Saturday, May 31, 2008

Back on the trails today

A funny thing happened to me on the way to my Saturday morning run in the Rouge Valley. The group that I normally run with decided to run at the Seaton Trail instead. I didn't get the notification of the change as most thought that I would still be recovering from last weekend's race. I guess they don't know me that well (LOL)

In any case, I left the Rouge parking lot just shortly after 8 AM. My shin wasn't as sore as yesterday's run but now my left hip started to bother me. I ran nice and slow and walked most of the longer hills.

At the half-way point of the run, I started to feel a little better and picked up my pace. I managed to run every hill on the way back which I was proud of. Towards the end of the run the sun shone through the trees and it felt like there was a gigantic spotlight on me. It reminded me of a scene from a movie and I had to say out loud how amazing this was.

Tomorrow I will do a semi-long run. I'd like to run for at least a couple of hours but it will depend on how I'm feeling. I have another race next weekend so it's better that I just run for as long as I can and not worry too much about the distance or how fast I'm going. Who knows, maybe I'll even leave my watch behind tomorrow. I have to chuckle at the thought of a "long" run being 2 hours. After running for 19 hours last weekend, those long runs don't seem so long anymore.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Peace of mind

As luck would have it, I had a long break between clients today so I decided to go for my first run since my race.

As I headed out, the first song on my mp3 was "Peace of Mind" by Boston. I thought that this was appropriate and I had a small grin on my face as I headed out. Most people know that I love to run in the rain and so of course it started to rain as I began my run.

Those first few steps were pure agony. My right shin was so sore and the thought of even doing a KM seemed out of my reach. I knew, though, if I could get through the first few KM's, eventually the pain would go away. My mind likes to play games with me and it was almost as if I was being punished for taking so many days off from running. I viewed this as a test and kept going.

Luckily, my baby toe was fine and I honestly thought I'd have more trouble with that than anything. The sharp pain that I felt in my shin was now starting to throb a little but I kept thinking about just living in the moment.

It wasn't until I was about 30 minutes into the run that the pain let up and I started to feel better. It's such a fine line between being "hurt" and "injured" and I try my best to work through any pain I'm having as I know it's temporary.

The last mile of my run was the best part as a song came on called "Lightning Strikes." One of my favorite parts of the song is when the singer belts out, "I can feel it coming back again, like a rolling thunder chasing the wind." That really summed up the last part of my run as I could feel myself getting stronger and stronger. I made the right decision not to run too long today as my main focus was just getting myself recovered from last week.

I'll see how the rest of the weekend progresses, but so far so good!

It's been a LONG week!

This was one of the hardest weeks I've ever gone through and it's because I haven't been able to run since my race ended at 1:30 AM Sunday morning. I've been waiting all week for the opportunity to go and run and today will be the day.
I'm teaching a very special lady how to run this afternoon and can't wait to lace up my shoes. My baby toe is still a little sore but it shouldn't stop me from doing my run.

My plan is to do a long run on Saturday and/or Sunday but I'm just going to see how I feel. I have missed the feeling of being outside and it has affected my moods in a bad way. I've felt depressed, sad, overweight, sluggish and irritable all week. It's amazing how much not running affects my psyche.

There is a race next weekend in Kingston I am thinking about doing but I won't make a decision on that until the weekend.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Now the rest of the story.....

Yesterday I wrote a brief synopsis of my 100 mile race. Today, I'll try to fill in some of the gaps.

The alarm sounded at 4:00 AM Saturday morning. Cameron, the guy who was sharing the hotel with me and also running the 100 miler, and I left the hotel just after 5:00 AM. When I arrived it was a little cool and the runners were all huddled upstairs waiting for the 6:00 AM start. It was an eary feeling as everyone knew just how difficult this was going to be. I mingled with as many people as I could and then headed outside.

At 6:00 AM it started and as predicted, the first lap was fine. My ankle started to hurt a little but then went away pretty quickly. I chaulked it up to not running for the previous 2 days and a case of the nerves. I ran with my friend Mike for the first loop and we finished it in fine fashion. The hardest part of the race is a long steady climb which seems to go on forever. It is towards the end of the 20K loop and once you get to the top, it is relatively smooth sailing until the turn around point. There were aid stations every 3 KM's or so, so I realized that I would be fine with regards to getting enough fuel into my body.

The 2nd loop started just after 8:40 AM. Mike had to make a "pit-stop/bathroom break" so I decided to just keep on running and I knew that eventually he would catch up. The 2nd loop was very hard and there were times when I thought I was going to pack it in. My knee started to bother me but after taking some advil, I was ok. I made it to the end of the 2nd loop by 11:15 AM.

The 3rd loop I actually started to feel a little better and I was able to run more than I thought. I met so many memorable people along the way. Some I knew from before, some I met for the first time. All of them were helpful and offered so much encouragement. The volunteers were outstanding and did a great job of giving me anything I asked for. I finished the 3rd loop by 2:23 PM. I had now been running for over 8 hours.

