Saturday, February 23, 2013

What a weekend! Yoga for runners and a half marathon (sort of!)

So there I was, feet tucked under me and sitting on a couple of foam blocks, ankles and feet asleep but in utter agony, and I thought to myself, "Yeah, this probably wasn't such a good idea."

Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of a Yoga for Runners workshop at Halifax Yoga, and I wasn't about to quit. At least, not with the workshop instructor, Mike, telling us "This is supposed to suck! I want you to be happy, healthy runners!"

Well, I want to be a happy, healthy runner too, and I was there to write an article about the workshop for OptiMYz magazine, so there was no way that I could back out of things now, no matter the pain. And it wasn't so much the pain that I was worried about - the thing is, as any of you who have been following my blog for the last month and a half know, I was supposed to do a 21.1-kilometre run the next day to make up for the Halifax Hypo Half I'd missed the previous week due to inclement weather.

And working your glutes, core and ankles to exhaustion is probably not the best way to prep for a race - not when what I knew I should have been doing was to be home, hydrating with my legs resting.

I'll write more about the workshop in a future post, since I enjoyed it (despite the pain) and it reinforced my understanding of the important connections between yoga and running (and no, it's not just about flexibility). But suffice it to say that while I enjoyed myself, I still wondered whether I had overdone things the day before a half marathon - race or no race.

A race that wasn't a race

The next morning, as I went through my usual pre-race preparations (half a bagel with peanut butter, a small cup of orange juice, a glass of water, pulling all my gear together), I could feel the previous day's workout in my glutes, shoulders and back, as well as my right obliques. I hoped that once I got moving, this would loosen things up a bit.

Even though this wasn't technically a race, I'd still worn my race bib, as had a few of the other 30-odd runners who'd gathered at the Running Room on this rainy Sunday morning for their make-up run. I met up with two of my running friends, and we agreed that we'd just treat the day as a training run and do 10:1s, with the goal of about a 2:15 finish.

Although it wasn't an official race, Bruce had still put out the counter clock, to make things feel a little more official. He let all of the other run groups filter out, and then our small group of half marathoners gathered at the start, and he counted down to the start time. A few of us let out a cheer, and then we were off.

For the first few kilometres, I felt fine. We were running at about a 5:45 pace. As always happens to me at the start of a race, I wondered whether I'd be able to keep it up for the entire run, given that I'd been so inconsistent with my training and only been running about two to three times a week for the last month and a half, and missed a few long runs. And then there was the issue of the workshop I'd done only yesterday.

We started out by going down to the waterfront, then through the dockyards, and finally right and up along the hill at Point Pleasant Drive. And that's where my legs began to feel it  - a combination of tiredness but also lack of hill training. I consoled myself by the fact that there shouldn't be too many more hills and there was a long downhill at Quinpool and Dufus.

Oh right - this is hilly Halifax

Yeah right. I must have forgotten that this was Halifax, after all. You can't go farther than a couple of kilometres without meeting a hill.

By the eight kilometre mark my brain was starting to do its negative self-talk: "They're in better shape than you. You've missed too many runs. You've put on weight. You're not ready for this." And so on...

...until a kind woman from Montreal, who was running at the back of our group with a friend, came up alongside me on a hill at Oxford across from the university, and said, encouragingly: "You can do this."

Don't ask me how she knew, but those four words at that time were exactly what I needed. It's not that legs suddenly felt lighter, or I felt faster. I just knew that no matter what, even if I had to slow down to a pace several minutes slower, I could do this. I'd done it so many minutes before.

That's also about where a friend of one of the girls we were running with showed up with her young children and signs, cheering us "half-marathoners" on. And she kept on turning up every few kilometres along the route, giving us a real race experience.

I eat hills for breakfast?

For the next several kilometres, up until the 10.5km mark, I kept up with my running buddies, slowing down on the hills but catching up on the flat parts. On the long downhill stretch at Quinpool, I caught up with them. But my legs were no match for the hill at Joe Howe.

