Wednesday, 12 April 2017

A Familiar Face

Have you ever had one of those moments when someone asks you to do something and you wonder if they have lost their mind?

This happened to me a little over a month ago. I was at home, sitting by the fireplace, enjoying a relaxing evening, discussing something that I'm sure was earth shattering with Sugar when out of the blue I received a text from the PRC President.

"Wondering if you'd be interested in taking over the role of PRC's Training Coordinator." Or something to that effect.

I remember staring at my phone and thinking, "Did she send this to me by mistake? Maybe she mixed up my number with someone else who actually trains."

Maybe I should rewind to the end of January. At the beginning of the year, I was nominated for the role of training coordinator along with two other more deserving candidates. I had been on the executive a few years back and I did want to give it another go, but training coordinator? Seriously? Have you seen my training plans?

With a bit of encouragement from some of my fellow runners, I decided to accept the nomination. I didn't win, but apparently the race was quite close, with all three of us only a few votes apart. A month later, when the successful candidate had to step down, I was the next person in line.

I hesitated. Did I have what it would take to come up with training plans for our best runners? Me, who avoided hills, strides and tempo runs like they were the plague? Did they really want me to be the spokesperson for our Learn to Run program, teaching our newest runners exactly what I thought of running?

PRC has had some great training coordinators in the past. I knew I didn't have to reinvent the wheel when it came to program - all the training plans from the last few years were there for me to build on. Plus there are hundreds of training plans online. I'm sure I could tweak them with my own personal style.

I agreed to give it a shot and got straight to work. The USR is coming up soon so a half marathon program would be a great place to start.

I quickly discovered that training plans are boring. BORING. B-O-R-I-N-G. I flipped through the one running magazine I own for inspiration (Canadian Running, July & August 2014) and came across the article on PRC member Todd Ralph. I realized that seeing a familiar face would make me stop and see what was on the go. Maybe that was the key.

I tried to think of runners that most everyone would know, even those just starting out. It didn't take long to come up with three different plans: Just Running a Fewer (beginner), Run a Little Mo (intermediate) and Train Like Usain (advanced).

Each week, I've been posting a weekly training photo of these accomplished runners, along with a running schedule and a fun fact about their lives or running careers. I also post my own personal training program, called "I Just Want to Finish". Here is this weeks plan:

This last plan has been receiving quite a lot of praise.

So far things are going well with my new position. Our spring Learn to Run program is off to a great start and I managed to recruit lots of volunteers to help out (they were all voluntold). I've learned a lot about runners and running over the past few weeks. Seems this new job is teaching me much more than I anticipated. Maybe it will make me a better runner. Maybe it will encourage me to do the things most runners do when they train.

Or maybe I'll just sit here and eat a Big Mac.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

It's over. For a while there I really thought we had something but things don't always work out like we planned, I guess. Maybe I got caught up in the initial excitement of a new relationship and didn't see the warning signs. I thought I had finally found exactly what was missing in my life. I gave it everything I had but in the end, it just wasn't enough.

I've officially ended my relationship with my Sauconys.

The inside of the heels of my first pair practically disintegrated. I figured it was because I was too lazy to untie them and all the sliding on and off had worn down the lining prematurely. When I bought my second pair, I was more diligent - always making sure to take them off and put them on properly but it didn't take long to realize that irregardless of my efforts, these shoes were doomed to the same fate.

Obviously my feet and my sneakers weren't getting along as well as I had initially thought.

I was heartbroken. These sneakers were the first shoes to make me hate running a little less. They were comfortable and made me feel like I could conquer the world. Well, maybe not the world, but at least a half marathon.

I knew I had to do what was best for me and so I took my inserts out of my Saucony's for good. The next few weeks were tough - I had to stop myself from going back and giving them one last try. Maybe I ended it too soon? What if I never find another sneaker? Will I ever be able to run in comfort again?

Time is a great healer and eventually I summoned up my courage and figured it was time to get back on the saddle. I decided to start looking for my newest shoe relationship at a different location so I wouldn't be tempted to return to my old habit of buying Sauconys. As I walked into the store and made my way to the shoe section. I was grateful to note that while there were several pairs of Sauconys, there were more pairs in other brands. I scoured the wall, trying to decide where to start. 

Almost immediately my eye was drawn to a section of trail runners. My first thought was "I run trails - maybe this is a sign." I sized up each pair, rejecting shoe after shoe for various reasons - they were Sauconys, they were a hideous color, they looked like something grandma would wear - until I came to a pair that were a wide width. 

