My First Marathon-iversary

Monday marked one year since I ran the Ottawa Marathon. You can read the recap here. Other than getting married and getting engaged, it was the best day of my life. After months of blood, sweat and tears, I was finally rewarded with a wonderful first marathon experience.

I marked my marathon-iversary (if that’s not a thing, I’m officially make it one!) with a 5K run on the trails by my house.

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I am loving this shorts and tank top weather. It was quite warm out, but I remembered how it was 27 degrees Celsius in Ottawa on the same day last year. As my running fitness has faded throughout the past year – I only recently started running again after a few months off – my marathon accomplishment only felt more special. Sometimes when you’re in peak shape you forget big your accomplishments are can take them for granted. The past year has definitely granted me some perspective.

I’m sure I will run a marathon again someday.

“Are You Still Running?”

In the past couple of months, I’ve been asked that question quite a bit. My blog has gone dark, I’m no longer posting sweaty selfies, and I’ve just generally been pretty quiet.

The truth is, a few days after that happy-go-lucky 10K run in March as part of my half-marathon training, I decided I didn’t want to do anymore.

Nothing dramatic pushed me to that point. I am blessed. I really don’t have much to complain about in my personal life. That being said, I had started feeling pretty blah about my routine. I can’t pretend it wasn’t my hardest winter in years.

So I took a hard look at the circumstances within my control, and decided to make a few changes to be happier as soon as possible.

First, I cancelled my plans to run a half-marathon in Ottawa in May. My heart just wasn’t it.

With my past two half-marathons and one full marathon, I had no problem feeling motivated about actually finishing the training and the race. All I had to do was picture the finish line, the medal and the cheering crowd. But that tactic wasn’t really working for me this time around.

That’s when I decided to cancel my trip to Ottawa. Next, I repurposed the money I would have spent travelling to Ontario … and booked a trip to Jamaica!

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My husband and I went to Ochos Rios for a week in early April and attended our friends’ wedding while there. It was such an amazing experience. Every cliché you could ever think about a soul-balm-heart-healing tropical vacation – I felt them all.

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I know not everyone can pick up and fly south, but if it’s at all possible for you, I suggest grabbing life by the horns and just doing it.

During my time off from running I really listened to my body and it was fairly clear that it could only handle gentle exercise.

I went for walks and did yoga. These sessions were so much more fulfilling than I ever expected. I never felt guilty about not being out there with the other runners outside, plodding down my street. That’s how I knew I had made the right decision.

Meanwhile, I’ve been listening and waiting patiently to get that itch back. After all, completing a marathon a year ago was one of the happiest days of my life. I knew I wasn’t done with running forever.

Spring is here now. The snow is gone. I turned our heater off. I put my boots away. I purged the clutter in my house. I am dreaming of summer adventures. And yes, the itch to get back into running has finally shown up.

Even though I’ve been dealing with a stubborn bout of bronchitis, I’ve already been out for a few run/walks.

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My first sweaty selfie in a very long time – after my 3K run this morning before work.

The excitement about potential races is starting to swirl around in my brain again. I won’t be wearing a Garmin anytime soon. I will be taking walk breaks. But I know I’ll be doing it because I really want to, because it feels good, and not for any other reason.

A Long Run

As much as I love to complain about running, some of my favourite parts of this hobby involve the routines. Last May was the last time I trained for a long-distance event, and I’ve really missed the ritual of the Sunday long slow run.

Saturday night prep, an early bedtime, the nervous stomach in the morning, toughing it out on the run, and the exhausted feeling of accomplishment after.

As I try to make a comeback after taking some time away from running due to burnout, and then surgery, my paces have been slow and my legs have been sore. But I am feeling proud every day because I haven’t given up, even though some days it feels like it might be easier to.

I’m still moving forward and progress is happening, albeit in inches instead of miles.

Yesterday I woke up excited for an outside run. Nervous, too: 10K once seemed like an easy short run to me, but now it feels daunting.

