Dreams in Sweaters

I had a dream a few nights ago. In the small amount of time I got good, actual sleep, it slammed into me. It was so vivid, I woke up shaking.

When I finally realized it was a dream, the image was still there, a mist in the air in front of me, and in the quiet of night I let it linger as I pulled myself groggily from the grip.

I had been galloping. I could feel the wide, pebbled reins in the dark, I uncurled my hands to touch my palms where the edge of the rubber would be, crossed over, rubbing the callouses. I could smell the oiled leather, I could hear the rhythmic snorting. I could taste the grit of the track in my mouth. I could almost sense the bunched muscle of horse stretching out to fluid in an explosive instant of sheer power. Even awake, the other half of myself was still there, somewhere, perched solidly and holding the entire production together.

Of course, not really, because I was not at a farm, in the sunshine, on the back of a horse. I was in the city, at 3 am, in bed.

I stared at the dimly lit ceiling, my heart beating a mile a minute. I haven’t had that dream in a long time. At various points post-racehorse life, it was a regular occurrence, my spirit still unable to let go of the hardest and most rewarding job I ever dove into (before I had children).

I used to have this dream when I was restless. I used to have this dream when I was sad. But I am not any of those things right now. It may stem from the fact I was watching GoPro videos of racehorses breezing, and a special video of American Pharoah right before the the Travers Stakes. I found and was entranced by a really cool video of Ingrid Klimke at Aachen, I think, going cross-country. Goosebumps and respect when I finished watching that video.

My brain doing a dump, so to speak, relating it back to my experiences, tucked away in the recesses of my memory.

As I think on it now, a few days later, I am reminded of how much fun Fall is with horses, and how much I loved galloping this time of year. This time of year the bugs leave, and the riding is less sweaty. The majority of the August heat dissipates to crisp headwinds, and fresh horses. As the alter-ego to Spring legging-up once the mud dries, Fall is the perfect time to take your horses down a peg, get them ready to rough off for the winter, scale back the intense schooling, and hack out more often.

Maybe that’s where my head is at right now, hence the dream. Fall is around the corner, my kids are about to go back to school, and I am anticipating sweaters, and fall leaves dancing in the wind. It reminded me so much of how I loved flying through harvested corn and wheat fields, skirting the edge of a well-mown hay field, or even up the side of a county road, the shoulder providing enough softness to let loose for a quarter mile, the speckled shade multi-coloured with fallen leaves.

Fall was also a countdown on the thoroughbred farms, because soon the track would be covered in snow and we would be doing endless circles in an arena, on the horses going south for early meets.

I used to hate that dream, because it was a reminder of everything I had once lived for, missed terribly, and could likely never go back to. I don’t hate it now. Not even a bit. I am relieved my body still remembers what it felt like. It is permanently part of me, for which I am grateful.

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New Car Smell

My kids got to experience new car smell on Saturday for the first time. My son doesn’t like it. My daughter thinks it smells like “magic wands”….

…I have no idea either, but it was adorable, therefore valid.

So, to sum up the past few weeks chez-nous, in handy-dandy list form:

  1. 3 year old birthday girl party shenanigans including a shopping spree, high tea at the Chateau Laurier all dressed up, and Rainbow cake.
  2. Car starts making rude, inconvenient noises exactly fifteen minutes after paying for pricey High Tea birthday lunch.
  3. Prep for departure to Britain (a la Flight of the Bumblebee), whilst dealing with a car that now sounds like a Lada.
  4. Discover that the transmission in imposter Lada is kaput, and has been dubbed a “lemon” by car aficionados. Estimated price tag to fix? &*#$ing expensive. Told not to drive car. Cue much swearing and woe-ing.
  5. Frantically scramble to find another way to drive to Montreal to catch our flight and not freak out about money. Book Via and rental cars.
  6. Leave for trip, have glorious time, enjoy every green-grass, sun-soaked moment. Wave at the Queen. Eat and imbibe way too much. Apologize to our livers on the plane home with litres and litres of water (ok, still apologizing).
  7. Come home to rude, inconvenient cold. Rent tiny “smartie” like car that can barely fit a loaf of bread in the hatch. Drive home with luggage safety-belted in the back seat. Pretend they are our children, being beautifully quiet.
  8. Spend the week recuperating, cuddling real children incessantly, trudging back to work, and researching vehicle options.
  9. Drive off the lot with brand new car less than a week after landing back in Canada.

*thud*

I was exhausted by Saturday night. We’ve been so stressed about how to replace our car, wondering how we were going to bury the negative equity, or even afford to replace it, that when we signed the paperwork for our new Ford Escape, I just about did a messy, happy cry right there in front of the business manager. Seriously. Never had we thought we could drive away in a brand new car, dealing with the craptastic situation of dead car + existing car loan + needing to keep the lights on and the children fed.

I am going to give a HUGE shout out today to Lincoln Heights Ford. We bought our Freestyle (of recent transmission FUBAR drama) from them, and when we came to them and said “what are our options?”, they treated us phenomenally. No pitchy salesman, no pressure tactics. Straight-up advice and up-front business (It does help that hubs, before he met me, worked there). We got to keep the demo overnight too!

We are deliriously happy. And my husband has officially purchased his very first new car! That is always a reason to celebrate.

So we did, with Indian food for lunch (the kids liked it! Shovelled it in, in fact!), because we are now trying to recreate the Chicken Tikka Masala experience we had in Paddington. I kid you not, the look on my husband’s face when he tasted the dish that night was exciting! We don’t do Indian food very much here. I heartily approve this mission we are now on since I loves me some good Indian food. Anyone else want to help?

I plan on writing more about our amazing vacation, once we’ve had a couple of “normal” days. I can’t wait to tell everyone about what a life-altering journey it was. It was a necessary holiday too. it made the -26 Celcius yesterday suck just that little bit less than normal (ok, so it still really sucked, but I imagined green grass and daffodils as I shivered).

Cheers! ♥

 

Reasons Why my Unicorns aren’t Farting Rainbows*

*Note: No Unicorns were harmed in the writing of this post. Their digestive tracts are just fine.*

It is apparently warming up this week.

A friend informed me this morning that it might rain. Ok, warmer weather means I might be able to get out and run, but rain? Come on now, is it too much to ask for non-freezing eyelashes AND sun? Obviously not. *grump* It has been a long, long, long cold and snowy winter for us here. If I have one more day where I am chilled to the bone on my legs and extremities by the time I get to work, but sweating inside every building I go into before I can take all the winter layers off… Well… Seriously, I don’t know what I’ll do, but it may involve foot stomping and fist-shaking.

