fitness · Guest Post · injury · running

On Being Ground to a Halt (Guest Post)

By Alison Conway

In this month’s lead up to the Olympic Games, various American track athletes have been posting about the injuries that prevented them appearing at the trials (June 18-27) where they might have qualified for a spot on the US Team. The heartbreak is palpable: “I live in an optimistic world,” writes Emily Lipari, “but I have truly struggled to find the good that comes from this one.” Keira D’Amato observes the fickle nature of her ill-timed injury: “The fall of 2020, I was able to push [my] limits and accomplish some incredible personal feats. Unfortunately, this spring season was on the other side of that equation.” These women, and many others, are watching their long-dreamed of chance at Olympic competition recede over the horizon.

“We have tried everything,” Lipari remarks of her knee injury, and I can relate. Last March, I was ready to run the Boston marathon, with 10 km and half-marathon PBs freshly minted in January and February races. We all know what came next. I slogged out a quiet summer of running and looked ahead, along with the rest of the planet, to 2021. But a niggling knee pain in October developed into a full-blown injury by December, and suddenly I was no longer running, at all. I did my rehab exercises and resigned myself to a couple of months off. An MRI showed a complex meniscus tear, probably the work of many years, aggravated by who knows what on a long run. I got on a bike and I jumped in the pool and I waited for recovery to arrive with the spring cherry blossoms.

I have been here before. After several years of running in my teens and early twenties, I developed knee trouble and my physiotherapist suggested that, since I liked swimming well enough, I should just stick to the pool. I don’t remember this moment very clearly, so I couldn’t have minded giving up my runs. Thirty years later, I mind very much. When I started running again at fifty, I thought, “We’ll see.” As the years passed and the knees showed up, week after week, my fears of injury subsided. “Besides,” I thought, “the science is better now. My physio will fix me if I break.” But my physio has tried his very best, and I’m still broken. A few short runs in April resulted in another flare up and pain all over the place. The specialist has advised me that I should start planning an “alternative activity” future—my knees are telling me it’s time to quit, he says.

The fact that my heart, as well as my knee, is broken this time round tells me that running has been doing some heavy lifting for me over the past few years. It found me a new community after a midlife move across the country; it helped me recover from the loss of a parent and a family home; it gave me goals to reach for, a way of moving through my fifties with confidence and strength. Now, I walk the dogs. I swim my laps. I pedal miles along a country road. Sometimes dark clouds block the sun.

It is a small loss in a year of catastrophic losses, but it is a loss just the same. No one likes to see me sad and friends have weighed in with advice and opinions. Everyone, it seems, has a meniscus surgery success story to share. It’s time for a second opinion, they say. Hyaluronic acid, plasma injections! The options seem endless, until they aren’t.

Covid has taught us all that we don’t know a lot of things. Like many others, I struggle with uncertainty and would rather find a story to tell, one that puts me back in charge. Blaming myself for the injury is one way to know something. Tracking down a specialist who will give me the right referral or a different diagnosis is another. For now, though, I’m swimming into an uncertain future, about which, today, I know nothing. And I’m thinking about all the runners who have gone before me and wondering how they felt when they put their trainers away for the last time.

Image description:  Two dogs on an Okanagan trail, with the shadow of someone who would rather be running than walking in the foreground.
 

Alison Conway lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx (Okanagan) Peoples.

habits · rest · running · self care · training

Navigating the Tricky Balance Between Effort and Ease

I’m feeling wobbly. I’m not quite managing the balance between effort and ease. Could be that I’m finally allowing myself to feel the full weariness of the pandemic, now that we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel (a tunnel that emerges into an as-yet unknown future). Could be that I’ve been gorging myself on a lot of inputs, between the multiple Non-Violent Communication and Internal Family Systems trainings I’m attending, the practice groups I belong to, plus writing coaching clients, and my own workshop development and writing, plus some deep dive personal development work.  That psychic tiredness may be spilling over into physical tiredness, too. But I keep trying to push my way through the depletion into a higher energy state. This tendency is most obvious in my physical activities.

Here’s an example from a few days ago. I woke up in a hole. The voice in my head who likes to tell me I’m not enough was on a tear. Vivienne (that’s the voice’s name and yes, I give the voices in my head names) hadn’t actually taken up much air time recently. I’d almost forgotten how ferocious she can get. I headed out on a run, with the idea of appeasing her. When she’s on a bender, she wants me to sweat first, then get to some tasks. From the first step of my run, I was dragging. About 45 minutes in, I arrived at a short, steep dirt hill, where I sometimes do repeats. I thought, “No, no, no.” Vivienne said, “Oh yes.” I tried to negotiate, “Okay, but just three.” Vivienne said, “Do the full five.” Five is my usual. I did them. Vivienne’s concession in our semi-détente was to allow me to skip the plyometric jumps I do at the end of runs. Mainly, because I’d almost whiffed a jump on my last run (from tiredness). The hill repeats inside of an 8.5-mile run were enough to satisfy Vivienne’s performance standards for me that day. Almost … there was still the Peloton ride.  

