Friday, December 30, 2016

Running Round-Up: End of Year Musings Edition

Proof that I was out there! 
#RunEngland and Gear
My husband and I were recently in England to spend time with family and enjoy the holidays. I even managed to get a couple of runs in while we were there: a nice and relaxed 8k, and a 3k fartlek run. Miracle.  

Overall though, I definitely fell off the training wagon over Christmas, but am raring to go now that I'm home. I've also picked up some new gear to help me out: some traction aids, given the irritatingly persistent snow and icy conditions on the west coast, and a new fuel belt for when my training runs start to go up in distance. I've never had a real fuel belt before - just a makeshift one, where I attached two portable fuel bottles onto my water bottle belt - so this is a little exciting for me. My first real fuel belt!

Final Note for 2016
2016's obviously been a hard year for so many reasons. Going into 2017, I'd like to remember this, courtesy of this year's Doctor Who Christmas special (thank you, Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi):
Everything ends, and it’s always sad. But everything begins again too, and that’s always happy. Be happy. 
Happy New Year, friends. May your 2017 be happy. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Thing About 2016

Warning (especially for new readers): this blog occasionally contains foul language. Some readers may be obscenely offended. Others won’t care at all. Only you can judge into which camp you fall.

Grief is a strange thing. One moment, you can be totally fine. The next, you’re crying in a pub over a beer and plate of fries.

This is a true story.

So I’m spending time with my husband enjoying some small talk over a beer and we’re having a quick review of 2016 - specifically, how so many of our friends have had babies this year, which is nice. And while many might feel this year was full of miserable things e.g. Brexit, Trump being elected as the first Idiot of the United States (conversely, Hillary to not have been elected as the country’s first female president despite, arguably, being one of the most qualified and experienced persons to have ever been in the running), Aleppo, and all those deaths of notable and beloved artists and personalities from around the world, these friends who find themselves new parents or parents again might be hard pressed to think that this entire year was all bad.

That said, my experience of 2016 went something like this: the first half was spent feeling distressed over my father’s failing health, then he died in July, and then I spent the second half of 2016 filling my time with busy-ness so that I could avoid feeling guilty about being so relieved that all of the worry and anguish over the inevitability of his death was finished.

It was just a shame that my husband and I had our little “year in review” in a public place where, one second, we’re talking about babies and the next all I could think about and nothing else was my dad and death and relief and guilt and my eyes are leaking and they won’t stop and the next table over is wondering, “Uh oh. What is her problem?”

All this to say, in my humble opinion, that this past year was totally and utterly shit. In conclusion, 2016: you can go fuck yourself. Good riddance. 

Training and Fundraising (thank you!) Update

On a happier note, I’d like to extend my gratitude to all of you who have donated to my fundraising campaign for Team Diabetes. I’m just over a third of the way to my fundraising goal of $3,500 and it’s all due to you, so thanks for that.

For those who would like to donate but are a little strapped given the expenses of the season, no worries! You have until May so please make note of the campaign and give when you can.

As for training, between #snowmageddon (alternatively, #snowmageddon2016) in Vancouver and being out of a town a few days, I came down with a cold so instead of forcing myself to keep running through the sore throats and runny noses, I figured I’d give myself a break - particularly as it’s so far been a strong base building effort - and take a few days off. I shall resume running as soon as I’m able to kick this cold to the curb. Hopefully the snow will also be gone by then, although not likely by the looks of things.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Plea

Dear friends, family, colleagues and total strangers,

As you may know, my dad died this year after suffering dementia, nerve damage and other complications arising from diabetes.

In his memory, I've decided to re-join Team Diabetes, fundraising for the Canadian Diabetes Association, and run the BMO Vancouver Marathon this May. Funds raised through Team Diabetes will be used for much-needed research, education, programs and advocacy on behalf of those living with diabetes across Canada.