In reality, I do not do temper tantrums very well. I’d be better served simply adhering Bitchy Resting Face™ and retreating into self-administered alone time on the bus until I feel as if I have stewed long enough over things I cannot control. *mumble* stupid Polar Vortex *mumble* living where air hurts my face *mumble* have you seen my stapler *mumble*

I had intentions of running last week and it did not happen. At all. I even put it out there to my fellow running friends, and… the Sabby Machine ran outta gas. I did not go. Why? I didn’t make it a priority. I couldn’t find the energy or time.

I didn’t want to.

I have not run in a month now. I haven’t yearned for it once, and haven’t had the energy to even contemplate it some days. It seems weird because I love it so much (and feel like I miss the idea of it, most days), but the thought of putting on all the clothes to go out the door and run makes me just sit right back down on the couch, grab my iPad, flip to a random mind-numbing, addictive game, and go “ugh”. Don’t even get me started on going to the gym to run on a treadmill… the few times I have, I have walked away and quietly cried in the shower afterwards because it felt so terrible. It hurt, it felt wrong, and it was hard as *^&% to simply just keep moving.

The one highlight of this was the running I did in January was wonderful, and the track workout I attended was really, really fun. New shoes work, it felt good to be active, and then… The bottom fell out.

I have a race in April. It is almost March and the last long run I did was 8k, which is half the distance I have to cover at the end of April. I am seriously thinking of selling my bib, or giving it to someone who wants the challenge. I will NOT be ready in time to run the whole thing. The idea of running a race, any race, is so exhausting I just don’t think about it. Or when I do, I stop because it leads to me being a Negative Nelly about myself because I am not pushing my fitness like every single other friend around me and how dare I even call myself a fit person anymore when I have gained ten pounds since Christmas and… *deep breath*

…Let’s not get into that whole “Inner Critic-Shut, Up!” business today. I feel like I have beaten that into the ground with the “Be positive! Be ready! You can DO EEEEET!” and I am tired of that, too. I have drained the bank with positive self talk, uplifting imagery, reminders of past accomplishments and all that stuff, but it does not matter when you have no motivation. No get-up-and-go. No power. Add life/family/work stress and WINTER… And that cocktail knocks you on your arse every time.

There are no words to describe how much I am looking forward to going to Britain in three weeks. They have Spring grass, even if it is temperate and rainy (and, I hope, receding floodwaters soon, dear friends)! GREEN GRASS, PEOPLE! *gasp…wheeze*

Finding the time to go has been hard too, for a multitude of reasons I won’t go into here, cuz really, we all deal with it and some of it is way personal, yo. After an “in the kitchen” chat with some girlfriends not too long ago, I detailed it all out. Cheaper than therapy, people. Find yourself a group of like-minded women (or men, y’all talk about this stuff when watching the game, right?) and throw your problem to them. They can sometimes see things you can’t. It can also be super intimidating to do, and it was scary to be in that group and having them tear my problems to pieces. I look up to these women. It was hard to let them see my failures. Some ouchy things were said (in a loving way) and it was good in the end, because I sorted out some *&^%. It was a tough evening, though. I got home and had a really big, messy, sobby sob-session. I didn’t even take off my makeup, so you can imagine what I looked like after that. *screams in terror*

The other factor that has kept me from physical activity in the past month or so is pain. Good old fashioned aching, hurting, creaking, tottery pain. I did not understand exactly why I was in pain until I saw a doctor last week.

I haven’t talked about it (especially around Husband who would just tell me I needed to get back on the exercise train. He has no motivation issues with his regime because Crossfit). I felt like maybe the pain was indeed the byproduct of not moving much (wasn’t convinced, I walk quite a bit every day to and fro work, from the bus etc). But doing a squat brings pain into my knees that lasts. Doing push ups makes my shoulders make that “poik” noise with each rep and ache for a day afterwards. Waking up and moving in the morning is a shuffle, then a slow hobble until I can actually open my eyes. If I sit for too long, I look like the Tin Man after a rainstorm when I walk. let’s not talk about Bad Bus Driver rides where I have sore arms from holding on. After my track workout, my abs were still quivering piles of ouch five days later, and I couldn’t lift my arm above my head for three on one side (aka: pulled somethin’-somethin’ in that there side muscle). My hands swell up like balloons if I do too much typing.

I know. Typing.

Don’t laugh. But y’all, it is my job. I’m a writer. Do you have any idea how much that sucks? I keep ice packs in the freezer at work to rest my hands on at regular intervals.

I have been living on Motrin and sometimes Aleve to ease the overwhelming day-after-day-after-day pain. I felt like I was falling apart, and thinking I was going to be dealing with this permanently. It was a new “normal” and it was, well… Depressing. Energy sapping. Etc. See above. Taxes and shipping are extra. Results not typical.

I saw my doctor earlier in the month, and he put me on a sleep medication that has been helping in a big way. Sleep is a wonderful thing, no? Then, last week, I saw another doctor and mentioned to her that the constant ache and pain was really wearing me down mentally and emotionally, on top of everything else. She put two and two together and went “Well, likely it is because you are depressed.”. Errr? Ok… Explain.

Apparently, with Seasonal Physical Depression (think similar to Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD), body aches and pain are magnified, and sometimes a symptom of. Clinical depression can also cause such aches and pains. It has very little to do with not moving. It has nothing to do with exercising too hard. Sometimes exercising can bring it on worse, even (think DOMS + emotional/mental struggles = feeling worse). It can also suppress your immune system. Wait… What? *atchoo*

So cue the rolling snowball. Not wanting to move because it hurts, having no energy to move, feeling worse about yourself because you aren’t moving, then dealing with the hurt when you break down and move because you browbeat yourself into it… And if the real reason (depression) is not being addressed…

Green Goop, Anyone?

It is official. I suck at making green smoothies.

I have tried, honestly, I have. Some of them were middling tasty, but I always ended up with tiny bits of spinach  in my teeth, not enough of an ingredient to make the recipe right, or my blender choking on the frozen fruit, causing me to add more liquid and producing RunnySmoothie™.  I also dealt with green smoothies that were decidedly NOT green, and several times would be slurping away on a (not too terribly bad) purple/brown drink, only to make my husband give me that look that indicates he is pondering my sanity.

Which he does every day, really.

Sometimes, I would want it to be creamier, so I would add protein powder, yogurt, or milk, and it would ferment over the course of the night in the fridge, and when I opened the Mason jar, would pass out from the noxious swamp fumes. Mmm! Fermented protein! And, in the odd case, the taste would be just that wee tich off to make me want to dump the entire glass down the drain before I did, indeed, retch from the abomination of healthy greens, yummy fruit and quenching juice coagulating into something resembling waste sludge or rotting algae in a settling pond.

