Sunday, September 25, 2011

Roadblock

It's amazing what one can go through in a week. Last Saturday I could barely walk. Today I'm frustrated I can't flex my foot. Last Sunday I tried to go to the lab - 4 blocks away - and was reduced to a hobbling, sobbing mess halfway there. I contemplated plonking myself down on the pavement in order to finish off my sob-fest to avoid the compounding effect of a stabbing pain in my leg. I'm sure everyone around me thought I had lost a family member or had just gotten fired from my job. Nope, just shin pain. That's when you know you are a nutso runner.

I spent the entire day at work, trying to do my experiments but getting teary-eyed partway through anything. I thought my running days were over. How could I have any hope when I was a complete cripple? I worried that I might have a stress fracture, or perhaps MULTIPLE stress fractures. Heck, maybe my leg was actually broken! I thought about going to the hospital next door and asking for some crutches. At that point I couldn't care less about Chicago or a fall marathon, I just wanted the pain to END. I called Mama K at around 5pm and told her I was DONE. Being the Mama K that she is, she told me to go home, rest, not worry and call the doctor tomorrow. How could she be so logical?!

Going home only made things worse, however, since it meant walking back four blocks and undergoing the same crippling pain all over again. The four IBUprofen I took may have well been sugar pills. So what do I do when I finally get back home? Why, crack open my 'post-marathon' bottle of vodka and say 'screw it!' obviously! This provided temporary relief from my misery...until the fact that I had just consumed several drinks BY MYSELF on a Sunday night actually sunk in, and I became even more depressed. Luckily, a friend called me shortly after and suggested we meet up. Oh boy did that save me from destruction!

The next day was another struggle, though I seemed to be hobbling a little more efficiently. Luckily my supervisor is an MD, and seeing me limp down the hall in agony, he offered to look at my leg. He is quite the personality; he is constantly distracted, always multi-tasking, and projects a comet of energy wherever he goes. He generally bursts into the lab in a discombobulated frenzy a la Cosmo Kramer and proceeds to pepper whoever is there with completely random questions. He is never doing less than five things at once, three of which usually include BBM'ing, meeting with someone and speaking on the phone.

His running commentary during my assessment was quite the spectacle. 'Oh WOW well first of all your shin isn't bruised, it's discoloured - look at the right vs the left, it's a reddish colour, not bruised. And it's swollen, very swollen, take your socks off! Your ankle is even swollen, wow you really beat it up. What did you do? It was acute eh? BAM! After one run, just like that? [Answers phone] 'Hi honey!' [Looks at me] 'It's my daughter, gotta answer for the daughter,' [Continues talking to me, though I am not sure about this for a few sentences] 'Are you taking IBUprofen? Do you take a lot of IBUprofen? That's probably why you have stomach problems...'[I tried to interrupt to tell him I don't take NSAIDS that often in case he was actually talking to me, but it was to no avail]...'Now the part I'm pressing on now is muscle, that seems the most sore, all down the anterior tibialis. But there's a part right on your tibia that's tender too, that's not a good sign..I'll call you back honey' [hangs up phone] I tried to interject to ask if it was possible that I had a stess fracture too. 'Well yes that's a possibility, but there is definitely some soft tissue damage here too. You've either SEVERELY strained your anterior tibialis or you've torn it. Hopefully you don't also have a stress fracture, but could be the case. Regardless, even soft tissue takes time to heal, so no running for you for a while. Your number one priority should be to take care of YOU, THEN your running. Got it? I can hook you up with some great physiotherapists, some awesome ones at St. Mike's, yep so you can't really walk eh? You're kind of hobbling around...how's your lab work going?' At this point he was halfway done writing an e-mail to someone and I began to retreat out the door. I limped off back to the lab, not sure what to make of this 'diagnosis.' My labmate asked me what the consensus was. 'Um...a severe strain, or partial tear of the anterior tibialis. And possible stress fracture.' 'Ouff so you kinda hit all the bases there eh?' Yep, I guess so! Friggin' AWESOME.

