It’s The Journey

One week in Maui:

What was your morning routine?

Every morning, I’d get up while it was still dark, make some coffee, and settle in for several episodes of The Golden Girls. Turns out, it’s a great show! Hilarious, biting, perverted –those ol’ gals sure know how to make this ol’ gal laugh. It was recommended to me by a few people, but I resisted. I mean, come on, a show about old white ladies? No, thanks. But by the time I could count all the times they uttered the word “slut” on two hands, I was hooked.

Of course when the daily morning marathon of The GG had finished, the sun was out and the heat was high, and I’m pretty sure that most of the runners had already gone out and completed their workouts. But I’m also pretty sure that most of the runners had already seen The GG decades ago.

Which Golden Girl(s) are you?

According to a very close friend and big fan of the show, I’m Dorothy, with a layer of Sophia.

How hot was it?

When I finally did get out to run, most days it got up to 30 degrees, often feeling hotter than that. There wasn’t much shade along the highway where I ran, and I’d say I went from a 21 to a 27 in less than a week.

Does it pay to be short?

Yes. Sometimes. It was often very windy, and when we took turns blocking and drafting in a two-man pack, I, 5’4″, actually received a benefit, whereas someone who is 6’1″ would not. I still took my turn pulling. It would’ve been rude not to.

What if you don’t want to run on the highway?

Then don’t. I’d suggest the loop in Makawao Forest, which about 10k with 600m in elevation. It was at least 10 degrees cooler in the forest. Keep your eye out for the “Secret Trail”, which was marked with a sign. Shhh.

What was delicious?

There were a lot of delicious things to eat Maui. In the first town, my favourite take-out place was Coconuts. The poke bowl was amazing and came with some of the best wasabi I’ve ever had. It was legit. There was also a café on the side of the road, beside a fruit stand that sold giant avocados, and their sandwiches were delicious. They also had a salad with charred brussel sprouts and a poppy seed citrus dressing that was really great.

On the Road to Hana drive, we stopped by a small stand, known as Halfway to Hana. They sold banana bread, I think the best I’ve ever had; it was dense, moist, and heavy in your hands. It was also halfway to Hana.

At the second town, there were also a bunch of great places to eat. The Kuau Store had great poke, served on brown rice; Tobi’s Shave Ice had delicious acai bowls with granola, fresh berries, and coconut; Mama’s Fish House was a nice treat for the last night’s dinner and featured freshly caught seafood, a great location (right on the beach!), and had been visited by one Kelly Gruber himself.

Do the roosters have large talons?

I never let myself get close enough to one to check out the size of their talons, but I was assuming yes. There were roosters everywhere. Eating outside of Coconuts, they would be skittering about, common as the city squirrel or pigeon. I frankly, was terrified. Birds have the advantage.

There were also mongoose everywhere, and I tried to get up close to one at the Wai’anapanapa State Park (the blow-hole is a can’t miss attraction there as most blow-holes are), but was wisely advised not to put my face so close to it. According to the narrator on the Road to Hana audio guide, the mongoose had be introduced to Maui to curb the rat population. There’s something in their pee that can be deadly to humans.

Should I go to Maui?

Yes, absolutely.

Should I fly with United Airlines?

No.

Is every pool noodle for public use?

Also no. It would be advisable to ask if the pool noodle by the pool side is someone’s personal noodle before lodging it between your legs, seahorse-style, in an attempt to pool run.

 

 

 

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Three Bears

During the past couple weeks, I’ve developed a literal pain in the butt, in my left side (Remember Left Shark? I couldn’t remember exactly what that was all about, so I went back and searched for it, watched the Super Bowl video, and couldn’t figure out if it were my left or Katy Perry’s left. I thought they both looked great and were living the dream.), which has forced me to hold back on the hard workouts for a few days. Prior to that, I had been quite sick for about a week leading up to and following a 3000m indoor track race, so it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve been in “regular” training.