If shopping history has taught me anything, it's that my feet enjoy a wide width shoe. This particular display model was also my size so I figured it couldn't hurt to give them a try. They were black, which is a little boring, but maybe boring would make a nice change. They felt pretty good on my feet but the real test would of course be how they felt while I was running,

Unfortunately the store didn't have a treadmill, but the clerk assured me that I could return them after I tried them on my own treadmill if things didn't work out. I bit the bullet and bought them. 

Sugar was paying attention to my feet that evening as I laced up my new sneakers. He informed me that I was tying them to tight. I've always tied my sneakers loosely (or so I thought) but Sugar insisted that I have them even looser. He's been known to be right at least once before, so I figured I'd give him the benefit of the doubt. 

As I ran, my feet kept coming out of the shoe slightly with each step I took. All I could think was "I'm going to get blisters the size of Montana", but by the end of 5k, everything was still feeling fine. No blisters, not even any hot spots.

All in all, it was a pretty successful first date. I felt slightly optimistic that our second date could possibly go just as well.

Now that we have run almost 100 kilometers together, I have to say, I am very happy with how things are working out. I'm ready to commit to running my next half with these shoes. June 11th - be sure to save the date.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Saved By A Water Fountain

Did I ever tell you about my first experience entering the world of fitness? I was in my second year of university and still undecided about which field of study to enter. One afternoon I ran into an old friend who had enrolled in MUN's Phys Ed program. As we talked, I thought to myself, "That's what I should do! I've been wanting to get in shape and what better way to do it!"

I went home and signed up for my first class. I was pumped, so excited to get out there and get started.

On the first day of class we had to meet on the soccer field by the Phys Ed building. I was looking the part in my new MUN sweatshirt that I bought for the occasion, so happy to finally have made a decision about my future. Our first task was to run laps around the field. No problem! I always considered myself a good sprinter so running slower around the field should be a piece of cake.

Like a lot of newbies, I started off faster than I should have. I was doing my best to keep up with the others who obviously had been running since the age of two. I managed several laps before my lungs started burning and my classmates starting passing me one by one.

I remember thinking "Surely the instructor is going to tell us to stop any minute now." I ran another lap, convincing myself that this would be the last one, the whistle would blow and we would get to collapse on the field. Didn't happen.

My legs felt like they were on fire. My new sweatshirt felt like a survival suit. I was dying. I was being lapped. Who knew that you had to be in shape BEFORE you joined the Phys Ed program?

As I got to the end of another lap, I knew I couldn't go on. I stopped next to the instructor and told him I needed to go grab some water. He directed me to the fountain inside. I headed in, walked straight through the building and out the other side. Then I went home and dropped the class.

I kept thinking about that experience as I ran with the group last week. The other RK's were AWOL for various reasons so I ran with Batman and some of his posse. I started out running with most of these people when I first joined PRC, but over the past few years, they have all improved so much that I can't keep up with them anymore. However, on this night, there I was, smack dab in the middle of the group, not at the back, not being lapped, not dying, no burning lungs. I was keeping up with the others and all I could think was how impressed that girl at the PE Building would be with me now.

I've learned a lot about running since my university days but I think the most important lesson I learned is if you want to enjoy running, you have to run for yourself and do what works for you. Which is why I train the way I do:

The best part - I can wear my PRC sweatshirt for most of this training and not have to worry about overheating. Or where to find the closest water fountain.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

21 K, Here We Come!

Well, hello!

Yes, yes, it's been a while. In my defense, there really hasn't been much to talk about since last October but I will do my best to catch you up.

Let me see...what have I been up to since the Cape....

First of all, I did not punch Pete Soucy in the face and I hold no ill will towards him (anymore). I went on vacation and gained five pounds. Then it was Christmas and I gained another five pounds.

That's pretty much it. Oh, and I did some running. 5k here and there but nothing too strenuous. Then I signed up for another half marathon. Or three.

Some PRC members decided on another destination race, this year in Hamilton. Sugar registered for his 3rd full marathon and I chose the half. Well, I didn't really choose it, it more or less chose me. It was a sort of naturally occurring registration. No other distances were even considered. Well, maybe the full for a brief insanity ridden second, but that moment passed with surprising speed.

After registration the next step was to think about a training schedule. I still had my calendar from the Maritime Race Weekend, so I modified that to fit the dates leading up to Hamilton. Snap, Crackle and Pop were unsure about travelling for a race this year but they all wanted to register for the Huffin Puffin Half so naturally I agreed to run that half as well. The HP is seven weeks before Hamilton and I figure it will be a good indicator of how things will go in Ontario.

I modified our training schedule again to work with the HP and noticed that the USR falls into our new time frame. If we are going to run this race again (which we are) we might as well do the half instead of the 10k.

So there you have it. I've committed to three half marathons this year. Goodbye Christmas weight.

