Monday, July 14, 2008

A Whole New Appreciation

So we totally missed the taper and ran the marathon and I'm just getting to blogging about it now. Let me tell you- holidays and fun sure get in the way of running, blogging and blogging about running!

A quick word about the taper. The taper is what happens in the 3 weeks before the marathon. I find it to be the most difficult part of all of the training as you are doing LESS running! You got it- less...way less in fact...and in the week before your race, no running at all. More than any other part of the training for a marathon, the taper is by far and away the most individualized part, since everyone's muscles and physiology are very, very different, people respond uniquely to a taper. Myself, I don't do any running in the week before the marathon-...absolutely none at all. I may consider going for a 20 minute jog so my body remembers what running feels like, but other that that, NOTHING! The concept is very simple- your body needs to recover from all of the punishment you have just put it through in the training in order to be ready to race. There is only one way to do that- REST and RELAXATION people!

Other than that, a taper is very basic, it involves deceasing your running, especially your long run. I like to have my last very long run at least 2-3 weeks out of race day, however, I need a longer taper than the average bear so you will have to figure out what works best for you.

And now for the marathon...

WOW. It hurt. BIG TIME. I don't believe I've ever hurt like that before...not even when I was a swimmer, and let me tell you there were times when as a swimmer, I was HURTING. This is the first time that this has happened to me in a marathon. Normally I finish the race and am ready for more. Not this time. With about 10 km to go I was seriously questioning whether or not I was even going to finish and had to do some serious soul searching and mind over matter to get it done.

I'm not really sure why this happened. I have a couple of is that I simply didn't recover in enough time from Boston to be truly ready to hit a personal best on this one. My other theory is that I'm just not as fit as last year year; this I know for sure. Anyhow, I was out in a 1:38- the same as last year but just couldn't hold on for whatever reason. I finished in a 3:28, a time I am still very pleased with. Realistically anytime you FINISH a 26.2 you should just be happy. So many factors combine on that day that can make the race a virtual nightmare, so even crossing the finish line is a huge accomplishment. While I am happy with the has left me really, really hungry for more. Sigh. I know. And to think I said this was going to be my last one for a while. All I can say is that running a 3:28 and feeling like that has given me a whole new appreciation for the 3:17 I ran last year. Apparently that run was a lot tougher than I gave it credit for.

On a side note, the Calgary marathon has been moved to May for next year. Apparently the policing and finding volunteers was difficult in July since it is Stampede in the Stampede City at this time. All I can say is this may be a blessing in disguise for me- now I can run AND enjoy the first Friday out of Stampede.

Stampede and Marathon 2009- here I come!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thinking About Thinking

Oh I am a delinquent blogger- so sorry to those of you that have been waiting anxiously for my next post…well here it is!

Lately, I have been fielding many a question as to how to keep oneself entertained on those nasty long runs that one must do in order to accomplish the feat of completing a marathon. It really got me thinking- besides my ipod, how DO I entertain myself on a leisurely 3 hour jog? In order to understand how on earth I can resist boredom for this long, I underwent a little experiment on my last long run. More specifically, I tried to focus on what exactly I was thinking about during this time.

The answer surprised me a bit. Truth be told I am one of those people whose mind does not ever stop working. No matter how much I try or am aware of the problem, I am constantly thinking about “things” like work, running, friends, stress, summer, life, school, students, family…the list could go on and on. Even in an environment like yoga, where the mind is supposed to be free and clear and focused on the breath in a meditative like state, I just can’t do it.

Here’s the strange part- I CAN do it while I’m running. I guess for me, running IS meditation. It’s the one time that my mind is totally free and clear of all thought and I am focused on my breath. I realized this when I looked at the time during my run; I was about an hour and a half in and I had NO IDEA what I’d thought about in that period of time. Not to mention I felt like I’d only been running for about 15 minutes, forget 90! This little tidbit of info came as somewhat of a relief to me. I’ve always felt kind of inferior that my very type A western born and bred personality wouldn’t allow me the luxury of clearing my mind and focusing on my breath for even a second or two. Now I realize that meditation is different for everyone, and for me, running is simply that. It’s a way to clear my mind, relax, focus on my breathing and just enjoy.