The track race was a really fun day. Really great races to watch, huddled along the wall with teammates and trying to keep warm at the indoor York track, and then roughly 11 and a half minutes of pure agony. The race itself didn’t go exactly as I had wished –the first kilometer felt harder than I wanted and the wheels starting coming off pretty rapidly after that; I was thinking desperately how to sneak off the track without my coach noticing (he was actually on the track pacing someone else in the race) but I tagged along behind another gal’s heels for the rest of the race and finished with an o-kay time. Not great, but it was a hard effort and I was glad not to have run it alone.

(Re-capping the race with a more experienced friend, he told me that I was thinking too damn much and should’ve just shut off my brain and run. All of that wasted brain power as I was calculating splits and plotting my early escape from the race could’ve been siphoned into a faster time; just be a dumb jock, dummy.)

After the race, it felt like someone had climbed up into my sinuses and throat and just raked them raw and bare. I was out of commission for a few days, repeatedly going into work and then leaving early as I realised how useless I was and how much noise I was making in an otherwise pin-droppingly silent workspace. It took a few days of being horizontal on the couch with a Snuggie, eating soup, and watching a lot of Will & Grace (& Karen), but I finally started feeling better. When I returned to health and running, I was stoked to get back to it, and started with a nice, moderate speed workout to start ‘er up. Unfortunately, while running I felt a pain in my left side, from the back to the butt to the hamstring, the lower leg, and the foot, enough so that I had to tell my coach about it. No secrets between runners and coaches, right?

(Okay, my left leg was bothering me for a while, probably since starting the indoor track workouts, but it had felt like something I could stretch, roll, ice, etc. etc. etc. my way through. Perhaps I should’ve stopped sooner to avoid this recent set-back? I’m not sure. Also, I’m not sure how much wearing older than I should be wearing pairs of shoes made an impact, but I was having a brutal time finding a new pair of shoes to replace my NB 870s, the last model which just felt weird and bad, and which they then just discontinued. As someone who hates shopping, it took me a long time to settle on a new pair, but I am now trying out the Brooks Ravenna.)

So I had to back off again, and this time, I went to the pool, mostly because I didn’t want to be in the seated position and aggravate my back and butt further, but also because I wanted to see if I would still look like a huge dork. In the slow lane. With my floatation belt. Mission accomplished.

Tonight will be my first real test of the leg with a short ladder. I’ll have to do it outdoors, so it’ll be tough to find somewhere that’s juuust right. I’ll just try to find a place that’s reasonably well-lit, with minimal off-leash dogs, a decent surface, low-vehicular traffic, and as a bonus, a discreet place to pee.

 

Calendar Girl

 

‘Tis the season: awkward egg-nog with colleagues, wearing ugly sweaters with colleagues, making amends with fambigly (7:14), Cousin Eddie’s mock-turtleneck, counting your blessings, and listening to festive music, otherwise ignored for most of the year. In previous years, starting from my youth when my parents held the reigns of our old Panasonic stereo, Nana Mouskouri’s Christmas Album, “Christmas with Nana Mouskouri“, has been consistently my favourite; unlike some children, I had no qualms with what my parents shoved into my ears, including Nana, (pre-disco) Bee Gees, CCR, Simon and Garfunkel, The Onions, and Lionel Richie. This year is no exception. “Old Toy Trains” is the real deal.

It’s also a time for reflection. And as such, I’ve reviewed two calendars I’ve maintained throughout the year, Google and Training Peaks, to look back on the events of the last twelve months.

January

-first attempt at cross-country skiing; fell on face

-raced Robbie Burns and got a really hideous race shirt, which I promptly gave to a friend, whom we love, but to whom we give all of our junk, including clothing, food, old race gear

-a lot of indoor track with a weekly long-run; peaked at 95km/week

-my friend’s new band, “Girls of St. Louis“, played their first show and it was really great; they have a sort of “Built to Spill” meets “Tortoise” sound?

