It’s Race Week!

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Yesterday I ran the last “long” run of my eight-week training plan. I went for a slow 10-kilometre frolic through the leaves while Daniel rode his bike beside me.

On Sunday I will be travelling to Moncton with my parents and taking part in Legs for Literacy for the first time. This is the biggest running event in my province and an unofficial conclusion to the fall racing season for most of my local running friends.

I’ll be running the 10K and it’s my first “A” race since my May marathon. I had originally hoped to run a half-marathon this fall but my body took a little longer to heal than expected after May. I switched my goal to be able to complete each major race distance in 2014. Sunday’s 10K will be the last checkmark on the list.

A separate goal of mine was to PR in each distance this year. I did so in the half and full marathon, but failed to do so at my September 5K. I will take one more shot at that distance in December at the Santa Shuffle. Cutting it close, I know!

While I’m really hoping to PR this Sunday, it feels like a long-shot at this point. I’ve been feeling really nauseated — like I have the wind knocked out of me — when I run race pace lately, so I can totally see that derailing my goal. Dry heaving seems to be a new pastime of mine when running. (Disclaimer: I know what you’re thinking, but I am not with child.)

I would have to have a perfect day stomach-wise and I’m not expecting that. I am, however, expecting to have an awesome time in Moncton with my running friends.

Are you racing this weekend?

Why Swimming Is Like Yoga

I’ve been going to swimming two mornings a week since the beginning of September. I never thought I’d be able to get up and exercise for over an hour before work, but somehow I’m doing it. It’s good for me.

On my walk to work from practice today I realized how much swimming is like yoga for me. I haven’t been great about practising yoga regularly since swimming started — I just haven’t figured out how to make it all fit yet.

leaves.jpgEven though the muscles and breathing techniques used for swimming are much different, I still notice my brain working the same way as it does in a good sweaty yoga practice.

While in the pool, I am left with only my thoughts as I do lap after lap. Those thoughts can get loud when they are the only thing you can hear, along with the rushing water in your ears.

Depending on what’s going on in my life, or what side of the bed I woke up on, those thoughts can be negative. Other times they are positive, and I feel strong and proud of myself. It’s a very rare occasion that I’m able to zone out and be completely void of thoughts. What can I say — I’m a thinker.

Today wasn’t one of those zoning-out days. At one point I even got a little teary. I had a lot of mental stuff to work through this morning before 7 a.m., apparently.

But just like in yoga, I knew I had to work through those feelings and then leave them behind.

By the time I came to my last 100m set, I told myself it was time to put the negativity away and focus on my intentions for the day.

And when I pulled myself out of the pool, I was feeling much better — stronger, more focused — than if I had rolled out of bed 20 minutes before work.

Swimming = the new yoga. You heard it here first.

 

Marathon Fever?

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I just returned from a five-day vacation to Ottawa and Kingston to visit my family for Thanksgiving and celebrate our first wedding anniversary.

The trip included lots of indulgent food, plenty of beer, and only one 5K run. I had no problem with that. Besides the resulting bellyache on the flight home, I enjoyed every minute of the time off.

This morning I decided it was time to get back into routine so I woke up early for swim practice. My 10K race is a week-and-a-half away and there’s no room to be skipping any more workouts.

Speaking of races, I felt like everyone ran one this weekend, and they all seemed to be long distances. I was so excited and inspired by keeping up with people’s updates through social media.

In the first few months following my May marathon I was perfectly at peace with my dramatic stepback in running and my complete lack of race registrations.

But in the past few weeks, as this perfect fall running season fell upon us, I’ve started to get the itch again and feel some race envy. I wish I could have found it in me to run a fall half-marathon, but it was a slower recovery period after the marathon than expected and I have to live with that.

Not to mention I don’t actually feel inspired to train for a marathon. Sure, I would have loved to be in Chicago this weekend, but I didn’t want to put in the work for 16 weeks leading up to it.

I always tell people they can run a marathon, they just need to want to. It sounds simple, but if you don’t have that 100 per cent unflinching desire, the training will be mighty unpleasant.

I loved all of my longs runs in training and had a wonderful race day, but the training otherwise wasn’t a lot of fun and I don’t feel like going through that again.

Half marathons are much more manageable. Despite covering the distance many times in training, I’ve only ever done two half-marathon races and they were both in the winter. Next year I will change that. I already have two planned for 2015: a half-marathon in February (going for fun!) and another half in May (going for a big PR!).

Whether I get my full-marathon fever back or not remains to be seen. For now, I am happy to stick with cheering others on!

One Year Ago

One year ago, I skipped my morning run.

I’ve probably skipped dozens of runs since then, so why do I remember that particular morning?

It was my wedding day: October 12, 2013.

Impossible to forget.

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In my frenzied wedding-planning state, I had planned to wake up bright and early and go for a quick jog around my parents’ neighbourhood on the morning of the wedding.

