Thursday, March 31, 2011

Out like a lamb

Definitely, spring!
I can run in SHORTS!  Despite revealing the whiteness of winter legs and general lack of weird sports tans, I am ecstatic to ditch the tights for a while.  This month really has been neither too harsh or too hot, and the 2 week forecast looks promising.  I can deal with a little drizzle here and there, and at this point, if we were to get caught in a super-deluge, I almost have enough good humoured-ness to laugh at it all (note: there was no laughing in November through to February).

Things are busy around here!  In the lead up to the focus on the marathon May 1st, training has been geared toward marathon specific training.  Although I've done marathons year after year, this would be the first time I've actually done what I know now as 'marathon specific' training.  Before my runs would just consist of running further and further at the same pace, until I completed as close to 42.2 km without hurting myself.  Not that it was super easy, but my training time is shaped quite differently now.

I've gone through a couple speedy races, 5km's, both around Stanley Park, both quite competitive, and I've tried my best to pretend like I know what I'm doing.  Truth is, I don't really - I feel quite lost in a 5km race.  I know the pace I'm supposed to run, but to actually 'race' it - is hard to me.  Unfamiliar territory.  So needless to say I am happy to be heading back to a more familiar land this weekend - the half marathon.

This weekend's race is on the Sunshine Coast, a cute little half marathon between Gibsons and Sechelt.  I've run it twice before, and once with pretty poor pacing ("I'll aim for this time because I want to run this fast", no, you really can't) and I paid the price on the hills (contemplating walking or hiding in the port-a-pottie at the top of the hill).  Remembering how that felt, I'm feeling a little more confident about my training now and hoping it doesn't feel quite that bad (but anything can happen!).

This isn't the "A" race as that comes up at the beginning of May in the marathon in Eugene, OR.  But, the half a close cousin to the full, it will be a good opportunity to practice pacing, racing, and taking a trip to Toughsville.  You know, that place on the way to Hurtsville?  As the plan is not to annihilate myself and all my training, I really don't want to end up in Hurtsville, because I want to end up at the marathon May 1st .  I also would like to do the Sun Run April 17th, my truly first attempt at the Sun Run, and, my first 10km in almost a year.  Considering I still don't have a 10km time under 40 minutes (not even under 41!) it will be nice to test out the 10km and hopefully peg a time under 40.
you know, this little road race....

Amongst all the running shoes and lap splits, triathlon training continues - and it continues to be a great complement to run training.  It took me nearly 2 years (which is, the entirety of my self-taught swim experience) to enjoy swimming, and I've even managed to do it to the point of overdoing it, and had to take a week of rest to save my enthusiastic elbow and shoulder.  All better now, but I finally had a taste of feeling like I was missing out on my swim training.   An hour in the pool not only (hopefully) is making me a better swimmer, but I'm convinced it also does wonders for my tired legs.  It just seems to help recover happen better.  Now, if we could only convince Kits pool to open early...although I shouldn't complain - May 21st is coming and then outdoor swimming can begin.  I cannot wait.

One of the most exciting developments in my life is the arrival of a bike saddle that I don't want to get off of.  It is just truly miraculous.  I can't believe I spent so long on the old one, but, that's all behind me now.  Pun intended.  A bottomless subject.

The new seat is a beauty, and it's even pretty and white - for how long...who knows.  Now I can just focus on the cycling, as it is no longer how to best shift around on a saddle (that has once made me cry after hours of pain and suffering on the Island highway).  Now cycling is more a case of "shut up legs" - which is awesome!  I am happy to have the pain in my legs, and not the obvious, including weird back, neck, hand pain from sitting in such an improper position on the bike.  Hootenanny!

Sun + shorts + longer races coming up + awesome saddle + love swimming = pretty darn great times ahead.  Today's a little more restful than usual, which means I get to sneak in a quick update and catch up a bit more on my current book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver.  As we are starting to weed out the garden, buy seeds, and start planning "crops" (if crops can be 1square foot per crop), it has been a really interesting read.  

