Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It Will Be Just The Two of You

Day three of our Muskoka adventure started with a trip to the weekly farmer's market that, lucky us, happens to be on Wednesdays.  So we headed over to check out what we thought would be a couple of booths selling apples, corn and baked goods.  

Oh man, for a town of about 15,000 permanent residents, they have a pretty fabulous market.  It took us three loops of the place to decide what to get but we ended up with crisp, tart apples, wild (yep, wild!) blueberries and six homemade butter tarts.  Oh, and we split a crèpe and some homemade spring rolls for lunch.  I love markets! 

After the market, we decided to go for a hike to find a rock that we could lounge on and, perhaps, swim from.  After a bit of hiking we found one and spent a leisurely afternoon swimming in Muskoka Lake and watching the clouds roll by.  It's been a while since I've been swimming and even longer since I've been swimming in freshwater.  It was wonderful and, I'm almost embarrassed to admit, I actually started contemplating adding swimming to my workout schedule this winter. We'll see if that thought takes flight or not but it sure felt good to be in the water...

One of the fun things that happened on the way to our swimming rock was that I spotted a man in a wheelchair being pushed into the hotel lobby by another man and a little girl.  It was an unexpected sight so I did a double take.  It was Dave Hingsburger, his partner Joe and his niece Ruby.  I met Dave and Joe last April when they came to do a presentation where I work and I wrote a blog about their amazing session.  And there they were in Gravenhurst.  I trotted over (in my bathing suit no less) to say hi and was thrilled that they remembered me.  I was even more thrilled to meet Ruby, the subject of many of Dave's blogs.  

So, we explored the farmer's market, went swimming and I met one of my heroes for the second time and it wasn't even time for dinner yet.  

Speaking of dinner, all I knew about it was that we had reservations at a place called Taboo...

Turns out that Doug had booked a dinner at their culinary theatre for my birthday.  The culinary theatre is a six-course dinner prepared right in front of you by a chef.  Each course is paired with wine, presented by the sommelier.  Typically, there are 6-18 people at one of these meals.  When we arrived, we were informed that no one else had booked so we would be the only two. 


We spent several hours enjoying dish after dish of fabulous food.  Prepared just for us - right in front of us.   It was a little disconcerting at first to be the centre of attention.  The chef gave us 100% of his attention.  The sommelier hovered at my left elbow ready to answer questions and explain wine and food pairing subtleties.  Not used to being spoiled like that, it took me a surprisingly short time to get used to it.  We had lots of fun, ate food that was out of this world and got to taste some pretty expensive and delicious wines.  

Day three in Gravenhurst was a lovely day indeed. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Life in the Muskokas

Simcoe Shores ended with a nap.  We were pretty exhausted but happy with having conquered the race.  We crawled back to the chalet on Sunday afternoon and collapsed. We emerged from our beds a few hours later and headed out for an early dinner.

I compiled a slideshow of our race pics complete with corny music like Chariots of Fire, The Eye of the Tiger and Waving Flag and we watched and laughed as we drank our mojitos (courtesy of Kate and Carl).

Monday morning, Erika treated us to a delicious breakfast of homemade muffins and egg cups and then we packed up our cars and headed off to whatever was next.  Some people went back to Niagara, others spent the day at a spa.  Doug and I headed to Gravenhurst for a few days.  We were supposed to head back to Niagara but this extended vacation was a birthday gift for me and I was more than happy to pack some extra clothes, books and a bathing suit.  Off to the Muskokas we went!

Gravenhurst is a pretty interesting little town with some fascinating history and amazing food.  We started with the food and had lunch at the Blue Willow Tea Shop.  Sandwiches, pots of tea and butter tarts - all served on blue and white china with chinese-inspired designs including the little men going over the bridge.

After lunch, we explored the Grace and Speed Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre.  We learned all about steamships and were able to see some gorgeous antique wooden boats.  I had no idea that people had boats like that.  It's a whole other world up there in cottage country.

On Tuesday, we got up early for a 13k run that took us from our hotel, through the streets of Gravenhurst and out to the beach.  It was a tough run because everywhere we went there were rolling hills.  Thirteen kilometres of them makes for some angry shins and tired legs but we did it.  I kept my eyes peeled for bears but there were none to be spotted that morning.

After the run (and a shower of course), we headed to the wharf for another part of my birthday present.  A lunch cruise on The Royal Mail Ship Segwun - North America's oldest operating steamship.

It's a beautiful ship - lovingly restored.  Built in 1887, it used to sail the Muskoka lakes from early spring to late fall, carrying passengers, mail and freight to the resorts and villages not served by rail.  Now restored, it began its new career as a cruise ship in 1974

I learned a lot about steamships that day.  I learned that the Segwun is still run on coal and up to three tons a day are shovelled (by hand) to keep the fires going.  I learned that a steamship does not turn on a dime and is therefore pretty hard to take off course.

I also learned that the Segwun is one of the two ships used during the Gravenhurst triathlon.  Swimmers are taken out on the boat and get to jump off the side of the ship to start the race.  How very cool is that?

