The Child of a Runner.

Me: How was school?
11 yr old son: Good. We had Cross Country. I trained a guy.
Me: You did what?
11 yr old son: I was Jack’s personal trainer.
Me: Tell me more.
11 yr old son: Well, we had to do laps around the school. He went out way too fast and had to walk. I caught up to him and told him he had to pace himself and told him to run with me. So he did. We ran together. And we finished 2nd. John beat us but not by much.

Day 2
Me: How was school?
11 yr old son: Good. We had cross country again. This time I got a whole bunch of guys to run with me. I told them the key was to pace themselves. I was *this* close to beating my record yesterday but the teacher blew the whistle when I was 5 ft away from the end so we had to stop. I finished second again. John won again.
Me: You should have ditched the guys and sprinted. You could have been first.
11 yr old son: Whaa?? No way man. And leave my friends? That’s cheap.
Me: No, that’s competition.

Apparently the training that my kid did for his 5K race 18 months ago stuck. That’s cool. While I’m slightly disappointed that my progeny doesn’t have a competitive bone in his body right now, I think that in today’s environment where competition -> greed -> shareholder value is ripping apart our economy/the fabric of our society, his desire to help others instead of helping himself is a good thing. The fact that he wants to help others succeed at running? That’s AMAZING.

Some city in Greece…I think it’s called Marathon?

In an earlier post I alluded to my inability to commit to The Big Race. For me, The Big Race (by the way, when you read that, you should be hearing one of those ominous radio echoes repeating “The Big Race”, just for effect 🙂 ), is the marathon.

I’ve been thinking about running a marathon for a while. I’m not sure why. The idea of running the distance (42 km/26 mi) doesn’t appeal to me. The idea of running for four hours (give or take — probably give at this point) doesn’t appeal to me. I think the appeal is in being able to say I’ve done it. I’m not looking for bragging rights; it’s more like crossing it off a list of things you’ve accomplished. When you think about it, that’s not a driving motivator to run 42 km. Now you know why I’ve been thinking about this since June 2010 and haven’t done anything about it.

Recently, my employment contract came to an end and spending 4-6 hours/day looking for work started to take it’s toll. I was still running, but without any direction. Also, living in the Great White North and not owning a treadmill, I found myself challenged to get out and run in inhospitable weather conditions. I needed purpose. I needed something to plan/organize for. It was the perfect breeding ground for the inspiration to enter The Big Race.

It started easily enough: find a training plan. I like Hal Higdon’s plans. I’ve used a few in the past and been very successful. Next: start training. Easy enough. I started running with some purpose and regularity in January. My sights were set on the Ottawa Marathon at the end of May. Lots of time! So, I ran. And I ran. I wobbled a bit in February (weather!) and was reduced to spending time on our elliptical machine. I got back on track. Suddenly, it’s Go time: time to start following the training plan, with 16 weeks to go until Race Day. The training started and it was a cinch! Weather was in my favour and if it wasn’t, I pushed through knowing I had a goal to reach and a training session to cross off my calendar. And then it happened. People I know who are also running the race started asking me when I was going to register for the race. I was hesitant to register, fearing my training would be sidelined by injury (remember that knee injury from soccer and that long road to recover in Sept/Oct?) or weather. I planned on waiting until the end of February to sign up for the race, thinking I would have a good idea of my fitness and my commitment levels at that time.

I started receiving emails with the subject line “Race 50% sold out”, “Race 55% sold out” and “Have you registered yet?”. I ran from these emails like a indebted person runs from the debt collector. My motto became “duck and weave, duck and weave” in an attempt to avoid commitment. Then it struck me: I was afraid. I was afraid to mentally commit to The Big Race. I had physically committed myself but my brain wasn’t sure it could cash the cheques my body was writing (Yes, that’s a nod to Top Gun). The realization surprised me. I’ve never been hesitant about a race before. I mulled that over for a day or so and then plunged right in and registered for the race. Suddenly, it became very real. I am going to run a Marathon. Wow…

So far, so good. I ran 19.5 km last weekend and that’s the longest I’ve ever run, which is quite an accomplishment in and of itself. It’s been tough to get out this week (sitting here right now when I should be running 10K) as I’m dealing with March Break and sick kids but I’ll find the time because I am going to run a Marathon.

