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!

Constant state of taper

I’m going to try something different this week.

For the past few half-marathons, I’ve been taking it pretty easy the week before a race.  I might do two runs, one 10k and one 20-minute easy run, 30 minutes of yoga and maybe free weights.  The week before the Oak Bay Half, I did one 30-minute run and one 20-minute.  The problem is, I’m training for a marathon, yet when I sign up for these half-marathons, I feel like I’m in a constant state of taper.  I think to myself, you have a race next week, you can take it easy… but really, I should treat these races as part of my training, since they are not my goal races. 

Or maybe I’m just using that as an excuse to be lazy?

Not this time.  I’m filling my schedule this week with normal workouts – 30-, 45-, 30-, 30-, and 20-minute runs, free weights twice this week and at least three 30-minute yoga sessions.  Friday will be my rest day.

I ran the Fort Rodd Hill Half-Marathon loop once, minus the portion down by the lighthouse.  It’s about a 10km loop, and I ran it in about 55 minutes.  Let’s see how my training schedule will affect my race on Sunday!

Well, it’s been a month

Remember how I said no more half marathons for at least a month? Well, it’s been a month (almost), and next weekend I’ll be running the Fort Rodd Hill Historic Half Marathon.  How could I not run a half marathon in my ‘hood?  I used the Esquimalt Lagoon loop route as part of my training for the Bear Mountain 10K.  I decided right off the bat that I would not be going for any time records here, since this route involves a HUGE hill, one comparable to some of the hills on the Bear Mountain course.  According to the route map, it looked as if we would be running up this hill; however, after Kirsty pointed out to me that the elevation map showed otherwise, I might try to go for a decent time – decent in the sense of around the two-hour mark, considering my lack of training in the past two weeks. 

I’ve been a bad runner.

I’ve done maybe four runs since the Oak Bay Half, and a handful of workouts.  I’m just transitioning to a new job for the summer (a really awesome job by the way, one where I get to write and blog about travel and get paid for it!) so I’ve been busy and haven’t figured out my workout schedule yet.  It’s okay, though.  I have about four-and-a-half months to train for the full RVM, which, by the way, is now known as the Goodlife FitnessVictoria Marathon. I can’t wait to dust off the ‘ol bike and take the Goose to work again – lucky for me my work has change rooms with showers, so I don’t have to sit there with helmet hair all day.  It’s nice to mix up the running with a bit of outdoor biking now and again.

No more half marathons…for at LEAST a month

 

Me running the Oak Bay Half

Running the Oak Bay Half, trying to keep up with Mere (to the left). Photo credit Yan Lyesin

As I shuffle around in pain in my condo today, I will think about the do’s and don’ts of running half marathons.  The first being, don’t run races two weeks apart until you become a running machine; you will hit the wall a lot sooner than you expect.  The second is, you know not to start out too fast, so don’t do it.  I could blame that on the fact I saw a friend at about kilometre three and I wanted to run with her, so I kept up with her pace of about 5:05 for 13kms.  We ended up running to the halfway point at about 54 minutes, four minutes faster than my last race in Vancouver.  I told her I was going to hit the wall, probably to excuse myself if she left me in the dust, which was another mistake.  By running too fast and getting myself in that mindset, I got a cramp, my legs got heavy, and I watched her fade into the distance.  The rest of the race after that was a slog; I got cramp after cramp, and my legs didn’t want to move.  It was interesting reading Tori’s post about her Oak Bay Half experience, because I read a similar article in iRun magazine about your brain telling your body to quit before it’s ready as a mechanism of preservation.  I kept trying to tell myself my legs are fine, but the nasty hills in the last few kilometres told me otherwise.

I actually ran a decent time of 1:56:18, which I would have been elated about two weeks ago.  But when you run a faster time two weeks prior, running a slower time is disappointing, but at least it made me learn a lesson: listen to the  advice from training programs and running magazines, it really DOES help.

What’s your pre-race ritual/superstition?

I know we all do it.  Anyone who has trained for any sort of sporting event has their superstitions or rituals they practice before an event.  For runners, we make sure we eat a dinner packed with carbs, keep ourselves hydrated and get some quality shut-eye the night before a race.  Some of our rituals may be necessities, such as avoiding heavy or fibre-rich meals so we don’t have tummy troubles during our race the next day, or going for a short run to stretch out our legs rather than completely rest up. 

Now that I’ve competed in three half marathons, I’ve noticed some particular pre-race patterns.  Idealistically, I do a 20-minute easy run the night before, eat a healthy chicken/grain/veggie dinner, stretch, relax, sleep for eight hours, get up feeling like an Olympian, eat a high carb breakfast two hours before, run the race and set a new PR.  But it’s never happened that way.  Take my last race, for example.  I shopped around Vancouver all day in uncomfortable shoes that left blisters on my heels, drank three glasses of wine at dinner, went to bed late, had a shitty sleep on a fold out couch, and, consequently, ran a great race and set a new PR.  For my first half marathon in October, I had food poisoning the whole week prior and couldn’t run for six days, only managing a bit of chicken noodle soup and a 20-minute run the night before the race.  I ran that race in under two hours (my goal was to run it under 2:07).