We spent a lovely afternoon cruising around Lake Muskoka, eating our chicken ceasar salad and oggling the ridiculously luxurious cottages and their equally luxurious boathouses (many of which are bigger than our house).

The day ended with another lesson about life in the Muskokas.

This float plane came roaring in to Gravenhurst.  It landed in the water and pulled up to the wharf.  Out hopped the pilot and he trotted in to Boston Pizza only to emerge a few minutes later with two pizza boxes.  Back in the plane and off he went, over the trees and home for dinner.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Simcoe Shores

Hi folks!

I've missed you and missed my daily blog time - writing and musing about life.  That being said, it's been good for me to have a week of rest and escape from routine.  I traded in my laptop for a few library books and spend the week feeling quite peaceful.

Vacations are wonderful but they must end.  So, rather than mourn what is no longer, I'm embracing the things I enjoy and have missed on my week away.  Starting with writing.  I have so many stories to share so I decided the best approach is to just go in order.

Last Friday, after I ran my 28k and wrote my blog, I hopped in the car and headed north to Horseshoe Valley.  The Simcoe Shores 245K Ultra-distance Relay was starting in the morning and I had to get there, get organized and get psychologically prepared.  Plus I knew that the rest of the troops would be arriving and that there would be snacks!  Lots of them!  Sweet.  Salty.  Healthy.  Not so healthy. We had it all.

Eight runners in one place equals lots of snacks!

Moving on...

By 6pm, all ten of us had arrived and huge pots of pasta were boiling away.  The mood was festive and we signed Klari's singlet, decorated our cars with mojito-inspired limes and went over last minute race details.   We laughed and we dealt with running nerves.  We ate, we drank wine and we chatted about life and love.  One by one, we all headed off to bed.

Saturday morning dawned and half of our group headed out to start the race.

We called them Team Stage One.  Klari, Steve, Carl and Kate were the runners and Erika was the support crew driver.  They had to run from Barrie to Orillia between 9am and 2:30pm and from Midland to Wasaga Beach from 11pm to 4am.

Team Stage Two: Dan, Tina, Barb, Doug and I didn't have to leave until 3pm so we lounged around, read books, napped and ate more pasta.

My team (as I call them) had to run from Orillia to Midland between 4pm and 9:30pm and then from Wasaga Beach to Collingwood between 7am and 12pm.

It's amazing how many stories are amassed during a 24 hour period.

Stories of courage in the face of injury.

Stories of strength in the face of challenging runs.

Stories of lightning bolts.

Of other teams who cheered us on just as we cheered for them.

Stories of frustration as we watched not one but two different runners arrive at a transition point and find their team missing in action.

We laughed.

We cheered.

We crossed our fingers and sent our runners off down dark trails or up monsters climbs and we breathed a sigh of relief when we spotted their mojito-green singlet as they emerged at the other end of their journey.

Every member of our team came face to face with demons during that 245k journey.  Some faced injury and agonized about whether to push through or ask someone else on the team to run for them.  Some faced extraordinarily challenging runs.  Others battled nerves, self-doubt and exhaustion.

I had the never-ending pressure of making sure that I did what I needed to do to get my runners where they had to be on time and ready to run.  And I faced having to send Doug off to run the toughest leg of the entire relay on his own, without support.  This leg was up a small country road and no vehicles were allowed.  We dropped him off at the bottom of the escarpment and drove a different route up to the top to wait for him.  Runners who arrived before him were pale, staggering, walking or crying by the time they reached the top.  I stood in the pouring rain, staring down the road, willing him to be ok.

He was.

Our team came in 19th out of 28 teams with a total running time of 22:00:00 hours.  We came in second in our category (mixed over 45).

It's a tough race but it's a lot of fun too.  Best of all, it's a great way to bond with some pretty amazing runners.

We're already talking about 2012.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Three Hours Early

Yesterday, I walked out of the office at 4:30pm and was officially on vacation.  Ten days off!

Looming big between the official start of vacation and the psychological start was my 28k run.  Scheduled for Friday morning at 6am, I felt like, once I got that done, I was really on vacation.

We're losing a little bit of sunlight every day so, when I stepped outside at 5:45am, it was still pretty dark.  The sky hadn't even started turning the lovely blue shade it turns just before the sun rises.  I headed out in the dark with only my music to keep me company.  I had a 28k route all mapped out that would take me out of the city and on to the country roads.

It was cool with a slight breeze.  That was my first clue that this was going to be a good run.

The second clue came at 6k when a deer ran out in front of me and stopped to stare.  Apparently they don't see too many runners in these parts.  A second deer joined the first and together they turned and bounded into the woods.

That's when I broke into a broad grin and waved goodbye to them.

I love this!  I love running as the sun is coming up and the fields are hidden in fog.  I ran up Effingham and waved to the horses.  A pony came to check me out and his mother neighed in greeting.  I turned down Wessel and spotted two more deer through the mist.  They lifted their heads and silently watched me run by.  I grinned again.