In general, there is a lot of criticism that can be dolled out about the food industry, and although the book doesn't harp on it needlessly, it does it purposefully, and lends it's purpose to the reason to consider local farming (best if it's your farm), farmer's markets, and spending that little bit extra on food that makes a difference.  I try to not become too radical or preachy about food, as it's such a screwed up commodity in so many spheres that I can't truly wrap my head around any one solid argument or movement, but this book has helped guide some of my thoughts, and some of my distress, around the food industry.

  Now you probably have to read the book to understand what I'm taking about (and I encourage you to do so)....but I stood in the produce store this week, staring at the cilantro, thinking that I'd like some, but that it wasn't really necessary.  I looked at the tag.  Mexico.  I looked at the price.  $0.59.  59 cents.  For a bushel of cilantro.  Picked by likely poorly paid labourers, shipping on gas guzzling trucks, through 3 countries (3!!), grown (and likely modified) to resist wilting, moulding, disease....and on and on.  I really don't like, in in the words of Owen Wilson (or perhaps Vince Vaughn), "taking a trip to negative town" but a lot of this stuff is true.  I just don't like thinking about because I really can't stand people that constantly rant and do NOTHING about it.  

So, with this knowledge in mind, the thing to do is clear - if you have dirt in your possession, you can grow something in it.  If you have a local farmer's market, you can buy things from it.  It costs more but you're really not losing money.  But I'm not going to explain why - I'd say pick up the book and learn whatever you want from it.  And I'm not perfect, and I certainly don't have an excess of cash flow, but I can look at where things are grown, make choices, and often, if you look at what is on sale at your local produce store or market - it's usually the things in season - which are really the right things to buy.  

Little changes lead to more little changes, all of which are manageable.  Like training, you just get a little bit better at something day by day, and when you can run certain race times in your sleep, you can manage this part of life, this ever important 'eating' part, on autopilot too.
not in season yet....they'll come out in Ironman Canada season though!

Eat real food!  And if I learned nothing from the Germans, I learned that spring ich Spargel und Erdbeeren time, ja!!  
Asparagus and Strawberries.  Eat them now!

Happy spring training!  Baseball started today too - it's definitely spring now!
Oh yeah, and there's this cool tid-bit of info a friend of mine told me about on the BCA blog

Monday, March 21, 2011

moving right along

Ah, spring.
Which really means rain in Vancouver.  But slightly warmer rain.  Who could ask for anything more?

Now that I've fully absorbed my new found 30s, I can return to write a few notes on the last few weeks, nothing crazy, but just steady, consistent work.

The only race I've jumped into in the last few weeks was the St. Patty's 5km.  I am fighting the fight against 5kms - not my favourite distance of race but good for me none-the-less.  Like Buckley's cough syrup - tastes awful, but it works...that about sums up how I feel about it.  The 5km is crazy fast and there are almost no decisions to make, just grab onto your pace and run it into the ground.

Race day weather?  Left a little to be desired.  When you see the patterns of the water on the seawall from being splashed up from the ocean you know there is a little wind around.  But, all said and done it wasn't so bad in the end (the last 500 metres maybe were so bad...but there are so many reasons why they don't feel good anyways).

This was a narrow start, as all seawall races seem to be, and luckily no one fell into the ocean.  Really, the race is mostly a blur to me, I remember working on passing the one girl that ran ahead of me for the first 1/2 of the race, and finally did that successfully (only to constantly worry she'd come back and get me in the last 500m).  Besides that, it was just put your head down and work time.  The one bonus of the 5km is that I can tell myself, "Ok, just run hard for 18 minutes and it's all over and done with".  18 minutes, when I put it in perspective to some of the other races I do, is peanuts.  But damn, they can be very painful feeling peanut minutes.