This time, for the Oak Bay Haf Marathon, I barely ran all week since I was so busy with other things, but I ate a healthy chicken stir fry dinner tonight and did a 20-minute slow run.  When I got back, I did 15 minutes of runner’s yoga, ate some cereal, and now I’m ready for bed at a decent time.  But I’m concerned.  My best races happen when I do everything the opposite of what running magazines and training programs will tell you to do. 

Should I bust out a bottle of Gewürztraminer and eat a bag of chocolate chips now? Might be just what I need.

BMO Half Marathon: success!!

I can’t believe I set a new half-marathon PR in Vancouver, considering the three glasses of wine I had the night before and sleeping for roughly four hours on a sagging fold-out couch in a small room with four other people.   Oh yeah, it was also cold and started to pour as soon as the gun went off, despite a gorgeous – but windy – day prior.

My boyfriend Tyler and I headed to Vancouver early Saturday, did some shopping and met up with my friend Laura and her husband Jordan later on.  We signed up for the race because Laura wanted to try her first half, and I thought it would be fun if we all went along.  Laura ended up injuring her foot and couldn’t run, but we all went anyway – I was excited to run in Vancouver, but Tyler and Jordan probably wouldn’t have been upset if we cancelled the trip altogether.  I actually thought I may have been the only one running, considering the three pitchers of beer they consumed the night before on Granville Island as we watched the Canucks pulverize the Black Hawks.  But surprisingly, they all managed to get up on time on race day.

One thing I didn’t expect for the BMO Marathon was the hills.  Heading through town, I felt a little slow through the up and down sections, and I saw Tyler pass me a few times; I tend to slow down a lot on hills and fly down the other side, but the rain made the downhill sections a bit slippery so I avoided going too fast.  The rain really started to pour around kilometre four, and I tried my best to avoid manholes and grates. 

It was really neat running through town in the rain; to pass the time I pretended I was actually running the NYC marathon.  Homeless folks stood scattered on the sidewalks on Hastings; some of them were cheering, others pretended to jog alongside on the sidewalks, but most just stood watching (probably thinking, why would you want to run that far in the rain?!)

There was one part near the beginning where you enter up on the bridge, and you could see all the rest of the runners snaking down from the starting line, a sea of spandex bobbing along the road.  Runners stayed fairly close together for the whole race; there wasn’t a lot of space to pull ahead until you reached the downhill section in Stanley Park. 

Ah yes, Stanley Park. 

I did not expect that long, drawn-out hill.  It felt like one of those dreams where you are trying to run, and you think you are moving your legs, but you aren’t getting anywhere.  At that point I was thinking to myself, there is no way I am going to beat two hours.  Just before that point, I crossed the halfway mark at about 58 minutes.  I thought maybe if I can run the last half faster, I’ll do 1:56…but not after that hill.  I saw some lady powering-up ahead of me, all muscular and fit with her hydration belt on, pull over to the side to throw up.  Oh no, I thought, that’s not a good sign! Thankfully, what goes up must come down, and I forced my legs to make up for lost time by flying down the hill, not caring if I slipped and fell. 

After a Cliff Shot, I felt loads better and kept up a good pace, refusing to check my watch until 20km.  One thing that I really appreciated was the frequent water stations; the plastic cups sucked, but it was great to have water every two-and-a-bit kilometres.  All of a sudden I was at kilometre 20, and my watch read 1:48.  No way! I saw the dome of BC Place (or was it GM?), blasted Hall and Oates “You Make My Dreams Come True”, and crossed under the clock at 1:55.  My chip time: 1:54:16. Beat mt PR by almost 6 minutes!!! I really was getting faster! I also beat my boyfriend by four minutes, which was a first as well.

The elation I felt after beating my PR turned to pain and suffering as I stood freezing in the pouring rain for 20 minutes waiting for Tyler, Jordan and Laura in our designated spot.  The food tent was too far away and I could barely walk.  When they finally found me, my hands had turned white (I have Reynolds Syndrome, so even the slightest bit of cold is extremely painful), and I was moving at a turtles pace.  After we all had a laugh at my boyfriend’s bleeding nipples and my corpse-like fingers, we slowly made our way to the SkyTrain to get back to the hotel.  Laura had to help me up on the counter to put my hands and feet in the sink so I could soak them in warm water to get my blood flowing again.  We were all total messes for the rest of the day; I didn’t even bother changing! 

Right after the race I was thinking, why did I sign up for the Oak Bay Half on May 16?  Now, even though I’m still very stiff, I’m excited for it.  People can run marathons consecutively, so I should be able to run another half two weeks later, right?

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