Monday, February 28, 2011

An unwanted training partner

Yesterday was long run day. It was my first long run after being sick and I'd planned to do 18 km. My usual long run buddy, Jen, is sadly out of commission for the time being due to a nasty gall bladder, so I was going out on my own.

I started off strong enough that I had to reel myself in. I didn't want to go out too fast and be unable to finish the distance. I ran along the river, down a hill and towards an underpass that would take me under one of the highways that runs through my town - or not. The river was apparently high and there was a mixture of couple feet of water and ice blocking the path. No go that way.

So, I decided to do Foster's, a route that's popular with runners in town. I had actually done the first section of it the day before with the running group, but it had made me want to do the rest of it in order to get the fabulous view that's at the top of the hill.

First was a short run along some trails through trees and then up a road that is about 2 km uphill. At the end of that is a rock which marks the end of the road. I remember doing this run in the fall and the view was stunning - rolling hills and golden trees. I was looking forward to what it would be like in the winter.

I trudged my way along the road. It's uphill most of the way, but enough that you know you are working, not enough to make you need to walk. Before long the rock came close. I finished the uphill strong, touched the rock (for good luck) and turned around to head back down.

Then heard some barking...

And from the house beside the road came a german shepherd.

I watched as he came to the end of the yard and I started walking. I wasn't going to run while being monitored by that thing. I was just hoping he realized I wasn't intruding on his territory and leave me alone.

No such luck. The dog didn't stop at the end of his property. He went right through the fence and came right at me. Barking the entire time. Obviously he didn't think his territory ended where the fence did. I kept walking. The dog was about 10 feet away from me. I didn't even know what to do. I know better how you're supposed to react to bears then I know how to react to dogs. I avoided eye contact and just kept saying quietly "I'm going, I'm leaving."

I'm amazed that my legs even functioned. I was sure they'd be frozen, but somehow they kept me moving slowly along. I glanced back at the house a couple times in a vain hope that an owner would see what was going on and call the dog off. No such luck. At one time, the dog moved so that he was slightly in front of me. I kept walking. I had no choice. It was either continue back down the road, go onto the dogs property or climb a barbed wire fence on the other side.

No more then 3 feet away from me. I was terrified that anytime this animal would lunge at me and attack. As tempting as the barbed wire fence was, I figured stopping to climb over it would give the dog a perfect opportunity. Besides which, it was only 4 feet high, hardly enough to stop a german shepherd if he wanted to jump it.

The dog backed off a couple feet, though he was still barking. At least he was staying behind me now. I suppose he was making sure I was leaving. The panic eased enough for me to realize that I was carrying my cell phone, and like an idiot hadn't made use of it. I slowly opened the pocket it was in and dialed my husband.

First thing I told him was where I was. Except I couldn't exactly, because I didn't even know the official name of the road. Then I told him the situation. The dog was now giving me a bit more space, but I still wanted him to stay on the phone with me until I felt like I was clear.

I must have gone far enough for the dog by now. When I glanced back, he was now staying in one place while I got blessedly further away from him with every step. I kept my husband on the phone as long as I was being watched. The dog finally decided I had gone far enough and turned around and returned to his house.

Looking at my garmin after the fact, I walked for about 9.5 minutes. Probably about 7.5 of that was with the dog on my heels, the last 2 as he let me walk away.

It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.

And one that taught me that I have seriously neglected some running safety.

First off, always tell somebody where you are going to run. Always make sure you know where you are running. If something happened, even after I got my husband on the phone, he had a very vague idea where I was. He might have had to try calling one of my running friends to get find out what "foster's road" actually was.

Next, have an idea how to deal with dogs. Nobody wants a large dog that close, but unfortunately, there are too many dog owners out there that don't control their dogs properly. A quick google search found this article for me. It gives some very basic safety tips for dealing with dogs: don't make eye contact, walk away from the dogs property, if the dog approaches you, stay very still and tell it to "go home" or "sit". Finally, if the dog tries to jump on you, turn to the side and push it off with your forearm.

I also know that I will never run that route alone again.

And I'm considering carrying dog spray.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Running form and speed

I've never given much thought at all to my running form. Put one foot in front of the other, make sure they're lifting off the ground, so that it's a run rather then a walk, go at a speed that I can sustain... That's about it.

Yesterday, myself and Krissy (my new running friend) ran with the local running club. We had the chance to run with Pete, an experienced runner that is coming back from an injury. Pete isn't the type of runner I'd usually run with because normally he'd be going much much faster then me. Right now though, his focus is getting back to it slowly and concentrating on his running form.

