Last-minute marathon prep

Now entering the final few days before my first marathon and I’m feeling a mix of emotions. Some days I feel confident and relaxed. Other days I wonder if I’ll even cross the finish line.

This weekend’s 15 km, however, felt great. My energy levels were solid and while I felt a bit of an ache in IT band, it didn’t hurt. Now I just need to repeat that x3 next weekend! GULP.

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The leaves have just popped out over the past few days and it really makes a difference in how pleasant it feels out there.

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With the trip to Ottawa creeping closer, I have been trying to ensure I have all the appropriate gear. I’m writing lists like it’s nobody’s business.

What I bring and what I need is largely weather dependent, and at this point, the forecast is calling for a high of 25 C, which means I will be sweating buckets. So this weekend I picked up a few more odds and ends.

  • Fuel belt pouch: I purchased a four-bottle belt about a month ago from the Running Room, and I find it much more comfortable than my old Nike belt. This weekend after talking to the fine folks at the Running Room I decided it will probably be wise to run the marathon with the fuel belt, especially since it will be so warm. Although there will be water on the course, I think it will be good to have water/Gatorade with me at all times. This also allows me to carry a few little items in a pouch on the belt. The pouch that came with the belt was pretty small to I bought a bigger one, which will fit a phone and energy gels. I always run with a small iPod Nano tucked in my pocket, but the belt will also allow me to bring my phone, which I was wondering if I should carry. (Also thinking this opens up SnapChat opportunities, haha! @AprilRunsOn)
  • Sunglasses: I have some sporty sunnies but they sort of give me a headache. So I purchased these cheapies from Winners. They will do the trick. I may also or alternatively wear a hat. Not sure yet.

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  • Running outfit: I totally splurged on a new Lulu outfit, which I bought online a week ago, but it hasn’t arrived yet. Yikes!
  • Massage stick: On the advice of my physiotherapist, (Rob Landers at ABC Physio, highly recommend), I bought one of these in place of my old foam roller. It seems to work really well and as a bonus, it’s portable!

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This week I just have three runs planned of 5 and 6 km. It should feel like a breeze… the challenge will be getting prepped for the trip while handling other everyday life stuff. And truthfully, I feel pretty run down at the moment. I have avoided a cold that went through my house last week but my body is rebelling in the form of a cold sore. Still better than being sick, I guess.

 

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Making it work: marathon training as a mom

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Silas is almost 2, and as I look back at my running achievements over his short life, I can’t help but feel proud.

Last year included two half-marathons and a number of shorter races, which I managed to train for while working a full-time, demanding job. Now I am less than two weeks away from running my first marathon.

  • I ran 20 km on Sunday in one of my final long runs. Not pain free, but got it done. Stats here. 

Logging miles upon miles to get to the finish line is never easy. Throw a child into the mix and the dynamic of finding balance in life becomes even more tricky. But I am here to tell you it is possible – not only that, but it makes you feel good.

Running is a gift. It’s a place to focus, work out the day’s problems, dream and plan. It’s for me and me alone. This might be why I enjoy running solo. It sounds cliche, but I know that if I am at peace with myself, I am a happier person and a better mother.

It’s also a way I can take control of my body and my health. To work on improving my speed, endurance and strength (both physical and mental).

Everyone is busy, not just moms. But there is a particular part of motherhood that involves giving of your whole self every waking moment. It often feels like there is absolutely no time to spare.

So here is my secret to fitting running into the equation: make it a priority.

The top priorities in my life: 1) family 2) career 3) running/health

When you have that figured out, you quickly realize all the rest can fit in the tiny cracks that surround your busy schedule, and it doesn’t matter if that other stuff (i.e. house cleaning, Facebook, painting my nails) doesn’t get done.

Everyone has different priorities, but I have chosen to make running mine. It matters to me and I know it makes me a better person.

