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

I am a Marathon Maniac!

As many of you know, I was a fairly latecomer to running. It wasn’t until I was 35 that I voluntarily ran a step that wasn’t away from a wasp or some other insect.

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Once I ran in my first race, a 10k at the age of 46, I was hooked. I loved everything about the event: the preparation, the training, the excitement at packet pick up, the buzz on race day, not to mention the feeling of success and accomplishment that I had done something I never would have imagined possible! Well, the races got longer and more frequent and when I had a few half marathons under my belt I read about a group called the Marathon Maniacs. Members of this group are exactly as described – marathon maniacs! As I read the criteria for joining I was amazed that anyone would ever do that, let alone, actually want to do that! Well the idea obviously took root in my mind and eventually I qualified to join their sister group, the Half Fanatics.

The last few years, I have found it very empowering to set myself goals and my goal for 2013 was… yes, to qualify for the Marathon Maniacs! I already knew I wanted to run the Calgary marathon and so I looked around for another one close to that date.  For the first level, I needed to run two full marathons within a 16 day time frame. Handsome Husband decided that Rock and Roll San Diego was the one to do! That worked out perfectly for me because it would mean a mini runcation in that beautiful city, but not so good because it was just one week after Calgary!

Eventually race day for the Calgary marathon dawned and I was feeling good! I had trained, rested and was hoping to beat my last time. We set off running and all was good. The miles (or kilometres in Canada) ticked past and when the half marathoners split off, I settled into the rest of my run. Until 30k (18.5 miles) I began to get bad stomach cramps which worsened and resulted in two porta potty visits! I also developed a huge blister on the ball of my foot and maybe this affected my running gait because my hip flexors hurt, as did my lower back! I really struggled the last few miles, had to walk a fair way.( I’ll stop the injury list there because I know my mother will read this and be even more convinced that I should stop running before I damage my joints!)

I eventually finished with a time of 04.58.52, very disappointed with my performance and worried if I was going to be able to run another marathon in a week!

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We left for California on the following Thursday and spent a wonderful few days in the San Diego area before race day arrived. Well, I was very nervous and wasn’t looking forward to the run at all. Luckily, I had spent so much money at the expo that I had a VIP porta potty pass which allowed access into the VIP potties at the start line (If you have never seen these… wow!)

As the pre race nerves got worse, I decided to focus on the fact that I was getting to run in a beautiful place in perfect running weather, and forget about everything else. To cut a long race report short, it was great! No stomach issues, no blisters and hardly any leg/hip pains until the last couple of miles. Apart from having to walk up a killer hill at mile 21, I didn’t need to walk at all, and finished in 04.46.06.

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As I was handed my medal, I felt a little emotional. Although I hadn’t been  happy with my Calgary performance, I am amazed and proud that I am now officially Marathon Maniac #7283!

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Be Prepared

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Handsome Husband and I are training for a marathon later this month.  We are a little behind on our training as apparently we should be tapering now, rather than still increasing our mileage! Yesterday was time for our 20 miler and we had discussed getting up early and so being able to finish well before lunchtime.  However, things didn’t quite work out like that!

Our little corner of Alberta, Canada, has the distinction of being the sunniest city in Canada with 333 days of bright sunshine per year (http://www.currentresults.com/Weather-Extremes/Canada/sunniest-cities.php) and although it has been cold and snowy lately, yesterday’s forecast was a high of 20 degrees Celsius (68F) I know that may not be warm to some of you,  but  we were looking forward to running in shorts and t shirts instead of gloves, hats, thermal pants etc.

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I don’t usually take fluids when I am running, but as we were going to take it slow, I grabbed my fuel belt with 3 small bottles of Nuun, my iphone in case I wanted to take any pictures and a chocolate GU energy gel just in case.  Add sunglasses and my fancy new Nike sportwatch to track the distance and I was ready!

Off we set and all was well until around mile 13 when Handsome Husband remarked, ‘Wow! That sun’s hot!’ which was closely followed by, “I’ve run out of drink..”  At that time, we were miles from anywhere, but I had my phone and decided to call the Happy Teenager who could drive out to meet us with some lovely cold drinks…  Hmm..No answer..

Our only option was to detour to our house, grab another drink and then carry on. During the 4 miles it took us to get home, we realised that we hadn’t been prepared at all! Although I had a phone, we didn’t have enough fluids, we hadn’t thought about sunblock or wearing a hat, and if only we had brought some money, we could have bought a drink!

Hopefully, that was a lesson learned and in future we will plan a little more thoughtfully but this led me to wondering, what should be the essentials?  I have heard of people who take nothing at all as well as people who take a lot including self defence weapons, so what do you take? Are you a minimalist or do you pack for every eventuality?

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All You Need is Love

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This last week I have been reading some amazing blogs where the writer has written a letter of apology to their body. (See my blogging buddies at http://runninglovingliving.com/ and http://www.lovelifesurf.com/  )The sentiments are that often as we mature,  we come to love our bodies with all their perceived faults and flaws and are grateful for the things they do for us and are able to focus on what an amazing design we are rather than superficial complaints such as ‘my legs are too short, fat, thin’, or, ‘I wish my butt was bigger/smaller’. On that subject, I spent many years hating my butt because I was convinced it was huge – this was long before various celebrities made having an ample behind something fashionably desirable.

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(Sorry, I couldn’t resist that picture!)

Since I became a runner, it shrunk drastically and so I am still not fashionable! Oh well!

This got me thinking what a valuable exercise this can be, even if you don’t want to write a letter, it is good to look back on the things you used to dislike about yourself and compare them to how you feel now. As a runner, I no longer look at my legs and wish they were longer and thinner, but I see them as strong and powerful. I am impressed how far they can carry me, and am grateful that they haven’t let me down yet!  I have even been known to talk to them when I’m running, ‘Come on legs, you got this.’

However, I am still not getting a pedicure – toenails? Who needs ‘em?

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It’s a Dog’s Life

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Often when I’m out running I see other runners, running, with their dogs. There are two particular people I notice; one lady has two large dogs which I think are weimaraners. Together they seem to glide along so gracefully. The other person I see regularly is a man with a middle sized terrier type of dog. The dog has black shaggy fur and although they certainly could not be described as graceful, they are both clearly having a great time. Whenever I see them, I always wish my dog would run with me.  So, here begins my quest to turn Murphy the Irish Terrier, into a running dog. If you want to see an Irish terrier in action, check out the movie, Firehouse Dog. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0476995/

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However, Murphy doesn’t quite get it! Murphy loves going out for walks, in fact whenever I come down the stairs, he thinks he’s going out, and if anyone puts shoes on, he dances around getting in the way. Just lately he’s figured out that I usually get my sunglasses out of the kitchen drawer before we go out, so now, whenever I open that drawer, he starts hopping around and wagging his tail. Often I can’t make eye contact if I’m not taking him out as I feel so guilty!

So you might be thinking that he would make a great running partner?  Yes, but on his terms! We live in an area where there is a lot of wildlife: deer, squirrels and rabbits, not to mention coyotes and the occasional cougar, so there are a lot of interesting smells for a dog, and he apparently has to sniff them all. Not so much of a problem if we are walking, but when running it’s a nightmare! He’s either pulling forward or backward but never the direction I’m going, and if he actually sees a squirrel or another dog he takes off so fast, I am in fear of losing my arm!

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We live in a beautiful town where there are lots of great pathways around the river valley, but dogs are not allowed off leash, which is probably just as well for Murphy as he clearly has a one track mind…. Did someone say, ‘squirrel’?

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