At 8:30 AM it was a little cold out for my taste. My lungs have not accustomed to the winter air because I’ve been stuck inside most of the season. I decided to wait a few hours and then drove out to my parents’ subdivision. There’s hardly any traffic out there and the roads are smooth — and even bare in some parts!

It wasn’t pretty. There was a lot of walking and huffing and puffing. I didn’t wear a Garmin and ran by feel. But the sun shone, and I covered 10.2K, and I crossed the first long run off my training schedule.

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Most of all, I can now say I am more prepared today to run a half-marathon than I was the day before.

Happy running, everyone.

It’s Officially Week One

As always, this journey to getting back in shape and training for a half-marathon can be best described so far as a “rollercoaster.”

(Don’t ever let it be said that I’m not a drama queen when it comes to running. It would be so boring otherwise!)

The winter has not been kind to my mental state and as my workouts increase, so does the amount of effort I have to put in to get my butt out the door. Some of you who are training for marathons outside may fight me for this title,  but I truly feel that no one will be happier to see spring than me.

This was my view one year ago ...

This was my view one year ago on our honeymoon …

A few “post-surgery” firsts also took place in the past week. I returned to Master’s swimming. It was tough. I forgot how much swimming before work can tire me out and put my in danger of falling asleep at my desk later.

And then yesterday, after checking the weather and noticing the mercury was safely above zero, I dug about my winter running clothes and actually ran outside.

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Not only that, but I did it with my long-lost crew from Running Room. We did four hill repeats for a total of about 6K. I did better than expected … meaning I did not die! It was was actually kind of fun and I remembered how much I love running with a group from time to time.

Last week, closing in on 12 weeks to go before Ottawa Race Weekend, I decided it was time to choose a training plan. My choices were:

  • Running Room (5 runs a week and no prescribed cross-training)
  • Run Less, Run Faster (3 runs a week and 2 cross-training sessions with a focus on speed)
  • Hal Higdon Novice 2 (4 runs a week and 1 cross-training session)

Like Goldilocks says, I decided Hal Higdon’s plan was just right for my current training style. It’s a 12-week plan, which makes this Week One of half-marathon training.

I go back and forth every day on whether this half-marathon will be doable for me or whether I want to give up completely. But looking at this plan makes me feel like I can get to that start line if I put the work in. The goal will be simply to finish and later on I can look at a race with an eye for getting a personal best. 79 days to go!

What I Learned About Healthy Living While Sitting On The Couch

I made a nice little indent on the couch in the seven weeks following my surgery. Books were read, Netflix was binged — it was a lovely break from exercise. Although I enjoyed my rest for the most part, I did have a few thoughts during that time that I think are going to be helpful now that I’ve broken up with the couch. (It was sure nice while it lasted!)


 

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1. Don’t take your health for granted. Put things in perspective.

I didn’t have anything severely wrong with me that made me require surgery but I did lose stamina, endurance and strength while recovering.

A mere 3.5 months ago I was beating myself up for missing a personal best time in the 10K by 8 seconds. I would kill to run that fast now. Actually, I’d be fine with walking up the stairs to the treadmills and not feeling my chest burn. I wish I had congratulated myself for my accomplishments more instead of constantly thinking about how much better I could be.

2. Need motivation? Think about being back at square one.

I often need to summon my willpower to avoid skipping a workout. I’m just not naturally motivated. One tip I find useful: thinking about how bad it felt when I first started exercising regularly. That’s why so many people give up on running easily — it just plain sucks in the beginning.

How many times have you heard this:

“I tried running once and I hated it.”

Well, yeah … of course you did.

Remind yourself that you don’t want to lose your progress and revert back to that point, and stick with your momentum.

3. … But if you do end up back at square one, it’s OK. Don’t base your whole worth on your ability to exercise.

Most of the time we don’t get to choose when we get sick or our body becomes physically unable to exercise. It often comes out of the blue. Even if it’s not an illness, your life could change and leave a lot less time for exercise.

