Life Goes On

Well it does.

Almost a month past the disappointment of my no show at the Tely 10 race this year, and well, training is slowly returning to normal. The sun comes up, the sun goes down and I continue to run. And yet, the biggest surprise was the difficulty I had with a small coaching run I did with my Learn to Run group at the Running Room. This was an easy 3km with minimal elevation and was mostly trail. What wasn’t normal was the weather. St. John’s weather tends to be on the chillier side of things and we NLers get pretty used to existing with multiple layers to prepare for that chill. That Wednesday was the first run since Sunday the 17th’s 10km and it was a sunny 25 degree day with a humidity that sent the temperature above 30 degrees.

It was like drinking an ocean while running.

The first km ticked by easily enough and I found myself pulling my group along at a reasonable little pace, proud of the group and their achievements as beginners and myself too for bouncing back. Hey, I felt I had something to prove. We charged along the trail at the head of the pack, legs pumping, conversation light and carefree. It was after the first running interval (10 minutes) and the rest walk (1 minute) that the pain settled into my lungs.

And there it was. The reality of why I couldn’t have possibly run the Tely. I knew I wasn’t feeling great, but the physical limitation of bronchitis was just a made up thing to me in the grief and anger of not finishing out a goal. To actually feel the hurt, deep inside my lungs, made me realize how close I’d actually been to harming myself. If I felt terrible after 10 minutes of easy paced running, would I have even made it past 2km at the Tely?

Confounded by these thoughts, I continued the run slowly, walking parts of it with other group members who graciously kept me company. It was a role reversal. I am usually the one who encourages someone along when they are having a difficult run. Yet, here I was humbly accepting all the motivation I could get from the group just to finish out a 3k. When I finished the run, I led the usual cool down stretches, calmly checking everyone over to look for fatigue or pain as they followed me, but inside I was screaming.

How had I let myself get sick? How had I let this happen, again?

I have started this post many times over the past few weeks each time looking for answers to those two questions. It isn’t just rationalizing the illness, it is looking for habits that maybe I can change for the next time. Because, there is a next time on the horizon. I am running Cape to Cabot again and this cannot happen twice in one year.

While I cannot pinpoint exactly what the hell I’m doing (or if I’m doing too much), I have decided that in the 58 days until C2C, I am going to document it all. I don’t know if I can really commit to writing it all here…maybe a synopsis, maybe a weekly post, maybe my anxiety will calm down just enough for me to think my way through what that might look like and if it would actually benefit me (or anyone really).

In any case, I am giving myself 58 days of training to figure it out.

To start myself off (practice some honesty?) yesterday I took my two week old beginner running group out for their run. I felt fine at their pace and I counted that 2km towards my Wednesday running goal of 5km. Once finished, realizing it’s nice to have company to run, I asked the 10k clinic coach if she wanted to run Quidi Vidi with me. Happily, she was game.

We started out the run at a 6min/km pace, too fast for my lungs, but stubbornly I kept it up until my poor lungs were screaming and I had to beg for a walk break. Surprisingly, it was a pace she didn’t want either and she was just keeping up with me. Runners, right? In any case, I got the extra 3km in and have a grand total of 11km for this week. The lack of run volume really concerns me, but that pain in the lungs is still there. Compensating for the lack of kms is a commitment to gym sessions tailored to fools trying to complete a road race known for its difficult hill climbs and descents.

This is why I do have help along the way found in an amazing friend and coach: Vicky Taylor-Hood. She has a gold medal in lifting obnoxiously heavy things; a great quality in a coach when wading through the immensity of reaching your own goals, dreams and ambitions. That stuff is HEAVY. Check out her site over at Raising the Bar Strength & Conditioning and read some of the wisdom that comes from a strong woman who knows how to prioritize life while maintaining a wildly admirable commitment to her training and clients.

Day 1 of 58

Thursdays are typically a rest day and I do yoga to keep the calves and hamstrings from impeding my stride. I am in the midst of a vegan protein powder search so I made myself a shake and I’m minding my water intake. You can check my Instagram to really see what I eat, as I usually post once a day every other day, and the goal here is as much to show how easy it is to fuel on a vegan diet as it is to keep me eating food that support my training rather than derail it. I even took my vitamins this morning.