The 4th loop really tested me both physically and mentally. I really thought about calling it quits right there. I was walking more and more as my feet were covered in several blisters. I also found myself alone for long stretches which made it difficult to stay focused at times. Eventually I was able to find enough strength to carry on and finished the loop by 5:25 PM.

As I started the 5th loop I was in agony but still able to run some. Everytime I tried to get into a rhythm though, I couldn't keep it going and then I'd get frustrated by having to walk more and more. I tried to walk as fast as I could but that also became difficult. I remember reading about something called the "death march" which happens to Ultra runners while doing these 100 mile races. I was hoping to avoid this but it seemed like that is all that I could do at the time.
My quadraceps were so burning that I needed some relief. Thankfully I was given some ice to keep on my thighs and this helped. I also changed my shoes and socks at this time, which was 1/2 way through the 5th loop. Just as I was getting ready to leave the aid station, I saw Mike come in. I decided to wait for him and finish out the looop. We managed to finish the loop by 9:40 PM. Just before finishing, I took my one and only fall of the day. It was dark by now and I knew that things would change dramatically from here on out.

After getting some light gloves, we left the start/finish area to do the 6th loop. Both Mike and I were very tired at this point and walking in the dark seemed more realistic than trying to run in it. My limp was getting worse and worse and when I made it to the 3KM aid station I thought about stopping. After changing into some warmer clothes, I headed off though. Mike went off without me as he was feeling better than I was. I started out walking slowly but as a familiar friend came up from behind me, I started to pick up my pace and was actually moving pretty well. Just then I heard a "pop" from my foot. I could feel liquid in my shoe and figured it was just a blister bursting. Although painfull, initially, I knew that if I could make it to the next aid station (4 KM's away) then I'd be able to hopefully deal with it there.

When I got to that aid station and took off my sock I could see that my toenail was snapped. Had it been any other toe but the baby one, I probably could have handled it. Unfortunately they didn't have anything at the aid station other than a bandaid. It was another 3K's back to where my drop bag was so I decided to walk back there and see what I could do at that point.

That last walk was very long and painful. I remember asking myself what I was doing. It was after 1:00 AM at this point and I started to hear voices. I didn't want to walk anymore. My head was filled with so much self-doubt that it was depressing. I spoke very little and just kept walking. When I got to the area where my drop bag was I had my helper burst the blister that was surrounding and under my baby toenail. He put a sleeve on it and I decided to try and walk a little bit with it to see if it was going to help. I started up the road and was really limping at this point. I made the decision to stop because I had had enough.

Even though I didn't finish the 100 Mile race, I can feel proud of the fact that I pushed myself to limits that I've never pushed myself to before. Here are the stats:
Total time on my feet: Over 19 hours
Total distance covered: 110 KM's or (68 Miles)
Food/drinks consumed: Pizza (2 slice), Peanut Butter and Jam Sandwiches (3-4), Pretzels, Boost and Ensure drinks (1 each), Potatoes dipped in salt (4), Lasagna, Potato chips, Coke (2 drinks), Marshmellow Square, Bananas, Watermelon

Now, the big question is will I attempt another 100 mile race? The answer today is probably not BUT if I do, it will be at Sulphur again. As for the rest of the year, I will do some 50 K or 50 Mile races between now and the end of October.
My next race will be in 2 weeks where I will be running for 6 hours. Hey, after running for 19, 6 will feel like a walk in the park right?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Disappointed but not upset

Yesterday I attempted my first 100 mile race. I managed to compete 67 miles before a toenail injury forced me to drop out. It was the first time that I haven't completed a race so the sting of that disappointment will linger for a little while but it won't get me down for too long.

I tried everything I could to fix the injury, including bursting the blister under my toenail, but I found that even that failed to help. When I stopped, it was 1:30 AM and the temperature was dropping. Because I wasn't moving very fast, it was hard to keep warm and I was worried about suffering from hypothermia.

It was an experience that I'll never forget and even though I didn't reach my goal, I'll learned a great deal about myself. This was the longest time I've ever run (19 hours) and the longest distance ever (67 miles). I can take pride in that accomplishment.

During my race, I thought about how much I love to run and how I don't need to do so many races in the future. I didn't want to risk further injurying myself which would have taken me away from the one thing I cherish the most. If I would have continued, it would have taken me close to 30 hours to complete and the thought of that was just too much to bear.

As I sit here today, and hobble around my house, I know that I made the right decision and I can be happy with that. I'm going to resume my running, after taking most of this upcoming week off.

Friday, May 23, 2008

One moment in time

There are very few "firsts" in life and tomorrow will certainly be one of those. Since I started running 3 years ago, I can still remember the landmark races that I've done. It's easy for me to put myself back into those races and if I close my eyes I can remember the feelings I felt through those.

Some of my most memorable times running haven't even occured in a race setting. The first time I did a trail run in the Greenwood Conservation Park I can still remember how amazing I felt. There was steam coming off of my body and I've never felt more alive in all my life.

The first "race" that I did was a duathalon (run-bike-run) and I remember that because I quickly found out that my Canadian Tire "special" just wasn't going to cut it in these races. I was pedaling away as fast as I could only to see people in their 50's and 60's passing me on their $1,000 bikes. Even though I was able to pass them on the running portion of the race, it was too frustrating to continue doing these races without an expensive bike so after doing one more duathalon, I decided to focus my attention on running only.

