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8 Things That Large-Breasted Runners Will Understand

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Women with big breasts have some challenges that other people might not understand. We cannot wear strapless bras without needing to hitch them up every three minutes. We are faced with decisions about whether running for the bus would cause too much inconvenient bouncing. Button-down shirts gape, no matter what size we get. And of course, there’s Underboob Sweat. I’m not talking about little half-moons of perspiration on the bottom of each bra cup. I’m talking about litres of the stuff that you have to wipe off with a towel. Which you then have to wring out over the bathtub.

Large-breasted runners have their own unique set of problems. Like these:

1. Getting into sports bras is a sport in itself. We don’t just put on our sports bras like our more petite counterparts. We wrestle our boobs into submission. We have to shift things around and tuck bits in to make sure we don’t hit the pavement looking like a Picasso painting. And those of us in racer back bras have to turn into contortionists in order to strip down for our post-run shower.

2. We have to buy our sports bras online. Running stores love putting out social media posts saying that runners come in all shapes and sizes, but they don’t cater to runners of all shapes and sizes. It would be easier to find powdered unicorn horn mixed with the sweat of seven dragons than it would be to go to a store and find a decent sports bra with cups that are DD or bigger. We are left with two options: shell out a fortune at a specialist bra shop that charges specialist bra shop prices (and everyone knows that runners need at least three sports bras), or buy online and just hope the thing will fit.

3. Heart rate monitors are a challenge. Heart rate monitors usually come in the form of sensors on a strap that goes around the chest. For the most accurate reading, the strap should be secured right below the breast area directly against the skin. And let’s face it, there’s not enough room there for my plus-sized knockers, my giant-by-necessity sports bra, my litres of Underboob Sweat and a heart rate monitor strap.

4. There’s nowhere to attach race bibs. A race bib should be the easiest things in the world to attach, right? I mean, it’s just a rectangle of paper that you stick onto your shirt with safety pins. The trouble is, nothing screams “Stare at me!” louder than giant numbers attached to giant boobs. Apart from that, the bib kind of puckers and crumples when it’s attached to something resembling two misshapen melons (or if your sports bra has given you a uniboob, something resembling a giant misshapen pool noodle). We have to find creative ways to attach our bibs. I pin the top of mine to the bottom hem of my shirt, so that the bottom part of the bib kind of free-floats.

5. Fuel belts make our boobs look even bigger. The fuel belt is a staple for many half-marathoners and marathoners. It carries bottles of water and/or sports drink, gel packs and other items that might be needed during the run. It attaches around the waist, which is problematic for many of us. It cinches my waist in a way that makes my boobs look even bigger, and I end up looking like Betty Boop dressed up in a runner’s costume for Halloween.

6. We know how painful salt in the wound really is. Breasts – even small ones – move a lot during runs. The bigger the boobs, the larger the range of motion. Because it’s so hard to find sports bras that adequately restrict how much our breasts move, we end up chafing. Sometimes I end up with bleeding raw patches right in the Underboob Sweat area. When I take my post-run shower, the salt from the sweat runs into the raw patches, and it hurts. A lot.

7. Being top heavy is a thing. We big-breasted people carry a fair amount of weight on our chests. If you don’t believe me, tie a three-pound sack of potatoes to your chest and go for a 5K run. It affects our posture, changes the way we run – particularly up and down hills, and it gives us our very own set of aches and pains.

8. Race videos are the most unflattering thing ever. You’re running along, having a great race, feeling like a million dollars. You post your best ever finishing time, and you go home proudly wearing your finisher’s medal. A couple of days later, you open the email containing your race photos and your finish line video. You’re excited to see this record of you running gracefully, like a gazelle. You play the video, and – holy crap! Those gazungas are bouncing and swaying like there’s no tomorrow! You settle for ordering one or two of the least bad pictures and you forego the video entirely.

Fortunately, the pull of running is too strong to let any of these things stop me. This weekend, I will be out on the road with Boob One and Boob Two, and I will love every second of it.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: Justin Taylor. This picture has a creative commons attribution license. 

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Sporting Life 10K: Lessons From A Tough Race

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Sporting Life 10K Start Line

On Sunday, I ran my first race of 2015. It was the Sporting Life 10K, a massive event that takes over 25,000 runners down Toronto’s iconic Yonge Street. I was just a little bit apprehensive going into the race, because my training has been somewhat sporadic of late. I have been doing my weekly long runs, but the shorter mid-week runs have been on-again/off-again. I have done a little bit of speed training, but no hill training whatsoever. As for strength training – well, that hasn’t even been a gleam in my eye.