Yeah…

And I am now remembering the time I forgot I put chia seed in the smoothie, left the second portion in the fridge (in a tightly lidded Mason jar), like I normally do, and the next day, had this off-green gelatinous goop to force down. The taste was ok (if you closed your eyes and pretended it was Jello) but it had a hint of over sun-baked vegetable smell, and the look of it was… Oh Lord… have any of you ever changed a very, very newborn baby? Then you know of what I speak.

*shudder*

I am trying to eat healthier, and get more greens into my diet, more energy packed foods, and I am also trying to increase my iron consumption through my diet since iron supplements  cause my internal plumbing to seize. (TMI? Sorry…). I have to, really, get back on track. Seriously. I left the rails so far behind I am like Lightning McQueen trying to find the Interstate (Mack! MACK!)

So I signed on to this green smoothie thing for January. I was supposed to get weekly emails with recipes, and some follow up encouragement from the website I gave my email to, but nothing has appeared in my inbox save the first “Welcome perky awesome person! We love you, please check out our Amazon store! We love green smoothies!” with enticing pictures of Day-Glo green yumminess in a cute Mason jar with a designer-striped straw and lemon wedge. I checked my junk folder and nada. The Facebook group has even gone quiet on my feed… Oh well. I don’t need a cheering squad to eat, truthfully, and I had the initial “booklet” with recipes (Avocado? Seriously? What kind of person puts avocado in a smoothie? Never mind. Most of my friends do… And they are awesome.).

My daughter, conversely, needs an audience to politely clap every time she takes a bite of dinner, praising Her Majesty for her effort and prowess at getting her fork (with food on it) to her mouth. Seriously, it is the only way we can get her to eat right now. Otherwise she is singing about animals, wiggling off her chair, and yelling about random moments from her day while my husband tries to get a word in edgewise.

She’s so much like me it is spooky.

Some days I forget completely about my smoothie, but I am getting three or four green smoothies per week, so that is better than last month, when in place of a healthy breakfast, I ate shortbread and leftover stuffing, followed by a vat of coffee, chocolate, and an allergy pill. I am a rock star, or at least ate like one in December. *urp* yeah… Not so good, that. Did you know that leftover cream cheese frosting is really, really good on saltine crackers?

Don’t judge.

But back to my failed attempts at Green Goddessdom. Awhile back, in the summer, I was making  smoothies every morning. But, drinking a smoothie on the bus was problematic when you are standing the whole way downtown, and your driver believes he is an Indy Car driver, or has some sort of tick that makes him hit the brakes every. ten. seconds. I don’t even dare to sip my coffee anymore! No one wants a faceful of that when he slams the brakes and everyone becomes more intimately aware of the stranger beside them. (unless that someone was my Secret Pretend Bus Boyfriend. We could handle that, yeah?)

So I stopped.

I was making them with chocolate protein powder and greek yogurt, with coconut oil and water, with strawberries and pineapple, with bananas and blueberries. I added chia, and hemp seed, and flax! They were yummy! They were appetizing colours! They were palatable! (the blender was a *&^%$ to clean). I even did spinach from time to time, but just enough. I wasn’t doing the green smoothie thing, really.

So this month-long challenge, which I have so utterly and completely failed, was hope for me to restart that morning ritual of packing my poor, underpowered blender with far too much frozen fruit and whizzing up something I could positively say was healthy for me. It was supposed to be fun. And easy. And make Day-Glo green smoothies I could pretentiously drink at work when I shook my pretty Mason Jar up and tapped my delicate striped straw into it. Mmm!

Instead, I had co-workers asking me what on earth I was drinking with that look on their face that indicated they were pondering my sanity. Which happens regularly.

So… This morning, once my Booster Juice Spinach Is In It smoothie defrosted from the walk to work down frigid Sussex Drive, and I took a sip through the ridiculously long straw, I did indeed realize I have learned something in this month-long adventure.

I suck at making green smoothies.

Kabooms

So, for the past few months, I have been a tad rudderless when it came to goals. I was in maintenance mode, a little adrift. I have started a strength routine, but for the past two weeks have not really had much luck getting to the gym with flu and general December scheduling making it near impossible. September through end of December is really a crazy time of year with our house. I should know this by now.

So, yeah… Not fitnessing near as much as I “should”; let the internal browbeating begin.

But, last week, I relented and put away the stickfoam roller I had been (mentally) flogging myself with. I started saying “I’m ok with this. This is a journey, and I will not beat myself up for not going full bore.”

I have done that in the past, fretted over missed workouts, fretted over not being as balls-to-the-walls as I think I should be, having nightmares of never going to the gym again, and crying because I can’t run and am “missing out” on the opportunities and gains I could have had. I am hard on myself in that regard and have had to really try hard at letting that go a bit. I have two little kids that need their mama. I have a full-time job. I have a husband who is working INSANE hours right now and has his own fitnessing three mornings a week (Crossfit, yo!). I have a home that I need to keep decent (hahaha… well, semi-decent) because my husband can’t help out as much. The run will always be there, the gym isn’t going anywhere, and I have time. No goals, right? Just taking the lull to work on steady, smart gains with no injury. Be at peace with your effort. Own the run, right?

It is still a big ole ball of stress-o-rama, but I am coping, rationalizing, and trying my best.

On this Friday past, I spent the evening with some women I cherish. They have been supporters, ears, shoulders, and sweat-mates for a little while now. We are all working hard to keep balance, some of us with young kids, some of us with massive, amazing goals.  They all inspire me, and push me without even realizing it and I wish I could see them more often.

We were talking about our fitness and body struggles, and something stuck with me. I have not seen my scale (or jean size) move up or down more than 5 pounds since last year. Yup. I have been stagnant. Plateaued, if you will. It has been on and off frustrating, since I tend not to weigh myself that often, so when I am not near a scale I don’t think about it much. But nevertheless I would love to see a smaller me, as I have mentioned before. I focus on strong, I focus on being fit, not a size or weight, but with that, comes the desire to have less to haul around on a run, or less of a “folding accordion” in my middle when I do back squats (complete with off-key, feeble whooshing noises. Heh.).

But, one friend pointed out “You have maintained for over a year! That is a big deal!” – KABOOM moment. Yeah! I have! I have not gone back up to a size 22 and 220 pounds. I have not expanded while I was off, tending my hip and foot. I stayed status quo.

Holy &^%*balls, that was one of those things we call an epiphany, I think, right? I have maintained! That is great! Wow. I’m sure somewhere I had noticed I had not gained weight, but my brain is a sieve, and the grocery list/school paperwork/bill notices pushes that important affirmation out on a constant basis.