I spent the rest of the week feeling sorry for myself and waking up every morning in pain. On the bright side, it got a little less painful each day, to the point that I could actually walk fairly normally on Wednesday and Thursday. What a glorious feeling! My supervisor got me a second opinion at St. Mike's, which unfortunately meant a second vote for a stress fracture, so I got a bonescan on Thursday. When I was told the scan was negative, I jumped so high that I thought for a second I had now actually given myself a stress fracture. Thank GOD!!! At that point, however, I was already fairly certain it was just a bad strain, since the most painful movement was pointing and flexing my foot (and it no longer hurt walking). I tried doing the elliptical for the past few days, which seems ok, but Nic is concerned that any cross-training is still impeding my recovery time. So, for the next 48 hours I am not allowed to exercise at all (again!), which totally sucks mentally. But I agree will likely speed my recovery, and if I still want to hammer a fall marathon, every day counts. Seeing how far I've come in a week, I am confident that this is a minor roadblock, and that Ill be back on the highway in no time.

I will now leave you with an emotional ode to my shin, adapted to the awesome new Usher and David Guetta song, 'WITHOUT YOU'. It is best read along with the song. I.e. it sucks on its own.

WITHOUT [MY SHIN]

I can't win, I can't run
I will never do this marathon
Without you
Without you

I am lost, I am in pain
Will I always be this lame
Without you
Without you

I won't run, I won't fly
I will just sit here and cry
Without you
WIthout you

I must rest, I must fight
All I need is you to be right
Without you
Without you

Oh-oh-oh
Youuuuu
Youuuuu
Youuuuu
Without you
Youuuuu
Youuuuu
Without you

Can't erase, so I'll take blame
It's what you get for being insane
Without you
Without you

I can't quit now, I won't lose sight
No exercise and restless nights
Without you
Without you

I'll be sore, I won't climb
If you're not right I'm paralyzed
Without you
Without you

I can't run
I'm so pined
I lost my sport
I lost my mind
Without you
Without you

Oh-oh-oh
Youuu
Youuuuu
Without you
Youuuuu
Youuuuu
Without you

I am lost
I am in pain
I will never be G.I. Jane
Without you
Without you
Without you


Monday, September 19, 2011

The Execution

Hmmm so I know I just posted a blog about a death run, but there is a comparably deadly type of run that I actually do willingly every 3-4 weeks called the execution run. I'm not actually trying to kill myself on all my long runs, but running is a pretty risky sport, and sometimes it just can't be avoided...perhaps slightly moreso if you do dumb things like try to run 45k in a foreign town by yourself with no liquids when you're drunk and it's 35 degrees with the humidex. Or dart across busy streets in the pitch black during rush hour in the middle of the winter (or better yet - during an ice storm). But sometimes, your coach tries to kill you instead.

That's right. You thought the execution run was MY idea?! Think again. Nicole even wrote an article about Execution Runs in the Globe and Mail. Check it out. No wonder we're called Angels. She's probably already killed us all and we're training in the cemetery in blissful ignorance. Anyway, as usual I am off on a bizarre tangent. In the article, Nicole describes the execution run as "an awesome but grueling run." True dat. It is awesome - if you get through it. For the most part, it's just grueling. In my experience training with Nicole, every execution run has been slightly different.

Coach Nic executing


I'll never forget the first execution run I did with her, in the cemetery of course, in January of 2010. It was -20, windy, the ground was snow-covered, I had a tender hamstring and had never run more than 30km. So naturally I jumped into a 28k execution, not really knowing what I was getting into. I showed up to practice and heard the girls anxiously chatting about how early they'd awoken to eat their patented pre-race meal and what they brought for fuel. They carried all kinds of bottles, belts, bars and gels and seemed quite distraught over finding the perfect place to lay it all down. I, meanwhile, had bolted out the door straight out of bed, empty-handed, and was jogging around madly trying to keep my singly-layered stems and dollar-store-gloved hands from freezing over. Eventually we gathered around Nic and she addressed our terrified faces with a devilish smile: 'Alright,' she said, 'The rules are: Start out slow. And if you speed up you CAN'T slow down. Finish with 2k HARD - I MUST, MUST, MUST see a pace change!' 'So if we don't 'execute,' I thought, 'then SHE will execute us?!' I began to get nervous. But it was too late for that.

