Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Rehab

I've been 10 days sober. From running, of course.

Not that running is/was a drug, or an addiction - for me, anyway. But it was definitely something that took priority for the last almost-five months. This past week and a half has been different - felt different. I guess that's what happens when one no longer has a marathon to train for (not complaining).

Reflections on a dry month
Following a house party involving a lot of scotch, I threw a bit of a fit one month out from the date of number five, and vowed to stay dry until marathon day. Amazingly, I actually did this... and it was a bit of an eye opener! 

I would be out with friends, ordering water while they all ordered beer. Not surprisingly, I got bored the longer I stayed out. It's like "fun" is inversely related to "alcohol consumption". Again, not a surprise. 

And yet... I felt better about my choices. True, I wasn't having the "good time" the same way my friends were. But I knew I would certainly feel better in the morning. There wouldn't be a two-day hangover in my future. 

Don't get me wrong: I love a good drink. I drink beer, wine, scotch, vodka... you name it. I don't discriminate (well, except for fruity drinks - like, really?). But being teetotal for just over four weeks was more revelatory than expected. I had a beer the same night I'd finished number five, and have drunk plenty since - no more being dry for me - but I do think I have a different perspective on socially drinking now than I did before i.e. moderation? That's a good thing. 

Good eats
Something else in the way of "healthy living" also happened while I was training for number five. For years I was terrible at brown bagging my lunch. But somehow, with number five in the picture, I managed to create good lunch habits. I've been bringing salads for lunch most days, and even vary them up to keep things interesting - which, I realized, is actually the key with eating salad so often! I'm a huge foodie and love trying new restaurants and new dishes all the time, but at least at lunchtime I've been able to create a space where I don't have to worry about what I'm putting in my body because I know that it's food that is good for me. Hopefully, running or no, I'll be able to maintain that going forward.

Knee-d more painkillers
You may recall I had some trouble with my knee in the week leading up to number five (see blog posts here and here). Following the marathon, I thought my knee pain had miraculously disappeared! Sadly, I was totally delusional mistaken. 

I gave my body a week or so to recover and heal, but sure enough: the knee pain was still there. Not that I was particularly surprised, but I went to a physiotherapist yesterday and it looks like I'll definitely need some rehab. Bad biomechanics! You are my nemesis! But, meh - what else am I gonna do? It's not like I'm running another marathon any time soon [wink]. 

My dad 
I've been wanting to write a post about what this whole experience meant to me... running in memory of my dad, and rekindling my old goal to run five marathons because of that. Alas, I've been unable to find the words. When I locate them, I'll let y'all know.

All You Kneed Is Love, bitches! (Guess I'm not done with the knee puns just yet.) 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Number Five Recap: A Bum Knee, Bad Hip and Blisters (All In a Day's Work)

As it turns out, I didn't have to crawl on my hands and knees to cross the finish line on Sunday... although, it came close to that.

Get ready...
After four-plus months of training, almost five years on the blog and going back nearly eight years to when this crazy marathoning journey started, all I wanted to do was make it to the start line of the BMO Vancouver Marathon healthy and ready to rock. Unfortunately, some problems with my right knee crept up on me during my taper and, even though I spent days resting and icing it, it became a problem that I couldn't ignore.

Thankfully (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), I'm stubborn like a mule so that wasn't going to stop me. 

Get set...
Race weekend is normally such a big deal for me; I love the anticipation and excitement of it all. Picking up my race package and being around hundreds or thousands of other runners is normally fun and exhilarating. 

My knee pain, however, kind of sucked all the joy out of race weekend for me. I was hobbling around the Race Expo, super bummed. But by the night before the race, I had somehow managed to calm (steel?) the nerves and put it out of mind. Que sera, sera, as it were.

Go!
As I stood in my corral with the other "slow" runners, I started to feel that rush of being at the start line with the whole morning in front of me. I had decided to pace very conservatively, to give my knee time to warm up and hopefully loosen up. The first few kilometres went by with no issues at all, and I began to gain a little confidence - something I had been lacking all week long. 

At some point, I noticed my knee felt... well, if not good then as good as it was going to get. The problem was actually my right hip. It's just a theory, but I think my hip started to compensate for my knee, which is why the knee felt okay. Overall, this compensation might have been okay over a short distance, but the hip started to really tighten up the further into the race I went.  