So that was what I was thinking about on Saturday morning at the pool, watching my kids bobbing about in the water. I was thinking I was going to be ok, and this week to go back to the gym would be really nice. That I might back off the weight and have a couple of really good mobility-inclined lift sessions to get back into positive headspace-land. I was absent-mindedly planning my schedule when I checked my email.

There was an email from InStride Events about a race. Then, my phone dinged at the same time, with a co-ordinating post from a running friend on Facebook where all the usual suspects were chiming in on how awesome [it] was going to be and that they had signed up and YAHOO!

Yup. A race. In April. 16 km was the distance all my friends were aiming for. 50% off until end of December.

*cue intake of breath, heart-speeding up, and fingers twitching*

As with most of my goal setting, the impulsivity stayed true to form, and I signed up while sitting at the bench, with my phone. The woman beside me was impressed I was signing up, so I tried to be nonchalant while inside I was FREAKING OUT. I was sitting rigid, trying not to shake.

Dramatic much? Obviously… Either that or the coffee was finally hitting my bloodstream. 8:45 lessons are early for me, on a Saturday. *eyerub*

Dear God, but I have committed to a big goal this time. I have never run 16 km before (Tough Mudder doesn’t count. That is officially classified as a 16km trudge). I don’t know if I will be able to by April. I’m worried my hip won’t handle the running. I already know I will be super slow (which is not a big deal, really) and will likely be doing intervals. Part of me has utter confidence I can do this and RAHHH! RUUUUUN!!! The other half is really worried I just bit off more than I should be chewing.

But that is the idea with goals. It has to be challenging, right? Like my Tough Mudder, like running a 10km “race” for the first time at New Years, like my Army Run 5 km waaay back when I first started this crazy journey… All of it has been a challenge.

So on April 27th, I’ll be running the Manotick Miler 10 mile distance with a bunch of friends. http://manotickmiler.com/ is the race website, and until December 31st, you can register with a 50% discount (very much worth it, IMHO). I ran the 10km distance last year and enjoyed myself, loved my finish photo, and was impressed with the setup. Well run, smaller, and really encouraging volunteers. Also, Manotick is very pretty, and there is a Gingerbread cookie store there. I know, right? Omnomnomnom…

So much for a lull in my training goals, and being able to simply focus on steady, smart gains! In January, my feet have to start hitting the pavement again. Now, to buy new shoes, a new running jacket, fight forschedule time to do long runs, and a find a sensible training plan… Anyone got any suggestions? ♥

Morning Cold

There was no hot water in the showers at the gym this morning.

Random shrieks and unladylike words could be heard as I walked back to the change rooms, and there were hordes of women huddled in the sauna drying off, all impersonating wet, pissed off cats. I found it humorous until it was my turn to stand under the freezing, wet dribble coming from the shower head.

If I had wanted a cold shower, I would have stayed home and showered after my husband. *&^% it was cold. Not in a refreshing way at all. In a “Winter is coming” Stark family, miserable kind of way.

I did manage to bear the iciness to wash my hair and rinse off, and then I too huddled in the sauna with my fellow sufferers, making polite conversation while we all thawed our stiff, numb fingers enough to comb through our matted, frozen hair.

It was a steam sauna in there, with so many people coming in wet and shivering.

I mentioned it to the staff downstairs, and they did the eye-roll, “Yes, slave, we’ll look into it” thing. Have I mentioned that I loathe the fact that this gym chain is the ONLY ONE NEAR MY WORK that I can afford? *grump-bitch-moan* I am hoping the walk from this gym to my work, come winter, won’t suck, but I am not holding my breath. Sparks St. has a wind that whips down it that is really nasty in the winter. Imma gonna need some mukluks and a ski mask. It will be worth it for towel service, cardio machines that work, and a locker door that closes properly.

You know, luxuries like that. *snark*

Despite the apres-workout nastiness of a morning alternative to coffee, I did have a good workout. I am two cycles into my New Rules of Weightlifting (http://www.amazon.ca/The-New-Rules-Lifting-Women/dp/1583333398) stage 1 workouts. There are two workouts in stage 1 that you alternate 2 to 3 times per week, A and B. The A workout is exhausting, but doable, and the B workout is really intense. Usually, by the time I walk from the gym to my work (about 1.5k) I am ready to sit for awhile and drink my bladder-busting sized coffee (read: NOT a morning person).

How do I know this routine is kicking my *&^? By the time I am ready to walk to the bus to go home, I am hobbly and stiff. Likely from sitting at my desk for extended periods, and also because my body is still getting used to being active again, now that I am no longer injured, and it is freaking out.

Don’t even talk to me about DOMS the next day. Oh Lord, getting out of bed sucks, and sitting down or putting socks on makes me utter a sound like a 3rd grader playing a violin for the first time.

These are short, intense workouts, and even though I feel like I am doing less, I feel it more. Ow. I do add in extras at the beginning and end of the workouts, for warm up, and my physio stuff at the end. Sometimes cardio too, if I have time. It feels great to get back to it, to be honest. I would love to do three workouts a week, but getting to the gym on the weekend is difficult, and going two days in a row would kill me, I think.

Well, maybe I wouldn’t literally die, but I’d be ridiculously grumpy when moving at all would cause pain.

I am hoping to get back to Solefit in the next week or so to test out new shoes, and then, I am starting back to running (beginner 1:1’s) at lunch, on non-workout days, which will help. I am looking forward to winter running again. I loved it last year.

I have a goal of March to see how this program does for me to gain some strength, and hopefully some muscle definition, or the start of it. I would love to lose some inches and fat, but I am not going to get disappointed if it takes a long time. I am keeping my eye on the Strong prize.

Rawrr! ♥

Lunch Bags

Good lord, did I really do my last post on August 23rd?

Someone needs come over here and kick my %^& to write more. No, I need a weekend away from my family to recharge the Introvert batteries and get some Mojo back. As much as I love them, I need a break. I would even be amenable to a day. At Le Nordik. By myself.

Right… Who am I kidding?

I have been so incredibly, overly busy that stuff just had to give, and sadly, this gives. Also? I was having a hard time coming up with fun and exciting things to say on here, and nothing has inspired me to post photos lately.

*sigh* I’m just not much fun, it seems. Being in pain and being busy makes my world fall apart, yo.

School starts this week, we had a great long weekend with family, and a mountain of laundry I am currently ignoring. I am calling it a win if we get my son off to school tomorrow with matching socks, and we get no calls from the office for the two days he is there this week.