Want a raise? Get off the couch and go for a run!

I am currently searching for a new job and when I hopped on over to Workopolis, this article caught my attention.   Next time you’re thinking about putting off that run, think about the timing for your next salary review.  Hmmm, maybe I should add some extra mileage 😉

The skinny on salary: How your weight affects your paycheque | The Workopolis Career Blog.

Poetry in Motion

On days like this, when I don’t want to put on my shoes…
When I don’t want to tie up my laces…
When I don’t want to step out that door into the cool, moisture-laden air that will give me goosebumps…
I do it anyway.

I make it through the first kilometer and then the second and the goosebumps have disappeared.
Soon enough I’m not thinking about distance.
My mind wanders through the tangled ideas that wind through my brain until quite suddenly, I’m at the trailhead.

The temperature is cooler here, fueled by overgrown foliage and a swollen stream.
Signs of flooding abound and there is a smell of decay that lingers in certain places.
No signs of rabbits today. Just goldfinches followed by dogs and their owners.
All too soon, the trail ends.
I’m almost home now; just a few clicks left to go.
It’s a fairly unremarkable run.
And then, it happens.

It is as though my feet have a mind of their own.
This is effortless!
There is no stopping these feet!
I feel powerful, strong and capable of anything!
I am soaring above the ground and it is amazing!
I can handle anything that comes my way!
I can run FOREVER!
A lifetime seems to pass by, in the space of ½ a block.
Something breaks the momentum and it is gone.

Normal pace resumes.
I pass my street and choose to continue, with hopes of recapturing the magic that was.
It doesn’t happen.
I slow to a stop.
I am happy that I put on my shoes…
I am happy that I tied my laces…
I am happy that I stepped out into the cool moisture-laden air…
And I will do it again.

Running in a Foreign Land

I’ve always been a firm believer that running outside gets you closer to your community. When I run, I see neighbours that I don’t otherwise see. I greet (and sometimes run from) dogs and bunnies, the odd fox, beaver and even a coyote and a skunk. To that end, whenever I travel I try to go for a local run to get a feel for the community and see parts of the community that I might otherwise miss.

I’ve just returned from Massachusetts where I was fortunate enough to be staying in a beach house on the Atlantic Ocean. The most earth shattering decision I had to make during the week was whether or not I should run on the beach or the road. (I chose road, in case you were wondering.) One of the best sights I saw on this trip was a real live garden gnome wonderland. It made me giggle. Giggling while you’re running is good.

I do like to know how far I’m going so I use MapMyRun to either plan a route ahead of time or log the route afterwords. If I’m in a big city (ie. New York), I’ll do a little online research to check for known/popular routes and check for safety. I’ll also ask the hotel concierge but have found that they don’t always have information about running.

Running in New York City had a huge cool factor associated with it. Of course I chose to run in Central Park. Not wanting to stick out (I’m a Canadian), I chose a running shirt that had the words “10 Miler” on it so I could try to blend in with the locals and the Imperial measures on their shirts. Yes, I know they hold 5Ks and 10Ks south of the border but hey, I didn’t want to stick out as a tourist. On the last leg of my run I saw a group of elites and my brain immediately shouted “The Kenyans! WOW”. I managed a blurry cell phone photo of the group and couldn’t tell you who any of them were but I was still impressed.

Running in Algonquin Park was good but scary. It was a short run because I was worried about bears and self conscious about singing out loud in an attempt to make lots of noise that would scare the aforementioned bears away. That’s just too much stress to make a run enjoyable.

I’m not going to run through all of my running travels; there aren’t that many and I’m not sure how exciting you would find them. I do recommend that if you’re headed somewhere, bring your shoes (leave your iPod at home) and hit the pavement. Greet the locals, see the scenery and get your workout all done at the same time.

To marathon or not to marathon, that is the question!