That's where I really felt how tired and unprepared my legs were. As I hobbled along, barely passing a woman who was walking up a hill, I worried about the hill that was yet to come - up Windsor.

But this wasn't a race. It was no longer about keeping up with the group. It was just about getting to kilometre 15, where two friends of ours were standing in the cold at a water station they'd set up outside their house. After that point, I knew that I'd have a long downhill stretch for a couple of kilometres, and the rest would be gravy.

Don't ask me if it's a sign of maturing as a runner, or simply not having the mental pressure of it not actually being a race, but whereas a few years ago I'd have agonized at not being able to keep up with the group, this time I just let the others drift away from me, and I focused on my own run. I knew I could do the distance, and I no longer worried about my time.

I love Halifax's running community!

At around 16 kilometres, Doreen and Barry were indeed there with their dog Sophie, a bag of gummy bears (Doreen later told us Sophie developed a taste for gummies by gobbling up the ones we'd dropped on the sidewalk) and water. They were wearing their medals, since they had done their run the day before. A major, major shout-out to both of them (and Sophie) for standing out there in the cold and rain for hours for us runners. That is above and beyond, but it also just shows what I've said so many times before - Halifax has a really great running community. It's times like these, when you're outside running with 30, 100 or 400 other runners in the middle of winter, that you realize it.

After stopping to finally tie my shoelace (it had been flopping around for at least three kilometres), I thanked Doreen and Barry, and continued along the route - down a nice long stretch on Dufus, along Barrington towards the road to the dockyards.

It's about at that point that I recognized the feeling I've had in many races - the one where the last few kilometres start feeling like they're taking ages to tick down, and your mind starts to wander and get anxious for the finish. But I also remembered what I've learned on many difficult runs - that it's those difficult runs that are the ones that prepare you for race day. Because if you can keep on keepin' on when you'd rather be snuggled up at home in your bed, then you know you can finish any run.

Ticking down the last couple of kilometres, my legs were tired and I dreaded the hill up Morris. But at the last set of stoplights on the hill, two of the women who'd been running near me turned around and waved me up the hill, with big smiles on their faces (in fact one of them was the kind woman who'd encouraged me at 8kms). Such was the mood of the day - it might have been a little drizzly and gray, but there was just such a great, encouraging feel about the race.

Crossing the finish line (kind of)!

In the end, I finished at around 2:17, even running by the display clock and Bruce holding out medals, tacking on an extra 700 metres to make sure that my watch clocked at exactly 21.1 kilometres. Reports varied on the length of the course. One of the women who I'd run the entire course with, almost neck and neck, said that it was about 500 metres too long.

So who knows - maybe my time was more like 2:15. It was by no means my fastest run/race (in fact it was my second-slowest half and anyways I wasn't racing, right?), but it didn't matter to me. I was simply proud to have finished my 7th half marathon, especially given that I'd barely managed two runs a week since the start of the year.

In fact, so proud was I that I wore my medal to Starbucks. I ordered a hot chocolate for me and a coffee for Bruce, who was still standing at the display clock in the rain, waiting for the last runners of the group.

What a contrast from my first half, the 2009 Hypo Half, where I was so disappointed to have come in 10 minutes slower than my goal, at two hours! It just goes to show - your races are what you make of them. Because unless you're Perdita Felicien or Usain Bolt, you're probably just racing against yourself, and all of the myriad factors that can disrupt even the best-laid training plans.

Thank you!

To the runners who encouraged me on the route, whether slowing down to show me the route, or running up to encourage me...To the woman and her children who drove around the route to encourage us...To Doreen, Barry and Sophie, who stood out in the cold and rain to give us gummies, water and good cheer...To my hubby, family and friends, who have put up with my talking about all things running, and have encouraged me in my up and down training season...To the race organizers, who did the best they could to give us a race experience (and also showed up for the 60 runners who braved the winds and weather on the actual race day)....

Thank you!

What's next?