My first 25 K trail race was the Run for the Toad race in October of 2005. What I remember most about that race was how welcoming people were and the amazing food afterwards (LOL).

There have been plenty of "firsts" for me with regards to running but tomorrow will be a day I'm sure I'll never forget. I've never attempted something this "brash" in all my life and it was something that I didn't think I would do. However, goals have a way of springing up when you least expect them and this is exactly what has happened with this race.

It really doesn't matter how well I do, whether I finish or not or how much pain I'm likely to endure. What truly matters is the experience I will get and the memories I will make along the way.

I want to take a moment to thank of you who have emailed me wishing me luck on my race. It truly is overwhelming to know that I have so much support behind me. I'll do my best tomorrow and will have a full report ASAP.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Don't waste your gift

We all have something to offer. For myself, I know that I was given the gift of running 3 years ago and it has changed my life for the better.

At my son's baseball game last night, I was speaking to one of the fathers there. I mentioned to him that I had a race this weekend and he was immediately interested in learning more about it. The subject switched to how I started running in the first place and I revealed to him my separation and how it led to my running. As we spoke more, he also said that he and his wife were having difficulties and that they were probably headed for a separation/divorce themselves. I could tell that he needed someone to talk to so I told him that if he wanted to get together sometime I would be more than willing to help him out in any way possible. He explained to me that most of the friends he had were "her" friends and so he really didn't have much support. It reminded me of my own situation 3 years ago.

This is just one of the many things that running has allowed me to become. I would have never approached someone or offered to meet with someone like that if it was 3 years ago. I lived such a sheltered life then and I too had very few friends at the time.

Since I discovered running, I have been exposed to a different set of people who are all positive and this has had an incredible impact on my own life. In particular, the trail running friends that I have met all seem to embrace the "living for now" philosophy. They are all so welcoming and I've yet to do a race where I've had a bad experience from anyone. I was "adopted" by so many of them that it takes me so long now to say hello to them all (LOL).

My "gift" as I've learned, isn't just about teaching people how to run. The gift that I was given was allowing me to become a better person than I was before. As a result, my ability to communicate with people, like I do with my blog, has increased tremendously. I've been able to touch more people this way, like the father I met last night.

We all are given a gift we just have to figure out what it is and then work hard to enhance it. There are different mediums to improve this gift and thankfully my medium is running. What's yours?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Make today about today!

Wake up! If you knew for certain you had a terminal illness--if you had little time left to live--you would waste precious little of it! Well, I'm telling do have a terminal illness: It's called birth. You don't have more than a few years left. No one does! So be happy now, without reason--or you will never be at all.
Dan Millman

Today was my last run. It may very well be my last run forever. No one is guaranteed tomorrow. I made this run count. Every step was cherished, every breath was calculated, every song that I listened to had special meaning to me. I had more focus on my running technique instead of thinking about what I did yesterday or what I need to do today.

I made sure that I smiled as I ran by the people waiting for their bus. As I was running I looked at everything around me and thought about how lucky I was to be doing what I love to do. When I ran by cars I looked through the window to see if I knew the person, when I did recognize a few people I made sure that I gave them a thumbs up.

I've been shifting my focus from worrying about tomorrow to appreciating what I have today. I'm going to live like there is no tomorrow, or as Dan Millman says, "with a terminal illness." I've been guilty of looking ahead too much and that has resulted in not appreciating the here and now. It is probably why I love trail running so much. When I run in the trails I find the peace that I'm looking for. I swear if I didn't have other committment I WOULD be like Forrest Gump execpt that I would live and run in the trails.

If today was my last run, then I'm happy that I was able to appreciate the journey so much more than I typically would have. In the past, this would have been a very sad day as it's my last run before my race. By making that last run "sad" though, I now realize that I was robbing myself of the joy that I find by just running. Some people have said that I was born to run. Now, I'm not sure about that but I do know that running brings me the inner peace that I long for in my life. Whatever brings you inner peace, I hope that you take the time today, right now, to appreciate it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Please forgive's race week!

If I forget to smile during the week,......... please forgive me it's race week!

If I feel like crying when I see someone run, knowing that I can't......please forgive me, it's race week!

If I feel like I've gained 20 pounds after carbo loading for three days....please forgive me, it's race week!

If I seem like I have the "deer in the healights" look all week...........please forgive me, it's race week!

If I have a hard time sleeping this week..........please forgive me, it's race week!

If I start wondering if I've trained enough for my race........please forgive me, it's race week!

If you hear me mumbling to myself about what the hell I was thinking about when I decided to run 100 miles.......please forgive me, it's race week!

If I run to the bathroom every 5 minutes from all the water I need to drink this week.......please forgive me, it's race week!

If you see me eating 6 blueberry bagels over the course of a day......please forgive me, it's race week!

If I start going through withdrawl from the fact that I can't run for most of the week..........please forgive me, it's race week!

And finally.....If I forget to thank all of you who read my blog and have wished me well with my race this week.............please forgive me, it's race week!

