Friday, March 28, 2014

What is YOUR Everest?

When I was a kid my Everest was the Ironman. Yup. I would watch it on NBC at home with my father and I would always be amazed watching the people finishing, some crawling, others rolling like a dog on a sunny day, anything to get to that finish line. Most of them would be crying and falling into their loved ones arms, relief washing over their faces. I sat in awe of these athletes. I was a competitive swimmer at the time so I had an appreciation for the 2.4 mile distance of the swimming portion. Add onto that 112 mile bike ride and a full marathon and I thought these people were super-human. And I wanted to join their ranks, someday. What's YOUR Everest?

Monday, March 17, 2014

I finally found "My" shoe ;-)

Ever since I began running over 6 years ago (as a regular fitness/adventure thing), I've read tons of shoe reviews. Alot of these shoe testers swear by a particular brand or model that just seems to have been made for their type of feet. Me..not so much. I've been searching for my perfect shoe for 6 years and until this past fall I've had some shoes that I've loved but when it came time to buy a new pair I would try something new for one reason or another. This past weekend was one of my favorite times of year; the "Source for Sports Loonie Sale!" (collective cheer inserted here). This usually means I get a new pair of running shoes since both my husband and I have a problem rationalizing away a good deal...especially on shoes. So I went through the shoe department with near perfect precision (I think I said "no thank you" ten times when offered help-really guys, I've got this), my daughter assuming her standard "shoe waiting mode" with her father's cellphone, half lying down over a chair, while my husband and I try on 6 or 7 pairs of shoes (don't worry my daughter doesn't always get snubbed on these trips, this time though she didn't need new shoes, she has tons..literally). Finally I was down to one New Balance shoe (the 480s) with the one I already owned (but have since destroyed) the NB Ionix 3090v3 (in the D width). The 480s were very cushy and wrapped around my foot but with spring and summer coming I know I need more ventalization, not less, so I stuck with my Ionix 3090s. They aren't the best when it comes to trail running, but when I put on one of those strictly trail shoes I find they are generally too stiff for my feet. So I give up a bit on the grip I can get but I also don't have to suffer blisters, black toe nails and arch pain the way I have had to with other shoes. The best part was watching my husband try on the mens version of the NB Ionix shoes. He was surprised at the lightness of them but also quickly found they had no support for his feet. I was very impressed with the sale clerk, Bright, who cautioned my husband on buying minimal shoes when he is usually running in well cushioned, stiff Saucony shoes. I had to chuckle when my husband nodded his head and rolled his eyes as the clerk sounded like me on one of my "minimalist shoe are really better for your feet, but you have to work up to them" soapbox speeches. He ended up with another pair of his trusted Sauconys. So that was that. We both walked away with new, yet tried and true shoes. Our daughter did end up getting a treat at the sports store for putting up with us, a set of colourful UnderArmour headbands.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Vibrams and ice don't mix

This past weekend's long run was cut back a bit after the weird leg pains and achy legs had me going a bit slower than usually the last two weeks, so feeling much better and with a warm breeze in the air I decided to head out on my planned 12 miler with my Vibram Sprints on. I took it pretty easy, walking alot of the hills out of fear of re-igniting any hamstring or calf pain, and thankfully none really developed. The streets were covered in melting slush so wet feet were inevitable. I jumped, scrambled and climbed around huge sidewalk puddles, trying not to fall into any of them (or the traffic!). Finally I reached the Dartmouth Commons where I usually enjoy some off road plodding but today the slush was hard packed to the trails. I went up one hill and I saw the downhill covered in ice so I thought I would be more secure on the grass. Not so much. As soon as one foot stepped onto the grass I had a sinking feeling I made a bad call as my foot slid out from under me. I stepped down with my other foot to try and stop myself but gravity took over and I was doing a crazy Roadrunner spiral down the side of a hill. It's funny how many thoughts you can have in the space of a few seconds, especially when trying desperately not to fall on your butt. My first thought: "Oh SH@T!!!" 2nd thought: "Don't fall, don't fall" 3rd thought: "Okay, if I fall I don't want this handheld attached to my wrist, I can't sprain my wrist. Handheld must go." And with that I chucked my handheld (very dramatically) as I tried to cut off any objects that might hurt me if I fall. 4th thought: "Holy crap, am I going to stop anytime soon or should I just fall to make myself stop?" 5th thought: "Maybe if I step down hard..oh I stopped. Whew. Thank god." The of course my next thought was, as I looked back up the hill I just slid down, "where the hell did I chuck my water bottle?!" I still had another 3 miles left to go so I had to shake off my nerves and keep going, although now I was nicely covered in mud and a bit of grass. I managed to finish my not-so long run and met my hubby and daughter for her weekly swimming class (I showered before I interacted with other parents, I swear). Next week I've got a nice 16 miler planned, on my way to build back up to 26 miles before the big May Ultra. I think this week though I'll leave the Vibrams at home ;-)