Still, I thought this race would be fairly easy. My weekly long runs have had me doing distances longer than 10K, and I figured that since the Sporting Life 10K is basically a downhill run, my lack of hill training wouldn’t matter. The race did in fact start very well, and the first 5K went quite quickly. As soon as I ran over the halfway timing mats, though, the wheels started to fall off, and I ran the second half about three minutes slower than the first. I finished with an official time of 1:07:02, which is nowhere close to my best time. In fact, it’s probably one of my worst.

My spirits were somewhat lifted yesterday morning when I checked my race stats and saw that I still managed to come in just a fraction ahead of the middle of the pack. I was comfortably in the top 50% of women, and in my category – women aged 45-49 – I was in the top third. I’m not under any illusion that I actually did well – I’ve run this same course almost seven minutes faster – but these stats do tell me that race conditions were difficult on Sunday.

For a start, it was a lot hotter than I thought it was going to be. I have a feeling many people were caught off-guard by this. Everyone has been training in mild temperatures: being hit with blazing sun on race day would affect the performance of most runners. Then there was the fact that there were so many people. Even allowing for the fact that runners were released in corrals 15 minutes apart, there were still thousands of runners in each corral. During the early stages of the race, and to extent later on, I was doing a great deal of ducking and weaving to get past people who were slower than me. It took a lot of energy and it made it very difficult for me to find any kind of rhythm.

So maybe I did OK in light of the conditions.

But still… I have come to expect more of myself. I am intending to run a 2:15:00 half-marathon in October, and I will not do it with the half-baked efforts that I have been putting into my training. I am a runner. It’s time for me to start acting like one.

Sunday’s race woke me up to some things that I have to change. Immediately.

1. I have to step up my training. I am not going to become a better runner if I’m not consistent about it. Yes, life is very stressful right now and yes, time is a big issue for me. But for several years now, I have been very low on my own priority list. It’s time for me to devote more time to my health. All it takes is a couple of hours on Sundays and an hour on four other days each week. If I cannot manage to carve out six hours a week for exercise, then I’m just making excuses.

2. I have to resume my oatmeal breakfasts. I need to fix my eating habits in general, but I’m not expecting myself to accomplish that overnight. What I can do overnight, though, is bring back one simple routine that was healthy not only for me, but for the rest of my family.

3. I have to get more sleep. I have reached the point where six hours counts as “a good night’s sleep”, and I am experiencing permanent bone-crushing exhaustion.

4. I have to get a sports bra that fits properly. The chafing that I go through after every run is excruciating. The longer or harder the run, the worse the chafing. On Sunday afternoon, the feeling of clothing against my skin was making me cry.

5. I need to make a proper display of my bib numbers and finisher’s medals. Seeing the distances that I have run and the bling that I have earned will keep me motivated and remind me of what I am capable of.

6. I have to regroup, reset and make a new plan. For the last few weeks, I have been scrambling to train for a half-marathon on May 24th. This is a hard thing to admit, but people, I’m not going to do it. I could do it. I know that I have the physical ability, at my current level of fitness, to complete the distance. But it will be with a lot of pain and anxiety, and I wouldn’t enjoy it. As soon as I feel dread rather than excitement about an upcoming race, it’s time for me to bow out. And so I have transferred my registration to another race in the series, and I am plotting out a new training plan that will take me to a fabulous half-marathon in October.

As I contemplate the races that I have coming up, and the new plans that I am making, I can already feel the excitement building in my gut. I can feel that once again, I am going to run for the love of running.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.

 

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Running For Autism 2014: A Thousand Thank Yous

Today’s post is going to look a bit like a speech from the Oscars, only there’s no red carpet, I’m not wearing a ballgown accessorized with diamond jewellery, and I didn’t get a funny little trophy thing. Instead, there is the finish line of a race, a sweaty old running outfit accessorized with a space blanket, and a finisher’s medal. Just setting the scene so you can picture me as I start my speech.

<clears throat and waits for the audience hubbub to die down>

My 2014 autism run is now almost a week in the past. I have one day left of sitting on the couch doing nothing post-race recovery. The stiffness in my legs is gone, my knees have recovered, and the chafing from my sports bra is fading. Even the Ankle of Doom is feeling pretty good. I am almost ready to lace up my shoes for an easy run, and I have started thinking about my race calendar for next year.

