Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas and some recipes

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you all! I've been away from Blogger for a while, but I'll be around to visit and say hello soon.

This picture was taken yesterday at my brother's place. This is Ceili, the canine snuggle machine.

Here are the recipes you sent, along with a few of my own.

To start, here's one from Angie:

Chocolate Cream Pie

2 c chocolate chips
2 boxes silken tofu
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 large graham cracker crustFruit (optional)
Melt the chocolate chips over low heat, stirring constantly. Put the silken tofu in a food processor and puree. Add the melted choc chips and process till smooth. Add vanilla. Pour into the crust and refreigerate for a couple of hours. Add fruits to the top if you wish (I never ruin good chocolate with fruit!).

Sarah in Oregon says, that her favorite is:

Butternut Goat Cheese Spread (google that if the link doesn't work):

http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=549952

And here are a couple that I've made and given as gifts this year. Yes, they sound weird. They're not. They're fantastic. Trust me. A guy once came a party I threw (invited by another guest), tasted my cooking and asked me to marry him on the spot. I kid you not.

Breakfast bean cookies

My friend who gave me this recipe told me that it comes from Julie Van Rosendaal at
http://www.onesmartcookie.ca/

Makes 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

2 cups oats (quick or old fashioned, not instant)
1 cup all-purpose flour, or half all-purpose and half whole-wheat
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
1 – 19 oz. (540 ml) can of white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup chocolate chips, the darker the better
½ cup raisins, dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots, or a combination of dried fruits
¼ - ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 Tbsp. ground flax seed

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Place oats in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it resembles coarse flour. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and process until combined. Transfer to a large bowl.

Put the beans into the food processor and pulse along with the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Pour the bean mixture into the oat mixture and stir by hand until almost combined; add the chocolate chips, raisins, nuts and flaxseed and stir just until blended.

Drop large spoonfuls of dough onto a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray, and flatten each one a little with your hand. Bake for 14-16 minutes, until pale golden around the edges but still soft in the middle. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Per cookie:
138 calories, 3.5 g total fat (1.4 g saturated fat, 1 g monounsaturated fat, 0.8 g polyunsaturated fat), 3.4 g protein, 23 g carbohydrate, 14.2 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 22% calories from fat.

Sarah’s notes:

Instead of using cooking spray, I line my cookie sheets with parchment paper. It lowers the fat, creates less mess and the paper can be reused several times.

I make the cookies a bit smaller than what the original recipe suggests and I usually end up with three to three and a half dozen cookies.

I have always used the combination of half regular and half whole wheat flour and found that it works well.

Cabbage cake

Cabbage, disguised as coconut, adds moisture to this fudgy bundt cake.

Ingredients

3 cups finely shredded cabbage
⅓ cup white sugar
½ cup butter
1 ¼ cups sugar
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sifted cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. instant coffee granules
1 cup hot water
Icing sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl combine cabbage and ⅓ cup white sugar, stirring well. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight. Drain the cabbage thoroughly.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and 1 ¼ cups of sugar until creamy. Beat in eggs until fluffy.

In a separate bowl sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

Add to creamed mixture alternately with coffee dissolved in water and the drained cabbage, beating until well combined.

Spoon into a greased 9” bundt pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan. Sprinkle with icing sugar.

Happy holidays to all!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

I love winter running

When I first started running I was very apprehensive about running in the winter. I'm not a big fan of the cold... or being cold. The thought of training outside in the freezing weather just did not sit well.

But after asking around, it seems that prolonged treadmill sessions (longer than 90 minutes) are not that much fun. I've heard reports that it leaves you more sore than "regular" running, that the body mechanics are slightly different and it's just not as good as being outside.

So, I keep my treadmill sessions fairly short and do the long runs outside. Today it was beautiful... bright and sunny and cool -10C (that's about 14F for our friends south of the border). The "real feel" temperature was slightly colder and I think that where I was on the river pathways, it was probably colder yet, because of the water, which was still flowing in most part, though with chunks of ice floating on the surface.

After much reading and asking around, I have learned to prepare myself... Warm water in the bottle, layers of clothing, a hat, gloves, sunglasses and of course, the iPod. I don't get the layers quite right all the time... often I end up with too many. But that's better than not having enough clothes on, for sure.

And so, out I headed for an easy 10 miles (16 km)... nice and slow... out to enjoy the scenery and work on building my base.

Calgary's river pathways are beautiful. In the summer time, they are very busy. But at this time of year, not so much. There are a few people walking dogs and the odd person out for a walk on these pathways that are cleared by the city for those who dare to brave the elements.

Then there's us. The runners. On days like today, we recognize each other as the ones dedicated to our practice. We are drawn by the warmth of summer. Nor are we among those who are out there to "be seen". We are there to run. It's hard work out there in that cold. We know that. But still, we are there, doing what we love to do.

I have discovered that runners who hit Calgary's pathways in the winter are a special breed. They salute one another with a smile, a nod or a wave.... a sign of respect and honour for a fellow die hard. This happens sometimes in the summer, but in the winter, almost every runner I encounter acknowledges others on the path. I love this feeling, this sense of community among individuals. I enjoy the space on the pathways, the cooler air and the way the river and the trees look at this time of year.

I never considered myself a "winter sport" person. Little did I know that running could be a winter sport.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

First running birthday, first 30 km run

On this day last year, I ran for 30 minutes straight. It was after being injured for over a year. I had done some running before that but I couldn't really call myself a runner, since injury came not long after I started.

How did I celebrate my first running birthday?

I ran, of course.

In fact, my plan was to do my longest run of the year to date, with the goal being 30 km.

When I woke up this morning, the "light" snow they had warned us of turned out to be a rather sizeable dump of snow. And the temperature of -8 C / 17 F they predicted was more like -14 C / 7 F. I waited until it warmed up to -10 C / 14 F (though Accuweather said the Realfeel temperature was more like -22C / that's -7.6 F, with the wind chill and humidity). Then, I headed out. It didn't warm up much through the day either.

Jeeeezuuussss!!!

I am not conditioned to run in the cold weather and my longest run to date is 15 miles / 24 km. The thought of doing 30 km or 18 miles, just didn't seem possible.

But I took lots of breaks, fuelled well and in the end here are the Garmin stats:

Time: 3:58:47
Distance: 18.87 mi or 30.37 km
Avg. pace: 12:39 min/mi or 7:51 min/km
Avg. speed: 4.7 mph or 7.6 kph
Max. speed: 6.4 mph or10.2 kph
Avg. HR: 141 bpm
Max. HR: 157 bpm

It was slow, even for me. But given the cold and the fact that my longest run was 3 miles or about 6 km less than today's effort, I am OK with the pokeyness. I can work on speed when the conditions are more reasonable.

Believe it or not, I did overheat a bit and ended up taking off my long underwear in a public washroom along the way. I had no choice but to tie them around my waist. There they were... white, Wilson brand, long underwear, with a big orange stripe around the waist band, rolled up, with each leg wrapped around one side of my waist and tied in the middle. Very attractive.

I was testing out new winter Pearl Izumi running pants, which are lovely and warmer than I expected, so the long underwear was overkill. I arranged the route so there would be a stop at the car just after the halfway point. Then I dumped the long underwear and one of the top layers. Having said that, after 4 hours, the front of my legs were a bit cold and I noticed my knees were getting a bit creaky.

Some random thoughts that occured to me along the way (a.k.a. thoughts only other runners would get):

  • I really hope my Vaseline isn't frozen when I get back to the car.
  • (After finishing the run, and upon returning to the car) Hey, cool, my pb&j sandwich isn't completely frozen. I can still eat it!
  • Running in the cold isn't so bad.
  • Running in the cold sucks!
  • My knees don't feel too bad.
  • My knees are sore.
  • Thank God for the men who clear the river pathways. I mean really, thank God for them!
At the end, minimal discomfort in the way of blisters and GI issues, which made me very happy. I think it has something to do with slowing down. Mind you... maybe my body was just too shocked by the cold to rebel.

