The Thrill of the Chase

As another race day comes and goes, another start line is approaching in the distance.

After a sub- par performance at a 5k race last May resulting in a 25:45 finish, I was not particularly impressed with my time. Neither were two of my friends, K and S, who I used to run against back in the day. The days when we absolutely flew with unappreciated athleticism. Once they had finished reminding me how slow I had gotten (as all good friends should do), I challenged them to test their current cardiac output.

So today we raced.

The course was flat, the sun was out, and the light breeze against us on the way out was a fresh reminder that we would have the wind at our backs to the finish. We started close to the front because I will never again zig- zag a 6 minute kilometer trying to hurdle children, sidestep strollers, and be called “too aggressive” for a race (The Pace to Race). When the gun went off, there were only a few mild swerves needed to get onto a clear path and I was good to go.

Beyond the start line I didn’t know where K or S was, but just nearing the 1km mark I saw some waving arms beside me and looked over to see K settle in at my side. We ran in silence, knowing we had both set goal times that were not achievable with wasted breaths. At the first kilometer marker, my watch blinked 4:52 to which I clapped and gave K a big thumbs up. She had headphones in and I didn’t catch her attention so I just settled back in and rejoined her in “the zone”.

We continued on in silence, other than a “Well, that’s pleasant” comment from K when we got hit with a wall of animal droppings/ sewage/ nuclear waste odor. Kilometer 2 came at 9:57.

Approaching the turnaround, K said she was going to have to slow down but she didn’t seem to drop off so I thought it was more of a warning than a factual statement. We rounded the halfway pylon at 12:36 but I wasn’t panicking, yet.

K slowly started to fade back and I kept moving with increased fear of one of them catching me, now that I had put some space between us. There is absolutely a mental advantage to running with your competition. It is much scarier to not know where they are and to have to set the pace rather than hold a pace. Ego is on the line, here.

The next kilometer was my slowest; I think I got a little too comfortable which would have be great if it was a race longer than only 5 kilometers. But it was 5 kilometers. You don’t get comfortable.

I hit the 4 kilometer mark solo with a sloshing sound echoing from my stomach and cheesy motivational sayings starting to cycle through my head. I tucked in behind a woman with a blue tank top and an indistinguishable tattoo on her shoulder and just wheezed annoyingly behind her. There is no bodily sound that is embarrassing enough to deter you when you put your “fastest” reputation from a decade ago on the line.

The 4 kilometer sign coming and going meant that I had to run a 4:45/km pace to get me to the line in time. I ended up passing the tattooed blue tank top wearer and crossing the finish line with what felt like an optimal combination of strength and fatigue. The woman I passed actually came and found me as I was wandering and panting in the finish area and gave me a solid high five. Bam. No words needed. I love the running community.

My chip time was 25:03, which was four seconds slower than my goal of 24:59. That stings a little but I now have the confidence that I can run a sub 25 minute race; I just didn’t do it today.

Today’s run was a full 42 seconds faster than my last race and I’m absolutely on track to get some great times under my belt by the end of this racing season.

The summer of the 5k continues!

MEC

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Friends in Hilly Places

I have finished my last hill workout for the week. The countdown to race day is almost all counted down!

I left the gym at a nice trotting speed, warming up as quickly as my tin- man joints would unhinge. A lot of sun, a little breeze, and the weightlessness of the first few minutes of a run is a feeling I’ll never tire of.

About a kilometer from work there is a notorious hill known to runners, cyclists, and any drivers who have attempted it in the Canadian winters or in standard cars. I headed in its direction to see if it it had lessened with environmental wear and tear, a change in gravitational pull, or even continental drift, perhaps.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t.

When I reached the base of the hill, there was a man running ahead of me and I thought to myself how tired he looked and how much he must be dreading this ascent. I was feeling (moderately) fresh as a daisy so I casually waited at the bottom until he had neared the top before I began. I didn’t want to pass him and make him feel bad, of course.

Well, guess who felt bad when he turned at the top and came back down to run more hill repeats; completely the same workout as me.

But with an Ironman t-shirt and Ironman tattoo. Not sure I placed my pity appropriately.

I ran my first uphill and as we passed each other halfway we did the customary acknowledgement of each other’s presence on Earth with a half- second of eye contact and the accompanying head nod. Quite generous for Torontonians who customarily put their weight into smashing shoulders on sidewalks, but we are runners after all.