Monday, May 19, 2008


My idea of momentum is not looking backward but constantly moving forwards. If you are not moving forward then you are living in a world of constant second guesses. When I use momentum with regards to my running it means not allowing myself to stop. This doesn't mean that I won't take a walk break when I need to, but avoiding stops is something that I'll be very conscious of next weekend.

We all have made mistakes in our past and we'll continue to make more in the future. When I refer to myself as trying to be a Peaceful Warrior, that doesn't mean that I'm a Perfect Peaceful Warrior.

Today's run was very difficult as I was dealing with wind gusts of 30 KM/Hr. My hands were so numb that I couldn't feel the tips of them for most of the run. Trying to remain focused on just the running and not on how badly I wanted to get home was difficult to say the least. Living in the moment doesn't mean you are going to enjoy every moment but I do know that these runs continue to make me stronger so I persevere.

As this is yet another race week for me, I'll be once again doing another carbohydrate loading program beginning on Wednesday. The 100 mile race brings so many more challenges to it with regards to nutrition. Gels, which normally work fine for marathons, simply won't get the job done. Instead I'll be "dining" on things like peanut butter and jam sandwiches, boost, flat coke, boiled potatoes and salt, chips, pretzels, chocolate covered coffee beans and anything else that my stomach will tolerate.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A change in philosophy and thinking

Ever since I was introduced to the writings of Dan Millman's Peaceful Warrior, it really has made me take a good look at my own life. It has allowed me to focus more on the present instead of the past or future. I've taken this approach to my running and today it really paid off.

I travelled to Ancaster today where I will be running my 100 mile race next Saturday. I've done the course 2 years ago but haven't been back since. It was an opportunity to run the course and get a feel for what I'll be doing next weekend. I used to do a race/run with the thought of finishing it and what that would look like at the end. I had this mental picture of myself crossing the finish line, hands held high and having a smile on my face. In my quest for that "picture" though, I realize that I've been missing out on enjoying the journey to get there.

This is not an easy philosophy to grasp as it's so easy for me to work from goal to goal. I don't want to miss out on the excitement that getting to that goal brings though because then I'm living in the future instead of the present. When I did my 20K run this morning I tried to focus on just my running and not on things in the past or future. When the rain started to pour down it became harder not to focus on just finishing as fast as I could but when I started to let my mind drift too much I realized that my running became harder. The more I focused on other things, the harder it became. We all have so much "junk" in our heads so I'm trying to "take out the trash" so that I can concentrate more on the here and now.

In a nutshell, that's what I get out of being a "Peaceful Warrior." It's something that my clients are going to hear about so they'll either have to get with the program or bring earphones to their sessions (LOL). As I've done with running, I want to plant these "seeds" in as many people's heads as I can as I think it is a philosophy that can increase peoples' inner strength. Finding the power from within is something that many of us refuse to do. It's not that they don't have the capability to do so but rather I think it's because they are afraid of what will happen when they let go of their own fear of what will happen in the future instead of worrying about what is happening right now.

The more distance running I do, the more I feel that this philosophy will help me. If I try to worry about how long this race may take then I won't appreciate the steps I'll need to take to get there. Instead of waiting for the finish line to come, I want to be surprised at when it gets there, only then will I have succeeded in living like a true Warrior.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Double duty today

It has been so long since I was able to run in the trails with a group of people so I jumped at the opportunity this morning. This, despite not getting very much sleep last night.

I was very fortunate enough to see an amazing group of dancers last night (Alvin Ailey). To watch these atheletes perform really got me thinking about how graceful and effortless they are. To get to that level they obviously made a committment very earl in their life to become the best they could be as a professional dancer. It also made me appreciate my running even more. In fact, I was so jacked up after watching that performance that I seriously thought about going for a run when I got home. It was that exhilirating.

So, on about 4 hours sleep, I did a nice easy 10K trail run. I made sure to run at a very slow pace and it was nice to talk with people who I hadn't seen in a long time.

After the run I still had so much energy so I asked my friend if she wanted to lift weights with me at my gym. Thankfully she said yes. After a quick change of clothes we went off to the gym to do some circuit training. I always feel better when I incorporate some weight training into my schedule but finding the time to do it becomes a challenge. It felt great to use some machines which I haven't used in a long time since I've been training at home with my weights.

As I write this, my lack of sleep is finally starting to catch up with me and I'm sure I'll take an afternoon nap at some point today. Tomorrow I'm travelling to Ancaster which is the site of my race next weekend.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Setting things up for the weekend

I had a great run on Wednesday morning and took today off completely. With my race coming up it's more important than ever to get as much rest as possible between now and next weekend.

This weekend I'll be doing a run in the Rouge on Saturday and then travelling to Sulphur Springs where my race is. I'll be running with my partner there so we can gauge what our pace should be. This will be the last opportuntiy prior to the race to finalize our strategy.

Last night at my son's baseball game it got so cold and it really hit home at what kind of temperature changes I'll have to endure at the race next weekend. Going from a warm to a cold temperature is going to put pressure on my body to keep itself warm and that really is my biggest fear. I'm going to pack lots of winter gear so that I'll be prepared for sudden drops in temperature.