And with that, I happily celebrate my birthday as a one year old runner, and a 37-year old human. Yup, it's my real birthday today, too. Cool, eh?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"M" minus six months, why people gain weight over the holidays and tag

"M" minus six months

So, I've revised the marathon plan. If the conference in Europe happens, I want to go and enjoy it, not be all grumbly about the marathon I missed at home. So, instead, I'm opting for the
Red Deer Marathon, slated for May 18, exactly six months from today.

I went out for a five miler (8 km) today. It was one of those days when I was dragging my sorry butt along the pathways, but now that I have a definite goal, I am committed to it.

I've also been toying with the idea of running an ultra one day... I know, I know... I need a few marathons under my belt first. But, the seed's been planted, so watch this space!

And people wonder why they gain weight over the holidays!

I don't know whether to laugh or cry... I found this while I was looking for some new healthy holiday recipes.

Martha Stewart's Deep Fried (American) Thanksgiving Turkey
http://food.yahoo.com/recipes/martha-stewart/recipe1654/deep-fried-turkey

Apparently, this is a REAL recipe. (See the photo of her with the huge fryer basket.)

Per Serving
Calories: 2345 kcal
Carbohydrates: 2 g
Dietary Fiber: 0 g
Fat: 191 g
Protein: 147 g
Sugars: 0 g

Let Martha get fat. I have a marathon to train for!

On that happy note, I've decided to open up the blog for the holidays... If you e-mail me your healthy holiday recipes, I'll post them on the blog (giving you credit, unless you tell me to do otherwise). And if I have time, I'll test them out and post a photo of the results for you!

Bring on the healthy holidays!

Tag

Oh yeah, and I've been tagged.

Here are the Rules:
Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
Share 5 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
Tag 3 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
Let them know they are TAGGED by leaving a comment on their blog.
My tagger:
Karen

  1. I hate going to the video store. I'd rather buy the video or have someone else go and pick out the movie. I'll even spring for the rental; just don't make me go to the video store!
  2. I love lemon merengue pie... or any lemony dessert. Sweet - and just a little tart. (No comments from the peanut gallery, please!)
  3. I once went polar bearing in Halifax harbour... January 1, 1986, I think it was.
  4. I have never broken a bone - or had one broken by anyone else, for that matter!
  5. I once owned a 1972 VW Beetle, hand-painted baby blue for me by a friend. He added flowers, a peace symbol, a happy face and where there were dents he wrote the word "Ouch!" I drove it until the brakes gave out when I was driving it one day. Luckily, I was not hurt but the mechanic refuesed to fix it, given that there were bits tied together with laundry line and duct tape. I miss that old car...

OK, I'm now tagging Bast, Turtle, Robb, Sarah and Michelle.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Last chance half marathon report

The conditions for today's half marathon are excellent. Partly sunny and cool. It's supposed to be between 0 and 2 Celcius (just above the freezing mark) for the duration of the run, with varying amounts of sun. Once again, my inexperience in racing shows, and I am unsure how to dress. I layer up with a tank top, long sleeved training shirt and then a fleece. I wear shorts, with long pants over them to keep my legs warm until I get to the start line.

Alia arrives at 8:45 a.m., leaving us plenty of time to arrive for the 10:00 a.m. start. As we are chatting I tell her that I had a nightmare. Like many people, I don't sleep well the night before a race, but I also don't often have nightmares that wake me up in a panic. In the dream I am living in an apartment building. I come home to find my front door is open. I can see there is a man inside.

I start to run. I see a girl I know (no one I know in real life) and tell her we have to get to her house to call the police. She lives further than I anticipate and we are running hard. The man follows. I wake up, unsettled... and uneasy.

I tell Alia that I figure it is symbolic... Things that are beyond my control leave me feeling helpless and afraid. The conversation meanders on to other topics.

We get to the race with plenty of time to spare. The start / finish line is near a trendy, upscale market in the downtown area. That means... indoor washrooms! Sweet!

I shed some layers and we head to the start line. I see a running friend there and we exchange hellos.

The gun goes off. My Garmin and iPod go on. I start with my friend, but move ahead after a few hundred metres.

Nausea settles in fairly quickly. It is to remain with me for the remainder of the run. At one point I almost hope I will throw up, just to get it out of my system, but I have no such luck.

I run hard... start out too fast again. But I won't know this until much later in the race. The run is entirely along city pathways, not roadways. I find myself annoyed with runners who travel in packs, taking up the entire path, making it difficult for others to pass.

After about 6 km, I feel the not unfamiliar gush of fresh, bleeding blisters in my right shoe. There is still a long way to go. I notice that my shoe laces have loosened, which I think will make the blisters worse. I pull off to the side to re-tie them.

Bam!

A cyclist rams me in the hip as I'm about to crouch down. I shriek. He looks at me as if to say, "Stupid cow!"

These are public pathways and we all have to share them. This guy is obviously not associated with the race and, from having lived with a competitive cyclist, I can also tell he is not a "serious" cyclist... His bike and attire tell all... not to mention his lumpy figure. Luckily, he has not hit me hard. I watch him pass me and then crouch down to retie my shoes.

I run hard, wheezing and gasping as I usually do in races. I am down to my tank top and shorts now, having discarded my gloves (a cheap pair of "magic gloves") at the first water station, and tied the long sleeve shirt around my waist.

There is a girl in a short sleeved T-shirt and vest not far ahead of me. I wonder to myself about what it would be like to run in a vest. I have a couple, but I've never run in them.

She and I will battle for the lead between us from about the 7 km point (1/3 of the way) to the end of the race. There is also a senior citizen who is power walking, but moving at what seems to be an incredible speed for a walker... He also passes me at one point.

I think to myself, "I have to get past him. If for no other reason than my mental sanity. I will not be beaten by a walker!"

I push past him. The girl in the vest and I continue to jockey for the first place between us. In the last 4 km I feel myself slowing down. She catches up. We are neck and neck. I push hard. She falls back.

Next thing I know, she is beside me again.

We are in the final 2 km now. I think to myself, "OK, you wanna do this? Then let's do it." I push harder. I am winded. It taking everything I've got. She's good competition for me. She falls behind again.

I keep thinking to myself, "There's a girl on your heels who wants to beat you and a power walker not far behind her. Do not stop now!!"

Everything is burning. Aching. I really want to throw up. I see the finish line.

2:08:??

I think to myself, "What?? All this pain and I'm not even close to a PR?? WTF??"

I cross the finish line and accept the finisher's medal. I turn around. The girl in the vest finishes right behind me. I turn around and congratulate her on a good run. Without her, I would not have pushed it to the end.

I see Alia and I cannot contain my disappointment, "Too slow" were the first words out of my mouth. She starts to tell me that I was not slow. The words float vaguely through my head. I interrupt her... "I think I'm going to be sick."

She gets me to a bench and I almost collapse onto it. I know I ran hard. I can feel it. My gut feels awful. I am wondering about the blisters. Before the race, I had finally rid myself of them and had nice new skin there. That is no longer the case. The sock is drenched in blood. It has soaked through to the shoe. The socks and shoes come off. If nothing else, it will distract me from my nausea to tend to them. As I pull my foot out of my shoe, an involuntary, "Dyuggghhh!" escapes my mouth.

Alia hands me the supplies I need. I disinfect the blisters, lance them, put ointment on them and cover them in bandages and fresh socks.

We meet up with my running friend and head for the post-race buffet. My tummy is upset, but I am hungry. I eat very, very slowly. Still, it's the wrong thing to do. Not long after, I feel sick again. They sit with me patiently and wait for me to feel better.

By the time I make it home, the fresh socks are no longer fresh. They are also now drenched in blood. I don't care. I'm too tired and I feel too bad to care. I plug in my Garmin to find out that I was a minute and some slower than last time... but my average and maximum heart rate were slightly higher. That means I was working harder, but the results did not show it.

I have started to pay more attention to heart rate training. I see that in today's race, I spent a good 11 and a half minutes in zone 5. The rest was in zone 4, save for a couple of hundred feet.

I scroll through my training history. Only twice before have I ever spent that long in zone 5. Both times I threw up. Today, I managed to avoid that, though barely.

