Category Archives: Running

Predatory.

We had an intense Saturday and Sunday at the clinic this past weekend.  It was our second and final weekend of baseline concussion testing, and this meant two extra-long days at work.  My role as a clinician was to conduct station #1, medical history and memory testing; this meant I sat at a computer all day, asking question after question, a new athlete coming through every four to five minutes.

I asked those same questions 111 times over the two days, and to stay sharp and keep my restless legs at bay, I knew I needed to find time for fitness.  With early starts and late finishes, I got up early to put in some miles and bring some welcomed fatigue to my muscles.  I know myself, and I know that I function best if I’ve incorporated some sweat into my day, so out into the 6:00am pre-Autumn blackness I went on Saturday morning.

That’s where my story begins:

I was planning on a 10km run, 5km out-and-back, along my favourite North Shore stretch.  I figured I could catch the sunrise along the Lake Ontario shoreline on my way back home, throw some hills into the mix, and aim for a negative split to satisfy the competitor in me. The streets were quiet as I left my driveway, most of the city still asleep, just how I like it. Early morning is my favourite time of day, like a little portal into peacefulness that can only be accessed through the conviction of an alarm clock.  It’s my reward for getting up, my compensation for lost sleep, my high to start the day.  I ran down the middle of my road, reflective hat on, earbuds in, my only concern being neighbourhood skunks still foraging on sidewalk boulevards.

I ran along the lakefront promenade, the pitch black waters illuminated by the pier and the streetlights, one or two people out, getting an early start on their dog walks.  I felt safe.  In fact, I almost always feel safe running in Burlington; perhaps it’s naïveté, perhaps it’s luck, perhaps it’s because Halton consistently ranks as one of Canada’s safest municipalities.  But I’m not reckless or inattentive and I’m always aware of my surroundings.  I’m not naive enough to believe that dangers are not present for solo female runners, even nestled inside my little community cocoon.

So as I made the turn onto the deserted, shadowy North Shore Boulevard, my senses were heightened and I was aware of my vulnerability. I moved off the sidewalk and back into the middle of the road, away from the darkness and obscurity of front yard shrubbery and blackened driveways. I removed my earbuds so that my hearing wasn’t compromised, and I continued into the deserted dimness of my route. I saw a man ahead, probably 200m from me, staggering along the sidewalk on the South side of the road. He was a big guy, about as tall as my 6’2″ husband, and every few metres he’d jump into the air and swat at overhanging branches before stumbling onward. I pegged him as a University kid, wandering home in a drunken stupor, but my spidey senses tingled. I crossed the expanse of the road completely, running tucked along the wide curb on the North side of the street. He must’ve heard my footfalls, because he stopped, crouched, and pulled the hood of his black jacket tight over his face, tugging at the drawstrings so that only his eyes were visible. He watched intently as I ran by, from that crouched, hunter-like position, and I picked up my pace. I ran fast until I got several hundred metres down the road, frequently turning my head to check behind me, and as I wound along the familiar twists, turns, and hills, my heartrate settled and my pace began to slow.

At 5km I turned around, making my way back home along the road I’d just run, aware that this guy was likely still stumbling Westward. By now, the first taste of the sunrise was peaking through, and a few cars were beginning to pass by. I chose to head back the way I’d come, not feeling directly threatened, but slightly wary nonetheless.

This is the point of my story that many of you are probably wondering why I didn’t change my route and head home another way.  

Perhaps I should have. In fact, my husband later asked me that very question. But the truth is, I stayed my course, because I knew that this guy wasn’t actually harmful, at least not physically. He was trying to intimidate me, yes. He was being creepy and disturbing, trying to frighten me, trying to show his dominance in a tough-drunk-guy way. But I could see that he was wobbly and the road was wide, and I knew I’d win in a foot-race if it came to that. I also knew that this pathetic wannabe predator would be too scared to cause me any harm as daylight came upon us and people began to stir.

And yes, the same thing happened on my way back home. The same crouch, the same jacket hood pulled low, the same intense, fear-provoking stare. Predatory. That’s what my husband called it when I recounted the story to him at home, and he’s right. This jerk wasn’t trying to hurt me, but he was trying to scare me.  And if I’m being honest, he did.

The feminist in me is angry at the gender roles involved in this scenario- him, the larger, stronger male, and me, the smaller, weaker female.  Meanwhile, the runner in me is angry that he took my power, made me feel vulnerable, and made me question something that I love so much.  As a seventeen-year-old, I moved from a small town to a city to attend University, and I can remember my dad giving me a can of pepper spray.  It’s not until now, two decades later, that I wished I still had it….

dark_road_by_latyrx

 

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Garmin Fenix 5S; a Rave Review

Activity trackers. All the rage lately, right? Well, I've just recently jumped on the bandwagon, and with just over a week of wearing my Garmin, I think it's safe to say that I'm officially hooked.

In all my years of running (and I'm coming up on 25 years of distance running!), I have never worn a device to track my distance or my pace. I pre-plan my routes most times, and use MapMyRun.com to know how far I'm going. The odd time, I'll turn on an app on my phone to give me an end-of-run summary of what I've just done, but most times I run old-school; no timers, no heart rates, no step counts. All that changed on August 1st, when I put on my shiny new Garmin Fenix 5S, and now I've become a data junkie.

My sister-in-law works for Garmin, and has been in the wearables world for a long time. I've borrowed her watches for a run here and there when we meet up on vacation or when she comes to visit, and I've always been intrigued. So I've been saving my pennies for months and finally decided to see what all the fuss is about. And while this post isn't meant to be a plug or an advertisement for Garmin specifically, I can only speak from this one experience, so it very well may end up reading like a brochure. Bear with me. Runners, you're going to love this…..

The Fenix 5S tracks my heart rate all the time, giving me insight into my cardiovascular fitness, and showing me an overall picture of my workouts. In fact, resting heart rates have become a competition between my husband and I (I'm winning):

It gives me a guide for my VO2 max, albeit based on an activity algorithm. And while the actual numbers may not be perfectly accurate, I like that it can give me a rough guide on my fitness level at the present time:

It measures my runs. This is the main reason that I got a Garmin to begin with; I wanted something to tell me my pace, to guide my interval training, to support my long runs. Here's a glimpse into what I did this morning:

As you can see, I love this thing. I can see what all the fuss is about. Happy training!

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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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