Thursday, May 26, 2016

I'm off!

There have been no posts for the past while because I've been too busy preparing to take time off work. Just as well since - as is always the case when I'm tapering - I've been a bundle of nerves - which is ridiculous when I stop to think about it. There's nothing left to feel nervous about. I've done all the training and organized myself as much as I can. Everything else is beyond my power to control. Now's the time to relax and enjoy the adventure.

The good news today is the forecast for race day. Yes, I know it could change a dozen times between now and Sunday but I'm determined to savour it for as long as it lasts. 17C and sunny would be perfect!

Headed to the airport shortly so must sign off. I'll be sure to post a quick race report as soon as I'm able.

Happy running, friends!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Running lessons: Manage your expectations

I wish I could report that, with less than two weeks to go until race day, I feel excited, energized and ready to tackle another marathon. Unfortunately, that's not the case. The runs I did last week mostly went okay but my last long run on Saturday (19.5k) felt crappy. I hit the wall around 10k and it was all I could do to drag my sorry ass back to the house.

My immediate reaction to having such a lousy run so close to race day was predictable: "How can I possibly run 42.2k in two weeks if I can't run half that distance today? What was I thinking registering for the Calgary marathon this spring?! I'm never going to finish and it's going to be brutal!"

Luckily, I expected Saturday's run to feel tough after so much running the weekend before so I was ready with an appropriate comeback: "Relax. It feels tough today because you've just finished three months of hard training. You'll be in much better shape to run after two more weeks of tapering. And, whatever the outcome, you'll enjoy the event - not to mention having a vacation and seeing friends and family in Calgary.  So just breathe. It's gonna be fine."

And, mostly, it worked. My legs still felt crummy Saturday afternoon and evening but I popped some "vitamin I", had a good supper and slept like the dead that night. Since I was still tired Sunday and yesterday, I focused on taking it easy and slept soundly again both nights, despite some wild dreams in which I was - you guessed it - running a marathon.

All of which reminds me that expectations can be a huge problem - in marathoning and in life. When I expect too much from myself or others, disappointment  - sometimes even anger and grief - follows. Which isn't to say I shouldn't have goals and expectations - just that they need to be as realistic as possible.

Take, for instance, our cat Nemmie. Though it may not be evident from the photo at the top of this post, Nemmie is not what you'd call affectionate. Sure, she deigns to hang out in the same room with Husband and me a fair bit and is happy to get a good belly rub around 3:00 most mornings, but she'd really prefer that we just left her alone the rest of the time. It doesn't matter how we think she should respond to being showered with care and affection, she is who she is and we might as well accept it. Expecting her to behave differently only leads to stress and unhappiness for all of us. It goes without saying that the same goes for people - only more so.

Heading to Calgary, it's completely realistic to expect I'll finish the marathon in some fashion. On the other hand, given uncertainty about the weather and the effects of elevation on my body, it would be downright foolhardy to expect I'll run it in a personal best time. If everything goes perfectly, that could happen, but chances are slim. And the danger is, if I set unrealistic expectations, I'll start the race too fast, feel miserable throughout, and take longer to finish than I would have otherwise.

The big challenge over the next week and a half will be to manage my expectations. In all likelihood, the tapering gremlins will be doing their best to wreak havoc with my head and body, but I've been here before and I know their game. So long as I stay calm, get plenty of rest, and set reasonable expectations for race day, there's every reason to believe my 8th marathon will go well. I just need to relax, trust the training, and enjoy the ride to the finish line.

Happy running and writing, friends!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Running lessons: Looks ain't everything

My treat for running 34k last Saturday was a mellow 10k recovery run along Crescent and Risser's Beaches on Sunday. If you've read my blog before, you likely know that Risser's in my favourite place in the world, and Crescent isn't far down the list. The fog was thick as pea soup but I didn't mind because I loved the sense of solitude and the temperature was perfect.

I parked at the Risser's Beach parking lot and began by running to the far end of Crescent and back (around 7k) before looping up Risser's and around along the boardwalk.

