hopefully get me right as rain.  I was told to take it easy for 48 hours afterwards which meant that I'd miss my Thursday night run.  Of course all of this happens during the nicest week of the year so far.  Temperatures are in the 20's and it's mid MARCH.  We're breaking records all over the place.  All I can do is stare longingly at all the fair weather runners who've come out in droves.  It's depressing. Luckily for me, the weather is supposed to stay like this until at least next Tuesday.  So, if all goes well, I'll be taking my pasty white legs out for a run in the sun this weekend!

On the Real Life front, these next couple of weeks look fairly promising in terms of finding some balance.   Let's hope the Universe keeps it that way.

Friday, March 9, 2012

From The Archives #2

Due to much work insanity this week, I have not had the time nor the inclination to write.  It's very hard to be creative when every ounce of your energy has been sucked out of you by trying to juggle life.  So, my loyal readers will be treated to another old race report.  Old to me, but new to you!  It's from my second half marathon of 2000, The Marathon de Deux Rives in Quebec. 



The Adventure Continues.....

This past weekend, your favourite running fool ventured into "le Petit France" of Canada to run her second half marathon (yes, I'm a glutton for should know that by now!). The 8 hour train ride in was fairly uneventful although I can't say it helped the condition of my already sore/stiff legs much.

I got into Quebec City mid-afternoon on Friday, dropped my bags off at the cute B&B I was staying at and decided to get out a stretch my legs. I couldn't have picked a better place to do so as Quebec City is EASILY the hilliest city I've even been in to date.

I should have remembered that when I registered for this race.

I also should have remembered that the Quebec City weather is as unpredictable as it's drivers...Friday and Saturday were absolutely gorgeous. All looked well for the race on Sunday...that is until I awoke at 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning to the sound of a light but steady rainfall. This was not good. I was not happy.

I ventured out into the cold rainy morning to meet my running mates, Susana and Brian, so we could walk to the bus that was going to take us to the starting line. Not having the faintest idea what sort of course I was going to run, it was nice to actually see the sort of ground I was going to have to cover. It was flat for the most part, which was good, but we had to run over the bridge that crosses the St. Lawrence river. That bridge is up high. We were down low. Very low. River level low. That meant that there was going to be big hill somewhere. Great.

The bus dropped us off in the quaint little suburb of St. Romauld right along the St. Lawrence river. The start line was right in the middle of a quiet residential area.

It had stopped raining just before we arrived at the start but it was still quite cold, so we spent the next hour stretching and trying to keep warm. 10 minutes before the race started, the rain came again in a steady drizzle. Wonderful. Susana turned to me and said "This is not what I envisioned!". No kidding, me neither! Everyone was huddled under trees or umbrellas or on the porches of the nearby houses waiting till the last minute to get into starting position. We had a marching band complete with baton twirlers, playing "Tequila" (which I was hoping for a shot of at the finish line) and all the residents of St. Romauld were on their porches waving and was all quite surreal.

The first 3k was was quiet except for the rain and the breathing and footsteps of the other runners. At about 4K I saw "the hill". All things considered it could have been far worse. I made it up no problem. We came out onto a highway and ran across the St. Lawrence on the "old bridge". At the 8K mark there was ANOTHER marching band (!?!?) and plenty of supporters cheering us on. The crowd support in this race was great considering the crappy weather. There were even a few people on the bridge cheering.

Once I crossed the bridge,I could see the halfway mark. It was downhill from there (literally) As I ran down this beautiful long winding road, I concentrated on the distance before me, trying to ignore the incredibly tight muscle in my hip and the fact that I was running far slower that I wanted to be.

I crossed the 10K mark at about 58:30 (VERY slow for me) and started running into the most BRUTAL headwind I'd ever encountered. It didn't stop. I was on a totally exposed road right by the water. It was beautiful but man was it tough.

At that point I thought to myself I'd be happy if I ran this race in 2 hours. I had lost sight of my running mates at about 6K (they were far in front of me)

I don't know what happened but at about 12K I started passing people. My legs had decided to "kick it up a notch". WOO HOO! was all I could think. With about 2K left, I could see my running mates (thanks to Brian's bright orange t-shirt) AS I turned onto Boulevard Champlain and ran towards the finish line, I turned the corner to see Brian and Susana running together. I realized that there was no one in between us...I was literally right behind them. I watched and smiled as they held hands and crossed the finish line together (this was their first half marathon) and as they turned around, there I was, right behind them.

I looked at my watch. 1:51:38. Not as fast as my first one but pretty good all things considered.

