What a ride: The inaugural Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria

A mass participation cycling event in Victoria lead by Tour de France 7th place finisher and local cycling phenom Ryder Hesjedal AND “Captain Canuck” Trevor Linden?

Sure, sign me up!

Why not fit that in amongst all of the half marathons and triathlon training I’ve been doing lately. Might as well do it, since I just bought a proper road bike and my work happened to be a founding sponsor. It’s hard to say no when you’re working at the event’s headquarters.

I have to admit, though, I was incredibly nervous about riding it. I signed up for the 90 km route, and only managed to do only one 75 km ride a week before the event. That felt surprisingly okay (no aches, pains or exhaustion), so I knew I could tackle the distance—it was just the pack riding and the weather I was worried about. (more…)

It’s time for an action plan

My YouTube debut. Thankfully, Dave was nice enough not to film me walking.

So it turns out I did actually tear a calf muscle. At the insistence of Kirsty, I went and made an appointment with Dr.Mike to get it checked out. That was my first time going to see a specialist for anything sports-injury related, and now I know why Kirsty didn’t tell me much about what to expect.

Active Release Therapy HURTS. Dr. Mike busted out this metal spatula device and started scraping my calf, like one might try to scrape the blackened burnt part off a piece of toast. But more violently.

Then he dug his thumb right into the torn muscle and asked me to FLEX my foot, which is something that hurt to do anyways, let alone with a thumb digging into the muscle. “Go go go go go! Pull pull pull!” I felt like a Biggest Loser contestant at the mercy of Jillian Michaels the way my face was contorting in pain.

But then I hopped off the table, and I could walk without a limp. I had zero pain in my calf, and haven’t felt pain in it since. Dr.Mike works (painful) miracles.

A few other pointers he gave me: You started out to fast. Get a coach, train properly. Six half marathons in one year is too much. No running for two weeks. Take up swimming and do some light cycling. You should be good to go for the Bear Mountain 10K  in November (yes! — that’s all I needed to hear).

So now my plan is to join a marathon running group and a triathlon club in January. I also need to take swimming lessons and get a proper bike. I signed up for the Gunnar Shaw as well, an off-road 10k at Thetis Lake in November that takes you through mud pits and freezing lake water (already bought some sweet trail running shoes for this adventure from MEC!), and have my sights set on doing the Island Race Series and another marathon in the spring.

Nothing helps to heal a running injury more than coming up with a new action plan — well, to help to mentally heal, anyway.

The marathon

GoodLife Victoria Fitness medals. Earned that gold one in the centre!

Well that was painful.

I think I may have underestimated the 42.2. I knew 32km hurt. But that extra 10km was excruciating.

All went well up until the 30km mark. I had run a solid half at 1:49 and was keeping up my 5:00 pace until about the 23km mark. I felt my calves get tighter and less willing to move, so I did a run-walk combination until the 30km mark. I was taking a walk break when Dave, the videographer, caught up with me and made me run again so it could at least LOOK like I was trying.

 He stayed with me until the 32km mark then rode off, and that’s when my left calf cinched up so tight I thought I heard a pop. I hobbled up the hill at Clover Point, tried to start jogging again and couldn’t get my legs to move. I felt two huge blisters under the pads of my feet just waiting to burst. That, coupled with the pain, changed my focus from sub-4:00 to just finishing.

But I didn’t care. As much as it hurt to even walk, I was happy to be out in the sun and excited that in a few hours time I’d be sitting down to a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with 15 of my family members, who would all be excited to hear stories about my first marathon.

Tyler was waiting for me with 3km to go. I was walking still, and he ran over to me and tried to get me to jog. I couldn’t do it. Thankfully, he had a bottle of painkillers with him and some water, so I down a few pills and continued walking. He stayed with me until I was coming up on the last 800 metres and the Tylenol kicked in. I started a pathetic jog, ignoring my pulled calf muscle.

I saw Katie near the finish line. When she saw me she waved, and I think I yelled out something like “Kill me now”. I have never been so happy to cross the finish line.

Numb from the pain killers and feeling pretty good since I had just been walking, not running, for the last 12km, I grabbed some post-race eats and met up with Tyler, Katie and Dave. Dave filmed me for a post-race recap, and I think all I said was “I get to go eat 2500 calories worth of Thanksgiving dinner right now, so I’m feeling pretty good.”

