Running

Around The Bay Training Blog #4: Nine Days and Counting

By this coming Monday morning, I’ll expect to be feeling the early buzz of race week for Around The Bay in my bones.

If it’s anything like my pre-marathon jitters, my moods and my nearest and dearest are in for a potentially wild ride. (Last time, sewed for the first time in years, probably terrified a Running Room employee, and sang Freddie Mercury’s AYYYYOOOOOOO loudly in the car on the way to the hotel… and for… the whole night before the race.)

This past week I did some work to try and eliminate the anxiety and stress I’ve experienced during training for this race, brought on by weather and mental health issues.

My brother-in-law and I actually went out and drove the course to see just what I was in for (spoiler alert: hills). I’ve never driven a course before, but ATB’s notorious hills were becoming mountains in my mind and I had to cut the nightmare off somewhere. The upside: I’m not afraid of the hills! Downside: I realized 30k is like… FAR, y’all.

The next day, desperately craving a change of scenery and wanting a bit of a test for myself, I headed out to the course again and parked at Dundurn Castle for my long run. I plotted to go 8 km out and 8 back, but ended up doing 18 in total.

It was wicked. I saw birds of prey and took on the hills, I waved to my fellow trainees—the only other woman I saw running gave me a high five as we passed. Lately I’ve been struggling to keep up with running, and I think running in a completely new location made me realize I’m just… bored. The missing ingredient to the sauce right now might just be changing it up.

This next week, I’ll be trying to take my sleep and nutrition as seriously as I can. The countdown to Around The Bay is on, and I plan to be as ready as I can be for whatever race day brings.

Around The Bay Training Blog #3: Surprise Dogs and Wind Storms

The countdown continues: only 20 days left until the Around The Bay race. I’ve officially entered the phase where I begin to mentally prepare myself for a DNF (Did Not Finish) or at least some physical and mental anguish — this week, training put me through some seriously pained paces.

From what I can tell, DNF’s are a fact of running life when you’ve been out there long enough—not just for middle and back-of-the-pack people, but the human-gazelle hybrids leading the races too. Whether it’s injury or brutal conditions, many frequent racers have probably, at some point, racked up a DNF. I’m not planning on making ATB mine, but I’m trying to prepare for everything. I try not to take any run or any race for granted, just in case.

On to this week’s training recap!

Bark! A Vagrant

In the middle of hill repeats on Thursday, I was interrupted by a huge brown shape bounding out of the darkness into the streetlights, heading right towards me. It moved fast enough that I only saw “dog” and didn’t have time to register anything else about it before I screamed. The big thing ploughed clean into me and I cringed, waiting for teeth in an arm or a leg. All I got was a giant curly brown mop of a dog jumping up on me while his owners called him from the porch. (I wish I could remember the dog’s very human name, but let’s call him “Owen”.)

One of Owen’s owners came to helpfully lead him out of the street and explained the door had been opened at the wrong time and he had bolted when he saw me. I wish I could have snapped a picture with him, but I was still reeling from having not been bitten feeling a little foolish and a little relieved. Note to self: look up dog safety tips for runners. Usually I’m careful seeing large and small dogs when I’m out running—and this incident was definitely enough of a system shock to bring on some research.


A Windy Long Run

Have you ever been on a run so intensely difficult because of the weather that it made you mad at nature? Sunday’s long run was one of those. It was a literal wind storm outside, cold and drizzly. I’m talking 70-80 km gusts of wind that meant giving it your all and going almost nowhere — running in place.

It was resistance training and long run conditioning all rolled into one. I’m not going to lie, with every loop I completed, it was very tempting give up and go inside — but I didn’t. I kept going, even when my legs got tired, when the wind was cutting, and when people warned me they had seen a coyote near the road I was running on. Somewhere in the third-and-final loop, my headphones started conking out, so all I could hear was the wind roaring in my ears and the growing discomfort in my shoes and my eyes watering.

When I finally got inside, my legs were freezing and aching and I honestly can’t remember ever feeling less relieved after a run. The grim satisfaction that I had stuck it out for 24 km—with hills to boot—did not make me feel strong, it made me feel exhausted and grumpy.

I feel like all the joy and momentum I gained after last week’s run kind of evaporated, so I’m hoping to spend the next 2-3 weeks using all my hard-earned grit to push hard, look after myself, and bring back some sterling positivity.

Around The Bay Training Blog #2: The Definition of Insanity

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and blah blah blah—you know the quote. Well, this week, I put this adage to the test as I completed my Saturday long run by traversing the same loop over and over…and over. You know what? It felt great. I got in a decent amount of hill work.

Insanity is underrated.

