Monthly Archives: August 2013

A Confession

When I started this journey to a full marathon I had a secret hope. I hoped that training for the full would follow the same pattern as my training for the half. By that I mean I headed into my first half marathon wanting to just try one. Training for the most part went well and I discovered I actually liked distances over 10k. Even better, I ran my first half marathon under the time I predicted and felt great at the end. So, as daunting as the marathon is, there has always been a little part of me that has thought I might find I like this crazy distance and perhaps do better than any goals I might set.

Reality has set in. The fact is I have discovered I don’t like running farther than 23 or 24 km. To be blunt, anything after that is just too long. Too long physically, too long mentally (it gives me too much time to wallow in self doubt), and too long to schedule into a busy week. Honestly, I am starting to think that marathons are just not for me.

Today I went out excited to try a 30k run. I really wanted to get this distance in. Mentally I needed to get this distance in. The first 16k were fine, though I noticed I was tightening up in my left hip and down through the IT band. I took a break, did some stretches, had some water and told myself I could do it. By 21k everything in my hip area was starting to hurt. I decided walk breaks would be a good idea and since I really wasn’t concerned about time, slowing down did not bother me. I decided my priority was simply to get to 30k so that my brain would know I could do it. Unfortunately by 25k I knew I was done. The pain just kept increasing, even as I walked a very slow and very uncomfortable (translate to painful) final 5k.

I can’t lie, it is the closest I have come to wanting to quit this whole thing. I already felt like I couldn’t be ready in 8 weeks, now with an injury I can feel any small amount of confidence I had dwindle away. I thought I would be so much further now in my distance running, but instead I feel like so little progress has been made.

I won’t quit, but I want to. I hate feeling like that. And now there is the added fear of what if I have to quit because of injury? I am doing all the right things, icing, resting (although as a teacher this is the week that things start to get busy), even booking a sports massage. If I have to I will go to physio as well to try to get back on track. But I have no idea if I will lose days or weeks. I am sure I will be able to do short runs, but at what point do I risk a long run? Too soon and nothing will heal, too long and I will have lost so many km of training.

One of the main things I thought about while out there today was that I can’t wait to get back to half marathon training and trying to finish under 2 hours. When you are training for one distance but longing for another, that kind of says something doesn’t it?

If You Want to Feel Old…

…run hills with your 10 year old!

Evan hill training

Evan hill training

I am actually saying that with a great deal of pride. My son Evan is preparing for the 5k Army Run. The past two weeks I have brought him along for my hill training. Hills are the perfect time to have your child join you because you can each run your own pace but not “lose” each other. This week I thought we would go to the toboggan hill in Kanata. Having never done it before I wasn’t sure how steep it would be (maybe the fact that it is used as a toboggan run – and apparently a fast one – should have given it away). I figured though it was the perfect place for the two of us to run. If Evan grew tired there would be plenty of space for him to relax and hang out while I finished up my run.

We did a relaxed 2k warm up and then started up the hill, or should I say mini mountain? It is not long, less than 250 metres I think, but I felt more like I was climbing rather than running. Ten times up and down was good enough for me. Apparently not for Evan. He continued to run the hill, completing 16 trips in all. I ended up being the one hanging out and relaxing while waiting for him!

The best part was the half hour after the run when he had such an adrenaline rush and such a sense of pride that he would periodically just giggle out loud. At one point he said to me that he didn’t know how to describe the feeling he was experiencing but it was like all the good words he knows mixed all together. Couldn’t have summed up that kind of feeling better myself.

So, what is better than experiencing a high from running? Seeing your child experience a runner’s high. Priceless.

Tourist Running in My Own City

Parliament Hill in the distance.

Parliament Hill in the distance.

Last week I ran the Ottawa River Pathway, running 26k as an out and back. The whole time I was running I was tempted a little to stop and just take in some views. It really is a beautiful route and I can see why so many people choose it for running, walking, blading and biking. But last week I had something to prove. I needed to prove to myself that I could run that distance with minimal stops and at a reasonable pace. So I kept myself moving and avoided the temptation to enjoy the journey at the expense of the final goal.