Last year, at this race, it started to rain towards the end which provided even more challenges to the runners. My friends have told me courageous stories of how injured runners were able to block out their pain to finish the 100 miler which is considered by many to be the holy grail of ultra-marathons.

Next week I'll really start to mentally focus on the race and this is why Sunday's run is so important. I want to be able to have lots of visuals at different check points along the race so that I'll be familiar with the terrain.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

All about the trails

Sometimes it's hard getting up so early in the morning to go trail running (4:30 AM) but then again, I see and do things that make it all worth while.

I ran in the rouge today and it was the first time running trails in a few weeks. The last time I ran there I saw one deer pretty close to me. Today I saw two! I also did a water crossing, which I love, and all this before 7:00 AM. Seeing the sun rise in the trails is just another amazing sight to see. When I run my 100 miler in less than a two weeks, I will be counting down the minutes until the sun comes up because I'll be running in darkness for at least 8 hours of the race.

I really feel at home running in the trails and it's so much less impact on my knees that I feel like I could run forever. I'll probably buy my new trail shoes this week and have them ready for my race just in case. I have to start planning on what I want to put in my drop bag. I'll have two of these and I'll make sure they are stocked with things like fuel, bandaids, duct tape for my shoes, bug spray, extra socks, shirts and shorts and warm running gear for the night.

This weekend I'll be running in the trails where I'll be doing my race so that will give me a good idea on the terrain. I did the race two years ago so once I start running in them I'm sure it will bring back good memories. I'll be able to judge where my walk breaks will take place. I want to try and be as consistent as possible with regards to pacing for this race.

Monday, May 12, 2008

A good lesson learned today

I pride myself on being very structured when it comes to my running. I like to do little things before each run and if one of those isn't exactly the way I want it, then I'm not a happy camper. Unfortunately, life doesn't always co-operate with this plan and that is exactly what happened this afternoon.

I wasn't able to run in the morning, my preferred running time, so right away I wasn't happy. Then, to make matters worse, I only had about 10 minutes to get myself ready for my run (I usually like to take close to an hour). Finally, just as I was ready to leave, my mp3 player stopped working. I thought for a second if I should even bother to go as it seemed that everything was working against me. Then after giving my head a shake, I realized that I don't NEED those things to run. I may prefer to have them, but the reality is all I need is my shoes.

The run today was surreal as I was able to hear things that I normally wouldn't when I have my music on. I actually felt a little uncomfortable and even felt like people were watching me more than usual. There were so many more people out on the streets than what I'm accustomed to and obviously more cars as well.

Throughout the run, as I became more relaxed, my Garmin stopped working. This was yet another "toy" that I really didn't need. I'm a big believer in the running Gods and I think they were trying to send me a message today and that is that I better stop relying on gadgets to keep me going, especially with my 100 mile race coming up. We tend to lean too much on "things" and when they aren't there then we quickly give up and use that as an excuse for not working hard. I can't tell you how many clients who have told me that if their trainer calls in sick, they don't bother coming to the gym. Whenever I hear that I know that these are the people who in all likelihood will fall short in achieving their goals. Look within yourself to find your inner strength. Today I got a good lesson in that!

A weekend to reflect

On Saturday I was able to get out and do an 8 mile run and then Sunday I lifted weights for about an hour. The majority of my other time was spent with my kids mostly outside which was amazing.

What fascinates me most about kids is their endless energy. They can just go and go and go some more. Their gas tank is always on full and they get mad when you tell them it's time to stop. When I watch children run they seem so effortless. It's not mechanical it's very natural. I learned quite a bit this weekend watching them.

I took my youngest son for a nature walk as he searched for bugs and he told me how he wanted to run in trail races like I did. I could barely keep from smiling. He then asked me if he could run in a race with me sometime (keep in mind he's 6 years old). I told him of course he could.

As I was running on Saturday, I thought more and more about my 100 mile race. I know that this will be the hardest thing that I've ever attempted in my life. I seem to be at peace with myself lately and rather than be stressed about it, I prefer to just accept whatever will be. I've never been more relaxed than I am now and that has had an effect on my running. I'm starting to avoid looking at my watch more and more but whenever I do, I'm surprised that I'm running faster than I thought.

This past weekend was the Mississauga Marathon. I've done that race twice before. The first time was my first Marathon so my goal was just to finish. The 2nd time was last year and I had been training all winter with the goal of trying to come as close to 3:30 as possible. The races leading up to this one were great and I broke several person records along the way. Everything was lined up perfectly for me and then I suffered from cramps during the race. This prevented me from achieving my goal but I still finished the race.

As I prepare for my 100 mile race, one thing keeps popping into my head and that is how I have never quit any race that I've signed up for. with the 100 miler, there are so many variables that not finishing becomes a distinct possibility. I'm not afraid to fail and I'll use that as motivation instead of a weapon against me. We will see how this all plays out in a few weeks.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Be your own "Peaceful Warrior!"

