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Archive for July, 2014

Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it. – Michael J. Fox

Thursday morning…

After a two week bout of bronchitis, which I am still not 100% rid of, I sit at my desk while writing a note to Canada Running Series. As the tears roll down my cheeks I request that my registration be transferred from a full marathon to a half marathon. These aren’t tears of sadness, but of relief. I’ve been struggling with this decision for quite some time. I put a lot of pressure on myself not to let anyone down. I was going to run this marathon even if it took me seven hours. I made promises to Canada Running Series and myself.

So, if I wanted to run a marathon so badly, why the change?

The crux of the matter is that I have lost a lot of my running base because of being off with broken toes and the problems with my heart. Two weeks after the heart procedure my cardiologist said to hang on to the dream of running the full at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon this October and a few weeks after that, I was running again. I got carried away with the excitement of making it through such an ordeal that I accepted the opportunity to run the full as one of the Digital Champions for STWM.  I was alive and felt great. My speed workouts were more effective. I felt energized and ready to tackle the marathon.

feet in training

moving forward

When I brought those Saturday morning long runs back in the mix it was a struggle. I could no longer run the distances I had become accustomed to the year before. The high heat and humidity were definitely factors that made the runs exceedingly more difficult. I convinced myself that maybe it was a mental block because I couldn’t seem to get past where I was before I had the heart problems. But if I am being honest with myself, that’s not all it was—what I had to accept is that my base has suffered. I was off for a few months with the toes and then a few more with the heart blockage, so it is my reality. Not to mention, my body has been through some trauma and I’m dealing with the side effects of being on a blood thinner (things like anemia and bruising).

Bronchitis meant more time away from building that base but it also gave me pause to really think about what I want to do… what I need to do. Time has become a factor. There are a mere 13 weeks until race day. This means I would only get one 32K training run in. For most first-timers that wouldn’t be a problem however being diabetic throws a wrench into things for me. I would like to have a few more of those long runs in a training plan so that I can learn how my body reacts to fueling. Not having a good handle on that can result in not being able to finish. The bottom line is that I could run the 42.2K but training without the solid base would open me up to injury or disappointment.

It just isn’t training time. It is also time with family. I’m a Mom first. My partner, Bryan, will be away on business for much of August and September. In August, he’ll be home on weekends but in September he’ll be at a huge tradeshow in another country. We won’t have a lot of time to spend together and training for the full will reduce that even further. This happens every other year and, in hindsight, I should have considered it when deciding to run a full.

Don’t mistake these reasons for excuses because they are not. I’m still going to be running and training. The only change will be the length of time I am putting in on those weekend long distance runs. This is acceptance of where I am at with body, mind, and spirit. It is the realization that this has been a really rough year and that I need to be gentle with my spirit while moving forward. I am at peace with the path I have chosen.

The goal remains the same—the timeline has merely shifted. I still consider myself as being in training for a marathon… I’m just taking a more scenic route to get there. I plan to become a stronger runner, build my core strength and flexibility, and listen to my body. I will run a few half marathons and perhaps Around the Bay 30K, then revisit the idea of a full marathon sometime in 2015.

When I shared the news of my transfer with my friend Kim, a marathon runner, her words summed it up perfectly…

Everybody seems to want to rush through the entire running bucket list. The marathon isn’t going anywhere—it will still be there when you’re ready.

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A few nights ago, I was having a chat with a lady named Daphne who is considering becoming a runner. She’s a fellow diabetic who I connected with recently and we ended up on the subject of running. I’m a bit exuberant about running so it was bound to happen. She asked me if runners are the type to be cliquey. We talked about acceptance and how there is a culture in certain fitness circles where judgments happen frequently. With running, as I told Daphne, the only judgment I ever found was self-inflicted and stemmed from my own insecurities. It is as simple as John Bingham says,  “if you run, you are a runner”.

I related to her concern. When I first started running I only ran at home on the treadmill where no one could see me. I was over conscious about how I would be perceived and I felt embarrassed. I expected runners to look down their noses at me and act as if I had no business out there. It took a couple of months before I summoned enough courage to head to the indoor track and run in public. A few weeks later I ran outside. That was liberating but my confidence still waned at times. Then I ran my first race. After that my perspective changed considerably. Running brought me to the realization that I ought to be more accepting of myself and runners proved to be some of the most supportive people I’ve ever met.

I have experienced this kindness time and time again. I’ve had a runner stay by my side when I was having issues. She walked across the finish line with me, sacrificing her own time. I’ve had runners who finished long before me, cheer at the finish line. At the Toronto ZooRun a stranger gave me a high-five as he passed me in the other direction. It got me through what was a pretty wet and miserable run. Other runners have sponsored me by donating to the causes I run for. I try to do the same for them. Another runner, I had only recently met, decided to run my first half with me so I wouldn’t have to run alone. She ran at my pace which for the half was considerably slower than what she is used to. She even sprinted ahead near the end to take my photo as I crossed the finish line.

Speaking of speed, one of the other conversations I was part of quite recently was with my fellow members of the Digital Champions (DC) team for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. This chat really illustrated what I was explaining to Daphne about how welcoming the running community is.