Any runner knows that you almost never finish a race without already knowing what your next race is. So when Bruce asked me what my next race would be, I already knew - Freddy 2013 (aka Fredericton) in May. No expectations this time, but I'd like to train for a 3:45 and aim for a 4hr finish. That would be a huge improvement on my previous two fulls, and who knows if it's possible - life and weather will have to cooperate.

But for now it's a goal. And that's good enough for me!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Halifax Hypo Half: We get a do-over!

Were you one of the 400 or so runners last week who decided to opt out of the 2013 Halifax Hypothermic Half Marathon due to the gale-force winds and mountains of snow that had been dumped on us the day before (not to mention the prospect of doing 500-metre laps around Dartmouth Crossing for 21.1kms)?

Well, if you're thinking of making up the run this Sunday, here's the Halifax route, if you're interested:

I plan to be there, and will be wearing my bib, even though I doubt I'll be racing. Just a nice, easy long slow distance training runs.

Hope to see you there!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tingly hands and soggy feet, but a good run with friends nonethless!

A little over a year ago, when I was training for my second full marathon, I remember Bruce, our instructor, telling us about how important it would be for us to get out for a run a few days after race day - otherwise we'd find it hard to get back into the groove if we took more than a few weeks off.

In fact, I'd made that mistake myself the year before that, when I'd run my first marathon. I'd taken a few weeks off, "for a break," but then the weeks turned into months with only a few occasional runs in between and all of a sudden distances that seemed like nothing ended up seeming like unthinkable distances.

So even though I didn't race last Sunday, due to inclement weather and bad route conditions, and even though I'm not racing next Sunday, I knew that it would be important for me to keep on getting back out there and hopping back onto a new training schedule as soon as possible. Even though the temptation to take a break was strong.

Tonight was my first run since last week before all the on-again, off-again race day stuff happened. I was a little curious how I would feel on tonight's tempo, given that I'd tapered the week before in anticipation of race day, and the week before that most of what I'd managed had been treadmill runs while I was traveling in Toronto.

I knew the sidewalks would be slushy and slippy, and I was tired from a day at work, but I still wanted to get out there today for a tempo run with a pace group to see how I would fare. Also, today was one of the first days we'd had anywhere near zero degrees in a long while, so I didn't see how I could pass up the opportunity to run in fewer layers than I'd done in quite some time.

I drove across the bridge, dropped off the car at hubby's work, then raced down to the Running Room to meet up with the Run Club. Only...they'd left only moments before me and I didn't know where my group was.

I wavered between doing a run indoors on the treadmill on my own and taking the bus home, trying to catch up with the group or doing 2-3k in town and then running 5k home. My Garmin had decided to freeze and wouldn't get off the clock, which told me the time was perpetually 9:48, so I knew I wouldn't have any idea of pace, but I had a pretty good sense of the distance and figured I'd just run it.

And then, lo and behold, I turned around at a red light, only to find a group of friendly faces running up behind me with two of the running friends I'd been trying to catch up to!

My plans changed again, and I decided to do the tempo run with them and let them pace me. The roads were indeed slushy, and every so often we had to stop to walk around massive swimming-pool sized puddles (I exaggerate). But overall the roads weren't nearly as slippy as they've been recently, although my feet constantly felt the itch of a potential fall at any step - the ghost of my fall from a few weeks ago kept on dogging me.

It's a funny thing when you're running without a Garmin: I started feeling like I was working hard, and then berating myself for being out of shape and getting slow. Only, when I asked what the pace was, it turned out we were running a 5:35 pace. I could live with that!

And then another nice surprise: instead of it being a 10k tempo, we were only doing 8! What a nice surprise!

In the end, it was a nice run with a pace I was happy about, and with good friends and conversation to boot. I'm glad I kicked my butt out the door to get to that run tonight, even if I ended up with tingly fingers (from the cold) and soggy feet.

 ~ HRG

Monday, February 11, 2013

T-minus zero days till race day: The race that was a brunch instead...

