Category Archives: Fitness

Then the Wheels Came Off

This post is being published on a Monday morning.  For the last five years I have published my blog post on Tuesdays, so a Monday post is new territory for me.  But I ran in a half marathon yesterday, and since I have so many incredibly supportive people in my life, I keep getting texts and emails asking how it went.  I thought I’d write a post to give you my summary of the race, and how I fell way short of my goal…..

I tried to write part of this post ahead of time, you know, before I had even run the race.  I had some time mid-week last week, and because writing time is such a rarity, I pounced on it.  But the words didn’t come easily.  I knew what I wanted to write about, I just couldn’t seem to make it happen.  What I wanted to write about was the half marathon that I had been focused on for months.  I wanted to set the scene for you.  I wanted to talk about my mindset, my training, and my race prep, but my headspace wasn’t right.  I had doubts about my performance, anxiety about the forecast heat, and superstition about pre-writing even part of a post before the end result was known.

And so I write it now, with emotions running high and fatigue pulsing through me.  It’s 9:00pm on Sunday night.  My feet are up on our coffee table, there is a mug of Rooibos tea steaming, the hockey game is on, my tablet is laid before me, and I have had time to process what happened this morning.

Sigh.

You see, I’m trying to qualify for the 2018 New York marathon, which is traditionally built around a lottery system for participants.  Last year, more than 98 000 people entered the lottery, and roughly 16 000 were accepted- that’s less than a 17% chance of getting in.  The other 34 000 runners (yes, there’s 50 000 runners that run this race) come through various other means- 9000 charity spots, paid tour company entrants, New York Road Runners members, and NYC race volunteer spots.  The tricky part of these logistics is that my dear friend and training partner, Michaela, has never run a full marathon and NYC is at the top of her list.  So the best sure-thing option for both of us to get into the race is to meet the tougher-than-Boston qualifying standard; for our age group, that means running sub-1:34 in a race sanctioned by Athletics Canada.IMG_6581

Now, Michaela is much faster and a much more natural runner than I, and in fact, she ran 1:27 at the Hamilton half marathon last Fall on only two days/week of training.  She’s a natural, and her effortless pace still astounds me, as I huff and puff beside her on our weekend long runs.  In that same race last Fall, I ran 1:37, and battled stomach issues and under-training.  I felt old and slow and defeated and the doubts creeped in.  Could I manage to shave three minutes off my time?  I have a 1:23 personal best and I’ve run under 1:34 dozens of times, but with an extra 13 years and 2 kids under my belt, my abilities have changed.

So for the last few months, I’ve been focused.  I’ve run early.  I’ve run late.  I’ve run through blinding rain more times than I can count and an early-morning thunderstorm on the NorthShore hills.  I’ve run with my daughter in the Chariot, with tired CrossFit legs, with to-do lists in my brain, with sunrises and skunks and solitude.  And I remembered why I love this sport so much- this sport that’s been a huge part of my life for twenty-five years- sometimes in foreground but always in the background, a common thread through my teenage angst, my insecure twenties, my schooling, my cross-country move, my marriage, my kids, my career, my life.

But 1:34 still seemed seemed impossibly far away, my goal unreachable…. and then my training came together.  Fitness is like that, at least for me; weeks of effort will come together in a single run, and all of a sudden it clicks.  It clicked for me last weekend, when I tested my speed at the Moon in June 10k and surprised myself with a 41:46 and a first-place finish; my 4:11/km pace felt tough but manageable, painful but attainable, gritty but realistic.  Perhaps 1:34 wasn’t a carrot on the end of a stick I couldn’t reach.  So when I toed the line at the race this morning I had the usual doubts mixed with a taste of confidence and a sprinkle of hope.

Then the wheels came off.  I didn’t just miss my goal, I missed it by nearly six minutes, and I was the closest I’ve ever been to walking off a race course and calling it quits.  I went out way too fast, and ran my first 10k recklessly faster than I had planned.  But distance-running can be risky like that; it tricks you into thinking you’re feeling well and then it pulls the rug out from underneath you.  I hit the proverbial wall at 13km.  I stopped, I bent forward, my head between my knees.  I felt dizzy, my legs felt heavy, and I started to panic. I could feel my breath catching in my throat and tears came to my eyes.  But Michaela was there to talk me off the ledge.  “One foot in front of the other,” “you can do it,” “you’ve got this.”  I cried and ran and cried and walked for the next few kilometers, the heat becoming oppressive, and my mind jostling between pain and anger and frustration.  I wasn’t wearing a watch, I was running on feel only, and at the 17km mark Michaela looked at her Garmin and said “I know you won’t believe this, but we’re still on pace.  You banked enough time in the first half, you can still do this.”  Only four kilometers to go.  Four kilometers to reach a months-long goal and I just couldn’t do it.  I had nothing left in the tank, I couldn’t dig any deeper, I was running on empty.  I suspect we walked 2km of those last 4km and I hobbled across the finish line at 1:39FullSizeRender 16

But I hope this post inspires you.  I hope you don’t see failure, but rather perseverance.  I hope you see grit and determination and I hope you see that big goals achieved are that much sweeter when there’s been big struggle endured.  I hope my kids see that too- they saw me win last weekend and they saw me cry when I got home from the race this morning….. the ups and downs of sport and life.