My dad would have been 79 years old this January. Please show your support for my campaign and help me honour his memory by making an online donation through my personal page. Any amount you can contribute is greatly appreciated.

If you have any problems with the above hyperlink, you can alternatively copy and paste the following link into a browser:

Thank you so much in advance. 

It's a Vlog Entry!

I know, I know. Vlogging is sooooo 2000s - which makes sense that I'd want to do a vlog entry now! As promised in this short clip, I'll provide updates on today's run a little later.

And... here's the update from today's run (sorry for not posting earlier but I swear this was from this morning). If you liked this post, let me know in the comments and maybe I'll vlog a little more often!

Monday, December 5, 2016

And Then... There Was Snow

Having grown up on the Canadian prairies, I’m no slouch when it comes to snow. I know how to drive in it, I know how to dress for it. I’ve played in it, shoveled it and scraped it off my car. 

Now that I live on the temperate west coast, I’ve adopted the mindset that snow is 100%, absolutely, completely and without question - overrated.

Today in Vancouver. Some think it's pretty. Me? Not so much. Video cred: Matthew Boulton.

I ran in the cold, prairie winter when I was a teenager and into my early 20s. Dressing to run in real winter is quite involved, as most of you living in places with four seasons will know. Layers, fleece, waterproof clothing, gloves, hats - all essential items when a runner has no choice but to brave the frigid weather.

But - I don’t have to run in this. One: I live on the west coast, where snow is a rarity. And two: I have access to a treadmill. 

Now, I’m not a big fan of the indoor running. Spending too much time on the treadmill has always made me feel a little like a hamster on a wheel. But given that the weather is supposed to stay this way for at least the next week, and my desire to avoid the snow as much as possible? Indoor running, it is! 

For those of you heading outside to run in the winter snow and cold: good on ya. You’re all my heroes. 

Me? I’m tapping out. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

[Christmas] Weekends are for [Sleeping Off Hangovers, but then] Running

"Weekends are for running." This was my mantra for the first four marathons, and it is quickly making a comeback in the way I view my life and schedule.

Weekends during Christmas, however, are a whole other story. I love getting together with friends, enjoying all the food and, especially, heading to fancy holiday parties like the one I attended on Friday night. Everyone was in their finery, plates were piled high with deliciousness, and my wine cup runneth over. 

Hence, I spent all day yesterday sleeping off a hangover and desperately trying to rehydrate, knowing I was putting my running shoes on again today. 

But, hey - I knew it was all coming. Mentally, I was totally prepared. And today's run turned out alright. 

Today's run: 10.5 km run/walk. My first 10 km in a very long time, but with the distance getting pushed out a little due to an unexpected construction detour. Weather: sunshine. Cold. Brilliant. Feeling: still good. Worried it'll all go to hell soon but trying to not think about that too much.

A note on Christmas and feeling bad about the excess to inevitably come: I was rewatching Eat Pray Love recently, and one line in particular stuck with me. The main character and author of the story, Elizabeth Gilbert, says this: 
I am so tired of saying no, waking up in the morning and recalling every single thing I ate the day before, counting every calorie I consumed so I know just how much self loathing to take into the shower. I'm going for it. I have no interest in being obese, I'm just through with the guilt.
As a woman in my late(ish) 30s, I'd like to be able to say I have positive, self-affirming thoughts about my body image. But I can't because it's just not true - well, not always, anyway. And I know I'm not alone. I like what Liz says above. It's hard to remember sometimes, but I'm going to try, especially with heading full steam into Christmas season. I love Christmas so I'm going to enjoy myself and not feel guilty about it!

Neil Young's Heart of Gold makes an appearance on the Eat Pray Love soundtrack. As it's a great, classic song and has been a bit of an earwig for me recently, it's making an appearance here, as well. Do you know the lyrics? If not, you should. Look them up. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Old Motivation, New Motivation

© Kevin Nelson
There's a book called The Runner's Book of Daily Inspiration: A Year of Motivation, Revelation and Instruction by Kevin Nelson. I've had this book for the better part of my adult life. It made the move with me from the prairies to the west coast more than 13 (!) years ago and provides readers with daily advice, affirmation and "running food for thought". It's a book I still pull off the shelf whenever I've gotten back into my running shoes - just like now. 

