Thursday, May 31, 2007

Finding your inner strength to succeed

While I was running my 10K this morning, I thought about my clients and some of the struggles they are having to stay with the program I have put them on. Some do not get the kind of support they need from their family. With the majority of my clients women, I'm sad to report that most do not get the kind of support they should from their husbands/boyfriends. I've seen more than a few cases where the spouse becomes a negative instead of a positive influence on the one who is trying to lose weight. It's almost like they don't them to succeed. You would expect the opposite to be the case and while there are some who are supportive, I see many who are not. Part of the reason for this is that it makes the person who is not trying to lose weight take a hard look at themselves. The better and harder the person is working at improving themselves, the worse it makes the other person look.

In addition to this, when someone begins to lose weight there is usually lots of people who take notice right away and are very supportive. However, as time goes on the compliments become less and less. The reason? It's the same as the one I talked about previously. People will not constantly heap praise on someone who is losing weight especially if the majority of these people are not doing anything to improve themselves. The saying of "misery loves company" certainly applies here.

I think that's one of the reasons why I enjoy my running so much. I'm surrounded by lots of positive people who all have their own goals and they are working hard at trying to achieve them. Having a good support network can really help BUT if you don't have one it doesn't mean you can't succeed.

Most of my runs are on my own and I feel that I am self-driven. While I certainly enjoy running with other people, I don't have to run with them to achieve my goals. In fact, during a race or any run for that matter, I still have to be the one doing the running. There have been runs where I've had to dig a little deeper to finish. It is during these times that I call upon my inner strength to help me. I use plenty of mental imagery and have probably run more races in my mind than on the roads. I try to think about anything except running. In fact, if I actually looked at the amount of mileage I do on a regular basis, I may start agreeing with the trainers at the gym who call me crazy.

With regards to weight loss, I encourage my clients to use visual cues wherever they can. I've told them to hang up some clothes which they want to fit into so they can see it on a daily basis or even keeping a picture of what they want to look like in their wallet.
When things are tough try and recall these cues and ask yourself if you getting closer or farther away from these goals.
Whatever you need to use though, try and remember that you have the capability of doing anything that you put your mind to.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Running + Great Friends = an amazing time!

I just finished running 20K with two amazing runners and I felt energized afterwards. It's funny but I seemed to get stronger the longer I was out there and today I felt like I could have run forever. Some days are better than others and today was just one of those days. I didn't suffer from cramping, my pace was nice and even (maybe a little fast at times right Nancy?). We did a challenging route with a few tough hills and even did a mini trail run into Greenwood Park.
The weather wasn't as hot as it was last Friday which seemed to help. This was a good training run in preparation for the 50K in June. We'll do another long run on Sunday of 32K and then start to bring the mileage down to prepare for that race. I'm trying not to call it a "race" as I don't want to put a time goal on myself (although I do want to improve upon last year). This will be the first 50K for two of my friends and I don't want them to experience what I did last year so we'll run together for as long as we can.
Tomorrow I will probably do between 8-10K, rest on Friday and then either do a trail run or walk on Saturday and the 32K run on Sunday.
With two races planned for June (Mud Run June 10th and 50K June 23rd) it is shaping up to be a great month of running!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Niagara 50K aka "unfinished business"

With the disappointment of my last marathon in my rear view mirror, I turn my attention to my next race. In late June I will be running a 50K race.
When I ran this race last year I had a goal of doing it in 5 hours or less. I fell a little short (5:04) and it was a struggle just to get there. At the 35K mark I had nothing left and my pace fell off substantially. Theresa and I were running together for most of that race and then we started running with another runner for some of that. While the two of them were doing well with their pace, it was clear that I was not. They stayed with me for as long as they could but eventually I told them just to go ahead. The last 15K was extremely difficult. Not only was I running slowly, which aggravated me to no end, I also didn't have my music with me. To make things even worse, there were no other runners around for long stretches of time.
During regular marathons, unless you are a Kenyan, there is never a point in the race where you don't see a runner. This can be a good way to keep your mind occupied during a race. Some people play a game of "catch" with certain runners and you stop thinking about how much longer you have to run. In trail races there are fewer runners competing and it is very common for you not to see a runner for long stretches of time. This adds to the mystique of the ultra marathon races.
I'm lucky to be going with some great friends and we will be running the race mostly together. I'm not putting a time goal for this race but I obviously would like to do better than last year. I feel that my conditioning is better than it was this time last year so that should help.
The one factor that nobody can do anything about, though, is the weather. With a start time of 7:00 AM, we will be hoping for a nice cool day rather than a really hot one. I'm very fortunate that the hot weather doesn't seem to affect me and I think I actually prefer it as I usually get cold so quickly.
I've been experimenting with different electrolyte supplements (GU2O, Sharkies and E-Load capsules) to try and combat my cramping problems. During my long run last week I didn't have any cramping problems and I loaded up on the E-Load capsules before and during the run.
I spoke to a very good runner this morning who had to drop out of the Ottawa Marathon after 5K because of her cramping problems. She experienced severe cramps in her quads and couldn't even walk. Listening to her talk brought back the memories of my last race. I'm hoping that these supplements work their magic so I don't have to worry about that problem again. Fortunately at the 50K race there are aid stations every 5K. I call them "mini-marts" as there are things such as pretzels, bananas, candies, water and gatoraide available for the runners.
The 50K race, at least for me, needs to be run a very comfortable pace and you have to realize that your body will be running for anywhere from 4.5 to 5 hours.

Although it's "only" 8K longer than a marathon, it's those last 8K that will test your mental strength. It's probably why I enjoy this challenge so much.