Prasheel Gopal, posted about the respect and admiration he has for those of us who are slow runners. He went on to mention how our efforts are not to be considered any less than folks who run faster. Prashell also went on to say that slow runners shouldn’t feel discouraged and how much he is inspired by us. His words showed me another perspective—it was something that hadn’t occurred to me before. He said that slow runners have to run for longer periods of time at events and in training thus enduring more extended periods of discomfort than those who are faster. For the longest time I berated myself for being slow but the reality is that I do spend a lot of time on my feet to cover the same distance. I’m sure that has to have an impact both physically and mentally. Other DCs chimed in and it was interesting to hear a similar point of view from other runners too.

Someone once said that the tortoise and the hare cross the same finish line. So, don’t fret if you are a slow runner because other runners know that you have the same commitment to this as they do. Be proud of every step you take towards being the best running version of yourself you can be. Embrace the fact that you are out there, day after day, giving it all you’ve got.

Daphne (and any of you who may be tossing around the idea of becoming a runner), I hope that you will give running a try and, in doing so, come to know the same camaraderie, growth, and joy that I have experienced through a sport that welcomes all.

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I write this, still unsure about sharing such a personal part of my training as it makes me feel vulnerable. However, it is important, especially in the role of Digital Champion, that people see that this journey is not always an easy one. It is my hope that sharing the struggles as well as the triumphs will illustrate what we can overcome and how the marathon is already changing me.

Sunday was horribly hot and humid. The temperature with the Humidex was 39°C and the air quality was awful. I left early but not early enough and the heat zapped me. It was almost suffocating. My scheduled distance was 12K but I only managed 6.5K. Partway through the run my son sent me a text saying he was really feeling ill and here I was out on a run.  Guilt started to take over but it also became an excuse to bail. Bryan brought water to me when I was just past the halfway point and instead of refilling the bottles on my belt, I climbed into the Jeep and said “take me home” with tears streaming down my face. I was severely dehydrated and I felt emotionally drained.

Had you asked me after that run on Sunday if I was going to still run the marathon I would have said, “No, I’m dropping out! I can’t do this. It’s too hard.” In fact, I did say that to Bryan and my friend Kate T. that afternoon. I also wrote an email to the lady who oversees the Digital Champions program for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM), with the intent of stepping down.

The email to Canada Running Series sat in my email outbox… and remained unsent. It sat there waiting. I thought about sending it but every time I went to click the send button, I hesitated.

I pondered. Who am I running for?

I cried. Why am I putting so much pressure on myself?

I soul-searched. Do I really want to do this?

Bryan is on vacation right now… a stay-at-home vacation so we can get some things done on the house and enjoy downtime with family. I took a few days off from running which I totally shouldn’t be doing because I have a marathon base to build. It was necessary though, because, I needed a mental recharge and some time to think… to deal with the self-doubt and run away from it.

I found the answers and my head is back in the game.

I came to the realization that I have putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform at a certain level and it is a level I am no longer at. It has been tough coming back after my heart having gone through so much but the problem isn’t my heart right now. It is in my mind. Before the issues came to light I was able to run a half. Not fast… but I felt strong. The last event I was in was the 12.5K leg of an arduous trail relay in October 2013. My heart problems were, in hindsight, evident then. In February, I got back up to 12K and it wasn’t as strong because of what was going on in my body. This is hard for me to admit… but for the past two weekends I have had 12K on the long run schedule and both times I completely talked myself out of running around 6.5K or so. It’s almost like a panic sets in and I shut down. 12K seems to be such a hurdle. It’s hard to put into words but there is a fear that exists for me about having another issue with the heart.  Combine that with Sunday’s heat and I was ready to throw in the proverbial towel.

I never sent the email to JCRS. In fact, I deleted it entirely and reading this may likely be the first they’ve heard of it. That’s a good thing.

I will not give into fear. It’s a mere obstacle getting in my way.

I am not a quitter. I’ve proven that time and time again. I’ve been through so much and each time I have fallen I have picked myself up, worked hard, and tried again and again until I reached my goal.

I’m not having an easy time training in the heat but it isn’t supposed to be easy, is it?

So, what made me change my mind and delete the email to CRS?

Runners… I have never met a more supportive group of people.

I posted my frustrations on The Happy Pace, a little running group I host on Facebook, and I chatted with some of my fellow Digital Champions. I talked with my husband. I came to realize that training for a marathon is just as much a mental thing as a physical thing and that many others have gone through these periods of self doubt. Other runners shared how the heat was making them feel and I discovered that I am not alone. The time off for a little staycation fun really helped too. This morning I went out and ran a 5K at slightly faster than LSD pace. The goal was to simply enjoy the run.

I’ve decided to take a different approach with the 12K distance. I’m going to totally skip it and jump right to 13K. I know it sounds a bit ridiculous, after all it is just a number, but maybe… just maybe that will help my mind get over whatever it is holding onto when it comes to 12K. I’ll take it gentle and slow because it is more of a jump than I had planned but it is only 1K more.

I’m going to handle my recovery runs on Sunday mornings differently by taking the pressure off pace and time and distance. I’ll record the details but I will not look at them as I run. I will simply run as far as I feel and then maybe go for a bike ride or do something else active later. It could be a hike, chasing the kids at the park, or whatever. I need to embrace some of the fun side of this again especially if I am going to make it through this hot summer. On my long distance runs I may enlist the help of a friend to meet me and do part of the run with me. Or maybe I’ll take my son up on his offer to bike while I run. I have plenty of ideas to help make this work and keep my mind where it needs to be… reaching for my inner possible.

I will not give up on the dream of running my first marathon.

This song says it all…

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