Wednesday, June 29, 2011

HRG Runner Profile: Jonathan Kirk

I'll get right down to it: Jonathan Kirk is training for a 100 mile race. Yes, that's right -- there are two zeros in there, and that's equivalent to 160 kilometres! Kinda makes any other distance seem piddly, doesn't it?

Then again, it takes a special kind of person to not only want to do it, but then to stick to a rigorous training program over the course of several months, including 100-kilometre weekends, a few very early morning runs in the dark and one all-night run to Peggy's Cove and back.

Since discovering Jon's blog, I've been following his progress on his blog with a mixture of awe and curiosity -- what on Earth makes someone want to do something like a 100 mile race? Most of all however, I've been just so impressed with his determination. Yet another runner from whom to draw inspiration!

Leadville is less than two months away, so I was grateful that Jon took the time to answer my questions for this week's HRG Runner Profile. I wish him all the luck in his continued training as Leadville approaches, and I know there will be cheers resounding all the way from Halifax when he's standing at the start line in less than two months!

So without further ado, I give you Jonathan Kirk!

HRG: How long have you been running?
JK: I have been running since I was 11. I'm 39 now so that makes 28 years. I have taken a few breaks in those 28 years but I always came back to a new sense of purpose and wanting to run again.

HRG: How and why did you start running?

JK: I started running because when I lived here as a kid I never learned how to skate and hockey was expensive, so running was the cheapest and easiest thing to do.
(PS: I still can't skate to this day...anyone give lessons?)

HRG: Favourite part of running?

JK: Knowing sometimes that I have done more then most people by 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

HRG: Least favourite part of running?

JK: Sore feet.

HRG: Favourite time of year/weather to run in?

JK: I love running the spring, summer and fall. I almost always take December/January off from running completely. This helps my overall recovery from a long running session. I really like running in the rain -- keeps me cool and I just run that much better.

HRG: Favourite route (training or race) to run?

JK: I really like my Purcells Cove road loop. It gives me nice flat sections and great hills for 30 kilometres. Favorite race is the Hood 2 Coast Relay. It’s the mother of all relays. Think of the Cabot Trail Relay times  1,000: 1,000 teams, 12,000 runners. Just a classic race.

HRG: Favourite distance to run?

JK: I like running between 15-20k. I like racing in the half-marathon.

HRG: How do you keep motivated?

JK: I like having a goal and I usually tell one person about this goal, so that person can  hold me to it.

HRG: Best pre-race meal?

JK: Pasta, a little sauce, nice big salad and garlic bread......YUMMY.

HRG: Best post-race meal?

JK: The pulled pork sandwich with a side of Mac-n-cheese from Boneheads. They are make the best BBQ in Halifax.

HRG: Upcoming race goal?

JK: Right now I'm training for my first ultra-marathon. I'll be running in the Leadville trail 100 miles (or 160 kilometres) race. This race starts at 10,500 feet above sea level and tops out at 13,000 feet above sea level. Leadville is one of the hardest ultra-marathons in North America and only 53 percent of starters finish...This is going to hurt a lot!!

HRG: Tips or words of wisdom for new runners?

JK: New runners should know that not every day will be a good run day. You will struggle and it may hurt, but just keep moving forward, it does get better.

This is one of the best quotes I read once:
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

Say you're running and you start to think, Man this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The hurt part is unavoidable reality, but weather or not you can stand any more is up to the runner himself. This pretty much sums up the most important aspect of marathon running.

~ HRG: Thanks Jon, and good luck!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

On the path to recovery: week 3 of 6 complete...back to work, and a green light to excercising!

That's right, I'm back at it! Although the nurses and surgeon had told me I'd need to wait six weeks to return to work, exercise, house cleaning and other activities, it's been only three weeks since my surgery and I'm feeling pretty good.

This week, I returned to work part-time, from home. Although my brain wasn't able to keep up with some of the longer conference calls, and I did need to lie down every so often for quick power naps, on the whole I felt fine. It's nice to be productive and contributing to something meaningful. There's only so much daytime TV and reading I can handle before I start getting bored!

I also had my post-op consultation this week, and my surgeon told me I was healing well, and gave me the green light to start exercising again...slowly. I was over the moon!

