Monthly Archives: October 2013

Round 2

Last you heard from me, I had upgraded my comeback to ‘quest’ status. And I take my questing very seriously. So, I am throwing myself back into it. I am registered to race next Sunday. Eight days to get things together is potentially not my best idea but the race payment has gone through so let’s see what happens.

Race photos from last weekend were finally posted so I could witness the pain all over again, as well as experience it from a new angle. My impatient wait for photos was rewarded with pictures I have no recollection of. That is the funny thing about finish line photos; our brains are half dead and half on speed. I swore I was alone but it turns out there are three women right behind me.

And nothing breaks your confidence like seeing someone you perceive as “unfit” in your finish line photo. Is that a terrible thing to say?

My mom has a finish line photo featuring a white haired, frail looking man right behind her, and I remember her pointing that out a few times. The problem is that several races can finish at the same time so you just don’t know who will photobomb your memories. The cropping feature was invented for finish line photos.

Maybe my goal for Sunday will be to make sure I finish with lots of space around me. Who knows, maybe I can photoshop in a Kenyan or two.

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23 Seconds

I spent most of last night laying awake in bed listening to the screaming winds push my Adirondack chairs back and forth on my balcony like it was a ship rocking in a storm. I watched the clock delaying the time I would have to get up to bring the chairs in to rescue the cars below. I probably only slept for about 4 hours partly because the wind kept me up, and partly because it was race day. The Weather Network was left open on my laptop; I refreshed it more times than I could count as if that would somehow stop The Perfect Storm outside.

Once I got up, I had my usual breakfast and put on everything I had laid out the night before, like the first day of school. Not feeling too nervous, I decided to take a cab instead of a bus because I wanted to stay as dry as possible (and yes at the time I thought this might be possible). I arrived to a scene of runners huddled under umbrellas and tents, and spectators looking like they were all dragged out of their cozy beds against their will. The turn out was still really good, it was just lacking the energy that good weather brings out in people.

The race started smoothly and I felt really good. The first kilometre was a herd of women jockeying for position on a narrow bike path while sidestepping deep puddles and slippery leaves. When I saw the first kilometre marker, I felt relaxed, I had a good position, but I was 30 seconds behind pace. This wasn’t the time to panic yet because I consistently run the second half faster. It was on my mind, though. I pushed on and I ran at the pace I had planned on for the next 3km.

At the 4km mark, my watch read 20:39 and that first kilometre came back to haunt me. I ran to the finish by myself on a winding path that made it harder to try to pick off the women ahead. The headwind did not let up but neither did I. The finish line came and I crossed it vertical, and tired, but running. I still felt surprisingly strong, but finish line photos always make you second guess that you were more than half alive. I will report back after I see what state of contortion my face was in.

My chip time was 25:23 and although my initial reaction was frustration and disappointment, those have faded, and a runner’s high is all that is left. I did not reach my goal but I ran, and all things considered, I ran well. Now that I am back home, I am doing the next logical thing anyone would do; I am signing up for another 5km race.

My goal is still a 25 minute 5k, but now it feels like a quest. I haven’t reached it yet but I can taste it. And it tastes like rum and coke… wait no. That’s my celebratory rum and coke.

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‘Twas The Night Before…

As the race approaches, stress increases, and blog posting accelerates! If you love cheesy puns and motivational sayings then keep refreshing this page!

I picked up my race kit today so I am officially ready to go according to my post it note checklist. When I got there, my name was on the registration list twice and my age was wrong (on both). Smooth sailing so far! The weather forecast for tomorrow is cold, wet, extra windy, and extra terrible. Feels like -1 degree Celsius, 90% chance of rain, and winds 45-69km/h. The course is an out and back route, and according to these forecasts the gale force winds will be against us in the second half. I thought I was challenging myself enough but the world wants me to know that it is still the one in charge. You don’t have to be an athlete to realise that these conditions are far from ideal to set a personal best, but stranger things have happened. Or so I keep trying to convince myself.

Today I was a stressed out disaster, accepting all well wishes with a shudder and a wave of nausea. Why did I tell people that I was racing?! I know myself and I know that I will ask this over and over again until I finish tomorrow. Then perhaps continue to wonder. And I probably will never come up with an answer. Us runners are a strange breed.