Talking about it at the gym today I could see the trainers and others looking at me like I was crazy. I think I like the fact that they don't "get" the thrill that I get from running. It just means that there's more room on the roads/trails for me to run.......

Monday, May 28, 2007

Striving for perfection

I'm probably harder on myself than most people when it comes to many aspects of my life. Nothing seems to be the way it should be. I've yet to run the "perfect race." I don't have the body that I want etc., etc....
What makes this interesting, is the fact that my quest for perfection keeps me motivated to keep going and yet there are many times that I forget about the successes that I've had along the way. This past weekend my son and I fixed up my office and I decided to hang up my medals, trophy and plaque and running bibs in my basement. I did this as a reminder to myself about the races that I've done. Each one holds a special place in my heart and when I look at each of them I can take myself back to that race and the different challenges that I had to overcome.

Being happy about our accomplishments is something that I talk to my clients about on a regular basis. Are we ever going to be satisfied with how we look? If we don't feel good about ourselves is it really going to matter to us if someone tells us that we look "good?"
There are things about myself that I know I'll never be happy about and in all likelihood I'll probably never reach certain goals that I've set for myself. Accepting that used to be seen as a failure but I'm starting to realize that it's the imperfections in all of us that make us who we are. That doesn't mean that I, or anyone for that matter, should "settle" for things that we can control. Instead, what it means is that it's important to celebrate our imperfections and do what we can to embrace them while still working hard to try and accomplish our goals.

When it comes to my running, I know that my last race was a very humbling experience. I worked as hard as humanly possible to reach my goal but it didn't happen. It was disappointing to be sure, but there are parts of that race that I can feel good about. I probably worked harder to finish that race than any other race that I've done so I can celebrate the fact that I finished the race. I've spoken to a few runners who also had bad races that day and one of them even said that she may never run another marathon again. That's one thing that I can honestly say hasn't crossed my mind. Instead, I'm using that experience as a learning tool.

There is a fine line between complacency and obsession but it truly begins with how you feel about yourself and not how others see you.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Kids and running

I was happy to read in this months Runners World magazine a good article about running and children. Most of it focused on how and when to introduce running to children.
I've often talked about how much I enjoy watching my kids run, especially in the trails. Today, my youngest asked me if we could run together. I'm sure he noticed the large smile on my face and of course I said "Yes!"
The three of us, his big brother also came, went to the Rotary Park. We then did some light running together all at the same pace. This was the first of hopefully many runs we will do together. We played a game of "tag" to keep things interesting as we all know that children have short attention spans. Keeping the running fun and interesting is the best idea so at different times we would play different running games.
After the run my youngest asked me about running and how he should swing his arms. They both really seemed to enjoy it today which of course made me very proud.
They will be doing the Mud Run on June 10th and they seem really excited about this.

Friday, May 25, 2007

You have to know when to hold em and know when to fold em!

The plan today was to do a 36K run at 9AM but as we felt the stifling heat, it was obvious that this would be a challenge. Luckily for me, I seem to do better in the heat so I actually didn't mind it as much but I didn't see the purpose in running 36K with the last 10 being on my own. After running alone all week I was looking forward to the company today. The route that Nancy picked was perfect as we hit the 26K mark right at the Pickering Running Room.
This was the longest run since my marathon in May and even though I felt good physically I didn't see the reason for running an additional 10K on my own. It wasn't easy, though, as I a part of me felt like I should do what I was supposed to do today. However, I ran a total of 71K's this week so an extra 10 isn't going to make or break my training for the 50K. In fact, I'm taking such a relaxed attitude towards this race that I feel like I can run it now.
The way the 50K race is set up, water/food stations every 5K, it's like a "mini-run" within a race. The 5K should take anywhere from 27-30 minutes at a nice steady pace which is what my goal is for this race. After last year's difficult finish, more on that another time, I'm calling this race "unfinished business."

Thanks Nancy and Kelly for sticking it out today, you two are amazing runners!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Running this week

This week I've been doing plenty of "ME" runs and I've noticed something very interesting. Although my intent is to go out at an easy pace, I find that by the time I've finished I've run quite a bit faster than I had intended. What surprises me more than anything is the fact that it "feels" like I'm running slowly. This week I've run a total of 45KM's and my average pace for these have been a 5:05 min/K.
Tomorrow I will be running between 32-36K and I'm looking forward that run as I get to run it with one of my best friends. It seems like forever since we've been able to run together so it will be nice to catch up on some gossip....
The training I'm doing now will prepare me for my 50K race in June. I feel like I have a good base now so I don't think I will do too much speed/track work. Instead I'll just focus on my long runs and more of the runs on my own.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Changing our perceptions of "food."

In it's simplest form, food is nothing more than a fuel that the body needs to keep us alive.
However, most of us realize that food is used for many other reason than that. Food is used to celebrate special events, punish or reward bad and good behaviour, and also to help us deal with emotions that we are trying to suppress. We give food so much power that it's no wonder that many people continue with their cycle of unhealthy eating.
Our belief systems are developed early in our lives and many factors have influenced this. Most of them come from the way we were brought up. Speaking for myself, I remember that all the family functions I attended had food as it's center piece. Can you remember a time in your life when a special occasion wasn't accompanied by food? For most of us we can have the occasional unhealthy food and it has little impact on us over the long term.
However, if these patterns are repeated over and over again it is easy to see how an unhealthy lifestyle can be created.
What I teach to my clients is how to make small changes to their current lifestyles. I may only start with one meal and work with them on how to change that before I start with something else.
Once my clients begin to eat healthy at least 80% of the time, they notice that they cannot eat the same types of food they ate in the past without it affecting their digestion, energy levels and sleeping.
Our bodies are amazing machines but we need to provide it with healthy foods the majority of the time in order for it to work more effectively.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My next few races

These last few days have been amazing days to run in so after taking the weekend off to spend time with my 2 boys, I ran 15 and 11K' over the last two days.
There are times when I hesitate ever so slightly before going out on a run. However, after the first few strides on the road I realize that I've made the right choice to run.
It's been a little awkward just running with no game plan with regards to speed or distance. That will change next week when I start preparing for my 50K run on June 23rd. My kids and I are also going to do a "Mud Run" in the middle of June (see picture above from that race). Of all the races that I've done in the past, this one was one of my favorites and having my kids there this year will make it even more special.