I am spent... completely and utterly spent. I grab a blanket and huddle under it. I'm too tired to shower even... and too sore and nauseous to care. I spend the next several hours under the blanket wondering many things... and trying to come to grapple with the concept of what it means to be "good enough."

Thus ends my first season of racing.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Blog post on a snowy day

We woke up to a winter wonderland here in Calgary today. It's been snowing all day and I've stayed inside, catching up on my studying.

I finally got my scholarship applications in, as well as a draft of my ethics application done. My research will focus mostly on publicly available documentation from university English language programs, but if I want to interview anyone for my thesis, I need to get approval from the research ethics board at the university.

This is a relatively new requirement, instituted in the past few years. It is an incredibly rigorous process and I don't know of anyone whose application has been approved the first time they submit it. The committee is notoroious for demanding changes. You submit revisions and then they demand more changes. It can take months for them to approve your application. But if you go ahead and start your research with out their approval, apparently it can be declared null and void and you don't graduate. So, I got the first draft of the application done. I'll wait for the revision requirements to come back and then go from there.

I've been cutting back a bit in my running lately, as the taper begins for next weekend's half marathon.

Now that the snow is here, I think it's high time to look at buying some winter running gear! Anyone know of a place that sells petite (as in, for short people) running tights? I went into one running store and the sales girl said, "Just buy an extra small."

Needless to say, I left the store shortly thereafter.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A 5K "fracaso"

"Fracaso" is the Spanish word for when something flops. A common use of the word is in the phrase "un fracaso total", or "a complete flop".

I can't say that last weekend's race was "un fracaso total" because I got a PR - of sorts - out of it. But there were blips.

When I went to pick up the race packages for a couple of friends who were running, as well as my own package, I noticed that there were no timing chips handed out. I asked, "So, there's no chips?"

I was told, "No, it's an untimed race."

My first thought, which I did not voice was, "Well, isn't that a lovely oxymoron - an untimed race. Isn't the point of a race is that it is timed???" But I bit my lip.

When I got home, I checked the registration web page and they had used words like "race", "racer" and "competitor". Then, I read the material in the race package which stated that they had decided not to time this year's event, but make it a "family fun run" instead. The race pack info also said this was to be the last time they were going to hold this run, due to costs.

Being the student I am, I pick and choose my races carefully because each one costs money to enter. Needless to say, the race director got a polite but pointed e-mail that runners should have been informed of the change, so that we could make informed decisions about how to spend our money.

I was not a particularly happy camper, but I decided that since I had my Garmin, I would time myself.

On race day we lined up at the start line, the gun went off and away we went. A few minutes along my friend caught up to me and told me that the 5K route was "back there"! I was running with the 10K group. I learned later, there was a staggered start and I started with the wrong group. Then, I missed the turn-off for the 5K route (precisely because no one had turned off yet, because the 5K runners had not even started yet.)

I thought, "Screw it. I've got a Garmin. I'll stop it at 5K and that will be my time."

Now, I don't know why, but my running brain works in miles. My Garmin is set in miles. I turned it off at 3.2 miles. Turns out that's 5.15 K, not 5 K. Oh well. Anyway, my time was 27:15 for 5.15K. That's almost a 4-minute improvement since my first 5K in May. So, that's something to celebrate.

Also, because it was Halloween weekend, lots of people were dressed in costumes and it was a hoot to see them. The weather was good - dry and cool. These are also things to celebrate and enjoy.

Starting with the wrong group, missing the turn off and having to walk back to the finish line after 5K - yeah, that's the "fracaso" part.

I have decided that one of my goals for 2008 is to program my Garmin to display kilometres and (more difficult) program my brain "run in metric".

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Life zooms along...

Well, it's that time of the semester again... I'm up to my eyeballs in "stuff" - scholarship applications, conference proposals, ethics clearance application and let's not forget - my own research. I am buried, I tell you, buried in stuff!

The car got fixed and now I need to start thinking about snow tires. More financial fun!

The cat continues to get better. She still has her cone on, poor thing. I've tried taking it off, but she starts grooming compulsively and re-opens the wounded area, causing it to bleed. So, the cone stays on until she's healed.

My room mate, Gord, finally headed east to his new home in Cape Breton. So, the house is quiet. Or rather, "the house is less full of laughter". Isn't it funny how it's less likely that the house will be filled with happy laughter when you're the only one in it? I am more of a "quiet ponderer" type when left alone. Sometimes good. Sometimes not good.

In any case, I am on the hunt for a new roomie. I have been reluctant to post ads on public bulletin boards around school, hoping instead that something will come up through people I know. But I may post an ad yet. We'll see...

And now for the juicy stuff. Running! (You were expecting something else?)

I have a 5 km race this weekend, which I am looking forward to. I know, I know, I said I was not going to do any more 5 km races; they're too short. But I wanted to see if I could end the season with a better time, so we'll give it a whirl.

The marathon decision is out. Karen wins! At this point I am planning to run the Calgary Stampede marathon next July. The only possible glitch is that I may be funded to go to a conference next year around that time. And if I can get an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe, well, I'll pick another marathon. (Who wouldn't? I mean, really!) But the decision on that won't be made for several months, yet. In the meantime, I will train like I'm running in July and if I need to postpone, I will.

The other thing I've been exploring with running is how to train using heart rate as a guide. I've done a bit of reading and would like to learn more, so suggestions for Sarah's reading list are most welcome.

OK, folks, time to return this pretty little head to the books.... Will try to catch up on blogs soon. I miss you guys!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Running away from problems

I am happy to report that the cat is doing much better. She still has her cone on, but the healing is progressing very well. She still hates being showered, but so would I, in her position.

Having to deal with that little surprise caused a small dent in my bank account. Then, it got worse when I took the car in for an oil change and asked the mechanic (whom I trust) to check the leak under the car.

Was it a small leak? Well, yes, for now. Will it get worse? Yes. Is it cheap and easy to fix? No.

A "classic" problem for GM and Chrysler cars that use this stuff called "Dexcool" has finally hit my car. Aparently this Dexcool stuff corrodes the gasket of the intake manifold, eventually requiring said part to be replaced. (Aren't you impressed my mechanical vocabulary?) You can't use any other kind of coolant in cars that require Dexcool and yet the stuff basically breaks your vehicle down over time. There's been law suits over it in the U.S. I understand, but not in Canada. Anyway, now it's time for my intake manifold to be replaced. Excuse me while I cough up another $900.

Ouch.

These two things have me reeling. I am generally responsible with my money and I know surprises happen, but why can't they just space themselves out a little better? Being a student has its downside... the biggest one being finances, I think.

Anyway, I decided that adding a little bit of insult to injury wouldn't hurt, so I went and signed up for another half marathon (Nov. 11 - The Last Chance Half Marathon), just to distract myself and make myself feel better. I mean, these other expenses make a race fee entry seem small, in comparison.

I felt more focussed and positive after I did that. I thought, "I'm a runner. I'll cope. That's what we do."

In years past I would have stuffed my face full of junk and drowned my sorrows in pop. Now, apparently I just rust run away from my problems. :-)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Things I think about while cleaning my cat's behind...

This week started off with a trip to the vet for Princess Cone Head (the cat formerly known as "Nimbus"). I found an abscess in her hind leg on Sunday night. It was nasty.

The vet said it was about the size of a tennis ball and most of it was inside. Yummy.

This week my training has included learning such tasks as:
1) How to give a cat a pill (an exercise in will, strength and patience)
and
2) Hydrotheraphy (at least that's what the vet called it). The real name for it is "Giving your cat's back end a shower". That could be somewhat likened to wrestling with a tiger.

I shouldn't complain. She's a good cat. What seems to stress her out the most is not being able to wash herself at all because of the cone. She found a way to reach the last couple of inches of her tail and she purrs like a freight train when she cleans it.

I think this qualifies as "Mom duty", no??

