Pleased as a Peach

15 Jan

Winter has officially arrived. Snow is on the ground and seems like it might want to stick around. I was not aware that snow was in the forecast in any way, shape or form. Imagine my surprise yesterday morning when I stepped outside to start my LSD run to clear skies and green lawns only to have a snowplow pass me, lights flashing.

Not that kind of LSD guys. LSD = Long slow distance. Save the hallucinogens for after the run.

I was absolutely bewildered. Then it passed again, a few kilometers later, as I continued past snowless land. Finally, as I crested a particularly nasty hill, I arrived midtown to the valley between two mountains and encountered a couple inches of the stuff. And then it started hailing on me. The snow has been creeping towards my house ever since. Needless to say, I was not prepared for running in the snow. I haven’t made my ghetto snow sneakers yet (the general plan is too drive a handful of very short screws into the soles of my old pair) and I was wearing my light gloves instead of my heavy-duty pair. Thankfully there were few cars out in the snow at 7am on a Saturday, so I ran on the still-clear road rather than the mostly non-existent sidewalks. My water froze my throat closed I’m pretty sure. I only checked the thermometer when I got home (still freezing) only to find we were sitting at around -2 C, which may sound mild to you but we get MAYBE ten below-zero days a year and I do not adapt well to it.

Plus, I look about 100% less adorable than this puppy in the snow soooo...

Aside from the cold (or maybe because of it) I ran an exceptionally good 16k yesterday morning. I call it exceptional for two reasons: first, because I ran my first 16k several months ago at 7:21/km and brought yesterday’s run down to 6:41/km, without a single huff or puff along the way. Hopefully by this time next year I’ll have shaved another 40 seconds off and be even prouder of myself (oh wait not possible). Yes, yes, I am aware that this is a slow pace, but I’ve beaten myself and that’s what counts.

Second, this particular run included the dreaded Bowen Bay hill, that which I described in unflattering terms in this post. I was hoping I’d reach my turn-around point of 8k before the top of the hill so I wouldn’t have to run back up it. I was only at 7k, which meant running down the entire thing then running back up. I debated with myself, thinking I could add a quick 2k loop at my start-point and avoid the hill altogether. But 2012 is a year for challenging oneself, so I forced myself down the hill. Running down even took forever. I was cursing myself the entire way, knowing each step meant more hill to run up. When I got to the bottom, I gazed up at what I could see of the hill and cursed some more. Then I put my head down and ran.

And you know what? I breezed up that hill like it was nothing baby! I’ve avoided it since last summer and I can’t believe how much I’ve improved since then! I was actually surprised when I got to the top, certain there must be more hill to conquer. The run was pretty much down-hill (in a good way) from there. I felt like planting a flag or a headstone that read “Here lies Bowen Bay hill, also known as Margaret’s bitch”. Maybe next time.

My smugness level = approximately four smug Obamas.

In short, I’m feeling really great about my training. Although I’ve got some other not-so-nice things going on, my running is going great and that makes me feel good. I hope everyone else is doing so well with their training!

Tales of Toes

8 Jan

I had an absolutely ridiculous amount of time off for the holidays this year, nearly a month. I am not good with free time. I can handle about a day/ day and a half of not working or not going to school before I go mental. I hate just sitting around wasting time. This holiday was no exception. I’d get my run out of the way early in the morning and then have a huge gaping day of free time in front of me that I had no idea what to do with. This may sound appealing to many of you but I am the sort of person who needs to be doing something productive.

So I got some things done. Worked out some financial/government things that had been hanging over my head. Completed my application to my dream school with fingers crossed (UBC Sauder reps, if you’re reading this… choose me!). Finally got around to focusing on speedwork. And, most important, painted my nails. I painted them right up.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be worthy of a story, but having enough time to paint my nails and not have them get messed up when I have to do something productive was pretty exciting for me.

Also, this:

Happy Feet! Get it? HAPPY FEET.

Just kidding. I was going to attach a photo of the nightmare I found on my right big toenail. And then I decided I liked having people read my posts and didn’t want to scare anyone away.