Yesterday I went back to the same route with a plan to run more than the scheduled 19k. But this time I decided to let myself enjoy the journey. I did run 25k at a reasonable pace, but I also made enough stops that I kind of lost track of how many. I believe it was as many as 9 or 10. My stops included:

– not one but two bathroom breaks (does not bode well for marathon day)
– two beach stops, including one where a yoga on the beach class was about to start, if I had access to a mat I would have joined
– a stop around 20k for an ice tea
– a stop to try change the radio station on my iphone, I had had enough of political news on CBC
– a stop to enjoy the amazing rock statues in the shallows of the river

Rock sculptures seen from the Ottawa River Pathway.

Rock sculptures seen from the Ottawa River Pathway.

I stopped my watch every time, so I have no idea how long the actual run took to complete. My worry was if I kept my watch on and then saw my ever increasing average pace, I would want to run faster than I should to try to bring it down. So in the end my pace, based purely on running, was 6:05. I’m guessing with my breaks it would be at least a minute and half slower per km if I had kept my watch going the whole time.

The view at the finish.

The view at the finish.

So it was a very different run from last week. I think though it also served a purpose. I need to constantly remind myself that there is more to training than just the numbers. It was pretty great to run AND enjoy my surroundings in an area that I do not generally visit (though I certainly will be now as it is my current favourite running route). As well, I continue to find “stop and go” running difficult. I run so much better if I just keep going. But my body is going to have to deal with the fact that if I stop, it does not necessarily mean I am finished. So having to go back at it after a break is probably as important in my training as being able to keep going without a break.

These past two long runs have caused such mixed reactions in me. On the one hand I am so proud of myself for being able to run such distances. Not long ago running for 2 and a half hours was just not something I even considered possible. My thought was only real athletes could do it and I while I have never been really unfit, I never considered myself to be an athlete. Now that I have accomplished so much in my running I am finally comfortable calling myself both a runner and an athlete.

Unfortunately though, these runs have also stressed me somewhat. Once the initial excitement wore off, I have to admit fear and self doubt has tried to settle in. While the runs were great, the fact is I was completely and totally done at the end of them. I am sure some of this is because I am running them faster than I should be for a long slow run. But honestly, even yesterday with all the breaks, I really did not have anything left. The thought that I would still have 16 or 17km to go is nothing short of overwhelming and well, terrifying. It is a bizarre feeling to on the one hand feel like you have accomplished the impossible and on the other hand feel like you might fail at what you have set out to do. All I can do is hope that the next 9 weeks are enough to prepare me for success.

Love This Idea!

I received my regular email update from the Toronto Waterfront Marathon today. Included was information about the STWM Dream Team. At first I made the assumption that this was a running team raising funds for a specific cause. But I discovered it is in fact a group of volunteers who will be there to support runners and walkers in the final 10km of the run. Specifically they will be there to help anyone struggling and who may be feeling as if they can’t complete the race. How brilliant is that? I am so nervous about those final 10 km, but the thought that some complete stranger will take the time to be there for me and encourage, cajole, laugh, chat or just simply supply a “You can do this” makes me feel just a little more confident that I can complete 42.2k. Yet another example of the supportive people who make up the running community!

For more information about the Dream Team check out
STMW Dream Team


That’s right, today I ran 26km. Not only did I do my longest distance ever, I ran it at a good pace. My final average pace was 5:56 min/km. For a very large chunk of the run I was averaging 5:51. When I hit the 21.1 mark I was only a little more than two minutes slower than my race times for the half marathons I did in spring. I did stop for a quick bathroom break at that point, my only break (for which I did not keep my watch turned on so the break is not counted in the final time) then started again albeit at a slower pace for the last 5k.