Tomorrow, well tomorrow holds for me a posterior chain workout at the gym and a pizza. Because balance.

Sometimes, Making the Right Call Sucks

If you live in Newfoundland & Labrador, and you’re a runner, you know the Tely 10. It is the 3rd longest running race event in Canada and its prestige attracts runners from the province and beyond to gather in the variable weather conditions of an Avalon July to meander from the town of Paradise to Bannerman St. I trained for the race this year, and it was going to be great.

This run and I have a history. Not a history like so many runners that includes best and worst times and that time that was magic. The Tely and I just don’t have that kind of relationship.

The first time I registered I was excited because I had just started running, and as I mentioned, this race is the deal. The BIG deal. I don’t know where the mentality comes from but I can say it is pervasive and convincing. The Tely has just the kind of brouhaha that makes runners push themselves so very hard. And I love a good push. So, that first time near the end of my training, I developed a fever. This fever came on the heels of me ignoring a pain in my side (my runner’s logic dismissed it as a persistent stitch) and I ended up in the hospital. See, I was so focused on running and getting to that finish line that I ignored the warning signs of an ovarian cyst. In my defense, I’d never had one before but as luck would have it, mine erupted and led to the infection and fever. Antibiotic drip, a day or so in the hospital, and no Tely.

It was hard to see my name listed as a participant and a DNR next to it, and I don’t like the idea of it happening again.Fast forward a good few years, and perhaps I’ve been saying the race has bad juju for too long and the universe took notice, or maybe that’s just how things go in real life, and I’m here all over again. 

This year, I returned to running in January – February after rebuilding strength in the gym. See that ability to notice when things are going sideways with my health plagued me beyond my first Tely attempt. I let situational stress, poor health habits, and some even worse coping methods rule my behaviour for a couple of years and that meant meeting myself in the gym for a few months. And when I went for the first run back in January, felt the strength and balance in my body that had been missing for far too long, I knew what I wanted to do.

Picking up my training shoes and my regular running schedule came easy after that. I returned to coaching at our local Running Room and reminded myself how much I had missed my running community. Each week I grew along with my running group and when the time came, I began focusing on training for the Tely 10. I would run with my group and add on the extra kilometres or hill training afterwards. It was tough for the first few weeks but as the steps increased my joy of running returned and I was flying.

Let’s speed ahead. I travelled twice in the past few weeks and ended up with some fluid in my ear canals and an inability to pop my ears. But, I was busy balancing training, full time work, and life in general. I didn’t take the time to go to the doctor immediately. That one decision, the choice to minimize the importance of my health has struck me down twice. That small problem blossomed into an inner ear infection and solidly lodged itself into my system to manifest as bronchitis.

A runner can run through most everything, but a runner that cannot take a deep breath without coughing while sitting on the sofa cannot run 16 kilometres.

If you think that sentence was difficult to write, you should try to understand how it feels. Simultaneously ego-bruising and maddening, the feeling can be summed up by the epitome of the English language’s phrase: it sucks. So, so bad. I want to run. I have a shirt and a time chipped bib that will never see daylight. Sure, I will run the route in a couple of weeks when I have fully recovered (shout out to my coach and mentor Vicky for being so supportively honest and objective) and I will do my best to understand that this is enough. That this is the smart, health-conscious decision that will help me make the next goal of the Cape to Cabot in October.

And besides, saying my inaugural run of the Tely 10 will be at the 90th running is pretty cool too.

 

 

A Fistful of Life

There is a debilitating escalation of fear as we age. The fear that we are not meeting some unknown step along the way. The fear that tomorrow  is coming faster than yesterday and it chases us towards finish lines we define broadly, without care, or worse: by someone else’s measure. I have felt this fear at various times in various parts of my life: relationships, work, health, wellness. Each piece taking up too much space to handle.