Seconds later we were off, trudging through the snow. I found myself wanting to push the pace almost immediately - 4:20s?! It felt like a jog. I could go faster than that! Nic warned me not to go too soon. After 1 loop (6.5k) at 4:20 pace, Nic released her verbal hold on me and I began to pick up the pace, falling into stride with Lauren King, who was back in Toronto for her winter vacation. The pace dropped immediately to 4:12s and we continued along steadily for another loop. It began to get tougher at this point and I finally began to understand the reasoning behind the whole 'starting off slow' thing. The pace fell again. 4:08. After 3 loops (19.5k) my hamstring started to act up and I decided against executing, for fear that it would literally kill me (or my hamstring). Luckily, Nic didn't punish me, but seeing the other girls flail and gasp for breath in the last 2k of their workout instilled enough fear in me to be deathly nervous for the next one.

Here I am almost two years later with many execution runs under my belt, and I am no longer afraid of them. After this weekend I would actually argue that perhaps I have begun to underestimate just how hard they can be on your body. Funnily enough, my approach hasn't changed much - I still don't take gels, and although I'll usually bring a water bottle, I rarely take more than one or two sips through the entire run. I also continue to dress poorly in the cold weather, meaning I wear shorts until it starts to snow and thin tights in -20C. I suppose the only thing that's changed is that I wear massive lobster mitts because I've gotten frostbite so many times. That'll teach ya.

The plan for the execution run this weekend was to run 16k at an easy pace, then do 3 loops (19.5k) at marathon pace (3:50-3:55) or slightly slower, and execute with 1km hard. I knew I was fit enough to do this workout without too much trouble, but I wanted to nail it since it was my last big run until the marathon. Unfortunately, my shin was pretty sore after my run Thursday night, and even after a day off Friday it felt tight and sore. I had had this kind of fascial pain before that usually went away after a few days, so I wasn't too worried. I decided to do the execution on it and rest up afterwards if it got any worse. Uh-huh. S-M-A-R-T.

I woke up on Saturday and headed out the door at 6:40AM for 16k easy. My legs felt good, but I could feel my shin. I worried a little that it could get worse once I started to run hard, but I'm G.I. (Great Idiot?) Jane, so obvi I ignored it. I met Anne at the cemetery at 8AM to start the marathon-pace portion of the run. We went through 1k in 4:13, making me cringe since I was sure it was at least 4:00/km. My legs got into it soon enough, however, and I finished the first loop with 4:00/3:59/3:48/3:47/3:48 kms and a 3:55/km average. I was happy - my shin, however, was NOT. I felt it throb, especially on the downhills, but of course didn't contemplate stopping - the rest of me felt GREAT (so logical). Donna hopped in for 5k in the second loop, helping me bring down the pace to 3:46s AND take my mind off my leg. When she left me I maintained 3:47s for another loop, still feeling strong. As I climbed the last hill before my 1k execution, I saw the Varsity girls taking off on their tempo run. 'Perfect,' I thought, 'I'll catch 'em on the execution!' I started to hammer and eventually chased them down, crossing the 1k mark in 3:30. I think I threw my hands up dramatically and swore pretty loudly at this point since I failed to get in a sub-3:30 (must have been entertaining as they ran by seconds later), but overall was happy with the run. It only took a few seconds before I knew I had better book it home as my shin began to throb profusely. So, 6k later, I hobbled into Starbucks with 42k in the bag and a 3:04 total clocking, including 20k at 3:49/km average. You'd think I'd be happy. But I wasn't. For the first time, I was executed by the execution run.

