Saturday, March 25, 2017

Looking Into the LSD

LSD. No, not that, or even "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". I'm talking about the long slow distance run, like the one I did today. I've always wondered why marathon training programs typically top out at 32 km, so I looked into it. Here's what I found out.

Why 32 km?
The training program I've referenced for all of my marathons comes from the Running Room and, like many other programs, the longest distance to run in training is 32 km (20 mi). But why this distance, specifically, and not something closer to actual marathon distance of 42.2 km? According to the interwebs (Matz, 2014; Runner's World, 2014), the general theory is: anything longer can increase the risk of injury. Recovery also takes longer with any runs over 32 km. 

Hanson’s marathon training method (Humphrey, 2011) also outlines that running for more than three hours means diminishing returns for runners, doing more harm than good by damaging muscles, compromising recovery time, and depleting glycogen stores significantly (Matz, 2014).

At least I'm consistent.
Best to ignore that though, right?
The above, however, I believe does not apply to me. According to a trainer I worked with when I first ran with Diabetes Canada in 2009, the long run pace for those looking "to complete" i.e. no specific finish time goals should be "between 8:30 to 9:30 minutes per kilometer...if you are going faster you stressing [sic] your body to the point that it can not [sic] recover by the next quality workout" (email from Team Diabetes Trainer, 2009). Doing the math, this works out to what is my typical finish time for these long runs which is around four and a half hours.

So... I dunno
In summary, looking at all the information as a whole: I dunno what the right answer is. What I do know is that, until I got the above information from a trainer, I had been running too fast (for me) on my long runs and was well on my way to injury and burnout. Her advice saved me in training for my first marathon, and I successfully finished that marathon without getting hurt. And - looking at my data over the years and having finished three more marathons since then, I'd say that advice has served me well over the years.

If anyone else is slower, I sure haven't seen them
Logically, I know there are slower runners than me out there; finisher information from all of my races has told me that. But where they are? I sure as hell don't know. I don't pass anyone when I'm out there; I am definitely the one getting passed. Sometimes this bothers me, but then I remind myself of the distance I'm running and I usually get over it. 

...but then, what if they're running the same distance, only a lot faster than meIn those instances, I'm gonna guess that advice like Hanson's is for them. 

In conclusion...
With six more weeks of training to go, I'm gonna stick with what I know works. That means, slow long runs, soaking my legs in cold water, foam rolling, rest and shorter runs throughout the week. This way, I know that I can recover adequately from week to week. No pushing past what is realistic for me. No comparing myself to others and what I'm reading on the internet (even though that can be really hard to do). And - if I could - I would run this marathon tomorrow, mainly because I'm sick of training. But since that's not possible, all I can do is stay vigilant, and hope for nice weather and strong runs based on my current fitness level. 

Journal entry for today
Today's run: 32 km. Weather: started out damp, but turned out to be partly sunny (thank you, Mother Nature!). Feeling: good. Confident. Which is freaking me out, a little. Not sure if I should embrace it, or wait for the other shoe to drop. Gonna try to let it go.

No rain looks good on you, Vancouver.

Humphrey, L. (2011). Hanson’s Marathon Method: The 16 Miler. Hansons Running.
Matz, J. (2014). How long should your longest run of marathon training be? WalkJogRun.
Runner's World (2014). Forums Topic: Marathon training plans stopping at 32K.

Friday, March 24, 2017

And Then I Took The Day Off. From (Mostly) Everything.

When I had asked my manager for today off, I had running 32 km in mind. 

Imagine... a whole day during the normal work week to just go running. How extraordinary!

But then, I reconsidered. 

Imagine... a whole day during the normal work week... to just do nothing. How even more extraordinary!

I still have the weekend to get out and do my long run (which I shall) but I got a short run in this week, and even went to the gym yesterday. Plus, I've got a big stack of books borrowed from the library that I really should try and get through (yes, I still borrow books from the library - don't you?).

Also, I'm growing quite tired of running in the cold and rain, and am hedging my bets for the weekend to provide better weather. Come on, Mother Nature! Do a girl a solid, would you? That's the spirit.

Here's to my day off! Back to the couch and my many library books, I go.

Rain, rain, go away. © 2017 The Weather Network

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Keep on Running

29 km was on the schedule again today and man, did things click soooooo much better than last week. Focus, pacing, running the tangents, gait, cadence - it all worked well today. Guess that means last week's 29 km run did some good.

I was so hyperfocused, in fact, that I took no pictures and shot zero video. So instead, here's the Spencer Davis Group for a little entertainment.

Today's run: 29 km. Weather: no rain, thank God (especially after getting drenched, cold and miserable on last weekend's long run). Feeling: like I'm in a good place. My left Achilles had been bothering me a little this week, so I was a little anxious when I first started out but it all turned out okay. Guess the icing and stretching I'd been doing helped. How about that?

Next week: 32 km and the first attempt at the longest distance in the training schedule. Bring it.