In preparation for my 50K race I'll need to schedule in at least 2 long runs between now and the week before the race. I'm hoping to do a long run this week and another one the following week (38K and 42K). Depending on my schedule this week, though, I may have to break up the runs into 2, 20+ kilometer runs in the morning and in the afternoon.

It's hard to believe, but I've been running for 2 years now. During these last 2 years I think I've probably run at least 520 days out of a possible 730 (possibly more). No wonder my feet are sore most of the time......

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The boy inside the man

It was a great day to be outside so I hope that most of you were able to take advantage of the nice weather and do something physically active. Since I started running, about 2 years ago now, I find it very hard to workout "inside."

I often talk to my clients about trying to do something physically active at least 1 hour everyday. This doesn't have to be working out at the gym. In fact, I think I've convinced several of my clients to take up power walking, running and even dancing as a way to relieve stress and burn calories at the same time.
I decided to take my kids for a walk in the nature trails today and I think I had more fun watching them than they had on the trails. It's amazing how nice it is to see some of what I do rub off on them as my youngest kept asking me about my running. At one point I was giving him some pointers on how to run more effectively in the trails. I'm sure much of what I told him went right over his head but it was still fun talking to him about it.
As someone who was overweight at their age, it's nice to see them becoming more and more physically active.

Many of my clients have asked me about how to deal with their children who are overweight. The advice I give them is to start to change their own lifestyle eating and exercise habits, and their children will eventually follow their lead. Try to include them in group activities such as walks or bike rides. Educate them any chance you get on the importance of healthy eating. One of my favorite things to do is to take my children grocery shopping with me. Yes, I know it can be a challenge at times as they seem to want every type of food that isn't healthy. However, I find this the perfect time to try and do some education with them.

I think it's important not to talk about moderation with children as they are constantly bombarded with choices from their peers and especially television.

By providing them with a healthy role model, though, you are providing something to them that will last them a lifetime, the gift of good health.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Breaking that negative thought cycle

After training long and hard for 4 months and not achieving my goal it would be easy to fall prey to negative thoughts. This is where the cycle begins for most people. Negative thoughts leads to negative feelings which leads to negative actions and finally negative reactions.
It's normal to do some reflecting and I did plenty of that for about 2 days. It was not a coincidence that these two days were days that I wasn't able to physically run. Running for me isn't just about a physical activity as it provides me with a healthy outlet to vent my frustrations. Even though I rode my stationary bike on Tuesday morning, it didn't give me the satisfaction that I need from running.
Over the last 3 days I've been running again and feeling better about not only my last race but looking towards future goals as well. I think that this is one area where I work the most with my clients on. Goals shouldn't be just singular but instead it's important to have multiple goals. It's easier, then, to focus on the next task at hand once one goal has been completed. Even though I love running, I like to race about once per month so that I have a goal to work towards.
As soon as I got over the disappointment of my last race I started working on the plan for my next one.

When I discuss goals with my clients, it's often centered around their eating. We talk about making small changes to their eating instead of focusing on the bigger picture which can be overwhelming for most. When they experience setbacks, I encourage them to move forward instead of dwelling on the past. I find that this is the hardest thing for most people to do though. It's so easy to beat ourselves up for not being "perfect" when in reality nobody is.

This upcoming weekend will be hard for some of my clients as they will be invited out to weekend parties where they may not be able to have control over their food options. I spent lots of time this week talking about portion control. If you are limited to your food choices than simply try to eat smaller portions than what you have traditionally had. As you start to eat healthier foods more often, you will notice that when you start eating foods which are not as healthy your digestion, energy and sleeping patterns will all be negatively affected. What people tend to do if they know they are going to be invited to parties is not eat up until they leave. I teach my clients to do the opposite of this. The other thing you want to do is make sure you drink lots of water. Finally, don't forget that exercise is the great "equalizer" and if you partake in regular physical activity, at least 1 hour per day, than you have a little more "wiggle room" for the occasional unhealthy food. IF you do endulge, though, don't dwell on it or think negatively about your ability to reach your goals. Pick yourself up and move forward. You'll feel better in the long run.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Teaching a nutrition philosophy to my clients

When I first started doing nutrition counseling I noticed that most, if not all, of my clients had followed some "diet" at one time or another. They also had varying degrees of success which inevitably was followed by an inability to "stick" with the diet. This led to an increase in their initial weight, feelings of depression and/or failure and finally they went back to the way they were eating before starting their diet.
Before putting together my nutrition plan, I give my clients a handout which outlines my philosophy. You will notice that this plan talks about 5 key points that affect someones ability to lose and maintain their weight.
Instead of focusing on just a meal plan, I want my clients to understand what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. Once they start to follow this philosophy then it becomes more of a lifestyle change instead of a diet.


1. RMR








Meal 1. Protein Shake with milk

Meal 2. 1 apple with 1 oz. of low fat cheese

Meal 3. 3 oz. of chicken, 1/2 cup of brown
rice, salad with light dressing

Meal 4. Rice Cake with 1 tbsp. of peanut butter

Meal 5. Vegetables with 3 oz. of fish/chicken

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

On the road again.....