A white car pulled up and Doug hopped out with water and a smile.  I smiled back and went on about how much I loved running in the morning.  He hung out for a bit but had to head home to get ready to leave at 9am.  That left me alone for the last 12k.

I carried on and watched the sun rise above the trees.

The last 8k were going to be rough because the sun was now up, the fog was gone and the heat was rising.  I ran over the bridge at the bottom of the Gregory Road hill and a heron flew beneath the bridge and right up beside me.  Herons remind me of Grandpa and one always seems to appear when I need something.  Thanks Grandpa!  Armed with that and a little Irish tune playing in my ear, I had all the motivation I needed to bound to the top of the hill.

Seven kilometres left to go.  I found the stash of OJ and water that Doug left for me and topped up.  At 5k, I ran into my friend Roseanne who was out for her run so we ran a few kilometres together before we headed our separate ways.

As I approached the two kilometre mark, I was fading.  That's when Doug, Dan and Tina drove by on their way to Horseshoe Valley.  Lots of honking, waving and shouting gave me that last boost I needed to keep moving towards home.

I turned on to my street with one kilometre to go and I spotted a runner about halfway down the road.  I rarely pass people - ever.  Never mind at 27.5k.  But I kept running and I kept gaining and, with 300m to go, I passed him!

Holy bananas.

What a wonderful morning.

My vacation started three hours earlier than I expected it to.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


There are several terms for it but I do believe that this picture sums it up beautifully.

I'm not exactly sure if that's what happened yesterday but it may well have been. 

I ran after work for the first time in a month.  I have been doing the early morning thing but the 5am wake up calls were taking their toll  It's been hot in the mornings, let's not kid ourselves, but nowhere near at hot and humid as it is at 5pm.  I had 13k to run.

So I ran at an unfamiliar time and it was really really hot.

There is one other variable to add to this mix.  I'm not sure if it helped or made things worse. 

Yesterday, I tried a salt tablet experiment.  I was told by several very experienced runners that salt tablets help with dehydration, electrolyte balance and swelling.  Someone like me who is a heavy sweater could definitely benefit. 

So I figured I'd try them and figured a weekday 13k run was a better time to try them out than a 28k long run.  You know, just in case...

I took one before heading out the door.  I did not take my usual edisk. 

Fifteen minutes later, I was sweating but not nearly as much as I usually would be by that time.  Even crazier was that, when I squeezed my hands, my fingers weren't swollen.  At. All.

So, as directed, I had my second one at 30 minutes. 

By that time, I was keeping up my pace but really wilting in the heat.  I was drinking as much as I normally do but I felt weaker than I thought I should.  I took a third one (as directed) at 8k.

Feeling weaker by the minute, I stopped and walked.  I hate when I do that and it's been weeks since I've had to.  I cooled off a bit and resumed.  Weakness took over again. 

Could it be my blood sugar?  I ate a package of fruit chews, walked for another minute and started up again. 

Damn it! 

The last four kilometers were rough.  I made it but, if anyone I know had driven by, I would have hopped in their car without a second thought. 

I don't know what happened. 

Option One - I am no longer used to that kind of heat and it did me in.

Option Two - I don't do well with salt tablets.

Option Three - my blood sugar was 6.0 when I got home so it was probably on the low side by the time I ate those carbs.

Option Four - I hit the proverbial wall. 

The good news is that I was not too bothered by the whole experience.  I did not question my running ability.  I did not wonder whether I have the strength to run a marathon. 

I just chalked it up to a bad run and was grateful that it happened on a Tuesday night rather than a long run.  

What did I think of the salt tablets?  I'm not sure yet.  I definitely did not sweat as much as I normally do but I did sweat which is good.  If I hadn't, that would have scared me.  My fingers did not swell at all despite the heat which is a first - that impressed me.  I was thirsty during the run and afterwards but not as much as I normally am. 

But, because the run was a dud, it's hard to know why.  So I'll try them again but not during my 28k run this Friday.  Just in case...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Heart Books

Signs, signs, everywhere signs...

Some signs I find a little farfetched -  like seeing baby Jesus' face in the icing sugar topping of a piece of chocolate cake.

Seriously folks??!

Other signs, like four separate people telling me that I look exhausted, I pay attention to.

Apparently a month of early morning runs can wear a person down.  I was feeling it but I often feel tired which means that it's a challenge to figure out how tired I really am.  So I look for the signs.  Typically, when people tell me that I'm looking worn out, that's a sign that I'm about at my limit. 

So, I have switched back to running after work and getting up at a more decent 6:30am.  Today is my second day in a row of 'sleeping in'. While I certainly won't catch up after only a few nights, I am feeling a little more perky than I was last week so I'm taking that as a good sign.  Especially considering that I am a) going to be up at odd hours this weekend driving runners around and b) starting three more weeks of hard running. 

Anyway, now that you all know that I'm tired, let's move on to something a little more interesting.


I'm a big reader.  Love love love getting lost in a book. 