Yes, I’m disappointed. But that was my first marathon. I had no idea what to expect. I could go on about how I didn’t train enough and should have done more long runs, but I was just happy to finish. Now that I know, next time will be different. At least my time of 4:36 will be pretty easy to beat, so a new marathon PB is almost guaranteed.

42.2

Turned down wine with friends last night and stuck with water. Have successfully spent most of my day off my feet. Got a massage and a facial this morning (okay…so a facial isn’t really necessary prep for a race, but it was awesome). Carb-loaded. Hydrated. Still need to go for that last 10-minute run to loosen up the legs and make myself a pasta dinner.

I feel pressured to run well tomorrow. I know ‘just finishing’ is an achievement in itself, but it’s not just going to be Tyler waiting for me at the finish line; my parents will be there, standing on the sidelines somewhere in Oak Bay; one of my friends said she’s going to come and watch, even though I’ve never come to watch one of her baseball or soccer games (sorry Katie); my co-workers will be there, some running and some watching.

And not only that, my whole run is going to be documented and filmed for my company’s YouTube account and plastered all over our social media.

Talk about pressure! What kind of a YouTube video would that be if I got a DNF or had to walk after 30k due to disabling leg cramps?

Dave, our videographer, said he’ll be riding his bike alongside the course, filming me as I run. Great. Can’t wait to see myself at the 35k mark, shuffling like a zombie, face contorted in pain.

I hope I can block all of that out. I just want to focus on putting one foot in front of the other – hopefully at a 5:10 pace, listening to some awesome tunes and feeding off everyone’s energy.

The marathon countdown is on

Indy & me hiking up Mt. Kobau in Osoyoos in the summer.

24, 26, 30, and 32 down without a single blog post. I thought I was supposed to be blogging about my marathon training?

Maybe I didn’t because those longer runs were draining any desire I had to write about running. When you spend 2.5+ hours running on Sundays, the last thing you want to do is go home and relive it in a blog post. Not that I didn’t have some interesting runs.

I ran a 26km after work once with a backpack full of clothes, work shoes and lunch containers, into a strong headwind along part of the marathon course and then down the Goose. I was going away for the weekend to see a concert in the states, so it was then or never. I felt surprisingly good, although my upper back felt buggered.

I ran a 30km on the hottest day of the year. I ran Elk/Beaver Lake three times (was supposed to be doing a 32km that weekend), and I was so hot and dehydrated I jumped in the lake with my clothes on when I hit 30km (shoes and Garmin removed, of course). Just didn’t have it in me to go on.

Last weekend, I finally ran 32km. The plan was to do it the weekend before, but I ended up racing the Lands End Half Marathon that weekend (more on that in a minute). I went out the night before and had a few glasses of wine, so it took awhile for me to get going. I didn’t end up leaving until 4pm. When I set out, a group of Langford’s finest were stumbling their way to the Luxton Fair, beers in hand. One of them decided to run alongside me, much to the delight of his friends, as I made my way to the Goose. He was stumbling and struggling to keep up, saying something like “slow down, I’m spilling my beer!”, so I ran faster. He gave up after only 20 seconds!

After that amusing episode, I headed off down the Goose to Swan Lake and back. I felt great, took a bunch of walk breaks and made it about 25-28km before the leg cramps started. I ended up having to wait over 10 minutes to cross Sooke Road thanks to a broken cross walk button, which didn’t help the situation. By the time I reached 30km, my muscles were seized up and I had slowed down to about a 7:00 pace. Ugh. I overshot my kilometre estimate too, and finished my 32km still one kilometre from home. I hobbled home in the dark and ate my weight in pasta that night.

So here I am on the taper. I have a 1:30 run to do today. I did I 10km yesterday plus a workout DVD, which probably wasn’t the best idea, since my butt, legs and thighs are screaming at me right now. I need to ease up a bit with my workouts and wine consumption if I want to finish the marathon in an upright position.

More on Lands End: Kirsty and I both ran half marathon PBs at Lands End. So glad I gave up my Beerfest tickets for that weekend…I don’t think a PB would have been possible if I spent 6 hours drinking beer the day before.

It was pouring rain and the course was up-and-down, but I managed to finish in 1:45:46. About half of my kilometres were sub-5:00; crazy, since my usual training pace in 5:30-5:45. It’s amazing what your body can do when your racing.

Kirsty ran it in 1:56; a new PB for her after running the Nanaimo Half Marathon (and setting a PB there, too) the week before. Two consecutive halfs in two weeks; not even I would do that! She’ll be running the half at the GoodLife Victoria Marathon; a sense another new PB for her there, too!