So on Thursday, with the sun shining down on Halifax and the ocean sparkling, I laced on my shoes and headed out for a short run. The first half was mostly downhill, which was a nice warmup. I didn't feel any pain, although I could tell that my muscles needed some loosening up from not having been worked in some time.

I made it down the hill, then turned the corner for a gradual incline to the main road. I could definitely feel the exertion there! By the time I made it to Herring Cove and crossed the street to Tim Horton's, I was starting to huff and puff, and I was done.

As I walked home, my Tim Horton's tea in one hand and a bagel in the other, I realized once again what great mental training long-distance running is -- pushing through those long runs on days when you'd rather be lounging on the sofa teaches you to learn patience, and optimism. Because there's always a better run after a bad one, and in the end, after weeks of training, you're standing on the starting line among hundreds or thousands of other runners and feeling the buzz of excitement.

So although I could have been disappointed that I'd only made it about 1 to 1.5 kilometres, I focused on being happy that I was out there, three weeks sooner than I'd planned. And that means the recovery will happen that much sooner.

I plan to start incorporating various forms of cross-training into my recovery plan this week, including yoga and stationary cycling. I'm also on the lookout for post-op recovery programs.

And this afternoon, I'll pull on my workout gear, and either head out for another short run -- to the end of the block, the neighbourhood, or wherever I can manage.


HRG addendum: No sooner had I published this post, than I slipped on my new running shorts, running top and laced on my shoes. I headed out the door for what I thought would be an easy 3k loop near home, but 500 metres in, my incision started to hurt. By around 1k I decided to walk and see if it would ease up, but it appeared my run was done for the day. A good reminder that I am not Superwoman and to take it easy! Maybe the surgeon was right about the whole six weeks thing...Will take it day by day.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

HRG Runner Profile: Bruce Bowen

When I moved to Halifax to be with my hunny almost three and a half years ago, the first thing I did was sign up for a 10k clinic at the Halifax Running Room. I didn't know a soul in the city, apart from Steve, and I certainly didn't know my way around. I figured the clinic would be a great way to get to know the city, meet people and feel connected to my new home.

That's also when I first met Bruce Bowen - manager of the Halifax  Running Room and our instructor. Little did I know that my long-held curiosity with running (I'd been running laps around my neighbourhood and taken the 5k clinic when I lived in Ontario) would soon become a passion, and that from that 10k I'd gradually progress to longer distances - the half, and eventually full marathon. The Halifax Running Room has become my home base, and I've since spent many hours there, either gathering with other runners for a Sunday morning long run, or attending clinic sessions and learning from other runners and sports professionals.

This year, I took my second marathon clinic at the Halifax Running Room. I figured there was still so much for me to learn, and that I'd benefit from the group atmosphere of the clinic. Our instructor was Bruce, making this the second clinic I'd take with him. I learned a lot from Bruce's experience and enthusiasm for running, and I'm sure you'll enjoy getting to know him better in this HRG Runner Profile.

Without further ado, I give you Bruce Bowen, today's HRG Runner Profile. Take it away, Bruce!

HRG: How long have you been running?  

BB: What century is this? About 35 years.

HRG: How and why did you start running?  

BB: One of my friends' father passed away after a stroke. He said "I  have to change my lifestyle or I could be next." In order to hang out with my buddy I had to start running. It was start and stop for the first year or so then pretty much I have not looked back.

HRG: Favourite part of running?  

BB: Getting outside. The feeling of accomplishment. If a run is going poorly, I know that I will feel good when I have finished because I did it.

HRG: Least favourite part of running?  

BB: Believe it or not, trying to find THE RIGHT shoe. In my job you would think it was easy but maybe I am just picky. Also I have a hard to fit foot.

HRG: Favourite time of year/weather to run in? 

BB: As long as it is not too hot , any time. But the most favorite time is September October and early November.

HRG: Favourite route (training or race) to run?  

BB: I would have to say that it is split between Point Pleasant Park and the Dartmouth Waterfront Trail from Woodside to downtown.

HRG: Favourite distance to run? 

BB: 10 to 16k.

HRG: How do you keep motivated? 

BB: Knowing that I am doing my body good.

HRG: Best pre-race meal? 