Today I decided to go for a nice easy 8K run. It was so nice not having to run a certain distance or a certain speed. I just went out with my music and hit the road. The weather was perfect and I was careful, or I thought, about not going too fast and just ran at a comfortable pace. Before I knew it though, what started out as a 5:45 pace quickly turned into a 4:45 pace with little effort. I think I just needed this run for me to shake the bad feelings I had from Sundays race. I'll probably run a few more times this week and next, and then start training for my next race in June (50K) and the Toronto Marathon at the end of September. Along the way I'll probably do a few fun races with my friends. Running today brought back all the good memories of why I run in the first place. On the road/trail is where I find my peace and it is my "drug" that I need on a constant basis.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Marathon is over now what?

4 months of training are now over and the marathon is in my rear view mirror now.
I allowed myself a day to dwell on that and now I'm focused on my next goal.
Today, at work, I spoke to many of clients about the importance of goal setting and trying to avoid the negative cycles that we are familiar with. It's easy to fall prey to feelings of sadness and this can lead to depression, isolation and apathy. I've seen this not only with the clients that I see at the gym but also within myself at times. I think that's why it's important to constantly have goals that you want to achieve and a plan to achieve them. They don't always have to be long-term goals.
I try to give my clients "homework" to do and this includes keeping a journal of their eating and exercise habits. When we review them together they can see the success they have had and I try to focus them on what they are doing right instead of dwelling on what they didnt' do.
Most of my own goals include running as I feel that this has a positive effect on my "cycle" of thinking. When I run I feel better about myself which in turn allows me to make healthier choices the majority of the time. I don't expect perfection from myself or my clients but if I can get them to make healthy choices the majority of the time then they will have success.
Developing a positive coping mechanism to deal with stress is something that I spend lots of time working with my clients on. Sometimes all they need is a "sounding board" and this can come from close friends or a family member. Other times it is important to do something to take your mind off the stress and that is where exercise can be beneficial. You have to find something that you are passionate about and something that you can channel your energy into. Hopefully it is something that involves some type of physical activity. This can be going for a brisk walk, a bike ride, a visit to the gym or a run (in my case).
I was disappointed, at first over my marathon performance but after doing some soul searching and talking with my friends I'm OK with it now. I will use this as a learning experience and it will only make me stronger as a result.
The key, for me, is to get right back to thing that I love so much and where I find my peace and inner strength and that is back on the road/trails.
Once my body has physically healed (probably tomorrow) I will be back running again. My next goal race is a 50K run in late June in Niagara Falls. I will use this as a training run for my marathon in the fall. I will experiment with different electrolyte supplements to find the right combination that will reduce or eliminate my cramping problems.
Even though my ultimate goal was not achieved on Sunday, I would not have traded all the training I did with Ken as it has made me a stronger and smarter runner as a result.
Whatever your goals are try to keep positive and realize that there will be roadblocks along the way which you will need to overcome. In addition, don't forget to give yourself credit for achieving the mini goals along the way.

Monday, May 14, 2007

3:42 and HAPPY with that

I did the best I could on THIS particular day (thanks for that line Theresa).
The race started out very well today and I was easily on pace for a sub or at least a 3:30 up until the 25-27K mark. At this point I started to get cramps in both of my calves. They were so painful that I times I was literally limping instead of running. At the 30K mark I knew that my goal of 3:30 was out of reach because by now I was about 1:30 off my target pace. For the next 12.2 it was all about just finishing the race.
It was one of the hardest things to accept mentally as I had put in so much training to get to this point and now by body had let me down at the worst possible moment.
With 7K left to go, each step became more and more painful and yet I had to keep going. Looking back on this now, I can give myself credit for not giving up and even though I'm disappointed with the outcome, I will learn from this and figure out what I need to do to avoid these cramping issues in future races.
Seeing the finish line today is something that I usually sprint to but yesterday it was more like a relief than anything else.
Immediately after the race I couldn't walk and had to be helped to the medical tent where one of my friends (thanks Jen) helped take care of me. My hands were freezing, not a good sign right after a race, so I was taken from the physio tent to the medical tent.
Throughout the next 30 or so minutes (it felt more like an hour) I was on the table and couldn't get warm. At times I was shaking so bad that the table was moving. Another good friend (Kristin) was able to keep warm and more importantly, calm.
Eventually I was able to get some electrolytes into my system, got some massage for my calves, quads and hip flexors and was able to walk or limp out of the tent.
There are so many stories within a marathon, both good and bad, so instead of looking negatively on this experience I will look at the positives instead.
I finished the race!
I finished the race over 20 minutes faster than my last Mississauga Marathon. I realized how great it is to have amazing friends. I know that physically, once I figure out the cramping issues, I can reach my goal. My love for running, even with this setback, has never been greater. And finally, I can return to running for fun......for a month until my next marathon training program starts up!
Thanks for all the support I received from those of you read my blog. It means so much to me.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

It's the final countdown.

Rather than post something on the day before the race about how I'm feeling, I've decided to post the lyrics to one of the songs that I'll be listening to on my mp3 player tomorrow. It's called "Run" by Collective Soul.

Are these times contagious ?
I,ve never been this bored before,
Is this the prize I,ve waited for?
Now with the hours passing,
Theres nothing left here to mature,
I long to find a messenger.

Have I got a long way to run ?
Have I got a long way to run ?
Yeah ,I run......

Is there a cure among us,
From this processed sanity ?
I weaken with each voice that sings.
Now in this world of purchase,
I,m going to buy back memories,
To awaken some old qualities.