Remembering my conversation with the Team Diabetes staff a few days earlier, I listened to my body and made concessions. At first, I decided to switch from running 10 minutes/walking one minute, to running five minutes/walking one minute i.e. five and ones instead of 10 and ones, hoping to give my hip a rest and a bit of a "walking stretch". I also told myself, "Get to the halfway mark." 

Pausing at the top of the hill
Sure enough, I made it past the halfway marker on this strategy. But by this point, the race had circled around to the top of Pacific Spirit Park heading into Spanish Banks/Point Grey... all downhill. Normally, this would be great - a nice chance to recover. But not this time. This long downhill stretch was bad on the hip. Real bad. 

Wait. Abort?
Once I got down the hill I had to change my strategy again and, instead of running five and ones, I had to switch to running every two minutes... and then every other minute. 

I set a new target: get to Spanish Banks, which was about 23 km in. I figured, that's a reasonable goal... and if I could make it there, I'd be back on "home turf" i.e. one of my regular running neighbourhoods. Maybe - just maybe - by telling myself these things, I could trick my body into going a little further each time. 

At Spanish Banks, another new target: make it to 32 km. "At least at 32 km", I told myself, "that will match my longest long run. Make it to 32 km and walk from there." 

© The Oatmeal
Sadly, the hip gave up well before then - at around 26 km, as a matter of fact. If my hip could talk, it was basically saying, "Fuck you, lady. Did you hear me? NOPE."

So... I walked. 

And then, right at Cornwall and Yew in Kitsilano, at about 27 km - I'll never forget it, because I run this area all the time - I started to cry. I tried to hold the tears back, but they came anyway. All I could think about was that I was so far from the end ohmigod I'll never make it what do I do I don't know what to do I don't think I can make it

One foot in front of the other. I put one foot in front of the other for one more block - and there was my husband, standing at the next corner. 

When I got close enough, I didn't hold back anymore. I started sobbing. I'm so far from the end ohmigod I'll never make it what do I do I don't know what to do I don't think I can make it.

We started walking together a little, so I could try and calm down. And then we saw it: the 28 km marker. 

My brain: 14 km. 14 km left. 

Me: "14 km. There's 14 km left." [pause - then, to my husband:] "Wanna walk 14 km with me?"

My husband: "Sure."

And just like that, my husband saved my marathon.

"How much further?" "It's a little, tiny... 9 miles."
Wow, Simon Pegg. I can SO relate.

Nothing like a beautiful stroll on a Sunday afternoon
That's how I finished number five. Walking 14 km with my husband, on a Sunday afternoon, over the Burrard Street bridge, along English Bay and around the whole of Stanley Park

It may not have been stunning "running" (as BMO Vancouver Marathon runners know it). It was definitely not how I'd imagined my day would go. But for something so unexpected, it could have been so much worse. 

Some of the MarathonFoto pics from the event are available and, while I can't share any of them on the blog (because I haven't bought any), let me tell you: I looked a sad sack in so many - but not in the pics with my husband next to me. I'm actually smiling in those. Which, considering how badly this marathon was turning out performance-wise, was surprising. 

I asked for a miracle, didn't I? Turns out, I got one. 

Unofficial results
The result
The full marathon started at 8:30 am. I crossed the finish line at 2:46 pm. My gun time was 6 hours and 16 minutes, chip time 6 hours and 8 minutes. 

Overall, I placed at 3,479 out of 4,696 full marathoners. In my category of F35-39, 204 out of 284. Out of all females, I was number 1,347 out of 1,866. 

New personal bests worsts in a lot of ways but - you know something? Who cares? A finish is a finish is a finish. Right? As a friend told me post-marathon, "It's never about the measure or time but always about the journey and process. You showed perseverance, resilience and heart. Never forget that you are a fighter. Unreal job."

So - how does it feel? To quote the (IMHO) inimitable movie, Bring It On: "Feels like first."

War wounds
I really wanted to mention my "war wounds" from the day, because they were (are) significant... ly painful

Posterior knee pain (left). Since my right hip gave out completely and the left side of my body had to do so much work to compensate, I ended up with a hella lot of pain at the back of my left knee. A little research, and it turns out - there's a muscle back there! The internet tells me this is called the popliteus. Who knew? Walking is now an issue but hopefully only a temporary setback.

