21.1 Lessons Learned on my Last 1500Km

It is finally here. The worst week of training season. Worse than all those weeks of hills training, AND the 4 weeks of speed work. That’s right. It’s taper week. The week I have no patience for. The week that sets me on edge because I have discovered I have a minimum running mileage that must be completed on a weekly basis to prevent me from turning into the human equivalent of grumpy cat. Anyone who has seen me when I’m injured and thus not running knows exactly what I am talking about.

Yes. I get jealous of other people who are in pain from their workouts.

Yes. I get jealous of other people who are in pain from their workouts.

As frustrating as taper week is, I am beyond excited, because [insert but wiggle and thigh drumming here] IT’S ONE WEEK TIL RACE DAYYYYYYYYYY!!” (if you’re annoyed with me already, imagine how my coworkers feel – they’ve been getting a countdown for the last 2 months.)

If they had an app for this countdown, I would have it. As my background. Battery life be damned.

If they had an app for this countdown, I would have it. As my background. Battery life be damned.

I get this excited every time. Even for the 5K colour run I did in September. It just makes me happy to near any finish line. I did the same thing before the last exam of each semester and about exploded before the last exam of my undergrad. Excited is sort of my jam.

This training season I slogged through some pretty horrible runs – for my southern readers – I do live in the area that got the polar vortexes. Yes multiple. There was a month the “with windchill” temperature didn’t rise about -25C (-13F).

This was not the only time I came back with icicles for eyelashes.

This was not the only time I came back with icicles for eyelashes.

This season I’ve also had a few people ask for advice on running. The truth is I’m not an expert. My form probably leave much to be desired – except after I’ve stopped at an intersection, then I maintain perfect form as I prance across the intersection. There are so many people watching from their cars… But I have picked up a few lessons over the last year of running. Which turned out to be a lot more running than I realized when I consulted my Garmin. What lessons do I have to share at this point in my relatively short running career?

  1. Running isn’t always fun, but being able to gleefully down a bowl of pasta the night before a race because CARB LOADINGGGG! is sort of awesome.
  2. Pay attention to your shoes. This winter I quite literally burned rubber and wore my shoes down to the sole. The snow covered for me so I never noticed until it all started to melt and my shoes were meeting pavement again. And it hurt. So yeah, replace ’em before that point. But if you don’t replace them until you have worn them to plastic, enjoy bragging that you burned rubber for a few weeks.  You know in between icing your muscles.
  3. There is a massive difference between “I can’t” and “I really don’t want to” Usually the latter wins out. The point of training isn’t the mileage, it’s the learning to push just a little more and then collapsing at the finish line. With half a banana and a bottle of high protein chocolate milk. No chocolate milk if you choose not to complete.  But worst case throw out a muscle name, say it is killing you and limp to the finish.
  4. It doesn’t matter if you walked the last 3K because you’re injured, there is a compulsive need to limp in somewhat running form across the finish line.
  5. Going to the grocery store in spandex is fine. But it better not be “I just finished a really tough run and now smell like a locker room” spandex.

    By all means go like this though. The coloured cornstarch probably soaked up the sweat. But if anyone asks, swear you just attacked an oompa loompa.

    By all means go like this though. The coloured cornstarch probably soaked up the sweat. But if anyone asks, swear you just attacked an oompa loompa.

  6. The speed signs they put in neighbourhoods in an attempt to make drivers realize how fast they’re going (as if they cannot read their speedometer) will pick up runners. It’s sort of fun.
  7. If you forget body glide you will remember when it’s too late. And you will swear to never forget again. Really the only thing you’ll never forget is that you forgot to use body glide.
  8. You can eat candy while running, just make sure you refer to them as energy gels or “nutrition”. No one will know you swapped your Gu jujubes for actual jujubes. Or you can outright eat a Mars Bar. I ran with a wonderful woman who did this every long run in the summer. Props for it never being a melted mess.

    They all say gel, but they taste like candy. If you're brazen enough you may be able to convince some people that your candy is just a new brand of gels. If you want some real info on nutrition check out here (where I got this image)

    They all say gel, but they taste like candy. If you’re brazen enough you may be able to convince some people that your candy is just a new brand of gels. If you want some real info on nutrition check out here (where I got this image)

  9. You may think you’re hydrated but think that again when you’re 3K from home with no water. Suddenly your throat feels like the Sahara Desert.
  10. LSD means something totally different to runners. This distinction makes efficient tweets very difficult. Same thing with PR/PB (personal record/best), DNC (did not complete) and IT band (butt to knee muscle/tendon/thing that will cause knee pain – see what kind of expert you’re relying on?!). We speak in code. Runner’s code.
  11. Speaking of the runner’s code. Wave. Or you are classed as a grumpy runner. I hate grumpy runners. Mostly because they make me look creepy. Don’t disrespect the Runner’s Wave. If the guy across 6 lanes of traffic can wave at me, you who almost bumped into me on the two lane trail can wave.