This is just the beginning, though. Being one race in means big things to come. This is the baseline to my fresh start (again) and I am confident I can get to the finish line even in if it is an army crawl of partial consciousness. That would be more aerodynamic anyways. Some of my parts may be gimpy but I know how to work them like the tricks you learn to keep your parents’ minivan idling without overheating.

Okay.

No more talk of mental strategy or disfigured body parts.

No more weather based (or unrelated) excuses because the race hasn’t started yet.

My game face is on.

And so are my pajamas.

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It’s The Fiiii-nal Countdown

As my pre-race week diminishes, my relationship with my foam roller has been upgraded to intimate and exclusive. I feel like an unprepared disaster, and 5k feels like a marathon.

All I really need to do is stay out of my head. Those who know me, know that over-analyzing is just my “thing”. My mind is already gone down paths of what comes next if I achieve my goal, or how do I respond if I fall short. What I should really be concerned about is how I have run more this week than I have any other week in the past year and that seems like a terrible send-off to race weekend. We will all question our training once the competition gets close, but I may still be adding to questions to the list I will have to answer.

The only thing I can do now is watch YouTube clips of slow motion running montages while screaming along to a loop of Europe’s The Final Countdown.

Join me?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sblvu-PvTi4#t=157 ] Thanks to RN for the slo mo montage!

[ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jK-NcRmVcw ]

I have one last tune up (overhaul) with my chiropractor tomorrow, one day before the race. Hopefully he can snap my body parts back in place just long enough for me to give myself my own readjustment, as my runs always seem to disorient my skeleton.

The weather looks like it will be cold and wet which is the condition I ran my 25:05. I will do my best to recreate everything else from that run, and just hope my legs are under me on Saturday! 🙂

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25 Minutes

4 days to race day.

I have run twice in the past two days and my back is tighter than skinny jeans on an emo kid. It radiates up my neck into my brain and prevents the “stop making it worse” messages from reaching my body. My neck is so immovable I will have no choice but to be Frankenstein for Hallowe’en. Oh wait I am a 20- something female in Toronto… I meant to say “sexy” Frankenstein.

My goal keeps changing depending on the stability of my mental state, which I wish I could blame entirely on muscle tension. So I will put it in writing one last time before I race. My goal is to run under 25 minutes.

I work long days and I work hard. So what is 25 minutes?! I can do anything for 25 minutes. I’ve done this before, I can do it again. This is no crazy standard I have set for myself. It is just a time I have picked that will make me feel like I am getting back to normal. If this race doesn’t go as planned, then I am no further behind; the only difference is that the internet has documentation that I had a bad day. And my friends have Facebook so the internet has already seen me when I’m not at my best. Nothing new to see here, folks.

Whatever time the clock reaches before I catch it, I will be setting a personal best for my new self. No one will know what time I expected or if I have ever even run before. No one knows what it took to get me to the start line or what I will do beyond the finish. I will be running for myself, and I will be running for 25 minutes.

Forget about times, injuries, and training runs. Leave behind the disappointment and frustration of uncontrollable obstacles.

This is my first race back and that is unbeatable.

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What’s For Dinner?!

The always popular question with an ever elusive answer: What is for dinner?! Every day you ask yourself this, kids ask you, or maybe your other half is asking. Food is a part of our lives that will always be present and always be significant. So we should know what we are doing, right.

I am not ashamed to admit I have my weaknesses. Popcorn- I’m a big fan. Marshmallows- I can eat these by the handful. I have already written about rum and cokes more than once. The key is balance and to limit items full of sugar and empty calories. Self control is essential to success, but if you can’t treat yourself occasionally then it will end with a binge and you will regain consciousness with chocolate all over your face and hands. Or so I have heard. Try to plan meals in advance so save yourself the “what is for dinner” question when it is 6pm on a weeknight, and you are staring at the back of your fridge.

