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I’ve been very quiet on twitter, dailymile, and my blog lately because I needed a break to get some perspective.

Over the last year life has interfered with my plans. Broken toes. Health issues. PTCA. Bronchitis. After a while this started to take its toll on me emotionally and I haven’t been feeling very exuberant about running. Yes, as über-positive as I am, I’ve had to face the fact that I’ve been in a good old funk.

It’s not the wallowing kind of funk. I’m not one to feel sorry for myself—I am content and happy for the most part. It’s more frustration that this past year wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. What happened with my heart coupled with not meeting my running goals for 2014 came down on me like a ton of bricks. I haven’t managed a single race since the day I kicked the dumbbell and broke my toes back in November 2013. It has been a roller coaster since then and there are times I find myself struggling.

I was still battling bronchitis for several weeks after announcing that I wasn’t going to run the 42.2K at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM). As the incessant coughing started to wane, our family went on vacation. During this time away I began look at things from a different perspective.  Although I took my running gear with me, I didn’t run because I still wasn’t feeling great and I wanted to spend time with my family. Eight hours each way in the Jeep gave Bryan and I plenty of time for some great heart-to-heart chats. This helped me to resolve some of what I had been feeling. Despite this, when I returned home life got busy with the kids and other obligations so running got pushed into the background even further. Admittedly, I settled into that quite willingly.

This past weekend I started to reassess where I want to go with running and where I truly stand from a cardiovascular standpoint. My intent, when I decided I wouldn’t be able to run the full at STWM, was to run the half marathon and I changed my registration to reflect that. Now I am second guessing the decision to run at all. With a mere nine weeks left to train and taper for the event, squeezing training into that short of a time span is not exactly realistic given the challenges that I face, but part of me still wants to try. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. While I haven’t lost all of my fitness, I’m not where I need to be in regards to running longer distances. Plus, I need to rediscover my love of the run. I seem to have lost sight of that recently. Perhaps it is simply because I’ve put too much pressure on myself. I thought about my situation, talked with Bryan, and we decided that it would be to my benefit to dig out my early training plans and pick a more appropriate starting point.

As you can read, I’ve accepted some difficult actualities and am beginning to come to terms with the simple fact that the big gaps in my training have affected my base adversely. These were circumstances that were not within my control and what will be, will be. That’s just life. Reality. It’s not easy embracing where I am at but there are positives. Despite what I have lost, I am by no means the same runner I was when I first started. Running has given me courage in so many other areas of my life and it has given me the wisdom to know that getting back to basics is essential. It has taught me to keep trying.

Taking a few steps back is often the best course of action when it comes to looking at the grand scheme of things. After all, life is like a dance and the past year mine has been a bit of a Cha Cha. It does keep things interesting, that’s for sure. For me, giving up is not an option and so I continue to work towards a fitter, healthier me. In the end, an approach to build a better foundation will make me stronger in body, mind, and spirit.

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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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In December, when I shared the news that I was invited to be a Digital Champion with Canada Running Series for the Toronto Yonge Street 10K, I had no idea what was in store for me. What transpired next was a fairly difficult time in my life.

I had returned to training after my broken toes healed but my heart had other ideas. I was unable to cross the start line on Yonge Street because I had to have a heart procedure mere weeks before race day.  Having to back out of something I had whole-heartedly committed to was devastating but my fellow Digital Champions never wavered—I was embraced by a circle of support that I hadn’t expected. Being a Digital Champion taught me that sometimes our connection goes far beyond training and encouraging one another. It was deeper than I ever expected… a kindred relationship that began with our love of the run and then transcended it. At that point I decided that I would be the best cheerleader I could be in the days leading up to the event.  As difficult as it was for me, I chose to be at the start line to see the other runners head out when the horn went off.  I choked back tears while cheering as loud and exuberantly as I could. A few weeks later I happily returned to running again.

Now that I’ve recapped things, I’ll share this secret I’ve been keeping…

I have been invited, once again, to be a Digital Champion. Of course I accepted and this time I will be representing the 25th Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM) alongside 49 other runners marathoners who inspire me beyond words. You can find out more about this diverse group on the Canada Running Series blog.

I hadn’t intended that my decision to run a full marathon would actually be a comeback story, but it seems life has taken me in that direction.  As training progresses I will share more about my journey to the start line of my first marathon.  Please feel free to send me a message if you have any questions or comments. I’m @innerpossible on twitter or you can connect with all of the Digital Champions using #STWM.

