The Lonliness of the 10,000M Runner

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Everyone, athlete or not doubts themselves at points in their life. Doubt has been heavily on my mind the last two weeks. Starting the week off with a sinus infection, missing a key workout and closing in on Friday pm wondering what the hell am I doing, I’m not good enough.

I had three very challenging races scheduled for the weekend. Track still the race of choice for me these days, I wasn’t sure I belonged on the track anymore and definitely shouldn’t be going to World Masters Track in August. The goal for this weekend was brain training and club records. PB’s were not on the agenda, but that didn’t mean the weekend was going to be easy.

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Captured my 5000M race

The 5000M was first on my race schedule. I showed up, early and with the weather still holding out I did my warm-up. Right away the trouble started. The stomach. My F**king GI issues AGAIN! Reassuring myself everything would be fine; I laced up my spikes and reported for duty. It wasn’t fine, but I finished the 5000M in one piece and took the club record. Mission number 1 accomplished.

Almost immediately after the race ended, the skies opened up and the rain came fast and heavy. I was told, if the rain came, I was to go home and not race the 1500M. My one half wanted to stay and race, I don’t like quitting. The other half knew it was the smart thing to do, so after many frantic text messages to Timo, for reassurance, I said my goodbyes and headed for home. I’ve never scratched a race in this way, so practicing the word “No” last week paid off this weekend.

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RAIN!

Sunday was now double the distance. 10000M. Firstly I have only ever run one 10km, so this was my second time running the distance and it was on a track. That’s 25 laps people! 12 laps is mentally tough so 25 was going to kill me. I looked around and everyone was wearing regular running shoes. I was wearing spikes. Shit! I couldn’t stop thinking I had made a big mistake. Since I didn’t bring my racing flats, it was going to have to be spikes.

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Just before the race these two showed up to cheer. These two are running legends!

The race started in a very controlled way. I was told to run 1:40, but with headwind down the backstretch my pace was going to be off. To my surprise I crossed the first lap in 1:35, a bit fast, then every lap after that was exactly the same. This was my comfort zone so I stayed put.

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Another Amazing athlete I get to run with! Keijo just blows me away with his perseverance.

What happened at this meet and particularly during this race was amazing. The whole week, I’d been questioning myself as a runner and trying to figure out what kind of runner I am. It was exactly 400M after crossing the 5km threshold where my legs felt really good. My breathing was steady and I felt happy. A thought popped into my head and for some this will seem very obvious but I needed this reassurance the most. My inner voice said, “You’re a long distance runner, this is what you’re training for”. It was one of those amazing moments where you sound crazy for saying it out loud. I never thought I would feel this way, but I really enjoyed every single one of the wet, windy, cold 25 laps.

I crossed the finish line with the biggest sense of accomplishment. I not only beat the club record, I crushed it! Previously it was 42 minutes that has held up for almost 30 years, and I easily grabbed it in 39:55. The best part was being sort of tricked into doing the 10000M by my clever coach who knew I would fall in love this event. Monday with a new week ahead, I have a new set of goals to attain. It’s back to training mode for the next few weeks and I’ve been given a green light to put bike ride back in my week. I did a happy dance in my living room. The next month, more than ever, focus, mental toughness and restraint will be things I need to continue to work through to stay the course and get to Lyons healthy and fit.

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Happy Runner!

Mizuno Fit Friday: Monster Walks for Glutes

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The Gluteal muscle group is made up of three different muscles. The Glute maximus is the major muscle that many athletes will focus on. The other two Glute Minimus and Glute Medius are very often ignored. They are small but if they aren’t firing correctly or at all, the chain reaction can lead to many common running ailments. Muslces and tendons will start to take up the load, causing low back pain, IT band issues and can even go all the way down into the calf muscles.

I have one go-to exercise I will do everyday or in the very least every other day. It can be called monster walks and/or lateral glute exercises. This exercise is so easy and can be done anywhere, in an office, at home or at the gym. The only tool you really need is a theraband. You can purchase these anywhere and often times a gym will have them available.