Have I got a long way to run ?
Have I got a long way to run ?
Yeah , (I run......)
Yeah , (I run......)

Have I got a long way ?
Have I got a long way ?
Have I got a long way to run ?
Have I got a long way to run ?
Yeah , (I run......)
Have I got a long way to run ?
Yeah , (I run......)
Have I got a long way to run ?
Yeah , (I run......)
Have I got a long way to run ?
Yeah , (I run......)
Have I got a long way to run ?

Amen Brother!
I'll post my pre and post race thoughts in the next few days, as soon as I'm able to walk......

Mississauga Running Expo report....

There really wasn't much to see and do at this running expo. Nancy and I went right as it opened at 10AM. After finding our race numbers we were able to get our racing bib and running chip as well as a few goodies all found in our racing package.
We met up with Nancys' sister, which was the best part of the day. I was able to find myself a new shirt which I will be wearing at the race on Sunday. When I look back at all of my races, I noticed that I wear pretty much the same outfit for each race, especially the ones over 30K. They have brought me good luck in the past but I wanted something "sporty" to wear for this race. With the help from Nancy and her sister, I think I found the right shirt.

On the way to and from the expo, Nancy and I were able to have a great talk about our running and how much it means to us. It was also a great opportunity to talk strategy for the race with regards to when to stop for water breaks, the mental barriers we will have to work through and the pain that will pop up unexpectedly that we'll have to deal with.

The plan was for me to go for a light run on Saturday but Nancy was able to convince me that this wasn't the smart thing to do. I'll probably meet up with a few friends and go for a little walk in the Rouge Valley instead.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The thin line between running happy and running mad

I'll never forget the feeling I had before, during and after my 1st Marathon in May of 2006. Before I started running in the fall of 2005, the thought of doing a marathon was something that was not only foreign to me, but something that I honestly had no desire to do.
I've always wanted to have a sense of "belonging" in my life. As the youngest of 5 children, I always seemed to be in the shadow of my other siblings. This was particularly true with regards to my brother who always seemed to do things better than I could. I found that I isolated myself for most of my life, especially in my marriage. This, I feel was one of the factors that led to my separation in the spring of 2005.

I was first introduced to the great sport of trail running by a woman who was and still is an amazing ultra distance runner. The very first time I ran with her in the trails I knew that this was where I needed to be. I'll never forget the feeling of euphoria I felt immediately after the run. Many runners call it the "runners high" but whatever is, I knew that I couldn't get enough of it.
I was more than happy running trail races and didn't even think about running a marathon. In fact, the first two races that I ever did were 25K trail races, both of them in the fall of 2005 without any training. I was able to complete them in respectable times but for me it was more important just to finish them.

My relationship ended with this woman, but my passion for running continued. I didn't have an outlet for my running and I was still very much a novice to this sport. One of my friends at the gym told me about a running clinic that was starting in the fall of 2005. I decided to sign up for the Hit the Road Running clinic. I went into that clinic not knowing more than a few people but by the end of the clinic I was actually doing a presentation on nutrition for the members. I met some amazing friends from that clinic and most of us ran not only the Boxing Day 10Mile race together but a few others including my first 1/2 marathon (Angus Glen).
That's right, I actually did my first 25K race before doing my first 1/2 marathon (LOL).

Most of the runners in this clinic had done at least one marathon and they would often talk about how amazing their experiences were. Some had even done or were trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. At that time I didn't know how significant the Boston Marathon was. I was very much content in running trail races.

However, my feelings of wanting to "fit in" got the better of me and when I learned that most of them were going to do the Mississauga Marathon in 2006, I decided to enter it as well. I was doing mostly trail races though, and didn't have any type of plan to follow. My main objectives were just to run the race, finish it in one piece, and call myself a "Marathoner."

What made that day in May so special was the fact that a few of us were going to run our first marathon together. Luckily we had a very experienced marathon runner to show us the ropes. I couldn't have asked for a better group of runners to run with and, as it turned out, three of them have become my closest friends.

Even today I can still remember the sound of Theresa's voice telling us not to go out too fast and to pace properly. She has so much experience and wisdom that I hang on her every word. We all had an amazing time doing that race. The only bad thing about it was the cold temperatures and the heavy wind towards the end of the race. I completed my goal of finishing the marathon and I was able to celebrate with two of my friends (Ken and Miriam) who both qualified for the Boston Marathon on that day. They were so excited about their accomplishment but I still didn't understand the significance of their accomplishment.

Running as much trail races as I had done up to that point (well over 12) taught me that running slow and steady was the way to go. This seemed to fit me well as I didn't think that I was a very fast runner anyway.

After the Mississauga marathon was finished, I continued to do more trail races as I was entered into the Ontario Ultra Series running series.
In June of 2006 I attempted my first ultra marathon (50K) in Niagara Falls. Two weeks before the event, I asked Theresa if she would like to do the race with me. I was so happy when she agreed to come and we had an amazing time at the event. It was, though, my worst race as I felt like I had nothing left at about the 35K race. I still managed to finish, though and will never forget seeing her cheer me on as I finished that race. If she hadn't been there that day, I honestly don't know if I would have continued running. It was, up to that point, the only time I ever contemplated giving running up.

The thought of doing another marathon didn't enter my mind again until I had the opportunity to go to Hawaii as part of a fund raiser for Arthritis. The idea was to go there and run the Hawaii marathon in December. Hawaii was a place that I have always wanted to go to and the thought of combining my passion with a great vacation was something that got me very excited. Still, the marathon would not be something that I would be "racing" but instead it was going to be more about enjoying the scenery and enjoying the vacation with a marathon thrown in for good measure. The person I was dating at the time was going to do her first marathon so I was more than happy to help her reach this milestone.