I want to thank my mother, because people always start by thanking their mothers. And because my mom is awesome. She lives on the other side of the world, but I felt that she was part of the finish crowd cheering me on last Sunday. Thanks also to my brother, who is a loyal supporter and a great friend.

I want to thank my Dad, who was an elite runner in his youth and the first to fuel my love of running many years ago, in a previous life. Dad was a superb runner, and he always believed in me. He is no longer with us, but I still feel his presence when I run, and he was definitely with me on race day.

I want to thank the organizers of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Half-Marathon and 5K for putting on a fantastic event. Everything was great, from race kit pickup right through to the post-race food. I enjoyed almost every minute of the race, and I even made it through my troublesome 18K patch better than I ever have before. I had enough energy in reserve at the end to really belt it out in the last kilometre, and the look on my face in my race picture tells you how I was feeling as I sprinted to the finish line.

Best finish line shot ever!

Best finish line shot ever!

Thank you to the Geneva Centre for Autism, not only for being a constant source of support for my family since George was diagnosed with autism in 2007, but also for getting me off the couch and into my running shoes a little more than five years ago. It is a true honour to be affiliated with this organization that has given countless autism families the most precious of commodities: hope.

Thank you to all of the people who sponsored me. Your generous donations are going to make a real difference for so many kids. Thanks to you, children and youth with autism will be able to learn how to play musical instruments, participate in sports teams, attend social skills training, go to summer camps, communicate via iPads and much more. Opportunities are being created for my son and other kids like him, thanks to you. My appreciation for your support has no bounds.

Thank you to the runners in my life, who have always been there with words of advice and encouragement when I’ve needed it. You have celebrated with me after the good training runs this season, and you have commiserated with me when the going has been tough. You know what it’s like – the long runs on rainy days resulting in squelchy shoes, the uncomfortable chafey bits where you didn’t apply enough Body Glide, the runs that are just bad for no reason – and you always encourage me to keep going.

Thank you to all of my non-running friends, who tolerate my running-related social media postings: the race-time status updates, the moans and groans about sore muscles, the Instagram pictures of my training watch. You are kind enough to like and comment on my posts, you tag me in running-related things that you think I will like (and I do – I love all of them). Your messages of support and love last Sunday were overwhelming, and they meant the world to me.

Thank you to my husband, who holds the unenviable position of being the partner of a runner. Over the course of the season, he made sure I could get out for my long runs and races, and he tended to my aching muscles with the right combination of concern and humour. The night before the race, he sacrificed sleep so that I could rest undisturbed by children, and he got up early to make sure I got to the start line on time.

Thank you to my younger son James, my tireless supporter and cheerleader. He cheerfully saw me off for my long training runs throughout the season, and he always welcomed me back with a hug, even though I was stinky and sweaty. He is a fantastic champion for his brother’s cause: it was his idea for me to run in a cape last Sunday, to “get into the spirit for autism”. His energy is contagious, and I took a bit of it with me on my race.

The final thank you is reserved for George, my older son, my brave and amazing autism boy. George is my inspiration. He is the reason I get up early in the morning to run in the dark, the reason I do ten-mile training runs in the midsummer heat, the reason I am willing to get rain in my running shoes on wet days. George teaches me about life every single day. And when I am struggling through a run, feeling like it will never end, thoughts of George get me through. I tell myself that this kid lives with autism every hour of every day. That doesn’t stop him from being one of the most determined people I have ever encountered. If he’s not going to give up, then neither am I.

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This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Finish line photo credited to Marathon-Photos. Picture of runner’s wall message credited to Kirsten Doyle.

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6 Reasons To Run The Durham Quarter Marathon

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Every year, my race calendar is a combination of the old and the new. Although I like exploring new races and new challenges, there are a handful of events that I put into my calendar every year. One of these is the Durham Quarter Marathon, or DQM. This event has all of the right ingredients, like great organization, a scenic course and a great cause.

This year I was kind of bummed, because I came down with a nasty cold several days before the race. For most of the week, it looked doubtful that I would be able to run, and it and touch and go right up until the night before the race. Fortunately, though, my immune system did what it does best, and I woke up on the morning of the race feeling  just a tiny bit congested but otherwise fine.

