This has tipped my balance

My mama guilt has been running high as of late, pun intended.  You see, for the past three months, I’ve been focused on a lofty running goal: the Around the Bay 30K, a Southern Ontario pinnacle event in distance-running.  I’ve done the full 30km race only twice; once in 2004, with the youthful abilities of speed and recovery on my side, and once in 2008, as an under-trained newlywed, happy to be running alongside my husband.  Since then, running has been bumped down my priority list.

But now, two kids and a decade later, it’s been bumped back up.

My kids are a bit older, and we’re beyond the all-consuming baby/toddler stage, so I’ve had the time to rekindle my love affair with my sport.  For the last year, that’s meant mostly solo miles, with the highlight of one run per week with my dear Michaela.  Our ultimate goal is the 2019 New York City Marathon, but I felt my mid-week motivation waning as the cold weather and dark mornings descended upon us in the late Fall of 2017.  When my wheels came off in June last year, I knew things had to change if my New York dream was to come true.  So, in November, I joined a new training group, thanks to the advice of my friend Sarah.  And it’s been a game-changer.

This group does their long runs on Sunday mornings.  Although this is nothing new for me, the difference is that my long run used to hover around 15km, but for the past three months it’s been almost twice that.  More milage means more time required, and my quick-run-while-my-children sleep Sundays have been put aside for the last number of weeks; this has tipped my balance.

Balance is a fine line that I tiptoe along, often trading sleep for other priorities.  I’m sure many of you are in the same boat.   And so, with minimal family disruption, the bonus being other like-minded people who think it’s normal to get up before 5:00, my alarm clock rings at 4:45am on Tuesdays and Thursdays; my run is done and I’m back home before the rest of my house wakes.  The same can be said for my 6am 10k on Saturday mornings.  But as my Sunday group long runs have progressed in distance, I’ve had to rally my village.  My husband has been on his own for breakfast duty and hockey practices, for transporting kids and mobilizing sleepy children into cold vehicles.  My father-in-law has helped juggle back-to-back practices for two kids on two ends of the city and my neighbour has stepped in to carpool when other plans fell through.  The village for my children has become the village for me. It-Takes-a-Village-to-Raise-a-Child-6001

But there’s guilt.

Guilt at missing kid’s activities.  Guilt at putting it all on my husband’s shoulders.  Guilt at asking for help.  Guilt at doing something that’s all for me.

But there’s also joy.

Joy at doing something I love.  Joy at running times that seemed impossible only months ago.  Joy that my children see me value my health and my fitness and myself.

Joy that I didn’t quit when it GOT DAMN HARD.

Bring on the taper, let’s chase more joy.

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This is my heart rate data from my last long run in this training cycle (33km).  Most of it was done in the pre-dawn darkness of Sunday morning.


Family Day: Road Trips and Memories

I’m tired today, guys.  If you live in Southern Ontario, you might be feeling it too, as the grey skies and downpours have turned our Winter wonderland into a soupy mess.  But the blue sky and sunshine of Spring is not far off, and I had a great run connors runnerswith my crew this morning that started my day off right (and wet)….

I hope you enjoyed your Family Day weekend, I had a sporty one, just the way I like ’em:

I’m at Burlington Sports & Spine Clinic until 2:30pm today.  See you there!


The Butterdome lesson.

It is amazing what our bodies can do.  In my work, I see injuries recover and people become healthier versions of themselves on the daily.  In my personal life, I am surrounded by runners and Crossfitters, and I see them push themselves to the limits.  And yet, after 12 years in practice and a few decades in sport, I still marvel at the anatomy, the physiology, and the ability of our bodies to adapt, to habituate, to endure.

Let me tell you a story:

This story is about a girl who loves to run.

It’s the early 90’s, in the small town of Sundre, Alberta, and this girl is running the finishing stretch of her County’s cross-country meet.  The meet is being held on her home course, on Sundre’s infamous Snake Hill, and the finishing stretch is along its most feared section, “The Scar.”  The Scar is a punishing portion of trail that traverses the entire side of the hill, complete with a gruelling incline and a bird’s eye view of the finish line.  This girl can hear the crowd below, this girl can feel the adrenaline surging, this girl’s happiness and fulfillment builds.  She can’t articulate it yet, but she can feel it, and she knows she’s found what she loves.

This girl is me.

You see, my high school English teacher was also the cross-country coach, and she took me under her wing.  I trained with a very small group of runners after school, usually just three or four of us running alongside Mrs. Leslie.  We’d head to Snake Hill and we’d run hill repeats, kilometre loops, strides along the trails.  We’d run in the cold Alberta snow and we’d run in the fading light of dusk.  She taught me the power of my legs and my lungs, the welcomed full-body fatigue of a workout, and the sense of accomplishment of a race well run.  It’s only now, as a teacher’s spouse, that I realize the commitment she had to us and the sacrifices she made to share her love of running.  If there’s one person to point to in my running career, it’s her.  She changed my world and burst open a decades-long love affair with a sport that has now become a part of my identity.

I went to the University of Calgary and became a member of the cross-country and track teams.  I was a red-shirt Dino, racing only occasionally, often choosing parties and late nights over the early-morning miles on my training schedule.  My lack of commitment was never more obvious than when I called my Dad in panicked tears, only minutes ahead of my 1000m heat at the University of Alberta’s iconic Butterdome.  “What if I’m last?” I cried, “I’ll be so humiliated.”  In fact, I was last.  But I learned a hard lesson that day: you can’t fake hard work.  There are no shortcuts in running, no cheats, no cutting corners, no easy results.

Then came marathons, and Boston, my coveted finisher’s gold medal at the Around the Bay 30K in 2004, and my third-place finish at the inaugural Mississauga half-marathon.  I was in my twenties, running 100km weeks and going to school, planning my life around my runs, instead of the opposite.  Real-life responsibilities hadn’t quite begun, and I was content to run unceremoniously in a pre-Garmin, pre-Strava, pre-Social Media world.

Running has shifted to more of a background role in my life over the last decade, as I’ve had my children and consistently chosen the convenience and efficiency of CrossFit workouts.  But over the past couple of years, as my kids have grown, so too have my freedom and flexibility, and my mileage has begun to increase once again.  I’ve joined a new running club, and for the past three months I’ve been training hard with them, aiming for some Spring races that I haven’t thought about in years.  I’ve been noticing big changes in my fitness lately and having some breakthrough workouts, and that’s what has prompted this post.  It’s the Butterdome lesson again: you can’t fake hard work.

The 5:30am hill repeats, that 4:45am wake-ups, the -20ºC long runs; it’s all coming together.  It is amazing what our bodies can do.

But you can’t fake hard work.

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The University of Alberta’s Butterdome track.