Having said that, there are times when I do solve the world’s problems while I’m running. Well, maybe not the world’s problems, but at the very least a lot of my own. Or at least I come up with some kind of plan, and that in itself is reassuring and is also a reason to keep on truckin’.

I suppose I really haven’t solved the problem of running boredom…if metacognition (thinking about how and what you’re thinking about) is skill you simply can’t master, maybe you need to join a running group, find a running buddy or download a book or a podcast to your ipod. Maybe there isn’t a solution- or maybe you can think about a solution on your next long run!

18 days until the Calgary Stampede Marathon! Oh- I suppose that means we should talk taper…

Sunday, June 1, 2008


So those of you who have been reading my blog (is anyone reading my blog??) will know by now that I do truly love running since I've mentioned it a few million times. Truly. Madly. Deeply. I can't explain how or when or why I love running, I just do. And to quote another world famous blog (ainsinanutshell) its OK to love something just because...

Anyhow, I digress. I wanted to tell you that I had one of those runs today. Yes all of you runners know what I'm talking about- one of THOSE runs. THOSE runs are the runs where your legs feel heavy, your joints are aching and you sort of had to convince yourself to get your butt out there and run in the first place. Normally I would commend myself for even getting out there for my medium-long tempo run because truth be told lately, if I don't feel like running...well...I just DON'T. But with the Calgary 26.2 looming in the not so far distance I figured I'd better lace up the shoes and get out there, especially since (SACRILEGE) I missed my long run on Friday. GASP. HORROR. I know you're just as shocked and horrified as I am but somehow it seems strangely cathartic admitting that I missed a nice 3 hour jaunt on Friday. Truthfully, I missed it because I had to attend the James Fowler High School graduation until about 5:30 and then I was off to see Lupe Fiasco, NERD, Rhianna and Kanye. Amazing show- highly recommend it in fact, which is a bit strange coming from a chick whose ipod is generally full with the likes of Metallica, Megadeath and Tool.

Anyhow, I digress again. So there I was plodding along the Glenmore Resevoir pathway when the unspeakable happened. I GOT PASSED. Those of you how know me are probably finding this all too entertaining since if you know me well, you will know that I am HIGHLY competitive. It was a bit of a blow, to be honest. I was about 45 minutes into the run and this dude in board shorts cruises on by me. Rather than focus on my own pace and my own tempo, I of COURSE had to keep pace with him rather than have my apparently fragile ego admit defeat. He wasn't really that much faster than me, and once I started to follow him, I realized that he was probably running at about the exact pace that I wanted to run. It was a bit challenging, but not so much so that I couldn't keep up.

And now we get to the incentive part- the dude turned out to be incredibly good looking and athletic. So being a single gal in the city, I decided it really was not a bad thing that he had cruised by me in his board shorts since not only did I have to keep up to him so as to not injure my pride, but the man-candy definitely made the run a little less painful. It only took a couple of minutes and my stride started to feel better and the run became a lot less laborious and much more FUN. And the FUN is important if you are going to get these miles in to be prepared for the marathon.

Sadly, the dude turned around before I could strike up a witty conversation with him; I tend to be short on the wit side of things when I'm trying to keep up, I suppose. But the moral of the story is...I guess there isn't really one except to say that we all have THOSE runs and a little incentive never hurt to get yourself through it!

Happy hills and stairs tomorrow- hopefully I'll be able to get out there for ankle is really hurting and I'm hoping it will have recovered enough for a quick one tomorrow!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Rain, rain go away...

Well, well, well my fine running friends…enjoying the deluge in Calgary? Feeling like flippers might be better than running shoes? Hoping that you get a spot on the Arc? Who knew when I chastised people on Friday for avoiding running in the drizzle that it would turn into a full on downpour. Good on ya if you managed to get out for a jog in this weather. I was out on Friday in the downpour. I actually did enjoy the whole thing until I was wet, cold and generally became miserable. Definitely not my best run but got the 2:45 out of the way. Onward and upward to 3:00 this coming Friday!

