Starting From Scratch, Again

It’s been a while.

Let’s just say 2015 hasn’t been the greatest year for running.

I missed most of the winter running due to family issues. My dad got sick and life got busy.  And I got lazy, let’s be perfectly honest. After the 1/2 marathon, one year ago today actually, I felt like I was in the best shape of my life. But that race really tired me out and physically my body needed a break even if my mind wouldn’t listen.  I got shin splints again and benched myself over Christmas. With my dad’s illness, it was hard to get motivated to run and when you don’t run regularly, the -17C temperatures certainly don’t invite you out.  So, I sat on my couch. I cross-stitched and ate what I wanted and gained back a few pounds.

Finally, I got some motivation and started running again in February or March, at this point it’s all a blur.  It was literally like starting from scratch.  Suddenly I was slow again and dealing with stupid aches and pains.  I had stopped the weight training as well and everything seemed harder.

Race-wise, I made the decision earlier in the year not to repeat any race I had done in 2015.  I planned all new races.  I did the Ride for Heart 5K, the Waterfront 10K, the  Womens’ 10K, the Beaches Jazz Run 5k and the Toronto 10-miler (16K).  None of these races were personal bests, or personal records for that matter.  I just went out and had fun. My training has sucked on and off all year.  Shin splints, groin aches, work-life, you name it there was a reason why I didn’t run regularly.

My weight has creeped up a bit this last month or so as I had to bench myself, yet again, due to wickedly painful posterior shin splints. It’s such a constant battle.  I took two weeks off before my last race, the Scotiabank 5k.  My shins felt okay and since I had started cross training on the stationary bike, I hadn’t lost any ground on my fitness.  Looking at the race photos, the weight gain is super obvious to me and it really bugs me. No one else would probably notice it but we are our own worst critics.

I decided today, on this 1 year anniversary of my first 1/2 marathon, that I will run that race again next year.  Come hell or high water.  I am going to do my utmost to keep up with cross-training and weights. Wish me luck!

 

Overcoming Yourself.

Boy, is this ever true.  I never believed it until yesterday.

I still can’t quite believe I finished my 15 km race. I have run 15 km twice before; the first was just a 15 km long, slow distance run and the second was during my last long training run of 18 km.

I decided to sign up for this 15 km race right after the 10 km race in May.  Since I finished that race, I started flirting with the idea of earning 4 running medals this year – 5K, 10K, 15K and 21.1K.  Yesterday’s race seemed like the perfect choice.  The race course was along a trail I have run before, it was close to my house and looked like a lot of fun. Challenging, for sure, as it had a few small hills as well.

I got up two hours before the start.  Baby boy was just starting to stir but everyone else was still asleep.  I got a ride with my neighbor who was also running.  It was a beautiful morning, a little cool and overcast with the threat of rain.  Honestly, the conditions were perfect.

The start was tough. Psychologically tough.  There were no corrals.  All the 15k runners started at the same time.  I should have started near the back, but I made my way closer to the front.  I’m not sure why.  Excitement?  Anyway, it was a big mistake.  Runner after runner started passing me.  I tried to move over to the right but it was hard.  They just kept flying by me. By 2km it felt like I was running alone.  I felt suddenly defeated and couldn’t stop thinking I would place last and I really felt like a failure. For a little while I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was out of my league.  But somehow I soldiered on knowing there was no way I was going to DNF (did not finish).Things started to change a few hundred meters after making the turn at 5 km.  I noticed that I wasn’t the last 15k runner and my spirits lifted. As I approached the half way point, my Nike app was telling me that my average pace was improving.  It was around the 8 km point that I realized my hips were starting to ache.  I decided I just had to run through the ache.  It wasn’t pain but they were definitely telling me that they were tired.  I felt this same ache during the last 2 km of my 18 km training run two weeks ago and I’m thankful I did.  I kept telling myself that if I could finish 18 km I couldn’t certainly finish 15 km.

I also started to notice that I passed a few runners who had been ahead of me for most the first half of the race.  Suddenly I realized that I wasn’t going to finish last. Sure, I’d be in the pack of final runners, but I wouldn’t finish last.   I think this is when I got my second wind.

At 10 km I checked my time – my first 15 km run before this race I completed in 1:49:32; during the 18 km training run, I reached 15 km in 1:52:59.  I knew I could finish this run a little faster if I kept up my pace.  I dug real deep and ran full tilt to the finish (even with my scheduled walk breaks!). There were some people who were running in their friends with 150m to go.  They were really motivating and I stole from them to cross the finish line.

