Saturday, January 22, 2011

Feelin' the (COLD) burn

It’s Saturday. Noon. I’m sitting on the couch and all I can think is: I don’t want to get up. For a very, very long time. I’d actually like to go to sleep; unfortunately, a 90min ballet class lingers in the distance and I’m afraid that if I succumbed to my tiredness, I might not make it.

However, I can take comfort in the fact that my week of running is done. 91 miles, 6 days. Although it’s tough getting in all those miles in less than a week, I am beginning to cherish my days off in an increasingly reverent manner. It’s my chance to get 55+ hours of recovery that I know my body needs, so in that sense it’s worth it. This past week was my third consecutive week at 90-ish miles (87.5, 89.5, 91) and my first week where I’ve felt some longer-term fatigue. That being said, it also encompassed my longest run yet (32km) and two meaty workouts, so it is probably a combination of accumulated mileage and increased quality of runs that is setting in. Not to mention the blasphemous weather that is this January. It snowed sporadically through the week, making my ‘easy’ runs on Wednesday and Friday much harder efforts than I would have liked.

I learned quite a bit about wintertime running this week. I learned on Wednesday that I prefer running through thick snow than on sheets of ice. I learned on Friday that I prefer running on cleared roads and dodging cars in my ninja-like fashion than running on sidewalks with uneven footing. I learned today that I prefer running in -20C and succumbing to frostbite than trudging through fresh snow. So at least I can decide if I really need to suffer through a 12-mile treadmill run on any given day in a fairly systematic manner: EXTREME COLD > RISKING LIFE ON CLEARED STREETS INSTEAD OF SNOWY SIDEWALKS > FRESH SNOW > ICE. I draw the treadmill line between fresh snow and ice. I’ve come to learn that if there is a CHANCE that I will fall, then I will (apparently I am NOT the graceful ballerina I thought myself to be), and to be frank, I risk broken limbs falling on ice, so I figure that’s something I should take seriously. I also basically start to walk, or slide, over anything that looks like ice, making a 90min run easily take 120min. This wasted time and effort, combined with the possibility of career-ending injury, makes for a treadmill run in my books.

On Monday night I retreated to the treadmill for a hill workout. I had done a big treadmill workout two days earlier (45’ progressive warm-up followed by 3x15’ @ 10.0mph [3:43/km]/10.2mph [3:39/km]/10.5mph [3:33/km]) so my legs were still feeling a bit tired. It was both the longest set of intervals and fastest pace I had ever done on the treadmill and though it felt very comfortable at the time, my legs were pretty dead afterwards. I promised myself I’d take it easier on Monday, but not surprisingly I worked harder than I wanted, doing 4 sets of: [30s fat/90s 3.5% incline/90s 4.0% incline/30s flat] all at 9-9.3mph, followed by some more 90s hill sprints and a 5min flat tempo. By the end of the workout my quads were burning pretty bad, and I cursed myself for going so hard. (But of course I was secretly satisfied.)

On Tuesday I thought for a moment that winter was coming to a joyous, glorious end. The temperature swung from -25 with wind chill to +3-4 and all the snow started to melt. My easy run was for once easy. I suppose the good thing about running through snow is that it makes running on cleared paths feel like a breeze. However, by nighttime the temperature dipped again and I woke up on Wednesday in a winter iceland, literally having to walk across Queen’s Park because it had turned into a pretty awesome skating rink. My 12 mile loop that once took me 90min to do took me 1:45 or something ridiculous, so I swore to myself that next time I would have the good sense to turn around and hit the TM.

Luckily, all of our Thursday morning long runs have turned out to be relatively snow and ice-free. Of course, since I can’t seem to do any kind of run without some added handicap or challenge, we have started these runs at 5:15AM because SOME PEOPLE (you know who you are!) have to be at work by 8:30AM. This has proved to handicap me in ways I would not have anticipated. Take last Thursday, for example, when I met Val half-asleep at my building and spent the first 10 minutes of our run trying to figure out why I felt so ‘off’. It finally dawned on me that I had completely forgotten to put on any kind of undergarments, top or bottom, which I impulsively blurted out loud, causing Val to burst into hysterical, cackling laughter (I seem to have this effect on her)...before she eventually proceeded to tell me that this story would in no way remain confidential. How thoughtful! Fortunately for me, I was able to continue along quite happily and without much discomfort. I am not sure if I am happy or sad about this, but on the day I would say I was quite grateful.

This week was much more successful as I managed to fully dress myself before heading out (note how high my standards have gotten these days). I also ran 2k longer for a total of 2hrs40min (20-ish miles), and picked up the pace in the last 45min to somewhere south of 5:00/km, which in this weather seems to be something to be proud of. I doubled that day, making my daily total about 24 miles, the last 4 of which I ran with Nic, in what seemed like a spastic adventure race through snow and icy paths in Forest Hill. I’m not sure why she chose to zig-zag all over the place, but all I could do was follow her blindly and trust that we would emerge somewhere close to home. Thankfully we did, though I still awoke on Friday morning with two very tired legs (it was the 4 miles obviously that did it...).