Sorry gang, had to include a pic. This blister is so weird!
Blisters. The bum knee, bad hip and painful popliteus all resulted in poor "running" (I use the term loosely) form... which translated into crazy blisters. Which - for one - is unusual because I don't normally get blisters. But the blisters were also strangely placed: right at the base of my third and fourth toes on my left foot, and on the bottoms of the fourth toe on both feet. 

Inner thigh chafing. This one could probably have been avoided but - my bad. I chose to wear running shorts that I knew sometimes chafed along the inner thigh. Thankfully, the chafing was relatively minimal and nothing that a warm shower and a little antibiotic ointment couldn't handle. 

Sunday night, I couldn't use my right hip flexor at all. I was sitting on the floor with my legs straight out in front of me, and my right hip refused to lift my right leg up. It was kind of like it drank too much and passed out - no reaction, whatsoever. 

Ironically, the right knee that had bothered me all last week is now completely pain-free. I just don't get it. Maybe I'm not meant to.

Honourable mentions
Shitty day aside, running this marathon in Vancouver was pretty amazing. There's a reason why this event has been going strong for decades: the Vancouver International Marathon Society knows what they're doing. Like, for real. A well-organized course, fun entertainment stations, a highly engaged and mobilized volunteer force... who could ask for more?

I also saw so many friends on the course, which I never experienced before in previous marathons because none of them were in my city! Thank you so much Kirsten, Kathy P., Hecel, Christina S. and Fay. Seeing you ladies really helped put a smile on my face and keep my spirits up. 

Hanging out at the start line before
the corrals get too crowded
Of course, I would be absolutely remiss to not give my husband HUGE PROPS here. I genuinely believe I would not have crossed the finish line without his love and support. So, thank you Matt! for literally being by my side and metaphorically carrying me for 14 km. You salvaged this race for me. As with so many things in this life, I could not have done this without you. I love you.

Good job, running friends!
I'd also like to congratulate everyone else who ran either the full or half marathon on Sunday: Jeny, Christina S. and her sister, Jim, Jen T. and Samantha (sorry if I've inadvertently missed anyone). Hope you all had great races! 

Fundraising update
Good job, friends!

Thanks to a few (somewhat forgetful and/or tardy) friends, a few more donations for my fundraising campaign in memory of my dad came in at the 11th hour to put the campaign at $3,681! This total was a team effort from 80 donors giving anywhere between $10 and $100. You guys made this happen. Thank you so much. 

If you'd still like to give, please do so at my Team Diabetes personal page! Donations can be made for two more months following the marathon, so there is still time. All proceeds go towards diabetes research, education and advocacy. Tax receipts are issued for donations of $15 or more.

And... relax
What happens now? I dunno. For now, I'm just gonna bask in the glory that is finally finishing number five. I have slayed the proverbial dragon. That's good enough for me.

Chillin' with John Stanton from the
Running Room post-marathon. No big.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Number 5... Still Alive!

Done and dusted, bitches. This has been a loooooong time coming
Number five is in the bag, friends! 

Sooooo much to say about this run (ahem, walk) but for now, all I want to do is ice my sore bits... because there's a lot of them. And post a picture of my badass medal. 

Recap, kudos and more to come. Soon. Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Not a Knee-Jerk Reaction

Having previously experienced injury while training, my recent knee issues have got me worried about tomorrow. Like, genuinely worried. So worried in fact, I woke up at 3 am last night and my immediate thought was, "Should I be icing right now?" (This was followed by thinking about what I would write on the blog, which kept me up even longer. Stupid middle-of-the-night brain.)

As I mentioned the other day, my knee has been bothering me all week - to the point of pain when going up and down stairs, and discomfort when bending or squatting. This is obviously a problem, considering I'm meant to run 42.2 freaking km tomorrow. 

To try and alleviate the pain and get to the start line in good form, my routine this week has been: get up. Ice the knee. Go to work. Come home. Ice all night (at intervals, of course). Sleep. Repeat the next day. The exception was yesterday, where I stopped by the Race Expo after work but before coming home. I hobbled around there for a bit to pick up my race kit and check out some merch, but then went home and resumed my regular schedule of icing. 