A great article was sent to me by a friend about misconceptions of foods and diets that are very prevalent in our world right now. If anything, my style may be a little too free-spirited with the opinion that everything in moderation is the best way to be. My issue in coaching is probably recognizing that a client with a differing definition of moderation might as well be told to keep doing exactly what they are doing. To be honest, I don’t think I can even define moderation. If my pants get tight then I adjust my diet and workouts. That is hard to explain as an an objective plan. The article I’ve attached is definitely more informative than my method of “let’s see what happens when I do this”. For the record, I tend to experiment with myself and not my clients. 🙂

Check out this article from Business Insider on “Nutrition Lies That Made The World Sick and Fat” and see how many of these had you fooled. If it is too much information, just read the bolded summaries at the end of each point. From eggs, to whole wheat, to the carb and protein ratio, this article does a fantastic job targeting all of the biggest myths in my opinion. Aside from the idea that it eating celery is a negative calorie activity… I don’t know who started that but stop spreading it, people.

Consider that different goals require a different diet but I think everyone can take some value from this piece. The second point is my favourite!

Here is the link: http://www.businessinsider.com/13-nutrition-lies-that-made-the-world-sick-and-fat-2013-10?op=1

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The Friday Sessions

There is no workout harder than the Friday afternoon workout. Not necessarily for the reasons you may think. It has nothing to do with the amount of workouts that come before it in the week, or the program I have planned.

During my weekly workout sessions in the gym, I am usually filling a long break between clients. I can take my time between exercises, make awkward conversation with strangers, watch sports highlights, and make sure I don’t miss any of the good songs on my iPod. I enjoy doing all of these things and I take advantage of the time. Whoever set up the seated leg press in front of the TV showing TSN highlights may as well have added my nameplate to the machine. It is an invitation I always accept- to sit and catch up what I missed because I went to bed before the good stuff happens in everything, until someone wants to use it and I have to “work in” with them. My workouts are so long that I have gone with friends to Hero Burger partway through, and I really wish that was a lie. My sessions get spread into various gaps throughout the day which is absolutely less effective, and makes for an unsettling half-sweaty feeling that leaves me unsure where I stand in terms of hygiene standards appropriate for working in a gym.

Friday afternoon workouts are like Eye of the Tiger is being played on a loop, sped up, and volume loud like an airplane. They are like drill sergeants are screaming at you to do more, keep pushing harder, and keep doing it faster. I will sacrifice my reputation to pretend I didn’t hear someone start a conversation and I will let go of my pride as I make loud, whining sounds as I run to the next exercise. Hydration is a dump over the head, a swig with a spit. I can chug water bottles on the way home.

For real. It’s Friday.

Resistance training somehow ends up as cardio as I navigate the floor in a haphazard yet diehard sort of way. I will cut people off to get to the smallest weights, and I will not be embarrassed to be visibly strained before I run to the next exercise avoiding eye contact (I assume would be dirty looks).

I will apologize on Monday. But it is Friday.

I am not getting my “pump” on to go out. Likely, I am going home to an involuntary nap and then episodes of New Girl after I wake up too late to go out. I am not a girl who preps for the weekend like it is the day before a bikini- demanding vacation. My brain has processed how close I am to going home for the weekend and I physically cannot reduce my heart rate until I see the outside world.

Friday workouts require a big effort, a slightly crazy mentality, and a relationship status of single (due to moderate unpredictability of weekend napping to follow).

My plan is to get a run in this weekend and since my back survived my Friday session, it should be good to go. Wave if you see me, I’ll be running with Rub A535 in one hand and a rum and coke in the other.

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Baby Got Back

I like to consider myself inquisitive; second guessing or over analyzing may also apply.

Whatever the case may be, I can’t help but question my race preparation. Maybe I’ve done this enough times to just let it happen, and I am more ready than I let myself think. Or maybe I’m off the trail without a GPS. In my opinion, a big part of preparation is motivation. As much as my posts may be demonstrating brain waves that seem to zig zag and curve at will, I have the firm stance that motivation and “grit” (for lack of a better word) can trump inherited athleticism. Not always, but always possible. Maintaining that drive is race preparation.

I have pictures, mottos, quotes, sayings; motivational images of all sorts saved to my computer. I see where I want to be, I get motivated, I get excited, and I get my shoes on. When I need that pump up I am running alone, and what never comes to mind is some image I flipped by on my laptop.