I love reading books.  I love telling people about books I've read and loved.  I pass them around like heroin and enjoy them a second (third and fourth) time through other people.

Next week is vacation time and, after we survive the relay, Doug and I are heading off for a few days of sitting by a lake.  He's a perpetual bundle of energy so he'll putter around, sit for ten minutes and then putter around again.  I, on the other hand, will happily sit all day buried in a book, lifting my head to acknowledge the call of the loon and then burying back down again. 

Recently, I have discovered the joys of the public library and I'm working out my strategy to maximize my reading opportunities.  Here's what I do. I find all sorts of good book recommendations on the CBCBooks website, put them all on hold and then read them as they come in. 

It's fabulous!

And free.

And it encourages me to read things I wouldn't normally read because I don't like spending money on books that I don't enjoy. 

I have a whole bunch of books on hold right now and just received a recorded message telling me that one of them came in. 

I have no idea which one. 

It's like Christmas!

I'm heading in there tomorrow to pick it up and it will be my vacation book. 

So friends, if anyone out there has a fabulous book recommendation, let me know.  I'll add it to my hold list at the library.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Simcoe Shores

This weekend, we are taking a break from our regular running routine to take part in a 245km ultra distance relay.

It's called Simcoe Shores.

It starts in Barrie on Saturday morning and goes, pretty much non-stop through Orillia, Coldwater, Midland, and Wasaga Beach, ending in Collingwood on Sunday around lunch time.

We did it last year for the first time.  Our goal was to win first place in our category (mixed over 40).  Our team was made up of eight runners (four men and four women) and two support crew.  The runners had to run - three legs of approximately 10k each spread out over 24 hours. The support crew were each responsible for four runners. Their job responsibilities included (but were not limited to) getting the runners to the exchange points, supporting the runners while they were running, keeping them calm and motivated when their run was coming up, finding emergency supplies of Glide, alternating between being tough, being maternal, being sympathetic, and being entertaining all while keeping both eyes on the road.

Guess which job I had?

When the idea was first tossed out back in May of 2010, I was really sick with a cold.  So Doug headed out alone for the first meeting.  He came home to tell me that I was on the team.


You need to understand who these people are.  Every one of them was a very experienced runner and was in an entirely different league than I was.  The slowest runner's pace was faster than the pace I could sustain for five minutes.  They wanted to win.  There was no way I was going to be helpful if I put on my running clothes but I was happy to drive them to victory.  So my friend Erin and I were recruited to drive and our team was baptized "Célerin and the Mojitos".

Céline + Erin + the best tasting thing we could think of that matched the fluorescent green singlets that we ordered for the team.

For those of you who have not participated in an event like this - it's pretty surreal at times.  Erin and I, and our running crews, alternated every six hours or so.  Everyone had been assigned their three legs, maps had been printed and we were prepared for everything we could think of.  Still though, it's a bit of a surprise the first time a runner is approaching an exchange point and it's now too dark to tell who it is.  Everyone had to be decked out in reflective vests, head lights, rear lights etc but, when they're running down a dark road all by themselves, all you see are bouncing lights.  And all they see as they approach are the lights of the runners waiting to run the next leg.

We learned a lot last year.  We learned that staying in Collingwood, near the finish line, is nice at the end but makes for a lot of driving back and forth during the race.  So we are staying in Horseshoe Valley this year.

We learned that our bright green singlets were a brilliant idea because we could spot our runner anywhere - even running through a forest.

We learned that Doug is really good at running uphill and Dan is really good at running downhill.  Steve loves passing people which inspires Klari to run fast so that no one Steve passed passes her.  Cathy can apparently run through some pretty nasty nausea. Barb does not run in a straight line which became very obvious at night as we watched her headlamp weaving back and forth across the trail. She also runs well to Mozart.  Tina gets super nervous before every single leg she has to run but then kicks ass every time.  Carl is crazy - he had a wedding to attend on Saturday night so he ran two legs in the morning, went to the wedding, got back at 3am and then ran his last leg.

We learned that we're pretty fast.  We didn't come up in first, but we came in second!

We had a great time and we're doing it all over again this year.  We have two new members to replace the two who could not join us this year.  Our team is now called "Célerika and the Mojitos" (Erin, we're going to miss you!) and Kate is our newest runner.  
Lists have been finalized, legs have been assigned, supplies purchased.  Weekly hill and interval training runs are all done and, in less than a week, it will be all over.  Between now and then, we are going to have a fun, exhausting and unforgettable two days.  We will bond in the dark hours of the night and the early hours of the morning.  I will drive a car full of sleeping runners back to the apartment at 11pm for a few hours sleep and make sure that they are all up and fed by 5:30am.  We will laugh all winter about the crazy moments we shared.  

I am glad I am not running.  I really am.  Between marathon training and diabetes management - it would be more work than it's worth to run three 10k races in 24 hours.  But I am so so glad to be part of this crazy group of amazing athletes.  