Has it helped? A little... but maybe not enough.

Injuries blow
I know what it's like to not finish a long run; it happened to me back in 2012. It was awful. Devastating, really. But that was in training. I cringe at the thought of attempting number five tomorrow and clocking in a DNF - a "did not finish." But not even trying at all is not an option.

Some people might suggest I not run tomorrow, or try and switch my distance to the half. Let me just say: that's not gonna happen. I may be injured (or at least, on the cusp of injury) but number five is like my OlympicsIt's water after being too long in the desert. It's my friggin' unicorn. And after all I've been through to get this close to completing number five, and after the year I've just had? No. No way I'm not at least attempting it tomorrow, with or without knee pain. 

Injury race strategy
I joked with a co-worker this week, that I will cross that finish line even if I have to g*ddamn well crawl over it on my hands and knees. Obviously, if I want to keep running after tomorrow, this may not be a smart strategy, with the risks of permanent or long-term damage a definite possibility. 

Me at the Race Expo. I may look happy,
but I'm crying on the inside.
At the Race Expo yesterday, I met the Team Diabetes staff who I've been corresponding with these past four-plus months or so, but had never met in person. I was telling them about the knee and one of the runners shared his story about having to be off running for nearly 10 years after pushing too hard in a race when injured. He reminded me that I've got to listen to my body, and do what feels right. If that means walking more than usual, then so be it.  

I went from analyzing my training data last week to see if I could eke out a new personal best, to now thinking I may not even finish. It's been a hard few days. But I think a shift in perspective will definitely be helpful, if not absolutely necessary. Training may have gone well - the best it's ever been - but the timing of this stupid knee has changed everything and, if I want to finish number five tomorrow, I'm going to need to let go of all that.

(Aside: for those I've provided with my estimated pace and finish times who planned to see me on the course, maybe adjust those down a little. And check to see where I am on the bib lookup website. Would be nice to know someone is checking I've not collapsed in a heap somewhere.)

I kneed a miracle
Knee puns aside, this injury/almost injury is a big deal, and I can't ignore it any more. I've never been the kind of person to believe in miracles, but I think I'm going to need one now. Let's hope the goodwill of running for charity and sharing my story about grief is enough currency to summon one up. Because I would sure hate to let any of you down: my donors, my supporters, my dad, myself. That would be a serious bummer. So... come on, miracle!

Until then, more ice, rest and trying to stay calm. 

Sure hope every little thing is gonna be alright. Come on, miracle!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Running Round-up: Catching Up On the Blog While Tapering Edition

Race weekend is nearly here! Here's what I've been up to, or what I've wanted to write about but have been procrastinating instead, all week long.

Hoping there's no "kneed" to worry
Tapering is great. It feels like a nice break after so much hard work. The advice for tapering is generally: back off the mileage, but keep running i.e. don't just stop running altogether. 

Love these banners. Pic cred: @broadwayrunclub
So last weekend, I did a 6 km run with my husband, which was a nice little treat as we don't run together that often. After the run, however, I noticed one of my knees was quite sore - but no big, sometimes that happens; my knees have always been a little crunchy. 

But then... my knee was sore the next day, and the day after that. I'd been icing and foam rolling, and I'd stayed off it i.e. no running whatsoever. So when I woke up Wednesday morning and it was still sore with seemingly no improvement, I started to panic a little bit...  along the lines of, "WTF is wrong with this knee [because I really had no idea]? Am I seriously not going to being able to run on Sunday??" (Cue fainting and then waking up immediately followed by uncontrollable sobbing. If that were the case.) 

Fortunately, my knee finally felt like it had started to loosen up today. Luckily, with some more ice and rest and a bit of targeted massage, it'll feel nice and normal and ready to go by this weekend. Fingers, toes and knees crossed!

Running for depressives
I recently read Matt Haig's book, Reasons to Stay Alive. I'm not one much for reading self-help books, but it had been rated highly and was touted as part memoir, so I thought I'd give it a go.

Rather than this be a proper book review, I'll simply say: I liked it. And: it's worth reading. Also, I wanted to share an excerpt from his book (which I hope the author won't mind) as in it, he writes about how running helped him manage his depression. As someone who too, has suffered with this, I could totally relate. Figured this would also be timely, given the recent work done by Heads Together at the London Marathon to tackle stigma surrounding mental health. 