BB: Spaghetti Bolognese the night before. Toast and tea in the morning.

HRG: Best post-race meal? 

BB: Steak and beer.

HRG: Upcoming race goal?  

BB: Cross Border Challenge 10K – I want to break a 5-year PB for the distance.

HRG: Tips or words of wisdom for new runners?  

BB: Enjoy it. Get that feeling that “this is something I want to do.” Don’t push yourself right out of the gate by setting unrealistic goals and being able to reach them tomorrow..

HRG: Anything else you want to add?  

BB: Regardless if it’s four minutes or ten minutes, a mile is still a mile. One more body being active is one less body the health care system will have to look after at some point.

HRG: Thanks, Bruce!


Sunday, June 12, 2011

On the path to recovery: week 1 complete. 5 more weeks to go!

My what a difference a few days can make! I feel like a completely different coloured snail compared to the one who posted only a few days ago!

In the last few days, I've been taking it easy, as promised. And I've started to see the results, bit by bit, day by day.

Yesterday, mom and I walked around most of the Halifax Seaport Farmer's Market -- North America's oldest farmer's market. Unfortunately hubby couldn't join us in relishing in the glorious sunshine, since he was working, but it seemed that most of the Saturday crowd had decided to head outside to soak up the rays, which means that the crowds had thinned out a little so the marked was easier to navigate. In any case, whether due to the positive energy of the Saturday morning crowd or the sun beaming down on  Halifax yesterday, I felt like a completely different woman than I had only days ago, when I reported feeling quite sloth-like.

We wandered through many of the stalls, checking out the artisans' wares, and ran into my friend Dan of DC Art & Design at his stall where we chatted for awhile. Turns out he's started running too, from the second hill at Purcell's Cove, around the Frog Pond and then back to the hill. I have a sneaking suspicion I'll see him out at the races one of these days! Is it just me or is running kind of contagious?

After awhile, we lined up at the creperie for a couple of maple sugar crepes (not quite as good as I had expected -- I recommend the classic ham & cheese over these) and sat by the living wall, then bought a bottle of wine from Sainte Famille for my dad for Father's Day.

After all that, I felt like I had run 10k, so we returned home. This was a good reminder that not only am I not ready to start running again, I'm still just as thankful as ever for the great shape I was in before my surgery. And it's made me more determined than ever to get back there.

After a little siesta in the afternoon (napping is easy once you give in to the concept that it's a necessary part of healing and not just being lazy), we headed downtown to Spring Garden Road and into the Public Gardens, where it seemed like most of Halifax's promgoers had convened in their tuxes and princess dresses.

We bought an ice cream from Sugah and sat in the sun, marveling at how elaborate prom dresses have become (though I much prefer them to the short gowns we wore in the early nineties. If only we'd known!).

That was about all the activity I could handle for the day so I headed back home, but instead of hitting the sack at 9pm, I stayed up till 11!

It's amazing the little milestones you celebrate when you're on the path to recovery. Only a week ago, it was all I could do to sit up in my hospital bed, and I just about fainted when I walked the two feet from the bed to my chair, breaking out in a cold sweat in the process. Now I've managed to walk (more like meander) for about half an hour. Next week, I may make it around the block!

Today, the sun wasn't shining as bright;y but hubby was able to join us for brunch at Mix Fresh -- our final luncheon with mom before she returns home to Port Hope tomorrow, now that I'm on the road to recovery. As we headed back up the hill to our car, I joked that I almost felt good enough to return to work.

Except that when I got home, I napped for two and a half hours.

Not ready yet, I don't think. But I can feel myself getting stronger by the day. Much of this process is starting to feel like a Sunday long run. I can't remember the times when I dragged myself to the Running Room and forced myself through a run, knowing that it would pay off in the end but all the while willing myself not to stop and call a taxi. So often a long run is all about that -- patience and perseverance. And if you build a strong base through training, you'll thank yourself for it on race day.

This road to recovery is starting to feel the same way: I'm building my base now through patience and perseverance, gradually storing up my strength and increasing the distance and amount of activity I'm able to cover each day. I've come to accept that living slowly is a key part of the recovery process.  And just when you're training, sometimes you push through the bad runs because you know the next one will be better, I'm sure there will be days in the coming weeks when all I want to do is say to heck with it and ignore the doctor's orders to take this time to heal.