Some pictures of these heroes from last year...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Jigsaw Puzzles

One of my friends from way back in my university days posted something on his wall today. 

He wrote: "I now know why most runners don't take three weeks off to carb load five weeks out from race day". 

He was training for a race this fall.  He and his family went out east for a few weeks for a family vacation.  He came home and headed out for his first run in weeks.  It didn't go well apparently.

Life and running don't always mix.

That's ok.

Our beloved running coach always says that running has to fit into your life.  Not the other way around. 

It's really true. Lately, every week is starting to look like a big jigsaw puzzle.  I'm trying to make every piece fit even though there are more and more piece and no more space.  Running and all the other activities associated with it (stretching, icing, showering etc) is now taking over 10 hours per week.  The next few weeks will be more like 12 or 13.  That doesn't sound too crazy over the course of a week but it's double what it used to take and I used to struggle to fit it in before. 

Most of the time, I make it happen because I have committed to running a marathon.  It's only for a few months and I need to do what I need to do.  Sometimes though, life is going to win. 

And it should.

I should be in bed early tonight - it's been a long week and I'm exhausted.  Instead, I'm hopping in the car and heading to Toronto after work.  I'm going to meet friends for dinner and a tour of the Bell Lightbox (home of the Toronto International Film Festival).  Fun!

Next week, I have booked myself two photoshoots after work.  Fitting in three runs around that is going to be a major challenge.  Next weekend, I have committed to being a driver for a 24-hour ultra-distance relay.  Eight runners + 245km of running. Problem is that I also need to fit in my own 28k run and I can't do it with our running group because that's when the relay is happening. So I'm doing it alone on Friday morning. 

I'm ok with that.

The choices we make are what makes our life our own. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Memory Lapse

Sometimes I forget I have diabetes. 

It's not like I'm trying to forget.

Diabetes is what it is so I don't worry about making it what it isn't. 

But sometimes I forget. 

It's a bit like those times when you do something so routine that you forget five minutes later whether you've done it or not.  Brush your teeth.  Flush the toilet.  Turn off the oven...

...test sugar, count carbs and bolus for dinner.

Diabetes is not a controllable disease - it does what it wants and gets really pissed off if I pull too hard on the reigns.  But, just because it's not controllable doesn't mean that it's not routine.  Predictable.

So, I forget...for a little while.

I never notice at the time that I've forgotten (because I guess I wouldn't really have forgotten if I was thinking about it) but I notice later that there is a void of time where diabetes wasn't in my head.

I forgot this morning.  I did my 30 minute (4.32 kilometre) run.  Short runs like that have become routine and predictable.  They're short enough that I don't have to constantly stay in tune with how I'm feeling.  Am I high?  Am I low? 

I'm fine. 

I checked my sugar right before I left so I knew where I stood. Running easy for 30 minutes isn't enough to make me drop.  One date as a snack isn't enough to send me shooting up to the heavens. 

So I just ran. 

I don't even remember what I thought about.  My mind wandered here there and everywhere but it never, not for one millisecond, wondered how I was feeling. 

That was nice.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Two Months Ago

I was sitting here thinking about all the little things that have changed in the past two months and figured it was time for one of those 'reflections' blog posts. 

This morning, my alarm went off at 6:30am.  Two months ago, that would have been perfectly normal.  Today that means I got to sleep in for an hour and a half.  Early morning runs four days a week means that 5:00am wake up calls are now the norm.

Weekends used to mean staying up a little bit later, watching movies and nibbling on homemade cookies. Now my bedtime is 9pm, no matter what night it is. In fact, my mother emailed me on Sunday night because she had a question at 8:45pm and she didn't want to call in case she woke me up.  Sad.

Last summer, I wore sandals most days, making it easy to pick outfits for any occasion.  This summer, it's becoming increasingly hard to figure out what to wear that might go with my running shoes and compression socks.  Anything fancy sends me into a mild panic as I wonder whether my shins and feet will be able to handle different footwear.

Two months ago, I changed my insulin pump every four days.  Now, for the third time in a row, it has lasted six days.  All this activity has completely changed how my body uses insulin. 

Two months ago, I joked (but it's true!) that my weight never changes and that I was always between 171-169 pounds - no matter how much running I did (or didn't do).  Today, my weight is 166 lbs and has been there for a while now.  Crazy.

Two months ago, I wore t-shirts and CWX shorts which went down to my knees.  That was as far as my comfort zone went when it came to summer running gear.  Today I wear short shorts and a running tank top.  And I shudder at the thought of cooler temps forcing me to put more clothes on.

Two months ago, people would ask me during long runs if I was ok.  Today, they tell me that I'm looking strong. Hearing that from people who always look really strong feels pretty damn good.

Two months ago, I was standing at the start line of marathon training wondering if I had what it takes to do this.  I no longer wonder that.  I just do it.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Seven Check Marks

I have my running schedule posted at work by my desk as well as in the kitchen by the back door. 

When I put them up, I think the point was to inspire and motivate me but sometimes looking at them just makes me feel tired.