The post-run ride is a new routine I’ve developed since acquiring the Peloton in December; big help reducing how stiff and sore my legs are after a run. You know that feeling when you get up from your desk chair and your legs feel cramped up and six inches shorter? I don’t get that feeling nearly as much since I started the new routine.

Vivienne and I both agreed that I should not skip the ride, my protection against the creaky feeling. But … I couldn’t muster the minimum 10-minutes I usually ride post-run. I opted for a 5-minute cool-down ride. More, I did not even start at the minimum (yet elevated) resistance level recommended. Vivienne was unimpressed by my output (output is an actualnumber on the Peloton bike). Our truce was cracking. I was trying to convince her that hey-you-got-on-the-bike-and-that’s-what-counts.   

After all, a couple months ago I wrote here about the importance of counting the 5-minute Peloton rides, because they are essential to our recovery. This day, my breezy confidence about their worthiness was put to the test. When my ride ended, all the statistics shot up on the right side of the screen, as they always do. This was not a day I wanted to see them. But, before I could swipe them away without looking, I saw it. The badge. Congratulations on 100 rides, Mina. As if to say, “Put your money where your mouth is (or more precisely where your pen was two months ago on this blog)! Not only do the 5-minute rides count. You hit your first big milestone on one.”

Other riders on Peloton organize themselves in advance to make sure they do a milestone ride live, on the hopes of a shout-out from the instructor. Still others plan around hitting a milestone live and on their birthday. But me, I don’t even know the milestone is coming, because I’m not keeping track. And when it does, it lands on the least significant ride I’ve done to date (in terms of effort). It sure felt like the universe was having a laugh, as if to say, “Hi Mina, this is The Karmic Coincidence Squad, remember when you said the 5-minute rides count? Indeed, let the ride be counted!”

Back in April, I wrote that our 5-minute rides are as important as the longer, grittier rides. Perhaps more so. Because they are a gift to ourselves. So, my gift to myself with this 5-minutes was ease. Offering grace to my legs and spirit, on a day I needed some. That is milestone worthy.

But maybe the universe was also telling me to take a closer look at how I’d gotten so far out of balance that a 5-minute ride was maximally taxing. Why am I so physically tired? I haven’t been doing significantly more than usual. In theory, I’ve been running shorter distances and making up the miles with between 10-20 minutes on the Peloton, after my runs. But am I actually running less than I would? And is the effort on the bike equivalent to the effort of running an extra mile or two? Plus, I should note the pre-Pilates spins that I’ve added in, too (which are meant to replace the casual bike ride to and from the studio in pre-pandemic times). Also, often those spinning minutes are intervals, even high intensity intervals. Maybe all those 10-20-minute tag-alongs are wearing me down?

I wrote that last sentence the next day after the milestone. As I watched the words unfurl on the page, the reality settled into my body. I’ve had 5 days now to process the message. A short spin may reduce soreness, but it does not, unfortunately, reduce tiredness. My tag-along spins may be contributing to my depletion. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest. But sometimes we just need rest. It’s time to re-evaluate my routine, it might have lost its balance.

A small bird balanced between two flower stalks, holding on with its toes. I love that one of the flowers is blown out and missing its petals and the other still has its petals–that felt right for illustrating the balance between effort and ease. KT on Unsplash

The fulcrum between effort and ease is constantly changing. Navigating a course through those uncertain waters is a dynamic, evolving practice. Hitting that milestone as I slid off the bike in a state of wet-noodledom after 5-minutes woke me up to that fact. Again.

In the past 5 days, in addition to taking it extra easy on my rest day, I scaled back on the intervals and opted for a couple of slower, steadier rides over the rainy long weekend. After my run two days ago, I spent the time I would have been spinning, stretching instead. And this morning, I hit a personal best on my ride. That felt like the universe offering me a quick reward to reinforce the message.

Recalibrate often. More ease can enable more effort.

Now the trick is to apply that to my whole life.

cycling · fitness · racing · running · training

Warming up!

Everyone knows that before you make a big effort, you ought to warm up. But do we?

