My Happy Place

It has been a busy week, too busy.  When a week you know is going to be busy also ends up starting with a night visit to the children’s hospital (thanks to son #2 swallowing an inch long wire that broke from his braces), well, let’s just say it is a week in which you find yourself counting down to Friday.  For the record, the wire caused no harm, but Luke was very excited to see it in an x-ray… at midnight no less.  Also for the record, my happy place is not the waiting room in CHEO.

Despite the craziness of the week (I do realize it is not over yet, but it is close!) I found myself enjoying two specific activities.  Not surprisingly, one of those was running.  Somewhat shockingly, the other was swimming.

On Tuesday I had my first swimming lesson in about 35 years.  I put my head under water for the first time in about 20 years.  I think the last time I actually went into a pool was when I did a mother/baby aquafit class with Evan, about 11 years ago.  These stats should make it pretty obvious that swimming has been one of my least favourite activities for most of my life.

But recently I decided – perhaps in some fit of mid-life crisis? – to sign up for lessons.  My boys had done four lessons with a private swimming program this summer and I was impressed with the progress they made.  Having sat poolside at any number of their lessons in public pools, I did not once picture signing up for a lesson myself.  Being in a noisy, chlorine filled pool, potentially running into my students and their families was not going to happen.

This time, as I watched the boys swim in a quiet, local hotel pool I suddenly started thinking that maybe it was time to step out of my comfort zone and try something I don’t like.  You know, because it makes perfect sense to pay a lot of money to do something uncomfortable :).   Before I lost my nerve, I emailed the Aqua Life Swim Academy asking about private lessons for myself.  The owner, Stephanie, quickly responded, offering calming words that made me feel this was possible.

This past Tuesday I headed to my first lesson.  To be truthful my stomach was in knots.  I had a fear that I wouldn’t even get myself into the water.  To clarify, not getting in would simply be a result of me HATING having to get into cold water.  Yes, I consider pools to be cold water.  I consider  anything that isn’t a hot bath to be cold water.  I had visions of me spending the entire lesson just trying to get into water above my waist.  Thankfully I made it in with minimal fuss, and suddenly I remembered that sensation of floating and how relaxing it can be.

Stephanie put me through the paces of bobbing, floating and kicking and to my amazement I loved every minute.  I specifically remember thinking at one point, as I smoothly kicked my way under water, that perhaps I wasn’t as bad at swimming as I thought.  Maybe, just maybe, this is something I could at least become, well, average at?  Who knows, maybe this will become “Blog for an Average Runner and Swimmer” one day.  For the time being, all I know is I exited that pool feeling like a little kid who had just conquered a momentous task.  In the change room I looked in the mirror and saw myself with puffy, goggle marked eyes and a grin ear to ear.  I am finding myself looking forward to next Tuesday, curious to see what I can accomplish next time in the water.

As for my other happy moment, it was during today’s run.  After work I ran a couple of km to some trails in the hopes of finding protection from the 50 km wind gusts we experienced all day.  Once into the forest the weather was perfect.  You could hear the wind in the tops of the trees but on ground level it was cool and calm.  Within those woods I found myself running for no other reason than how happy it made me feel.  I didn’t care about pace, I didn’t even think of how much I “should” be running, I just ran.  In the end I did a very comfortable 10k, a combination of road running and trail running.  It struck me how thankful I am that I’m in a place in my running where, after a tiring week, I can step out, run 10k and be happy.  How lucky am I?

Update

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For unexplained reasons my blog has not been sending emails to those of you who are on the list.  Hopefully it is now working and if you get this there are a couple of posts you may have missed, including last week’s 8k race report.

For now, just a quick update for yet another smaller, local race.  Today we did the boys’ favourite race, Run for the Animals, a fundraiser for the Ottawa Humane Society.  More details later, but here are the stats.

The boys forgot their watches today and the race used a timing company that I have never heard of; at the moment I can’t seem to find where they post their results online.  But from the kids’ memories – Evan, 5k, 25:36 and Luke, 5k, 29:05.  Two more great times for the kids.  Unfortunately no age category awards, despite the fact the website said there would be.  Evan was 12th overall and Luke was 29th out of just over a hundred runners.

As for me, another PB!  10.2 km in 53:05!!!!  So close to a 52 minute time.  My average pace was 5:12.  I squeaked into the top 10 women as the 9th female to cross the finish line.  Somehow this summer, despite a very casual and relaxed season of running, I seemed to have become faster.  I am not sure how or why, particularly given the fact that most of my weekly runs have been rather slow.  I wonder what would happen if I actually did some speed work?

And today’s other participant, well spectator really, had a great day too.

