It is the end of February and I just completed a total of 170km, 55k more than my previous best month. 170k in a 28 day month with lousy weather. Nothing else to say except I am one happy runner!
Last week I did not love running. Not really sure if I even liked running last week. That type of week has happened before and I know it will happen again. That means I also know the good runs will come back, but waiting for them is never easy. Thankfully the last couple of runs have been so much better, and I am not really referring to speed or distance. These last runs have just felt better, like my body wanted to be back at it.
This past Saturday I got back to the life of a happy runner. My 10 year old son is running with me once a week to start training for the Ottawa Race Weekend 5k. I am really excited about this because he is really excited. He has been running short races now for several years, mostly 1 and 3k’s. But this year he is showing a new enthusiasm and a desire to improve his running. Realistically I know this may pass, but right now he is keen and I can’t help but enjoy it the way any parent does when he or she can share an interest with a child.
So my son and I set off for a short run on Saturday in a wet snow/rain. I told him we would do 2 or 3 k and he quickly asked to do 4. I have to be honest, I had no interest in running more than 3k that day. I was still in a running slump and not really loving the idea of being in the cold and damp any longer than necessary. We headed out in a suburban neighbourhood and I let my son take the lead. With the exception of races, all of my son’s running has been done in his school yard or on our rural roads. He is a country boy and as a result not really used to wandering the sidewalks and roads of the suburbs. As we started the run he found a small a paved path between houses that led to more paths linking streets and green spaces. He sought out these paths with the excitement of an explorer in a new land and I think at times he forgot that he was running. Every time we passed someone he gave them a big smile and an enthusiastic wave. His enthusiasm was hard to ignore and slowly, despite the damp and previous bad runs, I too had a smile on my face. I had to convince him to turn back so we wouldn’t be too far from the car. At 3k I told him we could stop if he wanted but he said he wanted to stop at 3.5k. When we hit that goal he said we were so close, why not just go for 4k. And so we did. He was tired at the end but beaming that he had done his longest run of 2013. As for me, I was reminded that it doesn’t all have to be about times and mileage, sometimes it is just about being out there, checking out new paths and getting ourselves moving.
I didn’t let the lesson go to waste. The following day I was out on my own and had such an enjoyable run. It was my slowest pace ever and I didn’t run as far as I planned. But I found some interesting routes, did some short steep hills and went back and forth on a winding, packed snow path through the woods. Was it what I should have been doing to prepare for my half marathon in three weeks? Maybe not, but mentally, it was the prefect run.
Three weeks from now I plan to be enjoying a nap in a New York City hotel room. I am hoping it will be a nap that feels well-deserved, one of those sleeps where you lay down and take a moment to be proud of your run before you pass out. For two months the New York City Half Marathon has seemed like something in the distant future, but now it is seeming very real. We have passports, a hotel booked, a kennel booked for our dog. We even have dollar store St. Patrick’s gear to wear on race day. This is now real and when I think about it I get butterflies in my stomach.
Why do I get nervous about a run??? Seriously, is there anything more natural to be doing? No one will be looking at me, only a small number of people are even interested in my time, and I know that just completing a race is a big deal, no matter when I cross the finish line. And yet, even as I sit writing this the butterflies seem to be multiplying. I should note that my previous passion was horseback riding. Now there is a sport to be nervous about. Your partner is a 1,400 lb animal with his own ideas and agenda. When you compete you are in a ring by yourself, not lost in a sea of race shirts. And there is always the real possibility of really getting hurt. I don’t mean to downplay running injuries, I know they can be brutal and take far too long to heal. But falling off a 17 hand horse (that translates to REALLY BIG) still scares me more. (I will note one fall that wasn’t so bad. I came flying off at a show held at the RCMP grounds. When I managed to roll over a couple of handsome Mounties in full uniform were there to help me up. If you have to fall off, that is the type of help you want to get!) So given my background, shouldn’t this running in a race thing be a piece of cake for me?
Unfortunately I am just not that kind of person. New things make me nervous. And if running a race makes me nervous, running a race in a new city just increases my anxiety. I do know though that part of what I am feeling is excitement. Sometimes I think excitement and nerves are really just the same thing and it is all how you look at it. Either way, the countdown is on. This Ottawa girl is heading to the Big Apple, family in tow, to see the city in a way only runners can.
For those of you with kids you will know that I stole this blog title from the children’s story by Judith Viorst. Her choice of words are far more appropriate than what I would like to use. My brief (very) run tonight was one of my worst. Ok, I guess it could have been worse. I could have wiped out on black ice, I could have peed my pants (I know I am not the only woman who has nightmares about that!) or I could have been struck down by a bus. None of these disasters occurred, but nothing good happened either.