I’ve missed races due to illness or injury before, and it’s never fun. This event in particular is one that I never want to miss (the only race that I hate missing even more is my annual autism fundraising run). Here are some reasons why I love this race so much, and why I believe all runners in the GTA need to try it out at least once.

1. DQM raises funds for a cause that I am absolutely in love with. The Refuge is a place in Oshawa that helps homeless youth. They provide meals, basic supplies, clean clothing and a place for homeless teens to go. DQM does not merely support this cause by putting logos everywhere. The organizers provide a very practical way for runners to make a real difference. Instead of getting one of those reusable shopping bags that runners already have too many of, you get the race kit in a small cardboard box, which you can then fill with supplies and return to The Refuge at a later date.

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2. DQM is one of the smaller events. It does not have the massive numbers of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, or the Yonge Street 10K. This means two things: you don’t have to fight ridiculous crowds in order to be squeezed into your corral, and the race has a wonderful community feel. When you run DQM, you feel like you’re running with friends. That community spirit travels with you along the entire course.

3. The course is absolutely marvelous. The run starts at the Oshawa City Hall (just a block away from free covered parking), and it runs along the Oshawa Creek and the Waterfront Trail. The last little bit offers a lovely unimpeded view of the lake. It’s a net downhill course, which means that the start is at a higher elevation than the finish. There’s something in it for runners of all levels – a nice combination of ease and challenge. There are a couple of decent uphill stretches in the second half, and a lovely little downhill right at the end, so that runners can build up good momentum for a sprint to the finish line.

4. The logistics of this race are so well organized that it’s impossible not to enjoy the experience. The 6K and 7K markers may have been slightly off, but apart from that, the course was well marked. There were four aid stations along the course, spaced fairly evenly. The organizers also provide bag check facilities, and for runners needing to get back to the start area, a free shuttle bus. Not one of those old school buses that make you feel like you’re being spanked whenever you go over a bump in the road, but a nice comfy city bus.

5. There’s a great finish line vibe. This year I loved the finish line announcer. He was announcing and encouraging runners as they sprinted down the final stretch, and he managed to make everyone feel like a champion. The atmosphere was one of support and celebration. I felt a tremendous sense of collective goodwill as I wandered around the finish line area picking up my bag and getting my post-race banana.

6. I appreciate a good coincidence as much as the next person, but how could you not love a race where you can take a picture of last year’s bib and this year’s bib that looks like this? Who knows – maybe if I run this race often enough, I’ll have a nice little collection of Lucky Number 7’s.

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This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Finish line shot is credited to the organizers of DQM. Shots of the bibs and the race kit box label are credited to the author.

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Race Report: Toronto Runway Run

When I found out that a race was happening on an airport runway, there was no way I was going to miss it. It would be flat, it would be fun, and it would be super-cool. Hopefully, it would also be fast: I haven’t had a personal best for a while, and this seemed like a good opportunity to try for one. I asked my friend Phaedra, who won the women’s race last year, what I should expect from the run.

“There will be wind,” she said ominously.

Well, all right. So I had a good chance of running in the one weather condition that I actually hate, but never mind. A bad run on a runway would still be way cooler than most other runs. It was certainly cold and windy when I arrived at the airport, but there was plenty of shelter for everyone in the hangar that was used for the occasion. Some brave souls wandered outside and stood shivering as they drank their coffee. I was content to stay on the inside and look out.

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I did go out briefly, to take pictures of the firetrucks. I knew that if my eight-year-old son found out that there had been firetrucks that I hadn’t taken pictures of, I wouldn’t be allowed into the house ever again.

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Back inside the hangar, I wandered around looking at the tables and displays set up by the sponsors. I was impressed by how this event catered for families. There were games and activities for kids, and the event itself included a 2K and a 5K, both of which welcomed children and babies in strollers. Then there were the people dressed up as planes, who proved to be very popular among kids and adults.

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After the pre-race talks, runners were led out to the runway. An Air Canada plane was parked near the start/finish line. Someone near me wondered out loud if we were going to race the plane.

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By the time the race started, it had warmed up to a pleasant temperature and the wind had lessened. I was able to establish a good pace from the start, and I maintained it throughout. As expected, the course was absolutely level, which made it really easy on the legs. The surface was as perfect as a surface can possibly be – kudos go to whoever keeps the runways in such pristine condition.

As I ran, there were planes taking off and landing on a runway parallel to the race. I imagined the passengers looking out of the windows and seeing hundreds of runners right beside them. I wondered what they must have been thinking.