I promise I’ll update more. Now with less time spent running, I’ have more time to write. The countdown is on.

What are those things on your feet?

My ugly toe-shoes. Tyler calls them my "fast" shoes.

Sometimes you have to forget everything you thought you knew about running.

After reading the popular Born to Run by Chris McDougall, I found myself in MEC trying on a pair of Vibram’s Five Finger shoes.

For those runner who haven’t read the book, it’s about a running tribe in Mexico called the Tarahumara that run crazy distances with nothing more than a thin piece of rubber under each foot, and never suffering any running injuries or problems despite all this.

A major portion of the book is dedicated to explaining why, as humans, we never needed shoes in the first place; apparently, barefoot running is the key to running more efficiently and injury-free, which is why I found myself in MEC trying on a pair of these silly-looking shoes mentioned in the book.

As I was stuffing my toes into the little toe slots in the water/paddling section at MEC, a few older ladies passed by the shoes on display, saying “Now who in their right mind would wear those? Those are hideous.”

Hideous, yes. But as an anthropology student, I couldn’t deny that the science in the book was compelling. According to Harvard biologist and runner Daniel Lieberman, the human foot is made to run. We never wore shoes for the first some-odd million years we’ve been on this planet, so why do we need all this cushioning, arch support and motion control that we apparently need now?

 Arch support? That’s what your arch is for, according to the science. For someone like myself, with flat feet, over-pronation control shoes just weaken your foot muscles by supporting and correcting everything for you. If I were to run barefoot (barefoot being clad in VFF’s – still gotta protect the skin on your feet), I would actually be able to rebuild the arch in my foot over time, making it stronger and more efficient at running, even changing my foot-strike pattern. Interesting, isn’t it?

So why is cushioning so bad? According to Dr. Lieberman, cushioned shoes cause you to strike the ground with your heel first, which is “literally like someone hitting you on the heel with a hammer.” All that cushioning and the way your foot strikes is more jarring than if you were to be running without cushioning or support, because your feet would come down mid-foot first and therefore much lighter as it makes contact with the ground. When all that cushioning is in the way, your body instinctly comes down hard until it finds solid ground. So in essence, according to Dr. Lieberman, “the way in which barefoot runners run is more or less collision-free,” making them far less prone to injuries that plague so many runners today.

From the race mentioned in 'Born to Run'. Check out the difference in the foot-strike between the two runners.

 But since we’ve been wearing this super-support shoes for the majority of our lives, you can’t just squeeze on a pair of VFF’s, run a marathon PB and never get injured again. We’re used to our support shoes, and to all of a sudden run barefoot would most definitely cause an injury. But if you build up to running barefoot, you can strengthen your feet, change your foot strike to mid-foot instead of heel, and ultimately run like we were meant to run: barefoot.

After a few short training runs in my VFF’s, I’ve noticed my calves burn a lot more after than when I wore my over-pronation control New Balance shoes. You do feel much lighter and quicker, and your feet turn over at a much faster rate when you run with a mid-foot strike.

But don’t your feet hurt with only a thin piece of rubber underneath?

Surprisingly, no. My feet feel great. That said, I’m not planning to run the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon in VFF’s.

Thanks to shoe companies realizing that what they’ve been doing all along is actually causing injuries rather than preventing them, there are some great minimalist shoes on the market right now. Even Nike jumped on the bandwagon with their Nike Free. Since I needed new running shoes for the marathon, I went with the Brooks Racer, a racing flat, instead of anything too minimalist to avoid injury.

I’ll wear my VFF’s and get strange looks from folks for my short, half-hour runs to strengthen my feet and help change my running style, but for long runs, I think I’ll stick my racing flats – for now.

Hitting the Great Wall

The Great Wall Marathon - Photo from www.great-wall-marathon.com

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t laced up my running shoes in 12 days.

In fact, I haven’t done any physical activity besides packing boxes, moving furniture and going housewares shopping.

I’ve tried everything to get out there for a run: setting my alarm clock for 4:00 am (didn’t work – went back to sleep), Tweeting my running plans for the day (never happened), putting on my running clothes as soon as I get in the door (I end up taking the dog out then looking up matching bedroom sets online).  Pathetic!

But I do have to give myself some slack. With the puppy and moving and my boyfriend working 15 hour days while all of this is going on, I haven’t had much free time. I feel guilty for not spending my free time doing something productive, like cleaning or unpacking, but then I also feel guilty for not running.