I’ll put it this way: when I took the old nail polish off my toes, I originally thought I’d painted my big toe black and then covered it with the bright blue I thought I was removing. Nope! That would have been stupid! Turns out I jammed my toe somehow and it’s just black! Doesn’t hurt at all and hasn’t hurt in my recent memory, so I’m forced to assumed it happened on a long run somewhere along the way and the runner’s high allowed me to ignore it.

Either that or I’m just utterly insensitive to odd pains in my feet anymore. On second thought, this seems more likely. I’m sure I’ve just convinced a lot of you to take up running with these mental pictures! You’re welcome!

That’s my fun running story of the week. In terms of training, I’m just working on building up mileage and trying to get a better handle on pre-run meals because I’ve been losing steam a little more mid-run than I’m used to. I’ve started taking Gu’s with me for the long runs and trying to load up on more carbs the night before. Hopefully I’ll start seeing improvements soon! Any tips would be appreciated.

And hey, it’s the second week of January already! Good luck to everyone with resolutions! Sticking with it is the hardest part. Also, I’ve been thinking about getting into foam-rolling because of a tight hamstring. Any thoughts?

Happy trails everyone!

That Wonderful Feeling…

4 Jan

When you give in to the fact that you’re not going to finish your run as anything but soaked to the bone. Acceptance is usually precipitated by one shoe finally landing in one unavoidable puddle and soaking up enough water to create a mini swamp in there, complete with tadpoles. After that, you’ve free to run through all the puddles, through the damp bushes, and under the drooping branches and love it like a six-year-old with new rainboots.

In other news, it rained today on my 5k.

I Love the Smell of Speedwork in the Morning

3 Jan

My first run of 2012 (yesterday) also happened to be the first time I’ve incorporated speed training into my schedule in a long, long time. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy it! I usually settle into an extremely easy pace of about 6:45/km and stick with it for the entirety of my run. But the schedule called for fartleks and I could do nothing but obey. The training program I worked from to create my schedule was pretty open about the speed training; they gave a distance and only stipulated that the first and last kilometers were for easy warm-up and cool-down. Other than that, I had free rein. I decided on an easy repetitive interval of 30 seconds at level 8ish speed and 1:30 at regular easy pace, which for me is between 6:30/km and 6:50.

Thankfully I’ve held on to my ability to mark time fairly well, because trying to check my watch in the light of my headlight proved pretty challenging. I settled into the intervals very easily and I just loved the entire run! I’d forgotten what it feels like to be out of breath while running! I only huff and puff when running some hills at my easy pace, which I guess is why they call it easy. Having to work a little harder to breathe was actually kind of refreshing! It’s a lot easier to zone out of the present when running easy, and I actually enjoyed being able to only focus on getting enough air and feeling the cold morning around me.

In fact, I think I actually sped up as the workout progressed, making my speed bursts faster and longer and my recovery pace settled at something more like 6:20/km. I probably should have stuck with my original pacing, because I’ve got a tight hamstring that acts up when I push too hard, but it felt right in the moment so I’m happy.

I guess what I’m saying here is that I had a very good first run for 2012. I think this is a good omen. I’m looking forward to working in more fartlek training in the coming months. Hope everyone else started off the year with a bang as well!

The Year in Review

1 Jan

For whatever reason I feel this photo sums up my 2011. Scooting and running.

Here it is ladies and gents! The mandatory running year in review. I’m not jaded at all about this type of post because this is the first year I’ve been serious about keeping records and setting goals for running. So I’m excited to lay everything out. Bear with me.

First off, the cold hard numbers:

Total kilometres run: 1250

Hours spent: 157

Peak month: December, with 176.4 km run.

Lowest month: January and March, tied for last with 0 km run. Glad I got back on the wagon in April.

Number of races: 4, a 5k, 10k, and two halves.

Personal Records Set: 5, for 1k, 1m, 5k, 10k, and Half. Holy.

 

And on to goals set and met:

  1. Improved average pace. A vague sort  of goal, this was easy to accomplish. I effectively cut an entire minute off my average easy pace, which is HELLO uhm a lot.
  2. Ran a half. Done and done, twice! Once for my birthday and once on Thanksgiving. Proud of me.
  3. Consistency. Vague again but not so easy to accomplish. However, since April I’ve run at least 3 times a week, and more often than not, 4-5 times. That is, with the glaring exception of my two-week appendicitis-related break in August.