A nice bonus is that I was able to fix up Turtle Guy with a new girl. She's a 4-month old kitten that a family had brought in to be euthanized because she scratched their baby. The folks at the vet clinic decided that at four months old there was a chance she could be socialized and trained to be less aggressive, so they asked if they could attempt to do that and re-home her. The family agreed. The vet clinic said that within a week she'd come a long way and they hoped to find her a home soon. I thought of Turtle, who lost both his cats not too long ago and next thing you know, I got a photo of his new little treasure, who has yet to be named, I understand. In any event, for sure she'll find a good home over at Turtle's.

As for running training, I've been in recovery this week, doing short, easy runs. I realized that I ran pretty hard last weekend and my legs still feel heavy. I'll go out again today, but I think I'll only do 5 miles or so.

In his last comment, Rob asked if I was going to start training for a marathon. The answer is yes.

Now, there are various other questions to answer... Which one? Where? When? How to train...?

I've started to put together a training calendar that spans several months. It's only in draft form and I'll definitely consult with a few people on it, but at least it gets me thinking about it.

I've been asking around as to what's a good marathon to run. Various answers have come in. Karen says I should do the Stampede marathon here in Calgary (so she can cheer me on, bless her heart!) Robb says I should get my butt home to Halifax and run the Blue Nose Marathon next May long weekend. Dawn has said we should train together for the marathon on Prince Edward Island next October.

My chiropractor has suggested that I consider the Okanagan International Marathon or the Royal Victoria Marathon, both in the neighboring province of British Columbia or the Portland Oregon Marathon, all of which would be exactly one year from this weekend. His reasoning is that it means I wouldn't have to do long training runs in the bitter cold of Alberta winters... and that running at lower altitudes is easier.

I am undecided. I like Karen's idea because my first half marathon in July took me over some of the same course this year. I could run the rest of the course in my training and really know what I was getting into. Besides, I like the idea of running at home and having people I know be there!

Robb's idea is my dream; to go back home and run in the city where I grew up would be thrilling! I know many of those streets, too. I could catch up with old friends and meet Robb and Running Wife, which would be very cool.

The idea of training with someone, Dawn, and going to a race together sounds like a blast! She's an experienced runner and I am guessing that I'd have a good time no matter what.

Hhhmm... Decisions, decisions.... Anyone else got any ideas??

Oh yeah, training advice and recommendations for books to read are also welcome.

What is that expression? "The journey of 26.2 miles begins with a single step," right?

Here I go...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Harvest Half Marathon report

Happy, happy, happy! I ran my second half marathon today. My official time was 2:07:07.

This means I took 11 minutes off my time from July. Yaaay! My goal was 2:10, so I was pleased.

One weird thing was... I placed 294th overall. If you look at the photo, you can see that my race number was also 294. Kind of twighlight-zoney, eh? I don't know what the statisitcal probability of that is, but next time I'm going to ask for bib number 001!

A number of things went wrong leading up to the race. I was tired, burnt out, and felt like I was "not on my game". Went to the doctor. My blood was generally fine. Thyroid a bit high, blood sugar a bit low, but all within normal range. The general diagnosis: "Overdoing it." Great thing to hear less than 2 weeks before a half marathon.

Between that and the last meeting I had with my trainer where he said there was no physiological reason for the decline in my training performance and that it was mental... that being mentally tough was important (a "chat" that felt like a mental beating in itself) I went into today's race feeling a little less "sharp" than with my first half marathon in July.

My massage therapist cancelled on my pre-race appointment, and my chiropractor let loose on me a bit about how a race shouldn't just be about getting a certain time... "That's like it being all about the money for a business person. If you take that attitude, it is never good enough. It never ends. It should be a celebration of the training."

I agree with the last bit, but I wasn't sure where the tongue lashing came from... I don't think I'm obsessed with race times and in general, I think I set reasonable goals. But whatever... For a variety of reasons, I went in feeling like like the lead-up to a big event was less than ideal.

However, I owe a big debt of gratitude to Alia, who served as my chauffeur, cheerleader and race crew. She arrived at my house at 6:30 am to pick me up and then took care of me until the minute she dropped me off at my door. She's not a runner herself, but man, she is one helluva supporter.

I also owe thanks to a new runner friend who has run in the same event in previous years. Prior to the race he gave me a tour of the course, told me where the tough bits were and ran a few kms of it with me as a training run. That was huge boost psychologically and in the midst of a string of things that felt wrong, it was particularly helpful.

Alia was also the official photographer for the day. As we were looking at the photos after the race, she giggled at this one. Apparently, runners are tall people. Or at least, I make them look that way.

The race course itself was beautiful. About 60-70% of it was through a park area, with lots of trees, a river and positively gorgeous views. There were parts that were breathtaking.

My weakness in this race was that I started out too fast. I slowed down quite a bit on some nasty hills at the end. Despite the fact that I love hills and have been known to almost shriek with delight when I train on them, I was a bit spent when I got to "the killer" hill in the last 3 km.

My iPod konked out on my around 9 km, which threw me for a bit of a loop, since I almost always train with it. It did that to me in the gym last week. I'd heard that iPods get to the point where they won't hold a charge any more. I had it charging for 2 entire days before the race, so the battery was full when I started. I did manage to get it going again, but the volume was low. I knew I couldn't count on the music for motivation, but I wanted to enjoy it as long as I could.

One of the first things I said to Alia upon finishing was, "I really have to learn to keep my shirt on!"

She replied, "Yeah, you really do!"

It was between 2 C and 3 C (around 35-36 F) for the duration of the race, but I got so hot I felt like I was melting, so off the shirt came. I do believe I was the only woman running in a racer top today. But whatever. I was too hot and sweaty to care.

The usual blister issue existed, but I am getting used to it now. I brought my own first aid kit and patched myself up after the race. I knew they were bleeding, but I was able to manage it well enough that they didn't soak through to my shoes this time.

All in all, it was fun. The lead up conditions were not as ideal as they were for my first half in July, but I am happy that I ran it. It was a beautiful day and it did not rain or snow, as they'd talked about in the forecast. I had fantastic support from a dedicated friend. I managed the blisters better than ever before. Despite feeling a little tired and achy, my knees and hips felt good and strong. I managed the GI issues. (Alia and I went for eats after - and coffee, of course!) And I took 11 minutes off my time from my first half marathon in July. Yes, overall... today I am a happy, happy runner!

Monday, September 17, 2007

A few of my favorite new things...

It has arrived. The long awaited "Fixing your feet" by John Vonhof is here in my hot little hands.

P. 115 "Duct tape techniques" caught my eye right away, but I want to read it all, cover to cover. And then read it again. And possibly again after that.

There is so much good stuff here! Most people I've mentioned it to around here have never heard of it, so needless to say, I've been carting it around with me everywhere I go, showing it off as my newest prized possession. When I mentioned to one friend that there were pages and pages on how to treat blisters, the response was, "Ooh, now isn't that just yummy?"

Guess you've got to live through it to get it. Anyway, I'm thrilled and I cannot wait to get through every single morsel of it. A great big huge thank you to Michelle and Sarah for recommending it.

The other thing I have to report on is my Nathan winter water bottle. It is definitely leak proof. I really like that. It's a good, sturdy bottle, too, which is nice. It is slightly larger than my other water bottles though, so when it sits in my belt, which hold it at an angle across the small of my back, my elbow jams into it when I'm in motion. That's not fun.

That probably wouldn't happen if I were a bit taller or not so short waisted, but as it is, it's not ideal for me for running. I would definitely use it as an every day water bottle or if I was wearing a back pack with a side pocket where it could stand up straight.

And so, the quest for the perfect water bottle continues... but we're getting closer.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

An interesting use for a blog - tracking 911 calls

In my last post I complained about how tired I am and how much I've been sleeping lately. Tonight there was little sleep to be had. I was woken up by my neighbours' fighting again. This happens every 5-6 weeks, usually on a Saturday night/Sunday morning. They fight, they scream, they yell profanities, there's thumping (which we think might be the girl being slammed up against the wall by the fella, but we have no proof), she cries and pleads for him to stop.

Tonight I gave the wall a thump to let them know that the noise carries. I regret that now, as it only served to escalate the situation. He started yelling profanities at me through the wall. That carried on for about half an hour, after which I called 911.

