Thursday, May 31, 2012

Marathon: The Start Line...

Sunday May 27th, 2012 - 5:30am

My alarm rings and I throw off the covers and spring out of bed.
"YES!" I enthusiastically proclaim. Kristin looks at me through the corner of one eye like I'm a crazy person and rolls to the other side of the bed.
"Today is the day that I've been training for!"

I bounce to the kitchen and toast my bagel. Half gets avacado, half gets peanut butter. I drink my coffee and pray to the bathroom gods. Success. A quick face wash, tooth brushing and I change into my gear (thanks Lululemon!). All of my things are laid out. My watch and ipod are plugged in. My bottles have been filled with water and Nuun tabs and my pretzels/cranberries/Stingers snack has been packed. I am ready to rock this race!

I'm nervous about the last 10km's. Maybe afraid is more appropriate. I know it's going to hurt. Everyone who I've talked to with previous Marathon experience has told me that nothing can prepare you for the pain involved in that final push. I've had pings of anxiety over the past week thinking about what might come up. I've also been really excited about facing the challenge head on.

There's one small thing I'm dealing with that I didn't really account for in my plan five months ago when I embarked on this journey. My throat is scratchy and my nose feels a little plugged. It's just the beginning of a cold and I know it's because I was interacting with a lot of people the week before while at Canadian Championships in Regina. It wasn't the most ideal pre-race week in terms of energy conservation, but I think I did a relatively good job of sitting when I could, washing my hands often (shaking lots of hands can get you sick as a dog) and getting lots of sleep. I also did a major carbo load with the winner of the Gym Revolution Video Challenge

My buddy, Kim, was going to pick me up at 6:10am, but some jerk put something in her drink two nights previous and so she had to withdraw from her half-marathon start. Instead, my buddy Keith grabs me and we head down to the start line. He's doing the 10K which starts at 7:30am, but he is such a nice guy that he didn't mind arriving a little early at the start line. 

After we park and walk to the start line, it becomes very apparent that this is the 'it' event of the day. Massive amounts of people are herding in to Stampede grounds. A very fitting venue when you come to think of it;) You can identify all of the marathoners by their RED bibs. Half Marathoners are wearing  blue, 10K'ers are wearing purple. I look around and start to eye up my competition. I'm also particularly proud of everyone who's wearing red…I know the journey they've been through to get here. I wonder how many people will struggle. I wonder how many people are aiming for sub-3 hours. I wonder who will be put on an IV at the end of the race. I wonder how many people have done this before. I wonder how many people are shakin' in their cowboy boots, just like me, worrying about those torturous last 10km's…

Martin and I have planned to meet at the 4:30 pace bunny if we don't find each other before. The race announcer calls all runners to the start line. It's 6:45am. I haven't found Martin, but I find the 4:30 pace bunny and settle in. I look around and finally see my Marathon Man wearing his Right To Play gear. Relief. 

The gun goes off. We start the race at an easy pace. I meet some of Martin's friends and for the first 2km's things are hunky dory. But then I unconsciously break off and start to find my own stride and pace. I've got to pee like a race horse, but there's no way I'm standing in a 10 person deep line to get a chance at the port-a-potty. I'm not known for my pee holding skills, but I figure I can hold it until things start to thin out or I see a few trees to hide behind.

I'm all alone, but I am focused. In fact, I'd much rather be alone right now. I'm feeling easily irritated by those who are stopping to take photos with their iphones. When you're training, no problem, but this is a race. I have a feeling that I'll never be able to break myself of my competitive mentality. I feel the need to put my head down and to be fully immersed in the game. 

The first 5km's feel like nothing. I'm just getting warm. I see a few friends running the half. I have a quick chat with them and then get back into my world. It feels eerily like a meditation - always coming back to the breath. In this case, it's my stride and my positive self talk that is the centre of my focus.

Some km's feel like they melt away. Other's feel a little more conscious and challenging. At a few points along the way, I realize how much I love my city. Thoughts of, "This is AMAZING!",  "I've ran here before" and "I know this loop" run through my mind. I'm a chatter box on the inside this morning, but pretty quiet on the outside. I'm in warrior mode.

At km 9, the half marathoners take a sharp right as the marathoners turn left. I imagine the signs reading "Half Marathoners turn right" vs "Hardcores turn left". The pack was pretty dense during those first 9km's, but as the groups separate, it's incredible how things thin out on the Marathon (aka: Hardcore) side. The rapid pitter pattering of feet becomes more like the leftover rain drops at the end of a storm. It's silent. It's haunting. This is when it feels like the real race begins.