February

-onset of medial tibial pain, which was a huge dinger and red flag since I had had a couple of MT stress fractures in the past; I took a week off and did only pool running

-looks like I did a bit more cross-country skiing; I remember in one of the fields, there were stalks of corn that had been cut off right at crotch-level, which made for some gnarly descents

-trip to Whistler, where the temperatures were so warm; I remember running in shorts past the beautiful Rainbow Park

Jim Gaffigan in Windsor (seemed tired and/or drunk)

March

-I started doing a bit of strength training to get my glutes in gear and try to take the stress off my lower leg; I fit in in a weight room as much as I fit in in a library

-my mileage got so low, especially considering I was going to be racing Boston in a month; maxed out at 62km/week

-I got a haircut, which are far and few between

April

-when you sign up for a race a year in advance, book and pay for your flight, and invite your BFF along, you’re likely to race it no matter what shape you’re in, which is what I did on April 20 in Boston

-I also had to go to Boston to get my friend a Trader Joe’s Pounder

-a lot of pre and post-race pool running

May

-after Boston, my medial tibial issues seemed to have sorted themselves out, which meant that I got back into training and took a break from the roads to focus on track with the goal of running 5000m during the outdoor season; two track workouts and one weekly tempo

-Jays’ game before all the hype

-I vaguely remember this was a stressful time

June

-ah, the month of the pace bunny, the bachelorette party MRI, and the boot: calcaneal stress reaction, which caused enough pain that I couldn’t even walk –outdoor season ended before it even started

-instead I rode Betty, trained and raced, with equal parts spite and enjoyment

July

-it wasn’t until mid-July that I started back running, very slowly at first, and doing a run-walk re-introduction; it felt really awkward and my stride felt alien, but I was happy to be running at all; still a lot of pool running and cycling

-I also started taking lessons to try to learn how drive standard; I had a few lessons but it’s a work-in-progress-on-hold

August

-would you look at that! I started doing tempos, fartleks, hill repeats, and long runs, with my longest by the end of the month at 30.5k and maxing out at 74km/week

-two months until Chicago

-month of love: two weddings and an engagement party

-started meeting with the most amazing and hilarious sports nutritionist, Jen Sygo

September

-with just a few weeks to go before Chicago, looks like I averaged about 70km/week this month, with my longest run at 34.5km; I didn’t do any track work, but had a weekly tempo and did some hill work

-hey, another hair appointment!

October

Chicago Marathon: 3:08:12

-as promised, I took a week off running after the race and just did some easy running for a couple weeks

-Hallowe’en at the museum

November

-I think I would’ve been advised to have taken more time off post-Chicago, but two races this month: 8k cross-country and Big Sur Half Marathon

-a week in California drinking beers, eating ice cream, and discovering my favourite breakfast place

-started track workouts again, which felt so great, not only for the physical and fitness aspect of it, but also the psychological benefits of spending time with my second family

December

-okay, suited up for one more race: Santa Run 5k

-another haircut! Three times in one year might be a record for me

-four holiday parties

 

There it is. 2015 was a pretty mixed-bag, as life often always is. If life were a bag of mixed nuts, I would consider the highlights to be the Brazil nut, obviously, the most awesome nut. Sure, you could go out and buy a tin consisting solely of Brazil nuts, but that would be monotonous, horizontal, unimaginative. And it would probably give you selenium poisoning.

Just get the mixed nuts and share.

Looking forward to a new year of sharing mixed nuts and having fun with friends, both on and off the track!

 

 

 

 

 

Hello and Goodbye

The other night at track, a friend of mine was wearing a singlet with some writing on the front: “Run Alone”.

Or so I thought.

If you knew this guy, you’d understand why I wouldn’t give a second thought to him wearing a shirt that announced such a dryly humourous and hardcore imperative to act in solitude.

What it actually said was “Run Aloha” and was presumably from Hawaii. Since then I’ve had my once in every four years appointment with an optometrist.

