Planning for 2015

They are calling for 30 centimetres of snow in New Brunswick on Sunday, so I don’t think it’s too early for me to start talking about 2015.

I do plan to run the Santa Shuffle, but other than that my 2014 running season has come to a close. Yes, during my 10K race this weekend I completely quit running for good, but like anything else the pain wears off quickly and your short-term memory loss kicks in.

The champagne helps with the memory thing.

The champagne helps with the memory thing.

Surprise surprise, I am still a runner.

This was my third year of running and it was a big one. I managed to run all four major race distances: a 5K, 10K, half-marathon and full marathon. I learned so much along the way, which I will probably save for a New Year’s Eve blog post.

The nuts and bolts of it all is that I prefer running long distances, I love swimming, and it’s important for me to focus on strength and stretching. Also, I get injured very easily.

With that in mind, my husband recently purchased me the Run Less Run Faster book and I’m starting to read it and make plans for upcoming races. The method includes three aggressive, targeted runs per week and two cross-training sessions.

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In 2015, I plan to run the Hypothermic Half and the Ottawa Race Weekend half-marathon. I do have a surgery that needs to get done and I could get called any day for it … so that may impact my early 2015 plans. Nothing major, but I will be out of commission running-wise for at least a month.

Other than that, I have no plans. If I feel good in the first half of the year and the Run Less Run Faster method is able to prevent me from getting injured, I can see myself training for a fall marathon. It’s far from a definite, but it is a slight possibility. I’ve never trained in the summer, but it would be fun to try to take a chunk off the time from my first marathon.

So I say to you …

What are you plans for racing in 2015? Any races you can recommend to me?

Race Recap: Legs For Literacy 10K

I promised myself I would keep this short. 1,000 words later … here you go.

In late August I started a training plan with the goal of completing the Legs for Literacy 10K race in Moncton. I thought it would be a good way to find my “running mojo” that I had lost quite dramatically over the summer.

And it was! I enjoyed running only three times a week and doing cross and strength training on the other days. I stayed injury free and never felt like training was taking over my life.

As things progressed, I started to become more competitive with myself and switched my goal from “fall in love with running again” to “get a 10K personal best.”

image (2)In the last few weeks before the race I tried to pick up the pace on each of my training runs. For the year before my marathon I had really focused on going farther, not faster. As a result, I got slower and more lazy on my runs. They were pretty much all junk runs — I only completed them in order to be able to put a check mark on my schedule.

So as race day approached, I tried to push out of my comfort zone with varying degrees of success.

When I raced a 5K halfway through this training plan, I knew I was close to my old PR times but not quite there yet. I was having problems on training runs with feeling nauseated every time I ran a 5:xx minute kilometre. I’ve had issues with this in the past and it really flared up again. I started dry heaving while running and not just after. I tried different diet techniques but in the end I just felt like my body was allergic to running at any speed other than “leisurely.”

In the week leading up to the race I decided to practice what I preach on this blog — to think positively and believe in myself. When I PRed in the 10K in Ottawa in 2013 with a time of 58:41, I had been training around the same paces that I was leading up to Legs for Literacy. At the time, my result really surprised me.

I decided to stick with my goal of a personal best and not back away even though I knew it would be an uncomfortable ride. I hoped I would surprise myself again.

I enlisted my Dad as a pace bunny, and my parents and I drove down to Moncton on Saturday afternoon. We enjoyed the expo, bought some swag, and listened to a motivational speaker.

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We lucked out with picking a great local restaurant called Rossano’s for our traditional pasta supper, and we were in bed early.

I had a great sleep and felt ready to go on race morning. It was colder than expected but the rain held off.

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My running buddies smiling in the crowd.

I ran to the start line from the hotel and did some strides to warm up.That’s something I’ve never really done before and I think it helped out a lot in the beginning.

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Pre-race selfie!

The timer started and we crossed the mat. Dad had a plan to give us negative splits because I felt like that might keep my nausea at bay. I felt pretty good in the beginning — until we hit a small climb and I thought “Hey, no one told me there would be hills!” I needn’t have worried about that small hill — we soon hit Vaughan Harvey Blvd., which was essentially 1.4 kilometres of climbing. The good news was we got to run some of it downhill on the way back.

But by then, I was toast. I felt toast before we even hit 5K. I tried everything to get my heart rate down while still maintaining the pace that Dad was setting. I said a bunch of mantras in my head. I thought about floating in the ocean. I closed my eyes! (Not recommended.) My heart was pounding so much that I felt like bursting into tears.

Dad said we were doing great and the pace was perfect. Meanwhile, I was heaving, choking, thinking about quitting, and telling him I thought I was dying. I took two very brief walk breaks to try to calm down. (These will factor in later.)

With about 800 metres to go, the finish line seemed so far away and I told Dad to stop providing updates. (I probably shouldn’t have done that.)

Somehow I was able to turn on a bit of gas toward the finish, and I passed a few people on the way to the line. I promised myself I would keep walking through the chute (I always seem to collapse right away and then first aid always comes over and embarrasses me) so I kept walking, but didn’t make it very far. Dad helped me over to a cement block to sit down and I felt really gross. He broke the news to me that we hadn’t made my goal. My watch said 59:01, but I had stopped it a little bit late.

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I was sitting on a cement block in this photo, feeling like death. I had to psych myself up to smile for the photo.

In the end my chip time was 58:48 — 8 seconds off a PR. I felt like eight weeks of training had been sent down the drain and, even though I felt like a poor sport, I was pretty disappointed. I started playing the comparison game and feeling frustrated with the amount of work I put into running only to end up with very mediocre results compared to most other runners.

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Our tradition after every race: tiny bottles of champagne!

I thought about the walk breaks. Did they make up those 8 seconds? Honestly, I think they probably helped me rather than hindered me. And if I hadn’t been running with my Dad, I know I would have given up and finished much slower. So there are some silver linings.

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A post-race lunch with my run club.

Judging by how terrible I felt when I woke up this morning, I know I pushed my capability to the edge. My back is completely shot.

What did I learn? I don’t enjoy trying to get faster. I like going farther. But if I do want to do better at shorter distance races, I need to do more targeted speed workouts so I can get comfortable with race pace. It’s just a choice I need to make.

Did you race this weekend?

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.