So basically today I threw all the training suggestions out the window. No planned walk breaks, no really slow pace. I ran the way I felt I wanted to run, not what the book is telling me. I kept an eye on my pace, mostly to ensure I didn’t go too fast since I can’t seem to gauge it myself, but I didn’t even look at the distance until after 12k. I figured there was no point in knowing how far I had gone since there was so much ground to cover.

The course I ran also helped I think. I took the Ottawa River Pathway from Andrew Hayden Park to the War Museum and back. While I am always content to run on my own, it was fun to see so many other runners, not to mention bikers enjoying the beautiful morning. There were no huge hills, though plenty of small rolling grade changes. While it was a very sunny morning my early start and the breeze off the river helped keep me cool. I think the straight out and back run made it an easier run mentally compared to my last few runs in the small towns of Fitzroy and Maniwaki. I didn’t have to constantly find loops to run to try to gain mileage. When I recently mentioned to a friend that I had run 19k in Fitzroy, she looked at me and asked, “What did you do, run around it 19 times???” Small towns and long runs are not the best combination.

I know my break from the training manual will mean more recovery time needed. But the thing is, when I try to follow the suggested times and walk breaks I have crappy runs. Then I have to recover not only physically but mentally. Right now I may be tired and sore but I also feel happy with my run. I will admit that at the end of the run I wasn’t sure if I would laugh or cry. I really didn’t have anything left at the end of the run and again I suppose you are not supposed to be at that point at the end of your long slow run. But the fact is I had the first long run that I felt good about in a while. It wasn’t just a “well I got through it” run. It was an “I am a runner and I can do this, not matter how hard” run.

Final stats: 26.03km 2:34:32

Vacation Running

Running while on vacation presents its own challenges, not the least of which is motivation. We are finishing up a week at our cabin that my husband and dad have been building since last fall. I am currently sitting on our dock on a beautiful lake on a perfect day. Later, I’ll go find the magic spot in the cabin where I can get online (sometimes) and see if I can post this to the blog. But for now I am pretty comfortable writing my thoughts and enjoying the stunning view.

I have managed to get in two runs while here. It is not an easy place to run though for a few reasons. The obvious reason is of course I have to get off the dock or our covered porch, in other words I have to quite literally get off my butt. Then there are the hills. In this rural/cottage area of Quebec there seems to be no such thing as a flat road. Running hills just can’t be avoided here. There are few stretches of straight roads either, so you are either watching for cars coming over a hill or from around a bend. I wouldn’t even think of listening to music on a run here for fear of missing the sound of a car I have not yet seen. To top it off, I get the sense that drivers here aren’t really expecting to see a runner in their space. I have never once seen another runner in the area and the cars that have passed me seem quite comfortable maintaining their speed and pressing me into the poison ivy that lines the roads like carpet.

Despite all this I did go do hills earlier in the week. I chose a steep but short hill and did 10 repeats. My marathon training schedule said to do five, but I figured I needed to make up for the fact that the hill was only half the length it should have been.

Yesterday I went for another run, but this time decided to head to the nearest town, Maniwaki. Like the rural area, the town is also all hills, some quite steep. I decided to approach the run as a vacation run. I have been feeling like this marathon training thing is too serious, not to mention a little too time consuming! The race last Saturday reminded me that running can be fun and doesn’t have to be all about numbers. I knew there was no way I was going to do my 26k LSD in Maniwaki. Too many hills, too small of a town, too little knowledge of the area. So it became an “I’m on vacation, I’ll do whatever I want” run. I know I ran fast for a while and I know the last half was a slow “tourist” run. I know I did about 14.5k, any other details I’ll have to check on my Garmin later.

Being on vacation, I decided to have treat at the end of my run. I figured a McDonald’s smoothie and some fries would be just the thing. Maniwaki is of course very French. I am, well, very much not French. I wish I was bilingual, but I grew up in Southern Ontario where even if you took French every year, you really only picked up the basics. So I know my French is bad but…

I proudly ordered my medium strawberry banana smoothie and small fries in my best French, even remembering a please. The girl behind the cash looked at me like I had two heads. She apparently was not able to decipher a word I said. I assured myself that I probably had not been loud enough and she simply couldn’t hear me in the busy store. So I tried again, with what I thought was even clearer pronunciation. Apparently not. Now, can I just note here that the word “smoothie” is the same in English and French, so I am feeling pretty confident I did not screw that word up. Finally another worker seemed to understand me and repeated it for the girl taking the order. The smoothie and fries were great but the experience of getting them did nothing to build my confidence in speaking in another language!