As I cruise back down in my recovery period, I pretend to be super casual and not wheezing like a dying hyena as we pass and he knocks out another hill repeat. We upgraded to the smile and nod this round, appreciating our common “enjoyment” of running up hills. I notice that he looks much less tired up close and I doubted my own sweaty, tomato-red face was giving the same impression.

Two rounds later, I’m trying to get myself back to the top again and I hear a  “Looking strong!” and I look up to see that my running companion has now become my cheerleader. That little ego boost definitely gave me a push to the top of the hill and as we both switched directions again, I made sure to clap and cheer as much as my breathlessness would allow.

As we alternated turns running, it turned into a cheer- fest and definitely an experience in the reliable friendliness of the running community. Halfway up his last hill, my new friend stopped to let me know this was his last one and he ran off into the sunset.

Well, it was 1pm. But you get the idea.

It’s like the Universe is cheering me on, now. On to race day!

Hills! #run: The Roads, Life, Bike, Quote, Rollers Coasters, Open Roads, Crosses Country, Things, Roads Trips

 

 

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No Pain, Let’s Gain

I can successfully add another pain- free run into my workout log this week. I ran 20 minutes of intervals alternating 1 minute hard with 1 minute easy. Tomorrow is leg day so I don’t plan to run again until Sunday, which will give my hips and knees two days to migrate back to their anatomical homes. My workouts include more time on my rehab exercises than anything else which ironically seems to invite insults about me “slowing down”. This is actually a scientifically proven way to help me run faster, but that’s cool too.

My next planned/ anticipated/ oh-my-gosh-please-don’t-get-hurt race is one month away. Yesterday I was telling myself not to stress because if I’m not ready or if any (enter assorted body parts here) aren’t up to it then there is no pressure to race and I will continue to build to the next goal. Right on cue, I wake up to a message from a friend that I used to race against saying, “Did my first 5k in while – 30:32, will see if I can bring my time down to run with you”.

Rather than start a discussion about her previous insult to my 25:44 time, I welcomed her friendly competition and encouraged our old running rivalry back to the roads.

It didn’t take long for another old friend and fellow runner from my cross country days to chime in and say she could run it in just over 25 minutes. It is starting to look like we might have a little race here. Nothing more motivating than risking your title of being “the fastest”; a title which has been untouched for a decade until I asked people to challenge it.

Time to channel my inner child and run like I’ll get my name on the announcements tomorrow.

 

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Again, but From Here

It has been 2 weeks since the race, and today was my first run since. After a week off for knee relief, followed by several tiring days and a few sleepless nights, I decided that not running was the best training option. I was also hoping that my muscle memory would forget my last performance, and go back to my older, faster, gait. I’m sure there is a historical example of where sitting, waiting, and wishing resolved an issue…

Once my knees remembered that they are 27 and not 87, I opted to run today and start back into a more goal- oriented workout schedule. I headed out into the sunshine and relatively fresh air (it is Toronto, after all) and started off with the intention to run 20 minutes easy, followed by 10 minutes at a 5k pace. Somewhere, the running gods were having a great laugh at my expense.

I felt exhilarated to be running again; with the cool wind at my back, the sun in my face, and the musical serenades of obnoxious, beat- driven dance songs in my ears. I planned an out and back course and felt great until about halfway, when the sun started feeling a little too hot and perfectly timed, an elderly woman told me “I wish you wouldn’t run in this heat”. I gave a friendly smile back to her concerned scowl, but saved my breath for the way home.

I changed my plan to just run for 30 minutes because I was anticipating that my threshold pace and my easy pace were one and the same today. I imagined that at 20:01 I would lurch forward and catch myself, falling back into the exact same pace. No extra energy to waste on that one good stride today! It was just a little heartbreaking that my easy pace was actually a few seconds per kilometer faster than my race pace two weeks ago, but not to worry, I knocked that out of my system and dropped down to somewhere around a 5:30/km pace.

The only time I got close to my wannabe 5km pace was when I saw a sprinkler and actually chased the stream of water (which I did not catch up to) so I then casually came to a pause (shamelessly stood on someone’s lawn) so that I could not be missed this round.

The rest of the trip home was slow and hot, a drippy combination of sweat and hose water. But it happened, and 30 minutes came.

