Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Week 11: It's a mystery!

Well, so far this week has been a bit of a mystery.

On Saturday night, I ate pizza to store up on carbs, knowing that I would be running a looong run in the morning. I tried to get to bed early, and catch some zs -- always a hard feat for me the night before a long run, since my mind just seems to race ahead of me in anticipation. So I caught about 5 hours of shut-eye, which for me is not bad.

In the morning, I took my time getting ready, ate a bowl of oatmeal and a half cup of tea. To be honest, for some reason I was dreading the run even though I'd done 27k the weekend before, so I took my time even more. I gave myself just enough time to get to the Running Room and head for one more loo break, then we were on our way.

The first part of the run went pretty well, though I must admit I was having trouble catching my breath and falling into the groove as Andrea and I chatted about the previous day's Ashtanga yoga class. Part of me wondered if I'd overdone it, because in addition to that hour and a half class that had me sweating buckets, I'd also thrown in a 10k before it -- my week had gotten a little messed up when I missed a run on Tuesday. Regardless -- I was about to find out if I had indeed overdone it, the day before a 29k run.

At around 7k, we made it to the Rails to Trails, which is remarkably close to my house and yet I never knew it was there! One more option for running routes close to our house! We started our way along the trail, and I noticed I was dropping back, and back, and back. I was worried about my IT and hamstring too, because I've been having trouble with them lately (an injury that actually stopped me from running for two months last year).

Part of the trail passes by streets and houses, but then there's a big chunk of it that's literally in the middle of nowhere for about 5k. It's pretty, but I didn't want to end up stranded in the middle of nowhere if I couldn't keep up with the group, and I also didn't want them to feel like they had to slow down for me, since they were keeping up a pretty good pace.

So I turned around and headed back to the streets of Halifax for another 16k or so. And that's when the going started getting tough. For the next 11k, I had a really difficult run, physically (I was running at around 7:20 for a while there) and mentally. I started asking myself whether I could do a full marathon again if I was finding this so tough and I wasn't even at the 20k mark yet. Did even I want to do it? The feeling on the run on Sunday reminded me of the angst of my first marathon -- not a fun feeling at all. So why was I doing this if I found it so agonizing? Was I perhaps just more suited to shorter runs? Etc, etc, etc.

Signs of spring are everywhere in the city now, and did help to keep me going through the physical and mental strain. So I pushed on, at a very slow pace, knowing that if I didn't get this 29k in today, I would regret it. I made it back to the Running Room at around 24k (by then my Garmin had died. I must remember to charge it on Saturday nights!). The fast runners of our group had already made it back and were stretching. Boy, are they fast!

I went to the loo, again (well we are out there for more than a few hours), then headed back out for my last 5k. Since my Garmin wasn't working, I approximated my route. As I was heading up Bell Road, the rest of the group I'd peeled away from was heading in. Given that I had taken a couple of bathroom breaks (and one break to text Wendy to let her know I was fine), I estimated that they were probably around 2 or 3k ahead of me, pace-wise.

I ended up doing around 6k, so all told I did 30k. And truth be told, although mentally I  was a little messy, physically I wasn't too bad. After stretching for a few minutes, I went to Pete's Frootique for a Blue Moon (blueberry smoothie -- lots of antioxidants and so a good recovery drink, says Bruce). Standing at the counter, I dialed our home number.

"I think I want to quit running," I said to my husband. But he wouldn't hear any more of my negative talk, saying it wasn't good for me. Basically holding up a big red stop sign in front of the negativity train I had been riding for the last three and a half to four hours.

Paying for my smoothie, I headed back to the car and drove home. As soon as I got in, Steve was there, and told me to hurry up, because he was going to take me out for lunch to celebrate my run. God I love my husband for that -- he knows me so well, and he knew right away that if he didn't take me out, I'd just go upstairs, have a bath, and wallow in pity and self-doubt.

Instead, we went to Duffy's for lunch and I had a pretty good steak sandwich and fries. Then over to the Hart & Thistle for a few pints and some laughs with Greg. At around 6pm though I was dying. My legs were stiff but not sore. Mostly I was just dead tired. We drove home, stopping at Cold Stone Creamery for some ice cream (I'd just burned about 1,700 calories so I figured I could indulge in some comfort food. And boy is their ice cream yummy! So creamy!). At home, I changed into my jammies and then tucked in for a night of live-tweeting the Junos for work.

A perfect end to a difficult run.

Now what's the mystery behind all that, you wonder? We all have bad days, right? I know.