See Warming up for better results: “We all know that we are ‘supposed to’ warm-up. In fact, we probably all learned the importance of a warm-up during PE Class in 3rd grade. Yet, when push comes to shove, warm-up is one of the first things we cut out or cut down when workout time is limited and we’re in a rush. On the contrary, warming up is one aspect of a workout that should never be removed. No matter what your workout is, from intervals to base training, from powerlifting to table tennis, you should always have a warm-up. Warm-ups help to increase body temperature, increase heart rate, increase circulation, and increase blood flow to muscles. All of these physiological adjustments help to prevent injury and help to optimize performance.”

I confess that when I ran, I didn’t really ever warm up. That’s because when I was running 10 km, I felt like 10 km was as far as I could run. I had no extra in the tank for warm-ups. When I ran 5 km, there should have been time to warm up, but I rarely did.

Here’s a little general warm up

Luckily, as far as performance goes, it actually doesn’t make much difference for endurance events. And running, for me, was only ever about endurance.

When cycling, my best warm ups were at the velodrome where you couldn’t warm up on the track. There was too much demand for track time. Instead we warmed up on rollers in the infield. And when I was doing fast group rides outside, I counted my time riding to the start as warm up. Indeed, generally, as both a bike commuter and casual racing cyclist, I was often better warmed up than competitors because I’d ridden to the location of the race.

But when I first started riding and racing on Zwift, I wasn’t much into warming up. I’d just hope on the bike, join the event and start riding. But I discovered through trial and error that I did much better if I’d warmed up. What kind of trial and error? Well, I quit some races after getting dropped and joined others. One night I quit a team time trial (I’d done a bit and it was clearly too fast, too far to stay with the group) and joined an ITT. I won the ITT (in my category) in part because it was short and I was thoroughly warmed up.

I’ve gotten better this year at warming up before big rides and races. I’ve mostly been doing the GPLAMA Ultimate Warm Up.

Ride Report

How about you? Are you a fan of warming up?

eating · food · running

Running Fuel:  Avoiding a sour stomach and what to eat after a run

Feature photo credit: Roman Koester, via Unsplash.

Does running risk upsetting your stomach?  Do you have to treat it tenderly when you get back home to ensure you’re comfortable the rest of the day?  How do you balance your nutritional needs with that overwhelming desire to live off of starchy carbs?

Saturday, I wrote about some of the meals and foods I can enjoy for breakfast that help me feel better during my runs.  Now, I want to address the post-run meal.  I come back from my runs ready to enjoy something, but not ready to eat.  I also want to reset my gut so I can enjoy more fibrous vegetables and satisfying meals with more protein and fats than I have usually put into that day’s breakfast.  Here are the “rules” that seem to work best for me post-run to help me avoid an upset stomach and get me back into my regular eating routines.

Rule one:  Have a recovery beverage asap.  I read somewhere that dehydration can add to that sour stomach feeling, and maybe it’s a factor for me.  So, I make sure to have some water with a little juice or other sugar in it right away.  I might not be ready to eat immediately, but I find having something cold and refreshing immediately following my run really helps me to get back to feeling normal faster. I’ve put two of my favorite ways to rehydrate below.

Rule two:  Keep food easy to digest for the next few hours at least.  Cooked veggies over raw, moderate fat, some low-fat meat is fine for a protein boost. 

Rule three:  Eat when I’m hungry just until satisfied, not until full.  After a run is not a time to stuff myself, which honestly isn’t a habit of mine in any case, but I have been known to keep eating when something is really delicious.  That overfull feeling doesn’t mix well with my post-running stomach.  It’s also not a time for a rich dessert.

If I follow these guidelines, I feel mostly normal and back to my usual eating options by the time for my afternoon snack rolls around.  I keep hoping that someday I won’t need to negotiate so much with my gut before and after a run, but after years of running, I’m beginning to think that this is just how my body works.  I enjoy running enough to keep doing it, at least one day a week anyway.  But if I couldn’t find a way to work with my eating challenges, I’m not sure that would be true.  I’m happy to have found solutions that allow me to integrate running into my weekends and still feel like I’m taking care of myself nutritionally as well.

Homemade Orange Sports Drink

This is my go-to beverage after a run.  I mix it up and either keep it in the fridge ready to enjoy when I return, or if I’m running outside of my neighborhood, keep it in the car to enjoy as soon as I get back to it.

Mix together orange juice concentrate with twice the cold water recommended.

Add a dash of salt.

If you’re a meathead like me, you can put your daily creatine powder in this as well, to check off that box for the day.

Stir or shake together until fully combined.

Ginger-Apple Frothy Recovery Drink

Ginger has natural happy-tummy abilities, reducing nausea and upset stomachs.  This is a great option for days when you’re really struggling to set your stomach right.