I’m sure you have all noticed by now that I am no longer posting running workouts every day. The reason for this is that the training for a marathon (at least the way I do it) is cyclical. What does that mean, you ask? Mondays are always hills and stairs. Tuesdays are alternate cardio. Wednesdays are speed intervals. Thursdays are off. Friday is long run day. Saturday is recovery on the bike. And Sunday is mid distance day at a good pace. Simple, yes? Anyhow, your running sessions may look a bit different depending on where you are at with the training and what you have figured out works for you. Running is a very individual sport- I would NEVER suggest to anyone that you follow someone else’s training religiously!

Anyhow, I know I have mentioned all of this before so I will leave you with this running quote that sums things up perfectly on this rainy afternoon…

Running is a road to self-awareness and reliance … you can push yourself to extremes and learn the harsh reality of your physical and mental limitations or coast quietly down a solitary path watching the earth spin beneath your feet. But when you are through, exhilarated and exhausted, at least for a moment everything seems right with the world…

Friday, May 23, 2008

I Love a Rainy Run!

Today I will be running in the rain. For some very strange and unknown reason, I’m actually looking forward to this today. Running in the rain isn’t all bad- it smells good, it’s not super hot and it kind of suits the mood for me today! Normally, I look forward to a sunny run in the heat of the day, so every once in a while it’s interesting to shake things up and do it in the rain! All you runners that are using this rainy, dreary day as an excuse- get your butts out there! A little rain never hurt anyone! You have my word you won’t melt!

As I promised previously, I’m going to write a bit about the current yoga challenge I am involved with and how it is affecting my running DRAMATICALLY! I will start by saying that I am a yoga convert! I did not believe in yoga as exercise until very recently when my good friend Palmer (who is a yoga instructor) encouraged me to give it a shot. I should also point out that my flexibility is PATHETIC. And when I say pathetic I mean, pathetic! I am the sort that just can’t be bothered with stretching; when my workout is done all I can think about it getting home for a meal. I never thought of stretching as a part of my training. I was also reluctant to give up a “hard core” weight and running workout and to replace it with yoga. Something I did discover very quickly is that yoga IS a hard core workout! Your heart rate is most certainly elevated and holding those poses requires incredible muscle control and strength. My current yoga challenge includes doing hot yoga 3 times weekly. I love the heat and humidity in the hot room (yes, I am still a lake girl at heart) and I also love the feeling my muscles have after a good yoga session. And for some reason, I’m sure there is science behind it that I am unaware of, I simply feel better running when I’m doing yoga. My joints don’t ache. My muscles feel long and lean instead of knotted and bunched. It just feels good. And if it feels good, you should keep on doing it!

I highly recommend getting involved with yoga if you are considering any type of long distance running. I am a true convert and believer- it will keep you feeling good, help to reduce injuries and keep limber for those long, long runs like the one you may embark on today!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Re-committing to Health and Fitness

Oh my- that was a LONG weekend. And by LONG I mean fun, fun and more fun. And where there is fun there is usually a shame spiral, followed by a serious re-commitment to health and fitness. For those of you that are not privy to such language, the shame spiral often occurs after a long weekend of bingeing- on food, wine, and liquor. It is a generally a horrible and shameful feeling (thus the shame spiral) that involves profuse re-commitment to health and fitness once it’s over. So, now that we have covered what has happened on the long weekend (note: please read above definition of shame spiral) we can get to the recommitting part.

I really do have to be honest…I have not been running since Friday. I KNOW. Sacrilege for those of you who love to run and train as I do. Truth be told I am having some minor problems with my calf muscles. Specifically, they are retaining a ton of fluid. At this point I’m not really sure if this is due to the booze and food I plied myself with this weekend or if it a sign of something more serious…like…GASP- an INJURY! I’ve done some reading and am concerned that it could be something like compartment syndrome. Anyhow, regardless of what it is, I made the executive decision that an extra day off or so wouldn’t be harmful so I am going to head out for a quick little jog after yoga today.

So if you had a weekend like mine (hopefully you did- despite the spiral it was TONS of fun), rest assured you will bounce back quickly once you have recommitted to health and fitness. I would suggest, with the run looming in the not so far future, that you do it soon!

PS- If you’re following my schedule, Wednesday is speed interval day! Good luck, sprint fast and happy recovery!

Friday, May 16, 2008

And the sun is shining... this rainy city! WOW- anyone who is in Calgary, are we in for a treat! The May long weekend in Calgary is supposed to be HELLA nice. Let's all do ourselves a favour and get out there for some runs in between sipping on Coronas and Margaritas!