This excerpt from a recent entry seemed of particular relevance to me:
If an idea keeps popping into your head, you may want to listen to it. Ideas that last are generally good ideas, worthy of follow-up. Whatever your latest thought about running, follow it, and see where it takes you.
Picking up Five by 35 (ahem, Five or Bust?) again was a result of a thought that just wouldn't go away, one I decided to follow and not let go. Running my first marathon with Team Diabetes while my dad was still alive was an amazing experience. To finally run number five, after thinking about it all this time, and with the team again now that my dad is gone... well, I'm not sure what to expect but I'm hoping it's good things.

Today is my rest day, but yesterday's run: 4.5 km free run i.e. not for time or speed, just a regular ol' run. Weather: fog, fog and more fog! Pea soup, for sure. Spooky and mysterious. Feeling: like I should've picked a longer route but glad I was able to map out the distance for this one. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Old Habits, New Habits

Happy last day of November! 

I'm paying attention to the base building advice I shared with you earlier so have been trying to switch up my schedule by running one speed workout each week. 

A personal note on speed workouts: not my favourite. 

That said, fartleks - or, speed play - can be relatively fun, if you make it. For example, I've been running 30 second intervals i.e. 30 seconds at a relatively faster pace, followed by 30 seconds of walking/jogging to recover, rinse and repeat. And while doing so, I've been taking the time to notice the views around me (Vancouver is a beautiful place to run), tell myself some jokes and occasionally try and run faster than I did the previous kilometre.

I dunno. Does that sound like fun? I suppose fun is what you make it.

On my route today: Charleson Park. Pic cred: surYnorte

An old habit I noticed on today's run: breathing in for three steps and out for two, especially when the pace is faster or when running uphill. I've been running for so many years, I'm not even sure where I picked up this tip. Probably one of the books I've read that's sitting on my shelf at home.

A new habit I'm trying to form: bringing my gear to the office so I can run right at the end of the day when it's still light out. Darn you, winter! Why's it gotta be so dark by 4:30 in the afternoon? 

Today's run: 4 km fartlek. Weather: a light wind but dry (thankful for that, given it was raining buckets this morning). Feeling: okay. The run started out a little meh, but got better the longer I was out there. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Running Round-Up: All About That Base (Building) Edition

My small but loyal following from 2012-2014 will likely remember I'd had my heart set on running number five in Vancouver, and I am happy to confirm that this is still the case. I've set my sights on the BMO Vancouver Marathon which happens on May 7, 2017. That means, building up base mileage needs to start... now!

Base Building
Base training or building means "starting from a lower base of infrequent mileage and progressing to more frequent runs including two to three shorter runs and one long run per week" (see: A Runner's Guide to Base Building). Base building can be tough, especially if you're new to running or starting from inactivity. Your level of activity should always be tailored to match your current fitness level. Seems pretty intuitive, right? But this can be really tough, especially if you're raring to go. Don't try to do too much all at once.  

There are great resources out there on base training, including the one mentioned above. If you're looking for additional advice from the experts, give these articles a try:

Build Your Best Training Base
The Basics Of Base Training For Runners 
5 Ways to Build Your Running Base 

The Regulars
While out there today, I recognized two things:
  1. Groups of runners: UGH. I've never been a fan. I refer specifically to those people who run in packs on Sundays and always take up the entire path or sidewalk. Very rarely do they move to make room for others and, inevitably, when passing they'll be talking about some shit like split times or nutrition. I get it, but it's just... so... stereotypical.  
  2. On the other hand, I crossed paths with another runner whom I recognized from my "old days" of running. I don't actually know her, but we'd pass each other on the same route every weekend. It made me smile to see a familiar face and realize that she's probably been a road warrior this whole time.
Today's run: 8 km. Weather: cool but dry. Feeling: pretty psyched, actually. A little worried about my ankle (which I rolled a teensy bit last week), but not overly. I also feel like this has all happened before, strangely. Guess it's just a little running déjà vu!