I recently completed my 10 miler and I’m pretty happy with my time. I managed to shave 1 min and 40 secs off my time. I was aiming for more but in hindsight, the temperature difference between this year and last year was significant enough that I believe it contributed to my speed. There was a 10 degree (Celsius) temp difference! It was 28 with the humidex this year vs 19 (zero humidity) last year. While it felt hot, I think the reason I didn’t feel like I was melting is because I’ve been playing soccer this year in much hotter conditions. Plus, it helped that the race organizers had AWESOME misting tents this year. I heart misting tents.

At this same race, I was speaking to a friend and she asked, “So, what’s your next race going to be?” I said, “I’m thinking about running the PEI Marathon.” Her response, “The whole thing?” I thought it was pretty classic and quite funny.

As I type tonight, I’ve got my laptop beside me, trying to rid my laptop of a virus. Can I just say, this is a major drag. I had hoped to be in bed early tonight and it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

Sleep, or lack thereof, leads nicely into the reason for this post: should I train for and run a marathon? I was seriously considering it a few weeks ago. Then, as my mileage for the 10 miler got bigger, I started to ask myself “Why?” It’s probably a no-no for a runner to ask that but I did it anyway. Why would I run a marathon? (btw, I keep typing marathong and it’s completely throwing my concentration off) After some introspection, I concluded that the only reason I would run it would be for the sake of doing it. I wouldn’t be running it because I actually wanted to. Now here’s the thing: training for a marathon is akin to a second job. The last time I checked, no one takes a second job just for the sake of doing it. There’s a need for it. I have no need to complete a marathon. Not only is a lot of time required for the training, but you really need to watch what you’re eating for optimal performance and sleep is an integral part of training for a race of that distance. (See how I did that: linked my lack of sleep from this damn virus to the need for sleep when training. Ooooo, clever :))

I have decided, however, that I will run train and run a half marathon. That seems manageable to me and also, (and most importantly) I would like to do that.

Now the only question left is “Which one?”.

Remember: you’re running for you.

Dealing with the heat.

There’s an interesting little article here about running in the heat.

I’ve learned that it’s coolest at 5am.  That seems like a heck of an early hour but it is the coolest time to run.  Check out the hourly forecast on The Weather Network to plan your run in the heat.

Running in the summer means you have to pay special attention to your hydration level.  Drink water.  Drink more water.  Have cold water ready for you upon your return.

Which leads nicely into this frequently asked question: Do I need to bring water with me when I run?

If you’re running 5K or less and you’re properly hydrated, no.
If you’re running farther than 5K and you’re at all worried about your hydration level, carry water.

I personally don’t carry water with me unless I’m running farther than 13K.  I don’t know why that’s my magic number but it is.

Everyone is different and it’s important that you use your best judgment.  Heat and humidity can sap you even if you are well hydrated at the start of your run.

For some runners, training is ramping up or will ramp up throughout the summer months. There may be some internal pressure to get the training done. Remember that no run is worth dehydration. I’ve said it before – it’s better to miss one or two days than it is to miss a week (or more). Find a treadmill if it’s too hot and/or humid. Check out your local community centre to see if they have a “pay as you go” option. Local gyms will have drop in fees but they can be pretty pricey. Get creative; there are lots of options out there.

Have fun and drink up!

Chafing. How bad can it be? Really bad.

I think chafing should be one of those words that when you say it or type it, a short blast of ominous music plays.  Otherwise it just seems like a dish you heat food in. There is one thing that running and chafing dishes have in common.  They both involve heat and moisture.  Ay, there’s the rub.  And that’s the last piece of the puzzle for running: friction.

Put more succinctly, rubbing (friction) + heat + moisture = chafing (pain).

You may or may not have seen pictures from a recent marathon of some poor guy who really didn’t know that it’s not a good idea to run 21 km (half marathon) or 42 km (marathon) in a cotton tshirt.  Missed that photo?  Let me show you what you’re missing:Don't Let This Happen To You! I’ve been reading the Sookie Stackhouse series of books (from which True Blood is based) and I can’t help but think this poor dude looks like gigantic vampiric fangs attacked him. He would probably be in less pain if that was the case.