Unfortunately things didn't work out and I never got to go to Hawaii or run the marathon. I'd be lying if I said that this wasn't devastating. Much of my running after that was very emotional. I found out how truly therapeutic my running was for me. As it turned out, this turn of events kick started my running into high gear.

My two boys and I were going to Jacksonville, Florida to celebrate Christmas with family there in lieu of me not going to Hawaii in December. I felt that I was such an emotional wreck that some time away was necessary.
It turned out that there was a marathon in Jacksonville three days after we arrived. It was now late early November which only gave me about 5 weeks to train for the marathon. Most training programs call for 16 weeks or so. I figured that since I had done so many trail races (now up to 20+) I should be ok to run the marathon.
I discussed with my closest friends whether I should try and race the marathon or just run it for fun. I would be running this race alone in a strange city and the weather was going to be warmer than I had been training in. I'll never forget the conversation I had with Nancy where she told me that I was actually a fast runner. Those words literally changed how I saw myself and I decided that I would try to run that race as fast as I could.
As part of the training plan that Theresa had given me, I had to run a 10Mile (16K) race in Whitby.
Even though I had done many races up to this point, I was never more nervous than I was for this race. I wanted to run the race in 1:20 which was a 5 min/K pace. Nancy was volunteering that day and she could see how nervous I was. She was able to explain why I was feeling this way as I had never given myself a time goal before.
I had the race of my life that day and finished in 1:13 or a 4:35 min/K pace. I had never run that fast in my life for that long and it gave me so much confidence that I use that race now to keep me motivated.
The Jacksonville Marathon was now only a few weeks away and I wanted to do that marathon in 3:45 to 3:50. The one and only marathon that I had done was done in over 4 hours, so anything better than that and I would have been happy with.
During that race I became very emotional and angry about not being able to run in Hawaii. I remember having a very "angry" run and it was if I was trying to dump all my negative feelings on the road. I think that I ran with my fists clenched for most of the race. My closest friends know that I am a pretty upbeat and positive person so this was a side of me that I'm glad they didn't get to see. I'm also glad that it only lasted until after the race. When I finished the race, I felt emotionally drained as well as physically exhausted. I ran the race in 3:39 but it was more relief than joy that I felt. It wasn't until I got an email from Nancy and Theresa while I was in Florida that I realized that I had taken more than 20 minutes off of my last marathon.
When I came back to Toronto I wanted to train properly for the Mississauga Marathon for a full 4 months. Nancy trained so hard herself in the fall of 2006 and qualified for the Boston Marathon as a result. I was so impressed by this and it inspired me to want to do the same thing.
I knew that I had to alter my training schedule somewhat since I had to watch my 2 boys on alternate weekends as well as two days through the week. Some weeks I would have to run for 7 days in a row while other weeks I would run 4-5. Unfortunately Nancy and Theresa were not able to train with me as much as I would have liked because they were teaching a marathon clinic themselves. I did some tempo runs with Ken leading up to the Jacksonville marathon so I asked him if he would help me train for the Mississauga Marathon. He not only ran with me but also laid out a plan which I followed religiously. There were times when we were doing our tempo runs together that I came so close to quitting or throwing up (sometimes on the same day-lol) but he always kept me motivated. He taught me not only to run faster but also smarter which was something that took a long time to sink in. There will never be enough words to describe to him what his help has meant to me, so for now I'll just say THANKS KEN!

Along the way during my training, I rediscovered how much nicer it was to run “happy.” So much of my runs in my past were runs because of stress. Training for this marathon kept me so focused and I didn’t allow any outside distractions to deter me from my training. This wasn’t always easy and I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of my friends.

I’m looking forward to running this upcoming marathon on an emotional “high” and I can’t wait to see, and run with, many of my friends on Sunday. I seem to be so much happier with regards to my running now, and I’ve limited or eliminated the things that were causing me stress and disappointment and sadness in my life. I know that by the time Sunday comes around I’ll feel like a butterfly wanting to shed his cocoon and NEEDING to fly…. or in my case RUN!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I've got a peaceful easy feeling......

There are many people who have influenced me not only with regards to my running. Most, if not all, of them are in the picture that you see above this post.
That picture was taken from a trail race last year and I can't wait until I can return to the trails in a few weeks.
My running "twin" understands my passion for running more than anyone else so it was nice to run with her this morning. It's so funny to hear us talk so much about running as neither one of us seems to get bored of the other as we talk about our next running goals even when we haven't even finished the marathon yet.

Today's run was a good confidence booster for me and considering that it will be my last run until Sunday, it was something that I needed badly.

It was a good chance to me to reflect on how lucky I am to have amazing friends who have seen my ups and downs and who have stood by me when I needed them most.

Over the next few days I will talk more specifically about each of the last two marathons that I've competed in. The first marathon I did was all about just doing one to say that I did it. The 2nd was done more on angry emotion and little training. This upcoming marathon is the first actual marathon that I have trained properly for both emotionally and physically. I was joking today about how each marathon has been like a three part movie and the finale will be shown this Sunday in Mississauga.

For anyone interested in attending here is the information:

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

My last track workout this morning

This morning Ken and I headed over to the track for my last workout there for quite some time.