I probably started a little too fast, because I did start to tire near the end. Still, I managed a time of 29:25, missing my 5K personal best by just six seconds. I felt a little queasy the way I often do after going all-out for a 5K, but the feeling soon passed, and I was able to enjoy the awesome finish line atmosphere.

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This race is definitely one that I will want to repeat. If my younger son keeps up his interest in running, he will probably join me next year. He would love an opportunity to get one of the cool finisher’s medals.

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This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit for all images to the author.

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Training Roundup: Focusing On Speed

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This week was a great week for training, one in which speed featured quite heavily. That might seem like a strange thing to say, considering that my week started on Sunday with a 20K run that was kind of slow and that made me feel a bit ill. I had run the 20K on virtually no sleep, in a state of terrible stress. The run itself wasn’t too bad, but it completely wiped me out. Still, I felt good for having done it.

On Monday I had a badly needed rest day. My legs felt OK, but I was exhausted to the core. In the afternoon I walked the mile or so to James’ school to pick him up, and it felt as if I was walking to the moon.

On Tuesday, I was scheduled for a tempo run. When our respite worker arrived and took charge of the kids, I laced up my shoes and hit the road. I ran 6K in about 36 minutes – well ahead of my goal pace. I was sweating profusely by the time I was done, and my bad ankle was aching a bit, but I felt good.

On Wednesday, I went to the gym for a go on the stationary bike followed by a weights workout. I realized that after just a few weeks of strength training, I was ready to graduate to heavier weights for some of the exercises. As I walked home from the gym, I felt that pleasant all-over ache that comes from a good workout.

On Thursday I didn’t do anything too intense – just a light run around the neighbourhood. On Friday I chose to rest instead of working out, because I had a race on Saturday morning.

On Saturday I went to the airport for the 5K Runway Run. A race report will be posted in a few days, but for now I will say that it was loads of fun.

The week was a success. The coming week will be focused more on distance than speed, and my Tuesday tempo runs will give way to the dreaded hill training sessions. Although my “A” race – the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half-marathon – does not include significant hills – the hill training does help immensely with speed and strength.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.

 

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Training Roundup: On The Road Again

 

Lake Ontario in all of its springtime glory

One of my training run views

Last week my Achilles tendon was bothering me, and in an astonishing and rare display of responsibility, I decided to rest. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was feeling fine and I was armed with a brand spanking new training schedule that I had drawn up during my time of sitting out.

The schedule began with a 16K run, and I wasn’t really sure how that would go. My previous long run had been a half-marathon that had left me feeling utterly wiped out. The 16K run went well, though. It was a gorgeous day for running, and I enjoyed every second of it.

Monday was a rest day. There are people who embark on running streaks, which involves a commitment to run at least a mile every day. I am not one of those people. I need my day of rest after my long runs.

On Tuesday I did my first speed training run in this cycle. It wasn’t a long run but it was pretty quick: 5K in just under half an hour. I was stressed to the eyeballs on Tuesday, and a fast run was just what I needed. At the end of it, I felt a lot better, even though my arms were inexplicably sore.

Wednesday was something of a milestone day for me. For the first time in about a year I did a good solid strength training session. I started off with a ride on the stationary bike, which is not my favourite cardio activity, but I’m acting on the assumption that cycling is an acquired taste. After the bike ride, I went to the weights area and worked muscles that I’d forgotten I even have. I even did some dreaded planks.

Now, on Thursday of the first week of my training schedule, I am already having to make some adjustments. The reason is a good one,  though, so I don’t feel too bad. This coming Sunday, my morning will be taken up with race volunteer duties at the Toronto Women’s Half-Marathon. I am excited about the opportunity to give back to the running community.

It wouldn’t be fair to my family, though, to spend the morning volunteering at a race and then to spend the afternoon running myself. Presumably my children like me and would like to spend time with me. So today I’m going to rest. Tomorrow I will do the 5K easy run that I would have done today, and on Saturday I will do another weight training session. On Sunday I will cheer on the half-marathon participants, and on Monday I will do 18K. I will adjust next week’s schedule accordingly, and then I will be back on track.

I’m feeling good about my training. I know  that there will be rough weeks when I wonder how on earth I can go on, but for now, I feel strong and confident. If I stick with the program, I will be a better and stronger runner by the time I do my 30K in August. And I if I continue on track after that, the personal best I am aiming for in the Scotia half-marathon will be in the bag.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.