So - after all the humming and haing and yays and nays of the last week and a bit, not to mention my race day turns out that instead of racing in the Halifax Hypothermic Half Marathon yesterday, I had the longest sleep-in I've had in years, watched OASIS tv with my hubby, helped shovel out the car...and then went for brunch.

All of the previous day I'd been sitting on a fence and leaning towards not going, but before I went to bed I'd agreed with my running buddies that we'd wake up early and make the call about the race then. I hydrated, I carb-loaded (kind of) and then I went to bed at a respectable time. But when I looked outside at midnight and the snow was still dumping on us, I had a pretty good feeling that I wouldn't be racing.

In fact, I didn't even set my alarm to wake me up.

Nevertheless, I woke up way early the next day, and started scanning my Facebook feed to see what folks had decided. By around 6:45, the flurry of messages started, and it looked like we were unanimous: with blizzarding conditions in Dartmouth and 50-kilometre winds, not to mention a -18 windchill, we decided to run 21.1kms together on February 17 and simply do the post-race brunch yesterday.

Had this been my first half, or the middle of summer, or if we hadn't had the option of running 21.1 and getting our medals the following week, I  might have been disappointed. But given that I've already fallen once this season and broken the side of my glasses, and that one of my friends had a scary incident where she lost vision on a long run by rubbing off the protective layer of her eyes in the cold (who knew), we all agreed that we were better to be safe than sorry.

And boy am I glad I made that call - because instead of 1.6-kilometre laps, the 60 out of 450 brave souls who did the run  yesterday ended up doing 500-800 metre laps. Which means something like 26 laps, and the course ended up short. Not to mention that it was too windy to put up the race clock anyways (I mean it was so windy I had trouble getting from my car to the hotel for brunch! I dropped my glove and had to run 400 metres to get it!).

Anyways - this means I have one more week to train, and then I'll have a fun run with friends next week. So you know what? I'm ok with that.

But to the 60 people who did yesterday's run - hats off, my friends! Nicely done!


Saturday, February 9, 2013

T-minus 1 day till race day, and counting: Don't call me a wuss, but...

I am totally on the fence tonight - the more I speak to fellow running friends, the more I'm not sure what I'm doing tomorrow. I am very, very much leaning towards not doing the "race" tomorrow and instead doing 21.1 kms from the Running Room in a week.

Don't call me a wuss, but after all the snow we got today (seriously, the snowbanks are taller than me!) and the fact that we're supposed to get more tomorrow, doing 13 laps in 50-kilometre winds just sounds like a recipe for an injury.

And I'd rather not take that gamble.

Still - we've all agreed that we'll get up early tomorrow morning and check in with each other.

Let's just say though - if I decide by some chance to run tomorrow, it will be a run - not a race.

Colour me confused - I guess this is one of the downsides to deciding to run a race in the middle of winter in Atlantic Canada!

Sleep well, runner friends. And if you decide to run tomorrow, good luck and stay safe!


Friday, February 8, 2013

T-minus 2 days till race day: And we're back on!

Hi all,

And the latest news in this crazy on-again, off-again race...

So it turns out there was a little bit of confusion last night. Hypo Half runners, please take note: the race is back on! You have the choice of showing up this Sunday at the Empire Theatres, Dartmouth Crossing (8 a.m. walkers, 9 a.m. runners) and doing laps, or you can show up at the Bedford or Halifax Running Room on the 17th and run 21.1 kms.

The brunch is also still on at 1 p.m. on Sunday at the Holiday Inn at 1 Wyse Rd in Dartmouth this Sunday at 1 p.m.

Shout-out to @tidbits_of_tara for finishing her Hypo Half this morning...on a treadmill! Way to keep on keepin' on!

I'll be honest: I'm still on the fence about Sunday. It all will depend how bad the roads look when I wake up on Sunday.

This is going to be interesting! But then again...that's why we run the Hypo Half, isn't it?


Updated at 4:43 p.m., Feb 8: what's this I hear about another storm on Sunday????