But in the end, I'll cross the finish line to the all-clear, and you'll see me bounding through the streets of Halifax, my curly head bouncing in the breeze.

Week one of recovery is complete. Five more weeks to go!


Update: I just came back from a 2.5-k walk and didn't collapse! Yay! :D

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Learning to be a snail...for a while...

So I was going to call this post "Learning to be a couch potatoe." But then I thought, well hang on -- I don't plan on being a couch potatoe for ever. Sure, much of my time lately has been spent on the couch or in bed, watching TV or reading a book. But I don't plan on making a permanent groove in this chair and growing sprouts.

Instead, I'll learn to be a snail. If only for a while. Because you know that old joke:

What did the snail say to the other snail as it drove by?

Look at that S-car go!

The thing about snails is, as opposed to potatoes, they may be slow but eventually they get to where they want to go, with dogged determination.

As a fairly active person, working out and running up to five or six times a week (if not more), it's been frustrating having to slow down since my operation. The doctor had recommended that I take it easy for six weeks, but being the active type-A woman that I am, I told myself that wouldn't apply to me.

Only days after my surgery, I took to going out one or two times a day, taking my mom (who's been here on a visit to help me with my recovery) around Halifax to make sure she wasn't bored. We went to Chez Tess for brunch one day (I could only eat half of my crepes Benny...I seem to have a teeny appetite these days), and walked up and down Spring Garden Road browsing through stores. Another day we bought geraniums for the front porch, and bird seed for the feeder on the back porch.

Sure, my stomach usually felt like it had been split open after only an hour of being out and about, and I couldn't walk further than a block, but I told myself that it was important to keep active if I ever want to run another race.

Until two days ago, when I started feeling absolutely drained with only the slightest effort.

"You've been doing too much," my mom and hubby admonished. "You have to slow down and let your body start to heal."

Resistance was futile, in any case, because by that time I felt like a big cotton-headed sloth and couldn't do much to rouse myself from my torpor.

I've been taking it a lot slower since then, but even today, after folding laundry (which hubby had washed for me, thankfully) and then putting it away, I was finished for the day. In fact I've only just now woken from an afternoon nap. I've been napping lots lately.

I don't mean this to be a woe-is-me post, by any means. Instead, I hope it's a reminder to cherish your health and active lifestyle. Because although being a couch potatoe (sorry, snail) is a great way to catch up on reality TV and morning talk shows, it doesn't give you an iota of the sense of accomplishment and pride you get when you just came back from that amazing run or finished a really tough Body Pump class, let alone crossing the finish line after months of training. And there's definitely no rush of adrenaline surging through your body, even if you are surfing the TV waves.

Then again, there is something to be said for balance. I have caught up on a lot of my reading, which I hope I can maintain once I'm back on the road again.

I may feel tired now, but I know that's just my body healing. With every day, I'll start getting stronger and stronger. Pretty soon I'll be calling out to my hubby that I'm lacing on my shoes and heading out for a run.

I can't wait!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

HRG Runner Profile: Jennifer Marsan

Jen and I go back...Waaay back to the day when we were neighbours as little kids. We were great friends and spent tons of time together playing with our Cabbage Patch dolls, biking, skipping and dreaming of the future. Unfortunately, when I moved and then Jen's family did, we gradually lost touch, connecting only every so often. Life sometimes has a way of taking you in different directions, no matter how close your friendship.

Up until we reconnected on Facebook, and then started chatting about running.

Recently, Jen told me that she'd started running again, with a goal of running her first 5k race in August, and then her first half marathon in the fall. I've been so impressed by her determination and stick-to-itness (particularly since there aren't any running clubs in Brooklyn, so she's been doing this all on her own, and she's the mother of two young boys), and I'm sure she'll be as much an inspiration to other runners, whether seasoned or new, as she is to me.

Without further ado, I give you Jen Marsan, today's HRG Runner in Profile!

HRG: How long have you been running?

 I have been running for three months. I started over a year ago, but I honestly had a tough time keeping it up with kids, and work. Then in November of this past year my whole family moved to NYC and after a whole winter of being cooped up in an apartment I was ready for something outside. I had been following your blog and got inspired to start again. This time I committed signed up for a 5km and a half marathon to keep me motivated.

