Thursday, January 27, 2011

Week three of my marathon journey: snow, rain, ice, snain...it's all good

Well, we are into week three of training. And it is definitely winter now. There's been snow. There's been rain. There's been ice. And it's been cold. But if you dress smart (ie for warmth rather than fashion...my tush learned that the hard way last Sunday when I wore my Lulu Lemon jacket in -17 weather rather than my sensible running jacket -- you know the ones with the bum flap that all the runners wear, looking like a bunch of rainbow-coloured lemmings) it's actually not too bad. Running in the winter is a great way to stay active through the cold months and to get some fresh air (and in my case, it's a good way to start shedding some of those 12 pounds of Christmas :) ). And the motivating factor is that once you're out there, the colder it is, the more you want to run just to get warm.

The danger with running in winter is those little patches of black ice that hide under the thinnest layer of snow. But winter runners know that you quickly learn to jump over puddles rather than run through them, or do a little shuffle-step-hop at the point where the sidewalk meets road. Running in winter definitely takes some creative movement, alertness and humour. Cause if you can't laugh at yourself when you look like a bundled up snow bunny (or as Halifax Broad puts it more eloquently than I ever could, "a lesbian broomball champion from Parry Sound") hopping about in zig-zagging fashion through Halifax's snow-ridden streets (meanwhile hoping no one you know sees you...but you know they have and just aren't telling you because they don't want to embarrass you), when can you?

In addition to getting up close and personal (my frozen tush being a case in point) with winter running again, this was also week two of my marathon clinic at the Running Room. Our group this time around is a nice mix of seasoned veterans who have run eight marathons, and newbies who've never run the distance before.
Figuring out what pace group you should be in can be a little agonizing. Not only does it have a lot to do with who you're running with (though really I've never met a runner I didn't enjoy running with), your pace group leader sets the tone for the group too. I once had a group leader who would bark/yell at us if we went too fast. It was ruining what for me should have been an enjoyable experience, so I pushed myself up to the faster group, even though I struggled to keep up with them. Your pace group choice basically dictates how painful or enjoyable your runs are going to be, and whether you're going to kill yourself trying to keep up with a group that's pushing you just a tad too fast, or get frustrated with a group that you feel is slowing you down. I'm still waffling - 4hr, or 4:05 group? I'll let you know what I decide.

Coming soon...I'll be launching my new running blog, with interviews with local runners, reviews of routes and races, tips and tricks, recipes and product reviews. Stay tuned!

~ Ceebie

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Week one: great tempo, speed bumps and keeping on...

Well, week one of my marathon training is done. Just 17 more to go. Week one called for 10/6/10/6/6. In reality it looked more like 14/6/curling/yoga. But that's ok.

Why, you ask? Because sometimes, despite our best intentions, life gets in the way. But you have to take those speed bumps and use them as learning opportunities in your marathon journey. And then, as the Chinese proverb says (not sure which wise man it was who said it, but I'm pretty sure he was Chinese): to get to your destination, you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, until eventually you get there.

The mental block is lifted:
For the last couple of months, ever since my first marathon, I'd been struggling with a mental block. No matter that I'd just run a distance less than one percent of the population has ever run, but even the shortest run seemed like a gargantuan task. Just the idea of lacing on my shoes was exhausting, and I didn't believe that I'd be able to run 5k, let alone 42.2.

But thanks to the support of my husband and running buddies, and the fact that I'd just signed up for another clinic starting next week, I forced myself to head out for a tempo run on Tuesday. And while the first few minutes had me wondering whether my legs could handle the pace, after the first kilometre or so, as I ran around the Commons and enjoyed the sight of families heading to the Oval to watch the speed skaters train, I found that I was only running about 10 seconds or so slower than I used to before my last marathon. And it felt great!

Sometimes, you just need a great run to get you motivated again and believe in your legs and yourself. And while there's no doubt that I'll probably have difficult runs again, where every step feels like agony and inside I'm just dying to stop and walk, you keep on keeping on because you know that every so often, you'll have a run where you just feel like you're floating. And that is the best feeling.

Yet despite my best intentions last week that I was going to run every run in the training schedule, that did not happen this week.

My speed bumps this week:

1) a work-related road trip to Fredericton. Normally, that isn't a big deal, because the nice thing about running is that there are roads/trails everywhere. All you need is your runners and you're good to go (ok you also need weather-appropriate, water-repellant clothing...unless you live in a nudist colony, which I don't, nor do I have any urgest to do so). Given that I was able to stay on track with my first marathon training schedule (for the most part) this summer while travelling for my wedding and honeymoon, I wasn't concerned about traveling. I'd even packed my running gear and was ready to explore Fredericton by foot, ecept for:

2) a blizzard (or at least lots and lots of snow) that dumped 30 or so centimetres of snow on Fredericton, making the unplowed sidewalks a little treacherous. And while running in snow is a good workout (it exercises different muscle groups and is actually a harder workout than running on dry ground, much like running in sand), I was a little tired after our drive, the sidewalks weren't plowed, I didn't know the city and so on and so forth.