By the time I returned to the cabin I figured I was already in sweaty clothes, why not another run? So I took my 10 year old, Evan, for a 3 k training run to help him prepare for his upcoming 5k Army Run in September. Upon returning to the cabin we picked up my 8 year old, Luke, and one of our dogs and went for a 1.5k run. So in the end, I covered 19k, not all of it at once, not all of it quickly, but it felt like a vacation run.

There will be lots of time to get serious about training again next week. Actually, I really have no choice but to get serious, only ten weeks to go!

Prescription for a Bad Week…

…run a race for fun 🙂

It has been one of those weeks. I have been moody and tired, nothing seemed to go as planned. So I headed out this morning to Mooney’s Bay to run the National Capital 10k run with no plans or expectations. I just wanted to run for fun. I didn’t want to be worried about pace or placing, I just wanted the adrenaline rush of a race and the satisfaction of letting myself run at whatever pace was comfortable for me on this given day. I can honestly say this is the first time where I truly ran a race without numbers running through my head. I even considered leaving my watch at home but decided to wear it only to make sure I didn’t get too caught up in the fun and burn myself out before the end of the race, which would have just put me right back in the moody and tired zone. So I glanced at my average pace once in awhile, but that was it. I just wanted to finish feeling good, not disappointed in my effort (like after Wednesday’s run) but also not feeling like I was going to pass out from pushing too hard to try to get a PB.

I am happy to say I was successful in my goal (or lack of goal?). The entire 10k felt good. I remember being very pleased with myself around 6k when I realized I wasn’t in the least bit out of breath and felt very relaxed. With the exception of the sprint at the end I never felt like I was pushing myself to exhaustion and my pace remained pretty steady throughout, though definitely faster in the last half. I was thinking I would finish around 58 minutes, maybe a little under, so was quite surprised to realize after I crossed the finish line that I had finished in 56:48. That is only 39 seconds slower than my 10k PB. For that PB I honestly felt like throwing up right after the race, whereas after this race I was fine. Oddly, feeling so good with a time under 57 minutes actually feels like a PB even if it is not one on paper. I even managed to be second in my age group – though admittedly there were only four of us in the 40-44 crowd. As for final placing, as always I was right in the middle of the pack, though I beat the average time by exactly one minute.

Normally I love having my husband and kids there cheering me on, but today it was just me and that too made for a relaxing morning. First of all, a race morning is SO much easier when you only have yourself to get out the door. Second, it meant I could hang out for a while after the race. I didn’t even bother looking at the posted results, just relaxed and waited for age category winners to be announced. It was kind of fun not knowing if I had made the top three until my name was announced. Then I headed to the tent for the free massage, not something I would have had after a regular training run!

And finally I hung out around the transition zone for the duathlons and triathlons to try to get a sense of how they work. My first reaction was there would be no way I would ever try one just because it seems so complicated. I like the simplicity of running. Show up at the start line, make sure you get to the finish line. The End. My brain can handle that while my body does the work. But the multisport events just look so complex. I would actually have to study a map. I would have to make sure I had lots of equipment organized and in the right spots. I would have to plan. And think. That seems like a lot to ask on top of physically exerting myself. But as I watched the athletes move from bikes to running I realized I could probably handle it. Still won’t be doing that swimming thing, just not going to happen. But if (a big if) I could actually get past my driveway on my bike and start getting some km in, I should one day be able to try one of the shorter duathlons.

It did cross my mind this morning that it was not long ago when I would never have considered going out and doing a 10k race just for fun and as a way to relax. Especially if it involved getting up at 6:00 am! My how things have changed 🙂