Here are a few other ways I make running fit in my life as a mom:

  • Plan ahead: I roughly know what days I’m going to run, the distance and what time will work best. On my days off, I typically run during nap time to maximize time with my son. On weekdays, I opt for early morning runs.
  • Be flexible: Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Like I am just about to head out the door for an early morning run and I hear “mama!!!” So I keep on my running clothes and try for a lunchtime run. If that doesn’t happen, nighttime treadmill run it is.
  • Use the running stroller: We usually get out for one stroller run per week. It’s tougher than running without but my son loves it. He says “wheeeee!” when we go fast and “runrunrunrun!” I love it.
  • Set achievable goals, gradually: I didn’t start running again until a good two months after giving birth. After that, my first goal was a 5K by Christmas, when Silas would be six months old. I was so proud to finish! Then, four months later, I ran a 13K race with another mama. Three months after that, it was a half-marathon, followed by another one in the fall. I kept running through a December run streak to keep my base strong before launching into marathon training this past January.
  • Be realistic: I don’t try to be perfect. I miss some runs and mis the mark on my mileage many weeks. I love French Fries and McFlurries as much as I love a good protein smoothie. Many  days, I don’t get enough sleep or drink enough water.

Sometimes I feel like an imposter in running gear.

But I guess that’s also part of the appeal. I’m working on becoming someone I never realized was possible. And that will always be a work in progress.

 

Things are looking up!

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter on Instagram, you already know I conquered 32 kilometres on Sunday.

I’m still baffled by this. I look at this picture and wonder if I was dreaming and my Garmin produced imaginary data.

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Yes, my knee and IT band are still achy and I am still wobbly, but I’m improving – even after running this massive distance. I am amazed and so grateful for medical advice, treatment and the glory that is New Shoes.

Let’s back up a bit. Much has happened since my last post. I ran 3.5 km that night and felt OK.

Thursday: I continued with my physio exercises (bridge and clam shell – here’s a link from a random website), ran 6 km on the treadmill then found a couple short videos on YouTube for stretching and strength exercises for runners.

I also saw my family doctor to get a referral for physio, so I can get insurance coverage. She was very supportive of my running goals and also wrote me a prescription for Naproxen, an anti-inflammatory similar to Aleve.

Friday: I returned to physio and learned a few more exercises for core stability. Had more acupuncture and hot/cold therapy. The physiotherapist wasn’t too keen on me taking the Naproxen. Why mask the pain with medication when we could work on strengthening and fixing the problem directly? I agreed (thinking I’ll fill the prescription anyway, because those things could come handy after the 32 km I had planned for the weekend).

New exercises I learned included lunging with one foot balancing on a stability ball; walking backwards on a treadmill (activating those glutes) and doing side shuffles on the ‘mill, working on keeping my body in alignment.

After work I headed down to Alex Coffin’s Fitness Shop to pick up some new kicks. I wanted the exact same pair of Brooks Glycerin because I love them so much. But I knew mine were worn out.

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Yikes.

Alex was notably alarmed when he saw the state of these shoes (which I only purchased last November). He suggested my form is likely off, and I’m probably not following through on my stride. I’m also clearly putting the most pressure on the outside of my foot, especially on the right side.

I left Alex’s store very pleased with my new shoes – I got black – but worried my old ways would be tough to fix this far into my training.

I came home and after putting Silas to sleep, I tackled another 6.5 km on the treadmill, plus more strength and stretching.

Saturday: Rest day but no sitting. Chasing a toddler around a few stores, then house cleaning. I ate as many carbs and drank as much water as humanly possible. Also a beer. Seriously, before bed I ate a whole Kit Kat bar and a bowl of Raisin Bran. (The shame!)

Sunday: I woke up feeling like I had a big exam. I was so scared to tackle 32 km. I had the blessing of my medical professionals, and I had really been running all week (though the runs were short), but I still had my doubts. I told Mark to stay by the phone. I fully expected I wouldn’t get much farther than 10 km before he got a call.

I struck out with a mixture of fear and determination in my belly. I held my posture high and tried to keep in mind all the tips I had heard from Alex and Rob (my physiotherapist) over the past week. I mentally focused on keeping my core strong. I thought about taking off from my big toe.

My knee and IT band were achy but the pain was very mild and I could run through it. Just knowing that running through that sensation without forcing any longterm damage helped push me along.

I tried to stay in a positive mindset. And amazingly, after the 10 km mark (my mental breaking point, or so I thought), I realized I could do it. I felt warmed up and I felt strong. I had lots of energy (so much sugary goodness coursing through me). I just took it slow and kept going.

By the time I hit the 20 km mark, I called home so my husband wouldn’t worry. Turns out he didn’t expect to come get me at all. He had better faith in me than I did.

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The long, foggy, lonely King William Road in Lorneville. I didn’t see a soul.

Before long, I was more focused on fatigue and a dull numbness in my feet that comes along with long distance running (at least for me) than I was that ache in my knee. In fact, it was barely noticeable.