In the end, I came quite close to the time I had wanted at 18:10, another PB for me (but then again, it's my 2nd 5km so not too hard to PB based on learning experience alone).  I was hoping to sneak in under 18 minutes but that gives me something to work for next time.  I finished 9th overall, which was a great result considering the competition - there were some fast women running there!  Then of course came the famed St. Patty's day race treats and after party and lots of fun!  This really is a great little race that is so well supported and organized - so congrats to everyone involved.  I subsequently went to the pool after the race to do a long swim, and froze my butt off in the pool - so probably won't be trying that trick again anytime soon.  But I definitely got the icebath effect - only bonus to being hypothermic I guess.

So that's the only race, although it seems like lots of races coming up in the very near future for me.  Life still continues though, as one training day at a time.  I've spent the last week largely out of the pool with my very first swimming injury (so proud!  just kidding, I am not...) but it seems to be getting back to normal with a week off.  Incidentally, I really don't think it hurt to get a little extra downtime into my last week either.  I forget sometimes that I am not a "swimmer" and this doesn't come naturally to me, so it takes more energy out of me that I realize.  I just don't pay much attention to that when I'm swimming because I'm really enjoying the process of getting better (you make great leaps when you come from completing 25 m without choking on pool water).  But after one week off and one trial swim, I think I'm ready to get back into it.  Yippee.

In the land of biking I am very happy to report that I have found a bike saddle that I am loving.  Sweet baby jane you have no idea how happy this makes me - and my butt.  I've put up with a painful saddle for so long, that when I turned 30 I decided I was too 'old' to put up with this anymore :)  And it's making a big difference - I don't actually want to get off my bike anymore once I get on it (unless I've been on the trainer for 2hrs and 40 minutes, then I think it's only human to want to get off it).   It seemed so expensive at first, investing in a new saddle, but once I started riding on it, the worry of cost is completely obliterated when you compare it to comfort and performance.  Although I am demo'ing a saddle right now, unless some magical saddle from heaven is created in the next week, I will be going with an ISM Adamo - looks crazy, but is crazy comfortable, and I can't wait to do some long, long rides on it to test it out.  A comfy saddle makes a happy girl.

C'est fini.  That's my update.  I've included a few pictures from some of the drizzly rides I've been doing around Vancouver, trying to skirt around deluges and still give myself hope that one day I can bike outside without fear of freezing.  It's coming.  I know.  In the meantime I still saddle up the ol' trusty trainer and have definitely expanded my cheesy movie collection with such gems as Twilight, Slap Shot and Stick It.  I must however, highly recommend the two best biking movies for trainer rides, as Breaking Away and American Flyers.  So awesome.

With an eye on the weather I am hoping for a bit more solar power to come in the next few weeks.  I am quite delighted with the arrival of daylight savings as a whole hour of brightness has just appeared in my life.  So great!

Hope you're all working hard and speeding up through spring.  Pretty soon it will be make-a-garden time.  I have not been very involved in the past due to energy/time constraints, but am excited to be growing some delicious organic fruits and veggies in the garden this year!

Summer does exist!

Monday, March 7, 2011

29 things

Oh, the eve of my 30th birthday.
I think your 20's gives you a lot of leeway.  "Oh, they're only in their 20's".  As in, you really don't need a grip on the world until you're in your 30's.  Or maybe that's for your 40's.  Maybe there is the benefit that (hopefully) you've figured out what you want to do and you're doing it, and you no longer have to wrestle with that decision.  I can say I've accomplished that, although I have temporarily put it on hold and created a fantasy job - which really is a great way to celebrate my 30th birthday.  I am doing exactly what I want.
I'm a pretty lucky person and very fortunate to have great support all around me.

My life is fairly day to day - it works for me.  I have longer term projections of what I want, but I seem to operate best on a 'what do I have to do today' schedule right now.  I'm not a super simple person but I like to simply things.  That's how I get stuff done.  Every once in a while though, I've thought back on all the things I've done to get to this point - things you sort of forget and sweep into the back of your mind.  They've all helped me get to this point where I am now.  So, on this last day of my 20's (all those in your 30's and beyond are rolling your eyes, I know) I wanted to write a list - 29 things I am proud of doing or want to do and be proud of.  I don't think I can ever do this again because 29 things seem daunting and really, fairly egotistical, but I am going to give it a shot.