The rest of the day, I pretty much sat on my ass and refreshed the bag of ice on my shin. I occasionally got up to take some more IBUprofen or eat a bag of gluten-free chips in moroseful self-pity. It was pretty sad. My Dad, who suffers from arthritis and who currently has a herniated disc, was in town that night and took me out to dinner. It must have been a pretty funny sight: I'm not sure who looked more encumbered climbing up the stairs at The Keg - the 26-year-old light and fit daughter, or the 65-year-old arthritic Dad with a herniated disc. Sometimes I feel like this running thing makes you live in dramatic extremes, where you're either hammering out a 20-miler with youthful jubilance or crawling down the street slower than a senior citizen. Unfortunately, two days later I am still stuck in the latter mode (um it took me 15 minutes to hobble four blocks today. Enough said.), and after a diagnosis of a severely strained and potentially partially torn anterior tibialis muscle, I think I might be here for a while. Strangely, I am not *that* upset about it - it sucks, but I am welcoming a little break from running. There's nothing I can do but rest and hope for the best - if it heals soon, I'll run Chicago - if not, I'll just run a later marathon. No biggie. I know I'm already ready at this point. If anything, I've finally learned to respect the execution - and really understand the reason behind its "intriguing" name!

The Coolis Cripples trying to look happy

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Keep going

The countdown is on: four weeks to go until the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, hellz yes! I just completed another mileage PB for the week of 138 miles. My body has morphed into some kind of super-human running machine, I don't get it. I never thought I'd be able to run this much, but I'm starting to appreciate what the body can adapt to with slow and consistent increases in training. All I hope is that I keep 'er going for another two weeks, until the blissful taper begins!

Keep Going


Last week was one of my best weeks of training - not just because of the numbers, but because I got in two of my highest volume interval workouts as well as a solid overdistance run. On Monday I was advised to take it easy during the workout since I had just done a 50k run two days earlier. Being the obedient little athlete that I am, I went up to Churchill early and decided to do my own 'tempo pace' workout and end it in time to say hello to the girls. I'm sure this is hard to believe, but I ended up doing a little more volume than anticipated. I swapped the planned 400s for a few 3k repeats, which in my backwards way seemed less daunting. In keeping with the backwards theme, my legs only began to feel good AFTER 2x3k, so I tacked on another for 3x3k in 11:20/11:05/10:59. The ladies had already started on their 400s, and I guess I felt left out (or I am just nuts), since I decided to hop in for five of them. I got down to about 76s - perhaps a *little* out of range from tempo pace - then went on to join them for hills (‘hills don't count, right?’ I told myself). Such was the progression to me doing their full workout on top of 3x3k and not taking it easy at all! I ended up running almost 14k of intervals, more than I ever have before. Nice. I am SO good at following directions!

I took it easy for a few days knowing I had a 12x1k w/90s rest workout coming on Thursday morning. My legs felt pretty horrible on Wednesday night, meaning I shuffled pathetically home from the Ninja workout and took rest breaks at every stop light. When I am not dodging traffic, you KNOW I am tired. I am pretty sure I was running 6min/km but refused to look at my watch for confirmation of this depressing fact. On Thursday morning, I was convinced I’d feel the same way, but miraculously the legs came around. Again, I am at a loss for explanations here. I pulled off a solid effort: 3:52/3:40/3:39/3:36/3:35/3:29/3:31/3:27/3:30/3:29/3:30/3:25.

I felt pretty fresh on Saturday for the long run too and got in another over-distance run of 46k, which included 5k tempo (4:07/km) in the last 12k.

Ninjas Jeff and Rachael spreadin' the Energy and the Energizer Night Race!


Speaking of keepin' 'er going, Saturday night was the inaugoral Toronto Energizer Bunny Night Race, an awesome event put on by the Women's Only Series race director Cory Freedman, who is ironically nicknamed the Energizer Bunny for her permanently bouncy stride and contagious enthusiasm. The event was held in Sunnybrook Park at sunset, meaning we raced through darkness wearing headlamps powered by Energizer. I volunteered as a race route guide and had a great time out on the course - the entertainment was unbelievable and included glow-in-the-dark jugglers, hula-hoopers and clowns on stilts. It was so impressive!