Every time I finish another week, I put a checkmark on the schedule. 

Seven checkmarks so far...

...eleven more to go.

Most of the time, I try to take it one run at a time.  It's easier that way because, if you stand back far enough to see the proverbial forest for the trees, it's a really freakin' big forest.  Full of wolves and badgers and other scary things lurking in the shadows.  So I find it best to just deal with one run (or tree if you prefer) at a time. 

I sat at the kitchen counter the other day and asked Doug what the hardest part of training for a marathon was.  "Do you mean the hardest run?" he asked.  No, I mean that point in which is just feels hardest.  Is now the hardest part?  When we're pretty far into the training and feeling kinda tired and yet we're not even half way there yet? 

Is the week with the most mileage the hardest simply because it's the most physically demanding?

Is the week before the race the hardest because it's close enough to touch and very scary?

Doug said that, for him, tapering is the hardest.  You've done the long runs and now, as things slow down, you have a few weeks to worry and wonder whether you're strong enough to do what you need to do on race day.   


I am not one for making predictions but I have a feeling that I'm entering the hardest part right now... for me anyway. I have that same feeling I get when we have to do an out and back long run and those last few kilometres before the turn around point seem interminable.  That's what it feels like right now.  I just want to get over that hump and be able to count down the weeks until the race rather than counting up

So physically, the hardest may be yet to come but psychologically it feels like I might be there now. 

Which is ok really because it's not like I'm feeling depressed or overwhelmed about what I have left to do.  I'm just trotting along, doing what I need to do, until I get to turn around. 

Once I turn around I'll be able to see the finish line far off in the distance.  And that will give me something to run for.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Lesson #244

Over the past seven weeks, the phrase that keeps repeating itself both in my head and in my blog is "lesson learned".

It's a little humbling how much I have yet to learn about this whole long distance running thing.  As my running friend Darlene said the other day - a marathon is much more than just twice the distance of a half marathon.  And so, every week (every run) I learn something new. 

About myself.

About my body.

About what it's going to take to drag my ass over that finish line. 

The latest lesson has to do with the importance of recovery days.  We are told over and over again by Benny that we need to do a 30 minute recovery run on Wednesdays and Sundays.  We can replace one of those with a bike ride if we prefer. 

I have been dutifully doing my Wednesday runs and my Sunday bike rides.  Every week - no matter what. 

I figured he knew what he was talking about and so I would do what I was told. 

This weekend - I ran 26k on Saturday.  It went really well.  After my typical 5k warmup where my body throws everything it can at me to make me stop (nausea, aches and pains etc etc) - it gave up and settled in for the long haul.  The 5k to 22k stretch went surprisingly well and, while I was pretty tired during the last four, my body still had enough strength to carry me through.  I felt pretty proud of that run. 

Afterwards, I hydrated, stretched for an hour, took an ice bath (by the way, is it normal to climb into a freezing cold bathtub full of ice, melt the ice and bring the water up to a comfy temp within about five minutes??) and ate well.  I bounded around for the rest of the day with no aches or pains to speak of.  Yay.

Sunday there was a duathlon in Grimbsy that Doug was doing.  I wanted to be there to cheer and take pictures so I skipped my Sunday morning bike ride (gasp!).  I toyed with the idea of cycling at the crack of dawn but decided to sleep in instead.  I've been doing so well, what difference would one missed ride really make?

The race was great and Doug did a fabulous job. 

I, on the other hand, was slowly falling apart.  As the morning wore on, my calves were getting tighter and tighter - making it hard to walk. I went to find Geoff who (lucky me) was at the race working his chiropractic magic.  He did what he could but I was still having trouble.  My hips were tight, my quads were tight.  By the time we got home, going up and down stairs was getting awkward. 

Apparently, those Sunday morning bike rides have been having a greater impact than I even realized. 

Lesson #244 learned. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Two Steps Closer

Every Saturday we do our long run.

On week one of our training program, we had to run 16k. Week two was 18k. We add two kilometers each week (except on easy weeks when we only run 10k) and are building up to 35k.

The actual distance of a marathon is 42.2k. You'd be surprised how many people ask me how long the marathon is that I'm running. I guess they figure marathon means race so I'm just running a race of some arbitrary distance. Nope - 42.2k (26.2 miles) is the magic number.

A brief digression if I may... One time, I was talking to a friend and I told her that I was running a half marathon on the weekend. "A marathon?" she asked. "No, no" I said, "just a half marathon". She patted me on the shoulder and said "Céline, you've been training really hard for this, you can call it a marathon if you want."


Back to long runs. Every week, my mind plays this horrible little joke on me as I near the end of the run. I'm tired, my legs are heavy, my head is pounding and I'm usually pretty exhausted by the time I spot the store. That's about the moment my brain says "so, think you could add another 22.2k to what you just ran?".

Sometimes my brain is an asshole.

The answer is obvious. No, I can't.

The next week "so, think you could add another 20.2k to that run?"

Ummmmm...still no. Piss off!

Last week it was 18.2k.