I really understand the concept of a “Personal Record” and a “Personal Best” now.   I wasn’t running against anyone but myself and I almost felt like quitting when the little devil on my shoulder told me I was out of my league.  I ignored that voice and persevered.

Yesterday I set my own PR and PB.  And damn if that doesn’t feel good.

Running really is 90% psychological.

Owning It.

I am still riding the high from my race. I feel like a little hypocrite though. I said many times to many people, that I wasn’t going to ever enter a race and I really thought I wouldn’t. It’s not that I’m not a competitive person – I certainly am, and I’m sure others would agree.  I just never felt very competitive in an athletic sense.  Part of the reason I never considered a race is because I always thought that’s just why people run – to train for something.  I have never felt that I needed a race as an end-goal to run. I’ve always been pretty disciplined and to keep things interesting, I started setting little goals – run 5 km, get up to 7 km, now do 10 km, etc. My friends would also try to change my mind but I was pretty stubborn – I think I wanted to be that one person who didn’t run a race, I don’t know.  I’m also not a person who likes to run with a group.  One or two people, sure I’ve done that and it’s fun; but running with a few hundred strangers?  Yeah, no thanks.

I discovered early on that I just like going for a run to clear my head, to get some exercise and to keep fit. But then I started getting hurt and quickly learned  that in order to keep running and avoid injury I had to do some other kind of cross-training.  Over the past few months I started doing more weights at home, and especially weighted quad sets, in order to get stronger legs.  The extra little bit has started to pay off –  I am running a little faster, I recover more quickly and have had less injuries.

I’m going to own that hypocrisy now. I kind of, sort of really liked running with all those people.  I thought it was pretty cool that there were spectators along the route ringing cowbells and encouraging us.  It was even inspiring to see the half-marathoners encouraging us as we approached the last kilometer of the 5k race.  “You’re almost there! Run! Run!”  I’m getting chills now just thinking about it. I thought that was pretty amazing.

And let’s be real here – I’ve had three children and weigh 20 lbs more than I did the day I got married.  Pregnancy and childbirth change a woman’s body, more than I ever realized.  While I would love to be the weight I was on my wedding day, the way my body shape has changed, I would probably look really unhealthy and anorexic.  A more realistic goal was to eventually get down to my last pre-pregnancy weight.  That has proven to be more difficult than I first imagined and I’m not even sure it’s ever going to happen.  So the next goal I set was to fit into a particular pair of jeans that I was wearing before I got pregnant with my third child.  I have tried to ignore the scale (so much easier said than done), but when there’s one a few feet from my office, it gets hard.

Over the past several weeks I have a number of patients (all women, and all fairly new moms) comment on how fit I’ve been looking and I’ve heard several times, “Wow, doc, have you lost weight?”  Usually I reply with a quick and embarrassed,  “Oh, gee, thank you”, and ask what brings them in in the hopes of redirecting.  More often than not, my question gets ignored and I am asked how I do it, how do I find the time with work and having 3 children? While I really try not to spend the first few minutes of their appointment discussing myself, I think it’s important for some patients to hear this.  My first answer is always that I have a stay-at-home-baby-daddy.  Without his support and encouragement and his sacrifice (though he would never call it that) to stay home with the kids, a lot of things might be different.  (I can’t imagine what pick ups and drop offs would be like if we both worked, not to mention finding the time to exercise?!) The second part of my answer is that I run. It’s the purest form of exercise I have ever done and it’s quick and cheap.  I run home from work at least once, maybe twice a week; husband and I alternate running on the weekend. If I go on Saturday, he goes Sunday or vice versa.  Then I always get asked if I diet. The answer is always no.  We try to eat healthy during the week with salads, veggies and fish or chicken but we often splurge on the weekend with steaks and other fun foods (ie chicken wings, pizza, fries, beer and wine).  I know what my weaknesses are and its primarily dessert.  We don’t have dessert after dinner anymore.  I might have something sweet after lunch at work but I justify that with a run home afterwards.  So basically what I tell patients is that I run so that I can still eat what I want.  Now, I realize that the majority of people can’t do that, so I continue by saying that eating healthy, well-balanced, portion-controlled meals and having some form of daily exercise (even if it’s walking or taking the stairs instead of the elevator) can go a long way to keeping fit and staying healthy.  Fad diets never seem to work long-term. They can be taxing on one’s system and the rigidity of some of these diets just can’t be sustained over time.

