Wednesday, March 23, 2011

If you are going through hell

Keep going.

I hate to be a downer this week, but hey – can’t always be on top. Can’t always be near the top, either. Sometimes we have to be at the absolute rock bottom, further entrenched in the ground than you ever thought you could be, in order to get stronger. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

Recall: Ottawa Marathon 2010
Going through hell. And continuing.

Ok, so things aren’t really that bad. I apologize to those out there who have real problems. I blame the tone of this post to the lack of endorphins I am getting from slashing my running to one third of its normal amount. My hamstring issue that arose at the Grimsby half-marathon last month (where I outkicked Nic, in case you forgot – I know she hasn’t ;) has turned out to be more of a nuisance than I thought. Now that I think of it, I am sure it was my ferocious sprint in the last snow-covered 200m that did it. In which case, it is essentially Nic’s fault for trying to outdo me. The fact that I continued on with another 100-mile week, including a 43km day on Thursday, intervals Saturday and pace-bunnying the Chilly half on Sunday, had absolutely nothing to do with it. Obviously. Aaaahhhh, and to think I was beginning to believe I was getting old and wise!

So here I am, two weeks after I decided to treat this thing seriously, spending hours in the pool and minutes on the dry, clear roads, running. Is this what I get for busting out 90-100 mile weeks through this bitch of a winter in January and February? Now I am forced to run 30 miles in the wonderful spring temperatures in March? I can’t help but be extremely bitter!

I enjoyed reading Rob Watson’s latest blog, creatively titled “#25” (see my blog list for a link), and agreed with his simple take on injuries: “Injuries are a part of this sport, gotta roll with the punches.” There’s no point dwelling on an injury – best be taking some rest, getting your tail cross-training and be positive about your comeback. Such is the attitude I am trying to adopt.

Apparently the pain in my right hamstring is caused by a weakness in my gluteus medius. Since this is the third time I have been told I have a weak glute med, I am starting to believe that it’s true. Dammit. I thought I was superwoman. What kind of superwoman has a weak ass? My physio gave me a plethora of exercises for my glutes, hamstrings, and core that I am supposed to do on a daily basis. She said I could continue to run, but after a few days of easy treadmill runs that still caused me discomfort, I didn’t see the point of it. I couldn’t do workouts or long runs, so I felt that I was only prolonging the recovery process without doing anything productive. At that point I decided to take three full days off, meaning no running, no cross-training, no NOTHING. These kinds of days are very tough for most distance runners I know…so imagine how difficult they were for me: Madame OCD.

The first day wasn’t so bad – it allowed me to go to my Sunday Book Club meeting at two in the afternoon and get considerably inebriated off of three stiff martinis (thanks Kitz). For once I was able to contribute to the discussion without having read a single word of the novel, Portnoy’s Complaint. From what I remember, I had some creative insight into the book – shedding light on why Portnoy was so infatuated with monkeys, and explaining why monkeys were such an important theme (I’m not sure how Wikipedia missed this). At this point Brecher began furiously flipping through every page of the book, trying desperately to figure out how he could have missed such a critical point. But as usual, I digress. My second day off was a little tougher, though the fact that I was hungover helped curb the urge to go run 13 miles. The third day, however, was the worst – I itched to go running or do some kind of exercise. I stared down every runner I walked by on my way to work with horrific envy, wondering how it was possible that they had no pain in their hamstring. Absolutely unfair!

What I do when I can't run. Note sorrowful, self-pitying gaze.

I began to run last Wednesday and I’ve slowly increased my runs from 30min to 65min. My right side still feels weaker, but I’m not experiencing any pain and I have no discomfort when I walk. I’ve been doing so many strength exercises that I will surely have the rock-hard buns of a superwoman come May. Every day my glutes and hammies feel stronger, so I am hoping to resume workouts and long runs next week. Regardless, at the moment I am supplementing my running with about 90min of swimming every day. I do love swimming so at least I am enjoying the cross-training I’m doing to some extent.

Soon to be MINE!