But back when I thought I saw “Run Alone”, it made me think about the benefits and drawbacks of both solitary training and group workouts. On this particular night, the workout was:

1-2x 800m at 3000m race pace/400m at mile race pace

1x1600m at 5k race pace

1x800m at 3000m race pace/400m at mile race pace

At this time, I’m feeling in o-kay shape, not great, but slowly transitioning from recovery mode to building up some mileage and doing a bit of speed work. There are usually 3 or 4 groups that naturally form at the track, based on speed, and I usually squeak by to hang on to one of them, uncomfortably so, but don’t quite fit into the others. That night, I wanted to get in a full and solid workout, without seeing too much burn-out by the end (also, my foot has been feeling funny, not ha-ha funny, so I’m trying be mindful of that dinger). To meet this goal, I knew that I would be more successful starting the workout on my own. My goals were to hit the 800s at 3:00, the 400s at around 1:20-1:22, and the 1600m between 6:05 and 6:10. Even though I went out faster than I thought for the first 800m (2:52), I’m glad I didn’t stick to the usual group since some ran their first one in 2:45 and others were high-2:30s.

Sure, I could’ve tried to stay with them for the benefit of having the others to chase, and maybe I could’ve done one at 2:45, but I didn’t want to get dragged in and eff up the rest of my workout. I guess you could argue that had I gone out with the group, I could’ve stayed with them and shouldn’t put limitations on myself before I even start the workout, but the difference between a 3:00 800m and a 2:45 800m seems like a big one.

So, that night I ran mostly alone with the exception of one tardy Korean joining in and around a couple intervals. But I really wasn’t alone since I had the company and support of the other runners around me in various states of rest and grinding it out.

[More importantly, I’ve learned to keep in mind that awareness in fatigue is key and you’re never alone at the track even if you can’t hear or see the other runners (unless you are actually the only person there); a fundamental fear and constant shoulder-check could save you from being walloped in a split-second by an on-coming sprinter. Perhaps unlike the fear of being alone, this is a legitimate fear.]

First Base

Last week, while away in California, I ran the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay. Although it was a beautiful race and a fun weekend spent with friends, I realised at around the 5k mark that I was done with racing for the rest of the year. The last couple months have been spent either tapering for or recovering from races and now all I want to do is run without too much concern for structure and specificity, to build a base and gradually gain fitness, all while having fun.

The first part of my base building plan is to stop racing for the next few weeks. I had planned on doing one more cross country race at the end of the month and a 5k road race in a few weeks. I think I’ll just cross those off.

(Actually, the precursor to first base was to be fully recovered from Chicago and also on the way to re-establishing normal physiological functions. As of a couple days ago, I am happy and relieved to say that I am painfully a real girl again.)

In addition to stepping away from racing, I’ll try to keep at least one or two days of cross-training or rest for now as I gradually build-up the mileage. I’ll fill out the rest of the week with a couple steady runs, a track workout, a fartlek or tempo based more on feelsies than on pace, and a longer run.

The hope is to stay injury-free and build a strong base leading up to next spring for a half marathon, either NYC or Brooklyn, and then continue to build for a fall marathon, either NYC or CIS.

But right now I’m at first base –I’ll try not to get too far ahead of myself and enjoy the moment.

Dig Up, Stupid!

I had been digging myself into a hole. As I lay on the examination table at the MacIntosh Clinic for the second time in only a few months, I had a vaguely familiar premonition of bad news. A few days prior to that visit, I had gone out for an easy run and made it about 10 steps before having to limp back home. I felt a tingling pain in my heel that made it almost unbearable to walk, and since I had plans to temporarily re-invent myself into some middle-distance turbo machine by training for and racing in several meets, I decided to see a doctor immediately.

Not new to injury, I went through the drill in auto-pilot: lie on the bed; push, pull, flex, relax; talk about training, diet, shoes. Usually my injuries have been medial-tibially located; this one in the heel was new. Turns out, new is not always better; sometimes new is just relocated and more of the same. After the initial examination, the doctor suspected a calcaneal stress fracture, for which I would be sent off for a late-night, mid-bachelorette party MRI; the results of the MRI would not be known for a few weeks, but in the meantime, it was suggested that I treat it as a stress fracture and not to run for at least six weeks.