Nipples on men are a common area for chafing.  Other areas to watch: around the band of your bra, inner thighs, under arms and feet.  Note that when chafing usually happens with feet, that turns into something completely different and equally crippling: blisters.

So, how do you avoid chafing? Here are my key rules that have kept me chafe-free for the most part:

  • Avoid cotton.  Invest in a technical style shirt that will wick away moisture.  This type of clothing doesn’t have to cost a lot.  Winners and Costco can usually be counted on to provide a good shirt at a reasonable price.  Same for shorts and socks, bra and undies – avoid cotton!  Cotton absorbs moisture and holds it against your skin.  The repetitive motion from running will cause the fabric to rub and voila: chafing.
  • If you’re blessed with quads like myself, once you find shorts that are comfy, buy more than one pair if you can.  Or at least take really good care of the ones you have (wash after every wearing either by hand or on a delicate cycle and hang to dry) so they’ll last.
  • If you’re a guy, consider putting something like Vaseline or Body Glide on your nipples before your run.  If you’re not too hairy and can stand it, consider applying Band Aids over your nippes to protect them.  Just make sure they’re waterproof so they stay put while you sweat.
  • If your inner thighs rub, consider putting some Vaseline or Body Glide on the affected area before you run.
  • If you’ve got a mole or anything that you need to cover, go for the Band Aid solution, again making sure the Band Aids are waterproof.
  • If you’re trying a new piece of clothing, test it out before you wind up in a situation where you’re half way through your run and your skin is burning.  If you have any doubts about the comfort of a piece of clothing, don’t wear it.  This was my mistake on a run last week.  (If anyone is looking for a Champion brand running skirt, size Medium, I’ve got one for you.)

Listen to your body.  If you feel a hotspot, adjust whatever you can to take the friction away.  My first experience with chafing was on a long run.  At the 12K mark of a 15K run, I finally stopped chatting with my running partner long enough to realize one of my legs of my shorts had ridden up and had been like that for who knows how long.  I know how long.  Long enough to do some real damage.  Even though I adjusted my shorts and they stayed put for the remainder of my run, my skin looked like this (note: not my skin; some other unlucky devil’s):Ouch.

The thing about chafing is that it repeatedly reminds you it’s there.  When the water from the shower hits – ouch.  If it’s in an area where you sweat: ouch.  If it’s in an area where clothing normally sits/hugs (think: bra band): ouch.    Hopefully by now, I’ve convinced you that there are a lot of reasons to try to avoid getting chafed.  And now you understand why I think the ominous music should play when chafing is mentioned.

Okay so you’ve done everything right and yet somehow, something went wrong.  What to do?

Clean the area.  Put an ointment like Polysporin or Vitamin E (ointment, not cream!) on it.  Dress it with a piece of gauze if it’s going to rub and it’s really bad.  If it’s in a place that will be aggravated by further running, hang up your shoes for a day or two unil the area heals.  Analyze what went wrong and make a note not to repeat it.

Happy trails!

What did you do today?

What are you training for?  What did you do today?  Use the comments section below and let me know what you’re up to, even if it’s just a rest day.  Rest days are just as valuable as training days.  Without them, you won’t see any improvement in your performance.

Shin Splints, IT Band Pain, Chafing, More Chafing and a Wolf Whistle

I started out rather innocently on a 10K run tonight, unaware of what lay in store for me.  If only I knew then what I know now.

It looked like it was going to rain before I left (and indeed, it had been raining intermittently all day) so I pulled out my old shoes.   I’m training for a 10 miler and have a heavy training schedule.  I didn’t want my “good” shoes to get wet because I wanted to wear them the following day.  Mistake #1.  I chose to wear a running skirt that I don’t normally wear.  Not only do I not normally wear it but I NEVER wear it for anything longer than 3k.  Mistake #2.