Is motivation justified by getting out and running? Or does it mean we have to post about it on our social media, fill our closets with bright and flashy shoes, and finish runs with a slow motion water bottle chug? If you’re reposting images of others exercising behind a Starbucks latte and a snuggie, I struggle to tie that to motivation. That is promotion.

Does being driven and invested only manifest itself in a way that would mean living by the standards of carbo loading, electrolyte refueling, and IT band massaging? It can be an internal conflict to maintain motivation, but isn’t that normal because sport can be a painful passion after all. At this point, I will trust in my comfort zone and my ‘fly by the seat of my running shorts’ training style and see where my feet take me. Hopefully the end point is out of my comfort zone as that is the most encompassing way I can define success right now.

I have to admit that I feel a level of preparedness in the chaos that is my body trying to navigate the world. Maybe once you accept that your strategy is mayhem, you can relax and brush off all these events that don’t seem to support the end goal. This is a strategy, I swear. I am still moving therefore I am still progressing.

After my Canadian Thanksgiving with the family, today was my first day back to the gym after my back attack. Once again, there was so much genuine concern for me that I think I will just start sitting out front and ringing a bell with a  donation box. I started my new (and it darn well better be) improved rehab program. I am working towards square one and I will get there when I get there. On paper, this workout would have appeared that it was for someone who had lost their left arm and left leg and was hitting the gym for the first time. Let me tell you that this, coupled with my nicknames like Hop-along, and Limp Biscuit, are not ideal ways to sell myself as a trainer. Live and learn.

My fantastic nickname- creating co-workers do help me out, though. They all had ideas to contribute for how to best fix my back but my small and weak muscles fatigued before I could accept all their help. I am hopeful that it won’t take too long to regain some balance but it is hard to activate half my back throughout the day. When the weak side fatigues, exercise becomes detrimental because I’m jacking up the jacked side. Keep in mind I teach exercise for a living. Having experienced one potential outcome of a muscle imbalance, I am pretty eager to avoid that road again. Deep tissue massages and I will be best friends forever.

At this point, I have no strategy. I do, however, know what shoes I will wear. And I feel like that might be enough because I know I can get myself to the start line (with shoes on). And once we are all lined up in wait, we are all equal, and it is anybody’s day. Who worked the hardest to get to the start line, who can translate that into energy in the race… and then who can carry me home…?

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Not Back(ing) Out

On Thursday I woke up to my 430am alarm as usual and hopped out of bed. No crying, no swearing, and no pillow punching. I should have known something was wrong. My 3 kilometer walk to work was normal; a half asleep attempt at speed walking in the morning darkness. It wasn’t until I reached work that I realised how achy my back was. But as far as my normal goes, that is pretty much normal.

Time turned this ache into a soreness, then a stiffness, then immobility. And pain. And constriction. And an inability to do anything except lean awkwardly on whatever sturdy object was close by. A few (long) hours later, I was wincing in pain, seeing spots, and experiencing shooting pains in my spine. It felt like morphing into Larry King’s posture with the fluidity of a creaky robot. And not the good kind of robot like on the dance floor.

By the time I got home, I couldn’t get my shoes off or change my clothes so I just laid down on the floor. Not as graceful or simple as I made that sound, either. Picture it like I was being magnetically drawn to the floor but resisting it the whole way. Or one of those dancing inflatable attractions being deflated in slow motion. That is as best as I can describe it considering I had my eyes closed and was trying to hit the floor with my necessities as close to me as possible.

So living alone has its pros and cons. Con: My text response time was drastically reduced. My phone mocked me as it lay 6″ from my fingers. Pro: It wasn’t awkward when I did my ugly cry in a pile of cramped muscle on the floor.

Luckily for everyone involved, the desire to not pee my pants was the motivation I needed to get me vertical. I had spent nearly 6 hours on my back like a turtle that had flipped over, and to express the seriousness of the situation, I did not voluntarily or involuntarily nap at all. My love for sleep is borderline narcolepsy so that is saying a lot. My attempts to stand mimicked a professional women’s tennis match where each muscle contraction was a high pitched, over- enthused scream. I hope my neighbours thought it was tennis anyways.