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Return to Form

This week sucked. Sorry, I know I usually start off more positive, but when you have a house full of sick people and every training run has been a slog you tend to lose that positive vibe. Yes, the flu/a cold/whatever hit the house this week so one or all of us have been walking around like a dry-cough-hacking-snuffling-zombie. Thankfully we are all on the mend. And yes, of course I ran through it-racing heart beats, snotty nose, hacking cough and all. My runs have been sooo painful this week it's just been hard to find the motivation to get out there. Something funky is going on with my lower legs, to the point where my calf muscles tighten and the front of my shins just plain hurt after about 2 miles. Of course Googling this pain gives me everything under the sun as a possible condition; diabetes, blood clots, compartmental syndrome, stress fractures, shin splints. etc. The list goes on and on. I tried a few at-home ideas, none of which actually helped for more than a mile or two. So then I just stopped. No not running, well, sort of. I stopped the taping, bandages, compression gear, extra shoe padding...all that and went back to basics. I grabbed my indoor track outfit, my vibram sprints, a pair of toe socks and off I went to try another 6 miler. When I got to the indoor track I saw lots of other runners and walkers. The cold and wet weather has made for almost impossible walking conditions outside so the indoor track has become a haven for mile-obsessed runners like me and normal people just looking to stay healthy year round. I got changed and went to put my toe socks on when I encountered one of the pitfalls of owning lots of toe socks-I had grabbed the same "foot" for both socks from my dresser drawer! I looked suspiciously at the baby toe sock and my big toe, and prayed the bit of cotton in the sock would give alot of stretch! With a push and a pull the wrong toe sock was on the right foot. Shaking my head at myself I went out to the track, set my podrunner music to a steady 180 bpm song and off I went. After about 2 miles of circles I self assessed and realized that going back to a strict 180bpm step combined with my Vibrams had my legs feeling better than they had all week. My calf pain was still there, just much more localized, and when I changing what part of my foot I was rolling through I was able to relieve the pain. My shin pain was also more localized to one leg. I noticed it seems to cause a bit of swelling that extends down to the side of my ankle. After another 2 miles though the pain was almost gone completely. So was it all just a matter of correct form? I'm not sure, but I know by wearing my vibrams I couldn't heel strike so my legs were not only hitting the ground with less force but my stride was also shorter by running to the 180bmp music. Combine those and it seems to have reduced the weird leg pain. What caused the pain to begin with? I think it was a combination of doing too much too soon, in my case, too many miles too quickly. I should have transitioned a bit more slowly between December and January and I ignored the extra tiredness I was feeling for adding on extra miles and the stress at work. I should have dropped back to the 50 mile/week plan sooner than I did, but that's all part of training, learning what you should and shouldn't do and what worked for me. So, I've dropped back my weekly mileage a bit and decided that if my runs are indoors I'll use my Vibrams, at least until the sidewalks are clear, and save my zero drop running shoes for my long runs and race day when a wee bit of extra cushion is greatly appreciated.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Typical Me

Yesterday, as I was lacing up my New Balanace Minimus shoes I prayed for a running miracle. The past two days had been a dreadful slog through two 5 milers and I was really wishing for a change in luck. I had fuelled properly, drank enough water, ate enough protein, but my legs kept yelling at me to take a walk break, and when that would get too painful, I would run, which felt bettter for a while, then walking would be better. Needless to say it was very frustrating. I can't say any one thing was wrong; my legs would tighten up then relax, my feet would have a weird pain that would disappear, my ankle would get stiff. Ugh, just miserable. Some runners (and the smart ones) probably would have taken this as a sign and taken a couple of days off. Me? Not so much, which is why I found myself lacing up for a 6 miler, praying for happy legs as I headed out into a rain storm. Yup. Typical me. The happy news is that my legs felt great, better than they had in, well, days. Whew. The rain storm hadn't fully developed yet so the weather was manageable, although really really windy. I took my time and was grateful for every pain-free/stiffness-free step. I know what's going on with my legs. I'm a wee bit overtrained at the moment so I've decided to scale back my training to the 50 miler training plan in the book Relentless Forward Progress. I've run long enough now that I know the signs; sluggish legs, unusual tiredness, loss of motivation..they are all there so one thing or another needs to change to re-fresh my training. I still have 2.5 months before Wasskally Wrabbit, so I'm comfortable with my decision. I'm taking solice in the fact that I'm still training more miles than I did last year, and even more than for the previous 50k, so I should still be capable of running my goal pace in May. Today I've got a nice little 8 miler to do, which I hope to squeeze in between work and going out to dinner for Valentine's Day. We do our gifts first thing in the morning (everyone gets a surprise) so now the evening can be more relaxed and full of good food and too many chocolates. Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Wishing for Spring

