Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Big News - taking things one step at a time

I'm going away for a weekend trip on Friday, to Arizona.

Those of you that are plugged into the triathlon community may already recognize the significance of a trip to Arizona this weekend.

I'm going there to enjoy some time in the sun, spend some time with friends, swim outdoors, run in a tanktop, volunteer at an Ironman...

And sign up for Ironman Arizona 2014.

Last night I had a minor panic about it it.

"I'm not ready to do an Ironman."

It's true.  I'm really not.  I've never run more then 25 km at a time.  My longest bike rides are probably in the 100 km range.  The lane swim times in my town often only last an hour, and I'm not a fast enough swimmer to get 4000 metres in that time.  (Because let's be honest, I won't swim straight enough to keep it down to 3.9km).

Fact: I am not ready to do an Ironman
Fact: I am not doing an Ironman - yet.

See, the beauty of Ironman sign up is that you usually make the decision a year ahead of time.  When I picture the reality of doing the 140.6 miles, it makes me feel incredibly overwhelmed.  When I think about what I have to do this week, or this month, it's all doable steps.  In fact, if there's a life lesson triathlon has taught me, it's to look at big projects as steps, rather then one overwhelming thing.

I've often had conversations with people that think a half marathon is a big deal.  It's really not, I tell them.  I honestly maintain that the hardest steps I ever took when it came to endurance was going from 0 to 5 km, rather then 5 to 20.  After that, it was a matter of building on what I already had.

I'm not quite convinced an Ironman is the same.  It's a whole lot longer then any race I've ever done before.  Distance-wise, double.  Mentally, I suspect it's more then double.  I expect I'll learn a lot in the year I take to prepare.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Knowing when to be smart and when to be tough

Today is race day.  I won't be making it to the starting line.

I was supposed to be doing my second half marathon of the fall, the Last Chance Half.  I was excited about it, and feeling ready.  Honestly, I was expecting to set a PB, but I was expecting to put out a solid performance and prove to myself once again that I have got this.  I am a runner.

Until Friday.  When my stomach went into rebellion.  Which continued on Saturday.  It wasn't like some of the full fledged stomach bugs I've had.  After the intial couple hours, I've actually felt almost normal - as long as I don't eat and don't move around much.

I sent Angie, my coach, an email yesterday morning.  I told her I had a stomach bug and I wasn't sure where it put me for race day.  I mentioned that I'd dropped a couple pounds.  (Now, getting closer to race weight might make you faster, but not so much in the two days before the race.)  I told her that if I was feeling good race morning, I expected to race.  If I couldn't eat a proper breakfast, I definitely wouldn't.  I acknowledged the grey area in between those.

Angie also raised the concern that if I wasn't eating much the day before the race, I was put myself into a calorie hole that could get me into trouble on race day.

I spent a lot of time thinking about it.  Was I really sick enough to warrant a DNS (do not start)?  I could do this race.  I know I could.  I'm tough.

Yes.  I'm tough.  I've proved that.  Twice, I've done half marathons when I shouldn't have gone to the starting line.  Once, in a blizzard, where people broke bones on the race course.  Once, when I started the race with a broken bone, in the form of a stress fracture in my foot.

When it comes to training, I'm pretty smart.  When it comes to racing, I get into a mode where the only thing that matters is the race.  I forget smart and focus on tough.

Maybe it's time to learn a bit of balance.  Maybe the universe is teaching me a lesson.

One thing that hit me in Angie's email was this phrase: "You don't need to prove anything to anyone Deb."  My initial response was: "just to myself."  There's a little part of me that still feels like I'm Deb, the fat girl.  There's a part of me that is still in awe of the fact that I even can run.  It's like I still need to be reminded of it.

But, I don't.  I don't need to prove, even to myself, that I am capable of doing a half marathon.  I've done that 6 times, if I include my half ironman runs.  (And I'm definitely going to include them.)

Don't get me wrong, skipping this race is hard for me.  There's a reason it's called the "Last Chance Half Marathon".  It is the last half marathon of the season in this area.  It's not like in the spring where there's one almost every weekend.

But it doesn't change who I am or what I can do.  It has no long term effect on my training.  I am Deb.  I am a runner.  I am a triathlete.  I am tough.  I am also smart.

Sometimes it's harder to be smart then it is to be tough.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Working on my winter skin

The first winter I was a runner, I was super tough.  I was hardcore.  I ran in -30c (-22f).  I remember ice globules on my eye lashes and using vaseline on exposed skin.  Nothing was going to stop me from getting my run in, and only rarely would I head to the town's indoor track, due to truly icy conditions.