Obviously, this means no Around The Bay for me, which is too bad because I was really looking forward to racing. The next race on my schedule is the Montreal Half-Marathon, also the site of the National Championships. I hope that I am strong and fit enough to make it there ready to race hard.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Coolis Bunny at Chilly

First of all I have to give a shout-out to the Adidas team for the awesome loot they sent me last week. I’m not sure who could be more excited about getting a pair of hot pink training flats and another pair of flashy racing flats other than me. They are amazing! I have suspicions they were in fact designed specifically for me since they also have well-ribbed undersoles to minimize slippage. Since I seem to have the balance and coordination of a two-year old, this helped me greatly in the Chilly Half this weekend, where I didn’t slip ONCE! (Though I have tripped over myself walking on carpets in these flats at least three times...that’s beside the point...)

Snazziest racing flats EVER

Wish I could wear this outside right now...

So, after all the complaining I did about last week’s snowy race in Grimsby, what do I decide to do this weekend? Why, to go to Burlington and do it all over again, obviously! You’d think my science background would foster a more logical thought process in me, however, I have once again proved myself to be at odds with normalcy.

I went there to be the 1:30:00 pace bunny for the Chilly Half. The original pace bunny couldn’t make it so I offered to hop in for him (no pun intended). Not sure if it was the smartest idea considering my hammy still didn’t feel 100%, but hey, there’s a reason they call me G.I. Jane. Luckily, it was all worth it because I got to wear the awesome pink bunny ears that I have always dreamt of wearing.

The Coolis Bunny

Jebs, Coolis Bunny and Kitty-Kat

I was determined to run metronome 4:15s throughout the entire race and cross the line in exactly 1:30:00 (perhaps this is where the method in my thinking is more apparent?!). As most people would anticipate, this did not happen. First, I realized (much to my utter shock and dismay) that I am NOT a human metronome, and cannot run 21x1k in 4:15 with 0s rest in the flawless manner I had dreamt about. This was apparent in the first two kilometres, where I split a yo-yo 4:31 and 3:57 (but it’s only the average that counts, right?). Second, as is the case in many road races, the kilometre markers are not the greatest measure of the exact distance traveled. Imagine that. I heard Garmins going off all around me 50 meters before some markers and several meters after others in the first 10km, leading me to suspect that they were slightly off. That being said, for the first half I wavered between 4:11-4:20 and crossed the 10k mark in 42:35, only 4 seconds ahead of pace. The second half was more consistent as I got into a groove and held 4:13-4:17s, leading me to believe that the markers in the latter portion of the course were pretty good. I crossed the line in 1:30:04 (so close!) and I have to admit that - though I tried not to - I had to pick it up a bit in the last 100m to be within 5s of my goal time: (Coolis Bunny a.k.a. Robert Welsh).

Kitty Kat and Bunny Coolis stayin' warm at the start

In my dreams of the perfect pace bunny experience, I pictured a group of runners flocking around me the entire way who had never broke 1:30:00, and who all would, of course, thanks to me and my incredible pacing. I imagined chatting to them throughout the race and instructing them not to pick it up until later, thereby enforcing on them the best possible finish. I pictured the runners gracefully moving ahead of me as I cheered them on a la Stevenson in the last 2k (EXECUTION! GO! NOWWWW!) and crossing the line triumphantly in 1:29:59 or faster. The crowds would scream in excitement, the runners would fall to their knees, tears of joy streaming down their faces, getting up only to smother Bugs Bunny Coolis in hugs, thanking me profusely for making the BIGGEST dream in their lives a reality. I would receive thank you letters in the mail from them and their families, telling me how much I had changed their lives forever. Oh, the glory that would be mine!

Unfortunately, it wasn’t so glorious. One man found me in the first 500m of the race and asked if I intended on running a negative-split. I chuckled a little at his question, but when I realized he was quite serious, I explained to him that I would run 1:30:00 pace for the entire distance so that at any point in time racers would know whether they were on track for 1:30:00. I would not, I continued, run 4:30/km for the first half and 4:00/km for the second half (like so many amateur pace bunnies do, only to make very tough the race for anyone trying to follow their lead!). Of course, shortly after we went through the 1k mark in 4:31, then the 2k mark in 3:57, and the man stopped asking me any futher questions. At that point I also decided that I had better shut my mouth.