Thursday, February 7, 2013

T-minus 4/3 days till race day...I mean, t-minus 11/10 days till run day?!? Latest news about the 2103 Halifax Hypo Half

Just learned tonight that Bruce has made the call and has decided to postpone/cancel the race on Sunday due to the monster storm (yes, another one) that's headed this way this weekend. I mean, this one is supposed to be big: 40-50 centimetres are supposed to fall, starting on Friday, and Halifax is in the path of two separate storms headed this way.

Much as I'm sure it pained him to do it, after all of the logistical hiccups from the last few weeks, I think Bruce Bowen, the race organizer, has made the right call. Instead, folks have the option to:

- show up at Dartmouth Crossing on the 10th and do an untimed run of 1.6-kilometre loops (or 13.18 laps);
- show up at the Halifax or Bedford Running Room on the 17th and run 21.1 kms.

There will still however be a brunch at the Holiday Inn at 1 Wyse Rd in Dartmouth this Sunday at 1pm.

Sure, it's a bit of a bummer, especially for those for who this is their first half marathon and who have spent months preparing for this race. But truth be told, I'd rather be safe than sorry. After all, most of us know that you can't expect a PB from a race in the middle of winter. So unless things end up looking super on Sunday morning, and the storm miraculously passes us by (stranger things have happened), I'm thinking I'll show up on the 17th and do a fun 21.1km run with my friends.

That also means I'll have an extra week to train, which to be honest I need, given that my running's been interrupted a few times due to weather and travel (though I did manage a 6km tempo run in -16 degree weather (-21 with the windchill - it was cold!)).

Stay safe out there, fellow runners! We'll race a Hypo together some other day!

 ~ HRG

Updated Feb 8: Please note - the race is back on! It will still be at Dartmouth Crossing, starting at Empire Theatres at 8 a.m. for walkers and 9 a.m. for runners. Please circulate widely!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

T-minus 5 days till race day, and counting: Waiting for Godot at the airport...and why I'm not stressing about running this week

This post, strictly speaking, is not about running. It's about sitting around in airports and airplanes while a winter storm has railed and raged in Nova Scotia, while I have been trying to get home from a work trip. I said it last week, didn't I: life has a funny way of getting in the way.

In any case, I realized this morning that all this sitting around in airports could have been a great opportunity for me to do a study on the inner workings of airport waiting lounges...Only I've been too dazed and confused to realize this until now, only 30 minutes from boarding time.

I have, however, noticed a few things since Sunday about the in-between world of airport departure/arrivals lounges:

- hardly anyone ever, ever runs for planes - even though I can remember reading about this countless times or seeing it in movies;
- there are a lot of things for sale in airports that you don't really need: Guess bags, jewelry, perfume, Canada paraphenelia. It's a plot to keep us distracted by tapping in to our inner consumer;
- there are a lot of patient, underpaid staff who spend hours cleaning up after our messes. They all wear blue or white plastic gloves;
- while most bathrooms have those paper seat disposal thingies, they are almost always empty;
- despite the fact that people hardly ever run for the plane, there seem to be a lot of people late for their flights, if we're to go by the number of announcements on the PA system. Perhaps those folks should start running for their flights?
- most Canadian airport staff greet you with the "hello/bonjour" greeting, but usually they are not bilingual and the "bonjour" sounds distinctly like an anglophone saying "bonjour";
- Tim Horton always has the longest lineups of any food selling place;
- unless you are at your gate, it is actually quite difficult to hear any announcements being made over the PA system in Toronto (Ottawa seems to be better). So make sure you are near your departure gate if you want to know what's going on;
- the Ottawa airport has staff who are able to make announcements in Inuktitut (or at least that's what I took it to be) for flights departing to Nunavut;
- in the winter, there are a lot of flight cancellations.

Looking forward to getting back home and into the regular routine of things!