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Race Report – The Canadian

 

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Last Saturday the boys and I headed out to race at The Canadian, a local multisport event.  This is one of those events that has something for everyone; race distances of 3 km, 8km, half marathon and marathon and what seems like an endless list of duathlon/triathlon events, including iron distances and canoe and kayak triathlons.   There is a constant buzz of activity, even if some of the individual events are small in number.  Overall it creates an exciting atmosphere with a small race feel.

The boys were entering the 3k while I set out to do the 8k.  Each race had just over 50 people, so no crowds to fight and the “start waves” were actually each race starting one minute apart, with one of the duathlons starting a minute before the boys’ race.

I headed to the race with one goal in mind – I did not want my time to start with 44.  I had only done one 8k race before, back in 2012, finishing in 44:53.  When I looked back at shorter training runs I noticed that I consistently hit 8k at 44 minutes.  So, obviously my goal had to be to get a time that started with 43.

As I started the race I felt like I was going to struggle.  Then I looked at my pace and realized that I was running a sub 5 min/km pace, hence the struggle!  I slowed it down a bit but the first km still came in at a 5 minute pace.  At that point I did a shift in strategy (something I seem to do on a regular basis at the beginning of runs) and decided to push for a time under the planned 43 minutes.  My legs seemed to feel like running and I decided to put them to the test.  I did have the sense however to back off a bit.  I feel pretty confident I cannot run for 8 km at a 5 minute pace.

This was a double out and back course, relatively flat and while warm, the weather was reasonably good for some speed work.  At some point in the run, I can’t remember when, I did question if the course was going to be a little longer than 8k.  But I was concentrating so much on speed that I couldn’t be bothered trying to figure out the math (which yes, in hindsight I realize was not complicated given the out and back nature of the course).  When my 7k beep went off on my Garmin, I was shocked to see I had done the seventh km at a 5:05 pace, despite trying to keep it closer to 5:15.  I was also a little worried by the fact that I was fairly certain the finish line was farther than 1km away.  So I backed off a little again in the hopes of saving some energy.  Only when the 8k beep went off did I realize that the course measurement was not just a little off, it was significantly off.  At this point I was tiring and my stomach was protesting my pace.  All I can say is those last 600 metres (the finish line was at 8.6 km) felt like a full km.  I still had a little kick in me for the finish, but not as much as I would have had back at the actual 8k mark.

I admit I have had two races where I have come really close to throwing up.  This race is now the third.  My timing chip was around my ankle and I quickly realized that if I bent over to take it off the results would not be pretty.  I asked a kind volunteer to take it off for me.  Next realization – she was in a really bad position if I threw up!  I had to twist my upper body  away to ensure her safety.  I am at a loss as to why the rest of my body can adapt to the stress of running, while my digestive system just continues to find ways to protest.

In the end I finished the 8.6 km course in…. yep, 44 something.  Technically I know that the 44 is only there on my stats because of a course error.  I also know by my watch that I finished 8k in 41:31, significantly faster than I had planned.  I just wish my stats showed it.   Oddly, Sportstats did adjust all runners’ average pace times factoring in the longer distance, but the race is still listed as 8 km.  I know they are only numbers, but I was really disappointed in the course error.  The problem with a double out and back is that a small error multiplies.  In this case the turn around cone would have been placed about 150 metres too far.  The two trips out and back turned that relatively small error into a big one, or at least what I consider to be big.  I hate complaining about a Somersault race because I have a soft spot for them.  I love their series of races and I love their philosophy of “events for everyone”.  It is through the Somersault Series that my kids and I really became runners.  But I do believe that races owe it to their participants to check and recheck the distances.  In this day and age of GPS watches, there should not be errors in distances.  That said, when I emailed the organizers about the error I had a response within a half hour acknowledging their mistake and apologizing.

The highlight of the day was the awards ceremony.  Evan and I just missed overall placings, he was the 5th male in the 3k and I was the 4th female in the 8k.  I admit I thought I might have been third, I had seen two women ahead of me but hadn’t seen the other, so I was a little disappointed to have missed the top three.  But… it was the first time all of us received age awards – Evan and Luke were 1st and 3rd respectively in the under 13 category and I was first in my age group (ok, there were only two of us in the 45-49 category but with a 5:10 pace I think I would have placed well even if there were more runners in my age group).  For Evan, it was his first gold lanyard and for Luke it was his first age placing ever.  A successful day for all three of us!  And I think my husband is now motivated to do some more running and join us in an attempt to get 4 age placings for our family at a future race.

imageAfter the race it was off to enjoy one last summer weekend at the lake where we were treated to this:

imageGoodbye summer, hello fall running season!

 

Family P.B’s!!!