I’m fortunate enough that I’ve never had to resort to a diet, unless cutting back on dessert is dieting. For me, running works and for now I’m going to stick with it.  And maybe I’ll run a few races a year for fun because why not?  My ultimate goal (and yes, I realize it’s a bit shallow) has always been to wear my favorite jeans again.  Despite what the scale may say, I have reached that goal. And running got me there.

 

 

 

A Race Virgin No More.

Well for someone who swore they would never run a race, I popped that cherry today and then some!

It was a beautiful winter day, one of the warmest I’ve run in fact, a balmy -6°C (-10°C with wind chill).  I met up with L and her friends at the designated area inside the performing arts center. Honestly I felt a bit weird being among all those runners. They looked all way more qualified than me to be running a race.

After a few quick bathroom visits (only one for me!),  it was time to walk to the start line. There were several of the half-ers doing some warming up and I saw one with something like a tube coming out of their shirt and asked L what the heck that was – apparently it was a camelback! Brilliant!

We got to the start line and there were a few hundred ahead of us. Next to where we were standing was a mom and her son. I asked the boy how old he was as he looked like my daughter’s age.  He said he was six and this wasn’t his first race.  Um … okay.  Mom said he would finish under 45 minutes, maybe 40 minutes.  Finally, we heard the countdown and started walking up towards the start and off we went. Before the race, L and her friend said I was going to set the pace and by the end of the first kilometer we were under well under 7:00/km which was just fine with me though it was a bit faster than I wanted so I deliberately slowed my pace a bit and ran most of the time just a few strides behind them. There was a bit of chatting but by 2 km I stopped talking and just focused on the road and my breathing. L asked if I wanted to walk and I said no. And then we saw the leader of the 5 km race running towards us on the other side of the road.  I looked up his time – he finished the run in 15 minutes.

Suddenly we reached that the halfway point, made our turn and headed back.  Already I was sensing this was going to feel like the fastest 5 km I’d ever run even if my time didn’t reflect it.  At 3 km I was asked again if I was walking and I said no. I did slow down a bit as the girls got ahead of me a little but they slowed for me so we were still running together. Then we saw the 6-year-old running just ahead of us as the 4 km marker approached and he stopped to walk with his mom. As we made our turn, about 200 meters from the finish L said “We are gonna beat that 6-year-old. Let’s go!!!!” And we hauled ass to the finish.  I tried to look for my husband and kids but realized I needed to focus on not falling over my feet.  I crossed the finish line just a second or two after my friend.  A minute later, I heard my daughter calling for me and turned towards the sidewalk and found her.  I ran over to her and hugged her across the barriers and then she gave me the medal she made for me.  It was a special moment I will never forget.  A few minutes later we picked up our real medals.

The official time of 33:33.9. A personal best for sure (especially since there weren’t any walk breaks!)

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Seeing my daughter at the end.

 

The two medals.

The two medals.

My yummy post-run dinner. Baked chicken with pesto and grilled veggies.

My yummy post-run dinner. Baked chicken with pesto and grilled veggies.

No Going Back Now.

Um…   Shit just got real, yo!

I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve run 5km, but suddenly I feel like “Oh my God, what if I can’t finish?”

I never ran track or took part in any group/team sports.  I did some dance and ballet as a kid and played the piano, that’s about it.  I remember getting really nervous before a piano recital or exam (I made it to grade 11 Royal Conservatory).  Before most exams in university and medical school I would need a bathroom visit at least once or twice before walking into the examination room.  My running friends say they have “tummy” issues all the time before a race and I’ve suggested they take an Immodium the night before a race to calm the nervous bowel.  I have no idea if that’s going to happen to me. Should I take one just in case?

I’ve been getting emails daily, sometimes twice a day, from the race coordinators and every time I see it in my inbox, my heart skips a beat.  Why am I doing this?!  I’ve got nothing to prove.  Is it going to be fun or am I going to be a ball of nerves? I have no idea what to expect!

Gah!

I just want to wake up and have it be March 2.

Hell Froze Over.

I signed up for a race.

My friend posted a picture of a race medal that was quite pretty. I foolishly commented on the picture and a day later I found myself registering for a 5km race.

What the heck?

For 2 years I said I was never going to run a race. I don’t need to race. I don’t need the medals. I just love running for the fitness and the rush I get when I finish.  I never felt the need to train for a race to keep me motivated, I just run because I want to run.

Yet, here I am, registered for a 5k race in 10 days.

My friend Jedi-mind-tricked me into doing it. She really did.  “It’ll be fun.” “No pressure!” “Don’t make me do it alone!”

htd02

 

Husband says I had better win it.  Ha ha!  As if! (He’s joking.)

What have I gotten myself into?