In a blender, combine until the texture of a slushie:

Candied ginger

Apple juice (or concentrate plus water)

Ice

Maybe half a frozen banana

Pureed Vegetable Soup

Whenever I get around to lunch, I want to get back to my full serving of vegetables, since I’ve avoided them before my run.  This soup really works for me.

In a large stock pot, add 1 tablespoon of oil and 4 cups chopped carrots, onions, and celery. Frozen is fine.  Don’t bother to chop anything really finely, because you’re going to blend it all up later.

Add another 4-6 cups chopped other vegetables of your choice such as more carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, zucchini, spinach, etc.  I also like to add a red garnet yam for the sweetness.  Again, you can “cheat” and just throw in some frozen veggies, if you want to save time.

Flavor with 4-6 cloves of crushed garlic and 1-2 tbsp fresh ginger root.  If you want curried soup, also add 2 tbsp curry powder, 1 tbsp each cumin and powdered coriander, and some hot pepper (to taste).

Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until everything is very soft.  This can take an hour or so, but you don’t have to pay attention to it most of that time.  It can burn as it gets close to being done, so check on it every 5-10 minutes or so near the end and give it a good stir.

Add 8 cups of (preferably homemade) vegetable or chicken stock.

Use a stick blender to blend it all together until completely smooth.  Add salt to taste and adjust seasonings.  Allow to simmer a bit to combine flavors.

I freeze this in 1-2 cup servings and pull out one each weekend.  It makes 10-15 servings, depending on how much you eat at a time.  When it’s time for lunch, I add some shredded chicken and a dollop of Greek yogurt on top. I make it a balanced meal with some toast or a muffin on the side.

Do you have dietary “rules” you follow to help you feel good after a run?  Have a favorite post-run food?  I’d love to hear them.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher.  She can be found slowly cooking vegetables on the stove, picking up heavy things, and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon. You can now read her at Progressive-Strength.com .

Photo description: Not my soup, but someone’s lovely bright yellow-orange pureed vegetable soup with fresh herbs and pumpkin seeds garnishing the top. Photo credit: Monika Grabkowska, via Unsplash.
eating · food · running

Running Fuel: What do you eat beforehand to avoid a sour stomach?

Feature photo credit: Marcos Paulo Prado, via Unsplash.

What do you eat before a run?  Does what you eat impact how you perform?  

I struggle with a sensitive stomach on running days.  If I eat the wrong things beforehand, I get a sour stomach during and/or after my runs, which can send me rushing into the bathroom repeatedly and disrupt my appetite for the rest of the day.

Based upon my own experimentation, I have found a few rules for a happy gut and a good run.  Today, I want to share what I have found works for me before a run.  I’ll post later on what I do afterwards.

My eating “rules” for the meal before my run:

Rule 1: Eat something.  I run in the morning after breakfast.  I tried running on just coffee, and my energy tanked rapidly and the run just plain felt harder.

Rule 2: Don’t eat too much fiber.  One of my B365 habits is to aim for 2 cups of fruits and fibrous vegetables at each meal, but I make an exception for breakfast before my run.  Fruit seems to agree with me more than vegetables, but even then I need to be careful.  One apple or a banana is totally fine.  A cup of berries might cross the line into unhappy tummy land.

Rule 3: Focus on easily-digested starchy carbohydrates like hot cereals, bread, or yams.  

Rule 4: Avoid too much fat.  Fat slows down our digestion, and I don’t want too much food hanging out in my digestive track during a run.  So, I aim for enough to keep me satisfied and not hungry on the run, but not so much that I feel full or heavy.  

Rule 5: Get enough easily digested protein to feel satisfied. My preferred sources at breakfast are eggs, usually mixed with egg whites, and/or plain Greek yogurt.   

I let my gut tell me when it’s time to head out.  Some thirty to sixty minutes after breakfast, I need to use the bathroom.  When that business is done, I can safely head out to do the work.

Some menus/recipes that have worked well for me:

Oatmeal with apple (I’ve shared several of my recipes here), Scrambled egg/egg white, Greek yogurt, Coffee

Roasted sweet potato (with skin), Parmesan cheese, Scrambled eggs/egg whites, Coffee

All-in-One-Bowl Oat Bran and Wheat Porridge 

  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 whole egg plus 6 Tbs. egg whites (2 large whites), or two large eggs
  2. In a microwave-safe glass measuring cup, bring to a boil (2 min. in my microwave): ½ cup soy milk (or dairy, if you prefer) plus ¾ cup water
  3. Slowly pour the hot liquid into the egg mixture, whisking the entire time.  This tempers the egg and keeps it from becoming scrambled eggs.
  4. Turn on the heat to medium under the egg mixture.  When it returns to a near boil, lower the heat and whisk in, 2 Tbs. Cream of Wheat or other wheat farina product, and 3 Tbs. oat bran.  
  5. Cook at a slow simmer stirring frequently until thick, about 4 minutes.
  6. Stir in cinnamon, 1-2 Tbs. raisins, 1 Tbs. of peanut butter, and 1 cup other fruit as desired (chopped apple, banana, peaches, etc.). Heat through.
  7. To serve, pour it all into a large bowl, plop on top ½ cup or so of plain Greek yogurt and sprinkle with a little brown sugar.

