Thursday, August 29, 2013

Running Round-Up: Where I Complain about the Weather Edition

We're definitely in between seasons right now on the west (read: wet) coast which has made for some less than inspirational running. Here's what's been happening this week.

As Alanis used to say, "Always too hot, never too cold"
After putting in 29 km-plus distances the past few weekends, I ran 23 km on Sunday. Training schedules typically back off on big mileage occasionally to give the body a little break but mentally, I've always found "shorter" long runs to be really tough. 

Take last weekend, for example. Because I was only supposed to run 23 km I decided to sleep in, leave a little later than usual and be back in time for lunch. Instead, the sunshine and humidity of the late morning combined like a mother f*cker to totally screw me and leave me exhausted. I was hot and absolutely pissed when I decided to literally walk the last three km because I just couldn't take it any more and, quite frankly, I did not care.

Over the years, I've found that marathon training is really just a series of good days and bad. It's meant to test a person mentally in order to find the will to finish. Was I tempted, at the end of that dreadful run, to hail a cab or jump on the next bus? Absolutely. Did I? Hell, no. I was finishing that run come hell or high water, either on my feet or crawling hand over foot. Stupid run broke me that day, but I still covered the distance. 

Ahh. Such is the beauty and disaster of marathon training.

And then, it rained
In torrents. Buckets. Not as bad as other parts of Canada this summer, but it was still pretty wet, relatively speaking, when you look at this year's summer in Vancouver as a whole.

I guess it was bound to happen. But it's not the nice, cool and cloudy rain yet. It's still 24°C out there after factoring in humidity - which makes it kind of unbearable. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration... let me just say, the weather for running in such humid conditions is not comfortable, that's for sure.

It's official: I am looking forward to summer being really, truly, absolutely, totally over. No more of this muggy, seasonal transition crap. 

On the plus side, I've confirmed that my new shoes fit properly (yay!) and I got to break in my Blerch T-shirt, courtesy of Matthew Inman a.k.a. The Oatmeal. Or rather, courtesy his shop. Nothing's ever free these days, is it? Still - worth it

Today's run: 8 km, just shy of race pace. Weather: see blog post. Feeling: like I need summer to be over. Roll on, fall!

I do not believe in the wall. I believe in The Blerch!
© The Oatmeal

Friday, August 23, 2013

It's All About the Shoes...

Retired but just can't seem to part with them.
...running shoes, o'course!

Once or twice I've alluded to the importance of tracking how much mileage you're putting on your shoes so that you know about when you should be getting a new pair. Shoes are built to last only so long, depending on a bunch of factors: the type of shoe (e.g. cross trainer versus running shoe versus sport-specific shoe), how much you're using them, how much you weigh, the types of workouts you're doing. Most "experts" recommend that runners should retire their shoes at around 400 to 500 miles, or approximately every 640 to 800 km. 

I read somewhere awhile ago (sorry, can't remember where) that unexpected soreness in your ankles or legs after runs may be one early sign that your shoes are ready to give. As an example, I retired my last few pairs at around 760 km, although I probably should have let them go a little earlier than that.

New and shiny... and no
longer in my possession.
I've been tracking the wear on my current shoes and am currently at 595 km, so I decided to treat myself to a new pair now instead of waiting like I did the last few times. One problem with not having retired a pair in awhile (the last pair I gave up in August 2012 after marathon #3): I was in the store and couldn't remember my size... and I'm really little (smaller than size 6 women's), which compounds the shoe sizing problem. 

So I came home, unintentionally, with new runners a half-size larger than my last few pairs. But - and here's a shoe-buying tip for you - I decided to try them out on the treadmill (not outdoors) with my insoles and regular running socks to see if they'd work. Sadly, they did not. Back to the store I went, regrettably, to return my new and shiny purchase.

I called around, trying to find a size in my specific shoe (Asics Gel 1100-series, now the GT-1000s) but alas, no luck. One store had my exact size, but in a different Asics Gel series: the GT-2000s. I figured, why not? Might as well give it a go.

Please fit!
I've now got the second new pair in hand (foot?) but haven't yet run in them. However, I did put them on at home and, given a brief direct compare with my last pair of shoes (while wearing my insoles and socks, of course), I'm feeling pretty optimistic. Fingers crossed they'll work out.

Here are a few general tips for shoes and shoe buying in general:

  • Running shoes are meant to feel great from the get-go. There should be no need for a "breaking in" period. If you feel like you're trying to "break in" your new pair of shoes, chances are, they're not the right shoes for you.
  • Be sure to leave a little bit of toe space. Why? Well, if you've ever had a black toenail and/or had one fall clean off... that's why. (It's only ever happened to me once! Knock on wood it doesn't happen again.) One way to check if you have enough space for your toes is to run down a slight incline. If your toes are being smushed up against the front of the shoe, try the next half-size or size up and see if that pair is more comfortable. 
  • Track your gear and pick up new shoes well before you need to retire your old ones. If you've been keeping up your running regimen but find that you're feeling more achy than usual after standard distance runs, you likely need a new pair.
  • Don't take my word for it. If you're not sure whether you're buying shoes that are right for you, pop into a local running store and ask for help - that's what they're there for! 