This week, it's 16.2k.

You know what? I'm getting closer and closer to the moment when I'll be able to answer 'yes damn it!!" to that weekly question.

There really is method to the madness of training to run this distance. Forty two kilometres is a really long way. Drive it in your car if you don't believe me. It's shocking, humbling and, if you're actually planning on running it, pretty terrifying.

But by adding two kilometres a week, we're training our body slowly but surely to run the distance.

We are going to peak at 35k, a few weeks out from race day. My brain will ask me "so, think you can add 7.2k to what you just ran?" I'll answer "hell yeah!" because, by that point, it will be true.

It's just so damn amazing what we can do when we break it down into bite size pieces.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Balancing Blood and Body

It's Thursday - that means it's interval time again.  Ten times 800m.  Same as last week except this time I didn't dream about doing them before I actually did them. 

I woke up to a blood sugar of 4.6.  That's a wonderful number to wake up to but, when I have a hard run that I didn't wake up at 3:30am to adjust my basal for, it feels a little on the low side.  Normally, for early morning runs, I have a gel and head out the door.  My instincts told me to have a gel, a date and a big handful of raisins.  So I did.

Doug asked how many intervals I had to do.  I said ten.  He said 'do six'.  I said that I would aim for ten but listen to my body.  He headed off to run Hydro Hill and I headed down the road to my interval spot. 

I did six intervals and felt quite energetic.  My calves and shins were feeling tight.  I wondered whether I should push them or attend to their whining.  I gave them a mini massage between each rep and, after a few rounds, they loosened up nicely. 

After the sixth interval, I was feeling so good that I decided to do all ten. 

Then I did the seventh one.  Part way through, I felt my speed drop and my body seemed to shift gears.  Nothing hurt, nothing specific was wrong, I just felt my energy level drop a notch.  After number seven, I drank an extra gulp of water and took a longer rest before starting the next one.  On number eight, I again felt that body shift and energy drop.  Nothing significant but enough to decide that eight was the magic number. 

I had two etabs, drank a bit more water and headed home.  I ran slow and easy which was exactly the speed my body was able to sustain for the two kilometre return trip.  As soon as I got home, I checked my sugar.  It was 4.6. 

Exactly the same as it was before I started my run.  That part is impressive.  But it also explains my gear shift problem.  My sugar rarely goes below 5.0 during a run - I do what I can to ensure that it doesn't.  Anything under four is a pretty serious problem and I like having a bit of a buffer.  So I try to keep my sugar over five.  On top of the dangers of going too low, I've noticed that as soon as I get near 5.0, I feel my energy start to drop.  That's probably what happened back at interval 7. 

I feel my best on runs when my blood sugar hovers between 6 and 10.  That's probably where I was for the first six intervals which is why I felt so good and ran consistent times for each. 

I'm glad that I didn't listen when my shins and calves started complaining.  I took care of them but carried on with the run.

I'm also glad that I didn't push myself to run all ten intervals.  If I had, I would most likely have had a low on the run home which is never a safe place to be.

It's all about knowing when to listen and when to ignore.  When to hold 'em and when to fold'em.

When to walk away...and when to run.

I never count my money, when I'm sitting at the table...but here are my interval times, for anyone who is interested:


Funny, you can see my body warm up during the first few, settle into a groove and then, lose momentum when my sugar took a dive.

Another day in the life of a runner with diabetes.  Which, as my friend John well knows, is NOT the same thing as a diabetic runner.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Twice Since Yesterday

Time is something that humans worry about. 

And dogs when they know that they're going for a walk soon. 

Days, weeks, months -  we made those up to help us keep track of things.

Not that there is anything wrong with that - it's just important to remember that dinosaurs did not rest on Sundays, count the weeks until Christmas or worry about being ten minutes late for dinner. 

No one really cares about time except humans and the animals that must abide by human schedules. 

I'm saying all of this because time, days of the week and schedules just seemed very weird to me this morning.  Here's why:

If you look at a calendar, Tuesday and Wednesday are two separate days.  I'm supposed to run 13k on Tuesdays and 30 minutes on Wednesdays.  With me so far?

There is no rule as to what time I should run.  Typically, I run in the morning or the evening - meaning that the runs are spaced roughly 24 hours apart.

This week was a little different.  I did not get up extra early to run before work on Tuesday because...well, just because.  So I ran at 5pm.  Home by 6:20pm.  Stretched and showered by 7pm.  In bed by nine.  End of Tuesday.

Wednesday morning, I got up at 5:30am and was out the door and running by 6am.

Two runs - two separate days according to the calendar.

As I was stretching and thinking about the day ahead - I realized that I had run twice since I left work the previous afternoon.  It had been exactly 15 hours since I walked out the door, hopped in my car and headed home.  I slept for eight of those hours.  I ran for two of them and, if you count stretching, then you'd better add another hour.  So we're up to 11 hours.  I showered twice, had dinner, did the dishes and sat on the couch for a few minutes.  There goes 15 hours.  Poof!  Just like that.  