I bought four running magazines yesterday. I find they are the best inspiration when I’m in the rut like this. Reading about the tips, tribulations and triumphs of running always gets me out the door. If a new mom or someone going through chemo can find time to run, surely I can suck it up and find time. Or make time, if I have to.

I find nothing gets you more motivated to run like a goal race. Sure, I have my first marathon coming up in October and I haven’t run farther than 21.1 km yet…but that doesn’t seem to be enough.

So I have a new goal now, one that was planted into my head by my best friend the other day on Facebook. She has been living in Montreal for the past four years for school, and is coming home to Victoria soon. After graduating highschool and before university, she and I went backpacking in Thailand and New Zealand for two months, and we promised each other we would travel again after university. Well, she’s done, and I’m almost done.

 Yesterday she made the mistake of writing on my Facebook wall that we should run the Great Wall of China.

 Turns out there is a marathon there in May, and if funds are available, we’ll  be doing it.

Can’t think of a greater goal to get me psyched about running more than the Great Wall.

Running with puppy?

After a week of my puppy alarm clock going off at 4 am and the inability to leave Indy unattended in the condo, my running has seriously suffered this week.

I tried to compensate by riding my bike to work twice this week.  I love riding, but when you are trying to become a more efficient runner, you need to be running. I managed one 20-minute run after leaving Indy with my parents, and another 30-minute run yesterday after a 45-minute Jillian Michaels DVD that pretty much depleted any energy I had for running.

The ride to work is about 17 or so kilometres, and it takes me about an hour to get there and another hour to get home.  I have a crappy mountain bike that needs some TLC (the chain in so covered in dirt and mud it takes almost five minutes so change gears), so I feel like I have to work extra hard JUST to go at a decent clip.  It sucks getting passed by every single rider on the Goose – even 70-year-old men pass me.   

I’d love to get a $3000 bike one day so I can do a tri or a du and not have my bike to blame for slowing me down. I could just take the time and take it somewhere for a tune-up, and I will, but it’s at the bottom of my enormous To Do list this summer at the moment.

Next week is going to be even busier; we move into the house, and it needs to be painted and cleaned, so I’m going to have to fit in running when I can. At least in a house I can leave Indy in his pen and let him howl all he wants – I’m so worried about leaving him in the condo and pissing off the neighbours that I take him to my parents house anytime I have to go do anything, whether it’s grocery shopping or running. And howl he does – it’s so loud and nerve-wracking, I bet the whole building can hear him.  I can only take 10 minutes of it before I reappear to make him be quite, which a big no-no according to Cesar Millan; if you reappear when he’s howling, it will only make him think that all he has to do is whine to get his humans to come back.  You have to ignore him, and he’ll stop eventually. But not in this condo!

Living with a puppy and being a runner makes me wonder how running moms do it. Indy is like a child, and I was fully prepared for the change in my lifestyle, but now my WHOLE schedule revolves around this tiny little mutt.

He’s the sweetest little thing, and I already have him sitting on command and shaking a paw (at 8 weeks old!), but I want him to just settle down long enough for me to do what I want to do. When I said this to my mom, she said “Better get used to this! This is training for having kids!” Ugh, not yet.

So after lunch with mom and dad today (who have been so awesome looking after Indy everyday for almost 12 hours at a time) I’m going to see if I can run around my old ‘hood (which will soon be my neighbourhood once again!) for an hour and a bit. The weather looks perfect for running, so I just hope I can keep my energy up that long – I’m a morning runner, and seriously struggle to get the motivation to run in the late afternoon.

Indy & Me

Eating some grass at six-weeks old

Things are going to be a bit different next week.

But it’s all part of the process, right?

You move out with the boyfriend, buy a couch together, split the bills, open a joint bank account, and spend your Saturdays at Home Depot looking at paint chips.

Then you get a puppy.

I’m thrilled, obviously, because I love animals. I’ve always had pets – lizards, rats, cats, dogs, you name it.  My boyfriend Tyler, on the other hand, only had a hamster when he was quite young, and it died not long after they got it. He could care less if we got an animal, but it’s what you do. 

Last night, at a friend’s birthday party, three couples out of our group of friends brought their dogs. They were tearing all over the house, fighting, chewing, puking. Give it a couple more years and the dogs will be left at home; instead, everyone will be bringing their kids to parties and letting them tear all over the house, fighting, chewing, puking.

Indy the sausage dog

As much as I’ve been fighting this “process”, it’s happening. I always thought I’d be some sort of nomad writer, travelling to exotic locals and writing about worldly issues. 

