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.


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

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!


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:

  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.


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.


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.