I actually could not figure what caused this, and trust me I had a lot of time to think. Could it have been my back workout from the previous day? Or could it have been something I did in my sleep? It is sad when you can’t differentiate the two in intensity. I got in to see an RMT the next morning who was surprised I was still walking. I’ve heard that enough times that it is essentially meaningless to me now and my reflex response is something like a mindless,  “oh thanks, you too”. Basically, my asymmetries had built up so much that the muscles doing all the hard work cramped up, and once one seized, all the other ones joined the party. My “quick fix” is three sessions of deep tissue massage and a slap across the face to my rehab program. Not quick at all.

I was told this was bound to happen at some point considering what shape I was in, but may I suggest to everyone not to get injured right before a long weekend. It is really terrible timing if you would like medical treatment. I did singlehandedly make a large contribution to the company that makes Rub A535, as I spent several days in a cocoon of muscle relaxant which really helped. The amount of rum and cokes I had could also be an argument for my recovery too. Since I can’t be sure, I will keep up with both.

This was another setback to my journey, but what is a comeback if there is no challenge?! This was a learning experience for me anyways: being an RMT is now a requirement to date me, and I probably enjoy the smell of Rub A535 too much. I have so much sympathy and respect for anyone with chronic back pain but that being said, I don’t want to be one of them.

So here we go again. I have added another medical professional to my team and I’m back in business.

Cheesy puns come standard.

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Eyes on the Prize

This strategy of listening to my body seems to be paying off for me. I have spent most of my time with weights in the gym, doing my shoulder exercises, and foam rolling until I’m nauseous and what do you know; I just ran a 25:05 on a 5km route.

Previous runs have been faster, less physically and mentally painful, and much more effortless. But this feels so much more rewarding. Today is a victory for me… despite the fact I’m going to miss all of Sunday football. Again.

This is what I needed. My goals keep changing and my body keeps changing and I keep moving towards wherever I am going. I don’t think of myself as inconsistent or not committed, but I have changed so much in the past year that I am just adapting as my standards and ideals change. I am consistent because I listen and respond to my body.

Post- race will be another big re-evaluation for me because I haven’t completely stressed myself out with life changing decisions yet. Close but not quite. Running will never be abandoned as it always steps up in my life when I need it but I can be unbiased enough to recognize that my body responds best to other forms of training. After my run today I was rewarded with sharp knee pains and overwhelming tightness in odd places showing me a flash forward to my future as a crippled old woman. In a wheelchair. With all my trophies piled on my lap.

To earn today’s pops, cracks, and twinges I ran a time I’m actually happy with. I said I would be happy if I go under 25 flat when I race and I’m pretty darn close. What makes me happiest is how close I came to quitting and how hard I worked to keep going. Few experiences match the high of a solitary maximal effort. No one knows where my route ends and no one will make me run until I barf, except me. I did what I set out to do (and I kept everything down).

I have to admit: this is the first time I have run a full 5km since… probably over a year ago? And yes I am racing a 5km in 3 weeks; it is a weird training style absolutely. But my body didn’t feel like it could do it before, so I didn’t make it. This could have backfired and (knock on wood) could still work against me. But how can some pre-planned workout schedule know how my legs will feel, what my terrible schedule will allow, or adjust to where my head will be at. I don’t know even know these things. My body won’t advance in regularly timed intervals so neither will my program.

After my run, I texted one of my good friends who I used to sell running shoes with (think dream team style). He is a fantastic athlete and all of his times blow mine out of the water, yet he has this amazing enthusiasm for my modified distances and increased times. Sure enough, he follows up to my run time with a link to a race in support of a donkey sanctuary, where my time would have placed me as the first female. A donkey shaped trophy would really add to my apartment but running and being supported is rewarding enough.

Maintaining commitment to anything is worthy of reward but committing to something, working hard, and seeing progress is a reward in itself and I can’t promote that enough. That is probably why I work in fitness? Or maybe it is because I just like a career that lets me spend the day in stretchy pants.

Feeling rewarded, motivated, and supported; the countdown to race day is on.

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”   -Theodore Roosevelt

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