HRG: How and why did you start running?  

I started the first time because I was looking for variety in my workouts. This time it was deeper. I moved to NYC due to my husband's work, and I was at loose ends. I had left my job that I loved, and didn't have permission to work here so I needed a goal, a focus, and after reading what running did for you I thought this is perfect. It is goal based and your body is a continual work in progress, so it is personal; it feeds your soul.

HRG:Favourite part of running?

The feeling you get when you have been struggling through a week of training and you finally have that great run. There is nothing like that feeling, because you know that all those difficult runs made that great run possible.

HRG: Least favourite part of running? 

As a new runner you have those days that just suck and you feel like you are never going to get any better and your progress is so slow. That is tough because the self-doubt kicks in -- especially when you see those runners that make it seem effortless. In NYC there are plenty of those believe me.

HRG: Favourite time of year/weather to run in?

Favourite weather is rain, or cooler weather -- humidity is my enemy that I am trying to make friends with these days -- it's not going very well...

HRG: Favourite route (training or race) to run?

Right now it is the promenade in Brooklyn Heights or the Brooklyn Bridge Park. I will be tackling Central Park in Manhattan, and Prospect Park in Brooklyn when my longer runs begin in the next couple of weeks.

HRG: Favourite distance to run?  

Not sure yet, I am still building my base. I am hoping that I will love long distance!

HRG: How do you keep motivated?

Knowing I have a half marathon in October is making me stick to it, but more than that it is a personal goal I have set to keep at it. That is more powerful than anything external.

HRG: Best pre-race meal?

Not sure. Any tips?

HRG: Best post-race meal?

Same as above!

HRG: Upcoming race goal? 

5km, then the Half

HRG: Tips or words of wisdom for new runners? 

As a new runner myself I can say that you it is not always easy, but if you keep at it you will get stronger. Set a goal if not a race, a distance. Follow a training schedule, start with a group or a friend. Then when you have that great run you will see it is all worth it!

HRG: Thanks Jen!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Time for a little R&R...And some thoughts on the value of active living

I've been quiet for since the Toronto Marathon a few weeks ago, which you can read about here. The following weekend, I raced the Blue Nose 10k, which is always such a fun race. No matter that I'd run a full marathon the weekend before -- I've run in the Blue Nose each year for the past four years, and I'd never miss the People's Marathon. It's such a community event, with thousands of runners of all ages (from babies in push strollers to octogenarians) participating. And while I really enjoyed my Toronto Marathon experience, and the crowds who showed up in the rain to cheer us on were amazing, the feeling at the Blue Nose is one of community and pride, and it's something I haven't experienced anywhere else.

For a taste of what Blue Nose weekend in Halifax is like, check out this great video.You might even spot me and my frizzy head running down the MacDonald Bridge somewhere around 5:29 ;)

Now that the runs are done, I'm hanging up my shoes for awhile. Not because I'm giving up on running. The truth is, I'd known for months that after the Toronto Marathon and Blue Nose, I was headed to hospital for surgery to address ongoing issues. The good news is, the surgery is over and the prognosis is good. But no running or other exercise or other strenuous activities for six weeks -- doctor's orders!

The surgery was last Thursday, and all went well. In fact, only four days later, I'm up and walking around, although a little sore and sluggish. Other than the pain and mild discomfort, the toughest thing to get used to so far has been the lack of mobility and how easily I tire, which I notice all the more so because I was so active beforehand.

One thing this has done is to reinforce just how grateful I am that I was strong and healthy before my surgery, and how important active living is. When your body is healing, you notice how much you rely on your strength and health in order to do even the simplest tasks like sitting up or even rolling over in bed. The other lesson I've learned is how important a goal so you have something to look forward to.

Once the recovery process is over and I've fully healed, my next goal is to train for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon next October. I'll be heading there with some of my running buddies from Halifax, and I'm really looking forward to it!

In the next few weeks, I'll take the time to heal and to let some of my other running friends talk about why they love to run. So stay tuned for more HRG Runner Profiles!

That's it for today, but in the meantime, stay healthy, stay active and keep running!