I am hesitant to call the police because I fear that the fellow's temper may, at a later time, be turned on me, my car or my property. I've mentioned the situation to the president of our condo board, but only informally. But I understand that her hands are tied and she can't do much because she's doesn't witness or hear the situation herself. So tonight I called the police again - for the second time.

I was wondering how long it had been since the first call to the police and then remembered that I'd blogged about it. November 5, 2005 was the first time I called. That's almost two years ago. I feel that I've let thing go on for too long, because I hear them fight and I get scared myself and because I don't want to cause a fuss.

Tonight, as last time, the police came. The guy who lives next door swore there was no fighting. I think tonight he said something about me being crazy, though I can't be sure. Like last time, the police left and nothing happened.

I've now put my concerns in writing for the board. I mentioned that this was my second call to the police. In my letter to them I noted when the first call was. I must say that I never thought I'd end up using my blog to track 911 calls!

The noise that wakes us up is distressing. (And I say "us" because they've now woken up one present and one past tenant as well.) The fact that we believe the girl is in danger of physical harm is even more disturbing. What's most exasperating though is that the police come and then leave again and nothing is done.

Well, here is 5:00 a.m. and I'm going to try to go back to bed for a while...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Running lull

They said it would happen. I knew intellectually it would happen to me, but I didn't expect it so soon. Not in the first year. Not when I'm was so fully of energy and zip and excited about every single run. Not when training was the highlight of my day.

If I look back in my training log, I can see it building up... my love of training slowly dissolving as I got more and more tired.

I showed my trainer some running stats from my log last week. They demonstrate a consistent decrease in performance over the past month. I feel like I have no resilience and I'm tired all the time. And I am... sleeping 10 hours a night if I can get away with it.

He said something to the effect that there's no physiological reason for the decrease in performance... that it must be mental... that mental toughness was very important.

I was crushed. Choked back tears. Went away and wept... internal resources too low to fight... feeling angry at the irony of it all, thinking that a tough person wouldn't cry.

I want to run. I want to run just about as much as I want to finish my PhD successfully. And that's a lot.

I'm not particularly smart, reasonably intelligent, yes, but not brilliant by any means. And I'm not particularly athletic, in reasonably good shape now, yes, but definitely not in Olympic form. What I have are discipline and determination. And that's all. But no matter how I feel, I rarely miss training. If I do miss training, there's got to be a good reason.

I understand that plateaus are normal. But this... this decline in performance, coupled with exhaustion and a growing disdain for something I know I love, this is not normal. It leaves me asking what the heck is wrong with me?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Get 'er done!

Oooh, I've just noticed that I haven't posted in over a week. Bad Blogger! It's been a busy week. First week back at school and life at the office was particularly hectic this week, with a big grant proposal due and a one-day conference in about a month, that I'm co-organizing.

I am not teaching this semester, with a view to getting my thesis research well under way. I saw the university filled with wide-eyed frosh this week and thoroughly enjoyed the surge of energy that they brought to campus. I had pangs of sadness about not teaching. I will miss the students. I won't miss the hours of corrections or preparation, of course, but you can't have one without the other, I guess.

This week my running has been less than stellar. I have found myself more tired than usual and I was unable to complete my scheduled speed training on Tuesday and my incline training on Thursday left me gasping. I felt like I was going to collapse, so I cut it short and went and did some yoga for about 20 minutes. I took Friday completely off training. I felt run down. And I haven't been looking forward to my workouts at all. I have learned that this is a sign that I am doing a bit too much and need to back off.

Besides, I had a 15-miler (25 km) planned for today. I wasn't sure I could manage it, and taking Friday off was one way to pump up my energy reserves a bit.

I didn't feel like going today, but I did. I just thought, "Get 'er done!" It wasn't the most stellar run I've ever had, nor the worst by any means. I got it done and I was happy that I achieved at least one running goal for this week.

My conditioning days are fairly intense and I don't know if I'm over training a bit (which I tend to do), if I'm anemic (which I'm also prone to) or just tired. So, my plan is to ease up just a bit and charge the batteries.

And with that, I will sign off with the hopes of catching up on my blog reading soon.

Night, night.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Nothing gold can stay

And, so with the labour day weekend upon us, and school starting up again, summer draws to a close. This last week of summer for me has been busy, but not frantic - just the way I like it.

Yoga classes ended this week. They'll start up again in about a month. Until then, I'll practice on my own, probably a bit at the end of each workout.

I'm debating about taking the Level 2 yoga class on Saturdays again, but I think I might pass this fall. As my long weekend runs get longer, it means I'll either have to make the decision to get up darned early each and every Saturday in order to make it to the 11:00 a.m. class, or go for a run after lunch, which pretty much will mean the entire day is shot. So, I think I'll run long and enjoy a more flexible schedule.

Running this week was up and down. Good speed training on Tuesday, but mediocre hill training on Thursday. This weekend's running schedule is still up in the air.

I'm trying to figure out how to get more miles in... I'll have to do it mindfully so my knee behaves. At this point, I run every other day, but I'm not convinced that I can build a good mileage base for a marathon that way. Anyone got any thoughts on that?

A few anecdotes for the week:

1) I've discovered that one of my cats, Shady Guy, like pizza crust. He's especially partial to the bits with the crunchy cheese that gets baked onto it. Go figure!

2) I spent some quality time with my dentist this week, having a crown re-done. I was wearing a temporary one for a week and this week the final product was done. When I went in to have it cemented, the dentist decided she wasn't happy and called the dental technician over, had him look at it in my mouth, removed it, handed it to him and then sent him away to fix it. He went back to his lab (across the hall, in the same building) and an hour and a half later I had it back. It's now firmly cemented in place, replacing one that was 21 years old. I'm very happy to have it replaced.

3) Gord discovered a small leak in one of the copper pipes in the basement. This will need to be fixed at some point. He says that by looking at the mineral buildup on the pipe, it's been leaking for a long time. Luckily, my brother is a plumber. Unluckily, he's out of commission after some recent carpal tunnel surgery. I doubt the basement will flood any time soon from this leak, but it is now on the list of things to tend to.

And so, as summer gives way to fall, some things wrap up, somethings are discovered and many more are in process, reminding me of one of my favorite poems:

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

- Robert Frost

Sunday, August 26, 2007

5-mile race report


Today I ran my first 5-mile race, the Robert Hamilton Memorial Road Race.

Quick overview:
Finishing time 47:23

Stats:
05:53 minutes per km
10.2 km per hour
09:29 minutes per mile
6.3 miles per hour

Races that are clocked in miles are less common in Canada now. This event honours an icon of running in Calgary and that's why the distance has been kept in miles.

Even though I am comfortable thinking in miles (at least when it comes to running), I've never been in a running event measured that way, so I spent a fair amount of time fretting about strategy, pace, and well... all the usual stuff.

I started out by breaking the rules. I wore the new Pearl Izumi shoes. I'd only worn them once on the treadmill last week, but never outside. Karen, who was volunteering today took one look at them and said, "Those look too new for a race." I agreed, but since my feet had not bled in them when I wore them on Thursday, I was willing to risk it.

My room mate, Gord, generously offered to be my support for the day again. He's been a competitive cyclist and so he is extremely tolerant of athletic neurosis. I got to the race and decided that there was no possible way I could wear the commemorative racing socks that came with the race package. (Better than a T-shirt, no?) So, there I stood in the parking lot, changing my socks and worrying about blisters. It's good to have friends who are tolerant of your idiosyncrasies!

It was a small field. There were about 30 runners in the 5-mile race and about double that in the 10-mile event. I was very happy though to see both Karen and Dawn when I got there. I have decided that I very much enjoy the process of getting to know other runners and then meeting them at events - even if you do spot each other in the port-o-pottie line up!

Dawn was not feeling well and I felt for her. I've had numerous training runs that have resulted in a bad gut. For me, GI issues, along with the blisters, have marked my major challenges in this first year of running. I admired her running anyway, despite the grumpy gut.

There was no gun (that I remember?) just a verbal countdown and then someone saying "Go!"

Here's a synopsis of the run for me:

Negatives:

1) I placed in the bottom 1/3 - 22nd out of a total of 30 runners.