Thanks for your words, Matt.

  Running is a commonly cited alleviator of depression and anxiety. It certainly worked for me. When I started running I was still getting very bad panic attacks. The thing I liked about it was that many of the physical symptoms of panic - the racing heart, the problematic breathing, the sweating - are matched by running. So while I was running I wouldn't be worried about my racing heart because it had a reason to be racing.

  Also, it gave me something to think about. I was never exactly the fittest person in the world, so running was quite difficult. It hurt. But that effort and discomfort was a great focuser. And so I convinced myself that through training my body I was also training my mind. It was a kind of active meditation.

  It also, of course, gets you fit. And getting fit is pretty much good for everything. When I became ill I had been drinking and smoking heavily, but now I was trying to undo that damage.

  So every day I would go running, or do an equivalent type of cardiovascular exercise. Like Haruki Murakami - whose excellent book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running I would later read - I found running to be a way of clearing the fog. ('Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running,' Murakami also said, which is something I've come to believe too, and is one of the reasons I believe it helps the mind.)

   I would come back from a run and stretch and have a shower and feel a gentle sense of release, as though depression and anxiety were slowly evaporating from inside me. It was a wonderful feeling. Also, that kind of monotony that running generates - the one soundtracked by heavy breathing and the steady rhythm of feet on pavements - became a kind of metaphor for depression. To go on a run every day is to have a kind of battle with yourself. Just getting out on a cold February morning gives you a sense of achievement. But that voiceless debate you have with yourself - 'I want to stop! No, keep going! I can't, I can hardly breathe! There's only a mile to go! I just need to lie down! You can't!' - is the debate of depression, but on a smaller and less serious scale. So for me, each time I forced myself out there in the cold grey damp of a West Yorkshire morning, and pushed myself to run for an hour, it gave me a little bit of depression-beating power. A little bit of that 'you'd better be careful with who you are messing with' spirit.

  It helped, sometimes. Not always. It wasn't foolproof. I wasn't Zeus. There were no magic thunderbolts at my disposal. But it is nice to build up, over the years, things that you know do - on occasion - work. Weapons for the war that subsides but that can always ignite again. And so writing, reading, talking, travelling, yoga, meditation and running were some of mine.

My dad is my trainer
These past four months training for number five, I've faced a whole gauntlet of emotion: joy, elation, anxiety, fear, uncertainty, sadness, overwhelm, anger. Running, for me, has always had the ability to bring out all of these feelings and put them right at the forefront - at a place where one is forced to face them all, versus putting them aside or trying to ignore them.

Me and my dad, then and (almost) now
That was even more telling, this time around in training, doing all this for my dad. On those days when the runs were hard, and all I wanted to do was quit, thinking about my dad kept me going. I have this memory from when I was a kid and he was teaching me how to ride a bike. I was terrible at it. I was scared. So scared, in fact, I didn't want him to let go. 

And - you know something? He didn't. He ran so much trying to get me to learn how to ride that stupid bike. 

When I think about it now, it makes me laugh... seeing him in my mind's eye, hanging onto the back of my bike, me crying about not being able to do it, him not letting go because I didn't want him to. 

Of course, he eventually let go and I discovered I was able to do something I felt I'd never be able to do. 

I guess that's still what it's like today. He may not be here anymore but he had my back then, and he certainly still does now. Those hard days during training, I conjured up his memory - and there he was, supporting me, urging me to keep going, encouraging me to not give up. 

And I didn't. I completed all those long runs. I made it to the end of every route I'd planned. Hopefully that will be the case on Sunday as well. 

Come hang out with me on the course!
There is a very handy feature on the BMO Vancouver Marathon website, whereby you can look up my bib number and then "watch" me as I'm running... so a little creepy, but mostly cool, right?

The system updates each time runners cross the following marked distances on the course: 8.5 km, 10 km, 12 km, 15 km, 21.1 km (halfway!), 24 km, 29 km, 35 km, 40 km and, of course, 42.2 km a.k.a. the finish line. Plus, the weather looks like it's going to be great. Definitely hoping that the forecast holds out!

If you come out on Sunday, be sure to find me and say hi... especially if you donated, so that I can give you a big sweaty hug and thank you in person. 