Just as I finished, the fog began burning off so I sat on a big rock for a few minutes savouring the waves and sweet salt-scented air before heading back to the car. If there's anything better for the soul than time at the beach, I don't know what it is.

The sun was shining brightly by the time I got home and the back deck was warm and inviting - which was perfect given that Janet was popping over for a glass of wine. We spent the next couple of hours, munching snacks, sipping wine and catching up on one another's news. Janet's registered to run the Bluenose Half Marathon in a couple of weeks and, given all the hill training she's done, I'm positive she's going to have a great race!

She's also going to earn a more attractive finisher's medal than I am. I saw a photo of the race medals for Calgary on Facebook last week and I have to say I'm disappointed. The medals were terrific in 2015 so I was hoping for something even nicer this year. Unfortunately, it appears the organizers opted to skimp on the design budget since the t-shirts are boring too, but I'm sure the event will impress in other ways.

As I sipped my coffee this morning, I reminded myself that looks ain't everything. Sure, the medal is ugly but it's the achievement that matters. After the issues with my hip last summer, I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to train for a marathon again; yet here I am running big distances and feeling fine.  In fact, I ran 61k in total last week - including a tough hill training session, a 7.5k tempo run, and a 34k long run. Not bad for middle-aged lady.

"Looks ain't everything" applies to the shoes I'm now planning to wear too.  In an effort to preserve whatever good remained in the shoes I originally planned to wear (my newest "old" pair), I pulled on an older pair to run Sunday's 10k. They don't look bad, except that the fabric across the toes has let go in a couple of places - the result of a defect, I suppose, since they were never worn much. As I ran down the beach, it quickly became apparent the older shoes actually felt better than the newer ones so I think I'm going to duct tape and wear them instead. They'll look gawd-awful but I'll take comfort over looks any day!

For the next two weeks, my main focus will be on rest and recovery. My throat's been a bit sore the past few days so I skipped the hill workout I had scheduled for last night and hung out with Husband, who's just arrived home after a couple of weeks' away. (It's lovely having him home!) Hopefully, I can avoid a full blown cold - which is the last thing I need right now. I've been doing my best to avoid contact people who are obviously sick but there heaps of bugs circulating so I'm counting on plenty of hand-washing, good food, and rest to stay healthy. Fingers crossed!

Are you running a race this month? Do you taper before big events? What are your tricks for preparing mentally and physically? How much do you run in the last two weeks?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Running lessons: Don't think, do!

My mantra these last few weeks has been "Don't think, do".  It's gotten me through a couple of tough hill training sessions, tempo runs and yesterday's 34k. I'm amazed how effective it is. I suppose it's the simplicity of it. It's easy to say and doesn't remind me to do anything but keep going.

Yesterday's 34k felt a bit tough but, given that it came at the end of a long, hard week, that was to be expected. I didn't stop to take pictures but there was heaps of spring colour along the way - blooming bulbs, blushing azalea, glowing forsythia, creamy magnolia, and fresh green leaves. Lovely.

Even at the lowest points in my runs this week, it was easy to appreciate how lucky I am after watching the devastating reports from Alberta. The psychological, emotional, physical and financial impacts of the fires will be felt for a generation. I can't imagine how terrified residents of Fort McMurray must have been as they fled, or how exhausted fire fighters and other emergency workers must be now. I suspect many are repeating mantras similar to my own, reminding themselves to take it one minute, one shift, one day at a time to avoid being overwhelmed by the enormity of the tasks that lie ahead. 

The miraculous thing is that, so far as we know at least, no one has died in the fire. It's a testament to the strength and courage of residents and emergency workers alike that affected communities were evacuated and re-evacuated so efficiently - even when the inferno raged mere metres from homes and roadways. It goes without saying that many will suffer after affects of the fear they held in check as they made harrowing journeys to safety.

Calgary is a long way from the fire but I expect people will be talking of little else when I'm there to run the marathon in a few weeks. The people of Fort McMurray and surrounding areas will be an inspiration for many toeing the start line -  me included. No matter how painful the race, I won't be able to feel sorry for myself knowing what they've been through.

