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 the Run that Almost Wasn’t Taught Me

Yesterday was one of those surprisingly perfect runs. And I will admit – I almost didn’t go.

It started with I was too tired. I then rationed that somehow the hour and a half I had was not enough for a 30 minute run. Then it started snowing, and I didn’t have a headband, but at the same time I also sort of wanted to go even more. Then I noticed it was abnormally dark for 4PM. And my headphones were missing an ear bud.

I overcame all of this, before I realized that I had forgotten my Garmin on the kitchen counter.

the horror

And I didn’t have a pocket for my phone. At which point, as sad as it sounds, I thought, “ugh, is it even worth running?”

Yeah.

I know.

I am ashamed.

#GenYproblems

If I couldn’t take my technology I was taking my toys home. I apparently would rather be inactive than be active without digital proof of said activity. What did they do 30 years ago before Garmin watches existed?

They ran.

They laced up their shoes and they ran.

They used maps to track distance, maybe a stopwatch. An actual stopwatch. Not an app.

What did they listen to before iPods?

Their footsteps.

The sound of their feet pounding the pavement or dirt. The sound of their breath moving in and out of their lungs.

In that moment, with no music, no Garmin, and no headband; with snow and darkness falling, I actually turned around and went back inside.

If you think this is an exaggeration, at Run Club Sunday morning it was -24C, there was a guy in shorts. I meanwhile, had every article of dry-fit I own on.

If you think this is an exaggeration, at Run Club Sunday morning it was -24C, there was a guy in shorts. I meanwhile, had every article of dry-fit I own on.

And I hung my head in shame.

I stood in the hallway, debating what to do. It was cold. I had work to do. But the I thought,  I am already in my dry-fit. I have lugged my bag around campus. I have run downtown many times, I knew routes approximate distances.

There were a million reasons not to go.

I found the reason to go.

For the first time in a long time, possibly ever, I just ran.

I admit, I didn’t go completely tech free. I had my iPod strapped to my arm to track time, because I’m sort of obsessive about knowing that kind of stuff. I am also obsessive about finishing on either an even or half kilometer. I ran without my Garmin or headphones. I just ran.

And in that 29 and a half minutes, I reconnected with why I run. Why I’ve walked and ran half-marathons. I reconnected with the essential reasons, the beauty of my body.

I intimately connected to my breathing. I felt my chest expanding and falling with each breath and heard the breathing from within. The world, at the moment the downtown core during rush hour, was a whisper against the sound of my breathing. It was beautiful to listen to the rhythm of my feet on the pavement. Perhaps the darkness made me even more acutely aware, but the feeling of my muscles moving in my legs was never clearer to me.

It was an amazing run, a beautiful feeling of connection, and it made me realize how disconnected I have been the last few weeks. It has been crazy, and I have given up a lot of sleep as we move into the final part of the semester. My body has tried to warn me to slow down, eventually Monday I came home and went into a mini-coma and allowed my body the rest it needed. But in that moment, listening to my body and turning my entire existence inward, I had a moment of pure clarity about my world. My inner thoughts smoothed out and all that mattered was that moment.

I’m not saying just ignore things and only live in the moment, to a degree a dash of planning is required. But in that moment I realized what use is it living entirely in the future? At some point you have to slow down and breathe. You can think about the past, and you can plan for the future, but don’t forget about the present. Don’t forget to live.

Also, this video is really cool – talks about how you’re much more open when you’re running. I know I am, apparently running has the same effect on our inhibitions as drinking according to science. Are you really open when you run? Do you even like to talk when running? Do you run with people at all or are you the lone wolf type? Let me know in the comments down below!

Also, good point:

taken from theoatmeal.com I saw this comic a few months back, replace hornets with snowflakes and you have my sentiments.

Yesterday morning as I trudged in a semi-conscious state to Starbucks, it hit me. Ugh winter is coming. It literally hit me in the form of a blast of cold air from the Canal. Earlier this week I talked about how I love fall. What a pretty season!

We are now in that part of the season when I change my mind and say “Screw it, I prefer spring – it gets warmer not colder as the season progresses.” I am grudgingly packing up my shorts and sundresses, keeping the tank tops only because they can be layered, and the thick sweaters and long pants are coming back from the dungeon. I shake my fist at the sky every time a grey cloud rolls in, just in case it’s carrying snow. I brought up my boots Monday, and this morning asked Google to remind me to find my headband when I got home.

Normally all of this would signal the commencement of Operation Grizzly (a.k.a. the 5-6 month period I camp out in my house sipping hot chocolate and Baileys in sweats talking about how much I can’t wait for spring). Problem is that I signed up for Ottawa Race Weekend’s 40th Half-Marathon. Which I’m super excited for. Especially since this year my mom and I convinced my dad to do it. Problem with this decision? It means that the bulk of my training will occur during the coldest and darkest parts of the year. So when it’s minus 30 with the wind chill, I will be running. On Sundays when it’s not even light out, I will be running. Or on my way to the Running Room. Let’s just hope it’s at least up by the time I get back or I might cry. Full on ugly cry.