 Enjoy the rest of your day, friends. And - here's a little Meaghan
Trainor to end your weekend. She's all about that bass, too. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Five or Bust

My dad died earlier this year.

He had never taken good care of himself and struggled with type 2 diabetes for years.

Diabetes experts have made clear what a person should do to mitigate the risk of diabetes: smoking cessation, living an active lifestyle, eating healthy foods. Sadly, my dad’s decades-long smoking habit was far too entrenched, his love of fried foods far too established. As he got older and mobility became an issue, his ability to remain physically active became more and more difficult. Towards the end, diabetic neuropathy and other complications arising from diabetes painfully accelerated the decline in his quality of life.

As he got more and more sick, I started to feel so angry about the way he lived his life. Why couldn’t he take better care of himself? Why wouldn’t he change his ways? And while this anger felt justified for months – and even now, occasionally, despite the fact he’s gone – a grief counsellor told me this:

Each of us has the right to live the life he or she wants, no matter what risks that creates, no matter what others want that person to do. Everyone’s choices are theirs alone to make. And whatever you or I or anyone else wants or thinks that person should be doing is purely selfish – selfish, not because we care, but because those choices aren’t ours to make.

Talk about an eye-opener.

But… that’s love, isn’t it? Being able to accept someone’s failings or imperfections no matter what, even though we might not agree with their actions or if we think they’re making poor choices.

My dad may not have been a pillar of health, but there’s no question he lived his life the way he wanted. Yes, he smoked, he drank, he wasn’t terribly active later in life. But he raised a family, he had friends. I’d like to think he loved and had fun and enjoyed his time while he was here. In fact, I have to believe that because otherwise, what’s the point of it all?

So. About this blog.

When I started Five by 35, I’d already run one marathon and had decided to run four more – a total of five marathons before I turned 35 years old. There were ups and downs: a fastest ever half marathon during training, heartbreaking injury, a noteworthy and unexpected comeback. But by the time I had four marathons under my belt, everything changed. Grad school and a shift in my career goals took focus away from my running and, with that, my desire to finish a fifth. And in June 2014, from an airport in Paris, after two and a half years of being on the blog, I decided to hang up my shoes and call it quits.

I never considered this a defeat or failure – merely, a shift in my priorities and desire to do other things for a while. As I said (wrote) at the time, “I wanted to believe that I still had it in me to do number five. But if I'm being honest with myself, I just don't wanna…running will always be a part of me but, for now, marathon running is no longer in the cards.”

At the time, I truly believed that I no longer wanted to run marathons. That was it. All she wrote. But surprisingly, over time, that desire resurfaced – very small, at first, until recently.

I ran my first marathon in 2009 with Team Diabetes in support of the Canadian Diabetes Association. I had fundraised because I wanted to show my support for loved ones living with diabetes – my dad included. The thought of joining the team again entered my consciousness a few weeks back and would not leave. “Why not?” I thought. And then, “It could be a tribute for my dad.” So it seems only fitting that I put my shoes back on.

I will be registering with Team Diabetes and have fundraising information for you all shortly. To repurpose a line used by The Trews: “I only ask money of friends and total strangers.” But it’s all for a good cause, so I think that’s okay.

35 may have come and gone, but I can still run and so I’m gonna. Five or bust. For you, Dad. And me.


Correction by author: a day after posting this I realized that I had, in fact, run two marathons before starting Five by 35 – not one marathon, as originally noted. My bad. I blame my poor memory... and not combing the archives more thoroughly before writing this post.