I love running!

I love running!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

That fine balance......

It is funny how sometimes life repeats itself.  A year ago I found myself in this same position. I was training for a fall marathon and as September rolled around I found myself injured. So what happened ? I was deep in my training for the TCSNYC marathon when I started to have a bit of IT band pain. It wasn't bad, it was definitely runnable and it wasn't consistent. We were away on a family holiday when it started. I was running some pretty hilly routes where we were staying and all on concrete. Normally I mix up the terrain I run on, incorporating flat runs on both trails and concrete as well as hilly runs on both as well. We were gone for a week and I noticed some tightness in my right leg on two of the runs. When I got back I went straight for physio  and had some needles to help release my leg. The next day I woke up feeling a bit like I was getting sick so decided to be smart, listen to my body, and take a couple of days off to get back on track. Two days later I headed out for a run and my right leg had no power. I limped around and recognized this was becoming a serious issue.

The last three weeks have been a combination of cross training and treatment. A desperate attempt to maintain fitness so I can race. I have spent many hours in the pool, on the elliptical and spinning on the bike and yet my leg is still not well enough to run on. The emotional challenge of not knowing when or if I will be able to run NY started to take it's toll. Yesterday, I met with a sports med doctor. She believes I have a bad case of ITB. It came on suddenly and may require weeks to heal. I recognize that with NY only 6 weeks away I am not going to be ready. It is extremely disappointing to let go of this dream but it is the right thing to do. I was offered a cortisone shot to perhaps allow me to run again, but I wasn't going to NY to just run, I was going to compete, so I am going to take the time the injury needs to heal so that I can come back stronger. I have been here before and know it takes a lot of work to get back, but I am still excited about running and can't wait to get back out there.

A wise friend reminded me that this past year has been an extremely emotional one for me. Losing my mom, as well as some very challenging family times have left me emotionally spent. She reminded me that not only do I need to heal physically, but emotionally as well. Perhaps this time off will be the time I need to heal myself fully. I won't be escaping the emotions by pushing my body to it's limits, I will need to feel them, acknowledge them, experience them! I hope this will lead me to be a stronger person in all aspects of my life.

I am continuing to pursue this journey in the elite running world, and although I won't be in New York this year I will be cheering extremely loudly back in here in Vancouver.

Thanks as always to Oiselle, Forerunners, New Balance Canada, Zensah, Nuun and RunGo app for their support!

  One of my runs on our holiday to the beautiful Okanagon
 Views on my Okanagon run

 Pool running is so much more fun with friends
 Kits pool, my fave pool running spot

getting some treatments

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Moving forward and Back at it!

My last blog post mentioned the emotionally difficult times I was having in April. These emotional challenges increased in June with the loss of my mom. My mom had been unwell for a long time, 11 years in fact. She was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimers at the age of 58 and had a very fast downward spiral culminating in the loss of her ability to self-care, to eat, to communicate and to be mobile. She remained in this state for many years.  I felt I had lost many parts of her over the years and that I had grieved these as they happened, however, I was unaware that despite my grieving over the years I would still feel so unprepared when she went.  The waves of grief continue to come over me, although they do move further apart.

After my mom's death I did do one more race. This had been on my schedule as my final race for the season and I decided I would like to do it. It was the inaugural Toronto Waterfront 10k. I had been running some really good workouts leading up to my mom's passing so knew I was fit but in the couple of weeks after her death I had not had the energy or desire to do anything more than easy comfortable runs. I went in to the race wanting to run a hard effort and see what happened. It was a warm and humid day in Toronto so I decided to just run by feel. I went out at what felt like a fast but conservative  pace and hit the 5k mark at 17:04.  I was in about 5th place I think and mentally kind of gave in. The next 2 k were slow and my motivation wasn't there. At 7k I had renewed sense of competitiveness and decided to work to catch the woman in front of me. I pushed harder and was able to overtake her at about 9k. I finished the race in 4th, and was first master. My time of 35:08 wasn't my best but I was happy I was able to push through and finish.

Following the race was my season break. I took a week off where I just ran a couple of short easy runs then I took 2 weeks where I ran daily but all easy runs. Some people like to stop running completely on their break but I find mentally I need to get some running in. With how I was feeling emotionally as well, running was my outlet and meditation time, a much needed release.  I am now ready to start training again so this week I have added some fartlek runs to get the legs turning over again.