Banana Nut Pancakes

I make my own “pancake mix,” which is really just all the dry ingredients from a favorite pancake recipe, mixed together in bulk and stored in a container in my cupboard.  My absolute favorite of the moment is from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book (multigrain with buttermilk), but I have also used the Joy of Cooking Basic Pancakes recipe many times (subbing in some whole wheat flour).  

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together: 1 mashed banana, 1 whole egg, 1 Tbs peanut butter or 2 Tbs chopped nuts, ½ tsp vanilla, a shake or two of cinnamon, and enough liquid (water or milk) for one serving of pancakes (¼-⅓ cup for the recipes I use).
  2. Stir in the dry ingredient pancake mix for one serving (½ cup-ish on my recipes).  Adjust the texture as needed.
  3. Cook on a hot griddle with a tetch of butter melted on it.
  4. Serve with Greek yogurt, a little real maple syrup, and a couple eggs/scrambled egg whites.

These have been my go-tos for breakfast before my runs.  What are you eating?  If you struggle with tummy issues on your runs, what keeps you satisfied but doesn’t upset your stomach?

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found searching up new pancake recipes, picking up heavy things and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon. You can now read her at Progressive-Strength.com .

Photo description: A stack of pancakes and maple syrup on a fun glazed plate (with fruit designs?), a knife and fork. Photo credit: dazedream Via Unsplash
fitness · habits · motivation · running · winter

Of streaks and inertia: Tracy’s COVID winter

Image description: Selfie of two women, Anita and Tracy (in 2019!), inside a diner, wearing hats and smiles, after a 20K Sunday run, others in the background.

The other day Anita posted one of those memories we get these days on our social media. It was from two years ago, the two of us smiling, in the diner we used to go to for breakfast after our Sunday runs. Its 2019 caption said: “The epic runs begin for the Round the Bay race. 20k, easy peasy!” And its 2021 caption said: “I can’t even imagine easy peasy 20km now. Tracy?” My reply: “No, I cannot. I am impressed with those two!”

And I am. They seem like different people, all excited to be winter running for 20K, in preparation for a late March 30K. Smiling even after the 20K. Able to go out for breakfast after. Two people from different households leaning in for an unmasked selfie. With other people in the background. Was that really just two scant years ago?

My experience, my very quiet experience, this winter has been of streaks and inertia. Both have their own quality of momentum in my life. The more I do (or do not do), the easier it is to do the same (or continue to not do) the next day.

I look outside this afternoon. The sun shines. It’s cold, but not as cold as it has been of late. I started January with a commitment to get outside for a run or a walk every day. That was one of my streaks that I hoped to keep going through the winter. But the runs soon turned to shorter runs. Then shorter runs turned to longer walks. Then longer walks became walks around the block. The streak ended before January did. And on the weekend I cancelled both a walk and a run with others (and heaven knows I could benefit from the company of others) because it was just too cold and I couldn’t face the windchill. My toes froze just thinking about it.

The Tracy who did the easy peasy 20K two years ago would be incredulous. But the less one runs 20K, the less likely it is that one will run 20K. That’s the inertia of ramping down. As I said to Cate, inertia and streaks are equally strong in their respective energies.

I am considering going out before the sun goes down today. It is in fact a little bit warmer, only -11C with the windchill, and I am after all a Canadian who has trained through many a winter. But I am also considering a nap. All of this rages on as an internal debate. I know how even just a little bit in the other direction can take me out of inertia (I have blogged about this SO MUCH, how scaling back can get me back on track, how small starts are all we [I] need). But I don’t feel like doing a short run or walk. I feel like staying inside. And in the end no one else does (or even should) care.