In other news related to losing my mind, breaking the run into loops actually turned out to be an incredible mental trick. In my last blog, I wrote about the running dread that was shaking my confidence in taking on the Around The Bay race—Saturday’s run gave me a little of that confidence back.

The sky was overcast, the snow was falling in big flakes, and my socks got soaked in the slush and puddles as I went running. The hills on the route got more challenging with each loop but, somewhere in the wet March weather, I found a little bit of my running magic again.

I breathed deeply for what felt like the first time in months. My legs felt strong. I temporarily coached my ears down from their usual winter hunch up by my shoulders. I felt the drain of working hard, but did not feel exhausted.

What’s more, after the run, I felt more sure that I could handle the race’s cut off time. (That’s caused me just a little bit of pre-race nerves since I’ve been adapting and adjusting my training schedule.)

I have plans later this week to go for a drive and see exactly what I’m up against when it comes to the course, and I am hoping that looking at the obstacles first hand will help get rid of that lingering fear. Around The Bay is notorious for close to the last third of the race being ludicrously hill-ridden, which is generally the last thing you want when you’ve been grinding out roughly 20km or so.

I knew about these hills when I signed up for the run back in October, so maybe that was the crazy move on my part.

Current conclusion: insanity got me into this mess, and with a little luck, it’s probably going to get me out.

Around The Bay Training Blog #1: Waiting For Lightning

The Around The Bay race in Hamilton is coming up fast. Thirty days from now, I’ll be pinning on a number for my first-ever entry into this legendary race, older than the Boston Marathon and riddled with hills my calves are already screaming about.

I ain’t ready. I don’t feel ready anyway.

People on social media are crushing elevation for dinner and running 18-milers to prepare. Meanwhile, I’ve been struggling to fit in solid runs with all of the snow and ice we’ve been getting, and my general lack of mental energy.

I had a sturdy training plan all mapped out for ATB, and this winter’s terrible weather has forced me to tactically “wing it”, while my mental health has made believing in myself into a challenge all on its own.

Now, I’ve hit the “I am so very very sick of training” wall at the same time I’ve hit the “I am so very very scared of failing at this race” wall. We’re 4 weeks away from race day.

Cue: freaking out.

This is not how I imagined this training season going.

On the other hand, that’s the cliché “running is a metaphor for life” kicking in right? Things won’t always go according to plan and you just have to show up and do your best. You have to keep reminding yourself that you chose to do this, and you love it. It helps to remember that the worst thing that could happen is survivable. It also helps to imagine hot cups of coffee and tight hugs and tears at the finish line.

More than anything, it helps to remember that I haven’t been lying around doing NOTHING, even if I haven’t been sticking to my ambitious plan.

I’m still running 4x a week, with my long runs building in distance. I’ve been trying to incorporate hill work—last week I unplugged my headphones and ran repeats for about an hour, just me and the road. (This week, I had plans to push it even further and run MORE hills—and then we got 20 cm of snow dropped on us. I did as much as I could. I ran until I REALLY didn’t want to.)

I’ve got four weeks to mentally and physically prepare.

Cue: re-strategizing.

In the meantime, I’m still waiting to be excited. I’m still waiting for lightning.

#Streakcember In Review: Taking On A Holiday Run Streak

From December 1st to December 31st 2018 I went streaking every day.

It was thirty-one days of running from the beginning of the holiday season all the way to the last day of the year. (Even though, yes, I am one of those afflicted souls who thinks Christmas season begins after Remembrance Day.)

Some days of the run streak I finished more than a mile, some days I didn’t want to run at all, and one I almost forgot completely, busting out the running shoes at a late hour to keep the dream alive. Still, at the end of the month I was victorious—and despite the struggle, I think this is something I might keep up every December as long as I’m able.

#Streakcember has become a bizarre framework to my celebration of the holiday season. Where will I end up running my mile? How will I fit my run into the middle of all the festivities? How bad can running be with a mulled wine hangover?

It’s cause to ask me little questions of my dedication. It’s a way to keep the proverbial fire going, even when I’m too busy to put in more distance. Oh, yeah—and a great way to scope out all the houses in the neighbourhood with the best Christmas lights.

Because of Streakcember I’ve dashed through the snow on Christmas day. I’ve run in a Santa costume and also jeans and my old lawn-mowing sneakers when I ended up at my parent’s house and had no gear.

It’s the bizarre determination and utilitarian spirit of the challenge which keeps me coming back for more. You make it work. The distance is small enough that up-and-quitting isn’t necessarily a real option. There’s the fact that when you’re done, it feels like a Christmas miracle and you start the new year off with a little extra pride at what you finished.

#Streakcember, it was a blast. I’ll see you in just about twelve months.

For now, we have memories. And this video—1 second of footage for every day of running in December. So in a way, like… WAY better than memories.