 

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As I embark on some serious training for the 2014 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, I realize that many of the people who read this blog or follow me on twitter may not realize why I chose such a name.

So often in my life I have felt or been made to feel that things are impossible and had people encourage me to give up. In 2012 I first mentioned my want to run a half marathon and was greeted with “why would you bother?” and “you are just setting yourself up for failure” from someone I was close to. After my heart issue that same person said “we were just waiting for you to have to give up this silly running business” and ” I hope you realize now that you can’t do this”. It is a lack of support that I had grown accustomed to but the difference is that I am a runner now. Running has made me realize that the only limits I have are the ones I place upon myself.

Why the name Finding My Inner Possible?

This is a phrase that reflects my getting in touch with that part inside of me that makes what I strive for… well… possible. My Mom always called this “intestinal fortitude”. From the outside my dreams, goals, and aspirations may seem, to some people, way beyond my limits but I have the belief and inner strength that I can do anything as long as I put my mind to it.  Inner possible is about how having a positive mindset and drawing on inner strength can help me to believe in myself when others don’t and to realize my full potential.

We all have an inner possible. I encourage you to find yours and embrace it. If you are training for your first race, whether it is a 5K or 100 miler, please feel free to train virtually alongside of me via twitter and use #innerpossible so we can encourage each other. I’d love to see how you use your inner possible to do things you once thought you never could.

If you want to connect on twitter just follow me @innerpossible.

Life is short… go out and embrace it!

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finally

finally

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I am so proud to be a Mom and my children are the centre of my universe. My darling Tobias is now a teenager but he still has the big heart of the sweet little guy I used to cuddle in my arms. For Mother’s Day, aside from the gift he bought me with his allowance, he gave me something that I will never forget—his time.

His Dad is away right now and that coupled with the fact that his little sister Kaia won’t have anything to do with the running stroller now that she’s older, makes it difficult for me to get time to train. Tobias offered to watch her while I ran yesterday, so I took him up on it and hit the treadmill.

Before I tell you how that went, let me back up a bit. You may have read that I broke my toes in November and then had a heart procedure about 6 weeks ago. Nearer the end of April I was given the green light to train for a full marathon. During all this time off  I lost some of my cardiovascular fitness. I also developed some anxiety which is very common with heart patients. I would think about running and be overcome with the fear that I wouldn’t be able to breathe again. So I’d skip the run or I’d start to run, panic, and shut the treadmill off after 2 or 3K. I knew that if I was even going to consider a full marathon this Fall I would need to push through this.  Here I was with a strong, healthy heart and the blessing of my cardiologist to train; backed up by extensive testing. Yet I was gripped by a debilitating fear about my heart.

Tobias asked me how far I was planning to run. I told him 4K as that was what I had put in my training plan. I started to run and I decided that I wouldn’t allow myself to give up until I had reached the distance I promised him I would do. At 2.5K I started second guessing myself again. I changed my music and kept going. Then I hit the 3K mark followed by 4K. The fear hadn’t been there like the last few attempts and I was actually feeling great even though I was finding it tough. I said to myself… “Self, why don’t you just do the 5K? You know it would make you happy.” Yes, I talk to myself when I run—it’s a runner thing.

My son came out to see how I was doing and I asked if he minded watching Kaia a few minutes longer because I wanted to try for 5K. He agreed with a “Go Mom Go!” and then Kaia came out and joined in the cheer.  So, with the best cheering squad a Mom could ever hope for, I continued to run. The kids headed back to Tobias’ room to play with Lego.

When I saw 5K on the display I started to cry. I paused the treadmill, called out to Tobias and he came running out to see what was wrong. Between the sobs I explained that these were tears of joy and that I was more than okay. I was hot and sweaty and I felt really good. Accomplished. Three months ago I thought I would never be able to run again. To run past the fear meant the world to me. It showed me that I can do this and that I am still a runner.

This was a major breakthrough and one I desperately needed for my mind, body, and spirit. Tobias’ providing me with an opportunity to run without distraction turned out to be one of the most wonderful Mother’s Day gifts he’s ever given me. I can’t thank him enough. In being so giving he helped me to find my inner possible again—that part inside of me that makes even the most difficult challenges seem possible.

 

 

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