29 things:

1.  The first thing that comes to mind is agreeing to play on the grade 10 girls basketball team.  I am really no good at basketball, but I was fit and the coach just wanted me to run up and down the court.  This was hard for me b/c I was relatively good at most sports.  I did lay-ups so hard that the basketball would rocket back onto our side of the court.  But, I hung in there and ran back and got my own rebounds.  I think my Dad laughed (kindly) at me while other girls got mad when I got away with errors such as double dribbling, etc. I hung in there and I finished the season and never played again.

2.  Learn to swim.  I loved the water as a kid and was very proud of my ability to tolerate cold west coast ocean temps.  But I couldn't put my head in and swim a length to save my life.  So in 2009, when the weather was awful and I was sick of running in it, I went to the pool and started to teach myself to swim.  I remember the glorious day I could swim 200 continuous metres.  At the time I started swimming I had no goals of doing a triathlon whatsoever.  This skill would come in handy though, when I decided I wanted to.

3.  Do a triathlon.  This is something I never thought I could do. With many thanks to my friends and especially my friend Blair, we decided to do our first 1/2 Ironman together.  I had no plans on doing anything shorter than this as a first race because I knew my swim was so weak that any shorter race would really showcase my discrepancies.  Plus, I had done marathons and wasn't afraid of an endurance race.  While I had a panic attack in my first lap, then promptly swam WAY off course on my 2nd lap (when the kayaker asked me if I wanted to finish the race there was a moment of doubt...), I still slugged it out and came back and tore up the course to finish my first triathlon in under 6 hours.  I had never been so happy to get on a bike in my life.

4.  The first day I realized I had run a half marathon while training for a full marathon.  I know exactly where I turned around and thought to myself, "I just ran a half marathon".  My confidence level sky-rocketed.  I still have never had that proud of a training moment to this day.

5.  Ok, a break from sports.  I really am proud to be a physio.  While doing my first degree in university, I did think about physio (mostly b/c I was at the physio so much), but I never thought I would be smart enough to become one.

6.  Try out for the girls BC provincial soccer team in high school.  And not make it.  We played in snow and it was awful.  I tried my hardest every day.  As a defender, I generally ended up marking Christine Sinclair - tough gig.  But the point was I tried and never gave up.

7.  But I did make the women's varsity soccer team at Dalhousie and we won CIS gold.  Pretty awesome.  I never told anyone I was trying out because I didn't think I would make it.  I told my parents about 2-3 weeks after I made the team, just to be sure I was still actually on it.

8.  I moved across the country to go to school without a thought of insecurity whatsoever.  It just seemed like the right thing to do.  Now I realize not everyone does this.

9.  My first marathon.  The now defunct Country Roads Marathon in the Comox Valley.  I really don't think I had any idea what I was doing (run from the start line to the finish line was my plan).  I won my age group - there were 2 people in it.  Someone told me that was a Boston qualifier and I had no idea what they were talking about.

10.  The Boston Marathon.  Once I realized what it was, and to not take for granted that I had a qualifying time, I went.  I was very, very proud of myself running down the final stretch and that was the first time I had to hold back tears after crossing the finish line.

11.  Finishing 4th in a BC provincial beach volleyball tournament.  My partner and I were not nearly as skilled as the other players, but we were smarter and we were fitter.  And I do believe we had more fun.

12.  Putting a lot of my insecurities about myself to rest.  You're ugly, wear make up, you're fat, lose weight, you're not good enough, try harder.  These truly were horrible thoughts and I am so glad I've decided to stop thinking those things. (Now I have to convince myself things like, "you really should shower" or "maybe try not wearing sweatpants today"....I think these are healthier thoughts).  Being a teenager really did have it's horrible moments and no matter how many good things you have going for you, you can really lose sight of the important things.  It's such a waste of time, but it's so gripping when it's got you.  Even now when I'm at the pool drying my hair I watch women stare into the mirror and touch their face, look at their butt, change their hair.  They waste so much time looking at the mirror and come away looking no different.