It is hard to be disappointed with any run at this point so I’m eagerly looking ahead to the next one.

I have to catch that sprinkler.

 

 

 

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The Pace to Race

Last Sunday was race day.

It was not as fast or as glorious as I had hoped it to be, but I finished the race vertical and left inspired to work harder and come back faster. So I think I can check that off as a success in one way or another.

As much as I would love to list my excuses for not hitting my goal time in an attempt to justify that it was the Universe’s fault, I was happy with how I ran four of the five kilometers. The first kilometer did me in but it was a learning experience. Or a reminder, anyways.

I could list all of the training runs I did in faster times, all the intervals I ran, and tell you about the days I didn’t feel like running but did it anyways. It doesn’t matter how good the workouts are if they don’t build on each other and if they don’t come together. In this case, neither of those may be the issue but my body just couldn’t do it.

And that’s okay.

The bar is set at 25:44.

And now I’m going to smash it.

I have three more races planned this year, because if I don’t keep challenging myself then how will I know what I can do. I am not running how I want to, but I know where I want to get to. My goal is to stay injury- free to race June, August, and October and improve on my time each run.

Just keep trotting.

RunFinish2

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Chicken Large

This week I have eaten so much chicken, I expect Loblaws to turn me away like a poacher walking into the zoo. Or I will have to buy my next armfuls of chicken among the whispers and rude stares of other chicken- less grocery goers. I have reached the realm of pre- 9am chicken, and on some days I even continued to put it down for every other meal.

Dedicated to the diet, some might say.

When actually, chicken was on sale and I bought excessive amounts apparently forgetting that I am cooking for one. And forgetting that I’m really not a big fan of chicken. I have always been a sucker for a sale, but that is often much more shoe related and much less chicken related.

Luckily my workouts this week have been heavy and I have been working hard so the repetitive force feeding should be going to good use. Also, I am two runs closer to however many runs I’ll get in before I race. I have no game plan for my race prep which is not my style, but since I finished my school year less than a week ago, I have hit my stride at this ‘relaxation’ thing and gathering my thoughts is like herding cats.

Back to chicken.

Today was a slow day at work and I had a long break early in the day. Chicken time. A gym member walked by and stopped to comment on how early it was to eat meat. “You must have been up real early”, she said. I had only been up for three hours, but I accepted the justification and ate on.

Eating a lot is essential to gaining strength and size, but timing truly is everything. I can verify this with my personal experience of eating chicken breast, green beans, and broccoli this morning, (followed by an apple, a muffin, and a coffee) then attempting a 45 minute weight session followed by a 30 minute run.

It was the unhappiest little chicken.

After throwing around some heavy weights for an hour, despite the revolt of 2015 going down in my stomach, I got a solid 30 minute run in on the treadmill. After I finished, I sat down to refuel (turkey this time!) and I had a member tell me he never wanted to work out at the same time as me so he didn’t have to be so embarrassed about his own workouts.

And just that like, it is all worth it.

Where’s my chicken.

Squawk on.

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Hamster Ball

It has been a long time since I last wrote without the purpose being work, school, or dictionary- length to do lists.

So once again I come back to my blog, my old friend who I have been avoiding only for productivity related reasons, I swear. It’s not you, it’s me.

My workouts are still going, and my running is still going,

I am less than a month away from a 5km race that I signed up for after running for three 2- minute intervals and it seemed liked a good idea. It must have been the runner’s high. As of now I have one 5km run under my belt in a time of 26:07. At least I’m not risking over training and burning out.

My post- surgery PB is 24:32 so that is my ultimate goal regardless of what my physio might tell you. I’ve got a ways to go but I’ve learned to never doubt what your legs can do on race day. Or maybe the lesson is to never doubt what your heart can make your legs do.

The weather in Toronto is still anti- running (says my inner 80 year old) and as much as I’ve always boycotted “riding the treadmill”, after several months of doing my best my hamster in a ball impression on said treadmill, I’m finding it hard to drag myself out in the blasting wind and freezing temperatures. Apparently missing outdoor runs has aged my attitude about weather by a few decades. Very fitting, as it now matches my 80 year old perspective on… pretty much everything else.

April is a good time to re-evaluate your fitness goals for the year that you probably set in January with the best intentions but then forgot about at the first sight of cake. It is time to get out your thesaurus in an attempt to make your goals sound different than the unaccomplished attempts of January and get back on the horse. Or hamster ball, as the case may be.