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Each theraband is colour coded for tension. Black is the most tension where green or yellow is generally a very light tension. For beginners I would recommend a blue or purple, working your way up to a black band.

Step 1. Put the band under your feet and make sure your feet are under your hips, hip width apart. Knees should be slightly bent. Engage your abdominals and keep your posture straight. Keep the bands as you see in Beginner Step 1 to make the exercise a little big easier to start.

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Or you can add a little more tension to the bands by crossing the bands over in front of you.

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Step 2. Take a big side step, squeezing the side glutes. Make sure you’re moving through the motion slowly, this isn’t a race.

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Step 3. Slowly bring your other leg back to the leg you took a step with. You should now be back at the start position, but one step over.

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Step 4. Continue this side step walk for up to 15 repeats (or to fatigue) then repeat the exact same movement on the other side walking back to the start. Make sure you do equal steps on each side for muscle balance.

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Step 5. Repeat Steps 1-4 up to three to fours time everyday or every other day to ensure you are keeping your glutes healthy and activated throughout your training season.

 

Motivation Monday: Focus, Focus, Focus

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Focus was the objection this past week and I passed with flying colours! There wasn’t any bike riding (sadly), I even said no the RUSH concert on Friday and I followed my plan. The result. I finished the week feeling accomplished.

I will admit, I really wanted to do a few bike rides this week, but I wanted to stick to the plan more. My workouts weren’t perfect, but I did them on spec. By Friday FOMO had set in and saying “no” got more and more difficult. At times I felt like I was in FUN jail, but it was a good exercise in discipline.

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Out for a run with KONA

What was most interesting about this week; I ended up having to do my runs at times I usually wouldn’t be running. It was a week of meeting some very interesting people. I had some great company during my workouts; running with one of team Canada’s triathletes, a total newbie and everything in between. I’m a big fan of learning, and running with people from all walks of life you will learn to much about the sport and about life.

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Early morning runs back in rotation.

Since I’ve still been battling low-grade depression for the last 4 weeks, I found the routine helped a lot. More sleep, increasing my carbs and cutting out caffeine in the evening helped put me back into a better routine. At the end of the week, all these things contributed to a successful week. I woke up this morning feeling refreshed, invigorated and ready to tackle another week.

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Having a break from racing this weekend was also very much needed for both my mental and physical health. However, it was a temporary break as I have two days of racing on my plate next weekend. Provincial track and field Championships are here already and I have a tough racing schedule. Focus and rest will be even more important this week. I’m excited and nervous about next weekend but it will be a good set up for my bigger goal World Masters Championships in Lyons.

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Mizuno Fit Friday

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The feet are a complex structure making up the foundation of our bodies. We have 26 bones, which means one quarter of all the bones in our entire body are in our feet. There are 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons, ligaments and other fibrous tissue to connect the bones. Walking or running puts a lot of force through these bones and muscles. For this reason, it’s so important to make sure you keep your feet strong and healthy.

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Towel Crunches.

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Step 1

Lay a towel out on the floor. Starting at the edge of the towel, slowly curl your toes and crunch the towel towards you under your feet. Easy right! Next un-crunch the towel by pushing out with your toes.

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How many times should you do this? With this exercise you sort of can’t do it enough. I usually only do a set of 3 crunches because usually after 3 my feet are tired! If I’m using it to fix an injury I will do multiple sets of 3 or 4 throughout the day. For prevention, just doing a few sets once a day will be sufficient.

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This exercises is ridiculously easy and can be used as a prevention or a cure.

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Injury Maintenance: If you are suffering from plantar fasciitis you will have to rest and Ice to reduce any inflammation. Wearing supportive shoes will help alleviate symptoms throughout the day. Eventually you will have to have a strengthening program to combat the injury and prevent future flare-ups. Towel crunches are one of those exercises that should be added to your daily routine.

Prevention: Ideally you want to avoid injury at all cost and prevent a set back. Adding towel crunches can be very simple. You can do them at your desk, while watching TV or at the gym. Towel crunches are effective to prevent metatarsal tendonitis, plantar issues and the most common running injury I see; shin splints.