I run by my friends at Impact Magazine and wave to my buddy Chris who's on the balcony cheering everyone on. I feel a lot of pride. I've talked about this with them and now here I am, actually executing it. It's always a great feeling when you follow through. For some reason, it feels even better when you have witnesses.  

At km 10, I see my friend Michelle on the sidelines with a cowbell. She brings it to World Cup ski races and now she's here cheering for me. I am so overcome with joy when I see her that I give her a giant hug. She says, "I'll see you again by my place at km 30". "Wow", I think, "I'm not even 1/4th done!"

I've set an ambitious goal of finishing the race in 3 hours and 45 minutes. I figure I'll start off nice and slow and then pick up my pace after the first 10km. Every time I look at my watch, I'm calculating. A part of me says, "Dude, just let it go. Run at a pace that you are comfortable with and enjoy this". Another part of me says, "Pick up the pace!!! If you want to come in under 4 hours, you'll need to start shaving off some time". I don't know what voice to listen to. I'm torn because I want to have some juice left for the end, but I also want to ensure that I reach my potential in this race. 

I run through our dog park and laugh at how sweet this is. I come here everyday. I practically own this course :) At km 14, I calculate that I am now 1/3 done. My knees are feeling a little bit of somethin' somethin', but I immediately revoke any sense of permission I've given myself to feel pain. Pain? What is pain? 

At km 15, I see a port-a-potty door swing open and I swiftly jump in. I nearly barf at the stench!! It's the worst one I've ever been in ;) Seriously people, why didn't you pray to the bathroom gods before you left your house?! I gag as I whiz and jump out of there as quickly as I possibly can. Note to self: pee outside for the rest of the race. Shudder. 

I know that Kristin, Cooper and my parents are going to be at the next aid station at km 18. I contemplate my jacket removal which takes about 1/2 a km;) Funny how nice a distraction can be. I can feel my anticipation and pride building as I round the corner to where they are standing. They've only really heard me talk about my training. They've seen me hobble around at family dinner on Sunday after my long runs. Now they get to see me in action and I feel kind of like a superhero. 

I round the corner and there they are. Coops is vigorously sniffing the grass, but his ears perk up as he see's me zooming towards them. I'm sure he wants to join me - he's been an awesome running buddy during those 10km runs - but he's not allowed. I take off my jacket and pass it to Kristin. I take a sip of water and have a 10 second visit. "How are you feeling?", Kristin asks me. "Good. Feeling a bit of pain in my legs, but no big deal." 18 km's down, 24.2 to go. 

I high five my neighbour, a former marathoner himself, and then run past my alma mater, Mount Royal University. I see some impatient driver riding the ass of a runner and then I see them get scolded by a police officer for being losers. Seriously people, respect the runner! It then occurs to me that all of these police officers and volunteers are taking time out of their day to support our goal. I'm moved and my eyes well up a bit. I make a point of thanking everyone I pass who contributed to this day.

I run through 21.1km's, the "halfway" point, and think back to October when I ran my first half marathon. On that day, I remember asking myself, "Could I do this distance all over again, right now?". The answer was a big "Hells no". But here I am, halfway done and embarking on the second 21.1kms. Sometimes it amazes me how far we can progress if we really set our minds to something. This moment makes me feel like I've grown and it's nice to have some sort of measurement to reflect on. Makes it feel more real. Looking back can be valuable sometimes, especially when it provides you with evidence of just how far you've come. 

To be continued….

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Taper time!

It's Friday and I run my marathon in only 2 more sleeps. Ahhhhhhhh!!!! I've been trying to be super diligent with my training program in this final phase and these past couple of weeks have been focused on tapering and getting my body rested up and ready for the big race.

Tapering is when you significantly cut back on your workload or mileage so that your body can recover and the hard work can settle in. It's a difficult time for me to manage because as I start to feel good and rested, my mind starts telling my body that I need to move. Holding back has always been a hard thing for me to do.

Last weekend I had a great confirmation that I am ready. Martin and I ran 16km's on Saturday morning and it felt like nothing. I felt like we had just started our conversation when our watches starting beeping that we were done. I had tons of energy to spare. Perhaps I went a little overboard when I hiked in Canmore and went out for a little dance party on Sunday night, but whatever, fun is important too! I figured that as long as I wasn't running on pavement, then it was OK.