But as of next week, my boyfriend and I will be responsible for a cute bundle of fluff, and not long after that, a house with a yard that will require many more Saturday trips to Home Depot.

As much as I long for travel and adventure, I like where I am in my life.  It’s quaint.  I’m reminded of that scene in the film Marley and Me, where John (the main character who writes a column about his lab Marley for a local newspaper) bumps into his old writer buddy who has been travelling the world, writing about Pulitzer prize-winning issues.  His friend talks briefly about his latest writing assignment, then asks John how his life has been.  John pulls out a family photo of his wife, kids and Marley, and beams. You can see the pang of jealous on John’s friend’s face.  

And it’s true  –  when you don’t have anyone to enjoy your time spent on earth with, what’s the point?  And who’s to say I can’t write and travel eventually? When I do, at least I’ll have something to come home to and share my adventures with.

Indy and his sister meeting some older dachshund pups - look how cute Indy's face is!

So I’ve stopped fighting the process.  Last weekend, we bought a puppy pen, chew toys, and a bed.  I’ve been reading Cesar Millan’s puppy training book, and I’m all set to go. The parents are all saying this is good training for other responsibilities, but I’m not even thinking about that yet. 

I’m just excited to have an ensthusiastic running and hiking buddy that will always be willing to hit the trails with me 🙂

The Fort Rodd Hill Historic hills, rain, fire, delays & baby ducks Half Marathon

Early morning fire that shortened the half-marathon route. Photo credit the Dale Langdon from the Times Colonist website

When I crossed the finish line today for the Fort Rodd Hill Historic Half Marathon in roughly one hour and 49 minutes, I wasn’t super excited or feeling like I could take on the world – the way I usually feel after completing a challenging half-marathon, let alone getting a new PB.

I felt too good to feel accomplished.

My legs felt great, for starters.  When I stopped to lift my foot to have my timing chip removed, I didn’t strain to find my balance and the muscle power like I usually do. I casually walked over to my parents, who were patiently waiting for me to cross the finish line in the rain, and gave them hugs instead of staggering around zombie looking for chocolate milk and a place to sit.

During the race, I kept up a great pace – I started slow and picked it up to a 5:17 – 5:20 pace, and I didn’t breathe hard except when I ran up the hills.  I crossed the finish line with a PB of 1:49:17, but I knew I was a little slower than that.

An early morning fire destroyed part of the Colwood Plaza, and I guess they shut down the portion of the Galloping Goose Trail that we were supposed to run on.  After a half-hour delay, we ended up running all the way along Sooke Road instead of taking the Goose Trail.  Since I knew this would shorten the route, I knew my time was going to be off.  Not knowing your exact distance and time can be an issue for some runners; I know it is for me. Sometimes races or PB goals come down to the seconds, so accuracy is important.

As soon as I got home, I mapped out both routes using Walkjogrun.com.  My best guess is the race was shortened by about 400m.  According to my pace running a 20.7 km race, I should have come in around 1:52, which is still my half-marathon PB by two minutes.  So why wasn’t I completely elated when I crossed the finish line like I was at BMO?

I think the combination of not knowing my exact time and not feeling totally gassed at the end made it feel like just another run.  It was also a small event; maybe 200 runners or so.  Everyone was fairly spaced out on the road, so most of the time I didn’t see other runners; I just felt like I was out on a long Sunday run on the Esquimalt Lagoon loop.

Or maybe I’m just becoming more efficient, and should start to step it up to the marathon distance?

It was a great run, though.  The jazercise at the start was quite amusing, and it was a well-organized race.  The scenery was great, too; the lighthouse, the old historic forts, and the lagoon are definitely the highlights.

Other highlights for me included seeing my friend Meghan watching out of the window of her house, then coming outside to cheer me on when I ran past.  It was also kind of cool seeing the damage from the blaze, although I do feel bad for the owners of that property. I got to meet Kirsty, which was great, and see her come flying down towards the finish line in great form! I also saw some cute baby ducks waddling along down on the beach at the lagoon – all in a day’s run!

So what did I do right this time as opposed to my last half-marathon? I think the constant excercise and running the week prior had a lot to do with the condition of my body during the run.  I’ve also been doing yoga three times a week to stretch and breathe, which I think helped a lot. 

So what’s next? I would like to do two of the GutBuster Trail Running Series runs, and will be adding kilometres to my Sunday runs to build up to the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon in October.

But for now, it’s time for feet up, rolling-pin, lap top and food!

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