2) I did not dress properly. I am used to training in shorts and sleeveless tanks. It was chilly today (about 7 C or 45 F), so I wore a long sleeve shirt. Halfway through I felt like I was suffocating, so I tossed aside all sense of modesty and took it off. Lucky my bra is one of those that (legitimately) doubles as a top, though I'm not in the habit of using it as one. The fact that I am too much of a rookie to know how to dress properly for racing in cooler weather did not make me happy. Clearly, I need more experience...

3) A few times I found myself alone on the course, unable to see anyone in front of me. I didn't like that.

4) My Garmin acted up and didn't start tracking until about 1 km into the run. So my stats are all skewed. I used my posted race finish time to do my calculations today.


Positives:

1) Great to have Gord there as support, and official photographer. Equally great to see Karen, Dawn and her hubby there, as well. Karen is not only an experienced course marshall, she is a cheerleader par excellance. She had even written messages in chalk on the pathway for Dawn and me. Now, that's what you call encouragement!

2) No bleeding! Blisters, yes. Bleeding, no. Very happy.

3) My gut decided to behave.

4) My knee felt strong the whole way through.

5) I didn't stop to walk. I stopped briefly at the halfway point for a drink of water and shirt removal, but otherwise, I ran the whole way. I was *very* pleased with that.

6) I placed first for women in my age category! I even got a special home made gingerbread runner-man "medal" for it, too! I will devour him as a snack later...

7) I had a personal best for the pace! When I started this season I maxed out my speed training at 10:00 minute/mile, and my longer training runs were averaging about 12 minute/mile. Now to be able to race at a pace of 9:29 minute/mile is a decent improvement and I am very happy about it. Of course, now the bar has been re-set and the goal is to do longer distances at the faster pace.

After I finished and caught my breath, Gord and I found Dawn's hubby and decided to walk the course for a bit to find her. We chatted with Karen for a while and then kept walking. When we found Dawn, I handed my camera to Gord and set out to run with Dawn for a while. As she got closer to the end, I pulled off and she kicked it to the finish, grumpy gut and all! Eastern women and their grit, I tell ya. You gotta admire that.

Overall, I had fun and I was happy at the end. A good run!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Happy(er) feet

Well, I've declared war on the squishy little things that are dragging me down on my runs. In case you haven't been following, I'm talking about the blisters.

I've ordered the book, Fixing Your Feet. It's due to arrive mid-September. Thanks to Michelle and Sarah for suggesting it.

I asked the chiropractor, the trainer and just about anyone else who would listen.

I ran today on the treadmill. Feet bandaged and duct taped. It definitely was not the most inspired run of my life. The duct taped worked a bit better this time, but the blisters that were already there continued to bleed. I had to ask the fellas at the gym for relplacement band aids. I spared them having to look at my feet, but the sight of the bloody sock resulted in the first aid kit being pulled out pretty quick.

This afternoon I also went to Gord's Running Store, at the urging of Karen, a place that had also been recommended by Dawn as well as a few other people. I went yesterday but Gord wasn't working, so I went back today. I wanted to see "the" guy everyone raves about.

This guy knows his stuff. He seems quiet, laid back and very, very knowledgable. And I quickly realized that he's a runner first and a salesman second. I took the offending runners, my socks and my orthotics. I showed him where the blisters are. He asked me a few questions and had me put my shoes on and lace up. He felt my foot and made a few "Hhhmmm" type noises.

He said, "Well, they seem a bit small. Your toe is right at the end, but otherwise, mechanically they look sound."

I was a bit baffled that he thought they were small. They're a half size bigger than my street shoes. But I wasn't about to argue.

He had me take them off. He said something to the effect of, "Here, let's see if this helps." And he re-laced the shoe for me, avoiding the eyelets around the blister. He also used a tool to stretch them out at the point of blister contact, then handed the shoe back to me.

"Try that," he said.

It felt much better. I might have felt stupid if I wasn't so gobsmacked.

I said, "I thought I'd have to buy new shoes!"

He kind of shrugged and said, "I can show you some other shoes that would probably fit your foot a bit better, but those will probably work just fine for now."

I was in this guy's store, getting his undivided attention, and he seemed more interested in helping me with my blister problem than selling me shoes. Naturally, that made me want to buy something right then and there. I asked him to bring out some possibilities.

He dove into the back room and emerged several minutes later with about 6 different boxes. I kept trying on shoes. We narrowed it down to a couple of promising ones. Then I thought he was kidding when he said, "Go outside and run for a bit. See how they feel."

Go outside and run? He saw the look on my face and said, "Don't worry. Everyone around here is used to it."

Out I went. They felt different. Better. Much better. He explained that they had no stitching or extra material around the area that gives me a blister. (OK, I confess, I have the beginnings of a bunion, but let's not talk about it, OK? I just feel I'm too young for that sort of thing and I'm in denial about it.)

He also said that the models he was showing me were straighter than my Sauconys, so they'll likely accomodate the orthotics better, noting that the Sauconys have a slight curve to them.

I left with a pair of Pearl Izumi Synchofloats, laced "a la Gord". I was thinking that, possibly for the first time, I felt like I was "at one" with my shoes. That probably sounds corny. And maybe I was just a bit high from all the relief, but I felt like I wasn't wearing them, rather that they were just an extension of me. By that time, I didn't care that they were half a size bigger than what I was used to wearing.

Unlike this morning when I went to the gym, I actually wanted to go and run! Now I can't wait for Thursday to try them out on the treadmill. We'll see when I get out and run in them if I still think like that.

For now, I feel relieved. I can re-lace all my shoes. (Yes, I have a few pairs) and they should work better. And I am hopeful that these new shoes will work better for the longer runs.
I still need to find a way to deal with the existing blisters so they stop bleeding and heal, but I have a feeling that will be easier now.

PS: Also left with a water bottle. Will report on that after trying it.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

This is not the kind of runner I want to be

Usually I try to keep my running posts anecdotal, relatively positive and at the very least, readable. But today, I just need to rant. If you're not up for it, I'll understand if you pass on this post and come back later.

As I was thinking about this post before my run, I thought a good title might be "Fun with duct tape". But it turned out not to be so fun after all.

My two main issues with running lately have been that I've been unable to find a water bottle that doesn't leak around the rim and my darned blisters.

I swear, I've spent like $100 on water bottles over the last year and a half. Between trying to find one where the mouth piece is the right size (too big and the water comes gushing out, either drenching you or choking you, or both) or it leaks - even if it screwed on all the way or snapped on tight.

I've been to sporting goods stores, running stores and even supermarkets. I'm sick of spending money on water bottles!

I solved the problem with duct tape:

It's not pretty, but it works.

I have, however, decided that I like things that don't look like they've been patched together by that guy on The Red Green Show. I like things that work and that look decent.

I've also decided that I like it when *I* work and look decent. More on that in a bit.

For now, let's say that I was willing to forgo the looking decent part when I decided to try the duct tape on the blisters, too. So this morning, before the run, I powdered in between the toes and wrapped my foot in duct tape, with the intention of doing a 15-miler (25 km, give or take).

Here's what I looked like before:


And in case you're wondering, I have this thing for pedicures. Call it a vice or whatever you like. Between running and wearing summer shoes, my feet take a beating and I think they deserve to be treated nicely.

The place where I have then done is a small mom & pop shop run by a Vietnamese family. All the employees there are family members (or so we think... most of them don't speak much English.)

They get really ticked off with me because I insist on cutting my toenails myself before I go in. They take one look at them and say, "Too short! Too short!"

I say, "I run. They need to be short." They kind of throw up their hands at me in despair and then do their best to work with my stubby nails. Then, they see my blisters and look at me as if to say, "What the hell do you do to your feet? You leave, they look good. You come back, they look like this."

Same goes for the finger nails. There's one young fellow who works there who knows that I go to a gym. I tell him, "They nails get ruined in the weight room, anyway. And if they're too long, they just snap off. I need them to be 'sport length'." They don't get it, but my friend and I are regulars there now, so we all know what to expect.