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Training Roundup: Conquering Achilles

 

George with my Scotia 2013 finisher's medal

George with my Scotia 2013 finisher’s medal. He’s the reason I run.

With the Goodlife Toronto Half-Marathon eleven days in the past, my period of sitting on the couch doing sweet eff-all post-race recovery is over. I had a harder time than usual with my recovery, because I wasn’t in top form on the day, and all of the downhill running killed my quads. For four days, I couldn’t walk down stairs without whining like a little girl.

I finally laced up my running shoes again on Tuesday. In a rare departure from the norm, I was actually in the mood for the treadmill at the gym. Tuesday was a rough day – it was the first anniversary of the death of Fran, one of my best friends – and I went through the day in a state of emotional upheaval. I needed the noise and busy-ness of the gym.

I hammered out a fast 5K or so on the treadmill, and it felt surprisingly good, physically and mentally. The exercise helped clear my head, and doing a fast workout with high leg turnover loosened up my muscles. I was back in the groove – or so I thought.

I woke up yesterday morning with pain in my left Achilles tendon. It eased up throughout the morning, but when I tried to walk from my house to the bus stop down the road, I discovered that all I was capable of was a hobble. As I went about my business for the afternoon, things loosened up and I felt OK, but from time to time I’d feel that Achilles tendon nagging at me.

I came home and iced it, and resolved to rest for at least two days. The last thing I want, as I head into the next phase of my training, is a torn Achilles tendon. The next phase of my training is going to be very intensive as I work on both speed and mileage, and I need to be in the best form possible. I don’t have time to be messing around with injuries, so I’d rather just rest up properly now instead of letting things get worse.

While I’m resting, I will be planning out the training schedule that will get me from here to my Big Race of the season: the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half-marathon on October 19th. My calendar this year includes a distance that I have not attempted before – 30K – but my ultimate goal is to get a personal best time at the Scotiabank half-marathon. That is my autism run, my opportunity to do my small part in making the world a better place for my son and other kids with autism. All of the other races throughout the summer are training runs to prepare me for the big event. It is on October 19th that I really want to shine.

So here I sit, with ice wrapped around my ankle and a calendar in front of me, figuring out a schedule that will help me go further and faster.  I will also be searching for ways to fuel my body better, and that quest will include a mission to find a healthy cheesecake recipe. Because – you know – cheesecake.

What are your health and fitness goals for the summer? If you’re a runner, what is your “A” race this season? And do you have any healthy cheesecake recipes?

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.

 

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Goodlife Toronto Half-Marathon: The Day The Wagon Lost Its Wheels

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Less than a mile to go…

I had such high hopes when I signed up for the Goodlife Toronto half-marathon. I spoke to a number of people who had run it beforehand, and for the most part, reviews were good.

It’ll be easy, they said. It’s all downhill, they said.

All righty, then. It sounded like just the race to kick off my season after a brutal winter of spotty training, mostly done on the treadmill. Maybe I would even be able to pull off a personal best.

For about a week leading up to the race, I was fighting a cold and dealing with seasonal allergies. I was popping Cold FX pills twice a day and drinking orange juice as if it was about to go extinct. I willed my body to hold off on getting sick, and it seemed to work.

And then, on the morning of the race, I woke up feeling as if a steamroller had driven through my head. I felt so congested that for a few moments, I debated with myself whether I should run the race. I talked myself into going. All symptoms were above the neck, so it was, according to the experts, safe for me to run. Besides, I had trained for this race, and come hell or high water, I was going to run it.

For the sake of my sanity, I tend to divide half-marathons into thirds. That way, instead of running 21K, I’m running three blocks of 7K each. 7 is an easier number to work with than 21, especially when your feet feel as if they’re going to fall off.

The first 7K went really well. I was tracking above my target pace, but that’s mostly because the biggest downhill sections were early in the race, and that lulled me into a pace that was, in retrospect, far too aggressive. That was even taking into account a nasty uphill section in the fourth or fifth kilometre.

Things started to get a little rough during the second 7K, but I wasn’t too concerned. I figured that I had just gone out too fast, and that all I needed to do was adjust my pace and I’d be OK. But instead of getting better, I started feeling worse. In spite of the wind, my body was starting to feel uncomfortably warm.

During the final 7K, the wheels completely fell off. I realized that I probably should have been hydrating more than usual because of my cold, and that my body was screaming for more fluids. I dehydrated to the point where I stopped sweating because my body just had no fluid to make sweat with. I got through about 3K by counting my steps. I was setting myself little challenges and giving myself rewards.