I did my first "ladder" workout which consisted of a set of 200M, 400M, 1000M, 400M and then a 200M (I think that was it-lol). I completed them all below race pace time so I felt very good about the workout.
Since Ken has seen me train closer than anyone since January I asked him what time he thought I could realistically run for Mississauga. I was encouraged by what he told me but I won't share that on my blog. I'm only telling a few of my closest friends what he feels I can do as I want to have some mystery for Sunday.
I have three goals for Sunday. One of them is to run the marathon in 3 hours and 30 minutes. The other two goals I will reveal after my race.

Tomorrow I will running for the last time until Wednesday. As tough as the tapering is for me mentally, my body will appreciate the rest I'm sure. I already have enough things to keep me distracted between now and Sunday and many of those involve my couch, the remote control and carbohydrates.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Waiting is the hardest part.....

To quote one of my favorite singers, Tom Petty, "The waiting is the hardest part" and this could never ring more true than right now for me.
After 4 long, hard months of hill training, tempo speed work, fartleks, track work, and long Sunday runs the only thing that I can do now is wait until Sunday.

I did a nice 9K run with one of my friends on Sunday and just finished doing some light cardio at the gym for just over an hour today. With the weather being so nice outside it is so hard not to lace up my running shoes and go out for a run.

Between now and Sunday morning I will be fighting my own personal demons. Not only will my training be close to non existent, I will also have to eat twice the amount of food that I'm used to.
When I was doing cardio today I was talking to one of my friends and she thought it was funny that I had to hold myself back from training this week so that I can be at my best for Sunday. For someone who rarely takes a day off from doing something physically active, it will be a real challenge for me not to do anything physically active from Thursday to Sunday. I often talk to my clients about scheduling in at least 1 hour of physical activity per day to help them reach their weight loss/maintenance goals. This week I will have to take the opposite approach and stay off my feet as much as possible.

I will be in touch with my close friends often this week as they do a great job of keeping me grounded and focused. Most of them are also running this marathon and it will be such a nice experience to have them there with me.
They also have all run fast marathons and know what I'll need to do on Sunday to reach my goal. I can't thank them enough for the support they have given to me (Nancy, Theresa, Miriam and Ken you are all amazing!)

This week I'm going to do my best to keep myself focused on the marathon and that will include staying away from negative thoughts and feelings. I will probably run the race in my mind about a dozen times between now and Sunday. I will also read some inspirational books on running and watch some "underdog" movies such as Rudy, Rocky and Remember the Titans.
I'll also put the final touches on my music for the race on Sunday.

I know that this is all part of the pre-race strategy that I have employed in the past and you would think that I would be used to it by now. However, I've never trained this hard for anything in my life and I'm looking forward to Sunday more than any race that I've ever done. Now I'll I can do is count down the days....and wait!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

What an amazing day!

A group of dedicated runners did our 16K time trial today (1K warm up, 14K time trial, 1K cool down) at 7:30 this morning. We went down to the Ajax waterfront and it seemed like such a long time since I had run there that I had forgotten how truly beautiful that area is to run in. The weather was great, although a little cold to start, but otherwise no problems. There were so many people out today on their bicycles, running, rollerblading or walking along the waterfront trail.

I felt so fast today, so I guess taking the day off yesterday helped. I had to actually slow myself down a few times (thanks Ken). We ran for 10 minutes and walked for 30 seconds. This is the plan that I will use at my Marathon. There are water stations approximately every 2K so I will run to them, drink water, gatorade or take my gel for 30 seconds and then start running again. It should take me no more than 10 minutes to get to each station, so this plan should work well for me.
After completing my run today, it was off to the 2nd leg of my exercise adventure. I met up with another of my good friends for a bike ride. I hadn't biked in such a long time and we ended up doing about 25K all around Ajax and actually made it down to the waterfront again.

It was great not only exercising with her but also getting caught up on some news. The friends that I have made from running, especially a group of 3 women I call my "running heir om" are people that I can lean on for guidance at a moments notice and I'm lucky to have so many of them.

Since she injured herself about 8 months ago, we haven't been able to run as much as we have in the past but she is slowly getting better so I'm hoping that we can resume our runs together soon.
Tomorrow we will be meeting up at the Pickering Running Room for a nice and easy 8-10K run. It will be more of a social thing for me as I haven't had a chance to run with many of my friends since my training started in January.
After spending the better part of 3 hours either biking or running, I then took my youngest son to see Spider man III. We had a blast at the movie and it was was the finishing touch on a truly great day.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Feeling satisfied!

After getting over my "mini-slump" from last week I am energized and ready to tackle the beast also known as the Marathon.
I did the smart thing today and took the day off from running, even though the weather is amazing, and rode my stationary bike for 1 hour instead.
It's funny how I used to feel so good about doing that kind of exercise, but since I started running, nothing satisfies me like a good run. I'd rather run for even 8K than do any other type of cardio workout.
I visited one of my best friends today and she gave me a few mementos from the Boston Marathon. One of them I'm displaying proudly in my office at home. It's a poster with different inspirational phrases about the Boston Marathon.
Some of my favorites are, "Resume says, I'm Goal Oriented", "Real superheroes wear shiny metal capes" and "The road is my therapist."
I feel so good right now that it's a shame that the marathon is still a week away. I'm going to bottle up this enthusiasm, though, and save it for race day.
Tomorrow a group of us will be running a 16K "time trial." I've done about 6 of these in my training and it's a great way to learn how to keep a pace for a certain length of time. The goal is to complete the 16K in exactly 1:20 or a 5 minute pace per kilometre. This will actually be slower than what I will be attempting to run at the Mississauga Marathon but the goal is not to run faster than that. I don't think I've quite mastered this technique yet so I'm looking forward to the run tomorrow at 7:30 AM. Who else but a bunch of dedicated runners would want to get up early on a Saturday?????
It's going to be a great weekend, so get off the couch and do something physically active, preferably outside!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The final countdown.....