It’s funny how that as we age we also gain a fair amount of perspective. The perspective comes from making it through, day after day, surviving life and all. And, we gain ground. We begin rethinking the rush to perfect things, the desire to fill our lives with meaningless activity, and the wishful finish lines. Each life event helps us see that we can navigate forward, and with the caution of lessons learned: we do.

                           “You can’t test courage cautiously.”

                                                       ~ Annie Dillard

Learned caution holds us back; gingerly feeling for the edges of life rather than grapsing it fully in our fists. Making the safe bets. Moving when all things have been considered and never leaving the safety of the known. I’ve lived here. I’ve let this maxim gain footing in my mind through my own fear (what caution really is) or eating a few too many meals of someone else’s. I’ve lived bloated with caution for a long time and it is time to let it go. The process is somewhat forgotten, but the intent is human: LIVE.

I’m not sure what it means to expand my life to live courageously. I live well, I love deeply, I am living, and yet I am hemmed. Subdued in my aims. Playing the safer long game. Now? Well, now I’m curious.

Soul searching. Life determining. Courage testing. Here I come.

Word of the Day: Action

Perhaps my previous intention to dislike Monday was…well, a blip. Today, things are moving. Not quickly, but slowly, with consideration and a fair amount of dedication.

This attitude started on account of Saturday’s long run. It’s amazing how these runs can clarify things for me. First, I didn’t really want to run. Well, I didn’t want to start. I wanted to already be halfway (ha!) with the difficult part of starting over and done with. I know how great a run feels once you’re into the motion and the adrenalin is coursing through your body. It’s why we runners keep going back. Starting? Not so much.

Second, on Saturday, the weather was to turn and a run would become very unpleasant in the manner of ice pellets with a side of strong winds. My time was running out, pun intended, so I reluctantly laced up and headed out. The first 3km were terrible. I watched as km markers passed and I kept promising myself I would turn around at the next. Little white lies to keep my feet going towards a goal I wanted to reach. I kept going knowing my coach wanted me to reach between 6-7km that day. I kept her in my mind when I wanted to turn around. I pushed myself. I focused on the doing and willed my mind to get it together. In the end, I ended up getting in a decent run even though I ran uphill into the wind, somehow knowing that I would be running downhill with the wind at my back helped.

 
I think this is often how we see things when a change or unanticipated situation arises. It’s insurmountable. Impossible. How could we ever tackle it? Picking a way through is as much as seeing the path as it is preparing to take it. This comes with taking a long, realistic view of where we are and venturing into where we might go. It comes with having people in your corner who believe you can do what you set out to do. It comes with showing up.

Today I am tackling a bunch of small things that together help me see a clearer path. My life is changing and I’m evolving; I need to see my way through this. So today, I’m doing everything from organizing to making phone calls to arranging appointments I’ve been putting off. I’m not really sure when, or if, I get to coast down the other side, or if I’m even near the top of this particular hill. I do know that all this action feels pretty good.

Flying Solo

For the longest time, I’ve stated that Mondays are my favourite day of the week. Yes, I know. Weird. But, hear me out.

Monday is that fresh start. That day to begin. Think of any schooling experience, weight loss program, diet or exercise based, and typically, we start that shit on a Monday. It’s why most people hate Mondays, but the very reason I relish them. In this vein, I have contended that on Monday, nothing has yet gone wrong. Nothing has tipped the scale positively or negatively; expect that particular crap on a Wednesday. Monday is the blank slate beginning that allows us to start anew.

Well, I formally recant this. Two Mondays in a row, I’ve been blindsided. Yeah, yeah, sounds dramatic. But in my world, that blindsiding waits politely until mid-week after I’ve had a couple days of checking off to-do lists and reorganizing life goals. I don’t mean that anything terribly traumatic has happened, just terribly unexpected. Two isolated tailspin-inducing events that fell on my beloved Monday. How could anything have that impact, you ask? Each event affected my definition of who I am through a lens outside myself. Kind of like seeing my reflection in a mirror I didn’t buy, but have to see everyday, and one day the mirror is warped but I don’t own it so I can’t replace it. Get it?