13.  Taking a sabbatical for a year to train full time and see what potential I have as an athlete.  It really is a dream but a lot of things had to fall into place for this to be able to occur.  There is a lot of balancing and a lot of support I am truly grateful for.

14.  Completing an Ironman at Ironman Canada.  I had a great time (literally and figuratively).  I remember while I was running back along the lake, about 10 hours into the race, I thought to myself that I didn't want this to be over.  That's when I figured out maybe I was good at this.

15.  It was only recently that I realized I really liked writing.  I liked writing in elementary and high school but had seemed to forget about it.  Only through this blog did I start to remember that I really take pride in writing things I would want to read again, sometime down the road.  And if other people like it too, that's a bonus.

16.  Sticking to a core strengthening plan.  That has taken me YEARS to adhere to.  I loved running but did not love planks and push ups.  Now I finally do them regularly and it makes a world of difference to my strength and endurance as an athlete - my mood too, as an uninjured athlete is a much happier athlete to be around.

17.  Doing a 12 hour endurance race around Mt. Uniacke in Nova Scotia.  I suppose this was my first endurance race, and it was a tricky orienteering course, with run, bike and paddle sections. I did it with Marieke and Cori and some guy (usefully his name is forgotten because he got us lost on the trails, but was sure he was right and wouldn't trust girls - tool).  I initially had passed on the race after acquiring a whopping case of mono and having splenomegaly (love that word), but someone dropped out and I really wanted to do it.  Most memorable moments were when I decided to lead the group and jumped headlong into a bog, getting (I counted) over 100 mosqutio bites, being pulled in the canoe b/c Marieke and I were such weak paddlers, getting lost on our bikes (we were on track to win the race!), carrying them over a mountain, me crying because I was so exhausted, and having to radio for rescue b/c we were truly lost.  And it still didn't matter that we didn't win, it was great.

18.  Somehow I managed to get above the national average on my board exams for physiotherapy - I thought that was pretty cool.

19.  Snow to surf - I was so proud of our team for finishing (and winning our category!).  Every person on that team had a story to tell.  Poor Tim and his slashed up hands from ice, poor me for deciding to stupidly run 17km down Mt. Washington (NEVER again), Gord for tearing up the bike and then having to wait quite impatiently for us to get the kayak to him, Shawn for crashing some superstar girl biker, my Dad for running in a full mustang life jacket and holey soles to the canoe, and Linda for running past the bell at the finish line (in her defence, she said the last time she did the race the bell was further along the finish line).  We won chocolate and beer mugs.  Awesome.

20.  Being one tough soccer player.

Ok, I'm just feeling so much pride - time to switch to a few things I want to be proud of.

21.  I would like to run a sub 3 hr marathon.  I'm told I can do it.  If you had asked me 6 months ago, what would be the single greatest achievement I could dream of in running I would have said a sub 3 hr marathon.  As training goes along and you get faster, sometimes you lose sight of what you dreamed about before hand.  I will try not to forget this if I get past the finish line in less than 3 hrs.

22.  I would like to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.  At some point.  And hopefully that point is this year.

23.  I would like to run the New York City Marathon, and run it well.  It looks so cool.

24.  Be on the cover of a Wheaties Box?  Haha, just kidding.

25.  Enter a bike race, and probably get schooled.  I don't mind.

26.  Enter a swim race, preferably open water, and definitely get schooled.  Fine with that.

27.  Read more books that don't have the title "It's not about the bike" or "Once a runner".

28.  Take more pictures when I'm training - I get to see this big beautiful world everyday and writing about it is great, but so are pictures to give it more depth.

29.  Confidence.  Have it.  Use it.  Fake it.  Be it.  Do it.  I think the rest will fall into place if this is paramount.

Friday, March 4, 2011

epic procrastination series #3

Click on the link here  The fight continues ...  to see the latest in my procrastination efforts.  Really time to workout now....