© Vancouver International Marathon Society


Monday, May 1, 2017

And Now... I'm Speechless

There is now less than one week to go until the BMO Vancouver Marathon!

In the weeks and days leading up to the race, I've been feeling a little emotional - thinking about my dad and why I decided to do number five (finally)

And now... you've helped me reach my Team Diabetes fundraising target of $3,500 and I am totally and utterly speechless. 

More to come in the next few days but for now, let me just say: THANK YOU SO MUCH! I am overwhelmed by your generosity and support and well wishes, and am so grateful that so many of you decided to help Diabetes Canada and little ol' me. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

You guys are the best!


Saturday, April 22, 2017

How to Train for and Run a Marathon: A Non-Exhaustive Shortlist

In training:
  1. Stick to the training schedule.
  2. Run at times of day similar to the scheduled race time to get used to what might happen on race day e.g. waking up early enough, eating breakfast, prepping gear, getting dressed, stretching and warming up, etc.
  3. Run in all kinds of weather - because you never know what you're gonna get on race day.
    I was here... and here, and here...
  4. Run on the same surface as the race to condition your body for similar impact e.g. concrete or trails versus treadmills.
  5. Pay attention to your diet (nutrition is important).
  6. Stay hydrated.
  7. Get enough sleep.
  8. Find someone who knows more than you about running and ask them lots of questions about everything you don't know - but know that not everything works the same or as well for everyone. 
  9. Find a good registered massage therapist and visit him/her as often as you can.
  10. Find a good physiotherapist and consult him/her as needed.
  11. Give yourself lots of encouragement every day.
  12. Surround yourself with people who support your goals. 
  13. Ignore the "Negative Nancies" and "Downer Dougs".
  14. Don't be a douchebag runner to other runners. This includes not being a "Negative Nancy" or "Downer Doug."
Specifically for race day:
  1. Get enough sleep leading up to the race (tip: even a good night's sleep two nights before versus the night before the race can be enough - just try and stay well rested as race day approaches).
  2. Don't try or do anything new e.g. with clothing (potential chafing), gear (unexpected issues with weight, function), breakfast, gels or other nutrition (avoiding digestive issues), etc.
  3. Get to the start line with time to spare.
  4. Enjoy the race! You've earned it.
Journal entry 

Today's run: 23 km and technically, the last LSD in the training schedule. Yay for tapering! Weather: overcast and partly sunny this morning, which is why I deliberately went out early (note: it's raining now but at least I'm watching the bad weather from my couch instead of being in it). Feeling: glad to have missed the rain! And looking forward to the rest of the weekend.

...and also here.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday Fun Run

Happy Friday, friends! 

For once, we experienced bonafide, grade A sunshine in Vancouver today. Yippee! Unfortunately, it's back to rain tomorrow. Sad face! 

Wowza, if I do say so myself. Look at this daaaayy!
Knowing this, I went out for a random little run this afternoon - in shorts! - to soak up some vitamin D. I also decided to skip the regular routes and run just for fun. The result: a view I don't normally see from on foot, which always helps to keep the running fresh. After nearly four months of running largely the same routes from week to week, anything new and interesting at this stage is a welcome change.

Journal entry 
Today's run: 7 km. Weather: sunny. Beautiful. Glorious. Feeling: pretty darn good. Glad for the change of scenery. 

Good luck to everyone taking part in races this weekend, including the Vancouver Sun Run and London Marathon. Have fun out there!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Running Round-up: Happy Belated Easter Edition

Spring has sprung.
Now... will it stay??
This past weekend was spent by many enjoying Easter egg hunts and eating chocolate. Me? I got plenty of sleep and waited for the best day forecast in the long weekend to run 32 km - the last big long run in the training schedule before the mileage tapers off. 

Fundraising update: less than $500 to go!
My campaign has levelled off at $3,001, just about $500 shy of my fundraising target of $3,500. This means, if only 34 more people gave $15 each, or 20 people gave $25 each or 10 people gave $50 each (I mean, you get the idea, right?)... I'd make my goal! 

If you haven't yet donated, now is the time! Please visit my Team Diabetes fundraising page and give what you can. If you've already donated, muchas gracias, amigos. You're the best.

