Following the Plan?

As spring is in the air, thoughts turn to the racing season and my on going struggle of whether to follow a training plan or not. I have run a lot of races and I confess that I have only followed a training plan for one of them. I know many people follow a plan and I have friends who stick rigidly to their plan, no matter what. I found that having a strict schedule did not work for me. I started well and knew what I had to do each day, but half way in, I started to lose motivation. It became a case of  having to run a certain distance at a particular pace.  Race day was fine but such a relief that it was over. Afterwards, I completely lost my interest in running. I did not want to run and couldn’t understand what had happened to me.  I thought about what it was I loved about running; how I love to explore different routes, how I love being outside, how it makes me feel happy and free and realised that for me, following the training plan had taken away the joy of running and turned it into a chore. It took a few months, but by running when and how I felt like it, without any agenda, I eventually began to look forward to running again.

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Now here we are again at the start of another race season, friends are again following strict plans and I am again wondering if I should too. They tell me their pace and ask me mine. I have no idea how fast (or slow) I run.  Yes, I would like to be faster and I am sure if I trained hard, I could be, but will I lose motivation again? It is often difficult not to compare yourself with others but my advice is to do what works for you. You may be like my friends, and do well with a strict schedule, or you may be like me and find that demotivating.

I have a 50K race towards the end of summer and although I have run that distance before, this will be on challenging terrain. My goal is to  finish this race upright and within the cut off time and so yes, I will train, but without following a strict plan. My training will be long runs/hikes in the mountains with friends, lots of climbing up and running down hills, core strengthening exercises and maybe a bit of yoga added in. I will let you know in September if this strategy worked!

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No Excuses!

Too cold, too dark, too icy… Does this sound familiar?

If you are finding it difficult to find the motivation to run in the winter, you are not alone! The colder mornings, darker evenings and  icy conditions  can often leave us wishing for the summer again. But wait! remember when you moaned about the heat? Oh yes, apparently it was too hot to run outside not that long ago and so you opted for the treadmill and the nice air conditioned gym instead. Or even better, decided to forgo any exertion and just sit on the deck with an ice cold beer!

Everyone makes excuses at times but it is often too easy to listen to that little voice that can talk you out of anything! With the winter almost upon us, its important to stay active for many reasons. We’ve all heard about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and know that dark, grey, cloudy weather can sometimes make us feel a little down  but here in sunny Alberta, we are lucky enough to have around 333 days of sunshine a year.(www.currentresultss.com/weather/canada/Alberta/sunshine-annual)

So here are my top tips to get you outside in the winter months:

Set a goal. Find a race to sign up for. There are still lots of races held throughout the winter, as well as registrations opening for many next season. Calgary marathon has a distance for anyone ranging from 5k to 50K

(Register here http://calgarymarathon.com/register.html)  Now is a great time to set yourself a goal as you have the winter months to work towards it.

Join a running group. Having a commitment to meet other people and run is a great way of ensuring you turn up, and at least there will always be someone to take great action photos of you running in the snow! Calgary marathon society has started a weekly running group (Details are on their website)… or if there isn’t a group near you, do as I did and start your own.Copy of IMG_5795

Go shopping! Who doesn’t love new running gear! Seriously though, it is important to have winter weather specific fabrics and clothing so that as long as you have the appropriate clothing, you’ll be warm and toasty.

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Stop complaining! Yes, you can find an excuse for anything if you try hard enough, but how about channelling those thoughts into positive ones? You are lucky that you get to run. Many people can’t, so be grateful.

Finally, my favourite. Be a badass! Running in the snow is even more hardcore than running in the rain (which, as we all know, is pretty darned impressive anyway.) Running outside in weather that sends most people inside, puts you totally off the badassery scale. Try it and see!

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Now What?

After the highs of the weekend, is anyone else feeling a little deflated? What a weekend though! For me, it started on Friday with a trip to the expo to collect my race packets, listen to speakers, speak with some of the other forerunners, work at the 5Peaks booth, hang out with friends and make some great new contacts. Then, a quick change in the washroom, and off to party!

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Race day came around fast (4.30 a.m alarm) but the sunrise on the drive in to Calgary made the early start worth it!

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Happily, I had my VIP status printed on my race bib so was able to get coffee and breakfast in the VIP area which was great. Then it was time to head to the corrals for the start. My goal was to run the half without any pain and to have fun, which I did. I had originally signed up for the 50k again but changed a couple of weeks before the race due to ongoing injuries. Initially, I was very disappointed to do this, mainly because I wanted that huge, shiny medal so much! but it was the right decision. I finished the half marathon feeling great and met up with some of the other forerunners to hang out in the VIP area.