Our training begins this week, which is why I decided it's time to start blogging again. It keeps me accountable and more likely to run. The training plan we have will keep us going all summer. You might think it's a bit earlier to start training for something in June, but if you've read any of the previous blogs, you'll know that we don't train like regular runners. For example, here is our schedule for this week:

Slow and steady is how we roll. Or run.

21 k, here we come!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Cape to Cabot (aka Let's Punch Pete Soucy in the Face)

It's been just over a week and I finally feel like I'm ready to talk about it. Because I refused to even think about it for so long, it's kind of difficult to actually put the entire thing into words.

I finished the Cape to Cabot.

Now that's it's over, I can look at my sneakers without hyperventilating. My compression pants no longer cause cold sweats and my PRC shirt once again makes me think of fun runs instead of the Bataan death march.

The weeks between the half marathon and the Cape were somewhat stressful at my house. All I could think about was trying not to think about the race. My hip and knee were still sore from my first training run from Cape Spear and I had convinced myself that I would not be able to finish the course. I even considered backing out altogether. I had a plan to wait until Saturday night before the race and then tell Lori that I wasn't going to run. Can't tell her too early or she'll talk me back into it.

Maybe it was a coincidence, or maybe she's psychic, but over the next few days Lori managed to talk me back into running without even knowing I was quitting. She kept texting things like "I'll regret it if I don't start" or "It doesn't matter if I don't finish it" or "I just need to try and see what I can do".

Sugar's daily weather updates for race day didn't help with my stress levels. "Three degrees and pouring rain for race day". Shut up. "Up to five degree now and scattered showers". Shut UP. "Changed to five degrees and overcast". SHUT UP.

Because there was nothing I could do to stop it, race day arrived. We got up at dark o'clock to have breakfast and left shortly after to make it to the shuttle buses by 6:00 am. 

The ride to Cape Spear was interesting. When a vehicle can barely make it up a hill you have to wonder why you thought it was a good idea to try and run said hill. Maybe I could just stay on the bus and hitch a ride back.

There are so many runners outside the bus warming up. There's a lady doing yoga. That couple over there are having what looks like a picnic while they wait. There's a guy in a garbage bag trying to keep warm and a guy wearing what looks an awful lot like a hazmat suit.

At 7:50 am I got kicked off the bus and had to make my way to the starting area. I went as far back as I could because I knew I'd eventually end up there anyway. We sang the Ode, the gun was fired and off we went. 

My plan was to run slower than usual, even on the flat parts so as not to re-injure myself. I'd done the calculations and knew that if my average pace was under 9 minutes per kilometer, I would finish the race in the three hour time frame. 

I don't remember much of the race itself. I do remember forcing myself to slow down running down several of the hills. I remember a man at the 5 k water stop looking at me with concern and asking if I was alright. Did I really look that bad? Maybe I'm having some sort of breakdown and don't even realize it. 

I also remember getting past the 10 k mark where the pain started during the training run and realizing that I was going to be able to finish the race. 

Southside Road, Water Street and Harbour Drive were wonderful. I ran along at my usual pace feeling pretty good. The stress was gone and my app was telling me I was going to be finished in less than three hours, even with Temperance and Signal Hill left to go. 

Photo credit: Canvassing the Neighborhood Photography

Enter the piper. There is seriously nothing more encouraging than having someone pipe you up Temperance Street. I felt a little like Braveheart. The real Braveheart, not the monkey with the lightning bolts. (Video)

I did walk some of Signal Hill, because let's face it, it's awful. I could hear the shouts from my fellow PRCers at the top and I knew that in a matter of minutes it would all be over. I could go home and never speak of this whole experience again.

Photo credit: Ron Earles

I ran down the finish chute passed a sea of yellow jackets but all I could really think about was getting over the finish line. I was almost at the mat before I realized that Sugar was there, looking just like National Lampoon's Uncle Eddie, waiting with my medal, ready to place it around my neck. That moment made it all worth it.

I think I asked someone where I could find Pete Soucy so I could punch him in the face. Since he was long finished, we took a few pictures, gave a few hugs and headed for home, no worse for the wear. 

I survived. 

I've been asked since, "Will you do it again next year?" My answer - no. But then again I also said I'd never run a half marathon or do the Cape to Cabot, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

I Ran a Half Marathon

I am officially a half-marathoner.

On Saturday, September 17th, 2016, I ran my first half at the Maritime Race Weekend in Nova Scotia, but I really don't feel any different. I thought there would be a huge sense of accomplishment, success or pride when I rang the bell in Eastern Passage to let the world know that I just ran my first 21.1 kilometers but in all honesty, all I really felt was that I just finished another long run with my friends.

Was it was because my thoughts were on Sugar as he completed his second marathon? Maybe it was because Paula wasn't able to run with us due to an injury. Or maybe it was because we had already run 20.9 kilometers a few weeks before and a running an extra 200 meters really didn't seem like such a big deal anymore.