I think I'll do it again next year.

In the meantime, chalk up half marathon number 2......

I'll keep you all posted on number three.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Clueless: Chilly Half Marathon Race Report

Ok ok, I'll admit it.  I'm a bit of a sandbagger.  BUT, I'm chalking that up to a huge amount of self doubt fueled by my less than ideal training as of late.  I always do this leading up to the first race of the year.  Especially when I feel like things haven't been going the way I want them to.  I grossly underestimate my abilities to the point of being almost completely clueless to what I'm capable of.  Leading up to this I honestly felt like I wasn't going to be capable of pulling off a time that was close to what I ran last year at Scotia.  For some reason, I felt like I had slowed down.   I couldn't have been more wrong.  I obviously must be doing something right because my first race of the year landed me a new P.B for the half.  It wasn't pretty but no matter, it's not supposed to be.

I took it very easy this week.  I was feeling a little run down early in the week so I skipped my Tuesday night tempo and my Wednesday morning swim.  I ran once on Thursday with my run group and then swam again on Friday morning.  Saturday was spent celebrating my birthday by relaxing with my feet up,  encased in a pair of compression socks. I couldn't have gone into to this race more well rested.

I hemmed and hawed about what to wear and opted for compression shorts & my compressport full socks underneath a light pair of tights.  A long sleeve shirt with a short sleeve shirt over it and then my Running Free jacket and a toque.  Excellent call once I started running but not so smart before the race.  Holy smokes was I ever cold.  It was very windy.  Which is not surprising given that Burlington is right on the water.  I figured we'd get hammered with the wind at some point.  I went out for my warm up and my legs felt like tree trunks.  I could barely hold 5:15's.  Of course I got all panicky.  Get off the ledge you silly girl, it's just a warm up.  Right.  I ran about 3.5km and did a few drills, then went back into the Burlington Performing Arts Centre to get warm and try to find Gary.  I found Gary and a couple of our friends, chatted with them for a bit but was getting antsy so I made my way to the start line.

The start line was totally packed as usual.  I wormed my way up towards the front but the closest I could get was up to the 1:45 pace bunny.  Hmmm..oh well.  It would probably be good for me to start off at that pace anyway.   I looked around to see if I could find anyone from my run group but it was way too crowded.  I was surrounded by a whole lot of tall people as well.  No matter.  I'm sure I'll see them all at some point.

The gun went off and the shuffle started.  I crossed the start line and hit my watch.  And we were off.  My legs didn't feel like tree trunks anymore.  I had taken a GU Roctane about 15 minutes before the race started and it must have kicked in.  I started passing folks.  There was a lot of bobbing and weaving going on.  I looked down at my watch and saw that I was running 4:08's.  Nice. I then realized that I hadn't actually started my watch.  I had hit lap instead of start.  UGH.  I hit start and cursed under my breath.  I was now running somewhat blind.  Oh well.

I motored along only to be passed by fellow WTP speedy chick, Diana at about the 3km mark.   Excellent.  If I can keep her in my sights, I know I'll have a good day.  I end up running with a fellow Team Running Free member, Matt from Newmarket, for a little while.  We chit-chatted for a bit and then I pulled away.  I was then running with another fellow who I chatted with for a bit.  Lots of chatty runners!  I told him my predicament about not starting my watch and he told me his time as we came up to the 5km mark.  I had missed roughly 3 minutes.  Good to know.  So I added 3 minutes to my time.  I realized that I should have taken my first gel so I got on that right away.  I was feeling quite good.  I was definitely working but I felt like I was in a good zone.  My pace seemed to hover around 4:20-4:25 km's.  Sweet.  I could see Diana just ahead of me.  I was slowly reeling her in.  At about 7km I was right behind her.  I passed her a little bit later.  We hit an aid station and she pulled ahead.  We yo-yoed back and forth a couple of times.  At one point as she passed me she said "Oh Yeah, 1:40 my ass".  I laughed and said yeah I know, but we'll see what happens to me at about 12km.  We were coming up to another aid station.  Diana slowed down to grab some water.  It was about that same time, around the 10km mark, that Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" came on my shuffle.  I had been feeling a wee bit rough but that song gave me the kick in the pants that I needed.  I could see a woman in front me and she provided the target I needed to push myself a bit harder.  In doing so I managed to pull away from Diana.  I was starting to feel really good.  Definitely in a good groove and my tunes really buoyed me on.  The Arctic Monkeys will always get me going.  I added a few new tunes that I had dug deep into the 80's vault for:  The Stand by the Alarm, Drive by Rush and a great b-side from Spandau Ballet (I KNOW!) called To Cut A Long Story Short.  Spandau Ballet had come on as I was pounding my way to the 13km mark.   It was at about this point that I realized the wind had been at my back.  Oh CRAP.