This week I ran 6km's on Tuesday, 10K on Wednesday morning and I've been "resting" for the past 2 days. I'm at the Canadian Championships in Regina so I have been doing lots of promotional activities, but I've been trying to stay off my legs as much as possible. I just took an hour and rolled out on my travel roller and drained my legs out by putting them up against the wall. Tonight I am going for dinner with the winners of the Gym Revolution Video Challenge and we are going to carbo load! My favourite part of pre-race preparation is being able to gorge on pasta and not feel an ounce of guilt.

I'm starting to feel myself slipping into my zone. I can feel the nerves coming on and the adrenaline starting to build. I'm starting to reflect back on the work I've done and really appreciate how far I've come. I'm doing a lot of positive self talk, but I'm having a little bit of fear because one of my friends who's a doctor told me that at least one person dies at every marathon she volunteers at. Gulp. I hope it's not me on Sunday! Don't worry mom, it won't be ;)

I have a bunch of friends who are running the half-marathon, 10K and 5K so we are going to have a little post race celebration on Sunday. Kristin also booked me a massage as a reward for my dedication and hard work. I haven't had a massage in 3 years because I have this thing about earning them. This one will be very well earned.

I am flying home from Regina tomorrow night and arrive in Calgary around 10:30pm. Kristin is going to pick me up and I've already laid out my clothes, bought my breakfast food, packed my snacks and she picked up my bib today. I'm number 985. I love that my name is on it because there is nothing better than hearing people cheer out your name when you feel like you need a little push!

I've got my race plan mapped out too. I'm going to take the first 10km's nice and slow. I'm aiming to run the second half faster than the first. I am going to walk for 30 seconds through every aid station. My goal time is 3:45, but based on my long runs thus far I will be thrilled with anything under 4 hours.  

I've invested a lot of time and energy into this journey and I am really excited to get the race started. I'm nervous about the last 9km's because they are completely unknown to me, but I also know that I am strong and determined and I can push through anything. Accomplishing this goal is going to confirm that and add some depth to my life portfolio. 

I can't wait until Sunday after when I can finally get rid of the "wannabe" and start calling myself a MARATHONER. 

Wish me luck!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

23km's with new friends in Yellowknife

One of the things that I love most about running is the opportunity it provides for connection. Depending on where you’re at, you can connect to community, to people or to yourself.

Chaim and I hanging out at the Trade Show
I was in Yellowknife over the May 12/13 weekend to sign autographs at the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce trade show and to visit with young gymnasts from the local Gymnastics Club. While I was sitting at the autograph table with my buddy, beach volleyball extraordaire and giant, Chaim Schalk, I met a really nice couple who were telling me about their son, Mike Argue, and how he used to cross country ski on the Canadian National Team. They also mentioned that he just ran the Boston Marathon. My ears perked up with excitement.

“Did I hear you say Marathon??", I asked. "Is your son here today?”

“Yes, he’s right over there” they said as they pointed in his direction.

And that was the moment I met a new running buddy.

It couldn’t have been more timely….

You see, when I woke up on this fine Saturday morning, I felt a lot of resistance to doing my long run. The excuses were flying pretty rampantly.

First excuse: I usually do my long runs on Sunday, but because of my schedule, I wouldn’t have time to squeeze in a 3 hour jaunt on Sunday in between my professional commitments, a flight home and Mother’s Day festivities. Therefore, Saturday was going to have to be the day of suffering and my saboteur really liked to attach itself to that ammunition.

Second excuse: I didn’t know how to get around Yellowknife and I was a bit afraid of getting lost, attacked by a cougar or running the same loop over and over and over and driving myself insane. 

Third excuse: I was a bit tired – I’m curious why that one always comes up!

And my final excuse: the artic air is brisk and my running attire might not keep me warm enough.

So, to cure this sense of (seemingly too common) resistance, I set up a meeting time with my new found running buddy, Mike, and there was no backing out. Amazing how some accountability can push you, isn’t it?!

After a great afternoon at the trade show, I met up with Mike and his friend Cory (a sub 3 hour marathoner, btw) at 3:45pm for a 23km run around Yellowknife. 

They were awesome tour guides and slowed down their speedy pace to keep up with little ol' me. I’ve got to say, seeing a town by foot is really the best way to do it. I saw Old Town and Ragged Ass road. I ran the Frame Lake loop and saw the sight where Prince William and Princess Kate made their remarks last summer. I even saw the Tim Hortons (Canada’s busiest!).