If you run for 40 steps, you can walk for 20.

If you run until the end of this song, you can walk for 100m.

Those few kilometres were excruciating. I stopped caring about what my finish time would be. All I wanted to do was push forward so I could get to the finish line. I wanted to be allowed to stop running.

With 3K to go, I stopped completely. I drank several ounces of water, followed by some Gatorade and then some more water. Usually I hydrate in sips. This time, I gave myself a downpour. I reset the shuffle on my music player, dug deeper than I’ve ever had to dig before, and I started running in the direction of the finish line.

My running wasn’t fast. My running wasn’t pretty, or efficient. My form was so bad that it could have been used in a textbook picture of “how not to run”.

But I ran. I focused on the music playing in my ears, and I ran. I smiled grimaced at the well-meaning spectators who were telling me how great I looked (I looked like crap, but it was nice of them to say so), and I ran. I thought about the finish line, the weight of a finisher’s medal around my neck, and the feeling of accomplishment that I would feel, and I ran.

After about four geological eras, I crossed the finish line. My usual finish line kick didn’t happen, and I barely had the strength for my finish line fist pump. But I had done it and I had the finisher’s medal around my neck to prove it. And my time – 2:23:01 – was not bad considering the circumstances. I’d actually been expecting a lot worse.

For the last five days, I’ve been nursing my aching legs and my bruised ego. I’ve suffered from self-doubt: if I had this much of a hard time during what was supposed to be an easy half-marathon, how will I manage 30K in August? But now I feel that I’m ready to move on. We can’t always have the race we want, and sometimes we have to have bad races in order to get stronger.

I am ready to lace up the running shoes again, to hit the road and get training again. And that 30K race in August? I’m planning to eat it for breakfast.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: www.marathonfoto.com.

 

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Embracing The Pain

pain

Yesterday I ran a half-marathon. A race report will follow later this week, but for now I will say that it was an excruciating race. I wasn’t on top form going in, and I had some serious issues with dehydration in the latter stages. But still, I dug deep and found what I needed to finish.

Getting home seemed to take forever. I had to take public transit from the finish line back to the start, where my car was parked, and then I had a thirty minute drive home. By the time I hobbled through my front door, serious muscle pain had set in. After my shower, I put on compression socks (compression socks are my saviour), poured some much-needed coffee and settled myself on the couch for a good long layabout session.

My husband walked into the room and looked at me with some amusement. Nothing new there, and to be fair I probably do look a little funny in the throes of post-race agony.

“Do you think I’ve earned the right to complain?” I asked him, looking at him beseechingly.

“No,” he said immediately, “And I’ll tell you why.”

I settled back, prepared for a long discourse. My husband’s explanations will not be remembered for their brevity.

He explained that basically, I had brought this pain on myself. I had voluntarily participated in this race, knowing full well that I would be hurting afterwards. He reminded that I had even made reference to the pain the previous day, before the race had even happened. Pain was a foregone conclusion, and I knew that when I signed up.

OK. It sounds a little unsympathetic, but I have to admit that he is right. I never sign up for these races expecting to feel like I’ve been lying in the sun doing nothing.

“That’s true,” I said to my husband, a little grudgingly.

“Number Two,” he said, holding up two fingers.

Oh boy. There was a Number Two?

Number Two, the pain was a result of a great accomplishment. I had trained hard, I had dug deep, and I had achieved something that I should be proud of. The pain was my body’s way of telling me how I could be better and stronger. Therefore I should bask in the glow of what the pain represents, and I should embrace it. Even though it might hurt, it was building me up.

Well, that made me feel good. It certainly helped put things into perspective. It’s not like I was in pain after, say, falling on the ice or being in a car accident. I was in pain after finishing a half-marathon. And even though I didn’t have a great race, that is something to be proud of.

There was a Number Three. If I participate in a half-marathon and then complain about it afterwards, what message am I giving to my boys? We want them to be able to stretch themselves beyond their comfort zones, and we want them to think of that as a positive experience. Acknowledging pain is fine, but the focus should always be on the accomplishment and the experience.

Well. Just goes to show that if you ask your husband a flippant question, you might get an in-depth response that is filled with insights. I’ll still complain at least a little bit, but this whole conversation has made me look at post-race pain in a whole new way.

Thank you, husband.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.