Counterbalancing the inertia are some divinely satisfying streaks! I have been on a meditation streak since September, meditating at least a little bit almost every day. I started the Insight Timer January Mindful Mornings challenge on January 1st, and I didn’t miss a day until yesterday, which got me thinking about streaks and how much they motivate me to do the same again. The Insight Timer app tells you after your meditation how many consecutive days you meditated. And there is something about that total that pulls me to my cushion the next day (it’s probably counter to the very idea of meditation to call it a “challenge” or a “streak,” so fixated the meditation teachers always are on just “being” in the “present moment” etc.). Still, I once had a daily meditation streak that lasted unbroken for years (I forget how many; it was a while back). I might have missed yesterday, resetting my “consecutive days” to a sad “one consecutive day” this morning. But I think I can jump right back into that because a streak’s momentum is not undermined (for me, anyway) with one little miss.

Added to my meditation streak is my yoga streak. I started 2021 with Yoga with Adriene’s Breath practice, the 30-day sequence. I didn’t miss a day, and some of those days the ONLY reason I didn’t miss a day was that I had not missed a day. Having not missed a day, it became harder to let that happen. This, to me, is the simple and elegant beauty of a streak.

And when January ended, I wanted to keep going. Why? Because I hadn’t missed a day of yoga in 2021, of course.

My other streak-ish sort of thing are my virtual Superhero workouts. I started out with the once-a-week membership. Then I increased to the three-times-a-week membership. And then I went to the unlimited membership, which gives me the option of six workouts a week. You can pretty much count on me for five a week. The idea originally was to do four a week and run on the off days, walk on the “on” days, and do yoga everyday (whatever Adriene was offering, without asking too many questions [not that there is anyone to ask]).

My COVID winter is basically me bouncing between streaks and inertia, with maybe a bit more mindful awareness of what is going on (my WOY is “mindfulness”). I’m working my way out of being totally stalled in my running. And when I am ready to bust out of it, I’ll take tiny steps in the other direction. Who knows? Maybe by the end of this winter I will have a running streak to report, letting the momentum carry me back to 10K.

How about you? Any streaks? Any inertia?

covid19 · fitness · racing · running

Virtual Races: Yes and No

Since COVID sidelined so many runners from taking part in organized events where we feed off the energy of running alongside (hundreds and sometimes thousands of) others, race organizers have had time to come up with alternative approaches. A few friends have talked about “virtual races,” where you sign up and do your own route on the appointed day. This year, the Around the Bay 30K organizers are offering a virtual race, recognizing that it’s likely a done deal that we won’t all be vaccinated by the end of March.

The virtual event will have a 5K, 10K, and 15K options as well as the full 30K. Runners who register (or who transfer their registration from last year’s cancelled event) will pick a day between March 25 and April 25 to do their chosen distance, and will be able to submit their result to be recorded on Sportstat. Information about this event and about the Around the Bay Fun Challenge (a new challenge a day for each day in January, like January 1st: “do 5 jumping jacks everytime you say or type ‘happy new year'”) can be found on the ATB website.

Different people have different feelings about virtual events. Today, we will present two perspectives. Nicole likes the idea. Tracy, not so much.

Nicole: Yes, please!

When I first heard about the Virtual Run Around the Bay, I thought “that could be a good way of increasing my mileage throughout the winter”. I also thought “that’s a definite maybe”. I already have a lot planned for the coming months, with my regular HIIT workouts, spinning at home, yoga, walking and weekly run. Plus, non-exercise things, such as a new university course I’m starting in January and the usual things such as work, books on my list to read and downtime. I love my downtime.

I am going to sign up and these are the reasons why:

  1. While I have continued running throughout the pandemic, my last long race was the half marathon I participated in, in October 2019. I did get up to 10k in the summer and part of what helped me stay on track was signing up for the virtual Run for the Cure and setting a personal commitment of 10K, even though the Run for the Cure is 5k. That’s because I already run 5k on a regular basis and if I am going to sign up for a cause, I feel it should be more of a challenge than the every day routines.
  1. I signed up for the Run Around the Bay 10 years ago. I signed up just before I met someone and started a romantic relationship that lasted about 4 months. I let my training slide, partly because it was a very messy, cold, winter, and partly, because I was preoccupied with the new relationship. That new relationship ended really badly and I would have been better off focussing on training for the Race! Needless to say, I didn’t run it that year and that’s the only Race I’ve everysigned up for that I haven’t completed.
  2. I don’t drive anymore and I don’t have a car. Sure, I can ask my husband, who I affectionately call Uber Gavin, to drive me to Hamilton, when the Race is back to real life, but I like that idea that I can run the distance of the Run Around the Bay, without having to go to Hamilton (from Toronto). Might seem silly, but that’s a factor 🙂
  3. I like the flexibility that will be allowed by a virtual Race. It can get really messy in January and February, which can impede longer runs. Also, it’s a bit late already to start training for 30k for March 25th. So, I’m going to pick April 25th and commit to completing the 30k race by April 25th.
  4. Unlike Tracy, I don’t love the crowd aspect of a race. I enjoy the in-between part, when runners are more spread apart. There is definitely incentive, adrenaline and camaraderie that is gained from running with a group. But I don’t enjoy the before or after part when there are large crowds. I’m a bit crowd-adverse. I don’t enjoy the chatter at the beginning from others talking about how well they think they are going to do. I liken it to chatter before an exam. Happy to do without it. I will sign up for an in-person race when I can, because I enjoy the in-between part and the finish, but I will also appreciate the solitary race. I run mostly by myself and I enjoy running by myself for the active meditation it provides me.
Nicole finishing her first marathon at the Toronto Marathon “awhile back”.