I plan to start racing again in September, with my goal race being the New York Marathon on November 6th. I have been invited to race as part of the elite field and am so excited to line up with the elite/pro women in New York. I will be aiming to be fit and ready to run fast. My last marathon was just slightly over a year ago at the Pan Am Games so I am ready to embrace the training.

I am sure I will continue to navigate through the emotional challenges of life, but I am ready to focus on my running journey again.

I also want to send out a huge congrats to my friends and team mates in Canada and the US who secured their spots on the Olympic Team. What an incredible honour to represent. Also if you anyone is interested in #Rule 40 and what it means for athletes check out oiselle.com for a blog on it's impact or follow Lauren Fleshman or Sally Bergesen on Twitter. I feel incredibly fortunate to be part of a team that supports and advocates for not only it's own athletes but all athletes. http://www.oiselle.com/blog

Thanks as always to my amazing friends and family for their support during these challenges,  to my sponsors Oiselle, Nuun, Forerunners, Zensah, New Balance Canada and RunGo App! And to my coach Richard Lee, I couldn't do it without you all. It really does take a community.

Enjoying some downtime on Savary Island

Heading out for an easy run on the island during my break

Doing some strides with the puppy to keep the legs moving 

Throwback to my last marathon at the Pan Am Games

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Emotional Stress and running

Another long overdue blog post, but I think it's because I have been wondering how to approach this blog. It has been a blog in the making for a while but it is one of those hard ones to articulate as although it's my story to tell, it is personal and also involves others.

The last month or so has been quite possibly one of the more stressful months personally that I've had. This stress has led to very minimal sleep and a huge amount of emotional ups and downs. I am not going to get into the details but I am going to say that trying to train and race while in this state of exhaustion has been difficult.

It's funny as I read stories often of how people continue to thrive through adversity, and I like to think I am one of them, but this experience made me recognize that sometimes attempting to thrive or push through the stress isn't the best idea. In fact sometimes it may be better to be aware of the impact of the stress and to adjust expectations accordingly. The battle between being that outwardly strong  woman while inside feeling lost is difficult.

I did try to push through some training sessions while feeling exhausted. The easy runs felt therapeutic, but the intensity sessions just felt draining, plus I didn't feel happy with the results of the sessions as I wasn't running well. It wasn't that all workouts were bad, it's just that they weren't as strong as I would have liked. However, looking back now, given how little sleep I was getting they were actually not bad.

The culmination of this month was at the Sun Run. This is one of my favourite races of the year. I have run 3 of my best 10kms here, with last year being the fastest at  33:52. I went into the race having not slept at all and feeling emotionally fragile. I got to the start line and already felt defeated. Many of my running peers asked how I was going to do and I just said I was hoping to finish strong. A few already were aware how I was feeling so I didn't explain to everyone.

We lined up on the start line and my stomach dropped. It was strange starting my favourite race feeling so low. The first km went out fast and I knew it would be a tough day. I decided that I was going to finish but my goal would be to win the masters title and not worry about anything else. At 4km I was still in 2nd in the masters race and about 10th overall. We hit the short, steep climb up to the Burrard bridge and I decided to push a bit. Just before 5km I caught Maria Zambrano (1st master at that point) and Lisa Brooking and Lisa and I pushed ahead. I passed 5k at 17:12 which was 12 seconds slower than the previous year and I wasn't feeling good. I decided to just work with Lisa and see if we could get each other to the finish. It wasn't easy, it was a complete mental battle for me. The exhaustion made me want to quit numerous times but I kept pushing. I finished in 34:47, 1st master and 9th female.

Yes I met my goal of first master, but no it didn't feel good. I smiled for some photos then sat down on the curb and just let myself feel. There were tears, not for the race, but for the emotional toll I had been experiencing. Allowing myself to be vulnerable and show my emotions allowed my friends to come and comfort me. It probably would have been smarter to have sat this one out and just let my mind and body rest. I was in no way really ready to push myself this way, but in some ways I'm glad it did as the physical exhaustion allowed me to let go emotionally.