    This guy knows what's up. Also. This and this had me cracking up. You should probably check out their expert explanations.

    This guy knows what’s up. Also. This and this had me cracking up. You should probably check out their expert explanations. Also,photo source here.

  12. Never call a runner a jogger. And if someone asks if you jog, glare at them and tell them “No, I run.”
  13. Surprisingly, the worst run of the season won’t be the time you run through a foot of snow that had fallen over night, was slush splashed head to toe about 11K from the end of the run, and had to tackle multiple long and steep hills. That will actually be kind of awesome. Some of the worst runs are actually the best runs because you come out feeling like a bad ass for pushing through it. The worst runs will be the humid runs (a.k.a. the runs on the beautiful sunny days that are just as deceiving as sunny winter days).
  14. Take pride in the fact that your sanity is frequently questioned due to your running practices. FYI this means you have to give them reason to question your sanity – consistently getting up at 6:30am on Sundays for Run Club to run an excess of 10K regardless of the weather will do the trick. So will running in the rain, really windy weather, snow storms, and extreme cold. But don’t injure yourself or get frostbite. Then you’ll be actually crazy/stupid. It’s a fine line. Respect the line.
  15. distance runners garminThere is little more frustrating that getting back to your driveway with my Garmin reading 0.2km from the goal distance. Go run up 6 driveways and turn around and run back. Eventually your neighbours will get it. Even if they don’t, you won’t care.
  16. Life is not complete until a train honks for you. #villagelife
  17. Be nice to the gas station attendants. You may need to use the gas station washroom some day and they control the keys.
  18. There’s always the pride and sense of accomplishment you get from being able to say you ran a half marathon, but let’s be real – the first time you do it for pride, after that it’s the swag bag, medals, and free bananas and chocolate milk that really draw us in.tshirt collection
  19. There is no such thing as optimal weather. If it was warm yesterday, it will be a polar vortex today. If it’s not a polar vortex it will be snow. Occasionally it’s both. If it was sunny yesterday on rest day, it will be raining today.
  20. Dressing for a run is a science and usually requires you to choose between hot or slightly chilly. Your choice usually boils down to how far will you have to be uncomfortable for.
  21. The runners high is the holy grail, achieve it and you feel like you could run forever. Or until that last hill. To achieve it requires at least a little pain. So they were sort of right when they said no pain no gain. But generally if it outright hurts you should probably take it easy.

21.1 Ever since the first marathon (Marathon to Athens Greece, guy was just trying to deliver a message and there were no chariots available I guess) event organizers have enjoyed violating #16. Beyond the 10K (although in the States they even get you with the 3.1 mile event) no race will end nicely on the even kilometer or mile. Don’t worry, they won’t even end at 0.1 – It ain’t over til your timing chip says you crossed the rubber mat. But at that point not ending on the even mile/kilometer won’t really matter.

And with that only half serious and half expert advice, it’s time for this runner to gently and briefly hit the pavement.
Stupid taper week.
tapering runner

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What Exactly is Disney Trying to Say?

So all of this started last Thursday in my first Psychology of Women course when the professor told us she would be posting it online, but our “assignment” for next week was to think about what our favourite fairy tale was and why. She clarified that if this was hard, think about what Disney movie was our favourite, since let’s face it, few of us know most fairy tales outside of their Disney productions and maybe if you watched the old MGM classics – Thumbelina.

Seems simple, no?
No.

I grew up on the old school Disney. You know Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Alladin, Little Mermaid, Lion King, often either BEFORE they went into the vault, or at the very least the first time out. Back when they were on VHS tapes that you somehow ALWAYS forgot to rewind. To this day I still know most of the lyrics to most of the songs in those movies. I have avoided the new Disney and Pixar films such as Frozen (which I hear is fantastic) and Brave, sounds odd but the animation looks weird to me, and as far as I’m concerned they’ll never hold a candle to the classics.

I know this look so well. To all the servers who have ever had to deal with me - I am sorry.

I know this look so well. To all the servers who have ever had to deal with me – I am sorry.

The problem with the professor’s deceptively simple question, is that I can’t pick. Seriously. I am the WORST for making a decision. It took me 20 minutes to pick an outfit for my Build-a-Bear for Christmas and I ended up having to exchange it. Going to a restaurant I have everyone order before me and then usually just randomly pick an item last minute as the server looks at me expectantly. So asking me to pick between the movies that formed my childhood is essentially like in the Bible when Solomon decides to split the baby so each of the women can have half the baby (except that came to a solution, I still have no idea how to pick a movie or a meal).