Here's the thing: yesterday, you would have thought that I'd be in some form of pain or discomfort, or that my legs would be feeling stiff. But you know what? I felt pretty good. So I decided to get some strength training in after work. My plan was to do Body Attack before Body Pump, to get a couple of hours of cross-training in.

Bear in mind, I've never taken Body Attack before. I didn't even know what it was, but the "attack" part of it made me think it involved some kind of punching or something.


Body Attack burns more calories than any other LesMills class, the instructor told us. Then she put on her mike, turned on the music, and we started stepping...and hopping...and jogging...And we jogged in circles. We jogged front and back. We did jumping jacks...And we didn't stop for a full hour...

But you know what? I didn't feel bad at all. I kept up with the whole class, and chose the level three or four high intensity option wherever I could. And despite being sweaty, I wasn't winded. Or at least nothing that I couldn't handle on a tempo run.

Coming out of that class was a realization that I am in pretty darned good shape, if I do say so myself. My confidence level was boosted again. I opted not to do the Body Pump, because technically Monday was supposed to be a rest day and I'd just finished Les Mills's hardest class (according to the instructor) when all I'd wanted was some strength training.

So you know what? Running remains a mystery to me. Some days, you have good days, others, bad. And other days when you think you'd have no energy, all of a sudden you feel like a superstar. The important thing is to find the positive in the pain, like spotting some crocuses blooming beside the sidewalk, or thinking of all the friends and family who have believed in you when you doubted yourself.

I owe so much of my perseverance to my husband and running friends who have pushed me on when the going got tough. Thank you. I won't be quitting running anytime soon, and my goal to run the GoodLife full in Toronto in May still stands.

Here's to a new day!


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Week 10: No turning back now!

It's official! This week I signed up for the GoodLife Marathon - May 15 in Toronto. No turning back now!

I can't believe we are already into week 10, although the distances should tell me that - we moved up to 29k last Sunday (although my Garmin conked out so I only did 27...but that's not bad). Funny: when we started out for our run on Sunday, I just couldn't imagine how the heck we could run from downtown Halifax, all the way across the bridge, around to Shubie and back, and then add another 10k on top of that! Yet I'd done that route a few times last fall...Our minds just have short term memory, I guess.

So, instead of doing the run across the bridge (which freaks me out -- it's just so darned high and long and I feel utterly exposed there. Usually I pick up my pace to around 4:30 and sprint the 1 mile across till I get to solid ground again...), I opted to do loops around Halifax instead. For some reason that made it more manageable in my mind.

I found the 27k hard, there's no denying it. Part of it, I think, is that I've been getting a little lazy with my nutrition. That morning, I only ate a slice of toast with a little bit of PB on it -- I was having stomach issues so I didn't want to exacerbate it. But I realized that I've got to start paying closer attention to my nutrition, because the distances are just too long now to ignore. This week I'll probably run around 41 or 42kms combined, plus some cross-training thrown in for good measure. You just can't run that far on a handful of calories and expect to get anywhere.

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to meet with Colin Harris of http://www.takemeoutside.ca/. Colin is, get this -- running across Canada! He's doing about 3 marathons a week. In terms of nutrition, he says he burns about 6,000 calories a day so eating is just not a problem for him. His breakfast usually consists of a bagel and maybe PB -- much like most runners start with. He'll run about 10k in the morning, stop for a nutritious lunch, do another 15k in the afternoon, have a break and then do the remainder following the break and a snack.

Colin ran 1,300 kilometres from St. John's, Newfoundland  and burned through two pairs of shoes to get to Halifax, and left from Truro on Monday morning to continue his journey east. He'll be visiting schools across Canada to speak to kids about the importance of getting outside. "Canada just has the best backyard ever," he says of his running route. "I just believe that everything feels better when you get outside."

I'll be asking Colin to answer some questions for a HRG Runner Profile spot soon, along with other local runners like Erin of http://www.love4gambia.com/, who is running across The Gambia.

So when the going feels a little tough, I just have to remember Colin and Erin. What's a little marathon when you're running across entire countries? Now THAT's dedication!


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cupcake Marathon!!!

HRG update: I just got an email from Jason, the Cupcake Marathon organizer, saying I missed the registration deadline. Boo! However, he says they are doing one in the fall, and he's also thinking of doing a pizza marathon. To all the Cupcake Marathoners completing their distances this week, good luck!

I just read about the sweetest, yummiest idea in running land: a cupcake marathon!!! I was trolling through some of my Twitter posts, when the word "cupcake" caught my eye. Then, "marathon"!