So yes, I ran 13k on Tuesday and 30 minutes on Wednesday.  According to the calendar anyway.  But, according to my body, I came home from work, ran twice, slept and now it's time for work again. 

How the hell do people do it when they have kids? A dog?  Houseplants? A commute that takes more than three minutes.

Good lord!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Full Speed Ahead

Week seven starts today. 

We've upped the ante again and now Tuesday runs are 13k instead of 10.  They stay at 13k from now until the week before the race (except for easy weeks of course).  We are now officially full speed ahead - all engines at full throttle.  We've maxed out Tuesday nights, Thursdays are already in full swing with hills and intervals and Saturdays are just getting longer every week. 

When I was training for my first half marathon, my body got more and more tired every week.  By the time race day arrived, I was so worn out that I couldn't wait to run the race just so I could have a few weeks off running. 

That's what I expected marathon training to be like.  Eighteen weeks of progressive exhaustion.  So far though, I'm holding up quite well.  My body is getting better at the long runs and I don't even start thinking about how many kilometres are left until I get to about 15k.  That's a huge improvement from not so long ago when I would start counting from the first step out the door.  I think that running four days a week has made a huge difference - my body is so much more used to running now that it bounces back more quickly and is ready to go again by the next day.

The biggest challenge these days is deciding whether to get up at 5am to run before work or brave the heat after work.  Both options wear me out for different reasons.  Today, I did not get up before work because we got home very late last night from a lovely dinner party.  I knew that sleeping in would be a better option - plus I would have all day today to hydrate for the run since I neglected to do that very well last night.  Wine, apparently, does not count.

So I'm braving the heat this afternoon.

I have my coffee, my eload and my water ready to go.  I will be obsessively checking the humidex all day and working on my game plan.  For runs like this - where it's hot and tempting to throw in the towel - I do a circular route rather than an out and back. It keeps me moving forward and I am less inclined to argue with myself about turning back early. 

It's all about learning how to work with and, when necessary, push your body.  Run circular routes when it's tempting to quit.  Get up early so hard interval workouts seem easier because it's 'only' 30 degrees out.  Tell people what you have to run so that you're accountable.  Whatever it takes to get'er done. 

Happy August everyone.  Here's to fresh Niagara peaches and delicious corn on the cob, cooler evenings, a week's vacation, family and friends...and lots of time spent outside exploring this fabulous country of ours.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Ups an Downs

It was a weekend of ups and downs.

Saturday was a 24k run.  Typically, our running route from the store is an out and back route.  We add two kilometres each week so we simply run one extra kilometre out from the store.  This route makes it easier to keep an eye on the runners and provide water and emotional support.

I was getting a little tired of running this route so I decided to run a different first half.  Run from home, head down the country roads and meet up with the group for the run back in.  The only challenge was that I would have to run up the big hill to Rockway and then run down a super steep hill to meet up with the group.  The Rockway hill is always a challenge on the bike so I was a little apprehensive trying to run up.  The hill down is terrifying on a bike so I was afraid of what it might do to my shins as I pounded down with the extra weight of gravity to add to the pressure.

Here is what I learned.  Hill climbs are harder on a bike than on foot.  I spent the first 8k thinking about the mindset I would need to be in to tackle the climb.  Then I actually started the climb and practically sailed up.  It was surprisingly easy.  Sweet!

The run down is also a lot easier than expected.  The scary part of riding down the hill is the speed combined with the blind corners.  Running slows everything down to a manageable pace.  I sailed down sans problème.  

Ups and downs.

Sunday we headed to Grimbsy to cycle the 25k route of the Niagara duathlon.  Several riders are in the race next weekend so it a great opportunity to practice the route.  Or, more importantly, practice riding the dreaded Park Street Hill.  We ride up and down the Niagara Escarpment quite often and, while it's never easy, it's manageable.

The Park Street Hill is an entirely different beast.

It's steep - really really steep.  It's windy.  It starts off hard and fast - straight up.  It has one short plateau after the first climb which is just long enough to catch your breath before the next two upward surges.  Each surge gets progressively steeper.  I've ridden it three times before and, trust me when I say, it's just nasty.

Going down is even worse.  For me anyway, it is terrifying.  Some of the riders like the rush of hitting 60+ km/hour on a bike.  I am not one of them.  I tossed and turned most of Saturday night - troubled by dreams of cycling down the hill interspersed with dreams of being attacked by grisly bears.  To say that I did not sleep well is a wee bit of an understatement.

We rode the route.  We started the climb and, except for a minor shifting emergency at the beginning, it was ok.  We all made it up, exhausted but victorious.  We cycled the remaining flat part of the route and, too soon, found ourselves at the top....looking down.  One after another, we headed down the hill.  I lost sight of the others within seconds as they took up and I rode my brakes the entire way down.  Heart pounding, legs shaking, terrified but in control.  I made it down.

Ups and downs.

Physical ones.  Emotional ones.

I overcame them all.

Let's see what week seven has in store.