I capped off the week with a 3k/1k/2k/1k workout in the cemetery this morning. Even though the footing still wasn’t great, it went fairly well as we were able to get in a hard effort and run sub-4:00/km, which we haven’t been able to do there in a while [11:30/3:35/7:40(long?)/3:45(?)]. My legs were burning by the end, making me crave my Sunday rest even more. I know that it’s normal I feel this way considering all the mileage I’ve been doing, but I am still contemplating moving up my down week, so that I would have a bit of a break after this week, which is supposed to hover around 95 miles. If you do not hear from me in seven days, you can safely assume that I have succumbed to a mileage-induced coma and am unable to wake up.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow Angels

This past week marks my first official week of marathon training. The plan was to maintain at 80 miles, throwing in a slightly longer run than normal (26k) and a longer interval workout. I ended up covering 87 miles in 6 days without the second longer workout with relative ease, which has made me realize how tangible running 90-100 miles/week is. That being said, I don’t want to jump up too quickly so I will likely maintain at 85-90 for the next couple of weeks.

On Monday night the roads were clear so we did a number of loops around Forest Hill, totalling 6k of hard effort [1.5k flat/3.5k hilly/200m flat/3x300m hill in 5:07 (3:30/km)/13:08 (3:47/km)/38 (3:10/km)/68-72 (3:46-4:00/km)]. I spent the entire workout trying to chase down Nic, which was virtually impossible. This is obviously normal, but bugged me more than usual since I was feeling really strong but could never close the gap between us. She looked very aggressive and peppy, and afterwards admitted she had been taking mega iron pills and extra rest for the last two weeks because she had been feeling tired. So I don’t feel so bad knowing she was basically cheating and blood doping in order to beat me.

Our circuit workout was a challenge despite missing our one-and-only Kap ‘N K, who has gone to Oxford for 6 months. I want to say that I miss her, but the fact that she is sending us weekly workouts to do on our own that are evil and torturous has squashed any sense of regret from me. Especially when they consist of 100 push-ups and back-to-back push-ups and dips, frog jumps, burpies and 2 minute wall sits. I thought I might be able to slack off a little without her there to critique my form, but Jay has apparently take it upon himself to play the role of drill sergeant and has made any laziness virtually impossible. I suppose this will ultimately lead me to accomplish my goal of completing 25 full push-ups in succession by the end of 2011, but I still opt to complain about it.

I did my long run Thursday and it went by surprisingly quickly. I met up with a number of the angels at 6AM, which definitely tested my wake-up time limits. Waking up at 5 and leaving the house before 6AM is officially nutty in Coolis-land (strange where I seem to draw my limits...) though I was happy to get in 16 miles before 8AM. The run felt easy, though I suspect I was half-asleep for at least half of it so perhaps I wasn’t quite conscious of the time going by. I ended up doubling that day too for a daily total of 20 miles, which on top of my 12+9 double on Tuesday brought me to 65 miles in four days. I was feeling great, but in the back of my mind knew it could come back to haunt me, so I was a little nervous about conquering the big 3k/2k/2x1k/2x500m workout planned for Saturday.

On Friday night, however, we were blessed with a massive downpour of snow that continued through Saturday. I woke up on Saturday morning in a complete winter wonderland but was naive and juvenile enough to think it would be fun to try and run through it. By the time I arrived at the cemetery, however, I felt like I had aged ten years and scaled Mount Everest. I was bitter and tired and not at all amused by the snow. Furthermore, even though the cemetery is one of the first places in Toronto that is cleared, snow was still piling up quickly. We amassed at McInnes Rock and chuckled at each other’s snow-covered eyelashes and Andrea’s bright red cheeks. Jacquie’s eyelashes apparently actually froze to one another causing her to run blind, which she acknowledged added an interesting extra little challenge to the workout. We discussed swapping a run workout with an ‘alternative circuit workout’ of snow angel-making, but when coach arrived she informed us that a tempo run would replace the dreaded 8k of intervals. I have to say I was relieved, and my youthful giddiness renewed. We started our tempo run and cringed (well actually I think I laughed) when we got to 1k in 4:30. Oh wow. Several of the snow angels began to sign off at 3-4k, while Nic and I continued trudging along to complete a full loop. At one point, one arm of our path was masked by a field of uncleared, fresh, three-foot deep snow. Apparently I was the only one who recognized it as our route as Nic continued along the alternate arm without hesitation. ‘Ummm where are you going?’ I asked her quizzically. She quickly swerved left and joined me on the uncleared route. I began to mutter something about wanting snow shoes or a treadmill and she exclaimed ‘This is perfect! You never know what can happen in a marathon!’. At this point I had to turn my head and really question her sanity. Don’t get me wrong, I know that dealing with unanticipated circumstances can have benefits you are not immediately aware of; however, I had trouble accepting that wading through piles of heavy snow could somehow occur on race day in a spring marathon, nevermind even in something slightly more tangible like a cross-country race. Being void of an intelligent answer to her comment, I instead burst into hysterical laughter. She followed suit (either because she realized she made no sense, or is in fact actually crazy) and soon we were both in hysterics, causing our brisk 4:10s to slow to an even more pathetic pace. We finished the loop in good spirits, however, and were happy to get in a harder effort on such a miserable day for running.