Say no more, the tweet had me hooked.

From the looks of it, blogger Cook Train Eat Race came up with the idea not long ago to come up with a virtual marathon during a set period of time where people can log their distances and qualify to win prizes, including cupcakes!!! Love it!

The rules are as follows:

Event Dates: March 14th through March 26th (you do not have to complete the mileage on ONE run but over the course of the two weeks)

Event Distances: 1/2 Marathon (13.1 miles) and Marathon (26.2 miles)…..you will need to select a distance when you submit your registration
Registration: Submit your name, distance, and location through the Contact Me form.
Proof of participation: We will require pictures of your Garmin, Polar, Nike+, Treadmill, etc showing the miles and the time.  We will also require that you submit a spreadsheet calculating your times (you will be emailed the spreadsheet after you submit your entry form)
Prize Determination: Will be based on random.org.  You cannot win more than one item.  Read post to determine what you are eligible for.
Pictures: We will require you to submit a photo with your bib that you can print by clicking on the picture below.

This is meant to be a fun way to get you active and moving in time for the spring racing season.  Depending on the success of this event there will be another Cupcake Marathon in the Fall.


So, I may have started a few days late, but given that I ran 56k in the last 10 days and I'm set to run another 24 before the end of the week, I think I can do it and find some kind of respectable time in those runs.

Thanks, cupcake friends! :)


Friday, March 18, 2011

It's just spring, silly! Or, learning to measure my enthusiasm

So today was the first day in months that I actually ran in my cropped pants, tank top and running sleeves. After a grey morning with heavy winds and rain, the weather changed so completely and abruptly as it can only do in Halifax. Suddenly the sun was shining, the breeze was light, and it was 9 degrees...

After a productive day at work, I decided there was just no way I could pass up a run in such glorious weather. So I pulled on my running gear, laced up my shoes, synched my Garmin to GPS, and headed out for an easy 10k run as per my schedule.

Or so I thought.

No sooner did I pop my earphones in and head out on the sidewalk, that I started pumping my legs. Although the schedule only called for about a 6:20 pace for today's run, I started pushing it. Soon, I was doing 5:45, then 5:35, and suddenly...5:20.

I felt great. I felt like a running goddess. I probably didn't look like one, but for the first time in months, I felt like I was floating on air. Rihanna's "Only girl in the world" was pulsing through my iPod, and I started belting it out (thankfully no one was around because I'm pretty sure that I was not remotely in pitch...but then again, I'm not auditioning for American Idol).

I coasted down Oxford, past University, watching my step on the cracked sidewalk -- last week I tripped in front of a whole bunch of cars at Dutch Village Road and I didn't want to repeat it.

Then, the pain began in my left shin and calves. "It's just pain, not muscle fatigue," I thought to myself. But -- I had another 6.5 k to go.

So I decided to use this as a teachable moment -- to use it as a reminder not to go too fast out of the gates, while at the same time being able to push through the pain and discomfort for the long haul.

I slowed down for a bit, heading down Point Pleasant Drive and then South Park, and letting my legs rest up a bit. But as soon as I turned onto North a few kms later, I picked it up again -- I only had a few more kms to go, so suddenly the energy bank was full again!

Lesson learned: sure, spring is around the corner (though I haven't packed away the snow shovel yet) but that doesn't mean I should burn all my fuel in the first few kms of a run. A lesson I'm going to need to bear in mind once I'm standing at the starting line of the Good Life Marathon in a couple of months!

Still - I love spring time! Woo!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

HRG Runner Profile: Julia Cochrane

Julie and I met a few years ago at an Editor's Association of Canada workshop. I don't quite remember how it happened, but somehow we discovered our mutual love for running. Funnily enough, we've never run together yet (but that might have something to do with Julie living in Wolfville) -- but we still share each other's running highs/woes every so often.

HRG: How long have you been running?JC: Almost 16 years.

HRG: How and why did you start?
JC: How? I don't know--I just did. Why? To get healthy and maybe lose some weight.

HRG: Favourite part of running?
JC: Swimming afterwards in the summer, the feeling of accomplishment in the winter.

HRG: Least favourite part of running?
JC: Getting going.

HRG: Favourite time of year/weather to run in?
JC: Summer, warm enough for a swim afterwards.

HRG: Favourite distance to run?
JC: 5 to 7 km.

HRG: Favourite route (training or race) to run?
JC: Anything involving Reservoir Park in Wolfville, especially in the summer (swimming!).

HRG: How do you keep motivated?
JC: Knowing I don't have to diet.