I’m going to lick my wounds and nurse my ego for awhile and I’ll try again this Fall.  And if the wheels come off then too, well, I’ll try again.

 

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It’s April! It’s sports!

I live in a competitive household.  Case in point, the recent CrossFit Open competition that my husband and I participated in.  I won.  Ahem.  Cough, cough.

The upcoming NHL playoffs bring out our competitive nature as well, especially since our loyalties lie on polar opposite ends of the fan spectrum.  I’m from Southern Alberta, and the Flames are my team, while he’s a true-blue Leaf fan, born and raised in the GTA, where Stanley Cup parades are planned every October.  Our children are not immune to this rivalry, and they’ve staunchly aligned themselves with their same-gendered parent, although my five-year-old daughter has been known to change her team weekly.  Her Uncle’s influence makes her a current Oiler fan.  I often joke about how my husband says the kids can “cheer for any team they like,” and then boos and moans if that team is any other than the blue and white.

But the reality is, April is the best sports month of the year.  The Flames have clinched, and we might have six Canadian teams lacing up in the playoffs.  Let’s not forget the Raptors, who’ve also guaranteed themselves a spot in the NBA post-season.  The BlueJays have just begun, it’s Master’s weekend ahead, the Boston Marathon runs on April 17th, and the NCAA basketball champion was crowned last night.  Whew!  ‘Tis a great time to be a sports fan.

And if you need another visual, take a look at our rainy driveway this morning: a Leaf flag on his car, a Flames flag on mine.  


“Being a sports fan is a complex matter, in part irrational but not unworthy; a relief from the seriousness of the real world, with its unending pressures and often grave obligations.” ~ Richard Gilman  

#goJaysgo #goFlamesgo 

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Beauty. Babies. Bathrooms.

Not coincidentally, most of the blog posts that I write that really resonate with readers are the very same posts that really resonate with me.  The posts that make me laugh or cry, make me introspective and reflective, make me transparent and emotional.  This is one of those posts.

My five-year-old daughter wasn’t feeling well yesterday, so I kept her home from school.  She wasn’t really sick, just not quite herself, and a full day of rest for her seemed like a better choice than sticking her into the first-day-after-March-break Kindergarten chaos.  Her tired little body needed to stay in pyjamas, to watch movies, and to re-energize.  Mondays are an 11:00-7:00 day for me at the clinic, and my husband was unable to take the day off, so my in-laws stepped in and agreed to play nursemaid.  But before I took her to their place, we stopped into one of my happy places to sneak in a workout.  I saw my 9am crew, completed week four of the five-week Crossfit Open competition, and set her up with an iPad, crackers, and water.

It was after the workout that she threw me for a loop.  She was sitting on the vanity in the women’s changeroom as I applied my makeup, getting ready for work.  “Why do you need that mommy?” she asked, pointing to my eyeshadow.  “What does it do?”

Radio silence.

“Well, it makes my eyes look brighter,” I said.  And as she asked about each subsequent piece of makeup, I explained away concealer and powder and eyeliner and mascara as “it makes my skin smoother” or “it makes my eyelashes darker,” stumbling to find words to minimize the aesthetic component of cosmetics.  As I spoke, I cringed inside, realizing that this is where it starts.  This is where she starts to learn about society’s rules of beauty.  This is where she starts to learn about her beauty.  Her worth.  Her value.  Am I being too dramatic?  If you think so, then I will boldly tell you that you’re wrong.

Now, I don’t wear much makeup as it is, and you can often find my face completely bare, but nonetheless I swayed her views, however unintentional, to believe that having smooth skin, bright eyes, and dark eyelashes are desirable.  I fuelled the machine that believes that young skin, blonde hair, and a thin body defines beauty.  I contributed to the belief that natural looks are not good enough and I influenced my own daughter towards an ideal that I don’t even believe in myself, yet have somehow bought into.  My history of disordered eating is no secret, and I’ve written about it a few times; I still feel emotionally stripped down and exposed when I read those posts.  But with adulthood and hindsight and years of self-reflection under my belt, I’m sure that disordered eating also falls into the realm of beauty and self-worth too.  And it starts young.

So what should I have done?  What should I have said?  The truth is, I don’t know.  But I do know that I find parenting my daughter much trickier than parenting my son, because of social issues like this.  Beauty.  Value.  Self-esteem.  Uuugh, it’s just all so damn hard.

I’m trying to raise my little girl to value her brain.  And her abilities.  And her kindness.  Even if the world at large values hair extensions and self-tanner more.  It starts young and it starts with us.  And maybe, just maybe, it starts on a bathroom vanity at the gym.

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