(It would be determined following the results of the MRI, that it was in fact a stress reaction and not a fracture, but it was all same-same to me since I had my foot in a boot for most of the time as a result of the pain.)

Earlier in the year, I had another visit to the MacIntosh Clinic because of sharp focal pain in the medial-tibial region, again nothing new, and again, suspected of being a stress fracture. This was becoming a recurring theme, like Brad Pitt stuffing his pie hole in movies; unlike this delicious theme, my recurring injuries and time taken off from training left a bad taste in my mouth.

So, after the second suspected stress fracture in a few months, I sat down with the doctor, defeated, to discuss why my body was crapping out on me. Questions of menstruation, caloric intake, energy levels, and mood were asked, and once enough of a picture had been painted, I was told that my profile fit into what is called RED-S, or what could also be referred to as Female Athlete Triad 2.0.

That was five months ago.

Since then, I’ve been regularly meeting with a really kick-ass sports nutritionist, who has been emphasizing the need to fuel properly by eating more than I have been comfortable with, in a very hilarious and practical way that I am comfortable with. I also had to dial back my training considerably. For the first few weeks after the initial injury assessment, I couldn’t run at all, partly because I was told not to, but also because it just hurt too damn much. Afterwards, when I could run, I ran a lot less and I ran alone; being competitive, hard-headed, and an occasional jerk, I knew I wouldn’t have the discipline to run within myself among my all-star teammates.

Throughout this time, I was lonely and upset and I felt fat and slow; it wasn’t easy. But what I felt more than that was sick of being injured and at odds with my body –and I still do. I was able to train for and race fairly successfully in Chicago, but my abbreviated season and lack of optimal fitness act as reminders that I can likely become stronger. Recovery will be an on-going, long-term process of re-wiring my thoughts about food and training, of exposing vanities and insecurities, and of re-evaluating what is important to me.

My advice would be not to get into this deficit in the first place. Have you ever seen someone trying to climb out of a hole? It looks awkward, and, well, hilarious. But if you do end up in a hole, whether it’s through deliberate choices or through sheer neglect, surround yourself with knowledgeable professionals and supportive people to help you dig your way up. And out.

Numbers Game

Finishing time: 03:08:12

Splits: 21:20 (5k)/43:12 (10k)/01:05:03 (15k)/01:31:47 (half)/1:49:11 (25k)/02:11:53 (30)/ 02:34:42 (35k)

I went out aggressively for a couple reasons. Before the race, I decided to start with the 3:05 pace bunny and try to hold on; with the forecast of high winds and wanting to get into a rhythm early on, I figured that running with a group would have its benefits. When I got to the corral in the morning, I was late and pushed to the back. It took me a while to get up to the pace bunny and when I started running with the group, I realised that they were under pace, at times doing 4:15/km. Sure, it felt okay for the first few kilometers, and sure, the prospect of running an unexpected sub-3 marathon was blindly exciting; I stayed with them for a while, especially since the high buildings and my Garmin were not making friends, but as the pace showed no signs of leveling out to an actual 3:05 finish, I bailed on that group and decided to run my own race.

Another reason I wanted to start out aggressively was this over-whelming and Grammy Award-winning Drake-onian voice that reminded me YOLO. I knew that I was not likely in PB shape; I questioned if I could even hold 4:30 pace and run a 3:10 marathon. There’s a lot of uncertainty when you’ve only trained for six weeks and maxed out at 91k/week. Still, I had heard that this was an easy course, and not having planned to run a marathon next spring, I knew this would be my last for a year. I figured I would go out hard and deal with the fatigue and pain later on in the race, rather than regret going out too easily and feel like I had dogged any part of the race. I did end up fading but I did feel like I worked hard at every part of the race. Perhaps I would’ve had a faster time had I paced it better, but it seems like it mirrored the same pacing strategy of some of the elites, and who am I to argue with those nerds.