Then I got soft.

Two winters ago, we got a treadmill.  Then last winter, in addition to that, I was working at a sports centre, which had an indoor track.  And, I ran much of the winter indoors.

Now, indoor running has it's place - mainly slippery conditions or times when you are stuck at home (like if you're a parent and don't have anyone to watch the kids).  If you live in a climate that gets a true winter, you really can't spend the whole winter running indoors.

In fact, in searching for the "why" of last spring's stress fracture, I identified all my indoor running as one of the possible factors.  You just don't use the same stabilizing muscles when you are running on a nice even track or treadmill.  So, perhaps when I did go back to running outside full time, my body just wasn't ready for it?  Granted, I don't know that it was a contributor, but the very possibility is motivation to bundle up and get outside.

Yesterday's run was just a short one.  30 minutes, with pick ups every 3-4 minutes.  It was around -8c (17f).  The weather website said it was a few degrees colder, with windchill, but there didn't seem to be much wind at all.  It's not really that cold, by our standards, but at the beginning of winter, it seems moreso.  Runner Leana talks about getting our "winter skin" and I like that analogy.  By February, a day like this will be positively balmy.  So, I went out and ran.

There are things you have to keep in mind.  Most important is to watch your footing.  I had to skip the pathways as they hadn't been cleared yet, and appeared to be pure ice.  So, I ran on sidewalks instead.  Fortunately, most people in my neighbourhood are pretty good about clearing sidewalks.

It did mean I would walk a bit when I hit icy sections and I only did my speed pick ups when I was confident I had a nice long clear section ahead of me.  I will add speedwork to the list of reasons to possibly run inside.  It would be challenging to do really structured speedwork when you have to slow down every time you cross a street or go over an icy driveway.

Always beware of patches of snow.  The snow may not be slippery, but it can cover up icy patches.  Part of that is being aware of the recent conditions.  If snow has just fallen on dry pavement, you're probably fine, but if it was wet snow, or it's thawed and refrozen, you need caution.

I haven't had luck with traction aids.  My first year I used yak trax, which were okay, but broke after about a dozen runs.  I also had another one that was kind of like little thumb tacks, but I lost 3-4 of them in my very first run in them, and didn't feel like they helped traction much anyways.  I may look at getting a winter specific pair of running shoes at some point, but I find the best things is just to pay attention.  If you do use traction aids, don't let them fool you into a false sense of security.

When it comes down to it, nothing beats a good outdoor run.  Indoor running is better then nothing, but outdoor running is where it's at.  Even if you have to dress a bit warmer to do it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The perfect running shoes

Have you found the perfect pair of running shoes?

For quite some time, I wasn't sure they existed.  Every time I bought running shoes, I made sure I could return them, just in case they didn't feel good while running.  They were always okay.  Just okay.  There were a couple of pairs I even considered taking back on my first run, but after a couple more decided to keep them.

My first pair of shoes gave me black toenails.  Like much of the population, I had spent most of my life buying shoes a bit small.  You can get away with small shoes sometimes, but it becomes very obvious when you run in them.  It didn't help that my feet are bigger then women's shoes sometimes are made.  Fortunately, most running shoes do come in size 11 now, so once I identified the problem, the black toenails became rare.

My shoes were always okay.  I figured that was as good as it got.

Until last Christmas, when I bought two new pairs of shoes.  One was a fabulously bright pink pair of Saucony Guide 6's that I wasn't sure I could pull off.  They felt great on my feet though, so I bought them.

And loved them.

These shoes were the perfect shoes.  They fit like a dream.  Good for short runs, or long runs.  Fast or slow.  Really, I just didn't notice them much.  The other pair I had bought at the same time has a narrower toe box, and while I kept them in rotation, in comparison to my fabulous Sauconys, they just didn't measure up.

And the bright pink?  I grew to love it.  It was like saying "I'm a runner!" every time I wore them.  And when I was coming back from my injury, the shoes reminded me of that fact every time I put them on.

Sadly, the time has come to retire them.  I don't keep accurate mileage on my shoes anymore, but I can always tell when they are done.  These ones are sadly done.

I ordered 3 more pairs of guide 6s online, but sadly they ran out of them.  They are giving me Guide 7s for the super price I should have got the 6s for.  I'm a bit nervous about that.  They aren't quite the same shoe, after all.  I can only hope they are the same level of perfection.

So, have you found the perfect shoe?  Do you buy extras when you do?