The one thing he mentioned was swinging the arms. I can't help but wonder if he brought it up because he noticed me doing it, but if that was his reason, I don't mind. I'm certainly humble enough to accept some advice from those who know a bit more. He was saying that *he* was focusing on keeping his elbows back and making sure his arms were going forward and back rather then across your front.

Now, I wouldn't say my arms were going totally across my front, but they definitely were going partway. Changing my arm motion felt a bit awkward, but it actually felt more efficient almost immediately. It's something I'll work on.

The other thing we chatted about is running speed. I know that I can increase my speed as I drop a few (dozen) more pounds, but I didn't realize how long I might be able to improve. Pete suggested that 10 years is about the amount of time most people can continue to improve their speed. He also suggested that it's likely to see if a 10-15 minute time increase in a 10k distance. To me that seems a bit optimistic, but if it happens, I'll happily take it.

What about you? Do you concentrate on your running form much? How long have you been running and how much has your speed increased?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Hitting reset

The past few weeks have been rough for me. Not only was I sick, but so were my kids. If anything having a sick 2 and 3 year old is worse then being sick yourself. After getting somewhat used to regular sleep, I'm back to feeling fortunate if I only get woken up twice in a night. I'm tired, sometimes cranky and I've let things slide. The activity sliding was a necessary byproduct of a nasty chest cold. The nutrition sliding was me letting it.

I still eat mostly healthy. My house is no longer set up to fall fully off the wagon. But, a few trisquits here, a peanut butter sandwich instead of fruit for a snack there, a bigger then usual serving of pasta...

I hate to say it. I don't even want to admit it to myself, but I've left onederland. The place I swore I was in for good. After pledging that my weight would never again start with a "2". I'm back over that border. And, it's time to kick that two to kingdom-come.

Mel, at Tall Mom on the Run recently wrote a post that resonated with me. If there was a blogger that I wanted to be, it would probably be Mel. She's real and genuine. She struggles, and unlike me, blogs through the struggles rather then after. Physically, I look at her and she's a role model. There aren't many women as tall as me, so her body type is one that actually seems comparable to mine. She's not stick thin either, which I know I never will be. She runs, and she's an amazing runner. I don't think she'll jump on the tri wagon, but we'll forgive her for that. She popped out of Onederland briefly and is back in. (Yay Mel!)

She mentioned a post from another of my favourite bloggers, Tricia. Tricia talks about the reset theory, and I'm absolutely stealing it. At first, I was going to name this post "a fresh start", but I decided against that. I'm not starting over, because I have come way too far. But, I am hitting reset.

I'm going to make my workouts count. I'm going to eat my fruits and vegetables, watch my portion sizes. I'm going to return to onederland, and then I'm going to make my way to a healthy weight. I may not always sleep the best, and I will surely be sick again. But today, I am making good choices, and I will continue to make those choices tomorrow and onwards.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I'm back baby!

So, after 3+ weeks of being sick, the final one keeping me from training at all, I'm back in the game. I wish I could say I'm completely healthy, but I'm still sneezing. Hopefully it's my old cold hanging on a bit rather then another one hitting me. It's no longer in the chest though, so I intend to get back to my workouts.

Tuesday I went for a short run and did a bike on the trainer. I didn't go to hard, but both felt good. The run was only 20 minutes, and besides a very short walk to puff my inhaler (common need for me when I'm sick or it's really cold out), I ran the entire time at a decent pace. I still remember how intimidating the first 20 minute run in the C25K program seemed. Now, I can do it after coming off an illness and not being 100 percent. Victory for me!

What did make me feel completely out of shape though was yesterday evening's swim. I can't remember the last time I felt so inept in the pool. I couldn't seem to keep my form right and I was getting really winded. Normally I can easily swim 500-1000 metres without needing a break. Yesterday I was stopping for a breather every 50-100. It was brutal. I only hope that a couple more swims and I'll regain the form I had before and once I kick this cold the rest of the way, I'll regain the stamina.

One thing I'm not sure about is my running mileage. After a week long break, how quickly is it safe to return to the mileage I was doing before? In general with training, I follow the 10% rule, and don't increase by more then that. Obviously, after being sick, I don't need to start at zero. If I keep my pace easy, can I go right back up to my previous volume? Or should I take a week or two to build back to it?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Motivation - is it really the key?