HRG: Tips or words of wisdom for new runners?
JC: Keep at it; it eventually becomes a habit.

HRG: Anything else you'd like to add?
JC: I don't run for races. I haven't been in a race for several years.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Halifax Runner Girl's run for Japan

Hi all,

Further to my previous post, I have now set up a fundraising page. My goal is to raise at least $420.20 -- one dollar for every kilometre run in the Good Life Toronto Marathon on May 15. If I can raise more, that's fantastic too!

Click here for a link to my Giving Page to make a donation.

Thanks to Laura for pointing out the Giving Pages to me!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Week nine: Running for a cause

I started writing this post about how today's run was a study in contrasts -- the sunshine was glorious; the run itself painful (even though it was only 19k -- but some days, you just can't tell why, the run just doesn't go well). But how can I ignore the horrific tragedies that have been happening in the world lately? The world today is a crazy, complicated place. And a lot of times, running is a great escape from it all. It's just you, the pavement and your breath...For just a few minutes, or a few hours, the rest of the world's problems disappear. I am lucky enough to be able to have a life where I can enjoy this luxury, when in so many parts of the world people are simply trying to survive.

This week, I was struck by the tragedies in Sendai, Japan, following the tsunami. My first reaction upon reading the news was to email my brother -- he and his wife spent three years teaching in Sendai, and they have several friends who live there still. In the last few days, news of some of his friends has trickled through, and those he has heard from are ok. But there remain a handful who he still has not heard from. He and his wife have been waiting with bated breath to hear from the others. And in the backs of their minds, I'm sure they're also thinking that it could just as easily have happened to them. I can't even imagine that the streets where I walked on with my brother six years ago, marveling at the Japanese cyclists holding an umbrella in one hand and a cell phone in the other, ocean water flooded the streets -- a wall of water 30 metres high taking everything in its path.

Yesterday in the Ashtanga Karma class the instructor announced that the donations from the class would go to the Red Cross for relief of the tsunami victims in Japan. Which got me thinking -- there's gotta be a way that I can do something with all of this running I'm doing.

So, I've decided to devote my training and marathon run to the tsunami relief fund in Japan. As far as the mechanics of accepting donations, I have no idea how that would work yet. But this is a shout-out to folks who might want to give donations for this cause. More information on how that works (maybe through a PayPal account) will be provided int he days and weeks to come.



Sunday, March 6, 2011

Week eight: running with Lisa Simpson and David Suzuki, halfway there, and more

Ok, I haven't really been running with David Suzuki or Lisa Simpson. But as the weather starts to get warmer (6 degrees today - I actually ran in a t-shirt and my favourite running accessory - running sleeves from Lulu Lemon), the city's critters are starting to come out of their winter hiding places. I'm such a nature girl that the sight of a bald eagle near Point Pleasant Park last week and a pair of common mergansers floating in the Halifax Harbour today gave me an extra little spring in my step. Cause spring is in the air! I freely admit it - I'm a nature nerd.

My husband imagines that running with me (because he's never actually done it) must be like going for a run with Lisa Simpson - me trotting (or hobbling, depending on the day and the distance) along, my curly hair sticking out in points, chattering excitedly about little details like a cute shingled birdhouse or listening the chirps from a flock of chickadees nearby as we wind our way through the city. Which made me wonder - what would it be like to run through Halifax with David Suzuki? I'm sure he'd be much better than I am at identifying species, and he'd probably be able to pick out all kinds of other natural wonders I haven't noticed. It would be like having my very own Nature of Things documentary of Halifax. Then again, he might also start a monologue about our current environmental crisis, which could be a little bit of a downer. After all, some of those long runs can be painful enough without focusing on all that's wrong with the world.

But I guess my point is, the fun thing about road running outdoors is that you get to experience the city and urban nature as it shifts from one season to the next. I remember running through a rainstorm last fall, cold wet and miserable. I had merged onto the multi-use trail in the South end that extends off of Oxford, when all of a sudden a red squirrel jumped off one of the trees and started running alongside me on the top rail of the fence, hopping over the upright beams like they were hurdles. I'm sure he was probably racing around trying to hoard nuts before the weather turned chilly and he turned in for the winter. But I could have sworn he was racing me. Pretty soon, he hopped back onto another tree and circled around, letting me go on my way. I was still wet and cold, but a little warmer thanks to our little race.

As for my training program - week eight is now complete and we are now into week nine. Which means that we're at the halfway mark to my marathon goal: the Toronto Good Life Marathon on May 15. Actually, now that I think about it, I can't believe we're already halfway there! Just nine more weeks and I'll be at the start line, surrounded by thousands of other runners, my adrenaline racing. Eep!