Always get a professional to assess your gait and ensure you are in the correct shoes. If you ever are feeling pain, see a specialist sooner than later to make sure it doesn’t become chronic. Injuries are preventable if you listen to your body and seek treatment at the first sign of trouble.

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Motivation Monday: Learning To Say NO.

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I don’t even know where to begin this post. BirthDay turned into birthday week and well shit went sideways. The last few weeks have been busy with work, I don’t even know what happened to MAY. I also started the week off with a bout of some stomach flu and after everything else was finished I would drag myself nauseously to another “thing”.

I distinctly remember my mom telling me the first word I learned was no. I was a defiant, stubborn and independent child. No was usually the first thing out of my mouth. 40 years later, I can’t seem to recall that word when asked most questions.

Case in point. Most people, who spent any time with me these past two months, heard some very strongly opinionated statements about a certain race. This week however a certain email crossed my inbox and within seconds I replied with a resounding “YES”. I reasoned, in my female math sort of way, this email just saved me thousands of dollars; in fact Clare figured I probably came out in the green. Since the Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco was on my bucket list for the sole purpose of getting the bling (Tiffany’s necklace), I now just had to hop on a ferry and go the Toronto Island, VIP style! I folded like a cheap suit.

The week keep piling on top of me and instead of taking a “break”, I just kept saying “yes”, “sure” or “that sounds fun!”. After a dismal 5km race last Sunday, I thought I was ready to attack my 1500M race on Friday night. It didn’t go as planned. My coach even sent me a message telling me I looked tired. Tired? I was well beyond tired.

It was in the middle of a 100km bike ride on Saturday (because this sounded like an excellent idea on Friday) my coach texted me saying I needed to start saying No to stuff. I shouldn’t really be doing this “race” on Sunday. “Crap” was all I could mutter under my breath. I knew he was right, I knew I had effed up.

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Team Possum on the Donut Ride

Sunday morning came earlier than I wanted. I was to meet up with Clare and Paige. Clare and I have maybe gotten a bit too relaxed for race day prep. We decided we didn’t need anything but the clothes on our back and our Iphones. This made perfect sense at the time. In our minds the weather was going to be sunny and warm and we would be having a picnic after the race because there would be loads of free food everywhere.

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This picture says it all.

The reality was we showed up, and had to wait for three hours for the race to start. We quickly learned how to make heat blanket tents and promptly went back to “bed”. Twenty minutes before the start of the race we felt a rain drop, and then began the expletives. Once at the start line, it poured rained. The race itself went really well and was extremely well organized. I ran with Paige and we were not racing, just doing a long run, but once again I went slightly faster than the coach asked me to.

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Running Star Joan Benoit.

The finish line was the best part. It was worth every single freezing, wet sleepless moment. Joan Benoit Samuelson, a running legend was at the finish line greeting the runners so of course I stole a selfie. The moment I even said yes in the first place, the finisher necklace. As I approached the exit area, the Blue Box was handed to me.

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The easiest Blue Box I ever earned.

Hungry, wet and tired (from waking up too early), we three went in search of food. None of us had any money of course. Remembering I had a VIP wristband we somehow found ourselves in front of the VIP food tent. I can only say if you saw me in the tent, I apologize for my behaviour, I was hungry people, very very hungry! I even practiced bartering and traded my VIP wristband for a dry towel to use as a skirt, which kept me sort of warm. Clare and I dressed in the latest heat blanket fashion and Paige (who was the only one who came prepared for basically anything), got back on the ferry to Toronto mainland.

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The crazy ladies and a stranger who gave me her towel.

It was a long day but spending it with Clare and Paige made it the best day. Later in the day I got a text from my coach asking if I was racing the event planned for Thursday night and my response was, “No”. After everything I have been through this week, I’m going to be practicing this word a lot. Even though, it has always proved to be way more fun saying “Yes”, it’s time to focus. For the next few weeks, I have made a promise to my coach to commit to my goal and put on the blinders. I have a good run/work/life balance most times, but I took it too far this past week and learned my lesson. Burn out is a real risk, injury is a real risk and underperforming is the worst feeling for an athlete. This week I will work on life balance, training focus and getting the sleep and calories necessary to keep me going for the next seven days.