First off, I've been rather MIA lately. I'm not feeling well. I have a cold that just won't die. It started about 2 weeks ago. It was mild and not too intrusive until early this week when it got worse. Originally, it was a head cold that was making me sniffly and a bit tired. Now, it is a chest cold that is making me wheezy and reminding me that I'm asthmatic. It also doesn't help that both of my children have had the cold as well. They've never been the best sleepers, but we had reached a point where they slept through the night more often then not. That doesn't happen when they're sick.

Along with this, I've developed a general malaise. I'm just not feeling motivated. I'm tired all the time. I don't feel like training. I don't feel like putting effort into my food. I just feel blah. Today is probably the worst yet. If I don't do anything this evening, it will be the third straight day I haven't done any training. I honestly can't think of the last time I've gone three straight days without a single workout.

"If it's in your head, go ahead; if it's in your chest, take a rest." That's the guideline I've often heard quoted when it comes to exercise while sick. It is in my chest right now, so there's no doubt I need to take it easy. But, I don't need to let it take over.

In feeling like I'm lacking motivation, it has me considering what motivation actually is. It's a reason for following through on an action. But, it's more then that. There has to be some actual emotion attached to it. Most people can look at their lives and name lots of things that are their "motivation" for living healthier. It doesn't always make it easy to follow through on your choices.

And that's what it comes down to. It's a choice. Sometimes the motivation is not there. It just isn't. Those are the times when you have to make the difficult choice to proceed regardless. Motivation comes and goes. There are times when you feel completely driven and there are times you feel blah. You can continue to make the right choice throughout.

So right now, the motivation is lacking. Right now, I'm going to have to substitute good choices for motivation. The motivation will come back, and I'll be ready for it when it does.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Inspiration zooming by

Today's run was a challenge. On the plate was my long run of the week: 18 km (11.2 mi). On the pathways was ice, and lots of it. I actually went out in the morning, crossed the street, went down the hill and slipped (thankfully without falling) on the first of many patches. I came back home and waited until the afternoon.

When I went out later, the pathway was better. Not perfect, but there was only random patches of ice and lots of puddles of water. I could see when it was slippery, so it was easy to sidestep it, jump over or walk carefully, depending upon the situation. The section of path by my house is asphalt, and the town clears it. It can still get icy when we get melting and freezing happening (like our current weather pattern), but there was no build up of snow to start with. An afternoon of sun was making for a much clearer path.

I started off going towards the end of town. That section is only about 1 km one way, so I knew it would be a short out and back, but I enjoy that section and it has nice scenery with a view of the mountains. I was running really well, especially on the way back, since it's a gradual downhill. Not enough to stress my knees, but enough to make it feel easy.

I then got to the BIG hill. Before today, I had never run up this hill. In fact, when we first moved to this town, I cursed the hill whenever I had to even walk it. Today, I decided to run on the way up. Now, admittedly, I was going pretty darn slow, but I was running! And when I reached the top, I was relieved I'd only have to do it once today.

I ran a little bit further and reached the point where the pathway changes from asphalt to red shale. The remainder of pathways I was going to run on were mostly red shale underneath. Underneath what was hard packed snow last week, and today was ice. Pure ice. Almost skating rink quality. I went a very short distance along it and realized it wasn't getting better.

I considered turning back at this point and attempting to do my long run another day. Truth is though, there wasn't any better day I could plan to do it, so ending it would probably mean skipping it. There was about 2.5 km (1.6mi) of pathway that was safe enough to run on and that was it.

Not that long ago, I did 63 laps on a track in order to get my long run in. That was mind numbing and thank goodness I had company for it. Today, in order to get my long run, I only had to go up and down my 2.5 km section 7 times (plus a bit extra). *only* My new mantra is "you're tougher then that Deb." And, in this case, I certainly was. It was a beautiful section of pathway I got to run on, along the river and with views of the mountain. I really couldn't complain.

So, I turned around and went back the way I came. And again, and again... One problem about running the same route repeatedly is that you don't have that sense of hitting milestones the way you do when you run a longer route. I guess you can celebrate each time you reach the end of the trail, but that's about it. I had to stop off and use the facilities about midway through, and I will admit that I was happy to be close to home. I didn't even consider calling it quits at that point. Besides, I knew my husband would help kick me out the door if I failed to do it myself.

When I did start thinking about calling it quits was around the 13km (8.1mi) mark. "You can just finish this section, then go home," said the little voice in my head. "Just get to 14 km. That's perfectly respectable on a long run day." My legs were tired. I had been running at a faster pace then I usually do long runs at. It was catching up to me...