Mama K and G.I. J chillin' with the bunny pre-sunset

A shout out to Cory is definitely deserved, who did an absolutely FANTASTIC job organizing this run. I think one of the highlights was the pre-race dance warm-up to Rihanna and Usher and various other awesome pop songs. The pelvic thrusts and hip rotations were a new and exciting addition to my pre-existing warm-up routine (of course it already included leg kicks and booty shakes) and one I think the Angels should definitely adopt. To hell with drills! I apologize for exposing you to more of my god-awful cinematography, but here is a little taste of this epic warm-up. ENJOY.

Note the awesome booty-shake.
video

SHAKE YOUR BOOTY
video

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Dartmouth DEATH RUN

Um so you MAY recall my innocent, off-the-cusp remark about 'attempting...a long run PB of 45km (insert joyous, light-hearted exclamation mark here).' Thankfully I did cap this thought off with an 'Oh dearie.' That would be a much more fitting description of the reality of my initial attempt, henceforth known as the Dartmouth Death Run.

I went to visit my brother in Halifax for his 30th birthday last weekend. The keyword being THIRTIETH BIRTHDAY. Another important word being TRAVELLING TO HALIFAX. Ok those might be more than one word. Anyway, the point is that I forked up half of my graduate student stipend in order to go visit the fool with the only point of my visit being to celebrate with him. I also happened to have a long run scheduled for the day following the party...a 45k long run. Some would call that an ultra-marathon. Pretty awesome eh? So what was I to do? Be a sober, lame party pooper? Or do my sisterly duty and get my brother severely intoxicated? (Obviously, it is impossible to get him drunk without getting just as drunk myself). Clearly, I had no choice.

Happy Birtday Jepray!


I arrived at Porter so early this time around that I had enough time to sit in the lounge area. Imagine that, I've never actually had time to sit in the waiting area! It's a pretty nice place - big, soft chairs, coffee tables, little reading lamps, and best of all - free refreshments! Lounging there does make you feel pretty refined. I made a quick transition from sophisticated to sloppy, however, as I booted it from the airport to the bar to meet my brother. I arrived there and was greeted by him and twenty friends, all of whom I didn't know. So how do you cope with the initial awkwardness of talking to twenty strangers? Why, finish your flask of vodka and then order two martinis at dinner, of course! Yep, obviously I didn't do this...I'm just saying that would have been an easy thing to do, Rrrright. Anyway, after dins we headed to what is now one of the most amazing clubs I have ever been to. EVER. I have no idea what it was called, but we walked in - no lineup - and proceeded to pay a ONE DOLLAR cover charge. I don't think I've ever paid so little to get into a club. I spent a good two minutes staring at the woman in disbelief, waiting for her face to crack into a joking smile. Instead there was just an awkward silence. I was incredulous! In a euphoric frenzy I went straight to the bar and ordered a gazillion shots for everyone (this is how I end up saving money, not sure how I'm always broke), thinking I'd put down a good $100. Well, do you know what 10 shots cost in Hali? $20!!! I'm not kidding. I think I am going to move to Halifax, it is such a wonderful place.

We danced the night away without incident, so of course I had to make up for this on the way home. As usual, I ripped off my heels once we got out of the club (a la Shoeless Coolis, obvi) and insisted on walking barefoot (the first time I did this in Montreal I earned the nickname 'Bitch with no shoes'...from my BEST FRIEND. I think I started yelling at some people who were making fun of me across the street. Whatever, who makes fun of a poor girl without shoes?!.). I was warned against doing this again, so of course I started to stomp around barefoot proudly, promptly 'stubbing' my toe on the concrete. Everyone pretty much ignored my cries (I deserved that), until we got in the car and I lifted my foot up, which was now gushing with blood. Turns out I had actually sliced it open. Nice. When we got home, my brother's girlfriend handed me a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, which I apparently began to pour all over my feet. 'It doesn't hurt at all!" I yelled. Awesome. Unfortunately, three hours later I would wake up with a throbbing toe, a pounding headache and the spins like no other (interpretation: still drunk).