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While we were waiting for the 5k to start, we sat and watched some of the other finishers coming in, which was very inspirational. The 5k was a fun run and a good way for me to loosen up after the half marathon. There were so many people, runners, walkers, kids, strollers so it was very crowded, especially at the start but we had great fun chatting to people and spotting other friends along the way. Finish line, and another medal!What a fun day! The weather was beautiful, the course was great as usual, the spectators were totally awesome and everything about the race organization was spot on, from the packet pick up, to the post race food and not to mention the totally awesome medals!

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So… Now what? well registration is open for next year!
http://calgarymarathon.com/register.html

Who’s Ready for Race Day?

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At last it’s race week! All that training is going to pay off and now you’re tapering, right? Ok, so maybe you didn’t train as much as you’d planned, maybe you got injured, or life got in the way. Maybe you’re starting to second guess yourself and doubt is creeping in. Can you really do it? YES! Yes. you can! Here are my top ten tips for race day:

1. Trust your training. You may not have done all the running you were scheduled to, but you have a good base. The adrenaline on race day will see you through a lot.

2. Now we are just a few days away, make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthily,hydrate and if you decide to run before the big day, make it easy and enjoyable.

3. Collect your race packet and visit the expo, it starts on Thursday at 4pm. http://www.calgarymarathon.com/expo.html?lang=EN Use this visit to figure out how you’ll get to the race and what time you want to be there. (Always allow more time than you think you’ll need and allow for transport delays as well as long lines for the porta potties!)

4. The night before, get everything ready. Clothes, race bib, drop bag, any drinks or gels you plan to use, cash for the c-train, phone for all those selfies and bring a large garbage bag to wrap yourself in while you wait at the start line. It may be a little cool early on and you can stay pretty warm inside a garbage sack!

5. Apart from the elites, everyone else seeds themselves. Think about where you should start. Look for the pace bunnies. They have signs stating their estimated finish time so look for the one nearest your pace and stand near them. If you are planning to walk, you need to be nearer the back of the pack. If you are planning to run fast,then you should be nearer the front.

6. The corral just before the start of a race is a truly exciting and inspirational place to be. Look around you at all the other racers, think about all the sweat and tears that have got everyone this far! Enjoy this special atmosphere. This is what you trained for.

7. There’s the gun, and you’re off! Take it smoothly for the first little while. Everyone is trying to find their pace and a clear space to run. After the first mile or so, things settle down and you’ll find your sweet spot. Enjoy it!

8. If things don’t go quite as planned during the race, don’t worry. Sometimes, no matter how well you’ve trained, your race might not be the one you wanted. This is ok. Enjoy the different experience and use it as a learning opportunity for the next one.

8. Race etiquette is important. Here are the biggies:
i. Don’t run side by side with a large group of friends. This prevents anyone being able to pass you and is annoying.
ii. If you need to slow to a walk or stop, raise your hand and move over to the right. It’s the same as when you’re driving and need to make a manoeuver, please look behind you before signalling and then make your move.
iii. Again, at water and aid stations, don’t just stop dead. Look around for other runners and allow them space.
iv. Don’t photo bomb other runners’ pictures! Of course you want to wave your arms and stick your tongue out for the photographers, but please don’t dive in front of other runners to do so.
v. Remember to thank our awesome volunteers. Without them, there wouldn’t be a race.

9. At last! The finish line! Collect your totally awesome race bling and celebrate your awesomeness! When you’ve done this, taken your photos and eaten something post race, come back and watch others finish. Even more than starting lines, finish lines are very emotional places with runners achieving goals that they never thought possible. You may even see a marriage proposal like last year!

10. Relax, rest, enjoy your achievement and begin to think about the next race!

Good luck everyone, and have the best race day ever!

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I Can and I Will

So here we are, less than six weeks until race day, and it starts…

I don’t know if I can do it.
I haven’t trained as much as I should have done by this stage.
I’ve been injured.
Maybe I should switch to a shorter distance.
I’ll never make that cut off time.

And on and on..

The same thing happened to me last year; the panic sets in and I start to give myself reasons and excuses why I will fail. I even do this self sabotage on training runs when there is a nice, sweet, kind voice in my head telling me that, “It’s ok, you’re tired, you can walk. You don’t have to run. You’re doing as well as you can. You know this is too far for you. Why don’t you cut this run short?”

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Research shows that negative thinking like this can mean that you’ve defeated yourself before you’ve even started. Sports psychologists recommend training your brain like you train your body and studies have shown that positive self talk can increase endurance and lower the rate of perceived effort (RPE) meaning that the exercise feels easier.