My legs were tired, but they were still quite capable of moving. So, I kept moving them. Back to the turn around and down the path again. The easy gradual downhill. I let the slope help me along. Then I saw them.

They must have been a track team or something. There were about 10 young teenagers, along with about 4 adults which could have been coaches and/or parents. One of the boys was probably about 11 and he was leading the pack, running effortlessly, but fast. They were going the opposite direction at this point, so I didn't have to consider just how much faster then me they were going - despite the fact they were on the gradual uphill while I was going down. These kids probably ranged in age from about 10-14, but they were amazing. They all looked like they were loving it. They must have been working hard, but at the same time, it looked so easy.

I carried on, and at that point, I knew I was going to finish. I was close to 15 km by now, so I was in the homestretch. I just had to run up that *&$#ing hill one more time, turn around and come back. I kept going. Just before the hill, I was passed again, by the same kid that was leading the pack before. Apparently, they were using the same safe section of pathway that I was. He was stopped by his friend though. Seemed like he was supposed to wait for his group.

I ran up that hill one more time. I was thrilled with the knowledge that this was the last time I had to climb the hill today. Sure, it's good for me, but I think once a run is as much goodness as I really need most days. After finishing the hill, I carried on, turned around and came back. There was the kids again - doing hill repeats on the hill.

As I ran down, the leader kid ran up the hill. And when I say run, I'm not talking about the slow trundle I had done when I went up it 3 times today. He was running as fast up the hill as I was able to run coming down. Probably faster.

In this moment I was completely inspired. Both for myself and for my children. These are kids that will hopefully never fight the battle with obesity. Who love activity and the outdoors. Who can push their bodies in an amazing way. I hope that one day my children will have fun with similar activities. And maybe, just maybe, my example will help them along the way.

I finished the run. All 18 km, and the last km, I ran faster then any of the ones before.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Yak Trax Pro review

So, if you live in a similar climate to me, there's two choices when it comes to winter running. Spend the entire winter running indoors (on a track or treadmill) or run outside. Given the boredom factor of indoor running, the choice is obvious: run outside. It certainly requires more thought and preparation, but if you dress for the weather, you can run in just about any temperature.

Where things get tricky is when it gets slippery. As a new runner going into this winter, I got kind of freaked out when it started snowing. At first, I did a bunch of my runs at the track, but like I said, BORING! So, finally I sucked it up and started running outside.

Along with winter clothing, one of my purchases was a pair of yak trax pro.

They're made of rubber and have little coils wound around the segments which cut into the ice. They're unisex and come in three sizes: small, medium and large. According to my shoe size of women's 10, I should have worn a small, but the medium started at a 10.5 and fit my shoe a lot better, so I got that.

The first time I wore them, I was thrilled. There was a layer of snow on all the paths and I could feel that my traction was great. I even tested it on some icy spots, and my footing felt totally secure. It gave me the confidence to run even though the conditions weren't great, and I was very happy about that.

One thing I didn't like at all was running on bare concrete. They make a kind of clicky noise when you do and you can feel them on the bottom of your feet. They don't hurt, but they're uncomfortable. For this reason, I rarely wore them for my long runs. I actually found myself avoiding the bare patches in favour of running on snow covered spots. Of course, if I ran on long stretches of shoveled sidewalks, I didn't have a choice; I just had to put up with the feel on the bottom of my feet.

I also started to realize that I didn't need them as much as I thought I did. As I ran more, I learned that you can almost always see the icy patches. Yes, you have to pay attention, but that's a good habit anyways. I sometimes left the yak trax at home when it was mostly clear, and I didn't have any problems with running on the spots that still had snow and ice.

Having said that, I did enjoy having them as an option. They let me run at times I was otherwise a bit unsure of the sidewalks, and they always made my footing feel secure.

Until they broke.

I had them for about 3 months, and probably only used them about 12 times. I was preparing to put them on for a run and realized that one of the little rubber straps had broken. Then I looked and saw that one of the other coils also seemed to have detached itself.

Fortunately, I had bought them at Mountain Equipment Co-op, and they have amazing customer service. When I brought them back to the store, I was given my money back without any question. I didn't buy another pair. I question whether they're really designed well for running. Reading other reviews, it doesn't seem like my experience is unique. While they might be a good option for shoveling the sidewalk, I don't know that they can handle the additional load running puts on them.

I must admit that I miss having them, but I can't really recommend them. I'm on the look out for another traction device, although I don't think it's as vital as I used to. If you do buy them, I strongly recommend buying them somewhere that has good customer service and a good return policy...