I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to try and run uphill with my feet slipping under me on my cooldown and instead could enjoy the downhill home. I was clearly too complacent in my thoughts as five minutes into our jog I slipped on the road and went flying onto my side, thankfully travelling far enough on the snow to reach the sidewalk by the time I came to a standstill (sitstill?). I was shocked and confused when Val helped me up and kindly brushed me off, however, as this was contrary to past circumstance met with my one-and-only nemesis, Megan Lynch. I am sure that if Megan were there I may have met my demise, possibly by being redirected into oncoming traffic mid-air. So thank you Val!

My week was capped off with a 90-minute ballet class, led by a flamboyant ex-dancer who nonchalantly dropped one-liners of his past pas-de-deux with Celia Franca and close exchanges with Karen Kain, all the while laughing and flipping his delicate hands back and forth. He is a great and very well-liked instructor and the other dancers seemed equally welcoming, so I was thrilled with my first class. Although my balance and flexibility was definitely suffering, I was surprised by how quickly the movements came back to me. By the end of the class, my fluidity and technique was already much improved from my first shaky plie. I can’t say I wasn’t sore on Sunday, but I’m hoping it will get better each week.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


2010 was a good year for shoeless coolis. I will spare you the sappy details and give you the stats, though I will say that being part of Nic’s Angels has been a major turning point in my running. I couldn’t be happier in my current environment. I look forward to continued progress in 2011 as I set my sights on my second marathon in the spring (race TBD). I will try to be as entertaining as possible as I take my readers through my 4-month marathon buildup and hope that 90 mile weeks and 35k long runs don’t usurp the creativity from my tired brain.

2010 Stats:
Total miles run: 3175
Average miles/week (subtracting two scheduled rest weeks): 63.5...with rest weeks: 61.5
Races run: 16 (12 road, 2 track, 2 cross-country)
Wins: 5
PBs: 7 (5k, 5 miles, 10k, 10 miles, ½ marathon, 30k and marathon)
National Championships: 4 (1/2 marathon, marathon, 5000m and cross-country)

Top 10 moments of 2010

10. Finally achieving real push-up status. This has been 26 years in the making. (Thank you Kap ‘N K!)
9. In October: helping Beth to a sub-10:00 3k time trial at the cemetery, leading to a 500 and 1k PB in the same practice.
8. Long runs with Jebs and Dr. Z in -20C. Torturous but irreplaceable.
7. Winning the Not Since Moses 10k in Five Islands, Nova Scotia. The most fun I’ve ever had in a race!
6. Running ATB with fellow blondes Jebs and Dr. Z, pushing each other the entire way, finishing 8-9-10; and thus, Nic’s Angels are born. ;)
5. Running Sporting Life after a winter of 'blah' mileage and finally feeling the wheels beginning to turn, running 30s faster than my PB on that course 3 years ago.
4. Running a 71s 400m in practice...sadly, yes, this is a PB!
3. Finishing my first marathon in Ottawa and telling Nic at the finish line “I am never going to do that again.” Uh-huh. The most painful experience of my life (soon to be repeated).
2. Breaking 18:00 for 5000m for the first time in an INTENSE time trial with Nic, Joe and Trevor – crossing the line in 17:59.
1. Breaking 1:20:00 for the half marathon at The Goodlife.

11 Goals for 2011!

1. Stay injury free!
2. Run sub-2:48 for the marathon.
3. Do 25 real push-ups in a row. This may be my biggest challenge.
4. Run a sub-1:18:00 half-marathon.
5. Run my first 100-mile week!
6. Get regular massage therapy...and see the physio when I need it. I am incredibely neglectful of this.
7. Re-kindle my dancing days and take one ballet class per week. This should be an interesting form of cross-training...
8. Run sub-17:30 for 5k.
9. Take my friggin vitamin D supplements.
10. Finish in the top 20 at Nationals XC in Vancouver!!!
11. Break 10:00 in the 3000m (yes this is a random one, but something that’s bugged me for years).