Tips for running in the heat- hydration, hydration and more hydration- the more the better. No beer does not count as hydration but WATER does. When its hot you will SWEAT so you need to replace your water. Also, if you are going to be out for a long one, replace your electrolytes- Gatorade, Power Gel, whatever you like, but do yourself a favour and carry something with you. It will make a long one just that much more enjoyable.

I am off to Canmore for the weekend for my sister's stagette festivities. For those of you that don't know me, this will likely end in a shame spiral. A shame spiral is that feeling you get after a weekend of partying...yes, you know the one- self loathing, self disgust and likely some form of embarrassment or second hand embarrassment depending on what has gone down. This is almost always followed by a commitment to health and fitness. SO! Enjoy the weather, enjoy the weekend, enjoy your beers...I know I will...and look forward to recommitting to health and fitness on Monday!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Need for Speed

Ah- so I missed putting up a post yesterday. It really is tough when things like your job get in the way of blogging. I will do my best to catch you up in one quick blog as I do need to focus on the task at hand, which, unfortunately is NOT blogging about training for a marathon but is educating the leaders of tomorrow!

Yesterday was speed interval day. Oh yes, one of my most favourite types of training. I really can't say why I love it, but maybe its because speed day is a bit of a shorter run that I really, really push myself on. I have done all different types of speed intervals and as any runner will tell you there are a variety of ways that you can work this into your training. One of the advantages of interval training, in my opinion, is that it really works your mental game. After all, being oxygen deprived and trying to force your legs to keep on truckin' is really mind over matter much like running hills and stairs are.

Anyhow, for the first time ever I did my speed intervals outside. It was a beautiful day here yesterday and there was no way possible I could ever justify being on a track or treadmill with weather like that so off I went. My speed interval run yesterday included ascending speed (getting faster) with descending time (getting shorter) and looked something like this...

10 minute warm up
8 minute sprint
2 minute recovery
7 minute sprint
2 minute recovery
6 minute sprint
2 minute recovery
5 minute sprint
2 minute recovery
4 minute sprint
2 minute recovery
3 minute sprint
Warm down

I know an 8 minute sprint sounds crazy, but it's NOT an all out, 100% effort, run like a crazy person dash. What you need to do is run at the fastest speed that YOU can sustain for 8 minutes. And like I keep reiterating, this is very different for everyone depending on where you're at in your training. The end result, however, should be the same for everyone- the last few moments of that sprint should HURT- lungs burning, legs heavy and sore, mind forcing your body to keep going HURT. I fully believe in this type of training because for sure there will be moments in the 26.2 where you will feel just like this. It is important to let your body know that it can get through this and recover, and having a strong mental game and a belief in your training is a big part of this.

Good luck with this type of is challenging, but you can all do it. OOOOOhhhh- and before I forget- day off of running for me today, just some yoga as the legs as starting to ask for it. And then tomorrow off for another long one- probably about 2:45. I probably won't blog again until after the long weekend when I will seriously need to recommit to health and fitness, so enjoy your weekend; hopefully you will have some time for a run in between the May long festivities!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Variety is the SPICE

HILLS ARE TORTURE! Yes indeed they are difficult little mounds, but let’s be honest- up and over the hill is really a matter of mind over matter. As the saying I saw in Boston goes- “Mind over body. Body over hill.” Hopefully no one is too hurting after hill and stair day. Or maybe yesterday wasn’t hill and stair day for you. You certainly don’t have to follow what I am doing religiously.

Having said that, I am going to take the day OFF of running today for some alternative cardio and weights. After all, when you are going to be training hard for a lengthy run, it’s important to mix things up with variety in order to keep interested. I haven’t been to the gym for weights since last week and I must say that I am quite looking forward to going.

Alternate cardio for me means essentially doing anything that gets the heart rate up and into that aerobic zone. It could be biking. It could be swimming. It could be elliptical or rowing. You should pick something that you enjoy, as the more you enjoy something, the more likely you are to do it, after all! Or maybe you are one of those people that hates exercise and everything about it. Well, good on ya for even attempting this whole running thing then. I definitely wouldn’t be doing it if it felt like punishment!