Solo Bunny

About 5k into the race a group of men was starting to form around me and someone shouted from the sidelines ‘Look at the little bunny girl!’ I’m sure this was a great ego boost for them. I asked the guy beside me if he was intending on breaking 1:30:00. ‘Me? I break 1:30 already. Long time ago.’ ‘Oh,’ I said tentatively, ‘So you are ready to do it again?’ He continued ‘Today, my coach say: No break 1:30:00. No try. Too snow. But you so pretty, so I try!’ Oh lord, I thought to myself. His coach tells him to not even try, and here he is 7km in going for it and there’s no one to blame but myself. Awesome. I hoped that he was in better shape than his coach thought and that he’d succeed in his last minute race strategy change (uh-huh). He kept asking me if we were on the right pace but I couldn’t discern whether this was because he felt good or was already struggling. He then suddenly changed the topic: ‘I see you last weekend. You look strong.’ ‘Huh?’ I asked confusedly...had I just discovered a stalker? I wondered worriedly. ‘In Grimsby. You win, ya?’ ‘Oooohh,’ I realized he must have been at my race last weekend. It turns out he was working the water station at 18k and saw Nic and I duking it out in the last few kilometres. ‘I see you with other girl, I knew you were number one. You so pretty.’ I had to laugh at his completely nonsensical remark, but agreed that it was obvious I’d win ;). ‘Yeah, the other girl had no chance,’ I admitted. ‘I was way ahead of her by the end.’

About 10km into the race, in mid-conversation, my friend suddenly turned to me and said: ‘Uh-oh. My achilles wake up. Bye-bye.’ And proceeded to hobble off to the side of the road. I immediately wondered if I had made him go so hard as to injure himself. I thought pace bunnies were supposed to help people in the race, not injure them or slow them down?! Perhaps I have some learning to do! Of course I was forced to continue on, making me feel even worse not being able to stop and help him. I saw him at 13k after the turnaround, at which point he was coming in the opposite direction, hobbling pathetically but clearly trying to finish the race on one achilles. Oh lord.

The rest of the race was pretty bland - most of the people around me either dropped back or pulled ahead, never to be seen again. Only one guy stayed with me, but he finished behind me and broke 1:30:00 in the most anti-climactic manner – by his chip time. He had started a good 20s late so although my heart sunk when he crossed the line in 1:30:09, his chip time was actually a triumphant 1:29:50. He kindly found me afterwards to tell me how grateful he was to have me there, which did lift my spirits considering that my day wasn’t filled with all the dramatic heroism I had hoped for.

Rob Welsh crossing the line?

That being said, overall it was a great experience and I got a lot of cheers along the way. Everything from ‘The bunny is right on time!’ (I think I heard that about 5 times, made me feel pretty good ;), to ‘That’s a hot bunny!’ ‘Good job bunny!’ ‘What a YOUNG looking bunny!’ ‘It’s the fast bunny!’ ‘The bunny is a girl!’ ‘Go Bugs Bunny!’ right up to the end when I crossed the line and the announcer enthusiastically ushered me in as ‘The 1:30:00 bunny is right on, here comes Rob We…’ (his voice trailed off at this point as he realized I was not in fact the man Rob Welsh that I was filling in for). It’s too bad they didn’t correct the mistake, as I would have won my age category had my name been in the results! Oh well, can’t be greedy all the time ;).

The Mizuno girls

Chillin' in Chilly

Jebs and Kitty-K ran well for such a cold and sloppy day, coming 2nd and 4th, respectively (1:25 and 1:26) and Amanda ran a one-minute PB in 1:36. It was another great day for the Angels! Afterwards my hamstring was pretty sore, so I’m takin’ er easy for a few days and seeing physio before I continue on with my 100-mile weeks. Next up is Around The Bay, where I may be faced with my coach/nemesis once again. This time, I vow to beat her fair and square!

Bunny Coolis and Doggy Jefferson