Just finished a local, small race, “The Canadian” and the boys and I nailed our races:

Luke 3k, 14:57, 4:59 pace, 12th place overall and 3rd in his age group…his first ever lanyard!

Evan 3k, 13:58, 4:40 pace (clearly way too fast to run with me anymore!) 5th overall and 1st in his age group!

Me, hmmmm not sure how to record this one since the 8k course was measured incorrectly and was actually 8.6 km! My rant about that will come in the next post.  Based on my average pace of 5:10 I must have hit 8k around 41.20.  My goal was to get a time that started with 43, so I’m thrilled with the time. Of course that time is unofficial due to the extra 600 metres tacked on. Not so thrilled with the incorrect distance.

Full race report to come.

Back to Real Training

Finally this week I managed to fit in 40 km of running. It has been far too long since I have seen that number as a weekly total.  26.5 of that total was done on  the rolling (sometimes steep) hills of Quebec cottage country.   Hilly enough that today during the last 2k of my 9k run, I slowed to a 7 minute pace. Compare that to a run earlier in the week on the flat where two of my splits were 5:15, the rest around 5:30 (faster than I should have been going for a training run but it felt good so I went with it).

A quick look at the calendar tells me I have time to fit in another 16k run, then two 18k runs and I should be good for the Army Run. Not PB ready but respectable ready. I even have a plan. If I can find the 2:00 bunny I will start with him/her and see how things go.  With it not being a  goal race I’m O.K with a positive split if 2 hours is just to fast right now.  One of the fun things about letting go of expectations is it allows you to also take risks. And without risks, how can you ever really find out what your limits are?

And finally, a favourite moment from running this week. After my faster flat run, I returned home to check out the garden I for the most part abandoned when I started running seriously.  I’m sure some women could maintain beautiful gardens while marathon/half marathon training, teaching, mothering, etc. I’m not one of those women and I’m good with that. I knew the garden had been almost overrun with a grape vine I bought a couple of years ago, mistakenly thinking it was an annual.  I discovered that not only had the vine flourished in neglect, so had the grapes. For the first time it is covered in juicy delicious purple grapes. The kind that Welch’s uses in their juice. I know there was no post run protein in them, but other than that…best treat ever after a workout!

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Trying New Things

Ten weeks ago I decided to try teaching a 5k clinic at Running Room.  I was looking for a way to share my running passion and enjoy the company of others along a scenic river route.  There was of course part of me that questioned if I should be teaching a clinic.  After all, I have only recently become comfortable in calling myself a runner.  But doing the clinic was everything I hoped for and more.  It was such a pleasure meeting new people and seeing them progress from 5 minutes/ 1 minute intervals to running 5.4 km in our finalclass.  Even more exciting was hearing from one of the runners who did her first 5k race this week (a sub 30 minute to boot!).  I love how she described her run to me in an email:

It was a smooth run – the atmosphere was so supportive and so inspiring. I let go of all expectations and just lived in the moment… I felt this huge swell of energy and happiness: I just ran…. and ran… and sprinted… and finished.
I was grateful to have this experience.

 

I love that description of having a swell of energy and happiness.  Is it any wonder we get addicted to this sport?

As for me, I am grateful for having the experience of sharing a running journey with a great group of people.  We hope to keep connecting this fall at various races and I can’t wait to cheer them on!  Next week I move on to a new 5k group and look forward to being part of their journey as well.

And finally, on the topic of trying new things, I have signed up for lessons that I never in a million years thought I would do.  I am telling everyone I know and writing it here so that there is no backing out.  This may not sound big to most of you, but for me it definitely is.  I am going to take swimming lessons.  Anyone who knows me knows how much I HATE the idea of swimming.  I hate the cold water (yes that includes heated pools), I hate having my head under that cold water and while I know I can get from point A to point B, it certainly wouldn’t be pretty.  It is the one activity that my kids know I will not do with them.

So why am I going to pay good money to do something I hate?  Lots of reasons I guess.  One is certainly safety.  My kids spend a lot of time in the water now, both at the lake and a few minutes away from home at a beach on the river.  Gone are the days when anytime they were near the water they had life jackets on.  I need to know that if necessary I can get to them in an emergency.

Another reason is of course the benefits of swimming as cross training.  If I could actually get myself to feel confident in the water – maybe even enjoy it – this could be a way for me to maintain fitness without always relying on running.

Much of my decision was made after watching my boys in lessons last week.  In four short semi-private lessons I watched both of them make significant progress.  I thought surely if they could make progress so could I.  I am ignoring the little voice inside of my head that keeps reminding me they are young, I am not.