The distances have been getting longer - 23k last week, which went fairly well (in fact I ran an extra kilometre or so without knowing it) and 26 today, which did not go as well, though that might have something to do with me only getting a couple of hours of sleep last night. Chalk it up to pre-long-run nerves (I never sleep well the night before a really long run). We've also started hill training and I'm continuing my strength training.

Next week, it's back down to 19k, then we jump right back up to 29 the following Sunday. Having done this training program once before, the distances don't seem as intimidating. I'm not saying I could go out and run a full marathon tomorrow, but at least I know what it feels like to be on the road for two, three or four hours.

And while I'm out there, there's so much to see and hear! I can't wait for the weather to keep getting warmer so I can observe the crocuses beginning to poke their heads out, dotting the city with bright polkadots.

Oh and before I forget - a shout out to Heart & Sole Running Club, a new local running group based in Dartmouth. Thanks for the follow!

That's it for today. Until next time, happy running!


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

HRG Runner Profile: Wendy Bungay

I'm delighted that my first HRG Runner Profile is Wendy Bungay. I started running with Wendy last June, when I joined my first marathon clinic at the Running Room. As we progressed ever closer to race day and our group's anxiety level started increasing, Wendy kept us calm and motivated by sharing from her experiences and even sending daily motivational quotes. I've learned a lot from her, and I think you will too!

HRG: How long have you been running?
WB: I have been running approximately 10 years.

HRG: How and why did you start?
WB: My younger sister is an accomplished runner and listening to her talk about her training and watching her run inspired me. After several years of watching from the sidelines, I quit smoking and tackled the treadmill before finally heading outside, following a "walk/run" program she prepared for me.

HRG: Favorite part of running?
WB: Running is the only activity that I do that is totally for me. When I run, I am simply myself - not Wendy the social worker, the wife, the mom, sister, daughter, etc.

HRG: Least favorite part of running?
WB: Hmm...probably not having any control over the weather and being too stubborn to change my mind once I commit to a run, regardless of the weather. Wind is my enemy.

HRG: Favorite time of year/weather to run in?
WB: Early fall, for sure. September is always a rough month for me emotionally and it’s become the month that I train my hardest and with the most focus. It also provides great running weather as the season begins to change. I like the crispness of air and the crunch of leaves on the trails.

HRG: Favorite distance to run?
WB: The longer the better...at least on those week end long slow training runs. For racing, the half marathon distance is a lot of fun and doesn’t require the same time commitment to train as the marathon distance...but the satisfaction of crossing the marathon finish line feels the best!

HRG: Favorite route (training or race) to run?
WB: I love to run the Salt Marsh Trail in Cole Harbour. My favorite race route is more difficult...I really like the Johnny Miles course in New Glasgow - it’s a looped course and, while the idea of running repeats for a race course initially didn’t thrill me, I was surprised with how much I enjoyed the route and try to run the course on a yearly basis.

HRG: How do you keep motivated?
WB: Never underestimate the power of a training buddy - or buddies - to help keep you motivated. While there’s lots of runs I do solo, I really describe myself as a “social” runner and enjoy running with others. When my energy wanes or I’m struggling with competing time demands, I’m much less likely to blow off a run if someone else is expecting me to meet for a run or if I’ve committed to running with a group. I’m probably misquoting someone but the truth is, I never regret running once I’m out there but there’s lots of times I’ve regret NOT going out for a run.

HRG: Best pre-race meal?
WB: The night before a race I like a stir fry of lots of veggies and maybe some chicken or shrimp over pasta....and sometimes Hickory Sticks to combat stress :) On race morning, I try to stick to whatever I’ve been having for breakfast throughout my training schedule, usually a bagel with cream cheese or peanut butter; fruit and yogurt.

HRG: Best post-race meal?
WB: Fish and Chips (and a cold beer)

HRG: Upcoming race goal?
WB: To cross the finish line in Boston on April 18, upright and grinning from ear to ear!

HRG: Tips or words of wisdom for new runners?
WB: “All in good time” is a good mantra to begin with. It’s okay to shoot for the stars but you’ve got to learn how to load the gun first :)
Celebrate each "first" as you experience it, and there will be lots of them in the months ahead.

Remember that you alone define what "success" means for you on your running journey.

HRG's note: I'll be following Wendy as she trains for Boston, and hope to interview her again once she has crossed the finish line in a few weeks' time! GO WENDY!