This was my first trip to the Great Canadian North and I must say that I loved it. The people were incredibly nice and hospitable. The food was amazing (Bullocks rocks!). And the running was spectacular.

Thanks Mike and Cory for leading the way and thank you Yellowknife for an awesome weekend.


Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Thirties Manifesto

On May 6th, I turned 30. In celebration, I ran 33km's. It was my longest run yet and it felt pretty awesome. I may or may not have been a bit hungover, but a friend who ran Ironman gave me some sound advice - she said that running a hungover long run gives you a taste of what the actual race will feel like. I liked that advice so I had a few beers with friends on Saturday afternoon/evening. It was brilliant, but I always find it remarkable how thirsty I get the night after drinking so much...

While running, I had some time to think and ponder what entering my 30's means to me. First and foremost, it does feel a bit weird. I can remember being a kid and imagining what I would look like at 30. I always thought I'd be a little taller and have some sort of 5 o'clock shadow. Well, I'm short and I only have to shave once every 3 days :) But I'm cool with it because it's me. I feel like at 30, I know who I am and what I stand for. 

Please enjoy my Thirties Manifesto below.

In my 30's, I will:

Be FEARLESS: I am over being afraid of failure. I am going to be courageous.

Be decisive: I've wasted a lot of time in my life going back and forth trying to decide what is right for me. I know myself. I will make decisions faster.

Let go of my perfectionism: Details will remain a priority because they are important to me and they always will be. Gone are the days, though, when I let my perfectionism stand in my way of success.

Manage my time and energy more wisely: I have the tendency to say YES to everything and spread myself too thin. I will only commit to things that are worthwhile to me and I'll leave a little room on my plate for fun. There are a few projects in my life currently that deserve less of my time and I will be working towards trimming the fat on those...

Make health and activity my #1 priorities: I want to eat well, sleep well and exercise daily. These things are the foundation for everything moving forward and I must make them my biggest priorities. I also need to maintain my handstand because it's starting to get harder and I don't like that :)

Take on new scary audacious challenges: This year I am running a marathon. Next year I am…
I still need to decide on my goal beyond my marathon, but I am going to pick a big physical challenge and commit to seeing it through. Goals are essential in my life.

Stop trying to please everyone: I am who I am. I do what I do. I hope you like it. If not, I'm sure you have some great relationships in your life that fulfill you. I know I do.

Have more productive screen time: I'm kind of over responding to every blackberry chirp and going on random internet surfing tangents. I am ready to commit to more productive use of my time with technology so I can spend more time doing the other more important things in my life :)

Simplify email: I'm checking it twice a day and that's it. The act (and horrible habit) of constantly scanning my inbox is driving me a bit nuts. I don't like the way my body and mind respond when I react to the ping of a new message. I will not let my email inbox dictate my life.

Take BIG risks: I feel a big risk is on it's way in my life. I don't quite know what it looks like, but I feel it brewing. I feel like I'm going to take a giant leap in September-ish. The courage is building.

Create opportunities rather than wait for them to happen: Gone are the days when I wait for opportunity to knock. I'm going to start banging on it's door.

Do things rather than think about doing them: Recycling, laundry, etc, etc…I spend far too many hours of my life trying to muster up the motivation to get things done. Instead, I will just do them.

Publish books: It's time. I'm going to stop self-defeating and procrastinating and start writing.

Finish what I've started: I have always had a ton of respect for those who finish what they've started. I have far too many incomplete projects mulling around inside my mind. I will start focusing on creating plans to finish them.

Re-organize and down-size: I'm pretty much over STUFF. I am going to get rid of it if I don't need it. I will also create some better organization systems because I can be a bit of a cluster-you-know-what sometimes. My life will be: Clean and Simple.

Take more pictures: I love photos. I will start capturing my life.

Have more dinner parties: I love my friends and my family. I want to share more time, more laughs and create more memories with them.

Have less stress: I'm over it. A little is good, but not everything has to be stressful.

Be more appreciative: Life is pretty rad. I will remind myself of this more often.

Enjoy my life: There is no turning back. This is it. It's my choice how awesome it is. I will take time to be present and not get so caught up in the past, the future or the unknown. I will be here now and enjoy it.

My 30's are going to be goooooooood.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Spontaneous Speed Work

This week marked the shift from strength work (hills!) to speed work (fartleks). For those of you who think that fartleking may involve power boosts caused by farting, you are wrong ;) I tried the theory out and it has the potential to end badly :) 

Fartleking is the wonderful technique of bursting into a speedy spurt for as long as you feel like it, when you feel like it. There is no prescription to fartleking - it's a totally freestyle activity.