When I was running with my friend Mike at my race last weekend he told me about this book called, "Way of the Peaceful Warrior." As he started to talk about it and give me some quotes from the book it really made me think. The one question I always get from people when I tell them how far I run, besides "why?" is, "what do you think about while you are running?"

When it comes to ultra marathons, it's best to leave your watch at home because the more you think about how long you are going to be out there, the easier it is for your mind to talk you out of running. I'm blessed to have a very good inner strength but it's something that we all have within us. Many of us fight it, though, and allow our sub-conscious to talk us out of doing things. During those long winter months of training I would have incredible battles with my mind about quitting. It would have been so easy to pack it in and live to run another day but then I would have been giving in to those negative thoughts and it would have made me miserable for the rest of the day.

Building an inner strength or spirit takes time and patience. You must not allow anything to come between you and your goals. You must realize that some sacrifices will have to be made in order for you to actualize these goals. Surrounding yourself with people who share your same interest or passion can go a long way to helping you stay mentally strong. There will be people who will try to sabotage your efforts and they may the people who are most close to you. My take on that is that if they really knew you, they would support your efforts. I don't have time for people who are negative or who fail to see the importance that running is to me. At times that has meant saying goodbye to people but I know that in the long run I have increased my inner strength.

Running, just by its nature, will increase your mind, body and spirit. Unlike any other sport that I've been involved in, there really is no limit to what you can do. I once thought that I would never attempt a run longer than a marathon and now I'm about to do a race which is 4 marathons in a row on one single day. I've already exceeded my expectations with running a 50 Mile race but I know how driven I am and I'm not someone who is afraid of challenging myself.

Here are some incredible quotes from the Way of the Peaceful Warrior

"When you begin your transcendental training, focusing your best efforts, without attachment to outcomes, you will understand the peaceful warrior's way."

It may be true that the unexamined life is not worth living-but neither is the unlived life worth examining.

Wake up! If you knew for certain you had a terminal illness--if you had little time left to live--you would waste precious little of it! Well, I'm telling do have a terminal illness: It's called birth. You don't have more than a few years left. No one does! So be happy now, without reason--or you will never be at all.

If you don't get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don't want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can't hold on to it forever. Your mind is your predicament. It wants to be free of change. Free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is a law, and no amount of pretending will alter that reality.

Pain is a relatively objective, physical phenomenon; suffering is our psychological resistance to what happens. Events may create physical pain, but they do not in themselves create suffering. Resistance creates suffering. Stress happens when your mind resists what is...The only problem in your life is your mind's resistance to life as it unfolds.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

What was I thinking?

I haven't been gettin much sleep these past few days but rather than use that as an excuse I instead tried to relate my 5 AM run to how I'll feel at my 100 mile race. I don't know what state I'll be in on that day but tired will surely be one of them.
When I went downstairs to check my computer I saw that there was a strong NE wind with gusts up to 35 KM/Hr. For a brief second I almost talked myself out of going for a run. Running in windy conditions has got to be my least favorite thing to do and with little sleep (less than 4 hours) it would have been easy for me to just crawl back into my warm bed. I know that had I done that I would have regretted it all day. I won't be able to run on the weekend so had I not run, that would have been a long stretch of time off between runs. I'm sure my body would have appreciated it but I know my mind would not have.

I then got mad at myself for thinking about not running and that motivated me to run even more. When I got outside after psyching myself up, I soon blocked out the fact that it was a pretty windy day. I decided to run for 8 miles instead of my usual 10 and once again it was the right decision. My shoes have barely any support left and it felt like I was running on pavement for most of my run. I'll have to get yet another pair of shoes. I seem to be going through at least one pair of shoes every two months now.

I can't believe what a difference it makes to carry water in my hands instead of around my waist. I don't feel restricted by the belt. I've noticed that my left shoulder is a little sore but I'm not sure what this is from. I try to alternate the bottle from left to right hand so that one arm doesn't get more weighted down than the other.

My race is just over 2 weeks away so it will be time for another taper and carbo-load plan. I'm going to mimick the diet I used in preparation for my 50 Miler although I'm not sure about doing another detox. I'm going to think about it on the weekend and decide on Monday.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

What do I think about when I'm running?

I was talking with a client last night and shared with her the story of how I got into running and also about my recent 50 Mile race. She was a competitive swimmer and also did some running as well. When I told her that I was out on the course for close to 11 hours, she asked me what I was thinking about during that time. I had to think for a minute because when she asked me that it finally hit home that I had been out there for that long. Even though the race was over 3 weeks ago, the way she framed that question really got me thinking about what I had accomplished.

I don't think I've done anything, not even sleep, for close to 11 consecutive hours so that put things in perspective. I told her that when I run I often think about my kids, past relationships, my fiance who died as well as silly things like what I want to eat after the race or how many calories I've burned. Sometimes I'll just get lost in the music I'm listening to and start singing out loudly while I'm running. Thankfully I can't hear myself sing or I'm sure I'd stop pretty quickly.

I've been trying to concentrate more on my running form and so I'll visualize the heal/toe strike technique. I also have a quick turnover which means that my strides are short and choppy and I try to lessen the impact of my feet hitting the ground by running this way.