P.S. I have a post that I've been meaning to write for months about "reading" the wear patterns on your shoes. Obviously, I haven't written that one yet. Hopefully now that I've mentioned it, I'll feel obliged to do it... soon. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sore Feet, Soul Intact: Add-On

I forgot to mention... 

Right towards the end of today's run, at about 30 km, I was tired and trudging up a small hill on my route when a man jogging past me in the other direction looked at me and said, "You go, girl."

Normally, because I'm usually such a grump, I wouldn't have really thought much of this gesture. But today? It was perfect and just what I needed to keep going. 

So to this random kind stranger: THANK YOU! Hope you had an awesome run.

Sore Feet, Soul Intact

Here's the general formula: run 32 km. Instantly feel better about yourself and life in general.

Of course, this doesn't happen every time (see Long Distance Do-Over: Update or The Yin and Yang Of Running). And more often than not, it happens when I least expect it. Here's the shakedown on what happened this weekend...

With gal pal The BB Creative in town, who I haven't seen in a very long time, we set out on the town on Friday night ready to par-tay. Which we did. And which I paid for on Saturday, which ended up being a total bust of a day. Clearly, I'm getting too old to keep up with the young'uns.

So, surprise surprise, after I slept in today, after spending all day yesterday in Hangover City trying to rehydrate and basically just keep food down, and after having neither picked a route for my long run, nor organized all my supplies the night before (as is my regular routine), I woke up less than enthused about having to run for many hours

© BMO Vancouver Marathon
But perhaps I was destined to have read this great article by Jeff Gaudette yesterday, in which he writes about the importance of learning how to pace properly and running by feel. Because when I set out late in the morning having no mental preparation for today's run, those tips kept going through my mind. So I told myself, "Okay. Just relax. It doesn't matter how long this run takes, so long as you don't kill yourself trying to finish." And then things turned out spectacularly! I love it when a non-plan comes together.

Today's run: 32 km. Weather: cloudy and cool, with some light, and wonderfully refreshing, intermittent showers. Feeling: sore legs and feet, but pretty darn happy.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Interlude: And Then We Went to a Book Signing

This intermission has been brought to you by Neil Gaiman.

Happy fan.
The master writer was in town a few days ago and my husband, myself and some friends were fortunate enough to have tickets to the sold out reading and book signing. Rather than attempt to recap the event when others such as Philip Harris and Jennie Ramstad have so aptly done so already, what I will comment on is this: the man is a marathon book signer. With more than 1,000 fans in attendance, many with copies of his new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but then others with back items as well (one back item per person only, please) it's not hard to imagine the many hours that lie ahead for that person who has promised to "sign until his hand falls off."

Not being the first stop on this tour, one volunteer at the event told us about how Mr. Gaiman had been icing his hand before the reading in Vancouver, and how they were holding ice in the back as well, just in case. Fans were called up according to randomly chosen row numbers; we were fortunate enough to only have waited about an hour however, it took others more than four hours. Four hours waiting! Can you imagine? But then, can you imagine four straight hours of book signing

If Neil Gaiman can sign books for his devoted fans, night after night, for more than four hours and still have a smile on his face, it makes me think that taking more than four hours to complete a training run or to finish a marathon is certainly something I can do as well. Guess it's just what people do when it's something they really love.

Today's run: skipped. Having had a late night for the book signing followed by an unintentional early morning (I still woke up at 5:30 am the next day without an alarm, ugh) really threw off my sleep pattern. Thought I'd treat myself by getting back on track before tomorrow's long run.

P.S. Before he left town, Mr. Gaiman stopped for a chat with Stephen Quinn at CBC Studio Q. For those interested, the interview can be found online here (0:24:13-0:46:15).

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Long Distance Do-Over: Update

It's done. That's all I have to say about that. Not every run can be fun, right? At least I completed the distance.

Today's run: 29 km. Weather: cloudy to start, but cleared as the morning went on. Was also a bit muggy. Feeling: I don't want to talk about it.

At least I got this nice shot: view of Burrard Civic Marina and Granville Island.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Long Distance Do-Over

I've got 29 km on the schedule for tomorrow and, thanks to my Garmin stats, I can see that the last time I tried to do 29 km, I added a big ol' DNF to the description.

What does DNF stand for? DID NOT FINISH.

I'm not sure why I included this inspiring detail in my running records... sorry, scratch that. I know exactly why I did this. The main reason was because I wanted my record-keeping to be thorough and accurate; that run is when I got hurt last spring.

Tomorrow will be the first time since then that I'm attempting this distance as a training run. Am I a little freaked out about having to run this distance tomorrow, as a result? YupSometimes a little knowledge (even in the form of my own workout data) can be a dangerous thing. 

But plenty has happened since then. I recovered from my injury and went on to successfully complete another marathon! So my plan is to run that same route tomorrow, that 29 km distance - and finish it. I'm looking forward to the challenge.

Today's run: 6 km. Weather: overcast and cooler than it has been recently. Feeling: fine, other than the anxiety thinking about tomorrow's long run.

Tomorrow's run: update to come.