Instead, I woke up calm, not frenzied. I didn’t grab my sneakers, but quietly padded downstairs, careful not to wake the bridesmaids in the other room.

I still got to drink some Gatorade that morning — red, if I remember correctly — because I had a bit of a headache from the rehearsal dinner festivities the night before. My dad served it to me in a paper cup.

I lay on the couch and enjoyed the last few moments of quiet before the best day of my life began. Really, they were also the last few moments of quiet before the biggest year of my life unfolded.

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I was so relaxed that morning that I almost forgot to shower.

But then the girls woke up, and the momentum began.

We went to get our hair and makeup done, and came home for grilled cheese sandwiches.

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We had an early ceremony time, and before I knew it, it was time for my sister and mother to help me into my dress and for my father to drive me to the church.

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On the drive over, my dad and I listened to Top 40 radio and talked about normal things.

Then we were in the parking lot, exiting the car, standing at the end of the aisle, and I was making my way toward my groom.

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(Is there anything sweeter than an emotional man who will be your husband in mere minutes?)

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The ceremony was at on the campus where we met and was just as perfect as we had imagined so many times before.

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Two days before our five-year dating anniversary, we said I do.

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Afterward we went to pose for photos in the autumn leaves, then arrived at the reception for a rib-sticking turkey dinner. We danced the night away until last call before finally hitching a taxi ride to the hotel.

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People will tell you marriage is hard work. People will also tell you the first year is especially hard work.

We have found that people, generally, are right.

In the past year we have only been in the same province as each other about 50 per cent of the time.

And you know what? Just like a skipped run, it doesn’t really matter in the end.

Marriage is also the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Daniel cheered for me afar when I ran a marathon this year, and I’ve cheered for his big career accomplishments in the same way.

The great thing about marriage is having a permanent partner to navigate life with, in good times and in bad, regardless of distance.

Happy anniversary, Daniel. Thanks for being on my team.

An Old Pair of Sneakers

Yesterday I was beating myself up.

I find being tough with myself is a good way to find motivation, but sometimes it can go too far and I just end up feeling guilty and depressed. I’m sure many of you runners have experienced the same emotional cycle.

After work I came home, did some chores and made a good supper. Before I knew it, the sun had gone down, and I was trying to push myself out the door for a run. I needed to work through the negative thoughts.

Even though I didn’t feel like running, I knew it would help.

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I reached for my sneakers by the door and realized they were still soaking wet from my rainy run on Sunday morning. Into the closet I went, digging for an old pair to wear instead.

As soon as I stepped out the door, my gait felt different. I started thinking about the old, worn-down shoes on my feet and what they had been through.

What about all of my old sneakers combined?

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The pair that were on my feet as I nervously arrived at my Learn to Run clinic in 2011.

They were the same pair that I wore during my first 5K a few months later.

The next pair carried me through one of the hardest seasons of my life, when I lost 55 pounds.

There was the pair I wore to train for my first 10K race. I made big gains in speed with them. I was proud.

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I can’t forget the next pair I wore while running in a bitter cold winter in a new city. They carried me all around Saint John, along the harbour, over the Reversing Falls bridge countless times and eventually out to the edge of the Bay of Fundy where the starting line of my first half marathon awaited.

Over the years, my sneakers got muddy, wet, frozen and full of rocks. I even blamed them a few times for my injuries.

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I wore a pair of pink sneakers for my first race with my husband. He ran his first 10K and a few months later I wore them when we ran his first half-marathon together.

Last night I wore the pair that I trained for the bulk of my first marathon in.

I wore those sneakers in more than one snowstorm. I slipped on ice with them. I sprained my ankle in them. I cried in them. I ran on my honeymoon in them. I logged more miles than I ever had before. I hit new distances. I surprised myself in them.

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By the time I was done remembering all the success I’ve had in sneakers, I was done beating myself up.

There’s a reason why I was meant to wear a worn-out pair of sneakers on my run last night. I’m happy I did.

Hello, October!

The first day of October is finally here.

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This is my extra-emergency-get-your-butt-in-gear alarm. (Admit it, you have one too.)

I shouldn’t say finally, actually, because September seemed to fly by. Looking back on the month, I really feel like September was a pseudo “new year” for me, and served as yet another fresh start.

The temperature change helped me get back into running and find motivation to start pursuing a goal again. I tried to be smarter about combining cross training, stretching, strength training and proper fueling instead of just running my brains out all the time.

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I raced a 5K and learned lots of valuable lessons from it.

After the race I immediately went shopping and spent too much money because I was a little woozy. Don't recommend doing what I did.

After the race I immediately went shopping and spent too much money because I was a little woozy. Don’t make my mistake.

I also completed the first four weeks of my 10K training plan without throwing in the towel.

I started swim team three weeks ago. My 6 a.m. bike rides to the pool are so refreshing … but talk to me again when winter arrives.