I can now count the number of runs I have left on one hand and even though I love running, it will be nice to give my body a rest next week.
Instead of my usual fartlek run today (run a fast pace for 1 minutes, slow pace for 3) I decided to just do a 10K run at an easy pace. It was another great day and run and I now feel ready for the marathon.
I think that I will focus my attention now on my diet.
Next week I will be carb loading which is done about 3 days before the marathon. The purpose is to build up my energy bank (glycogen) so that on race day I will have enough energy to carry me through the race. This requires some precise calculations based on my body weight. I usually try to take in approximately 600 grams of carbohydrates each day starting on Thursday of next week. This is the equivalent of 10 bagels!

While most people find this appealing, it is actually harder than you think. The other thing that I will have to do is eat mostly "white" based carbohydrates (white bagels, pasta, potatoes) so that I can eat the required amount of carbohydrates.
Next week when I start my plan, I will detail what 600 grams of carbohydrates look like.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A "Zen" like moment today

After having a fairly good run this morning (6:15 AM) but still not feeling 100% mentally, I went against my better judgement and decided to go out for a "Me" run around 11:30 AM.
I've used these type of runs in the past whenever I needed to snap myself out of a funk which is something that I was definately in ever since last Friday.
I didn't want to go too far so I picked my usual 8K route that I do my speed runs on. The plan was to go nice and easy and just think about my marathon. I also wanted to rediscover the joy that seemed to have been missing since last week. Why have I been having self doubt lately? Was there something that I had done differently that has caused this?
I called one of my best friends who I have missed running with to see if she wanted to come with me today. Unfortunately she couldn't run but this actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I think that I needed to find the answers by myself this time. I have an amazing group of friends who provide me support anytime I need it but sometimes I need to look within myself instead of relying on others to find the answers for me.
I knew that I only had a few runs left to try and figure this out and with the weather being so nice today I hoped to find some of the answers today.
I left the house wearing only a shirt sleeve shirt and shorts. This is what I plan on wearing on the day of my marathon and I wanted to duplicate that today.
I had my music on, as usual and I started out rather slowly. As I ran, I could feel the warmth of the sun immediately and I began to smile as I started out. I must have passed over a dozen children as they headed to school and they all stopped to watch me run by them. I focused on my form and barely looked at my Garmin to see how fast I was going.
One of the things that I have been most concerned with has been questioning my speed. I have set my goals pretty high and I don't want to let myself down. Until recently I had no doubt that I could run fast but not having competed in a race since March, has left me wondering if I can sustain my speed for a full marathon (26.2 miles/42.2 Kilometres).
I have knocked off between 6-7 minutes in the two races that I've done since I started my marathon training in January (1/2 Marathon in February and 30K in March). I've noticed that the running has become a little easier for me but I also remember how grueling the marathon is.
When I did my first marathon a year ago the goal was simply to finish. This year my goals have changed and I find myself trying to run faster and faster each time.
My run today was meant to bring me back to WHY I run in the first place. I often talk about how running is my "passion" and how I never want to lose that feeling. As much as I have enjoyed the marathon training, I haven't been able to run some of the races that I usually run or run with the people who I love to run with.
As I began the homestretch of my run today, I glanced at my Garmin and noticed that I was doing a 4:30 to 4:45 pace. It felt like I was running about a 5:30 to 5:45 pace as it was effortless.
I took two things away from my run today. The first was that I was capable of running fast and more importantly I shouldn't WORRY about running fast. I also realized that I should just enjoy the run and the rest will follow.
The more I ran , the better I felt about not only my training and how far I had come, but also how important it is to just relax and have fun.
I needed this run to put my mind at ease and now I can enjoy these last few weeks more. I'm so happy that I made the decision to run again this afternoon.

Nice and easy

Today, I ran a nice easy 7.5K run and was able to talk about how I've been feeling with a close friend. This helped quite a bit and I realize that I've done everything I can for my marathon. Now it's all about taking it easy and just getting mentally and physically ready for May 13th.
Tomorrow I will run about 10K at a nice easy pace again.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I am not alone!

As my marathon quickly approaches (12 days from today) I've been mentally exhausted and physically beat up. I'll never forget the feeling that I had last friday during my 23K run where I stopped running with about 5K left and asked myself what I was doing this for.
After talking this over with a few of my closest friends, all of whom are amazing runners, I now realize that these feelings are common. I was reminded today that the kind of training that I've done is something that most runners don't do. When I told Ken about my run from last week it was funny to hear him say that he's gone through the same things at times. He also pointed out that now my body will be feeling different pains (knee, foot, ankle etc.) which is also something that I've started to experience lately. Being still very new to running, I need all the education I can get. The difference betweeen my running last year and this year is that I'm finally starting to run smarter than ever before. I almost feel like a kid who hangs on every word and I'm improving my running as a result. I still find it funny how some people look up to me as a runner since I am still so new to this sport and have so much to learn. I never want to lose my passion for running, though, and I feel that part of my responsibility is to let people know how great running is for the mind, body and soul. I know that I have convinced many of my clients to get into running and most of them have told me that they enjoy it as well.

Today I did my last track work (6 sets of 400M repeats) and I'm looking forward to running tomorrow with a good friend. I haven't run with her in months, it seems, and have missed her company.
As my mileage starts to decrease I will be challenged mentally to not push myself too much. I'm going to take the same strategy that worked for me during my last marathon in December. I was forced to do nothing for 3 days prior to that marathon and that's the tactic that I'm going to employ this time around. For someone who just has to exercise daily, this will be something that will be very hard for me to do but I know that I will benefit from the rest.