As you've probably come to understand from reading my blog, I am someone who loves a plan. I like to know where I'm going, when I'm going and how I'm going to get there. Therefore, fartleking is a very difficult exercise for me and far away from my comfort zone. It really forces me to listen to my body and to trust my instincts. For someone like me, grinding and pushing through is often easier than going with the flow because grinding and pushing through has a distinct beginning, middle and end and I really like that. I like to know that there will eventually be some closure.

When I haven't clearly defined my task and purpose, I can be pretty fleety and easily distracted. But when you give me some boundaries and guidelines, I will exceed them on nearly every occasion. The worst tends to come out of me when I am left to my own devices with no parameters. 

I started out my first 10km fartleking session with a nice easy pace for about 4 minutes to get a bit of a groove on. I was slightly dreading the moment when my mind would tell my body to pick up the pace because I didn't know exactly how it would respond. I could only picture my hamstring coiling up to my butt as it ruptured and me lying there helpless (without a cell phone again!) as Cooper licked my face and gave my those, "what's wrong with you, dad?" puppy dog eyes. But the moment came where my mind rather spontaneously said GO and I turned up the heat and kicked it into high gear. It was like a game of red light/green light. Green Light! I ran so fast my cheeks were cold, Coopers ears were like Superdogs and my legs and lungs were screaming for mercy. Then I slowed down and jogged for a bit. Red Light. When I felt recovered, I pumped up the volume and took off like a lightning bolt. GO! And then I slowed down when my lungs were bleeding and I couldn't maintain my speed anymore. STOP. I jogged so slow that my grandma could have caught up with me. And then when I felt energy again, I blasted the turbo jets and my legs spun faster than Fred Flintstones in his Flintstone mobile. Yabba Dabba Doo!

At about 7km's in, I was starting to run at a tortoise pace much more often than that of a hare. But I was listening to my body and it was telling me that I needed to take longer rests in between my rapid fire bursts of speedy speed. And from everything I've heard and read, this is what fartleking is all about. It's about knowing how to turn it on. It's about knowing when you need to conserve some energy. And it's about developing a relationship with your body and mind where you can take a cue to nuture or push when it's needed the most.

Fartleking definitely made my 10km run more stimulating and thought provoking than my other seemingly monotonous runs. I completed the distance pretty fast too in just over 48mins. If I was following a prescribed plan of "run 400 metres at 3:30min/km, run 200m at 6min/km, run 300m at 3:45/km, etc" it might have played more into my regimented "follow the plan" mentality, but it definitely wouldn't have been as spontaneous and fun. Two things I have been craving at this point in my training and two things that I think I need to be more open to in my life…

Especially since I'll be the big 3-0 in a few days time. 


Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Kyle's 30th Birthday Challenge in Support of RIGHT TO PLAY!

In celebration of my 30th Birthday on May 6th, I've decided to take on a BIG challenge: I'M GOING TO RUN A FREAKIN' MARATHON!

On first consideration, running 42.2 kilometres seemed next to impossible; especially for someone who spent their former life running 24.65 meters full speed towards a stationary object and flipping over it backwards. Therefore, to start my 30's off with courage and stare directly into the face of fear, my mission is to complete the Calgary Marathon (all 42.2km's of it!) on May 27th, 2012! 

A personal quest is always more meaningful when you simultaneously help others while grinding through the process. With this in mind, I'm hopeful that you're open to helping me raise some significant funds for one of my favourite organizations: Right To PlayBonus: all donations will receive a tax receipt.

My training started on January 1st, 2012 and it's been a rich adventure full of intense suffering and fulfilling victories. I've pounded the pavement in some pretty rad locations including Greenwich Park in London UK, Central Park in NYC, the valleys of wine country in Sonoma, California and various pathways in my awesome hometown of Calgary. Check out the tag 'Marathon Training' on this blog to follow the adventure. 

If you were going to buy me a beer on my BIG 3-0, please make a contribution to my quest instead. It takes just $50 to provide RTP programming to one child for an entire year. That's way more rewarding than watching my drunk a** stumble around and declare my undying love for the universe, now isn't it?!

My fundraising goal is $1000. Please help me get there so when I'm suffering from creaky knees and cement feet at 36km's, I'll have some great motivation to push through the last 6.2!

Here's the link to my fundraising page:

Much love and much thanks :)