Anyway, out I set, with my duct taped water bottle and foot. At mile 6, I felt it; the squishing inside my sock of a wet blister. I stopped and took my shoe off. In fact, I sat down and took my sock off to inspect the situation.

Did you read that? I sat down! What the hell kind of run is that when you sit down? That's not a run, that's a freaking surrender, is what that is!

I wasn't even half way along my route.

The duct tape hadn't covered all the blister, I realized. And it had slid around a bit, so I re-positioned it and then got my sock and shoe back on. The blister was watery and broken, but not yet bleeding, so that was a good sign at least.

There was no way I was going to make it to 7.5 miles before turning around.

And you know how I run - a straight line out, then turn around. There's only one way back then - on your feet or on a stretcher. No cell phone. No money. That's just tempting me to be a wimp.

I wasn't far from Kensington, where my friend L. lives. For a moment I wondered if she was home, thinking that I could go knock on her door and beg for a ride back to my car. She would have done that for me, for sure, but that's not the kind of runner I am. I had already sat down. I wasn't going to be any more of a wimp.

Having said that, it hurt enough that it was starting to affect my foot strike. I remembered back to a time when I ran in high school that I got blisters go bad the entire inside of my shoe was gushing with blood. I just kept going, not noticing that I had changed my foot strike to avoid the tender spot. I ended up with tendinitis in my foot because I'd pulled things in all different directions. I had to stop running for a few weeks while it all healed.

That was years ago, but I didn't want a repeat performance.

I started to head back not long after. My run was not going to be 15 miles today.

I was ticked, to put it mildly.

On the way back, I did a walk/run. The final result was that I felt like I was trudging along... or make that, tottering along. I didn't feel like a runner at all. I felt like a big bag of turds who's not tough enough to take a little blister on her foot. I felt slow and sluggish and frustrated. How can such a stupid, simple little thing create such a nasty problem?

By the end of my 12 miles (19 km, more or less), I was fit to be tied I was so angry. And tired. It wasn't the kind of tired you feel when you know you've gone hard and you're spent. No, it was the kind of tired you get when you feel defeated and disappointed in yourself.

When I got home the blister had bled, of course. You can see here that the blood that didn't get soaked up by the tape just oozed out around the edges of it. You can still see the tape line, with blood on either side of it:

Luckily, it didn't bleed much, so that is something to be thankful for. My gut behaved itself, which is also something to be grateful for.

But, I did not go the distance today. I gave up. I felt no joy in my training run today, which is highly unusual for me. I felt like I let myself down. How am I ever going to get in shape for a marathon when I'm such a wimp?

Sorry for the rant, folks. Those of you who follow the blog regularly know that I'm not usually so cranky. There's a 5-mile race next weekend, so I'm going to work hard this week on an attitude adjustment so I can do the race in a happy, positive frame of mind.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Holy cold meds, batman!

So, a friend told me today that now that I am finally chilling out, exams over, half marathon done, home from the family vacation and I'm in serious take-a-break mode, that my defenses are down and that's why I have this nasty cold. She's probably right.

But it didn't feel like my defenses were down on Sunday, I tell you. I woke up sniffly and miserable. Everything ached. I couldn't decide if I felt like I'd just been beaten up or put through a meat grinder. Didn't want to move, much less run.

Not good. Not good at all.

No way I was going to run to the corner, let alone the 10 miles I had mentally scheduled.

But with a race in a couple of weeks and another half marathon at the end of September, I know that getting in the long runs is important.

I had some breakfast, puttered around for a while and then decided it was time to haul my sorry ass out the door and at least try to run a bit. I figured that if I could do even 3 miles, it would be better than nothing.

I popped a Sudafed and washed it down with some water, just to ease the misery a bit. Sniffling, grumbling and muttering, I headed out.

I ached through the warm-up walk and I just wanted to turn around and go home again. But that just wouldn't be me, now, would it? So, off I went running.

My slow plod quickly turned into what for me could be called a fast run. Before I knew it, 3.5 miles were gone. Where they went, I don't really know, but I had no intention of stopping. At one point I thought, "Oh, right! I'm supposed to have some fuel, aren't I?" I scarfed down a bit of a protein bar that I had with me, and kept on truckin'.

At 5 miles, I thought, "How the hell did I get here so fast? I can't believe it's time to turn around!" I felt turbo charged.

By mile 7 I realized that I'd been going faster than I should have and I got a bit tired. And I was dehydrated and got a side cramp. Mind you, that could also have been from wearing my water bottle belt not with the bottle in the back, as it normally is, but on my side, so the bottle was sitting on my hip - tightly.

Why was it there, you asked? Well, I decided to try my new favorite piece of running clothing on a long run - my beloved running skirt. It's pink and blue and I adore it. I tried it out for the first time in England, but haven't run in it since I got home.

I quickly realized that my running skirt and my water bottle belt (which I did not have with me in England) are not a good match. The belt somehow makes the skirt ride up the back. Now, that's not very modest, is it?

The skirt has built in knickers, but still! That's not my idea of a good situation. So, I twisted the belt around so it sat firmly on my hip - no skirt issues then. But it was so tight that I got a side stitch about 7 miles in. Needless to say, the skirt will not be used with the fuel belt again... too bad.

Despite the water bottle vs. skirt issue, I came home and logged my Garmin stats. I ran at *race pace*. Well, one second slower than my half marathon pace, to be exact. I never run at race pace during training. I was surprised, elated and confused all at once.

Then I remembered the Sudafed. All I can say is, no wonder some cold meds are banned in international athletic competitions. I felt like I was on fire! Even stranger, I felt great after the run, too. No tummy issues. No knee issues. I was tuckered later in the day and turned in early, but overall, I was positively zippy after that one little drugstore treasure of a pill.

At the moment, I am still fighting the cold. Today I tried my usual Tuesday speed training - without cold meds. Yeah, I felt like crap and had to cut it short. I had visions of myself collapsing on the treadmill as I was losing consciousness. I decided to spare the gym staff the effort of having to scrape me up off the floor and spare myself the humiliation by cutting back while I could still breathe.

If I still feel like this tomorrow, I'm having a Sudafed with my morning coffee. To heck with the sniffles! Cold meds rock.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The challenges we love to hate

These past few days have been wonderful. Instead of diving back into my school work like a madwoman, I decided to extend the break a bit and enjoy summer. So far, I don't regret it a bit. I know that when I get back into it, I'll be full on until it's done (a year? maybe two? or even three?) so I figure that it is sensible to recharge the batteries for now.

I have been doing things like going strawberry picking, attending cycling races and even doing a bit of cross training on my own bike. Gord suggested a bit of hill training. I agreed, though with reservations. No confidence... very little experience on a bike.

Yeah, well... I was gasping like a wizened old couch potato. Mind you, I was climbing the same hill that I had seen people racing on the day before, so perhaps the bar was set a bit high? For those of you who know Calgary, my room mate took me out to Canada Olympic Park. We started at the bottom, in the parking lot, and followed the road up the top, where the gates are. Anyway, after much huffing and puffing, I got there, but it wasn't pretty. I could hardly even talk. When I could, all that came out was a string of profanities that I'm quite sure Gord never thought were part of my vocabulary.

Good thing that trainer Kevin has me on an intensive program with lots of cardio mixed in. Clearly, I need it!

Dr. Mike, the chiropractor, has just cleared me to run another half marathon! I was thrilled to hear this. I thought he'd tell me not to push it. Instead he told me to go for it. I beamed all day after I heard that.

I've signed up for a 5-mile race at the end of August and with any luck, I'll do another half in September. I've quickly discovered that signing up for events keeps me motivated in my training. I like knowing that I have a concrete goal to work towards... and training becomes an enjoyable way to look forward to it.

Oh yeah, and speaking of running, I watched a documentary about Badwater, the 135 mile race through Death Valley. I was in awe, almost morbidly grossed out, and definitely impressed. One day, I'd like to be on an ultra crew, just so I can support someone who's crazy enough to take on that kind of challenge.

OK, time to go feed the cats before I call it a night... dreaming of the next half marathon.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Thoughts along the way...