Signing off now to head to the beach for a mellow recovery run, and feeling very grateful for my life. 

Happy running and writing, friends.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Running lessons: Take everything into account

Spring flowers at Shubie Park
Last weekend was supposed to feel since my schedule called for two relatively short runs - 16k and 10k - after a couple of tough midweek workouts. Unfortunately, the weekend wasn't quite as restful as I hoped.

Husband's away for a couple of weeks so I decided to avoid the stress and aggravation of getting myself and the cat to the country and stayed in the city. As the weekend approached, I imagined I'd tackle a few chores, do a bit of cooking and rest as much as possible.


Of course, that's not how the weekend unfolded. Admittedly, both Saturday and Sunday began gently. It was a warm, sunny weekend so I started both days on the back dip sipping coffee, then doing yoga in the sunshine.

But that's where the relaxation ended. As soon as coffee and yoga were out of the way, I launched into a long list of chores - gardening, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning - before lacing up my shoes to go running.

Saturday's run was the nicer of the two. I did 8km - mostly along the Dartmouth Harbourfront Trail. The trail is one of my favourite routes in summer because it offers terrific views of downtown Halifax, George's Island and the harbour. Not surprisingly, there were lots of other people out enjoying the day and heaps of spring flowers!

Shubie Park
On Sunday, I ran to and through Shubie Park as far as Vivien's Way (one of my favourite places), figuring I should opt for a more challenging route since I only planned to do 20k. There's plenty of up and down in Shubie, which I hoped would help break in my new shoes. As it turned out, my shoes broke me instead. By the time I shuffled out of the park, my legs and feet weren't at all happy - bad news given the race is less than a month away.

It's particularly frustrating because my new shoes are the same model I've been wearing for several years - Asics Nimbus - though a size smaller than my last pair, which chaffed uncomfortably. The new shoes don't chaff but, for whatever reason, my legs and feet don't feel good in them. Clearly, wearing them to run 42.2k isn't an option. :-(

Of course, my legs might have been unhappy for other reasons. My hamstrings and lower back got a serious workout while I was gardening. In retrospect, I probably should have left gardening until after the marathon but the warm temperatures made me want to get outside, and I could tell the garden appreciated my efforts. I swear I could watch the irises growing Sunday morning!

I wore the shoes again last night for an 8k tempo run and concluded it's the right shoe that's an issue, which has me wondering if the answer is to run in mismatched shoes - a new shoe on my left foot and an old one on my right. I'll maybe try that this weekend and see how it goes. It'll look silly but that's the lesser of two evils in my books.

The high point of the weekend was a trip to Truro to visit my 94 year old Aunt Ruby. It was good seeing her but a little sad too. She doesn't have much memory left so quickly forgets when people visit. As a result she feels lonely a good deal of the time. Fortunately, the staff at the facility are good to her and she appreciates their kindness so there are plenty of bright spots in her days. It also helps that she still has a wonderfully sly sense of humour. I hope people say that about me when I'm her age!

After such a full weekend, dragging myself out of bed Monday morning was painful, which made me realize I'd frittered away whatever benefits I should have gotten from running less. I can't do anything about that now but it was a good reminder to take everything into account - particularly in the final weeks leading up to the race. I'll be running less but that doesn't mean I should plan on doing extra chores and activities. The point of tapering is to rest, rebuild and mentally prepare for the challenge that lies ahead. Given that, I need to spend the last three weeks resting as much as I can between workouts.

I checked the Calgary forecast again this morning and it's still hot as hades. My niece (who grew up there) assures me that Calgary weather is quixotic and could cool off considerably in the coming weeks. I hope she's right about that. I've been overdressing for all my runs in an effort to prepare for warm temperatures but, realistically, I'm in no condition to run a full marathon in summer heat:-(

As I write this, I'm listening to news reports on the horrific fire in Fort McMurray. Needless to say, I'll be keeping the folks there in my thoughts and prayers in the coming days. Bless the firefighters and other first responders who are risking their lives to get the fire under control and help those fleeing the flames, and my sincere sympathies to all who've been affected.