So, what do I do when my alarm goes off and I'm still drunk? Bail on the run? Of course not! 'At least,' I thought, 'I'll run off the hangover!' I got dressed and out the door by 8am, at which point I fully realized I wasn't yet quite hungover. My head was spinning and I was a mess. My plan was to go to Dartmouth, where there is a lake I could run around for up to 30km. I tried for about 20min to find the bridge to get there (in my defense, it was strangely foggy that morning...and it WASN'T just my head!). I finally figured out how to get on the pedestrian sidewalk and into Dartmouth, and after about 45min I started to feel better. My head cleared up, and my legs felt good. My stomach, however, took a turn for the worse. I stopped at a gas station, which made me feel better...for about 20min. Then the cycle began: start 10min. Stop 5min. Start 10min. Stop 5min. It was like failing the Running Room run-walk program. This continued for the next hour, until the stops became even more frequent and I felt increasingly ill. Finally, 2hrs15min into my 'run' I called it. I was done, and I wouldn't run another step. I looked around. I had ducked into some trails by the lake and had absolutely NO IDEA where I was. To make matters worse, it was 30 degrees, sunny and I had no fluids on me. Compound the fact that I had been drinking all night and had consumed exactly zero ounces of water, and you might begin to understand how dehydrated I was. Not to mention starving. So I just started walking. About 45min later, I saw a sign saying 'CAMP SCHUBE'. 'Yes! Civilization!' I yelped. I found the main office and walked in, making the woman at the front jump in horror. I must have looked like a drenched, ghostly, starving, lost wild animal. Her reaction made me question whether I had also forgotten to take last night's makeup off; perhaps I was more raccoon-like than I had thought. I asked if they had anything to drink and she quickly pointed to a fridge at the back. It instantaneously lit up like a heavenly archway. Pepsi? Lemonade? Gatorade? Orange Crush? I salivated at the sight of everything. I wanted one of each. How was I to decide? I settled on several bottles of Pepsi and Lemonade, convinced that I would be able to chug 2L on the spot. I then asked the woman how to get back to Halifax. 'There's a bus stop around the corner,' she began, 'but you have to HURRY! It will be there any minute! You have to run! Now! Go! Goooo!' She became increasingly shrill. I let out a loud belch, thanked her for the pop and lazily made my way out the door, completely ignoring her frantic cues to hussle to the bus stop. I pretty much didn't care at that point - there was no way I was running. Plus I was pretty happy with all my sugary soft drinks, which I had already began to chug furiously. I got to the bus stop and big surprise - no bus in sight. So I decided I would hitch-hike. I figured Nova Scotians were a pretty friendly bunch. So there I stood, one thumb raised into the street and the other hand lifting a bottle of Pepsi to my visage, burping and chugging away. Several cars went by, but no one stopped. I couldn't understand why, but I began to get pretty discouraged. Then, I saw a big truck in the distance - no, not a truck, it was train. No, a train wouldn't be on a road, would it? Wait, could it be a...yes! Yes it was! It was a BUS! HALLELUJAH! The bus was late! I jumped for joy. I hopped on and eventually made it back into Halifax (small town buses seem to like to take a lot of detours...). I got off at a random stop - the right one by complete fluke - and managed to find my brother's place. By this time it was almost 1pm, and my brother and his girlfriend had just woken up. I walked in and they began to shower me with congratulations 'You did it! Wow! We are so impressed you got up and did your big run!!!' At which point I had to explain to them how I was out for 5 hours and only ran for 2 of them...nice. Ashley made everything better with copious amounts of scrambled eggs and sausage, however, and soon enough I felt back to normal. If I accomplished one thing on the Darmouth Death Run, I definitely got rid of all the alcohol in my system! So at least it was good for something?

Theodore Tugboat! (Not really related to anything in this post...)


An essential visit to SWEET JANE'S. Sweet Indeed!


So last weekend being a total FAIL, I pushed the long run to this weekend. I did it yesterday and in comparison to last week, it was about one trillion billion times better. I started out around 4:45-50/km and after 25k brought it down to 4:40s, then 4:30s and finished with 9k or so at 4:20/km for 50km total. The best part was how easy it felt...umm, perhaps because I had such a horrible comparison?! This is why, my friends, training off vodka can help you in the long run (in more ways than one!).