Huh. Who knew?
From The Runner's Book of Daily Inspiration, by Kevin Nelson (which I've mentioned on this blog before):
Your body is responding to what you're doing... you see it every time you run. The course seems shorter somehow... your running is smoother and easier. You want to run longer because you're more able to handle it.
After 16+ weeks of training, the above totally happened this weekend. And - honestly? It came as a really welcome surprise, as I was coming off extremely uncomfortable and personally disappointing long runs in the past few weeks. Sure, I'm still out there for four and half hours but where I used to bonk at 17 km, I feel like I'm just getting started. 23 and 26 km long runs on the schedule? No longer a terrifying prospect. I guess it's true what the trainers say: to get better at running, run more (within reason, of course). 

We like to leave lots of "chocolate eggs" for our
humans lying around everywhere.
Bunny trainers
Another Easter has come and gone and, as I'm lucky enough to live with two buns of my own year-round, I don't really feel the urge to gush over rabbits too much during this time of year. That said, here's a pic of them... you know, just in case you didn't get your fill of cuteness this holiday weekend. 'Til next time, friends.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Running with Lady Cramps: A Special Kind of Hell

Preamble: I've hesitated to post anything too female-specific on this site, but seeing as more than half the population is made up of women, and all women have similar issues on this front - and betting that the majority of my readers are female - here we are.

Dudes: this post may be TMI (too much information) for you, depending on your comfort level with lady-specific issues. Proceed with caution. 

Menstrual cramps = the worst. Am I right, girls?

I've always thought it grossly unfair that women should have to endure such discomfort month after month: cramps, headaches, mood swings, nausea, bloating. Need I say more? (Stupid men.)

© Getty Images
In actuality, the menstrual cycle causes variations in hormonal levels throughout the month, with high levels of estrogen pumping through our systems right before ovulation but dropping really low during premenstruation - causing all sorts of great symptoms like many of the ones aforementioned, as well as sluggishness and fatigue. However, once menstruation starts up again, estrogen levels go back on the rise, resulting in energy going up as well (Kowalchik, 1999). 

About running while on a period... as running author Claire Kowalchik puts it, "Even if I'm feeling like I really don't want to run--the running seems effortless once I get going. In fact, I ran my fastest and easiest marathon on the first day of my period one year" (Kowalchik, 1999, p.140). 

At the risk of even more TMI, I've got my period right now. In the past, I've suffered debilitating cramps and menstrual headaches which would put me out for days, if not longer. So, this morning, and in the interest of deciding whether or not to give today's long run a try, I pulled Kowalchik's book off the shelf, flipped through her chapter on "Special Concerns as a Woman: Menstruation" and (re-)read her quote above. Buoyed by her experience, I decided to head out there... and also because I knew the alternative would be sitting on the couch, wondering if I should've at least given it a try. 

Long story short: SO UNCOMFORTABLE.

I deliberately chose a route that would keep me close to where I could bail and call a cab if things got really bad. While escape-by-cabbie did not end up happening, I came so close to doing so on multiple occasions. 

The first 40 minutes or so I thought - initially - were the worst. The menstrual cramping was bad, and so I just focused on breathing and throwing my feet out in front of me, one step at a time. Eventually, the cramps subsided... but then they came back... and then they subsided... and then came back. 

There seemed to be no pattern to it; they just came and went, seemingly as they pleased. And each time they came back, things got a little worse because I was getting longer into the run and more tired as the morning went on. 

At some point I realized there was nothing more important than focusing on running through the pain of my menstrual cramps. Pace, heart rate, gait... basically, all the things one should be concerned about while running... none of these things mattered more than just getting through this current cramp.

And then - it started to rain. And I cried. I couldn't help it. I was tired, uncomfortable and barely keeping my shit together as it was. So when the rain started, it kinda broke me a little.

But then I got over it - and lucky too as, soon after, I bumped into a friend who was also out for her run. Last thing I'd want while out running is to see someone I know, while bawling my eyes out. That's not good for anyone. 

Fortunately, after my mini-breakdown and bumping into my friend, I was about 6 km from home and towards the end of my run - just a bridge and a very familiar route left. 

But then, with about 3 km to go, the oddest thing happened. 