If that happened to you, would you still be able to find enjoyment in your life in other ways? A lot of us, especially runners, would say no. It’s great to push yourself, but if something happened and you couldn’t push anymore, I hope you could find something to make you happy other than a personal best race time. There are a lot of forms of healthy living– stay flexible in your thinking so you can find yours.


That’s it for Deep Thoughts With Molly … back to your regularly scheduled programming soon!

Snow And My Favourite Forms of Exercise

This weekend I had the pleasure of returning to two of my favourite forms of exercise: yoga and swimming. I’ve tried lots of different types of workouts over the years, but those are two that have stuck.

On Saturday morning I decided to try a yoga class at the YMCA. I thought going back to Moksha hot yoga would be a little too much too soon. Turns out the class was 1.5 hours and was also too much too soon. I sweated so much that my mat was as wet as it used to be in the hot room.

I was so sore afterward. My balance was completely off and strength was so lacking that I fell out of poses several times. Despite all that, I was happy to be back. It will get easier each time I go.

Sunday we were hit by yet another blizzard. Truthfully, I don’t pay much attention to weather forecasts. I’m not running outside this year, I live three blocks from work, rarely drive and have a landlord that plows my driveway. There’s not a lot for me to worry about when it comes to snow.

That being said, it was pretty friggin’ snowy out.

In case you haven't heard from all your East Coast friends on Facebook.

In case you haven’t heard from all your East Coast friends on Facebook.

My husband, Dan, was home so we checked the gym schedule and saw that they were open and the pool was open for lap and leisure swim. It was the perfect opportunity for me to test out my strokes that have been neglected for two months.

A nice place to be while the snow blows around outside.

A nice place to be while the snow blows around outside.

The swimming felt great, but was really tough cardio-wise. I was panting after a few laps and in the past I could do a 2000-metre workout without getting too out of breath. Dan and I still got in a fun workout together since we were the only two people in the pool.

And after we got out, the gym announced that it was closing because of the storm. Perfect timing.

What are your favourite non-running workouts?

The First Few Days Back

I’m back with an update on my first few workouts. Firstly, if you’re ever feeling burnt out about exercise, take a full eight weeks off and then you’ll magically feel like there’s no place you’d rather be than the gym. That’s what worked for me, anyway.

Once my surgery pain finally faded late last week, I was practically falling over myself to dig out my gym bag from the back of the closet.

On Saturday I couldn’t wait to pick out an outfit — my workout clothes have felt neglected, I’m sure — and head to the YMCA. I didn’t yell “I’m baaaaack” when I waltzed in the doors, but I felt like it.

Hey guys, I'm back! At the gym! Look at me!

Hey guys, I’m back! At the gym! Look at me! I love pink!

For that first workout I took it easy and ran/walked 2.5K. Four minutes running, one minute walking. I followed it up with a core workout. I didn’t find it very difficult, but the next day I was more than a little unimpressed with how sore my legs were.

I admit that I worried a little bit about my potential to do a half-marathon in May if my legs hurt that much from a short run/walk. Then I put those doubts out of my head and decided to focus on taking it a day at a time.

Running every-other day sounds good for now as I ease back into a more traditional training program. Actually, once I’m back in shape I’d like to try out the Run Less, Finish Faster model with three runs and two swims (or spins) a week. Therefore, Sunday was an off day and on Monday I was back on the treadmill early in the morning.

This time I upped my intervals to nine minutes running, one minute walking for a total of 4K. My legs were sore toward the end but felt much better the next day. I followed up the run with core exercises again. I’ve learned that they are extremely important for me to stay injury free.

Tuesday was an off day again, and Wednesday I decided to aim for 5K. I pretty much ran the whole run with only one extended walk break in the middle because of some stomach pains. It took me 35 minutes. Despite being a slow time for me in my previous life, I was flying high afterward.

Even though it’s only been a few days, I am pleased with my progress so far. I’m looking forward to testing out what cross-training workouts are best for me, getting back in the pool, and starting to layer in other fun training aspects like nutrition.