P.S. Happy last day of winter! Good riddance.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Service THIS: Update

Needless to say, I think I was a little angry yesterday. But thanks to everyone for your comments and enabling my bad choices i.e. to blog while mad. What good friends you all are!

I went to a different Service Canada location when they first opened* this morning. I had to wait 20 minutes but dealt with an extremely nice woman who, even though I had to explain what my document meant (again, aren't they supposed to know this? maybe I expect too much), seemed genuinely interested in helping me. So... thank God for that, and thank you, nice staff person.

Grateful for a mostly positive experience today. At least I'm done with Service Canada again... for now.

*Correction by author for yesterday's post: the offices actually open at 8:30 am, not 9-fucking-am, as originally stated. Also, I used "mispleasure" which is obviously not a real word. Ahh, blogging while angry. Clearly, fact and real-word checking goes out the window.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Service THIS

Warning: excessive ranting and profanity straight ahead.

Helping my parents with certain government-related processes these past few years, I've had the mispleasure of having to deal with Service Canada on more than one occassion.  

What is Service Canada, you ask? According to its website:
Service Canada is a federal institution that is part of Employment and Social Development Canada. Service Canada provides Canadians with a single point of access to a wide range of government services and benefits. We are committed to improving services for Canadians by working with partners to provide access to the full range of government services and benefits that Canadians want and need through the Internet, by telephone, in person or by mail.
They would be more accurately described, in my opinion, as:
A federal institution that holds people hostage because they're the ones who issue Old Age Security, administer Canada Pension Plan, and other government benefits... so unless you do what they say, when they say it, and exactly how they tell you, you're totally and utterly fucked. 
"Single point of access"? Got that right. Try: "You have to come to us because we don't accept anything by mail or email" (contrary to what it says on its website). 

Where are we located? At several inconvenient locations. 

What time are we open? Monday to Friday, during the exact time you will be scheduled to work - and actually, for a shorter period of time than you're normally ever at work. Because, that's right, we're paid more to work less than you do.

You can try calling, but we won't let you talk to anyone... literally. The last few times I've tried zeroing out to an operator, the automated service essentially says, "Our call volume is too high so we're not taking any more calls and won't be transferring your call. Get fucked." (I'm paraphrasing of course, but this is pretty close.)

Come to think of it, that's pretty much their M.O. for everything. Needing to provide them with a certified copy of, let's just call it, "stuff to do with dad's death", I was required to pay them another in-person visit. Naturally, I make arrangements to do so and arrive at one of their offices 15 minutes prior to their extremely inconvenient closing time of 4-fucking-pm (did I mention they only open at 9-fucking-am? I'm sure I should not be surprised, but still... WTF, government?). I wait in line and eventually am seen by the slack-jawed government-lifer moron with a pension behind the counter only to be told, "We can't see you today." 

Excerpt of ensuing conversation...

Me: "Uh, wait a second. I'm here before closing, and you're telling me you can't help me?"

Moron: "We have lots of people waiting."

Me: "I see that. I'm willing to wait."

Moron: "Can you come back tomorrow?"  

Stupidly, I make an attempt and say, "No."

Moron: "Oh. Well... we can't help you today."

Replace "this town" with "Service Canada" and this was pretty much me today.

And I wish this was a different and uniquely poor experience, but each and every single FUCKING TIME I have paid Service Canada a visit, there is always something that goes similarly wrong. I've waited more than an hour to be seen. I've been told to return with different paperwork even though it's what they previously asked for. I've had to explain what I'd been told over the phone to the person at the fucking in-person location WHAT THE FUCK THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING IN ORDER TO HELP ME EVEN THOUGH IT'S THEIR JOB TO KNOW. 

I swear, could a government office get any more... like... GOVERNMENT?? 

But for the love of all that is holy, GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER. These make-work offices need to stop wasting taxpayers' money and time. STOP HOLDING PENSIONERS AND WORKING CLASS CITIZENS HOSTAGE. Getting help from this highly inaccessible office upon which SO MANY PEOPLE DEPEND is one of the most frustrating experiences I have ever encountered. AND I WORK IN POLICY, for fuck's sake!

So as I try and calm down, I have to remind myself: doing this for mom and dad. I hate it, but I'm doing it. 

And yes, I could have chosen a healthy option to release this anger - you know, like running - but instead, I'm ranting online and eating a fucking nanaimo bar. Because I'm only human. And, as I'm too mad to make good choices right now and since, you know, I have access to my own blog, sugar and online f-bombs it is. 

End rant.

There's always next time, right Service Canada? Excuse me a moment...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Run. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

I ran 29 km yesterday and while my long runs are normally followed by copious amounts of eating and sleeping, the World Rugby Sevens Series was in town all weekend so I forewent my regular schedule to check out the festivities and reserved most of my big napping for today. This is also the reason why I'm posting this update only now. But hey, it's another vlog entry!