Tracy: No thanks

Image description: Batman on left, Tracy on right, both smiling under a blue sky, at the Around the Bay 30K in 2015.

First, let me be clear that this isn’t actually a hard “no.” But the idea of a virtual event just doesn’t move me. What I love most about actual events like Around the Bay is the race day energy. I mean, I guess we can run 30K whenever and wherever we like if we’ve trained for it. But doing it with 9000 other people is so much fun and impossible to replicate. I did the ATB 30K in 2015 and 2019, and the two-person relay in 2018. (Reports here, here, and here).

When you’re struggling up a hill, someone else is struggling up the same hill just ahead of you. You get to fall into pace with similarly paced runners, and it’s a comfort to see them just up ahead, taking turns overtaking each other and then dropping back, or even pacing alongside for periods of time. You develop a bit of camaraderie with those people who were strangers at the beginning of the race.

Also, when you do the event with someone with whom you’ve trained, like Julie (2015) and Anita (2018), you’re in for a nice long chat if you decide to run together for most of the race. And then of course there is the post-event feeling of individual and collective satisfaction, of having all endured the same thing — those knowing looks exchanged as you try to stretch seized up legs or eat that green banana (I often don’t get to the food before the only remaining bananas are green lol).

A virtual race won’t do that. And though I do like to challenge myself to exceed my previous time, I don’t think I’d be able to stay motivated for 30K without the energy of others, even the bystanders offering encouraging words or holding up inspirational signs.

At the same time, I do recognize that race day is just one day, and that it is motivating to have an event to train for. My Around the Bay experiences were themselves really satisfying, and it’s unlikely that I would have trained as consistently with that level of dedication if I hadn’t had the spectre of a 30K event pushing me to do so. Knowing myself, I can’t see a virtual event inspiring the same sort of commitment for me. It might be different for someone who has a training partner or small running group. But through COVID I have taken to running on my own again, so that’s not my situation at present.

While for me a virtual event has little allure, I am looking forward to signing up for an in person something — probably 10K — as soon as we are able to do that again. I love race day. I miss race day. I hold out hope that there will be a race day for me in 2021.

Question for you: does a virtual race appeal to you or not? Let us know in the comments, including your “why.” 🙂

family · fitness · kids and exercise · running

Running with baby!

My partner and I bought ourselves two things for Christmas this year: a hoover (vacuum) robot and a running/bike trailer to take the little human on sporty adventures with us. So on Boxing Day, we ventured out for our first run as three, which was also my first run since I was 28 weeks pregnant. It was So! Much! Fun!, even though I’m very much out of shape. No regrets on spending our hard earned euros on this new plaything! The small human enjoyed it too, or at least he didn’t complain and even fell asleep.

Bettina in running gear with a three-wheel running stroller and a snugly-dressed baby in it (no photos of baby’s face on the interwebs, sorry!).

Hooray for getting my identity as a runner back, and for making the little one part of it!

Book Reviews · fitness · running

Really moving on past running, Sam gave the books away.

I’m an academic and a voracious reader. You can tell very easily what my interests are at a given time by what I’m reading about. I like to know a lot about the things I do. I’m often puzzled by people who aren’t curious in this way.

It’s not quite true any more that each new passion begins with a trip to the bookstore. There’s the internet after all. But at some point, I start buying books.

Oh you can follow/friend/whatever me over at GoodReads.

Sam’s mostly fiction, non work related, reading

But equally, when passions fade and life stages change, I don’t want these books taking up space on my shelves. For years I co-taught a course on progressive themes in Christian theology to my church congregation. When I stopped I donated the books to our church library.

Ditto all the books on parenting small children. Ditto all the books on pregnancy and childbirth. All donated to places where they might come in use.