Finally, I think I just felt the need to do something out of my comfort zone.  It is possible I will continue to hate swimming and it is possible that I will discover despite my effort it will just not be a skill I will master.  At least though I will be able to say I tried and (hopefully) didn’t quit.

Blog for a Lazy Runner

In 3 years I have run two marathons, one 30k race, nine half marathons and a handful of other distances.  On paper it seems somewhat impressive… well, at least to me.  You might even think I am one of those people who are always on the move and can’t sit down for any amount of time.

Here’s the thing though… I excel at laziness.  I can do nothing with the best of them.  I can easily sleep 10 or more hours a night (I’ve been doing it all summer) and still find the idea of an afternoon nap appealing.  I can start a summer day with the best of intentions only to realize it is late afternoon and I am not sure what I have done.  More specifically I can spend a day thinking about running only to realize that I have left it too late to actually do the run I spent so much time thinking about.

For the first part of this weekend I truly put this skill to use.  For the first time since my husband and father built our wonderful little cabin* by a lake, I went up on my own for a night and morning of peace and quiet before the rest of the family came up.

Autumn made an early visit this past weekend.  When I arrived the air was cool and the rain had started.  This continued through to the next day resulting in nothing other than the pair of loons being out on the cold, grey lake.  There was what I believe could be called a deafening silence.  It was, quite simply, wonderful.  Between Friday evening and Saturday lunch, this was what I did:

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Of course I did stop doing the above in order to get my 10 hours of sleep in!

I had no urge to do anything.  In fact, it took me about 45 minutes just to make myself get off the couch and pour a bowl of cereal on Saturday morning.  The fall of Rice Chex into a bowl has never sounded so loud!

The extreme silence would come to an end with the arrival of my husband and boys.  But even then it was just one of those days to lay low and read.  My kids will note that I did claim that particular spot on the couch, the most comfortable in the cabin, as my own

Sunday came and I knew this lazy body would have to do something to prepare for the Army Run that takes place in – oh hell, I’m not even going to count the days since it might just send me into a panic.  Finally that morning I managed to head out the door.  O.K, it may have been more like noon.  Thankfully the boys were willing to do a little run with me, which helped get me going.  Together we did a 3k out and back.  I knew, however, that 3k for me was just not going to be enough.  So after dropping them off at the cabin and tearing myself away from this view…

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…I set out again.  Not much to say about this run other than I ran 13 km, pretty much all of it hills, not much of it enjoyable.  I exaggerate, there was a one km stretch of flat road and since it was an out and back I got to do it twice!  There are no flat options in the area unless I go for a drive to the nearest town.  I admit that at the base of two hills – one being the steepest and the other being at least a km long – I turned off my watch and simply walked up them.  On a fun note, I did discover that those portable, digital signs that tell how fast your car is going will also tell you how fast your are running.  I know because on that flat stretch I tested it.  Twice.  Who needs a Garmin?

Today should have been a rest day but Evan was excited to take me on a 2.5k run he had done on his own the previous night.  He assured me it was a really fun route because of the awesome hills.  Great :(  Before fitting in the run though the boys and I went kayaking, with my husband and our dog joining us in the canoe.  I estimate we traveled about 3km, the longest the boys had ever kayaked on their own (meaning at no time did I grab one of their ropes and pull them behind me).  No speed records were set, there was lots of floating and enjoying the scenery, but still a sense of accomplishment.  At the end of the trip I suggested to the boys that we should do a run right away, telling them we would complete a kayak/running duathlon.  They loved this idea so off we went.  Luke and Mike did a 1k run and Evan and I did that 2.5k hilly route.  Here he is climbing a hill, leaving me far behind:

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Evan took it one step further and did a quick swim in the lake, so we decided he completed a triathlon.

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Two "duathletes", one "triathlete".

Two “duathletes”, one “triathlete”.

So the lazy weekend ended with some physical activity being accomplished.  But the fact is, I loved my time on that couch and enjoying that view.  I know for a fact that when I am up there next, it will once again be very difficult to abandon my laziness and fit in a run.

*We refer to our place as a cabin rather than a cottage.  The fact is what we have is what years ago  would have been a typical cottage.  However, these days the definition of cottage seems to be the following: a second home of similar or greater value and of similar or greater size than one’s first home and includes all modern amenities and design.  Therefore we have decided to use the more rustic term of cabin :)

Our cabin does NOT have any of the following:

- stainless steel appliances (we have a large cooler)
indoor bathroom (we have an outhouse with a great view)
separate rooms (we have one common space and two open lofts)
laundry (it all comes home)
indoor shower (we have an outdoor shower tent, which like the outhouse has a great view)
square footage that is greater than that of our home
But.. I can tell you it is the best cabin/cottage ever and I wouldn’t change a thing!