I know we are going to get the sideways look of “Why does your son not have all-new everything?” when he goes back with clothes he wore *gasp* last year, no new rainboots (He still fits the ones he has), and thrifted jackets. Travesty, I tell you. I did relent and buy him an Iron Man lunch bag to replace the Avent breast pump bag he decided he wanted to use last year (cue absolute embarrassment by me, and questions from staff of whether or not we were desperately poor, or intent on giving our son a complex).

He said he liked Iron Man because he was yellow and red and could fly. I said “Mommy does too, dear. Mommy certainly does.” he replied with “Because he can fly, Mommy?” and I said “Sure… We’ll go with that, dear *snort*.”

Don’t judge me. There were no Thor or Captain America ones, so I’ll go for the next best thing… A genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist. Right.

*ahem* anywho… News on my hip and foot. Good and bad.

I am now in week four of my physio, and have been cleared for further strength exercises. I have a wee routine involving bridges, leg lifts of varying degrees of repose, tree pose, and now, awesome wall sits. I am also cleared to do some lifting, but upper body only, no squats or deadlifts or stuff that loads my hip up with weight. I am to try some weights, and if there is pain, I have to leave off for a bit longer.

So my daily dose of rehab exercise now looks like this:

  • walking (to and fro bus), Approximately 3km a day
  • 3 x 10-5 second bridge with exercise ball between knees (SQUEEZE!)
  • 3 x 10 side leg lifts on each leg
  • 3 x 10 lower leg inner abductor lift – Left leg only
  • 3 x 10 lower leg outer abductor lift – Left leg only
  • 3 minutes tree pose left leg only (at the physiotherapist, I do this on a piece of dense foam… Wobbly!)
  • 3 minute wobble board stand (I can use a BOSU ball at the gym, otherwise I leave this one for physio visits)
  • 3 x 10 modified pistol squat on step – Left leg only
  • 3 minute wall sit – 10 seconds 90 degrees bend in knee, 10 seconds 45 degrees bend in knee, repeat for entire length
  • 2 x 30 second from toes plank
  • 5 x 30 second IT band stretch – Left leg only
  • 5 x 30 crossed leg side stretch – Left leg only
  • 3 minute hamstring stretch – Left leg only
  • repeat 1 x all IT band stretches on right
  • Rolling/massage as necessary

Did you know that the native stopwatch on the iPhone doesn’t do seconds? I didn’t know this until I went to use it to time my reps. Yeah… Now, to be fair, there are a bazillion apps out there that do, but I’m picky. I need a good egg timer I can whack when the “BEREEP BEREEP” goes off at the end of a set, or a Gymboss I can clip to my person. Fussing with the ^&*% phone isn’t ideal.

The goal with this routine is to address an imbalance in my legs, and strengthen the muscles in my hip to prevent further bursitis. Then I can go back to doing exercises on both legs. It feels weird to only do some exercises on one leg. I want to do it on the other leg because hello, symmetry?

I’m not feeling a difference yet. I am still feeling pain in my hip after some stuff, and it still hurts a bit at night. But it is getting better. X-rays show no horrible defect, so I’m in the clear on my hip. I did just really, really hurt this hip. This is not a simply rest and then a few weeks of modification kind of injury. I *^&%ed myself up but good.

Not so much on my right foot. That is another story. One I’m really trying hard not to be upset about.

I do not have any stress fractures. Metatarsalgia, for sure, but nothing that will require an air cast. What I do have is osteoarthritis (duh…) but it has advanced quite a bit, especially in the big toe joint. Hence the pain getting worse when I do stuff like run or trod about, attempting feats of athleticism.

What does this mean? Well, this pain I have in my toes is not going to go away. I may be able to control it with orthotics and treatments such as ultrasound and acupuncture etc, but it is here to stay. It means I have to try treatments, start running again, and pray that I can manage it.  I am not giving up, I want to explore every option I can… But if nothing works…

Sabby can’t be a runner. It would cause too much damage, and pain.

I know. Crappy.

Hence the not wanting to talk much about it lately. I love running. I miss it like mad right now. It was my Thing. It will suck if I can’t do it anymore. I know there are other things I can do, like cycling, maybe get back on a horse on a regular basis…

So hopefully I am just blowing it out of proportion and all will be ok in a few more weeks. ❤

Hip-Checked

no_grumpy_cat_wallpaper-medium-290x200Reality has hit with a thud. But it was a soft landing, and I am already getting back up. Slowly… But I am. I even have a cane!

Last week I was grumpy, so I stayed away from my blog. I did not want to fill my little tiny corner of the Interwebs with my grumpiness.  We have Grumpy Cat for that (look at that adorableness!)

Also? I didn’t know what to write. I was down in the dumps and pity-partying.

I finally gave in to the pain and hobbled to the Emergency room last week to have someone look at my right leg and foot. I was beginning to worry it was a blood clot or something more sinister than a pulled muscle/tendon. The pain was getting worse, and travelling up my leg. Not a good sign, people.

The doctor looked me over, said it was indeed likely a muscle pull, that I needed a few days of complete rest, physiotherapy, and perhaps not run for a few weeks. OK. *cue sadface*. But, I had, in my hot little hand, a prescription for physio, so I could claim  the visit fees. Yes!

The leg, after a weekend of some activity and some rest is much better, the toes still sore, but manageable. So last night, at my physio intake assessment, we decided to focus on my hip for now, and look at gait and locomotion later on. My goal, as we decided, was to identify why the hip has gotten this way, and how we can best work towards prevention in the future as I get back to doing what I really want to do, which is run, do obstacle races, weight train, and kick some serious butt being active.

Some things became apparently clear as he made me do a bunch of fun exercises akin to getting stopped by the RIDE program on a Saturday night (Not that I have ever done that, I’ve seen it plenty).

  1. I have very weak quads. When I had to use them to press back on the therapist’s hold on my leg, I collapsed like a jumble of carrots.
  2. MY hamstrings are compensating for my weak quads, and could hold up a Mack truck, if asked.
  3. My calf muscles are very tight, and the left one is bigger than the right. Why? See #4.
  4. My left leg is shorter than my right (no surprise there). Not by much, but enough that a) I over-pronate more on that side which b) makes my hip, IT Band, and calf work harder, which c) causes #alltheproblems.
  5. My right toe pain is likely because they take more impact than my left toes, due to the leg length issue + compensation for the issues on my left side.
  6. I have a click in my left hip when I raise the leg up to 90 degrees and bring it back down that the therapist did not like.

it-band-and-trochanteric-bursa2So the diagnosis of bursitis is correct (the previous doctor’s fat shaming wasn’t). Basically, the IT Band gets hella tight, it rubs on the bursae sac that cushions it from the Trocanter, and voila, irritation. With the irritation comes gait compensation, which leads to the muscle imbalance. Erg. The diagram on the left kinda explains it better. The red thing is the IT Band (as labelled), the yellow thing is the bursae.

