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Swimming lessons from the slow lane

 
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I hit the pool at my local Rec Centre this morning to do laps for the first time in my entire life.

The running injury is still healing and it’s a good, low impact sport. I was ready to kick it. Despite never doing formal laps in a huge pool, I was a pretty good swimmer as a kid…

Turns out kidhood was a long time ago. I should’ve done more research.

If I had done more research I would have known that if you’re unsure of your speed, it’s okay—and encouraged—to pick the empty lane and see how you go. Instead, I picked the busier Medium lane.

An elderly man in the water nodded forward and said “you can go first, you’re faster than me.” I laughed, told him I hadn’t been swimming in a long time, and kicked off without a thought.

If I had done more research I would have likely avoided the small emotional crash that was waiting for me at the end of my own foolishness. I would have found out that starting out swimming is HARD.

After awkwardly struggling for a few laps and trying to figure out the pattern the swimmers were moving in (I should have researched this too, sigh), I returned to the starting wall to see two lifeguards.

It was like a movie, when someone returns home to find two cops in their kitchen and you know they’re busted. The pool cops kindly directed me to the “Slow” lane, which was empty, while seniors glided with clean backstrokes in the background.

Then one of the pool cops told me to stick to the left-hand side… by the wall.

She totally thought I was going to drown. That’s how bad my form was.

Only slightly embarrassed, I headed to the Slow Lane and finished up the rest of my 30 minute swim, trying to correct a form I hadn’t used since kiddie swimming lessons with research I didn’t have. Trying to breath through the motions of the front stroke. Trying not to let the old feeling of gym class humiliation settle in and ruin the experience.

Even as I’m writing this, I realize how crazy it was to dive in without further reading. The assumption that I could just bust out an amazing front stroke on-demand with little experience and no practice is crazy.

As my friend Baz put it, “No one (who is sane) who hasn’t run in ten years is going to join a half marathon with no training or work up.”

If it was arrogance, my ego has been properly deflated. If it was stupidity… lesson learned.

Only thing to do now is Google and get back into the pool.

The bright side of your first running injury

After my first marathon last year my physiotherapist called me a miracle human.

This ain’t a brag—I was in for an injury. A week after the Best Day Ever my left foot was experiencing discomfort. She asked if I had any other injuries after running 26.2 miles. When I said no, she laid the Best Compliment Ever on me.

She didn’t find anything wrong with the foot either, but advised me to stop running if I felt any pain and prescribed me some exercises. (Which I did for about 2 weeks and then forgot about. Oop.)

I healed and went back to running, finishing the Around The Bay 30k in March, and Run For The Toad 25k in September without any issues until now.

The mysterious left foot flare up is back and worse than before.

Is it because I broke my own rules and didn’t take a fulll recovery week off? Is it because I had a busy summer and didn’t train as much as I wanted to? Is it a fatphobic notion that weight gain has brought this injury upon me?

Who can say? All I’ve got is a foot that is stiff and a little sore when I wake up in the morning or when I try to run on it.

Whatever it is, it snuffed my hopes of running the Hamilton Road2Hope Half Marathon this past weekend and has forced me out of my running shoes. My long run two Saturdays ago ended with some frustrated tears as I ran a block, walked a block all the way back home while my foot complained at me.

Negatives of having a running injury:

• Not running is scary
• I’m more cagey and anxious
• Not running makes me have some body image flare ups
• I feel like less of a runner which is ridiculous. What’s more runner than running so much you actually can’t run anymore?

I think the key here is keeping the long game in view. It helps to remember that I want to be able to run for many years, not just the next few.

Positives of having a mild running injury:

It healed once and with care it will (hopefully) heal again
• Allows me to incorporate different types of cardio into the routine
• Allows me to embrace low impact activities like yoga
• Makes me rest up before my annual December Run Streak
• I have less laundry from having no sweaty running clothes to wash.
• More time for self care like reading
• Now I can really taking the time to rest up because there are some big plans in the works

So tonight I’m going to hunt for some new sports gear and researching gym memberships. Even if I can’t run the way I would like at the moment, I need to keep moving for my brain. It’s cross training szn honey. (Have I been listening to Jonathan Van Ness’ podcast? You bet.)

My Inner Running Voice Is An Eight-Year-Old Having A Meltdown

This past weekend I ran the Happy Trails Racing Sticks N’ Stones 10K. I was happy to finally make it to one of HTR’s events after interviewing their Race Co-Ordinator, Heather Borsellino in June.

 
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Somewhere in the middle of the first loop of the course, I hear a kid running with his mom behind me. He’s on the verge of a full blown meltdown.