I fell into my normal routine: 5 minute or so warm-up and off I go. If you were inside my brain you would have heard this:

– Run, run, run, run, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch.  Hey.  Shin splints?  Hunh.  Weird.  I haven’t had those for eons.
– Wait a sec.  That tightness over the side of my knee?  That’s my old IT band issue flaring up?  What the heck…???
– Okaaayyy.  Now my shorts (attached to the skirt) are riding up.  That’s not cool.  They’re really rubbing.  I’m really sweaty.  Like “sweat dripping off my elbows and the tops of my hands are wet” sweating.  This isn’t feeling good.  They’re still rubbing.  Yank shorts down. That’s better.
– Keep running.
– Man, my shins hurt.
– Wolf whistle from passing car.  Oh hey.  I look good at least.  Or was that my neighbour?
– Oh my gosh these shorts are really rubbing!

And that was it.  The perfect storm had come to a chaotic focal point and I stopped running.  Let’s dissect the drama and see what went wrong so the same thing doesn’t happen to you.

Shoes and Shin Splints

I should have stuck with my newer shoes.  Even though my new shoes are a month old and even though they’re the latest version of my old shoes, I swear Saucony changed the model enough that I’m still getting used to them.  I think the switch back (plus a general muscular tightness) brought on the shin splints.  So, let’s say this happens to you – what do you do?

You can try a couple of things.  First of all, try running a little more slowly.  A lot of time shin splints are a result of starting out too quickly.  The muscles just aren’t warm enough to perform.  If that doesn’t work, try stopping and stretching.  Shin splints may be a result of a muscle imbalance.  Most people have stronger calf muscles than shin muscles.  Also, if you’re a girly girl like I sometimes am and you’ve just spent the entire day in heels, your calf muscles have shortened and your shin muscles have been lengthened all day long.  Stop and stretch your calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus).  Try to stretch your shin muscles (tibialis anterior).  The latter can be tricky because it’s just a tough muscle to stretch.  Resume running and take it easy.  When you get home, ensure that you stretch and if you’re shins are sore or continue to hurt throughout your run, make ice your friend and introduce it to your shins.

If you suspect that a muscle imbalance may be the root of your shin splints (stronger calves than shins), you can try this little exercise to strengthen them.

Take off your socks (assuming you’re wearing any).
Place a towel, all spread out, on the floor in front of you.
Place your feet flat on the towel.
Keeping your feet as flat as possible, use your toes to scrunch the towel up, gradually pulling it towards you.
You should feel the muscles in your shin working.
Keep going until all the towel has been pulled forward. Stop. Spread the towel out again and repeat.
This is much easier on a tile or wood floor than it is on carpet.
Some people find it convenient to put the toilet lid down, park themselves on the toilet and do this in the bathroom. Whatever does it for you.

IT Band Pain

I dealt with some iliotibial band pain for a while.  I’ve been diligent about stretching for the past year and a half and as a results have almost forgotten that little bit of fascia that messes so many of us up.  I get classic IT pain.  It feels less like pain (I stop before it gets that bad) and more like a tightening around the outside of my knee.  It’s almost an uncomfortable tingling.  In hindsight the tight calf/shin muscles and shoe mix-up probably contributed to that reappearance of pain.  Also, I haven’t been very diligent about stretching this week and after the weekend’s activities (a 5k race, a 15K long run and a 90 minute soccer game), I should have been (and should be now) stretching in every free minute I have. In my opinion, stretching is the best preventative measure you can take to prevent issues with your iliotibial band. If that doesn’t work, try massage or a foam roller.

Chafing.  Chafing deserves a post of its own.  It seems rather innocuous and then blammo…after running for 3 years, you’re chafed and you have a lot more sympathy for the dudes with bloody nipple streaks down their shirts.

The moral of the story is, sometimes runs don’t go as planned.  It happens.  What’s that saying — “Why do we fall down? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.”  Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again another day.  Do not keep going if the pain/discomfort is going to cause you to miss more training.  I pulled the plug on this run because I knew from recent experience that chafing, depending on where it is, can stop you from running for a few days.  My philosophy is that it’s better to miss one day than it is to miss one week.

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