Photo courtesy of Neal Bagnall

Of course it could be that we really didn't treat this race as a race. To us, it was more of a stop at every water table and dance with the marshals kind of race. A take a break at the Temptation Station and eat chocolate kind of race. A pose for the photographers like we're super models kind of race.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all shits and giggles. Getting up at 4:20 am to eat a breakfast of Gatorade, bananas and un-toasted bagels was not a highlight of my trip. Neither was getting off a shuttle bus an hour and a half before the race and having to wait outside in the cold for the sun to come up. It's at moments like these that you really start to believe that you will never sign up for another race again.

But then the sun comes up, the cannon blasts and you're running along with your peeps like there's no other place in the world you'd rather be.

Except a cruise ship. Nothing trumps cruise ship.

We managed to run the majority of the race together. There were a few times when Lori forgot who she was running with and when her natural pace took over she surged ahead. But we would eventually reunite and continue on towards the finish like the three musketeers. 

One of our pit stops was the Temptation Station around kilometer twelve. There were chairs to sit in, chocolate to eat and an amazing view. Another half marathoner stopped and asked for orange slices. There were none. She looked like she could really use a pick-me-up so I offered her some of my Rice Krispie cookies. As per usual, I received a look that says "Are you on something?" I explained the merits of the cookie and she reluctantly took a small square, probably to make me go away more than any belief that what I was saying had any truth to it.

We soldiered on. Renee's knee started acting up and so did Lori's IT band. At about the 19 km mark, our friend from the Temptation Station caught up to us once again. This time she was full of questions. How many squares do you take on a run? When do you start to eat them? How often do you eat them? Store bought or homemade? 

And then she was gone. Flying down the road to the finish line ahead of us.

You're welcome.

Even with all our pit stops, photo ops and injuries we managed to finish the race under our three hour goal with a chip time of 2:56:36.

Highlights of our trip:

1) I bought a visor. 
2) There was a Starbucks in the lobby of my hotel and it's Pumpkin Spice time.
3) Hills in Nova Scotia are not the same as hills in Newfoundland.
4) The Lower Deck was 10 feet away from my hotel.
5) I ran a half marathon.

If I have to give a summary of what I learned that weekend or what I took away from the experience it would be this: once you run a half marathon, you'll want to run half marathons instead of 10 K's. After all that training there's no way I'm going back to shorter distances. My next year's Huffin Puffin will be a half and our destination race next fall will be a half. I never thought I would ever run the distance, but now I can't imagine NOT running it. 

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Call Me Sophia

"Picture it, Random Island, 1985...

A group of school age children are playing outside - hopscotch, tag, jump rope, war, riding bikes. Suddenly, the street light comes on and everyone groans because they all know it's time to go back inside. Nobody wants to go home because being outside is way more fun."

My kids are staring at me like I'm on a day pass from the Loony Bin.

In actuality, I'm trying to convince them of the merits of coming with me for a run.

The weather was crap last night so I skipped the group run. Since I hate the treadmill, I also skipped running at home with a promise that I would run in the morning. As I laced up my sneakers this morning, a conversation I had with my eldest came to mind. I had suggested to him a week or so ago that he should join our LTR program the next time it was offered. To my surprise, he seemed to consider it. I thought I would float the idea again this morning, see if he wanted to try some intervals.


The beauty of being a parent is you can counter the "no" with "yes" and win automatically. In the end, we reached a compromise. The kids would come with me, but they would bike while I ran.

After a lengthy struggle with the bike rack we made our way to Neil's Pond. My two Ronnie's took off down the trail, laughing all the way because I was so far behind. They'd stop and wait for me every once in a while with a look of "poor, slow mom" on their faces.

But by the time we made it around the pond the first time, I could tell they were starting to wane. They turned towards our vehicle, but I was having none of that. My "One more lap!" was met with looks of misery, but they pushed on. Sort of.

One stopped near the gazebo and started walking, pushing his bike next to him. The other kept pedaling, but it wasn't long before I was passing him. Seriously?? I'm 40 years old and I can outrun an 11 year old on a pedal bike. Those kids need to get out more. Looks like I have a new motivation to keep me running.

After lap two they sat on a rock on the side of the trail, looking like they had just finished a marathon, while I ran on a little further to get my 5k. I have to say, I really enjoyed this run. Maybe it's because the temperatures were ideal for a run. Maybe it's because it was only 5k. Or maybe it's because I was able to spend some time with my kids without iPads stuck to their faces.

Despite being disproportionately tired, Thing One and Thing Two seemed pleased that they managed 4k on their bikes/feet and even hinted that they might do this with me again.

I'm going to hold them to that.