 

Okanagan Half - October

 

Things I’m most proud of:

  1. Starting the running group for myself and my friends, and sticking with it. I’ve learned a lot about pacing and about how to run safely and teaching others to do the same.
  2. Continually getting my ass out of my bed on dark mornings. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it.
  3. Being patient with my little dog in getting her trained up to run longer distances with me. She’s now a regular little 5k-er and she’ll keep trucking for up to 8.
  4. Starting this blog and getting my thoughts down on virtual paper! I’ve learned so much from fellow bloggers and I think talking with people who understand my love for running has really helped me to stick with it and get excited about new goals.

 

Energizer Night Race 5k - November

And finally, goals for 2012:

  1. Run that marathon I’ve been talking about! No goals for time or anything, I just want to run the whole thing. My plan to accomplish this goal is to stick to my 5 run a week schedule, RESTING on rest days, not doing sprints at the gym, and to listen to my body and taking it easy when I need to.
  2. Remembering to stretch after each run. I used to religiously and actually got a lot more flexible. Then I stopped for no real reason and can’t touch my toes any more. Plus, I’m putting myself at risk of injury! It’s stupid not to.
  3. Run a sub-60 min 10k. I know this is cake for most people but I am slow. This is for after I run the marathon I think.
  4. Finally, continue being consistent.

 

Honestly, looking back on this year, I’m a little bemused about how or why I did it. But I’m damn proud of myself, way more fit and balanced, and 1000% healthier. 2011 was a successful year for me, and I have a feeling 2012 is going to be even better. Until we all die in December, of course.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2012 for everyone! I hope everyone is as pleased with their 2011 as I am. If not, well, there’s only one way to make 2012 better — Go for a run!

Photo: Brace Yourselves For The Resolutioners.

28 Dec

Just had to reblog this! You meet so many new eager people at the gym in the first week of January… and then you never see them again. Best of luck to all resolutioners though! I started my health kick as a resolution and I’m leaner and meaner a year later. You can do it too, I swear.

Marathon Sweetheart

Ha ha ha!!!!

xoxo

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AM Runs

28 Dec

Just taking a mid-run nap.

I started my run this morning at 6:30. It was of course dark out when I began and it stayed dark for my entire run. On early morning runs like this one I’m always amused by the number of animals I see versus the number of humans. The ratio was especially lopsided this morning because most normal folk are staying home instead of racing to work for the “laziest work week of the year”. Today I decided to actually tally up the results.

  • Deer: 4
  • Dogs: 2 (more interested in their early morning escape than in chasing me.)
  • Racoon or maybe a skunk it’s hard to tell: 1
  • Humans: 2

Note, those humans were not outside-humans, they were warm-in-their-car humans.

So this morning it was me and a forest’s worth of glowing eyes.

It’s even better in the summer on Sunday mornings. I’m always alone with a herd of early birds/mammals/reptiles too sometimes and it’s bright enough at 5am to see them all. The only time I ever see humans that early on Sunday mornings is when they’re stumbling home from the bar. The look on such people’s faces as I run cheerfully run past is absolute bewilderment.

Maybe this will convince you late starters to try a run in the early AM. Trade in speeding traffic and surly commuters for some peace and quiet. And feral animals, if you’ve got them where you are.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has time off work and is spending it eating too much with friends and family! Happy holidays!

Merry Christmas!

24 Dec

Running up a jerk of a hill this morning in the pouring rain (in the words of Joni Mitchell, it don’t snow here, it stays pretty green), a passing motorist screamed at me to “Do it for Baby Jesus!”

I tried my best, I really did.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it and peace and joy to everyone else! Try going for a run tomorrow morning. For Baby Jesus.

On Highbeams

20 Dec

So I’m back… to complain again. About drivers. Ohhh that’s right, again. I’ll be honest, I’ve got a little bit of hypocritical road rage; I really hate pedestrians (and slow drivers in the left lane) when I’m driving, and I really, truly hate cars when I’m running on the roads.