We hit the turnaround just past 13km and I immediately felt the wind.  I had been running with a big tattooed guy in shorts who had pulled ahead of me a bit.  I tucked in behind him.  As I made my way towards the 14km mark, I saw Diana.  She wasn't too far behind me.   I stuck like glue to the tattooed guy.  I became his shadow.  Wherever he went, I went.  If it wasn't for him I think I would have imploded at about 17km.  At one point I ran up beside him and offered to go in front and try to break the wind for him.  He laughed and told me not to worry.  I would have been pretty useless I'm sure but I thought the sporting thing to do would be to at least offer it up.   So I got right back behind him and continued to draft.  My pace was around 4:24 km's.  I figured if I could keep this up, I'd have a PB.  By what I wasn't sure.  Things started to feel a bit rough at 15km.  I kept telling myself that I only had at most another 30 minutes.  Surely I could get through that.  16km arrived.  Only another 25 minutes at most.  That became my mantra.  At about 17km I lost my tattooed friend when I slowed down at an aid station.  He was just far enough in front of me that I couldn't catch him.  I was on my own in the wind with 4km left.  My legs were pissed.  I could hear someone coming up behind me.  I glanced to my left to see another dude pass me.  Perfect.  I tucked in behind him and hung on for dear life.  18km.  Roctane time.  19km.  Hurting but caught up to my tattooed friend. 20km and the Roctane kicked in.  Just as Rush's Drive came on.  Perfect.  That bass line totally fired me up.  The guy I had drafted off said we have a big hill coming (ha, not really).  I said BRING IT.   He told me to go for it so off I went.  At that point I could see Gary and John I waved my arms in the air, I was so pumped.  I really started to push.  My legs were dying and my lungs weren't far behind.  I was heaving.  There was no way anyone could have said I didn't leave it all on the course.  I was coming up to the corner to turn up the finishing chute when I was passed by my tattooed friend.  He had a serious finishing kick!  I tried to stick with him but couldn't.  My legs were going as fast as they could.  I was closing in on the finish line and could see 1:30 something I looked up as I crossed the line and all I could remember seeing was 1:32 something.  Bloody hell!  A new PB!

I found my tattooed friend, thanked him for his help and congratulated him an a great race.   I then wandered over to the food to refuel and find my hubby.  As I was walking over I heard Diana's name called as she crossed the finish line.  I wandered back over to congratulate her.  By the time I found her, a bunch of the other WTP Ladies had finished.  Everyone was in great spirits.  I then saw Linnea and Glen and then Gary found me.  We wandered off to the warmth of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre to stretch and use the facilities.  I was curious to know my actual time and how I did in my age group.  Gary pulled up Sports Stats on his phone and with a big grin, showed me the results.  First in my age group.  I started crying.  Ok well not full on crying but I did get really emotional.  I was in shock.  I'm STILL in shock.  This isn't a dinky little race by Ontario standards.  There were almost 1800 women and just over 1500 men that participated in this race.  I made the top 20 women overall.  Top 20!  What the hell?

Just goes to show you how clueless I can be in regards to my ability.  Call me a doubting Thomas.  Until it's done, I don't believe it.  Although now that I've done this, it's re-instilled the confidence I had at the end of last year.   It was the mental boost that I so desperately needed. 

Chip time:  1:31:57.  1/296 women in my AG, 17/1784 women and 181 overall.

What a great way to start off the year and an even better way to celebrate turning a year older. Helloooooo 41!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Ideal Taper

My Birthday Goodies!
I've got to say that this has been the most relaxed week I've ever had before a race.  Other than some chaos at work, I've been feeling remarkably stress free and relaxed.  So much so that I had burger, fries and a small glass of wine with dinner last night!  Shocking I know.  Said glass of wine just about knocked me sideways mind you but let's not talk about that.  I was supposed to do an easy run yesterday but that didn't happen.  Do I care?  Nope.  This week of training will have been next to non existent with only one short-ish interval run on Thursday.   But no matter, I am going to be very well rested for Sunday.

Given that today is my birthday, I'm going to take relaxation to the enth degree.  I'm going to spend it on the couch, feet up, with my legs encased in compression gear watching Top Gear re-runs.

Life doesn't get much better than that.