“But it’s muddy and SLIPPERYYYYYY!” He’s got perfect pitch.

I’m pulled into the conversation, imagining dragging my niece or maybe (scarily) my own children into future races.

The kid’s yelling is taking me out of my own head. I’m not thinking about my legs being tired—I’m thinking about his.

“You said it was a run but it’s a RACE AND I DON’T WANNA RACE!”

"It’s not a race, it’s a run bud. Some people just treat it like a run,” his mom says.

Still, this kid is upset. I can’t blame him. Five kilometres is actually a hundred years in Kid Time.

“It’s a RAAAACE!” He yells back accusingly.

“We’re almost back to the start bud! We’re almost finished. But we have to keep going!”

This was starting to sound familiar.

Many runners have an inner voice that tells them they can’t hack the tough stuff. Jill Angie of Not Your Average Runner calls it the “Inner Mean Girl.” A popular running quote talks about this too:

“The voice inside your head that says you can’t do this is a liar.”
— Unknown

I don’t have that inner mean girl or that negative voice. Sure, I have my fair share of anxieties and doubts BEFORE race day, but in the middle of a run, I’m locked in.

HOW-EV-ER I do spend time on those difficult runs talking to my own version of the negative runner’s voice which, it’s dawning on me, sounds like this kid—

“My legs HURT and it’s so MUDDY and I’M GONNA DIEEEE.”

Exactly like him, actually.

Turns out my negative inner running voice is just a scared and frustrated eight-year-old having a soft nuclear meltdown because he didn’t sign up for this shit (actually he did) and he’s tired and everyone is passing him and he’s pretty sure he’s gonna collapse before he makes it to the finish line. #Relatable

So I learned something new about fine-tuning my positive self talk when the mud kicks up and the run absolutely sucks.

P.S. I ended up heading out for my second loop of the course around the same time the kid and his mom were finishing their 5K. I was so thrilled I got to be there to cheer him across the finish line. He didn’t die, and neither did I.

 
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Run For The Toad 2019 Race Review: First Toad, Last Toad #2

Here’s part II of my Run For The Toad race review, which has been split into two parts like the last movie in any Dystopian YA franchise. (Just call me Katniss Everrun.)

You can get caught up on part I here. Let’s get bizzay.

Going Solo

• Second loop was much more empty. Less people on the course. It made it harder not to focus on the tension in my calves from the hills, or focus on the pain in the balls of me feet whenever I jogged down a hill… And there were lots of hills.

• On the other hand, running in the woods alone was much more relaxing.

• I stopped at an aid station and snagged some gummy bears. I was too overwhelmed by choices to know what to eat. Couldn’t even tell you what else was there besides potato chips and pretzels.

• Somewhere during this time I started cursing my love of running. Sometimes out loud into the air. I was going to have to take a break from running. I was insane. Why did I LIKE this?

• I stoped to re-tie my shoes tightly—like tenser bandages to alleviate some of the discomfort in my feet.

Strength In Numbers

They might be fast as h*ck but ultra runners are SO nice. Every single one who passed me had words of encouragement. “It’s tough, you’re doing a great job!” “Nice work!”

• Closing in on the last 6.25km, an ultra runner scared me when he said “great job!” coming up from behind me. I hadn’t heard him, he was SO quiet. I startled and yelled—he apologized…while running. and high-fived me, still while running. Then he took off into the trees, like a speedy forest spirit in compression socks.

 
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• Somewhere in the last 5k I converged on the trail with Michelle, a woman in her late 50s or early 60s. We started to run and walk together, talking about the race, our running history, anything and everything to keep us moving forward.

• Turns out people are the secret ingredient. Maybe everyone else knew this but I’ve avoided running with other people for years until now and it was… awesome. Encouraging. Distracting. I wasn’t feeling any pain or how tired my legs were.

• Even the agony of Skeleton Hill was less painful with someone else there.

• We hit the 12K sign. Only 500m to go.

• Finally. FINALLY, we rounded the bend to see the finish line waiting. Spotted my boyfriend waiting.

• Then the finish line worked its magic. I stopped hurting. I stopped thinking.

• I think I yelled “OH SHIT” and powered across the finish line as much as I could manage with the rest of the energy I had.

POST-RACE & 25KM PIE

• I thanked Michelle for helping me through the end of the race and we high-fived.

• We collected medals and bottles of water, I couldn’t even pay attention to the Halloween candy or other offerings at the finish. My heart was pounding, my head was spinning. I was soaring. I had been nervous about the run, I hadn’t trained as intensely as I usually do… and I had still finished.