Could it be that the run actually made me better?

I have no idea, but since then, my pain has definitely not become worse.

I came home from Sunday’s run, had my first ever ice bath (equally dreadful and wonderful) and drank a protein smoothie.

Monday was a rest day but I did yoga and my physio exercises. Today I got up early and ran 5 km. All feels good!

Three weeks to go until marathon day. Fingers crossed this was only a blip in my training.

 

My knee hurts

I’ve now entered the hallowed phase of marathon training known as “obsessing over possible injury.”

And like most runners flirting this unspeakable affliction, I remained blissfully ignorant the past week, believing the knee pain I felt during the last 6-7 km of my 28.5 km run last weekend would just go away on its own.

I was so wrong.

Yesterday, as I set out on a beautiful afternoon on what should have been a perfect half-marathon long, slow distance, the niggling knee pain I had felt all week flared up with a vengeance.

I was less than 5 km into the run and I felt a tugging around the outside of my right knee. But I am a stubborn person (is there any other way to get through marathon training?) and decided I was going to push through this run with pain or without it.

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The tide was out at Lorneville when I hit my turnaround point.

It was minor at first, and I got through the first half with no major issues. Then, as I gradually got closer to home, I couldn’t make it through each 10 minute running section without a mini walk break. I would stop and stretch, but it almost felt like my leg was throbbing, all the way up to my hip.

With less than 2 km to go, I wanted to pick up speed and just get home. But I couldn’t. It hurt so bad, I stopped to walk and burst out in tears. I felt utter defeat and as the scenarios of this possible injury played out in my head – sitting out next weekend’s 20-miler, and what that would mean for getting through a May 29 marathon.

I got home and flopped on the couch, completely spent. I managed to toss together a protein smoothie, which I shared with my toddler son as he crawled all over my tired body. I felt like a banana peel left out on the highway. When he got frustrated that the thick smoothie wouldn’t suck up the straw, I got him his own spoon and we both gobbed dollops into our mouths.

Eventually I pulled myself together but I was down, and I rarely feel down after a run.

Here is what I realized:

I screwed up. I have not been cross training/strength training enough (or hardly at all). I have excuses, like fitting in the miles is tough enough as a working mom – how do I get to the gym on top of that? But that doesn’t matter, because training for a marathon is a big deal and until now I haven’t felt that gravity.

Here is what else: I need to take some time off running. Maybe a few days, maybe two weeks. I am only one month out from marathon day. So I may not run a 20-miler, which means I’ll have to trust that my 29.5 km long run will get me to the finish line.

And then there’s this: I might not be able to run this marathon at all. (But let’s not even consider this option right now).

For now, I am using ice, anti-inflammatories and the foam roller to massage sore areas. From my initial internet research and talking to friends, I think I have a case of runner’s knee, and likely IT band syndrome.

I have made an appointment with a physiotherapist, which may seem unnecessary but I really want the best advice on how to heal this while still holding on to hope of running 42.2 km in four weeks.

The long game

I feel like standing outside my front door and yelling, “Guys! I did it!”

I totally owned my long run today: 28.5 km, and it feels so good.

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Here’s how it went down:

  • Timing: Our nearly two-year-old little man had his first sleepover at his grandparents’ place, so I moved my long run time to the morning. (It has typically been during nap times on Sunday afternoons so I can maximize time with my boy).
  • Route plan: My goal was to tackle 29 km today, and while considering routes, I started wondering how long it would take to run out to my inlaws’ place. Turns out it wouldn’t give me enough distance, so I added on here and there, and presto, created a 28.5 km route. I told my husband to meet me there around noon, and off I went just before 9 a.m. today.