There is still a lot of 2015 to come; keep your eyes on the prize, my friends.

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On Roading

Today I ran outside for the first time in about 8 months. Unless we are counting when I have been late for the train or late for anything, really. This was an anticipated, running-for-the-purpose-of-running kind of run.

It felt so good to pull down my winter running clothes that sat neglected in my closet, far from reach, where I angrily abandoned them after the knee implosion of 2014. I put on my watch which was still flashing 24:23. I cleared it without hesitation because with or without the watch, my last 5km run time has been flashing in my brain since that day.

Today’s run was another advancement in intervals for me: walk for 5 minutes, run for 5 minutes, and repeat three times. Two more pain-free runs this week doing 5 and 5s means I’m moving to 6 and 4s. Judging by today’s effort, I think I am right on track. I am pretty sure I ran the whole time with a huge smile on my face and enough bounce in my step that would render my gait inefficient and energy-wasting. I ran through the streets of my neighbourhood, especially enjoying all the hills and dips, and the corners and curves that a treadmill just can’t offer. Swerving around busy sidewalks and unevenly bouncing around on woodchip trails were even an appreciated change of pace.

If I haven’t made my point, it feels great to leave treadmill, which was slowly becoming my new normal, and hit the roads again.

The first time I returned to running, I planned to take it easy and increase time and distance slowly but adrenaline beat down my common sense pretty fast. Second time around, it is easier to remind myself that self control will save me time, effort, money, pain, and pride. And I like all those things. I also like to learn my lessons only after multiple missed opportunities.

I just got home from a three week vacation where I left six pounds behind, so I am eager to eat that back, fill out my skin again, and bring my butt back to where it started (a little further from the ground). I really wish that my body adapted to my training faster than my vacationing.

Next stop is the Christmas bulk and the Boxing Day meat sweats. And more runs.

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The Next Four Minutes

At what point does a comeback just evolve back into life?

I was running on the treadmill yesterday- doing my four minute run interval absolutely overwhelmed with excitement at the idea of my four minute run interval- wondering to myself at what point my comeback morphs into the daily grind of a gym goer.

Every day of work that I put in feels like another brick and mortar of recovery and it motivates me to keep pushing further from the day I caught my leg in my pants, fell down, and couldn’t get up. Maybe I am back to regular workout status once people stop interrupting my workouts to ask me, “How is your (enter any mixture of injured body parts here)?”

Now that I am running again (on a treadmill, for four minutes at a time) I am in a permanent state of runner’s high. My body was in withdrawal for almost two years, and now that I have had a reminder of how it feels, I’m in a constant state of awaiting my next four minutes.

Maybe we would all benefit from the comeback mindset. The mental setting that we have much progress ahead of us, and each step forward is a milestone worth telling the world about. Every time we finish a workout there is a crowded arena screaming our name. Every time we lift heavier, our name is in the paper for setting new records. And every single rep we complete, we can remind ourselves, “I couldn’t do this before”.

With the mental, physical, real, and imagined highs of the comeback journey, there must be the moments that bring our feet and faces back down to the ground; the universe giving us a friendly reminder that we aren’t as invincible as we briefly consider ourselves to be. Considering yourself to be in a “safe” place usually means that your face is about to hit the ground, so maybe embracing the comeback status is protective.

As long as progress continues, combined with the awareness there is much ground to cover, I suppose it doesn’t need any label other than that.

 

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Clientology: A Top 10

There are a few clients on my roster that I would like to drop for a small selection of reasons. Not to be rude but as with all public service jobs, the people will make or break it. On a good day, personal training can be great, but on a bad day it can be 12 hours of listening to people complain and argue with you.
Lucky for you, I have made a list of the top ten things that will anger your trainer and you should probably avoid all things on this list at all times. Or find a new trainer.

1. “Oh no, the physics is all wrong”.
Do not pay me to train you and then tell me that I don’t know what is best for you. One of my clients in her 70s refuses to do Lat Pull Downs because “the physics and angles are wrong”. I kindly reminded her that I was there to teach her how to properly use the equipment, followed by a 15 minute scientific explanation and demonstration. She began but then decided half a rep in with a dramatic sigh of disgust that indeed, no, this was not a biomechanically appropriate exercise for any human. Another elderly client rules out step ups because she has stairs in her home and could do them on her own.
Me: “So, do you do step ups on your own?”
Client: “Well, I could.”
And hypothetically, you could be fit, too.