3) a busy schedule, much of which was taken up by work, travel or other commitments. Like our curling match on Thursday night -- which I discovered is still a great workout, and lots of fun too! In any case, cross-training is always important in any running program, as it helps you build other core muscles that contribute to your strength and endurance.

4) a painless migraine on Saturday. What is that, you ask? Well, it's where you start getting these pretty little sparkles in your eyes and it feels like you've got tunnel vision and blind spots. So needless to say, I thought it wise to abstain from running until such time as I could see properly again. Though I did substitute the run with a great yoga class -- another opportunity for some cross-training and strength building.

Anyways, despite the road blocks this week I joined my running buds this morning for this Sunday's Long Slow Distance. Most of us had not made it out for more than a run or two last week due to the weather conditions. What's important is not to let those slight speed bumps get you down, and find other opportunities to get some training in, whether it be curling, yoga or other.

Although we ran down Novalea this week, the run seemed a little more challenging compared to last Sunday's, mostly because the surfaces were a lot slipperier, with a thin coating of ice or snow on the sidewalk. By kilometre 14, my legs felt like lead, so I headed back to the Running Room -- very, very slowly.

This week's schedule: 10/6/10/6/6

Tuesday night, the marathon clinic begins at the Running Room. I'm looking forward to starting another training program with my running friends, and making new friends and acquaintances as well.

~ Ceebie

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Those first steps on my journey of 952.2 kilometres

You know that old clich├ęd adage:

A journey of 1,000 miles begins with just one step.

Ok technically my journey will be 42.2 kilometres, but by the time I will have finished my second marathon training program, I should have run about 952.2 km. Which works out to 592 miles. And that ain't half bad, even if it's only a little more than half a journey in the eyes of that old adage (but 1,000 miles just seems so random anyway).

Vital stats of my GoodLife journey:

Race: GoodLife Toronto Marathon
Date: May 15, 2011
Time goal: 4 hrs (30 minutes faster than my first marathon)

Those first steps

Last Sunday was our first day of training and called for a 10k Long Slow Distance. I'd been a lazy bum ever since running my first marathon in October, and my legs (and waist) were starting to show it. But when my phone rang its annoying chirp at 7:30 (I'll admit, I've been too lazy to try and find a better alarm sound), I pushed myself upright, swung my legs out of bed and stumbled into the bathroom...where I very nearly fell asleep on the toilet. But didn't.

Toothpaste froth flying as I grumbled to myself under my breath wondering why the heck I was doing this, I glared at myself in the mirror as I brushed my teeth. But I knew there was no backing out today. I'd stood my running buddies up way too many times in the last several weeks, and I was beginning to feel guilty about it.

Halifax's streets were quiet in the early morning gloom as I drove downtown, with cars neatly parked in their driveways -- everyone was likely enjoying a lazy Sunday, I thought to myself resentfully. But when I walked into the Running Room, a few runners had already started gathering, and more continued to trickle through the doors for the next 15 minutes, until we were crammed in there, shoulder to shoulder -- a roomfull of inspiration for lazy me.

I joined the 18k group with running buds Wendy, Andrea and Jenn, hoping I could keep up with them (especially up the long hill at Devonshire Ave - thanks, Bruce!). The first few kilometres for me are always about warming up and settling into the groove of the run, and I was glad that I'd decided to come out this Sunday.

As we crested the long hill (thanks again, Bruce ;) ), my legs feeling the strain, I used the pain as a reminder not to ever get complacent again. Who would have thought that only a month and a half ago, I was sprinting around the track at The Tower like a little gazelle? (Ok not really a gazelle. To those watching me I was more like a slow short woman huffing and puffing around a track...but I liked to imagine I looked gazelle-like nonetheless). It is so easy to get out of shape.

At around 6k, the snowflakes started to fall. Big, chunky fluffs of white that stuck to my eyelashes and pretty soon had us wincing in pain as the wind drove them sideways into our faces and down our open mouths to the backs of our throats. I'd forgotten what it was to run in snow again -- that slight loss of purchase with each step, slipping back and not knowing whether the night step might -- whoops! -- be on a patch of ice.

But we continued on, around the Halifax Shopping Centre and through to Quinpool, then onward to Oxford. Running in snow might be harder, but Halifax in winter is so much prettier under the snow. As we chatted about holidays, work, husbands, boyfriends and shopping, I felt so grateful to have found such a great group of running friends.

I'd only planned to do about 14k, so at Cobourg I waved the rest of the group on, and stepped onto the intersection, only to glance at my left and see a big truck skidding downhill toward me, its rear tires fishtailing out to the side in slow motion. Stepping back, I yelled out to the rest of the group to be careful, and watched the truck driver come to a stop on the other side of the intersection.

I headed back to the Running Room slowly, picking my way uphill along Cobourg, then past the Public Gardens. My wooly mittens were sheathed in white, as was my hair, which I'd left untied and now looked like a dripping rat's nest.

We figured that all of the slipping back probably accounted for a few extra kilometres, so I like to think that my first step actually consisted of about 16k on a snowy morning in January. Only 890.2k left to go!

~ Ceebie