Lately my thoughts have turned to my 100 mile race in a few weeks. As with the 50 miler which I recently completed, I have no expectations of myself other than I want to finish. I have 30 hours to complete this race and it may very well take me all of that to do so. I cannot entertain the thought of me not finishing so I'm trying to stay as positive as possible.

During my 10 mile run today I thought about the race and the many challenges that it presents. I not only have to run for 100 miles I have to stay awake for an entire day so fatigue will play a big part in the race. There really is no way to prepare for this because I'll just have to see how the day unfolds. I'm working on having a crew of people who will be there to support me and that is crucial when attempting this type of race. If anyone is interested in lending a helping "foot" please contact me.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

That's more like it!

Unfortunately my trail running friend could not run today as he's recovering from his race on the weekend. With only two days removed from my own race, I decided that I was feeling well enough to go for a run. It still amazes me that I'm able to recover so quickly from running an ultramarathon on Saturday. I suppose all those training runs in the winter are the reason why.

All last week I didn't feel "right" about my running. I'm sure it was the hangover effect from my 50 mile race. While I went out and did some runs, I never went beyong 8 miles. I think I was afraid to go a little longer as I needed to heal myself. Most of the time, doing the smart thing pays off but last week I really think it had an effect on me. It used to be that I needed to run at least 6 miles in order to feel like I accomplished something. More recently, though, I've been running a minimum of 10 miles per day (16 K). If I didn't run at least that much, I felt like I had cheated myself by not pushing myself hard enough.

Today I wanted to push myself so I went out and did my usual 10 mile route. The legs felt great and more importantly, my mind was very focused throughout. I went to bed early last night so I could get up at 5 AM and be on the road by 6 AM. I went out in a light jacket and shorts but forgot one important thing, my gloves. It was surprisingly cold today and I tried everything I could do keep my hands warm but that proved fruitless. I blocked out the cold by thinking of runners who have inspired me such as Terry Fox. I kept telling myself that if Terry could run on one leg surely I could run with my hands cold.

As I made my way home my hands were now red and it was so bad that I could not turn the key to open my door as I couldn't feel my fingers. I've always had trouble keeping my hands warm, even on days when you'd think I should be fine. Because I run so early in the morning, I'm going to have to invest in some light gloves as I don't want to experience what I experienced today any time soon.

Overcoming obstacles, though, is what inspires me to keep running and to keep climbing higher and higher to reach goals that seem unattainable to others. Running works the mind like nothing else I've ever experienced and I use that mental focus to affect other areas of my life. Anyone who questions why I run so much really doesn't understand the importance it has in my life. Then again, I don't run for anyone other than myself so as long as I remember why I run, nothing else really matters.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Staying motivated vs getting motivated, two different things

I take pride in the fact that I feel that I do a good job of keeping someone motivated. It's something that I've learned while working at various jobs that I've had as a counselor. Whether it was working with troubled teens or those with addictions, I always seemed to have a knack for staying positive. I really feel that this has an effect on the people who I deal with.

I know that I also feed off the energy of people and I'm lucky to have some amazing clients who never cease to inspire me. At the same time, there are others who I like to call "energy vampires" because they can literally suck the life out of you if you let them. These are the people who fail to take responsibility for anything that they do and instead would rather place blame on others. They also are very likely to be indecisive about their goals and rarely will put in the time and effort needed to achieve their goals. Unfortunately for these people, until they get themselves motivated, there really isn't much I can do to help. You have to make exercise and healthy eating a priority in your life or you will never achieve your fitness goals. I can provide a great roadmap for what is needed but they are the drivers of their own car and there are no shortcuts to success.

We all have the capacity to dream but very few of us turn those dreams into reality. The ones who do, are rewarded from within and not so much by material things. They also are the ones who are quick to jump from one goal to another instead of taking too long to admire what they just accomplished.

Are you willing to put in the time and effort needed? Only you can answer that question. I hope the answer is YES!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Day after thoughts

I like to do some reflecting on the day after a race. What did I do right? What did I do wrong? What did I learn about myself and what can I take away from this race to help me in the future? I'll allow myself 24 hours to do this and then I have to put it away and focus on my next goal.

I'm more convinced than ever that running on roads is not what I was meant to do. I was joking with Mike that when I was training for a marathon I did my first 50K race in Niagara Falls in under 5 hours. The reason was that I had trained for speed during the months leading up to that race. This winter I didn't do any speed work and focused more on endurance. Now, whenever I start to speed up I really feel it and I know that I'm not prepared to run a speed race right now. When you run on roads, though, it's easy to get caught up in trying to run faster. Running in trails forces me to take my time and concentrate on the terrain rather than trying to run faster. Whenever I do start to run faster in the trails it almost always results in me tripping and falling over a stump or a rock.

I know that if I concentrated on speed work then I could reverse this but right now it isn't my focus and I have to keep reminding myself of that. This is the reason why I'm doing mostly trail races this season. I may only do one more road race in Niagara Falls in June just so I can accumulate more points in the OUS series.