From what I can gather, this is not an uncommon problem for runners. I can kick myself a little for ignoring the soreness, which caused further damage.  I can also kick myself for not focusing more on my quads. However, not all of it is my fault, since some of it comes from my body and how it is made.

The therapist was surprised my knees weren’t sore because of my tight IT Bands. He was also really surprised I was not in a lot of pain, given the mobility differences left to right, and what stretches caused my hip to hurt. He said I should have been in agony when he bent my leg back. I wasn’t. it was uncomfortable, but not screamy-type pain.

This indicated I have gotten used to it, and that my pain threshold is high. Goody?

So the plan is this:

  • Two visits a week to yon physiotherapist for a month or so to get working on the various stiff, sore and needy spots on my body.
  • RMT twice a month
  • Orthotic assessment once the hip is working better (i.e. I can move freely)
  • MRI done to rule out any other issues in the hip
  • Return to strength exercises once the irritation is gone, focusing on rebuilding some of the imbalances
  • Return to running once my hip is pain free, and my right leg is completely healed, starting with low, slow mileage, no speed work for some time, no hills for some time.
  • Ongoing physio for the imbalances until the therapist deems me “solved”

I’m happy to be starting a more regimented plan to get better. I am tired of being in pain. As usual, I had no idea how much pain I was in until I stopped running and really listened to my body, instead of pushing through. I’ll admit, I was doing the “what if” thing, worried I would have to stop running, worried I was going to have to drastically alter my fitness goals. Worried I was going to have to simply deal with pain for the rest of my life.

Numpty. I will get better and I will get back out there. Just might take awhile.

Insult to Injury

So… Remember me saying I might be on the injured list soon because my hip is sore? Well…

I am. officially on the DL for a few days, maybe a few weeks. Specifically for running and high impact exercise. I will wait and see if I decide to continue my kettlebell classes. My hip has been very sore since the last class, but we did 1,456,789,345 squats and lunges, so that might have had something to do with it. My glutes hate me, even two days later.

Yesterday, I had to traipse myself to a walk in clinic to get my ear looked at (Eh? Can’t hear so well, laddie… Speak up into this here ear-cone now. What? Pardon?) so I decided to talk to the doc about my hip as well. I’m nothing if not efficient, right? Hah.

Two little bowls of warm water were sluiced into my ear at Niagara force with a Looney Tunes sized plunger thing, and a block of wax came out about the size of a small marble. Wow. No wonder it was hurting, yo.  Immediately I could hear again, and felt a relief of pressure (and I have had no balance issues since). The sun shone and angels sang. It was glorious. The nurse was awesome, and she and I did a high five when the nasty stuff plopped into the bowl I was cradlingramming against my ear to catch the yuck.

It is a strange sensation, having water pressured into your ear, feeling the canal stretch and then hear a physical “pop”, like a cork being pulled.

TMI? Sorry… Anywho, back to the matter at hand (hip?).

In all that wonderfulness, what wasn’t glorious was the doctor’s “discussion” with me about my hip. He asked me where the pain was, I pointed, explained when it hurt, or after what activity, and the history of the pain, how it was now getting worse, not better with rest. He did not ask me to show him range of motion, he did not palpate over the area, nothing. He looked at me and said “Advanced Bursitis.” I nodded. I knew that already, have had bursitis there for years, but it had not started hurting until the past few months, on and off. In my head, I was relieved that he was making a diagnosis that I could understand. But then, he took the crazy train to Rudesville, and displayed such horribly poor “bedside manner” that I was shocked into silence, simply nodding, wanting to leave.

I asked what we could do about it, like physio, specific massage or exercise I needed to do, further examination to ensure it was indeed Trochanter Bursitis… And he shook his head while he wrote on a prescription pad. He looked me up and down when he finished writing (like a skeevy dude at a night club, it felt) and said, I kid you not:

“Well, you’re fat, so losing 50 pounds will help. Also, as a Diabetic, you should not be running. Running is bad enough on its own, but Diabetics should not run. Stop running, and start taking therapeutic Celebrex. Don’t worry, it has no side effects so you can be safe taking it long term.”

As I said, I was a tad shocked. At this point, I realized referral to a sports med doc or physio was not forthcoming, so I simply closed my mouth, nodded, and mutely took the prescription for the nasty, horrible pills I will not take. Five minutes later, I heard him, in the next room, telling another patient to take Celebrex for the migraine the man had come into the clinic about. Uh huh… Right.

So now I will wait for my doctor to come back from vacation, and book with him. At least I know he’ll listen to me, perhaps help me find a good physio place near my home, and not call me “fat”.

Anywho, on the way home, I realized I had not gotten upset about the doctor being so rude and dismissive. I had gotten angry, and a bit, perhaps… Determined by it. I had fully expected to burst into tears! Progress? Maybe. I realized that this man is of no relationship to me, he was the walk in doctor. Will I have to use him again? maybe if my kids get sick, but I don’t ever have to. Will his diagnosis change how I deal with stuff? Nope. Does his opinion of my body matter? Nope.

So yes, likely it is Trochanteric Bursitis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_trochanteric_pain_syndrome and http://www.physioroom.com/injuries/hip_and_thigh/trochanteric_bursitis_full.php) Likely I will have to make some hard decisions soon about the types of races I do, and the goals I have. I’m not making any of these until I talk to my doctor. For now, I will rest, take Advil, and continue to work on strengthening #allthemuscles around my hips. A strong core, strong abductors, and strong obliques will prevent injury. Happy IT Bands will prevent irritation.  So hello yoga, weights, and my foam roller.

But… if I got nothing else out of that clinic visit than an uncorked ear, I at least came to this conclusion: I will NOT let that doctor make me feel inadequate. I will not let his advice shape a belief that I cannot run as a Diabetic, or as a woman suffering from a common hip affliction.

I can, and will figure this out. ♥

Downtown is my Playground

I’ve been sitting on a post detailing downtown workouts for quite some time now, and frankly, forgot about it until my workout yesterday. I have this treasure trove of drafted posts that I really need to mine more often. Would you like to hear what I really think of Fifty Shades of Grey?

Didn’t think so. That’s why that particular post has hit the dusty “drafts” bin. Erk.

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Stairs in Major’s Hill Park

Anywho… I did not want to go for a “run” yesterday. I was dreading the aches and pains, I was eyeing the angry black-blue stormclouds, and I was definitely not feeling energetic enough to lace up and go 5k along the river. I was also not keen to run along at a slow enough pace that everyone also running would pass me. Yes, shallow, but there it is.