This week things are getting back to normal - whatever that is. I'm in a most bizarre state of mind lately... taking a break from school and not stressing about it; happy to just chill out and yet itching for new challenges; going from moments of doing a great deal of reflecting or just sitting happily with a book to wanting to get out and be extraordinarily social. The weird thing is that I feel like I'm watching it all with someone else's eyes.

I see a good deal of change going on around me - people moving, getting married, having babies or breaking up and yet, my own life is uncharacteristically stable and unusually peaceful at the moment. I feel like in past couple of months things have changed inside me that aren't necessarily visible from the outside. I am stronger and more centred, clearer about who I am and what things are important to me.

Quietly puttering along in these hot lazy days of summer, I find myself feeling rested... and happy.

This past school year was, when I look back on it, extraordinarily challenging... especially around Christmas when I was considering dropping out of the program and in a full meltdown of depression that was unparalleled in recent years. That all seems like a long time ago now.

It would have been out of character for me to quit, even though I didn't really feel very strong or sure at the time. But then came the thesis proposal and the exams... concurrent with intensive training to run the half marathon.

It's all done now... months and months of preparation... thesis proposal defended, exams successfully passed... half marathon completed.

Then came rest and recovery in the form of a holiday.

Now as I look back, I see where I've come from.

And I look forward to the next two challenges, each of them at times sure to be lonely and frustrating, at times enjoyable and even exhilarating, and most certainly long and gruelling ... the Ph.D. dissertation... and the full marathon.

It seems for me that these two journeys have become inextricably intertwined. The doctoral work is intellectually exciting and lets my mind grow in ways I'd never dreamed of before. The running gets me "out of my head" and keeps me sane. I'm deeply passionate about both of them and, truth be told, I profoundly enjoy the challenges they bring.

The mind and the body are both being taxed and pushed to new limits. As one develops, so the other grows stronger. I always wanted to do these things, but deep down, I was never really quite sure that I could.

Somehow, somewhere along the way this summer a little voice inside my head has said, "Well, of course you can."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Eat, drink and be merry - a photo journal of my trip to England

Back home!

I arrived home yesterday after a loooooooong 9-hour flight. Since a picture says a thousand words, here's a little photo journal of the trip.

Here's a picture of my cousin Elaine, sister Tracy, other cousin, Jean with Claire and Alistair (Jean's son) on the far right. We are at Basildon, a historic house that was used in the filming of Jean's favorite movie, "Pride and Prejudice".



After that we went to the pub for a family gathering. It was the first time we met a few new members of the family, including Lewis (age 3.5), Amber (age 2) and Theo (just a baby).






Here's another family gathering at the pub. This one is with a different set of cousins (Elaine, in the pink, and her son, Adrian, at the far end of the table), along with Adrian's girlfriend, Shelley, and her two children, Sophie and Cam. My sister and I are in there, too, of course. We stayed at Adrian and Shelley's for the first few days of the trip.


After that, we went to stay with Jean for a few days. She lives up in the Peak District. Here's a photo taken by my sister of me with Jean one night when we were out for dinner.



We also spent a few days with yet another set of cousins in Kent. On our first night with them, they took us out for ...











And even though I was quite full after a large helping of both fish and chips, and declined to have any "pudding", as they like to call it, my dear cousins took the liberty of ordering me a traditional English dessert - spotted dick with warm custard sauce. No, I am not kidding. The photo quality isn't great on this one, but still, I had to provide evidence of this!



My sister came home to Canada a few days before I did. I spent my last day in England with my cousin, Emma having a "girls' day" including lunch at (where else?) the pub! We did eat food, too, including apple and blackberry crumble with custard for pudding.

Sounds like all we did while we were there was spend time at the pub, eh? Well, just to prove that isn't true here's a picture taken at my hosts' home with my two cousins, Rachel and Emma. Believe it or not, we were not just home from the pub!

Guess where I'm going today, now that I'm back home? The gym! And tomorrow I'm hitting the river pathways for a run. Boy, do I need it!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Vacation ramblings...

Ramble #1

We spent a few days up at my cousin Jean's house in the peak district. She said that lots of people go jogging there and I wouldn't look at all out of place. So, I did, following the route (more or less) that she'd showed me. I did get a bit lost one morning and when I saw an older gentleman say "Hello!" and wave, I waved back and said, "Morning!"

He gave me a bit of a funny look and I quickly realized that what I thought was a lane road was actually a rather long driveway - his. So I turned around and made like I was doing a hill sprint back up to the main road.

Ooops.

Ramble #2

I also took the opportunity to debut the new running skirt that I bought at the fitness fair at the race before I left. I remembered the rule "Nothing new on race day!" and I've been aching to try it out ever since. Works well. Cute. But running skirts are definitely not popular (yet?) in these parts of England. So, the running didn't get me funny looks, but the skirt did. We'll save the skirt for when I go back home now...

Ramble #3

My cousins all sound very 'posh' to me; except when they say 'ate'. It comes out more like 'et', with a very enunciated 't' at the end. It sends me off into peels of laughter and I make fun of them by saying, in my best hill billy accent, 'Yeah, I et me some cow and 'den I et me some corn.'

They seem amused, but only politely so.

Ramble #4

Everyone here, regardless of their age, sends text messages - compulsively, like a bunch of addicts. Seeing my more... er... 'mature' cousins sending each other texts is quite endearing, really. My sister said the other day that she didn't know how to text. I thought my cousins were going to fall off their chairs in disbelief. Our cell phones don't work here, but I do believe that a tutorial is being arranged as we speak.

Ramble #5

I am delighted by the clothes lines that people have outside their houses here. My one cousin doesn't even have a dryer; said she's never had a dryer and never planned to. She takes her clothes out of the washer, puts them into a different machine called a spinner, that removes much of the water and then line dries everything. Delightfully quaint, IMHO.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Jolly Ol' England

I've been in England almost a week now, having left two days after running the half marathon. I've been planning the trip for almost two years and it is great to finally be here, visiting with family I haven't seen in a long time.

My sister, Tracy, who lives near Toronto is also here visiting we are getting the chance to see each other, as well.

I've been out running every day, except for today (Sunday) which is my usual rest day. I usually run every other day, and often on the treadmill. My knees aren't used to pounding on pavement every day, so I've kept the runs short, just to keep my legs loose and to act as somewhat of an antidote to the holiday diet, which has included:
  • pints of ale (Badger's Champion ale, to be exact)
  • pints of shandy
  • beef and ale pie
  • ploughman's lunch (with a hunk of cheese that would normally take me about 2 weeks to eat!)
  • roast lamb dinner with Yorkshire pudding
  • biscuits of various kinds
  • and my new favorite thing in the world - cream tea (scones with clotted cream - OMG!!)
My best running anecdote from England so far is that I don't think there are many people who run where my cousin Adrian lives in Earley, Reading. I noticed that I hadn't seen any runners around his area. As I was out in the residential area where he lives, a bus almost passed me and then came screeching to a halt. The driver thought I was running for the bus!

It took both of us a second to realize what was going on and then we both half chuckled, embarrassed and awkward about the misunderstanding... and on we went on our respective journeys. Then I realized that indeed, that was definitely not a common area for runners at all!

Needless to say that I will resume proper running and working out schedule when I get home, and in the meantime, I plan to continue enjoying the English cuisine (if that isn't too much of an oxymoron!) Besides, the act of breaking bread with my family, exchanging stories and sharing meals is part of the joy of being here.

The other day day ten of us got together at a pub and we got to meet new additions to the family, including spouses and children who've joined the family since the last time we were here.

I arrived last Tuesday and I said to my cousin, Jean, today that I finally feel like I am starting to unwind - for the first time in about two years, actually. I've done nothing but eat, visit, sleep, do a bit of sight seeing, shop and relax. It's been fabulous.

Tomorrow is a girls' shopping day in the town, so best I get to bed so I can be well rested for it. Don't know how much shopping I'll do, as things are hideously expensive here compared with home, but just being out with my sister and cousin in the shops will be fun. And with that, off to bed I go...

PS: Not been visiting blogs much, but I'll try to catch up soon.