It snowed here all afternoon, but by the time I headed out at 5:00 it had stopped. I drove from work to a nearby subdivision, knowing that at that time of evening there was no point trying to run on my darkening rural roads. That and of course the danger of going home before a run is the risk of finding my way to a couch and not finding my way back outside. My first clue that the run wasn’t going to be ideal was when I parked across from a construction site and saw the protective plastic flailing in the wind. Second clue was the sky filling with blowing snow even though it was no longer snowing. I assured myself it wasn’t a problem for me. After all I have run outside regularly this winter, in all kinds of conditions. Normally on windy days I try to wind myself through all the suburban side streets in the hopes of being blocked from the wind. Due to the recent snow, however, all the side streets and the sidewalks were still covered. That left running on the more frequently used roads, roads that are particularly busy at 5:00 p.m. The wet roads weren’t slippery, but I was feeling the fine spray of water from every car and bus. And of course there was the wind. Why is it that no matter what direction you run in, the wind manages to hit you directly in the face?
My final straw was at the 3k mark when I realized I needed to go to the bathroom. Not wanting to live the nightmare mentioned previously, I ran the 1k back to the car and decided the run was a write-off. I popped into a small cafe, used the facilities and decided I really should purchase something in return. So I treated myself to a hot chocolate, thinking there would be at least one good thing about the outing. That was until I got it in the car, tried to take a sip and discovered too late that I had not put the lid on properly. I did learn that the wind resistant winter running pants are also resistant to hot drinks; despite spilling a fair amount of the drink into my lap, I didn’t even feel the heat. As one final insult, the hot chocolate was missing the chocolate part. I had just payed 3 dollars for hot milk. I say that, but I guess she must have put a little chocolate in, since when I looked at it the milk was not pure white, but rather a very light beige. Call me picky, but if I am going to drink hot chocolate I want to actually taste chocolate, not just see a slight colour tinting.
I guess in the end 4k is better than 0k, but at the moment it doesn’t feel like it. I need a running fix right now. I need a run that makes me feel amazing. I need some of those moments mentioned in an earlier blog. Today just wasn’t the day. Maybe tomorrow???
P.S When I got home I checked the weather website. Apparently the wind gusts were over 50 km/h, so at least I feel a little justified in feeling miserable on the run.
The New York City Half Marathon website tells me there are 26 days, 12 hours and 13 minutes left until race time. That makes me more than a little nervous. Twenty six days is a lot of time for some things, but when preparing for a half marathon it doesn’t seem like much time at all. In January my focus was just increasing my mileage after taking December off. But now when I run my mind wanders to times. How fast do I want to do this race? Do I want to beat my best time of 2:04:50? That was on a flat course and the first half of the NYC race will be in hilly Central Park. And the fact is I don’t seem to be getting any faster. In fact I think I might be getting slower. I know my endurance is better than last fall but my speed is not. Last week I did start some speed intervals, but even a burst of speed over 200m somehow manages to make everything from my lungs to my stomach to my muscles feel miserable. To be blunt, speed intervals suck any of the fun out of running for me. Given the choice of a very long run or a short run with intervals I will always choose the first option.
So I know speed is not my strength, but does that give me an excuse to not go for a personal best? If I am not aiming for a P.B. am I just cheating myself out of accomplishing something difficult? When I ask that question I remind myself that just running 21.1, not to mention all the prep that goes into it, is difficult in itself. So I am thinking that maybe when I run New York I will aim for a good time, one I can be proud of (maybe 2:12 or under?) but allow myself to experience the fun of the race. I will be seeing NYC for the first time and I will be running a route that will take me past so many famous landmarks. Maybe I should stop for a picture or two or slow down to take in the fact that I, a former non-runner, am running a route many would envy experiencing. I think in the end that this race may not be about the final time, but as they say, more about the journey itself.
Not sure if it counts, but had a fun Family Day skating 8k on the canal downtown. Sometimes it is nice to do something other than running – not to mention a little easier on the knees (assuming you don’t fall down on them).
In my last post I wrote about my crazy Thursdays and how much I enjoy them. Now it is confession time. On weekends, I am the complete opposite. I hear some runners talk about how they hate rest days and how they get antsy to be out again. I can picture myself feeling like that if I was on extended rest due to an injury. But I love rest days. Yesterday I took the day off from running and it was wonderful. I loved sleeping in and staying in my p.j’s and to be frank I think I deserved it. Lazy mornings don’t feel so lazy when you know you have been working hard.
That said, I feel a little guilty that today was a bit of a struggle to get out there and run. That lazy feeling was still with me and I wasn’t quite ready to let go. Of course for many runners Sundays are long run days, but I choose to get that out of the way in the week. I have to world’s best schedule to fit running into my week days. I work one full day a week and the other four days I can usually finish up and head out for a run by around 2:00. Even better, I am on a schedule as my kids need to be picked up at 3:30. So running simply becomes part of my day’s schedule – work, change, run, pick up kids. It’s a no-brainer. But weekends are just that little bit more open. There are choices of when to run, though they still have to be scheduled around kids’ activities. But that more open schedule allows for procrastination and all my life I have been rather good at putting things off for just a little longer until somehow there is no time left. Continue reading