I recently read a post on social media where runners were discussing mantras and as you would expect, these were all positive. This started me thinking what my little voice says when I am running and was surprised to realise that I am way too kind! I need to get tough with myself and create a strong and tough mindset.

My plan for this week is to focus more on positive self talk, visualise myself at the finish line with that sweet, shiny medal and come up with a mantra to help banish those damaging thoughts that creep in!
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How do you get through the tough times? Do you have a mantra?

Questions and Frustrations

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As at the time of writing this, I haven’t run for four days…

Like many runners, I have the occasional ache and pain, some of which seem to reappear every so often. However, I am lucky enough to have never had an injury that has stopped me from running. Until now.

Without launching into a long and boring list of symptoms, I think it may be because my hips are wonky! I first saw a physiotherapist about hip pain over 15 years ago, way before I ever started running and I think I have been treating symptoms rather than causes ever since. The latest ache turned into a big ache in the middle of a run and so I have an appointment with a new sports injury therapist in a couple of days.

In my few days off, I have found myself looking enviously at other runners, staring wistfully at snow free trails and surfing running shoe stores online with credit card in hand. All this has made my mind race on from where it should realistically be and start to wonder What if? What if I can’t run for ages? What if I could never run again? What would I do? and more importantly, Who would I be?

It probably sounds crazy to non runners, but I’ll bet most of you readers will understand exactly what I mean. Running has become such a part of me, it’s what I love to do and it’s a huge part of who I am. It has made me healthy and happy. It has helped me through some very stressful and difficult times and been the source of great celebrations. Running has enabled me to meet so many inspiring people and travel to many beautiful parts of the world. It has given me such wonderful experiences such as being an ambassador for brands and races, helping organize local events and being on radio and television.

So as I wait for my appointment, I will try not to panic about the training I should be doing. I will be happy for other runners who are out there when I’m not and I will commit to whatever the therapist tells me to do.

But first, I think I will just press that little button that says ‘order now’…

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Be the Inspiration

One of the things I love about the running community is that everyone has their own story of why they started running and what it means to them. Everyone started somewhere and has overcome some kind of struggle to get there. It may have been a lack of self – confidence, a health or weight issue, a lack of support, as a relief from a stressful situation. This list goes on and on but whatever the reason, I gain a great deal of motivation from hearing these stories.

Recently, I was at an event where Adam Campbell was speaking. Adam is a former member of the Canadian National triathlon team who now likes to compete in very long runs! Last summer, he was competing in the Hardrock 100 (yes, that’s 100 miles of running!) and was just over halfway into the race, held in the San Juan mountains, when a thunderstorm rolled in! Now that would have totally freaked me out, but according to Adam, there was nowhere to shelter so they made the decision to get up and over the mountain as fast as possible. As they were almost at the peak, Adam and his running partner were struck by lightning which knocked them both off their feet. Now, if this was me, I think I would have curled up in a little ball, sobbing loudly and waited for someone to rescue me. (There is a long standing joke in my family that when I was young, I was so scared of thunderstorms that I would go to bed with rain boots on as I had read that if you were struck by lightning, a rubber soled shoe could protect you somewhat!)

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Anyway, luckily for everyone, Adam is much braver than me so he swore (I’m guessing here, but I bet he did!) got up off the ground and not only continued the race, but came in third place! Now that’s inspiring!

You can read more here: http://www.macleans.ca/society/qa-vancouver-runner-struck-by-lightning-finishes-in-third-place-anyway/

Another runner who inspires me daily is Darrell Henry. I have not yet been fortunate enough to meet Darrell in person but I have been following his journey closely. Darrell has a rare disease called Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) which is an inherited colorectal cancer syndrome. After being diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer, Darrell underwent 6 months of chemotherapy and removal of his colon in early 2014. Although it was known that Darrell’s cancer would return at some stage, this happened far sooner than anyone expected and he is now undergoing more chemotherapy. However, in spite of this, Darrel, a self-confessed “obsessed’ runner, is attacking ‘The Beast’ and continuing to run, often logging the miles before he heads off for his chemo! I often think of Darrell when I’m running and when that sneaky voice creeps in to my head telling me to cut the run short because I’m tired, or I want to go home and eat cupcakes, I remember Darrell and think WWDD (What Would Darrell Do?)

Follow Darrell’s story here: https://www.facebook.com/DarrellHenrysSufferfest

So the next time you’re having a moment of self-doubt, remember that it’s also the ‘ordinary’ people who inspire. Someone is likely looking at you right now and thinking, “If he/she can do it….’

Be the inspiration!

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