Ooooohhhh- and before I forget…weights. Yep, I lift ‘em. Luckily for me I enjoy this part of my training too. Do you have to lift weights to in order to complete a marathon? I don’t think so. But what I will say is that strong muscles will go a long way to keeping you injury free. And believe me, with all of those miles you’re pounding out, injuries are bound to happen every now and again. So do yourself a favour- get involved in a weight training program of some description, seeking the advice of a personal trainer if need be! If for nothing else, all of this running MAY get a bit boring for you and, after all- variety IS the spice of life!

Monday, May 12, 2008


New Balance has a GREAT new ad campaign about the "balance" between love and hate for running. The commericals are really quite entertaining, so if you're feeling like you need it today, check this out for inspiration!

The Hills (not the ones on MTV)

Good morning runners! I hope you are all feeling lovely and rested after a beautiful weekend. I know I am. However, I do have that rabid dog feeling that can only mean one thing…I NEED TO RUN. So it’s a great thing that I will be doing just this after school today. I know my colleagues and students will gratefully appreciate it.

Congrats to those of you that ran in the Mother’s Day Run yesterday. I know there were some first timers out there…way to go! You did it. That’s just awesome. Hopefully you had a great experience that left you hankering for more, more, more!

Ahhhhhh…MONDAY! Can’t really think of a better day to tackle hills and stairs! I know- many of you are groaning to yourselves, but training hills and stairs really do make you a better long distance runner- I promise. Depending on the course you are planning to run for your future marathon, you absolutely need to be getting in some hills- most runs are not totally flat after all! Case in point- BOSTON…oh the hills, the hills! There were lots of them- I felt like I was almost always on a hill. But I was ready for them because I train a lot of hills. And let me tell you, there is NOTHING more satisfying than blowing by people on hills.

There are many, many different ways to do hills. The simplest- find a hill- a big one, preferably and run up it several times. Run up it and jog down it…give yourself a minute or so to rest and do it again! The rest should be active recovery because if you just stop moving the lactic acid will pool in your muscles and this does not feel good my friends. So keep moving! Myself, I prefer light jogging. I also incorporate the hills and stairs in with my regular run, so it looks something like this…

Run- 20 minutes for warm up
3-5 Hill repeats
Run 25 minutes
3-5 sets of stairs
Run 20 minutes

And done!

For those of you who live in the Calgary area and train the Elbow river pathway, there are some excellent hills and stairs in this area for you to tackle…

Stairs- the Glencoe club stairs- yes, THOSE stairs. Perfect for training as there are lots of them!
The hill in Sandy Beach that is just before the suspension bridge that links this area to Brittainia. This is a brilliant hill- very, very steep and tough.
The hill that links Sandy Beach to the River Park dog park. Again- a VERY tough hill- it has a steep and a gradual part.

For those of you that don’t run in this area, hills are really not that hard to come by. There are hills all over the place, after all. The hard thing about hills is just doing it! GOOD LUCK!

Saturday, May 10, 2008


I am so hoping that all of you crazy runners enjoyed your long run as much as I did yesterday. What a beautiful day for a long run- sun, no wind and last but not least, no snow, which is actually a big deal as those of you who have been enjoying this crazy Calgary spring know. And my legs felt good. Great, actually. Maybe even FABULOUS. I'm going to chalk it up to the Yoga challenge that I'm currently involved in (more on that later) or perhaps its the fact that it was my first long since Boston. Whatever the reason, I felt good and enjoyed it immensely!

Anyhow, I did something I would almost NEVER usually do, but I vowed that I was going to try and train a bit differently this time around since this bod is not getting any younger and I would like to be able to enjoy my running for years and years to come. I took a day off. I KNOW- 3 days of training and 2 days off already! Truth be told I just felt like I needed it...and I think you should give your body what it needs...not to mention I was slightly under the weather after a long night that may or may not have involved a tequila shooter or two.

But tomorrow is a whole new day and I am already looking forward to a great, great run tomorrow. Up early for hot yoga and then out for a good hour and a half run. Nothing too crazy, but the pace will be much faster than the long run. For those of you that are just starting out, pick a time frame that you will really be able to push through. If your long run was an hour, this may be 40 or 45 minutes or maybe even 30 minutes. the bottom line is you need to be running much, much harder than the long run. Work your pace; you can even try speeding up and slowing down. And enjoy, enjoy, enjoy...I know I will!