I realized I was going to be short on my run - by about 1/2 a km - and instead of living with it, I decided to stay out a little longer to make the distance for today. 

Fortitude. Who knew? It shocked the hell out of me to discover I had some left. 

Post-run was all about the protein and painkillers. And now - I sit, eat and will generally do nothing the rest of the day after publishing this blog post. I believe I've earned it.

Any of you ladies ever run while on your period? What was your experience? Hope it was better than mine. 

Journal entry for today
Today's run: 26 km. The schedule actually called for 29 km, but I decided to compromise given Aunt Flo was in town. My typical 29 km route would have taken me out to places where I couldn't call a cab if things went bad, so I opted for my 26 km route instead so I could have the option to abort if need be. Weather: the forecast called for partly sunny and no showers. Guess they got that one wrong. Feeling: glad to have done my run and finished so well, but I'll probably never run while on my period ever again. Strangely enough, even with all the menstrual cramps and negotiating with myself on whether to stay out there, I still felt better about this run than last week's 23 km run... the bad mood of which, I realize now, may have been due to depleted estrogen stores in addition to the massive hangover. Live and learn.

Source
Kowalchik, C. (1999). The Complete Book of Running for Women.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Running Round-up: The Countdown Is On! Edition

Okay, friends. Here we are: T minus one month to number five-marathon day! Like, holy shit.

My week
I'm gonna level with you. It has not been a great week for running. 

After my encouraging 32 km run two weekends ago, I think I may have jinxed myself. Writing about how I was feeling all "confident" and wishing I could just "run this marathon tomorrow" and get it over with... man, was I ever asking for it. 

After a bit of socializing with friends... and scotch... and lots of it... last Friday night, I stupidly put myself out of commission for the weekend. So when I went to do my 23 km long run on Monday after work I told myself, "It's fine. Take your time." And I did. But the run was still shit. 

I was sooooo mad at myself! After cutting my long run short (only by a little; I ended up running 22.75 km - so close), I got home, grunted something to my husband and immediately retreated to a cold bath - y'know, for the legs - but mostly so I could be totally alone to stew in my own fury... and even though I was literally soaking in cold water, it did very little to stem the white hot rage I was feeling towards myself and my bad choices.

Truth. By: @kyle_j_kranz (via Twitter).
All I could think was: I'd been working so hard these past three-plus months and here I was, putting my training schedule and performance at risk... for a house party?? Fuck that. Somewhere around the 20 km mark my irritability peaked and, in that cold bath, I resolved right then and there to have a dry month, right up to the marathon. No more bad decisions. No more being so stupid. Not with elusive number five on the line.

But because I was so angry, that frustration with myself hung on like the smell of garlic right through the rest of the week and permeated every workout I did: a short 3 km treadmill run on Wednesday, and a resistance training day yesterday. All rage, all the time. So... not great. Only now is the exasperation I've felt all week finally starting to abate. 

Boo on you, Mother Nature
Indoor running due to inclement weather?
Thumbs down. And ugly face.
To top off a crap week, Mother Nature continues to be a downer on the west coast. After a spot of sunshine on Sunday/Monday, it's been nothing but rain and wind - and therefore complete misery. My current running attire is okay for rain, but I've been seriously considering buying all the rain gear, if for nothing else but to encourage the rain to just stop it already

On a high note: fundraising update
I didn't mean for this blog post to be all whiny and complainy, so sorry about all that. 

On a positive note, I've been lucky enough to have a few more very generous people throw their money at my campaign in the last few weeks, so I am now up to $2,701 of my $3,500 fundraising goal, which is extremely good news. Woohoo! And thank you so much, again, to all my donors!

Soooo close! Help a girl hit a fundraising goal??

This means I only have $799 (or as a salesperson would probably put it, "Less than $800") to go in my fundraising efforts and geez... wouldn't it be great if I actually hit that $3,500 target? Especially after getting so close?? 

If you haven't yet donated but would still like to, please do so here (at teamdiabetes.ca/goto/fiveorbust). It would mean the world to me - and would be a really great motivational boost after the week I've had beating myself up. 

Until next time
Have a great weekend, friends. Hopefully more cheerful updates to follow, especially with only four weeks to go until the marathon... gasp!

Even this beautiful reprieve from all the wet didn't help me much last week.
Reminder to self: make good choices.