How do you deal with icy sidewalks?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Three Things Thursday

1. I'm getting sick again.

Normally I blame my plague carriers (aka children), but they aren't even sick yet. It's just a cold at least. I plan to train through it, as long as it feels like it's in my head, not chest. I may go a little easier, and I won't be doing any 5am runs till I'm up getting better. I'm finally learning how much of a difference sleep makes both to my training and general health.

2. Speaking of sleep, I'm getting screwed again.

My son took THREE years before he started sleeping through the night somewhat regularly. My daughter took 1.5 years. I paid my dues in the sleep deprivation department and I'd argue that I paid a couple other parents' dues for them as well. I've had fairly regular sleep for almost a year now, and I guess the sleep fairies have decided that's it.

The reason is potty training, which I realize I can't complain about too much. Getting rid of diapers is nice. Most nights, one or both of my children need to get up to go to the bathroom. Of course, they don't simply do it. They make very sure I am awake. How many years before they'll go to the bathroom on their own without waking me up?

3. I'm spending a lot of money on fruit.

These days, I don't find myself satisfied with the normal (less expensive) fruits like apples, bananas and oranges. Currently in my kitchen, I also have a pineapple, mangoes, and kiwis. Last night, we also ate some very out of season, imported strawberries. Perhaps it's the cold weather that is making me crave these tropical delights. I love them though. They might cost more, but a trip through a tim hortons drive thru would also cost me - both financially and hip size. I'll enjoy my expensive mangoes in the middle of winter.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Do you ever turn back once you start your run?

This morning, I did an early run. I rolled out of bed, got dressed, checked the temperature, and headed out.

What I didn't check was the wind.

We have a chinook rolling in. (For those of you that don't live here, it means we get wind and warmer weather in the middle of winter. Chinooks can raise the temperature by 15-20 degrees.) The problem is, the warmer temperatures aren't here yet. The winds are.

What I figured would be a fairly comfortable -10c (14f) was instead a brutal, wind and snow in my face, type run. Really what I needed was another layer, but I didn't want to go back home to get it. I felt like if I went home, I wasn't sure I'd leave again. In fact, I was considering doing just that. Granted, I was contemplating going home and biking on my trainer, so it wouldn't be a complete loss. BUT, I need to run. I feel the difference when I skip runs, and I am training for a half marathon, which I'll be doing before any of my triathlons.

So, I toughed it out. I found out that the wind wasn't so bad when I was going in the other direction. My morning runs are on sidewalks, up and down streets, so I was never in the wind for too long at once (never out of it too long either). I considered it and decided that it wasn't a safety issue to keep going with the clothing I had on.

In the end, I finished my planned 6 km (3.7mi). When I got home, I checked the windchill, and it was -20c (-4f). Definitely a temperature I can run in, but another layer would have been appreciated.

I think I'm going to have to get over my desire not to have to go back home though. There are going to be times I forget things that I really need. In fact, having proper clothing is a very good reason to pop back into the house before carrying on.

I'm tough enough to run in -30c (-22f). That means I surely have enough mental strength to go back out of the house even though I went in.

What about you? Ever turn back? Do you go back out after?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Last night I learned how to kick.

Doesn't seem like such a big thing? I didn't think so either. When I first started swimming, I read that the kick isn't so important for triathletes. I didn't like kicking either so that worked for me. It seemed like I barely moved while just kicking. I'd much rather throw the arms into the mix. I knew how to kick. Kick from your hips and all that jazz. Just didn't like doing it by itself.

At least, I thought I knew how to kick.

During yesterday's swim session, Angie started us off with a bunch of kick sets. Blah. Did I mention that I don't like kick sets? The flutter board is my nemesis.

When I got back to the wall from a lap, she started talking to me about my kick. Telling me to focus on kicking from the hip. Okay, maybe I was bending my knee a bit. She told me that it should be working my glutes and indicated where the "sweet spot" should be.

I started off my next lap and really tried to think about what she said, and then, all of the sudden, it clicked. I got it. All of a sudden, I really was kicking from the hips, and I realized I hadn't been before. After the turn around, I got lazy for a split second and returned to the random fluttering of legs I had been doing before and felt the difference immediately. I returned to the hip kick and it just felt completely right.

The kick may not be the most important part of the swim for triathletes, but to pretend it doesn't matter at all is unrealistic. Swimming is the most technical of the sports. I've been swimming laps for months, but now I'm actually getting better. All the physical fitness in the world won't matter if I don't start getting the technique right, and I finally feel like I am.