Added to the pressure is the fact that as an afterthought she declared that “apparently your answer says something about your personality!” So no pressure. Prof might think I’m nuts or brilliant depending on my answer. Next thing you know I’m on Google trying to figure out which movie to pick to present myself in the most positive light.

Oh yeah. No pressure.

Oh yeah. No pressure.

Then I sat back and thought about it a little more rationally. I have always loved The Little Mermaid, I thought it was because of the music and the whole finding Prince Charming (Eric) situation (looking like crap and unable to speak to boot! Girl got game.), but then my psych major self jumps in and says, “Well maybe it’s because you’re looking to escape into a new world and being someone totally different from who you are? Maybe you like the idea of totally rebelling against your parents? Or picking people who are totally wrong for you and require you to hugely change who you are?Little Mermaid

So then I thought about how I have always loved the Lion King, but that’s not really a fairy tale. So I moved onto Pocahontas, again I really just loved the whole love and music thing going on, and again my psych major self came in and said “Hey! Maybe it’s because you’re confused about where you’re going in life and you feel like you’re making difficult decisions and trying to pick a life course!” Thanks self. I needed to think about that tonight. ‘Presh.Pocahontas

Maybe Snow White then? Great. Now I appear to be a thoroughly domesticated housewife with questionable morals who also enjoys talking to the animals. Which is sort of true on the first and last. I am a total suburban housewife – when I get stressed I bake, and I have actually refused an offering for a social gathering on account of “I have to clean the house today! It’s a mess!” (It was one time.) So I’m not sure that’s what I want to put out there for my prof.Snow White clean

I like books, don’t always listen to the rules, and go for personality over appearances – so maybe I’ll say Beauty and the Beast? But hell no. I am not up for that kind of man changing project; my father is quirky, but not full on crazy; and while I enjoy breaking the rules from time to time breaking and entering isn’t really my thing no matter how cold and wet I am. So scratch that.Beauty and the Beast

See. It’s complicated.

Or I make it complicated. It’s my specialty.

So I abandoned that mission for the night, but then I thought about it more the next morning and realized (not for the first time) that hey wait a second – THERE ARE NO ACTUAL MOTHERS! Every main character in the movie is either an orphan or has a single father (except The Lion King, where the mother survives and the father dies (owing to it’s ties to Hamlet) and Peter Pan, but the parents are so negligent, leaving the kids in the care of a DOG that they really don’t count). And then I asked myself just what is it that Disney is trying to tell me about the key to happiness and success?

So I thought, I should look into Walt Disney’s life, see what he’s got against mothers. Run a good ol’ fashioned psychoanalysis on the man that made my childhood. I then realized that the bulk of the movies, particularly my favourites, the ones largely regarded as the classics, are based on other authors’ works including The Little Mermaid by Hans Christen Anderson, Snow White is based on a German Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm, and Cinderella is based on a French fairy tale by Charles Perrault; even Pocahontas was at least loosely based on a real person (albeit the details in the movie versus her life (which is more legend than fact to begin with) were so radically different that it’s hard to say that the movie was based on any actual person). So clearly Walt wasn’t the one with a mother vendetta, it was apparently a bit of a thing back then.

I still was no closer at this point to figuring out who my favourite character was, but I realized Disney had taught me some questionable lessons over the years:

  1. The key to success and fame is to ditch at least your mother. Bonus points if your father is either totally absent or excessively controlling – Prince Charming loves daddy issues and hates your family.
  2. If your parents tell you not to do something, do it anyways, it’s the key to your success, might get you into worse trouble than you expected, but someone will come bail your ass out and it’ll be even better in the end!
  3. Women shouldn’t work, just be pretty and you’ll be fine. Pretty means thin with great hair by the way.
  4. Your life is set when you’ve found a man. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be happy forever! No fights, no money troubles, no divorces! Just happiness all the time!

    link to the full video here. Because Jenna Marbles gets me.

    Link to the full video here. Because Jenna Marbles gets me.

  5. Fall in love with the wrong guy, he’ll eventually turn out to be the right guy.
  6. If you don’t want to pick guys, pass out, Prince Charming will come find you, kiss you awake and you’ll love him for not wasting precious time on consent.kiss
  7. Education? What education? It’s for the birds. No literally, if you can find some woodland creatures or mythical creatures to teach you things you’re good.

  8. Friends are over-rated. Keep them non-human and you’re good. Seriously, none of the Disney Princesses have any human friends, I’m not sure if they’re trying to say you should be a loner, like the fairy tale version of the Crazy Cat Lady, or if they are hinting that your friends will interfere with the precious man hunt. Either way, I’m not sure promoting only non-human friends + boyfriends is entirely appropriate.