So what does this mean going forward? Well the last week has been a bit better. This is an emotional journey that will continue for a long time as this is not a stressor that will just disappear. I will say that I am getting some more sleep this week and that I am feeling stronger in workouts. In fact I had a couple of good ones this week! The amazing support of friends, family and my coach Richard Lee have really helped me work through this. I recognize that it's important to share when things aren't going well just as it's important to share when things are going right. There are lessons in both. My coach articulated it well by encouraging me to forget about times and to remember that feeling I love of running fast. I am taking that to heart.

I am heading to Spokane Washington tomorrow for a quick trip to race the Bloomsday 12k this weekend and I plan on racing hard while enjoying the experience of a tough challenge. I am excited to connect with fellow Oiselle team mates Lyndy Davis and Trisha Drobeck as well as the amazing masters runner Marilyn Arsenault. I will embrace my love of running and be grateful for where I am, enjoying the journey.

thanks again to my amazing family and friends for all their support, my other family Oiselle and my great sponsors Nuun, Zensah, RunGo, Forerunners and New Balance Canada

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Back to the runners playground

We are now well in to 2016 and I have neglected my blog. I’m not sure why but it is now time to update. So far my running has taken a few steps forward then a step backward. Just as things started to get back on track this year I developed the flu requiring me to take a step back again. That said, if there is one thing I have learned from my injury time off is that patience is crucial and that when my body says it needs to rest for whatever reason I need to respect that. I am not going to say that resting is an easy decision for me. My natural tendency is to push through, however I am trying to be wiser and keep the long term results of my decisions in mind.

When I am healthy and running, I recognize how fortunate I am, so I am practicing gratitude. I am reminded that running for me is my playground (Lauren Fleshman says this and it’s so true) So when I head to run (even on the pineapple express stormy days in Vancouver) I try to remember how grateful I am to be running again and to appreciate the experience. When I am feeling good and running well I can’t get the smile off my face.

When January rolled in, I was back to running most days and was starting to sprinkle a little speed in to my program under the guidance of my amazing coach Richard Lee. This generally appeared in the form of fartlek runs and short tempos. Rich and I decided in January it would be good for me to jump into a local 8k race to see what kind of speed I had managed to maintain through cross training and where I was at. This was scary to me, as I find it challenging to put myself on the line having no idea where my fitness is at. At the same time, it was a great reminder to me of how much I love to race, plus I got to see a ton of the local community out there.

The race was the Icebreaker, and although there was no ice to be broken there were 60km/hour wind gusts to battle along with some cold rain. The course is an out and back along the Steveston dyke, with about 2km of the first half on gravel. My goal was to give a hard effort and just see where that took me. I was really hoping to be under 30 minutes but wasn’t sure what my legs had in them, plus the weather was going to make for a slow day. I set out at a pace that felt hard but sustainable into the wind and rain and found myself in no-mans land for a while. There was a group ahead of me but I just couldn’t seem to bridge the gap. We got to the halfway clock and 15 min something popped up. Uh oh I thought, breaking 30 might be a challenge. Then I made the turnaround and the tailwind felt great. I decided to pick up the pace and push hard. I finished in 29:32 and was first female overall. A nice start back!!

After the race, coach Rich and I sat down to plan out the spring. We decided to make this a fun spring targeting some races I normally wouldn’t run, then focusng the latter part of the spring on speed and getting some fast times on the track. I am really excited about this as last year I spent the majority marathon training (which I loved) but I really would love to develop my speed again! Two races which I am so excited to be heading to include the United Airlines New York Half Marathon and the Bloomsday 12k. I will also be running some local races as well.

One of the local races I decided to run this year was the First Half Half Marathon in Vancouver. This took place on Valentines day this year. It is a competitive race that is one of my favorites, as it is early in the season and a great way to test fitness. I knew I wouldn’t be in top shape going in to this half and that Krista Duchene, Dayna Pidhoresky and Erin Burrett would all be out there racing hard in hopes of getting on Canada’s world half team, but I was really excited to race and to see where I was at. The day before the race about 12 of us had got together to watch the US Olympic Marathon trials so we were all feeling inspired. Although we didn’t have to deal with the ridiculous heat the US marathoners contended with, we contended with strong winds and cold rain, making for a slow day for all out on the course. I set out at a comfortable pace and decided to just take 5k splits and run on feel. I was fortunate to be running in a group of guys and with my friend Anne Marie Madden and we took turns leading. It was a great group and we stayed together until around half way. I believe we split 10k in 36:52 so were rolling along nicely.  Once the group split up I concentrated on maintaining the pace I had run in the first half. I kept my eyes on the people ahead and tried to reel them in. At one point the course turns onto a gravel section around the lagoon and it was here I noticed I was starting to pull some of the group back who had gone ahead and was gaining on some other runners. I was feeling quite good and decided to pick it up. I was able to run the last 5k strong and finished in 1:18:08 which was good enough for 5th overall and 1st master. I was very happy with race as it proved my fitness was coming back.