I cooked some new healthy recipes and weaned myself off summer margaritas.

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Vegan cookie dough bites from the Oh She Glows cookbook.

Two weekends were spent in Nova Scotia and I sneaked in some extra time with my husband.

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Our beautiful bed and breakfast room in Parrsboro.

Fun fact: I didn’t cry at my own wedding but you better believe I will bawl like a baby at anyone else’s. This includes random brides and grooms I see exiting churches and any and all weddings on television.

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Sometimes I wear makeup and brush my hair!

Like every other woman of my demographic, I absolutely love fall. The thing, this is a not a new obsession of mine. October is and will probably always be my favourite month. There’s a nostalgic feeling in the air. Daniel and I started dating, got engaged, and got married in October. It’s a really special time for us.

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Four-wheeling trip to see the pretty fall colours.

I’m looking forward to one more solid month of adventures before we get into the doom and gloom of winter.

Happy October!

Race Recap: Amherst Four Fathers Run 5K

I ran a race this weekend! It’s been a while and I loved going through the pre-race routine again: sitting in the car beforehand trying to settle my nerves, making sure I had everything I needed (socks and Garmin — important!), pinning on my bib.

You know what I didn’t love? Actually running the race. But that’s just a minor detail.

I decided to sign up for this race because my 10K training schedule called for it. I have four weeks done of my plan and only four weeks to go. Legs for Literacy is my last goal race of the year and I’m really hoping for a PR.

I was also hoping for a PR at this weekend’s 5K, but it wasn’t in the forecast.

I drove down to Nova Scotia on Friday night. I stayed the night with my husband (he works in the area) and then woke up early to make the 20-minute drive to Amherst. It was my first time ever showing up to a race alone.

I did a small warm-up and tried to shake my nerves out. For some reason I was extremely nervous about this race. I really wanted to go all-out and I think I was afraid of the pain. I get nauseous really easily when running “fast” so it’s not exactly enjoyable for me.

The beeper went off and we all surged ahead. There weren’t many people participating, and everyone was running different distances: 5K, 10K and half.

The first few hundred metres were pavement, including a steep downhill that I had not noticed during my warm-up. My heart sunk because I knew I would have to climb that hill at the very end since the race was an out-and-back course.

At the bottom of the hill we hit a flat dirt road that stretched out over the Tantramar marsh. The view was beautiful! I loved running beside the cows grazing in the marsh.

Source: http://sylviamorice.wordpress.com/scrapbook/

Tantramar Marsh near Amherst. Photo source: http://sylviamorice.wordpress.com/scrapbook/

The terrain was challenging. I feel fastest on pavement. Even a gravel path makes me feel like I’m getting sucked down into the earth because of the extra friction. This dirt path had a lot of big rocks so the footing was tricky for me. It definitely slowed me down.

I knew I wasn’t hitting anywhere near my goal pace so it quickly became a mental battle to stay positive. I had so much negativity running through my head and I wanted to walk several times.

… I felt nauseated from about the first 100 metres on.

… I decided around the 1K mark that I was never racing a 5K again.

Despite all those negative thoughts, I persevered. At the 2.5K turnaround I dumped some cold water on my head — it was hot! — and started to ask the volunteers I saw for some cheers to keep me motivated. I hit the hill at the end and slowed right down, but kept running.

Toward the top I really felt woozy and was dry heaving a little bit. I usually don’t do that until after the finish line but my body just wanted nothing to do with running anymore. It was a slight downhill to the finish so I tried to push it so I could finish under 29 minutes.

This my angry face:

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My chip time was 28:52, more than a minute slower than my personal best.

I had to stumble over to a bench right away and the first-aid people came over to give me some ice and Gatorade. I felt so embarrassed about what a toll a simple 5K had taken on me. Honestly, I felt worse than I did after my marathon.

I originally felt really disappointed in my performance but after some reflection this weekend I decided I’m tired of making excuses or talking about being “slow.”

I’ve seen a ton of improvement since I started running three years ago. Back then, a 5K was a huge deal. My first 5K time was 37:44 and I was very proud of it — as I should be of this one.

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Here are some of my takeaway lessons learned:

1. I didn’t taper for this race, and that took a toll on me.

2. I was really tired. Friday I woke up for a 6:15 a.m. swim practice. After work I drove to Nova Scotia and stayed up too late instead of relaxing and calming myself down.

3. I went out too fast, hoping to bank some time.

4. If I want to get faster, I need to do more speedwork. I only returned to regular running four weeks ago and I rarely look at my pace when I’m running. This is fine, but I shouldn’t expect a dream race day based on that type of training.

5. Get back to running hills!

A bright spot in the day was the fact that I placed 2/17 women and received an extra medal. Despite it being a small race, I will cherish that award because it’s the first non-participation medal I’ve received for running.

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