I wanted to feel powerful and athletic, and knew that with my headspace at that particular moment, I would not. I would feel slow and fat.

Stawp. I know. I’m working on it.

I posted on my weight loss support group that I didn’t want to go, and someone tell me to go *grumble arggg*. More to put it out there that I needed to, so I would, more than needing the responses of “GO!”. Accountability, thou art a beast.

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Zig Zag Path behind the National Art Gallery

I went. (FYI, thank you, ladies.)

I rarely give myself music to listen to anymore, keeping the earbuds out, or listening to an audiobook if it is a longer run. I want to learn to run without it (can’t do Spartans and Tough Mudders with music, y’all), and really, I need the silence sometimes, to zone out and quiet my &^%*ing brain. Today, I plugged into some music. I needed the boost, and chose a Slacker channel with ultra-trendy pop that normally makes me want to bash things, listening to lyrics of teh stoopid. (my apologies to anyone who enjoys top 40 pop. There are some songs I do like, don’t get me wrong, but man…)

As I got going, I started to feel less draggus-buttis, so I decided to go as fast as I could for as long as I could then walk or jog to recover (sprint, medium pace, walk, repeat), then go to Major’s Hill Park and do some stretching for my poor hip, keep it easy, make sure I was taking care of myself. I like hanging out in the park stretching too, and it was a beautiful day to do it. Under my favorite shade tree, people playing, the wind coaxing stories out of the branches above me… Perfect. (edit: My very favorite shade tree was toppled in yesterday’s storm. I stood in the park today, efforting not to cry. I was NOT the only one in this state either.)

Something happened as I ran North on Sussex, though. I started feeling playful. Maybe it was the music that I was listening to… I have no idea where it came from. So when I got to the Saudi Embassy, I veered and ran down the grass terraces beside it to the pathway below, leaping over the wooden dividers as I strode down, repressing the urge to go “RAHHH!” as I bounded. I crossed under the bridge, and then ran along (up and down? it is a hilly bit of road.) Lady Grey drive, finally veering back to Sussex up a bicycle path ramp. I practiced my trail clinic “spin” steps to get up that hill and I was pleased to reach the top NOT stumbling and swearing.

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Stone Benches in Major’s Hill Park
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Alcove between the national Art Gallery and the Canadian Mint. The lightposts are perfect to “weave” through.

Aside: I tell you, learning how to run up hills at that trail running clinic was a friggin’ epiphany. Until I am much, much fitter, this technique is making hills a butt-tonne less intimidating! I may take forever to get up them, but I get up them without killing myself, my quads, or my self-respect! Win!

I was starting to get winded, and my right toes were aching. I was running faster than I normally do, and it was hard work on the pavement. I slowed down and turned through the alleyway between the Gallery and the Mint, and I weaved through the light poles, making my way towards Nepean Point. At the back of the Gallery is a zig-zag peagravel pathway that climbs up the hill towards a strange, crooked needle statue. I ran that too, “spinning”. The gravel was hard to run in, so it was kind of a necessity. *crunch-crunch-crunch-crunch*

Once I descended past the “Giant Iceberg”, I crossed to Major’s Hill Park and sprinted up the hill by the washrooms to the main open area. I stopped my Garmin and Runkeeper, barely able to catch my breath. I had gone less than 2k. For a moment I felt ridiculous for only going that far and feeling so wretched. My God, my cardio has gone to &*%$.

But I recalled the hills, the gravel, and the jumping and such and didn’t feel so bad. I decided to continue around the park for a bit, doing a loop slowly to really feel my footstrike and form, then jumping up and down stairs, stone benches, and hills. I trotted back over to the Gallery when I got bored of that, and decided to end on 10 “sets” of stairs at the amphitheatre, my favorite place to stair climb since it is shaded and steep. Up, down. Up, down. I was waiting for security to come over and banish me (the security at the NAG are not very much fun, I can attest to this) but they never did. A few families negotiating the stairs looked at me funny, and an old man sat on a bench in the alcove watching me open-mouthed. When I passed him afterwards, he muttered something about “dangerous to be runnin like that” and I suppressed a giggle. Hey, it wasn’t long ago that women were told their uterus would fall out if they ran, and it was dangerous for women to do any sport at all!

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National Art Gallery Amphitheatre stairs

Truth!

I did a few of these workouts last summer, and loved them every time. Usually spontaneous, I travel from spot to spot, looking at what is available and simply “playing”. Running obstacle races this Spring reminded me that I need to do more of this kind of thing, not just steady state running, or intervals. I need to jump around, get used to stopping and starting. Taking the trail running clinic really opened my eyes, and now I work on the muscles that let me react to changing terrain, going uphill and downhill with corners, all that crazy stuff.

Where better to do all that than here? The workout was 45 minutes total. I was drenched. I was exhausted. I had, in less than 5k, likely burned more calories than running the loop run. I felt better about myself too.

Clearly I need to do this more often. ♥

Bucket List – Run the Avenue of Giants

This is the fourth in a series of “bucket list” posts. I want to share some of the goals I have for my life, a lot of which involve travel. Some are for just me, some are meant to be shared with my family, and some are meant to be crazy endeavours with the right friends.

I want to hear your stories and dreams too, so share them! And if you have done any of the things I talk about, tell me what it was like! ♥

Bucket List Item – Run the Avenue of Giants Half Marathon

I have always loved forests. The peace and stillness when you are in the heart of a thick stand of trees is unrivaled. The beauty of dappled sunshine, thick carpets of moss and leaves suspends me in awe, and the smells of nature make me happy. I have more than once found myself in a forest, sitting, not realizing that so much time has passed, just soaking in the absolute joy I was experiencing, being in this element.

So… is it any wonder, that when I found out you could run a race through one of the most famous of North American forests, I went “OOOH!” and jumped around a bit? History AND forests plus RUNNING?

Yes please.

I found out through one of my favorite bloggers, whom has disappeared again (Please come back, Liz! http://runfatchickrun.com/2013/05/06/avenue-of-the-giants-2013/), ran a race this year called “The Ave” (http://theave.org/). She ran the Half, and there are shorter distances, a five and 10k, I think. She was pacing her friend to her first 1/2 finish (what a first 1/2!) and as always, had her funny on. The pictures looked incredible, the medals were truly bling-y, and wow… The TREES!

The Ave is short for “the Avenue of Giants”, which is a part of Humboldt Redwoods State Park in Northern California. Some of the most well preserved original stand redwood trees are here, and this is where you see the pictures of the Model T Fords driving through the massive cedar trunks.I think you still can drive through them, but it costs $5, and you have to be driving a smaller car.

Yes… That place. And there is a half marathon there. Uh huh.