Monday, February 4, 2013

T-minus 6 days till race day, and counting: Route change for Halifax Hypo Half

A week ago, I mentioned that I had run into Bruce Bowen at the Running Room, and that he was trying to figure out some last-minute logistics for race day. When I spoke to him last Tuesday after my tempo run, he was still working hard to figure things out. I knew that Bruce would do everything in his power to make sure that the race goes off without a hitch, despite these last-minute challenges.

So, due to some logistical changes (which Bruce has patiently chosen to call "snafu's"), Bruce has now had to find a new start area to ensure that all runners have a place to stay warm before the run. If you're running that day or if you have friends or family who will be showing up to cheer you along, note the route change, below:

2013 Halifax Hypo Half route change >>

We will now be starting at the Buffalo Club, 625 Cow Bay Rd.

Please distribute this information widely!

I have no doubt that whatever the route we'll all have a lovely day together. But I want to send another shout-out to Bruce and the other race organizers for making sure that we have a warm place to start and finish our run.

Just six days till race day, fellow runners! Woohoo!!


Sunday, February 3, 2013

T-minus 8 & 7 days till race day and counting: What makes Halifax such a great running city?

I'm still traveling, so getting my usual training runs in has been a challenge (I did get some yoga in yesterday and 35 minutes of interval training on the treadmill today). But whenever I travel, I always make sure to bring some Halifax-related running gear with me. Maybe it's the pride of knowing we battle some serious hills and winds on a regular basis; maybe it's because I love to know I'm representing our beautiful city by the sea.

Whatever it is, I feel proud to be a Halifax runner, and I always make sure to invite fellow runners to come visit us for a run, or a race.

I asked fellow Halifax runners on Twitter why they thought Halifax is such a great running city. Here's what some of them had to say.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

T-minus 11, 10 & 9 days till race day, and counting: Sometimes life gets in the way of even the best laid plans

If you take a look at my blog activity over the past three weeks, you'll see a sudden explosion of productivity. Part of that, I'll have to admit, is that my kind hubby decided to surprise me with a keyboard for my tablet, thus allowing me to type more comfortably and easily than if I were simply typing on my tablet itself (darned autocorrect!). The other reason is tat when I realized that I had found a spot in the Halifax Hypothermic Half Marathon, I suddenly had a countdown till race day. At that point, I vowed that I would post once a day between then (T-minus 25 days till race day) and race day on February 10, 2013.

But the last few days have been a stellar example of the fact that sometimes life just gets in the way of even the best laid plans.

Last week, I did my utmost to try and get back onto the training schedule even though the past few weeks before that had been scuttled by extreme cold, icy streets and work travel. But then on Friday night I discovered that I would have to travel to Toronto for work purposes this week.

On Wednesday when I packed my bags, I made sure to include my running gear, knowing that I'd be out of town for a few days but also that I'd want to get in as many training runs as I could since we are so close to race day. In fact, my running gear made up for more than half of my clothes, when all was said and done, to allow for running in all weather conditions, whether inside or out.

Nevertheless, I didn't get a run in on Wednesday. I arrived in Toronto at 9:30 pm, tired and just wanting to crawl into bed. The following day was a day of meetings, and I had dinner plans with a friend, but I did manage a 30-minute run on the treadmill. And yesterday I made it to the gym for yoga at lunch-time. I'm still away from home for the next couple of days, but I'm going to try to squeeze in a couple of runs and workouts.

In reality, at this point we're so close to race day that nothing I do now will really affect the outcome, physically. And whether it's work, injury or illness, sometimes life does get in the way.

Now, more than ever, I'm focused on just getting out there next week and having a good time with my friends. I'll plan to enjoy the race and treat it as a training run. Heck, who knows - maybe I'll throw caution to the winds and even run without my Garmin, like the good 'ol days!

The point, I suppose, is to plan ahead and be flexible. All of this makes me appreciate how driven and focused elite athletes must be, who are so committed to their goal that they don't let other things get in their way.

And I'm nowhere near an elite athlete. I'm just a runner girl who likes to get out there for the fun of it. And that's an important lesson to remember!