While I thankfully have a pretty strong sense of self (something that has made the past couple of weeks easier, I believe), it got me thinking. And I realized, maybe a bit late to the game, the stronger the sense of self, the better able we are to weather a shift in our personal perceptions-even if those perceptions are defined outside of ourselves.

(Hang in there, I have a point, I swear.)

While I’d like to say that I don’t give two hoots about what other people think of me, the honest answer is that like anyone, I have a peer and colleague group that help me understand who I am from other people’s view. Some people help me understand who I am as a friend, others help me define my professionalism. All this mixes with my sense of me. When, or if, I rely heavily on one of those definitions, and that definition dissolves or disappears…get the picture? A stronger sense of who we are, without the extras, well, that’s how we move forward and through the turbulence of everyday life.

I have had two terribly turbulent Mondays in a row where I got a pop quiz in how I defined me.  Two points at which I was grateful for knowing who I am and what I’m made of. And know what, I’m made of stronger stuff because while the experiences were bumpy enough for me to strongly reconsider my favorite day of the week choice, they were not enough to knock me out of the sky.

Golden

Creating the perfect weekend is never really something that works. Sleeping in, hanging out with friends, catching up on errands all crowd their way onto a magic list that we can each spew out should anyone ask us what we plan to do on the weekend. But know what? There’s something even better.

Nothing. Celebrating the the simplicity and joyful expression of no plans. 

See, the only thing planned for me this weekend was a birthday party. It got cancelled. Though I wanted to go (and will go to the rescheduled party), the news of it having been cancelled and the sudden realization of no commitments felt like finding a $20 bill in your pocket: golden. The turn around was too quick to make new plans and the night unfolded into a beautiful night of movie marathon and dog cuddles.

Not exactly the most exciting, but a win in my books. These days have been filled to the brim with ‘to do’s’ and projects and training plans and and and. I have a book someone gave me for my birthday LAST APRIL that I haven’t finished yet (and not for lack of interest). 

To find myself staring at an evening of nothing was pretty sweet. It made me think…how many of us are overburdened with plans and commitments that given the chance would run?

It seems far too simple to say that we should only do what we want, but the simple reality is we all take on things to please others and sometimes that includes ‘doing’ when we really just need time to ourselves. Then, when those magic moments of broken plans come along…we hoot and holler and gleefully tuck into a Gilmore Girls rerun marathon. Why didn’t we just watch the damn show in the first place?

What would you do if you could do exactly what you wanted? No, really. Right now. You get up from whatever it is you are doing, perhaps something you’re just not that into, and just go do that other thing on the fringe of your brain that screams ‘happy’s over here!’. 

That’s my focus this week, do more of what makes me happy. Who knows, maybe I’ll finally finish that book.

Creatures of Habit

The truth of the matter is often much more simple than we realize. Habitually, we go through the same routines everyday. Wake. Coffee. Breakfast. Drive. Work. And it continues.

The rub is trying to create a new habit. I’ve seen and read articles referring to a 21 day period being the most realistic timeframe I which to successfully acquire a new habit. But, what if you want to get rid of one?

I’m not talking smoking (I think that has its own unique challenge), but I am talking about a habit that is bringing something into your life that isn’t positive. The habit of procrastinating, the habit of being alone, the habit of not being able to see our way out a situation. Those habits that we carry and weigh is down from doing what our inner self wants most.

Sometimes a change of venue is what it takes. Sometimes it is a person with a different viewpoint. Sometimes something larger than you comes along and takes you to a place that you know you just can’t go and change is forced. I’d like to think I could be ahead of that particular curve. 

So, for the next while, my habit will be to write. Write things down in a cohesive way. Not always on the topics of health and fitness, or eating disorders, or anything specific. There is no reason, really, for me to write other than the pure enjoyment I get from it and occasional insight into who I am. It is a terribly selfish platform in its topic choice and timing. I wonder if dedicated writing would change that.

I’m losing the bad habit of not writing. I’m going on a writer’s 21 day habit-acquiring journey. See you tomorrow.