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  • Fuelling: I learned my lesson from last weekend’s run. I need to eat more. Easy! Last night we had a date night and I ate my fill. My dinner wasn’t really carby so I topped up with a bowl of cereal when I got home. Breakfast about an hour before I hit the road was two pieces of toast with peanut butter, honey and sliced banana. I brought along three Honey Stinger chocolate gels (I’m trying something different every week to see what I like best).
  • Hydration: Another lesson learned from last weekend was I needed the ability to carry more fluids. I purchased a four-bottle belt from the Running Room. Each bottle holds seven ounces. It was surprisingly comfortable and I really enjoyed running with it. I drank as much as I could stomach throughout the run. All in all, my energy levels were fairly steady throughout the run! Success!
  • The mental game: I made an effort to stay positive and just get myself from one walk break to the next (I follow the Galloway method, which is taking a one-minute walk break every 10 minutes). I allowed myself to walk most hills to conserve energy. I listened to two podcasts (Marathon Training Academy and Coach Jenny Hadfield, followed by my running tunes). If I ever started freaking out about the distance, I would go back to focusing on getting through the next stretch.
  • Weather: It was windy but otherwise beautiful and cool at about 2 to 5 C. I found it to be very comfortable.
  • Hills: My route included a mostly downhill portion to downtown, followed by rolling hills along the harbour, a gradual uphill through the retail district, another downhill and flat portion past a busy retail area, then a long, gradual climb along Golden Grove Road, which took me out of the city, past many sparkling lakes toward Rothesay. The road was pleasant but not very safe with no sidewalk and many blind hills/corners. I took out my earbuds quite often to make sure I could hear approaching traffic.

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  • Overall feeling: I felt great for most of this run, which was a complete turnaround from last weekend. The only downfall was a sore knee from about 22 km onward. But I found that if I kept a strong running stance it was manageable. I have since stretched and used the foam roller and I feel fine, so I don’t think I have an injury.
  • Full Garmin stats here.

I am now basking in my new accomplishment. It’s incredible to wrap my head around running all that way, and still feeling human at the end of it. My confidence levels have been restored. I now know that I can take on the longest training run, which will be 32 km in two weeks. From then on, it’s taper time.

I keep telling myself that Ottawa will be so much flatter than the courses I have tried around here. That, along with race day adrenaline, should result in a pretty acceptable time for my first marathon.

Thanks for reading and for all your support.

Should you run if you’re coughing?

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Silas and I both have a cough.

I think I’ve Googled some version of this question about 800 times.

“Should you run if you’re sick or coughing?”

Most runners will tell you a general rule of thumb is to avoid running if you feel symptoms below your neck. So if you’re congested in your sinuses, it’s fine. If your chest is wheezing or your body aches, take a break.

Well I have been hacking up a lung for a week now and I’m tired of waiting. I’m antsy. I feel lazy. And I’ve probably gained five pounds.

So this morning I hopped (or, lumbered) onto the treadmill to see how two miles felt.

It was hard. My legs felt heavy and my throat was dry. Within seconds I was coughing so much my stomach muscles hurt. But I sipped water and kept going.

I know I’m not alone here. How do other runners handle this situation? I physically feel fine but the remnants of an ugly cold are lingering and I can’t seem to shake this cough.

It’s hard to run while coughing. But I want to run and I’m worried about falling behind on my training.

Three years ago, I totally ignored a chest cough, continued to run vigorously and ended up with bronchitis. I’d like to think I’m past the point of this turning into an infection, but I don’t want to risk it either.

Some medical experts suggest “no running for three days,” according to Runner’s World. Running and exercise can stress a sinus infection, leading to pneumonia, even without the presence of a fever. Another study has shown that running with a head cold doesn’t compromise performance. In fact, it maintains fitness and psychological well-being.

For now, my plan is to gradually get back to where I was in my training.

Last week’s plan of a 3, 4 and 5-mile weekday runs followed by a 12-mile long run flew out the window. All I got in was a 4 km run.

And this week is looking no better. However, after running two miles today, my plan is to run 3 miles tomorrow, followed by 4 miles on Friday, rest Saturday then long run on Sunday. Although my plan calls for 15 miles (unprecedented!) I’m *hoping* to eek out 12 miles.

What do you think? Advice welcome.

A little hiatus

My last long run feels like forever ago, but it was glorious.

It took place on a cloudy, Friday afternoon. I got off early from work and hit the pavement while my little man was still napping.

I ran along the harbour and through the south end of my pretty city.

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I took it easy, but my pace was actually right around what I think my goal marathon pace will be at 6:30 min/km. There were many hills and I tried not to let them slow me down.

By the end of the 15.5 km run, I felt tired, but good. I made myself a protein powder smoothie and felt relieved at getting the long run out of the way before the weekend even arrived.

Now, just a few days later, I’m in the thick of a cold. I went for a short 4 km run on Tuesday just to test out my lungs, but I felt a little wheezy so I decided not to push it. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way before about running when there is any sign of congestion in the chest, and the results are not good. Who needs bronchitis when you’re marathon training? Not me.

So for now, I’m sitting a few runs out and I’m not sweating it one bit.