Friday, May 9, 2008

And Now for a Long One...

So I hope you all enjoyed your day of rest yesterday. I know I did. I probably enjoyed it just that much more since it was raining, snowing or a combination of both at times. Crazy Calgary weather is not always conducive to a run, so I've learned!

Ah yes. The long run. For all of you running neophytes, the long run is a staple in marathon preparation. It really is an integral part of any training program, at least all of the ones I've ever looked at. How the long run is approached is different depending on where you are at in your fitness and running. For example, I will be heading out for about a 2.5 hour run today. I am still recovering ever so slightly from my 26.2 in Boston but need to be getting in some good miles for the Calgary run in July. PLEASE don't head out for a 2.5 hour run if you are just starting to train. Ouch. It wouldn't feel good, you'll probably get injured and then be in a bitter, bitter place for a while. Only you know your running limits. If your longest run ever is an hour, then try and go for an hour and fifteen minutes. The goal should be to increase your long run every week by a little bit...whether it be by distance or time, that's up to you! I prefer to increase by time as I generally don't keep track of my distances. I know some people who have run marathons before are gasping in shock and horror, but it's true, I don't worry so much about the distance. This year I have become slightly more interested in distance since my soon-to-be brother-in-law bought me one of those NIKE/APPLE chips to wear on my shoe with my Ipod. This makes keeping track of distance much, much easier than wearing a massive thing on my wrist which I generally don't like. I highly recommend purchasing one if you have an Ipod- they are realtively inexpensive and it is very satisfying to upload your runs to the Nike website to admire your progress.

Other tricks and tips for the long run? Let's be REASONABLE's a LONG run- not a fast one, so take your time and enjoy! I also LOVE running with my Ipod- distraction, distraction, distraction is SO important when you're out there for a long time. Oooooooh- and before I forget- hydration- VERY important. If you're going to be out for a long time like I am, you MUST have water and probably some Gatorade to replace your electrolytes. Again, how much you need and what you carry with you is purely based on YOU and what your body needs. Like I have mentioned before, I'm NOT an expert.

So get out there. Go for your long run. Enjoy. Picture yourself crossing the line in a spectacular burst of speed at whatever run you're going to do. And most importantly- HAVE FUN! Oh- and one more thing...out of any runs- try really, really hard to not miss your long ones! If you're going to make it through the 26.2 you need to improve your endurance!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Start of a Torrid Affair with...RUNNING

Running. Sigh. Who knew what started out as a quick jog or two for fitness would turn out to be such an incredible journey and obsession. Oh yes, I did just use the word obsession. Those of you who are runners know exactly what I'm talking about. That warm, fuzzy feeling that starts to become apparent all over your body as run time draws near. Suddenly, life does not seem so tough and horrible as the advent of a lovely afternoon jog approaches.

Maybe you have no clue what I'm talking about. Maybe you've found your way to this blog because your CURIOUS about why anyone in their right mind would want to run for more than 10 minutes, let alone complete a 26.2 mile marathon...or even better, an even longer and harder ULTRA marathon. Maybe you are interested, like I once was, in running to lose weight or improve your level of fitness. Or maybe you want to start running and just aren't quite sure how to do that. Hopefully you will get what you're looking for here. Know that I don't claim to be an expert on running of any sort! I run because I love it, plain and simple. I am not a track star, athlete, personal trainer or coach. I have just completed my 3rd marathon (BOSTON- more about that later) and train the way that works best for me. So as I train for my next big run (Stampede marathon- beginning of July in Calgary) I thought I would blog my training and invite anyone who feels compelled to accompany me on this journey to do so! I hope that the information may prove useful to someone or anyone. Maybe you'll complete your first, tenth or twentieth marathon. Maybe you'll lose some weight. Or just maybe you will begin to understand the peace of mind that those of us who are "running obsessed" gain on a long afternoon jog. Let the torrid affair with this sport we call running begin!

Note that today is training day 1. At least blogging day 1 of training. And we start on a nice, relaxing DAY OFF. So go home after work today. Put your feet up. Watch Oprah or Sportsdesk or whatever else you like to watch. You will need your rest for your long run this week after all!