Yesterday I ran with hand-held water bottles and preferred that over the fuel belts. It's funny how I've changed so many different things through the years. I'm also at a point where if I see another gel I think I'll be sick. I've been eating more food during these trail races than ever before. Yesterday during the race I saw a runner with a piece of pizza in his hand while he was running. Maybe I'll have to have pizza pizza on speed dial on my cell phone just in case.....

Today I'd like to do some light biking or go for a walk just to get the kinks out. I'm feeling pretty good right now but getting some lactic acid out of my legs would be a good idea. I'll resume my running on Tuesday morning and do some weight lifting on Monday.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

A day of firsts

I just completed my 50K race and in the process managed to discover a few things about myself.

I completed two 50K+ races in the span of 14 days (128K's). I also used strictly food instead of gels and this consisted of boiled potatoes with salt and peanut butter and banana sandwiches on white bread both amazingly good. On a funny note. I often bragged to Ken about never having to make a "pit-stop aka bathroom break" while doing either a training run or at a race. He always laughed and said, "don't worry it will happen." Well, after running the first 10K loop I knew that unfortunately this would be the day. After trying hard to fight it off, I knew it was pointless and luckily for me there was a porta-pottie at the 5K turnaround. Maybe next time I'll run with a package of toilet paper (LOL).

While I wanted to use this race as simply a training run for the 100 miler, I quickly found out that my body hadn't fully recovered both mentally and physically from Seaton. I actually found this race harder than Seaton simply because I strayed too far away from a plan. Because this race was run entirely on ashphalt, I decided not to take any walk breaks and simply run to the aid stations which were 5KM's apart. This strategy worked fine for the first 3 loops (30K) but I still had another 20K left to go. I decided to throw in more walk breaks and would run for 2.5KM's, take a little walk break and then went out again. Unfortunately, the damage was already done and I paid for it during the last loop. This was also the time that it started to rain (go figure).

I was able to run with Mike, who will be running with me during my first 100 miler at the end of the month, during the last 8KM and this really helped. We both commented on the lessons we learned today as he also didn't walk enough early on. This is a mistake that neither one of us can afford to make at Sulphur. Then again, with trail races, there are natural breaks where I'll have to walk up the hills so remembering to walk shouldn't be a problem.

Towards the end of the race, with about 3 KM's left, we saw a runner who was doing a 100 KM race and he was walking. We decided to walk with him for a bit and then did a slow run towards the finish. It's moments like those, which I'll remember and it reminds me of why I love trail running in the first place.

As I crossed the finish line I was excited and I knew that this was just another stepping stone for me as I prepare for the 100 miler at Sulphur Springs. Between now and then I'll make sure that I get mentally prepared for that race as it will require every bit of strength and courage to complete.

Friday, May 02, 2008

It doesn't "feel" like I have a race tomorrow

This has been one of the strangest weeks I've had with regards to preparing for a race. For some reason I haven't prepared as I usually would. It could be a "hangover" from the Seaton race. I keep forgetting that the distance tomorrow (50K) is not something to take lightly.

The worst mistake I ever made was not taking a race seriously and that is something I swore I'd never do again. It was a 10K Thanksgiving run in Guelph, in 2005. By this time I had been running quite a bit and 10K didn't seem like anything to get too worried about. I think I signed up the day before and the kids and I all went together. Marcus did a 500M run while Malik did a 1K run. I was so thrilled to see them run that I kept forgetting I had a race too.

When the gun sounded and I started to run, I quickly found out that a 10K run can be very challenging and this route certainly was. I went out way too fast and it caught up to me very quickly. I knew that I had not prepared mentally for the race. As demanding as running is on my body, there is an even greater challenge in the mind. When I tell people that I ran for close to 11 hours two weeks ago they are amazed that I was able to keep myself mentally focused for such a long time. The long training runs I did in the winter certainly helped prepare my body but it did even more to prepare my mind.

I use mental imagery so much that by the time the race finally gets here I feel like I've run it already. The race tomorrow won't be very challenging with regards to the terrain as it's a 5K out and back loop on a bike path. What it will do, though, is challenge me mentally as I'll have to do 10 total loops to complete the 50K. Today will be an important day for me to focus myself mentally because I don't want to experience what I experienced during that 10K race.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Most of my dreams are about running

I know big surprise right? Well last night was a doozy. I dreamt that I was doing the 100 mile race when one of my friends got hurt. He was exactly half-way through the 20KM loop so it didn't matter if he went forwards or backwards, it was still going to take him a long time to get to an aid station. I decided that I would help him but because he couldn't put any weight on his ankle, I had to hold him up like a human crutch, and walk with him. The walk took hours and it was so early in the morning that all both of us could think of was getting some help. On a side note, in my dream, I was feeling incredibly fresh and ready to run but trail running is more than just about personal accomplishments. To me, a true trail runner doesn't leave an injured runner behind. The fact that doing this good deed put my own race in jeopardy barely crossed my mind.

When we finally made it to the aid station I made sure that my friend was alright before I continued onwards. I knew that finishing within the 30 hour time-limit was going to be difficult and most of me didn't want to continue. However, after getting some much needed encouragement, I went on and finished the race.

I have no idea what this dream was telling me but I do know that I woke up with a smile on my face.