Actual photo: Me at the wheel.

I spend roughly half my training time on roads. I run on the road for two reasons: either it’s too dark to hit the trails (because whenever I run through the woods at night I become 100% certain that the Jabberwock is chasing me) or because my run is too long for the trails near my house. So pretty much, whenever I’m running on the road, it’s dark, especially this time of year. So I’ve made a lot of observations and built up a lot of anger. And running’s supposed to be therapeutic. Huh.

I’ve previously complained about drivers who don’t give a girl some space, but today I’d like to address a more universal problem: high-beams.

“Oh, high beams? That’s silly, I’m a very considerate driver, I always turn off my high beams when I see approaching cars.” This is what you’re thinking to yourself, I know. And this is why I hate cars.

What you never do (this I know for a fact due to vast life experience and all-knowing tendencies) is turn down your headlights for pedestrians. I wish to do my fellow road runners a favour and make a public service announcement that will reach approximately 23 people:

Runners and other pedestrians are roughly at the same eye level as those drivers you oh-so-considerately turn down your lights for. This means that we are equally blinded by your lights. Only we have a lot more to lose in a head-on collision with you. Namely our lives.

Not sure if jerkface approaches or I'm dead and Jesus is calling me home.

I realize when you drive past me in the morning that you’re in a rush, on your way to work or to drop the kids off at school or whatever. I totally understand. But my compassion ends when I trip into a ditch because my retinas are being flooded with your stupid headlights and I can’t see where the road ends and soggy hatred begins. This luckily happened to me during the early weeks of fall so I didn’t end up man-slaughtering anyone. However, I don’t think I can legally be held accountable for my actions if my face ends up being what breaks the ditch ice on a winter run.

So please, respect the people you’re sharing the road with. Because one day you may drive past me with your high-beams on and I may just snap. Nothing makes a girl believe she can run faster than a car like blind rage.

So that’s my newest pessimistic observation. This is all starting to make me sound pretty down on running but I really do enjoy myself 99.99% of the time. But no one wants to hear me wax poetic on how nice the winter sun is when it breaks over the tree-tops or how clear the air is in the early morning or how I saw a squirrel give another squirrel a nut and it was really cute. Good news is boring news. So enjoy my venting! Hopefully you guys have a better go of it on the roads.

Neither a glass half-full or empty kind of gal. Just wondering who drank my water.

I’m Back!

18 Dec

Hi so I’m not dead. I am, however, terribly sorry about being a horribly irregular updater of late. My excuses range from final exams and papers to just not feeling like it. But I’m back now and hoping to be a little more regular.

All wrongs are forgiven, I presume? Christmas puppies can heal all wounds.

I did manage to stick to my training, which I’m still somewhat surprised about. There were times I was so busy I forgot to eat but I never skipped a run! As you may remember, I’ve been in pre-training for my first marathon for the last five weeks. Tomorrow however marks the first day of actual training. I’ve been maintaining mileage at about 34 km a week for the past few months and now that average will slowly start to rise.

And, I officially registered for the Vancouver Marathon 2012! BAM. Honestly, I didn’t really realize that I had committed to running this thing until I had to spend $110 to register. So now it’s real. And oh my god, you guys, have you noticed HOW LONG a marathon is? It’s 42.2 kilometers! THAT’S A FAIR DISTANCE. I hadn’t really thought about the actual distance until I a) reviewed the course (which, for locals, starts at the Queen E park, passes through Pacific Spirit park and out around UBC, cruises through Kits and the Seawall, and ends at Canada Place. So yeah) and b) thought about where I could complete my long training runs. For example, the longest pre-race run I have to do is 38 km. That didn’t phase me until I realized I’d have to run across town, and back, and then across town again just to fit that distance in.

So I guess right now, in regards to running, I’m coming to terms with the actual effort I’m going to need to put into completing this goal. But you know what? I’m not any less excited to do it.

Stay tuned for more regular posts, and Merry Christmas to everyone! And if you don’t do Christmas, please enjoy not having to work and also not having to see family! The best of both worlds!

(I’m just kidding family. I like you guys.)