Why yes, there are icicles on my brother's eyelashes. Yes, he did do this for "fun" He actually tried to convince me to do it this year too, but this particular race involves running in circles around a golf course. And they don't call it the Hypothermic Half for nothing.

Why yes, there are icicles on my brother’s eyelashes. Yes, he did do this for “fun” He actually tried to convince me to do it this year too, but this particular race involves running in circles around a golf course. And they don’t call it the Hypothermic Half for nothing.

In an attempt to ease my suffering, or at least not make it worse by essentially learning to run again in the middle of winter, Omar and I agreed to push each other to show up to Run Club every Sunday. I then skipped the next three weeks, though in my defense, one of them I was injured, the second I relocated Run Club to the treadmill in my parents’ basement, and the third I went, just not in the right city. The theory behind our clever plan is that as the distances increase, unless you keep up a fairly intense running schedule, it’ll be too nuts, thus I am forced to keep up an active run schedule.

Great plan right?

Yeah in theory, but walking over the Laurier bridge yesterday morning I thought “nope, nope, nope, nope, with a side of hell no.” I had thought of a run, but ugh it’s too cold! At about -2°C, I had already decided it was too cold. I reasoned that I wouldn’t normally run Fridays, and I had already run twice this week, but that excuse is invalid today and Sunday. It is going to be a long winter folks. Very long indeed.

taken from theoatmeal.com I saw this comic a few months back, replace hornets with snowflakes and you have my sentiments.

taken from theoatmeal.com
I saw this comic a few months back, replace hornets with snowflakes and you have my sentiments.

When I think of the five worst episodes of physical activity, most of them occur in the winter. In fact the only bad episode may have been my first run in temperatures above 25°C when I was unprepared for the effects of humid heat on my cardiovascular system. But there are ways around the heat, run earlier and it’s not so bad; take off a few layers and run in the basics, even better. In the winter, life just sucks.

Exhibit A: the time my brother invited me to go skating. I ended up a giant bruise (that’s right I didn’t have bruises, I had so many I had become a bruise), and because I lean on my ankles when I skate, I had blisters that were so bad it took three weeks to heal.

Then there was the time I walked for a week doped up on Tylenol with tissues in my pocket because I had such a bad cold that I couldn’t breathe but was determined to train.

First year was apparently just a bad year all around for me. Probably because after my first half-marathon I became a very lazy half-marathoner, only going out when there were near ideal conditions, or at least only when nothing falling from the sky and the temperature was above hell frozen over. I remember training for my first half-marathon, at the time I was pretty hard-core about it – if my schedule said go out, I went out. One day in particular I’m recalling, it was cold enough that there was still a lot of snow on the ground, and if my memory serves me correctly this was somewhere around late February. So it was supposed to be winter. It was pouring rain. There were 4-inch puddles on the sidewalk, and there was so much rain that the puddles actually stretched across all 5 lanes on Laurier at Elgin. Reasonable to not go right? I still went. I fell ass-over-tea-kettle before I even made it out of the residence parking lot. I fell at least three more times on the 3 kilometer loop I was doing.

Also that year? The day my brother Cory and I went out for 16k in the freezing rain. He called me in the morning to check that I still wanted to go, it was going to be ten below with 50km/h winds, and the possibility of freezing rain. I rationed that it wasn’t that cold, and if it was that cold, it couldn’t rain, plus the forecast said there was only a 30% chance of precipitation. He dutifully showed up and I put on every layer of dry-fit I owned. Turns out I was very wrong. Very, very wrong. It was freezing, by the tenth kilometer I couldn’t feel my feet, which was probably good because my socks had become soaked sponges, but it is hard to walk when you can’t feel your feet. It was every bit as windy as the weather had said it was going to be. By 12k, it had started to rain. Which didn’t seem physically possibly given the current temperature, which was approximately ten below too cold. We stopped at this point for coffee and stood quietly in the corner dripping, convincing ourselves that we had to get back somehow. After getting puddle splashed around kilometer 15, I was begging for mercy while my brother jibbed me about skipping out on the last 2 kilometers we would be missing off the 18 kilometers we had originally planned. I told him to bite my frozen ass.

I have proof that this was a thing. A cold miserable thing.

I have proof that this was a thing. A cold miserable thing.

Moral of the stories: ice is dangerous, but did I really regret my decision to go out? No.

Second moral? Go for the run.

It is going to be a long and painful winter. This will be the first year I have remained active after each of my half-marathons, but I am committed to this whole being a runner thing. Which I guess means always being up for a run? And running at least 3 days a week year round, not just intensely for 4 months? I can do it, right?
I made it through the entire summer getting up at 7AM to run so I would be just slightly below internally boiling, at least this season sleeping in is almost preferable. On the upside, this week has presented near ideal temperatures, and given that I am not overheating, I have actually managed to shave between 15 and 20 seconds off my pace per kilometer. I guess this winter thing won’t be so bad. At least it won’t be raining? Upsides?

Worst case – as I told Doug during the Army Run, I’d better be getting Airmiles for all these trips to my happy place.

A handy tool no?

A handy tool no?