 
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• Boyfriend came over. I either threw myself or collapsed into his arms and started to cry, a half dozen emotions bursting at that moment.

• Proud. Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Drained. Invigorated. I was thriving with the intense life that only seems to overcome me on the heels of a race finish.

• While we were snapping finish line pics, someone yelled my name. The Mayors, Rachel and Nick, were on the far side of the finish line. They both gave me HUGE hugs. Pain once again disappeared.

• We talked about the race and I headed back to my car to change.

• Not before I laid on the grass and marvelled at all the things I was feeling in my body and also my feels.

• Went to get food (Shoutouts to Stone Crock in St. Jacob’s) and sat down in the sun at the picnic tables outside. I have never had a better bite of apple pie. Maybe it was the 25K or maybe it was just really good pie.

• I’m going to at least give some of it to the 25K.

Run For The Toad training log #4: The magic of the week of

For me, closing in on the starting line of any race causes nerves, but there’s something about “the week of” that feels transformative and magic .

Suddenly, everything I’ve been chasing is terrifyingly and tantalizingly close.

Long training hours turn into short runs that shake the dust, but there’s no pushing for more distance. Whatever work I could do to prepare myself out on the trail or road has been done. I can only eat well, get enough sleep, prep my kit and be patient. I can sit with my anxiety and my flighty excitement.

I can once again lace myself into the shoes of the protagonist. Envision the start, the struggle, the finish line. “The week of” gives me time to reflect on the work.

Race week is also magic because any joy of running that I lost during sometimes gruelling training starts to return.

I feel a buoyant and exciting propulsion towards the finish I forgot I was craving. It’s easy to get lost in the middle of months of work and forget what you were pushing for in the first place.

”The week of” sharpens everything into focus. It brings the goal back in sight. Race day is coming, it will happen and then it will be over—and there’s literally nothing to do but go along for the ride.

You can’t guess how many minutes your race day experience will go on for—how many steps are in that mason jar guessing game?—but it won’t be anywhere near as many as the hours you poured into getting ready. You might as well try to enjoy every moment of build you can… And every second of the actual day.

Because for all the struggle and suffering you put into it—when it’s over, glowing with victory, wrapped in your foil blanket like a sweaty burrito, with a medal around your neck and a banana in hand… You’ll start to miss training and racing. It’s just that instantaneous, the way the feeling of joy comes and goes once the race is over.

Cue melancholy and longing music.

So this week is a time to prepare and think about stuff before the pre-race joy and the post-race blues. To go a little out of your mind as you prepare for your battle. To brace yourself and breathe deep and recognize that even getting to this point is a huge accomplishment.

The week of is an energizing chance to look back on what went wrong, what went right, and what goals or hopes wait on the other side of the race… AKA what race you’ll be signing up for next… AKA the thing you promised yourself you probably wouldn’t do but now you’re almost most definitely doing.

Run For The Toad 2019—I’m ready for you…. and whatever impulsive, soul-saving decisions come to me in the week that follows.

Run For The Toad training log #3: Let’s get first aid training!

During a recent long run, I was on my way back towards my car to complete my 18kms when two cyclists passed me going uphill.

As I watched one of them struggle up the incline, I noticed a huge tear in the back of his skin-tight cycling shirt, and the deep red scrape underneath it.

This dude had definitely bitten the dust, hard. So hard, in fact, it didn’t look real.

He looked like the Hollywood version of someone who had crashed their bike—like there was a team of special effects and makeup artists crouched somewhere in the bushes, waiting to be called in for touch ups. That doesn’t look painful enough. Can we make it more painful?

“James,” Mr. I-Ate-It called out to the rider ahead of him. “James!” And James slowed down to a stop until they were paused, side by side. I was still churning my way up the incline behind them, closing in just enough to hear this gem:

“The bone in my finger is poking through the skin.” Oh okay.

I was completely useless.

If I had had a role in this production it would have been Woman In Background Of Scene Gaping Silently In Horror And Disgust. I really need to update the First Aid training I took in my Grade 6 babysitting course.

James mumbled something back to him—which I didn’t hear over the alarms ringing in my ears—and the two swung back onto their bikes and continued up the hill, albeit at a slower pace. No place to go but forward, I guess.

Now I’m maybe more horrified than ever at the prospect of biking on the trails. There are times where I almost faceplant at low, low speeds.  At a high velocity? On wheels? No thank you.  

As I rounded the bend, I locked eyes with the father of a small family of three who were coming from the other direction.

Judging from the expression on his face, he had heard about the bone-out-of-skin situation too and, just like me, he wasn’t ever going to be able to unhear it.