  9. Running away is a perfectly acceptable solution to life’s issues. If you can avoid growing up that’s probably your best option.

    Also, running away is a metaphor. When possible, fly away.

    Also, running away is a metaphor. When possible, fly away.

  10. When something REALLY disappointing happens, collapse in a heap crying dramatically.

    Every time.

    Every time.

So do I know my favourite Disney movie? No. I’m still just as confused about that one. Story of my life. I did kind of enjoy the trip down memory lane, reflecting on why my childhood was so awesome, even if it was filled with a few questionable lessons.

But tell me – what lessons have you learned from Disney? Were they good/bad? Am I the only one who finds it physically impossible to pick just one?

Admitting I Have Something Intelligent to Say

I remember four months ago, in my first History and Systems of Psychology lecture, when Claude told us that the most difficult thing for us would be to admit that we had something intelligent to say. I have lots to say, I know I am smart. I feel comfortable talking about this around my friends. But then I get around the “experts” or in a classroom and suddenly while intelligent, my thoughts are not worth saying.

Why?

Because someone might challenge my beliefs, they might think that what I am saying is weird, ridiculous, I don’t know something undesirable.

about photo

And being wrong sucks. A lot of the time we would rather live in ignorance, it feels a lot nicer to think you’ve got something figured out than to realize you have nothing figured out. And I get it. This term didn’t make me realize that I had something intelligent to say, or at least that wasn’t the hardest thing for me to realize. The hardest thing for me was to realize that I might know nothing. To realize that all I have is temporary knowledge, is sort of terrifying. Especially for me. Minus in the kitchen, contrary to what horoscopes say about me as an Aquarius, I like certainty and plans and organization. Chaos and complete uncertainty are the polar opposite of what I cling to. 

I thought all the freedom would be terrifying. I thought that this uncertainty and lack of clear conclusions would be a little terrifying. And it was a little, but then I realized how sometimes the things that make you the most uncomfortable make you grow the most.

A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine, Jeff, pointed out – sometimes, things suck, they seem painful at the time, but long-term they are better. He told me that it’s like running, yes Sundays I would rather stay in bed and sleep, but I get up out of my warm bed and go for a run anyways. And it’s good for me. It’s not always hard, some days I look forward to the runs. Now that it’s winter and I occasionally wake up to a foot of snow, I look forward to them a little less.

And that’s what running is for me, making myself a little uncomfortable, so I can find and define new boundaries, which I will later break. When I started running I thought 6 minutes per kilometer was the fastest I could go, then I thought 5:45 was the fastest I could maintain. Now, I know I can do a 5:03. I found the limits only so I could destroy them.

And I never realized how beautiful discomfort can be, how comfortable I find it.

For example, it sounds crazy, but I think there is beauty in crying. A sort of release from our core, and overwhelming amount of emotion either positive or negative, but with it comes this peace. Eventually you cry everything out, and this sense of calm clarity can emerge.

There’s also the whole no pain, no gain mantra (which isn’t actually true), but I remember as a kid, and even now, I prefer the lip balms/chap sticks that actually burn a bit. Like some sort of indicator that it is doing something. Or at least some indicator that I am alive and can feel something. (Is that too dark and moody?)

In school,  well I am signing up for another 6-7 years of school, so clearly, I am a fan of looking long-term and appreciating the long-term benefits. But on a more micro level – I would rather take a course that is challenging and get a B, than an easy course where I didn’t have to work for the A+.

This course has shown me what it is to question, and what is in an answer. The value of each, and how to differentiate. And I think that was hugely valuable. I think the biggest thing I learned was that realizing you have no clue what you’re doing is kind of terrifying and unnerving, and the possibility of being wrong, or worse, knowing you’re wrong, is outright painful. But those two conditions provide the most fertile ground for growth…. Okay I can’t that was just too cheesy. How about suffering is good for the soul? Getting lost is the best way to get found?

Why are all my punchlines so cheesy? Maybe because despite being lactose intolerant until 20, I am addicted to cheese. In all forms. Except spray cheese. That’s just weird.

Punchline: Don’t be a martyr, but be wrong sometimes, hurt some times, be lost sometimes. Say the stupid thing once and a while, it might not be so stupid, or you may at least get an answer and be less stupid. Let yourself be a sobbing hot mess with a pile of tissues. Leave the road and hope to God you make it home eventually.

Cool?

Cool.

I may not have come out of this course with all the right answers, but I came out with a lot of the right questions.

Bam!

Double loaded nachos right there. With guacamole and bacon.

So tell me – am I crazy, masochistic,  or is there merit to occasionally being just a little uncomfortable? Is there beauty in pain? What is the one thing you do, that sucks but you do it anyways, because you know it’s going to be better in the end?

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”

― Voltaire