 At the end of the race I felt really cold and had a very hard time warming up. Setting out for a cool down with a group I still was having a hard time warming up. The next morning, I felt ok so went for a run, however later that afternoon I started to feel awful. What ensued was the full blown flu. High fever, chills, body aches and nausea took me over for quite a few days. I couldn’t eat and had no energy at all. I started to improve after a week but still had barely any energy and developed a deep cough. It was disappointing knowing I was just getting back to fitness to take another week off but there was no chance of running. After a full week off I still wasn’t feeling great but started on some easy runs for another week. By the 3rd week I was still low energy but was able to start some workouts again. The first few felt awful. I really didn’t know how I was going to get back but again knew patience was the key.

Week 4, finally starting to feel better and the end of the week meant another race. The BC Champs were being held at the St.Patricks Day 5k . This race brings in a stellar field of elites. Karen and Steve who organize this race, go above and beyond to ensure it is an amazing experience for everyone. It is a rolling course with a longish hill up to the finish. Again I just wanted to run a super hard effort and again felt a bit like I was going in to the unknown after being sick. I set out fast and figured I would just hold on as long as possible. I realized at the mile I had gone out really fast in 5:10. I recognized I probably wouldn’t hold that pace but just kept running hard. I finished 5th overall and 1st master in 17:03 and was super happy with the effort. My team mate Rachel Cliff won the event in a course record time of 16:05.

So now I am heading to New York to run the United Airlines Half Marathon. I am super excited to see how it goes. I am finally feeling good again and I get to go to New York! My family is coming too and we are making a fun trip out of it. Looking forward to exploring the city.  A huge thank you to David Monti for hosting me as part of the elite field.

I also want to say a huge thank you to my sponsors/supporters. Oiselle is not just who I run for they are my running family. Oiselle has stood by me whether injured or not. My Oiselle team mates provide me with inspiration daily and the relationships developed in person or via social media have been a source of strength for me not only when I was healthy, but also when I was injured and returning to running. As I said to Sally Bergenson, I am in the right place with the right people and that feels so good. So grateful to all of Oiselle for everything to do!

Also thank you to Nuun who are supporting me in their elite team for another year. Their product rocks and again they provide such a great network of support. I love that their product is all natural. My fave flavors at the moment are watermelon and citrus fruit. I also love a Nuun Boost before a race. I don’t drink coffee so a caffeinated Nuun is a perfect substitute.

Zensah, thank you for your continued support this year. Your ultra pro calf sleeves are my faves and I sport them in just about every race I run! Loving all the colour choices.

Forerunners Vancouver in partnership with New Balance Canada, thank you for keeping my feet happy. I love the 1080 fresh foam, the Zante and the Vazee Pace for easy and long runs and I can’t get enough of the 1400s and 1600s for workouts. I appreciate your support of me.

RunGo is my newest sponsor. Check out their app or peruse their website. This app is a great way to explore new routes in your neighborhood or when away travelling. They have tons of race routes on their app too so if you want to check out a course you are running this is the place. RunGo uses voice direction via your earbuds to guide you on your run. You don’t have to look down at your phone or map instead this app takes you where you want to go handsfree.

Thank you to my coach Richard Lee, who ensures he challenges me in my training program and racing, and pushes me to be my best. He is a great coach and also a friend. Thanks so my running friends. I love getting out for training runs with you all and lining up beside you racing, but I also love just hanging out and supporting each other. Grateful for you all.

Last but by no means least, thanks to my family who have stood by me through all the training, the injuries and the racing. I couldn't to it without you.

Pic from the First Half Half Marathon photo cred: Rita Ivanuskus

 St Patricks Day 5k finishing photo cred: Greg White