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Paige and I with smiles on our faces

Mizuno Fit Friday – The Inch Worm

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The Core Muscles

Whether you are a runner, cyclist or triathlete, you need to have a strong core. The muscle groups that make up your core are the Abdominal muscles (Internal and Xxternal Obliques, Transverse Abdominus and the Rectus Abdominus), the Glutes and the small muslces in your back call the Erector Spinae.

Especially for runners, the main muscle groups you think you use are quads, hamstrings and calf muscles. By the time you are at the end of your marathon, all these muscles have stopped firing and it’s the core muscles that are being used to get you across the finish line. Naturally you want to ensure you target these muscles often throughout your training program.

Between work, family, friends and then training the gym seems like a dainting task. I try to keep things simple in this department. Easy 10-15 minute exercises I can do at the gym or in my house.My favourite one and the most simple full core workout is the inchworm, or as some call it the caterpillar.

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It’s simple to do and after three or four sets you will feel the burn. To start get yourself into a plank position where your wrists are under your shoulders and your hips are in a neutral position. You should not feel any pressure in your low back to start.

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From the plank position you slowly walk your feet to your hands until you come into a downward dog position. Keep your hands planted under your shoulders and even separate your shoulder blades as you move your feet forward.

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Plank with a pushup

Hold downward dog for a breath and then slowly walk your hands back out to your neutral plank position, keeping your feet planted. Once you are back at the start position continue the movement until you get to fatigue. What I like to do is set a goal ahead of me around 20M away and not quit until I reach the goal.

This exercise can be done everyday after your workout or every other day. To make it a bit more challenging once you get the hang of it, you can add a pushup in the plank position.

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Motivation Monday: Not Winning isn’t Losing

 

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I woke up on my birthday (Sunday) and put on my race gear and headed for the Bread and Honey 5km road race. There is nothing better than waking up on your birthday and getting to race. The Bread and Honey race is my favourite race in June. Ellie is an amazing race director and she does a great job with her event. If you haven’t done this race, you should put it on your 2016 calendar. Whether you do the 5km or the 15km, you will love this race.

The weather was perfect; it was my birthday I thought the stars would be aligned for me, and the PB I was hoping for would be a no brainer. However, there were some early signs that Sunday might not work out, as I wanted. Starting Friday night I started to experience what felt like food poisoning. Saturday was much of the same and by Sunday morning, I was feeling green.

I tried for a warm up and had to make several pit stops. I took as many Imodium as I could before I left for the race but it didn’t seem to be working. I went out and tried for another warm up and it just got to painful. With 5 minutes to before the race, I was debating about dropping out. Quitting isn’t in my nature, so I decided to jump in at the start line and let what happens happen.

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The only race pic I got because I spent most of my time hunting for porta potties

Every km was a struggle to get the pace just right so I didn’t feel pain. Once I got to 2.5 km I had made a decision I would finish this race. I’m still struggling with my 5km race; I’m not a fan of this distance. My body naturally wants to settle into my marathon race pace; my body still thinks we are into are endurance sports.

Once I could hear the finish line, I just wanted this race to end. I pushed the paced as much as I could and crossed the finish line seconds over 19 minutes. I wasn’t thrilled, since I was going for a PB (anything lower than 18:22), but under the circumstances, I wasn’t going to let it ruin my day.

It wasn’t my best day, but wasn’t my worst day either. I ended up with first place Female Master and my first plaque with my actual birthday on it.

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Learning to race shorter distances and attempting to wake up a few fast twitch muscles fibres has been an interesting journey. Lots of races and even more patience are necessary to re-learn this version of my favourite sport.

You can’t win or PB every race. This was something I learned a long time ago. There was a time I wanted to win everything, but now I just want to learn everything and run against my own clock. With Lyons around the corner, I’m taking my small victories and packing my patience while I sharpen my race strategies.