Number of gels consumed: 5 (one pre-race in corral, 9k, 18k, 27k, 35k)

Unfortunately, I did not have a great strategy for gel storage during the run. Had it been colder, I would’ve kept them in my gloves as I did in NYC, but in the first few kilometers I started over-heating and ditched the gloves. Options for storage did present themselves prior to the race in the form of belts, fanny-packs, arm bands, but I insisted and continue to insist not to run with anything strapped on or dangling from my body. The cost of my anti-accessory stubbornness is a bit of carnage. Mild regrets.

Rob Watson sightings: 2

Pre-race shakeout run along Michigan Avenue up to Roosevelt Road to Columbus Drive.

Toni Kukoc sightings: 0

Race morning schedule: race start at 7:30am, alarm set for 4:50am, plan to leave hotel by 7:00am, 10 minutes late

Reasons for being late pre-race or otherwise are most likely GI-related.

Number of people in corral: a lot

I’ve never been so crowded and uncomfortable in a corral. It was like being at that LCD Soundsystem concert where MIA opened up for him.

Bowls of oatmeal consumed within 24 hours: 3

The day before the race I had a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast with a peanut butter bagel and banana for breakfast, another one at lunch with another bagel with peanut butter, and then one race morning. The pre-race dinner was at an Italian restaurant called Pazzo’s, which was a 4 minute walk from the hotel and refreshingly not over-crowded and hectic as it becomes in Boston during race weekend. Post-race dinner was at Howells & Hoods, which touts the largest draft beer selection in Chicago. We also went to a great restaurant for a late dinner when we first arrived on Friday night. It was called Remington’s and they played an amazing line-up of music, including M83, Passion Pit, Washed Out. No connection to the Remington’s in Toronto as far as I could tell.

Times we fell asleep on the boat tour: 2, maybe 3

And this was not because the boat tour was not interesting; it was, in fact, very interesting and a great way to get an overview of the architecture of Chicago without having to walk around. Highly recommend it! They sell beers and fancy nuts downstairs!

Layers in the carrot cake: at least 5

I was hoping for a cheesecake (in the bed) post-race, but went for a carrot cake in the hotel lobby restaurant instead. It was an almost perfect carrot cake, with thin layers of moist cake interlaced with light icing, and topped with ground pistachio –not too sweet, bordering on bland.

Days off running: 7

I promised not to run, not even easy, for at least a week after the race. Unlike previous seasons, I’m totally okay with that.

Races left for the rest of the year: 3-4

1-2 cross-country, 1 half marathon, maybe 1 road race in Santa suit. These remaining races should be for funsies.

Lessons learned and people to thank: so many

High Fidelity

Top Five Pre-Race Jams:

“Midnight City” – M83

First jam pre-race B.A.A. 5k, Boston 2012

“Don’t Stop Me Now” – Queen

Queen was my favourite band for most of my early teens. Also, this.

“Dancing on the Ceiling” – Lionel Richie

Best live show I’ve ever seen. His tour was called “All the Hits, All Night Long” and he played all the hits, all night long.

“Sugar (Remix) ft. Nicki Minaj – Maroon 5

This version only.

“Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” – Starship

Climbing Whiteface Mountain, Lake Placid 2013. Also, at least twice a week. Also, Bill Hader on air piano.

One-armed Man

5 days out.

While tapering and nursing a poorly-timed cold, I’ve had time to do some research on Chicago. It will be my first time there and my knowledge of the city is limited:

  • Chicago Bulls (Tony Kukoc was my favourite basketball player when I had a favourite basketball player)
  • Chicago-style hot dogs are served without ketchup
  • The Fugitive was based in Chicago and is one of my favourite movies
  • Deep-dish pizza probably has a lot of warm cheese
  • The Chicago Blackhawks were one of the Original Six teams in the NHL
  • Chicago, the band, was formed in Chicago; Peter Cetera is also from Chicago
  • “If You Leave Me Now” was covered by Boyz II Men in 2009