In my new neighborhood in Guelph there are three or four small curbside “libraries.” Some people call them “free libraries” but I’m not sure why. Regular libraries are also free. I think of them more as places to give books away. Near me the book giveaway boxes hold everything from gardening books and contemporary mysteries to old textbooks and yet more copies of 50 Shades of Grey.

I recently added to their collections, with my old running books.

I started running in my late 30s. It never really suited me but I loved it. I went from 5 km to 10 km to aiming for 20 km. I got speedy, it’s true. But I also had two stress fractures.

In my forties and in my run up to fittest by fifty, I kept distances short. I ran playing soccer. I sprinted at CrossFit. And I ran doing short distance duathlons.

Now I’m waiting for total knee replacement surgery for both knees eventually, one more urgent than the other. I won’t run again unless I’m being chased by a bear or exiting a burning building. There’s no need to train for that and so away go the inspirational books.

If you live in Guelph’s Old University neighborhood you can find the three great books in our book giveaway boxes. I liked them all.

And I’m hoping some new beginning runner or triathlete gives them a read, puts on her running shoes, and is inspired to give it a go.

Slow Fat Triathlete: Live Your Athletic Dreams in the Body You Have Now

Slow Fat Triathlete: Live Your Athletic Dreams in the Body You Have Now:  Williams, Jayne: 9781569244678: Books - Amazon.ca

The Courage To Start: A Guide To Running for Your Life

Cover art

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances (The Oatmeal Book 5)

Beat The Blerch
Beat the Blerch!

Enjoy!

fitness · motivation · running · training · winter

Winter running has begun!

Image description: Headshot of Tracy, smiling, droplets of melted snow on face, frost on her headband (a paisley Buff), smiling, grey running jacket with melted snow visible, empty streetview of an intersection and a red brick building in the background.

Winter running! Just the other day I posted in my 220 in 2020 group that I have officially become a “fairweather runner” because I skipped a Sunday run a couple of weeks ago. Susan chimed in and said, “because it was a hurricane!” Well, maybe not quite a hurricane, but the winds were gusting up to 90 km an hour and it was pouring rain. Not many people would want to venture out in that.

Fast forward a week, and it was a mild 1 degree C and snowing on Sunday morning. This time I actually felt eager to get out there. It was almost perfect, easy to dress right (early winter tights, a short-sleeved t-shirt, a buff to keep my ears protected and my head from getting wet, and a windproof/waterproof running jacket), and it felt somehow inviting. If it’s going to be cold, I’d rather have cold and snow than cold and rain. Plus I’d rather run in light snow than in blazing sun on a hot and humid day (yes, I’m Canadian :)).

Lots of people complain about winter running. I’ve blogged about it before. See my old old post “Gearing up for Winter Running” where, 8 years ago I was trying to figure my gear for my first season of winter running. I also used to feel fearful about it (see “Getting over the fear of winter running”). Sometimes I’ve had to brace myself for it. Sometimes I’ve hit a wall with winter running. It has its pitfalls. Like it can be icy, which is a hazard. Sunday wasn’t at all icy, though some slush had started to accumulate by the time I was well past the halfway point. It was mild enough that the pathway stayed reasonably clear. That’s not always the case. I’ve run through heavy snow before and it is not fun when there is no clear path and you’re wading through snow or taking risks on the road (I do not like doing that but I have done it).

Winter running can also be dark if you run in the early morning or after your work day. Pandemic life means I can get around that this year by going for more lunch time runs. In fact, I have a pact with a friend in another city in which we run “together” at lunch time a couple of times a week. That just means we text each other before we leave and check in about how it went after we’re back. Running buddies can really help with getting out the door in less than ideal weather, even when they’re somewhere else.

This year I didn’t have to brace myself for winter running. That’s because the first real winter run that I did landed on a temperate day with a little bit of snow. I bailed once the week before, where at Tuesday lunchtime it seemed like a blizzard. My pact friend and I decided to go for a walk instead that day, and once we were each out the door we called and had a phone call, walking and chatting with each other instead of running (it’s good to have a back-up plan for when you just can’t even). Compared to that day, my Sunday snowy run felt absolutely lovely. And we’re in the early days of winter right now, so I haven’t hit the wall. That said, I probably won’t force myself out into the kind of weather that would make me hit a winter running wall if I ran in it regularly. And I’ve had winters where, because I was training for a particular event, I couldn’t afford to skip a long Sunday run just because there was a blizzard. This year, I can cozy up with a cup of tea and watch the weather rage if that’s what I’d rather do.

That must be why I look so happy in the pic I’ve used in this post. This year, I get to go out in the winter weather that makes me feel good, not like I’m battling my way forward with each precarious step. And if I don’t feel like it, I’ll do something else instead.

How do you feel about winter running?