Spending what little is left of the weekend (stupid Daylight Savings Time) foam rolling, doing some light stretching and putting my feet up. What are your plans?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Don't Think About It

Okay guys, I'm kind of freaking out a little. My long run this weekend is scheduled at 29 km. Like, 29 freaking km

Normally, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to make sure I get my long runs in - for example, prep my gear the night before, make sure my Garmin is charged up and ready to go, check the weather forecast for no mental surprises. My favourite and surefire tactic is to leave first thing in the morning before thinking about it too much. By the time my brain has caught up, I'm usually 20 or 30 minutes into the run which generally means: no turning back now.
Sensible messages ought to be repeated

However, the problem with not having run these really long distances in so long is that I really don't know if I can do them anymore. Sure, I've been doing a fairly good job at sticking to the training schedule and yes, I've already done 26 km... so what's 3 km more on top of that, right? 


I'm nervous and scared, that's for sure. But I'm excited, too - excited to see if I can do it, excited to try, excited to prove to myself that I can. 

But, yeah. Mostly, I'm just trying to not think about it too much lest I freak the fuck out and end up immobile.

Here's to my first 29 km long run in three years! Wish me luck. I may need it.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Celebrating Women

Happy International Women's Day! (I'm a day late but I'm gonna fall back on the assumption that shouldn't we be celebrating the triumphs of women and fighting for equal rights every day?)

There were many events and initiatives happening around the world to recognize this day and what it means. For my part, I did not stay home from work and did not wear red (but only because I discovered, sadly, that I don't own any work-appropriate clothing that is red) but I did reflect, as I do often, on my status - as an educated, working woman who is a minority and has chosen to not have children. I think about this status in the context of the privileges I've been afforded, and how others have reacted to certain choices I've made.

"The Fearless Girl” by Kristen Visbal. Pic cred: Business Insider
I think about the women that have come before me who have been an inspiration, and the women in my life now who I consider to be mentors and allies, and I wonder what I would do without them. They are my confidantes, my sisters, my trusted peeps. To you I say: thank you for having my back, unconditionally. Keep kicking ass.

I also think about the men in my life who have supported me in my efforts to be successful as a career person, a grad student and a person, in general. As per Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, we need these men - to be in our corner, fighting our same fight. Thank you, too, to all the men who have stood up for me and the other women in their lives.

How did you celebrate International Women's Day?

A trinket made by one of my women friends to keep me motivated.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Be Kind

When I look back on the four marathons I've already run, I have fond memories. Some were good (Victoria, Kelowna), one was okay (Surrey) and one was unexpected in so many ways (Saint John).

In my personal view, running the marathon itself is the best part. It's the part that's the most fun. It's the climax to 18 weeks or more of intense training - an epitomization, in many ways, of the work one has put in to get ready for a singular moment: crossing that finish line after running 42.2 km.

Training for those marathons, on the other hand, is - and others might disagree with me on this point - well, less fun. It's the work. I mean, who likes to do work, am I right? Yes, it's necessary. Absolutely. But some days, and because it's "necessary", it can feel "mandatory"... which, frankly, can suck the joy right out of running.

Knowing these things, having been in this position before, I've taken a more relaxed approach to training for number five. My overall attitude: work hard but, if certain things don't work out? Ah well! Illness, injury, work, family, busy-ness, overall malaise, life in general... shit happens.

What I've come to know is this: worrying excessively about how well I'm marathon training on top of being stressed over life can be brutal. If I think I'm not doing enough, running enough, not being fast enough, not eating well enough - it makes me feel bad. It makes me think I'm a failure. So guess what? I'm not gonna do it. I'm gonna remind myself that no, I'm not perfect, but I'm trying - really hard. And then I'm gonna take the small wins every day because, really, what else is there? We, as individuals, need to celebrate our own accomplishments and recognize, ourselves, when we've done a good job. We can't rely on others to do that for us; that confidence has to come from within, no?

When I was running number three in Saint John, because it was such a small marathon, there were huge stretches of distance where I would be all by myself. And it wasn't a great race for me as I was undertrained and did not pace well at all. Being alone out there, it would have been so easy to just give up, to stop completely. I only had myself - and my thoughts - to rely on. Long story short, I struggled. But I made it.

My dad had this relaxed way about himself, and living life. I think it irritated my mom sometimes, who has always been a little more high strung (guess that's where my personality comes from). When I get stressed, I ought to think to myself: "What would my dad do?" Probably have a rest. Play some guitar. Watch some TV. And basically, chill the fuck out, a little.

Fans of the TV show This Is Us will certainly remember this conversation between Miguel and Kevin. Also, if you're not watching this show, you totes need to be. (GIF cred: TV Fanatic)
I reflect on this this weekend, as I've not been feeling well the past few days, and woke up this morning to more snow (g*ddamnit, Mother Nature! Bitch got problems), so decided to give myself a break from my long run. Does that worry me? A little bit. But I know I've also got to get over it - pick my battles, and have a better week this week. That's all I can do.

Be kind to yourselves, friends. Enjoy your Sunday.