I know, I know, we are ALL wishing for spring to arrive, but none of us so much I think as my fellow runners. I've tried to embrace the winter and all that it brings; new challenging terrain, the cold temperatures that mean I don't get quite as sweaty, the bad ass feeling you get when you're out on the roads with your baklava on, running in -15 degree weather. Yay..and I've had enough.

I'm dreamin' of clear sidewalks that lead to dirt trails, trees giving cover to the bright sun, not having to split up long runs because of the fear of frost bite and enjoying not wearing four layers of clothes. Is that too much to ask Mother Nature?! Sheesh. It usually is about this time of year that I wonder why I live in this part of the world..and its really for all of the other seasons in the year.

Today is a special day though, but not really for me. Today is the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. This time, four years ago, I was honored to be part of the Torch Relay that brought the Olympic torch to Vancouver when we hosted the Winter Games. This time I'm sitting back watching the torchbearers share in that special feeling I know all other torchbearers have when they carry the torch and finally bring it to the opening ceremony. And even though there isn't a running-specific game in the Winter Olympics I still have my favorite sports that I'll be cheering for; skiing, snowboarding and skating. Go Team Canada! I only hope they can survive their accommodations..check out these pictures from our athletes:


No Fishing for our athletes?! And for god's sake can someone explain the last image??

The team that trains together...well this says it all.

And hopefully nobody trips on their way to compete....

Or smells the "grass"!

I mean really Sochi-is it THAT hard to put a toilet together correctly, then give each person their own stall (complete with toilet paper)..is that asking too much? Really??



Monday, January 20, 2014

My 100th Post and a new Weekly Total Distance PB!

Yup, this week I ran longer in training than I have ever run before thanks to the training plan I'm following from the book Relentless Forward Progress. And this week, I get to do it again. I have one of those half-hearted "yay" feelings about it. You know the kind-where you want to do it but at the same time you know, at some point(s) things will really suck but in the end you'll be glad you did it-kind of moments about the up coming mileage.

Last week I had two runs that are what I'd call (gut'em out) kind of runs, where there were moments when things went well but overall it hurt more and I was slower than I wanted it to be. The other three runs were pretty darn good, and that even includes the 16 miler I did on Saturday. In total it was 46 miles. This week I'm aiming for 50 miles (80km)!

When you're training for a race, and as you progress through your training plan, you'll quickly notice what works and doesn't work from a nutrition stand point. On Saturday I took a GU and a Cliff bar with me for my 3+ hour run. I quickly learned that I had NOT ENOUGH FOOD. The GU propelled me through miles 3-9 but by mile 10 I was really hungry and the little bites of cliff bar weren't helping so I ate the rest of what was left...and realized I don't really like cliff bars anymore. That got me through the end of the run but I would have liked to have been more comfortable throughout the run so I'm going to take an extra bar with me this Saturday. Trial and error. You might ask why I just don't replicate what I've done for other races, but I've found that what worked for me a year (or two) ago won't necessarily work for me now. We are all constantly changing, and although I'm not a hell of alot faster or lighter I can handle a much bigger training load than I used to and this has brought with it new nutritional (and time management) challenges.

Thankfully, on the time management end, my husband and I have been able to figure out a plan that works for both of us. We both need exercise time so we both do our best to fit this into our schedules as best as we can, with the other person supporting by taking care of our daughter and/or household chores.

This week's total distance will be a challenge, but one I'm ready for. I'm very glad that I've decided to push myself to train harder using this plan, it goes to show, you can push past your own perceived limits if you try!