2. “That WAS 12″.
Do not count. Me trainer. You client. You do the exercises and don’t tell me my count is wrong because it isn’t. If our counts are different and you choose yours over mine I am instantly enraged and in return I will no longer laugh at your jokes this session. My job is to count over and over and over again. While you are working out I am involuntarily counting everyone’s reps because I can’t turn it off. I have caught myself counting breaths, counting steps, and counting other people’s reps by accident. I can tell you stories, respond to your questions, and cue you meanwhile I actually cannot lose count if I tried. Nothing makes me angrier than a client finishing three reps short and telling me I can’t count to 12. I am literally standing and counting to 12.

3. “My son can deadlift more than some NHL guys”.
Well it’s too bad you aren’t as strong as your son. How about you start working out and then you can brag about how much you lift.
After being told this exact line every time we did deadlifts I snapped at my client that it was too bad the NHL wasn’t a deadlift competition. I don’t care if you know someone who is strong because it does not make you stronger by association. I spend as much time in the gym as I do in my house, please don’t think I haven’t seen some people lift heavy things.

4. “Can you lift this?”
Do not ask me if I can do your workout. I made your workout.
When clients ask me if I can lift as much as them or if I could do their workouts I want to straight up tell them it is too stupid of a question to answer. Unless we are the same age and gender, with the same background, injuries, and trying to reach the same goals, these questions (and answers) are pointless. These questions always come from the guys that just want a big pat on the back, so don’t make me embarrass you and just ask me how it looks. Yes I see you lifting heavy things, I was the one who taught you.

5. “Sorry I’m late, you can still do a full hour, right?”
No. Don’t show up late and think I won’t make you regret your life choices.
Yesterday a client was running late, then got caught in traffic and showed up 15 minutes before the end of the session. I’m not kidding. No we can’t do an hour now because you paid me to watch TSN for 45 minutes. 15 minutes later he had sweat dripping off his nose and was laying in the corner.
Come on time.

6. “But this is haaaarrrrrrd”.
Yes I know.
I push myself harder than I push most of my clients so it gets hard to listen to someone who spent their life getting fat complain about how hard it is to sit on a bench and stand up again. I love people changing their lifestyles for the better and it is a process, but please don’t cry your way through it.  This is a waste of both our time, but mostly it is beyond boring for me to watch you sit on a bench and whimper. It is extremely painful for me to try to motivate someone who does not want to be motivated. And TSN is on the TV behind you. You do not want to make me choose where to focus my attention.

7. This is not therapy.
When I ask you to move heavy things I don’t mean put your emotional baggage on my back.
I have a degree in Kinesiology and no I don’t know what you should do about your bad decision making and poor life choices. My clipboard is for tracking your sets and reps, not your emotions. Please don’t use your session to tell me every shockingly intimate detail about your life; sometimes exercise can help you de-stress HINT HINT. I’m flattered you want to confide in me but I’ll pass.

8. I did not make you fat but I would like to help you.
Do not blame me when you don’t lose weight instantly because you did one workout then you pounded back beers and wings all weekend. This is a team effort but I am not your babysitter, I am not your mother, and I did not force feed you for the first 40 years of your life. You should consider that I see you 2-3 hours out of the 168 hours in a week. No matter how good a trainer is, they cannot account for the other 165 hours a week you aren’t with them.

9. Accept critique.
Or tell me in advance you have paid me to high five you and tell you that you are perfect the way you are.
I let a client do an entire disaster workout (not to the point he would get hurt) because he came in to train in an aggressively terrible mood, and he took my form cues as a personal attack. One rep in I told him to make a change to which he got mad and said I didn’t even give him a chance to do it right. A second identically terrible rep followed, then a defiant “OKAYYY?!” accompanying more incorrect reps. It is mind blowing how much money people spend to ignore me.

10. “But my friend says this way is best”.
Oh your friend sounds qualified. This isn’t NASA but I did a four year Honors Specialization degree and your friend ripped the workout page out of a Cosmo. This goes back to my point to let me do the job you are paying me to do.

I bet my clients could come up with a good list of their top 10 pet peeves about me… :)

 

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