There are so many areas of California I want to drink my way through see, so I have no idea how I would fit this into a trip out to the West Coast without visiting other spots, but I think it is do-able. We’d have to spend a couple of days exploring the area to be sure, but running through this area, being able to look up to the tops of those beautiful stands of timber, and connect with the earth in the profound way of running would be incredible, like a big glass of the best Zinfandel the old vines in Sonoma could muster….

Or something like that.

This is not yet scheduled, or planned out… It would be expensive. I would have to save, train, and of course, have people willing to travel all that way with me just for this. I don’t want to do this one solo. That wouldn’t be fun at all! I foresee a girlfriend trip? 40th birthday celebration? Who knows.

Here is a video of the 2012 race!

And a great video explaining the merits of visiting the Humboldt State Park.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avenue_of_the_Giants – Ye olde Wikipedia references

http://www.aveofthegiants.com/ – More info on the actual Avenue

Breaks

Last week, I took a break. Literally. At one point yes, I was hiding under the covers, colouring (I have an app for that…) I did not run, or work out, or anything after Tuesday night.

I was horribly sick on Tuesday night too, after a really tough, hot kettlebell class (they are held outside) that had me seeing spots and sitting for some exercises near the end of the class. Thank God for the electrolytes I had packed and drained on the way home. I think it kept me from real damage, and I did not dehydrate, thankfully.

Heat exhaustion ain’t fun folks. This summer weather we’ve had is nutty. So much rain, goes from cold to hot in a blink… Go home Mother Nature, you’re drunk.

From Wednesday to Friday, I… I was not in a good place, and I hid. So I didn’t write much after Monday’s post. I didn’t want to be negative on my blog, and do the “Woe and Despair” dance that was coursing through my brain, and the effort to research my next bucket list post, or think about anything, was too much. Friday morning, I felt clear-headed again, and said, as I got up “I am through it” and started my day. I have no idea if I was sick, fending off some strange hormone low, or simply burnt out and needing some introvert time. I just felt unbelievably foggy, down, negative, achy, and sleepy.

But I am back now. With some thinking done too. Scary, I know… I do believe sometimes we need to step away from our day to day and take stock of our direction. I got to do that this past week.

On Sunday I realized I had not been running at all, and was palpably missing it. I am also missing simply moving, getting some strength workouts in. I have fallen off the wagon a little bit with regards to my fitness. I can feel it. Pushups are harder again. My stamina at fast cardio is not where it used to be. Don’t even talk to me about burpees *hiss*.

Not having a regular run club right now, not being in a sticky gym, not having the time or energy to just go… It can suck. Sunday I wanted to but was solo parenting while my husband finished off his Trifecta at the Spartan Beast. He’s done now, and really happy with his efforts. I think it also gave him guy time, which is always good. it makes him less cranky.

Now if I can just get him to get onto that “Honey Do” list… Heh…

This week, I hope to get back on the horse, figuratively. I have two and a bit months before my next obstacle race. I am missing every day sweating on purpose (not just standing around, like the weather the past two weeks has provided). So keep me accountable, folks! I want to try and at least do something every day this week. Today is a lunch workout of some sort, and full moon yoga tonight at 10. Tomorrow is kettlebells again, and hopefully it is not as hot. then I have Wednesday yoga at lunch, and runs to fit in on Thursday and Friday, then a long run at some point on the weekend, however, on Sunday, husband has a competition in the morning, so likely I cannot do a long run with friends… again. *grump*

Yes folks… It has happened. He is doing his first Crossfit “comp”. (Crossfit, yo).

You know what is going to happen next… I should really prepare for the “Honey, there is this competition in {insert city}…” and I will have to pull out the “I told you so!”.

Elbows In

Last night was a blast. An absolute and utter success. Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!

I have to tell you about it, because even though my glutes and knees are a wee bit screamy this morning, I am tired as heck, and quite possibly slap happy from teh tired… I am very excited about what I was able to achieve last night, and where I want to go with it. It was also awesome to share it with my friend, who looked very capable and with it.

I am so happy she suggested it, and we were able to arrange to get there.

I was able to run through some craggy, rocky paths, up a steep rock, down a steep rock, and up and down some mountain goat hills that before last night, I would have walked and picked my way through daintily. I kept up to the group well ( I am sure the instructor was not going very fast to keep the group together) and sometimes I found myself needing to slow down. Even though I was soaked in sweat (and maybe peed a little bit going back down the trail at the end, it was steep and rocky and I was running at a speed I thought was fast and it was a tiny, tiny bit unnerving… But just a little, honest!) with shaky legs, and breathing like a 60 year old smoker, I felt like I fit in. I did, however, feel much more colourful than anyone else there in my neon shirt and rainbow skirt, with my Rainbow Dash socks. *shrug* I was comfy, that was what mattered.

We started out doing some drills in the Camp Fortune parking lot. I can describe them to you in great detail, but if you are interested in trail running best-practices, my advice is to go to one of these clinics and try them out. Practicing with the careful progression of our instructor, Lise, was great to put the reason behind the ridiculousness we must have portrayed as mountain bikers rode past us. To understand the why as well as the proper form for them made all the difference. Really, Lise has this calm, confident poise to her expertise, but is down to earth and full of humour about her passion, both which naturally flowed from her example and explanation.

The drills were like high knees, butt-kickers, side steps, and some lifting steps that helped to engage the hips and gain awareness of foot placement. The idea of all of the high-stepping drills is to help you lift your feet up, (Hot lava! Don’t leave your feet on the ground for long!) engage your core, and ready yourself to run on trails with roots and rocks. No tripping, aye? Sit back and use your centre of gravity to balance on turns and hills. Use your arms to help push you up, and keep your elbows in to prevent side to side torsion on your midsection, which wastes energy and causes you to lose balance.

Guess what I do… Yup. My elbows stuck out like coat hangers. This is something I have always fought with both running, riding horses, and simply standing. I try, I really do, but they just want to float out! Something to work on this summer. If I do bring them in, my shoulders go to my ears. If I run naturally, my elbows go almost 90 degrees out from my body.*sigh*

We hit the mountain bike trails on the hill, and did some running, remembering to step lightly, lift our feet. We were taught how to “spin” up a steep incline (take small, quick steps to economize and get up a difficult climbing effort) and how to power up too. How to run downhill with cadence, brake, change direction, and pick a line. We also got the chance to practice this, a lot. It was so much fun, I felt like I was flying coming down the trail, navigating the rocks and turns. I sounded heavy on my feet still, but of course, practice with the drills and principles will help with that.

I felt really in the moment and focused as we moved to different terrain questions, and Lise patiently explained the aspects of running through them. It was scary the first time I would attempt it, silently praying not to pratfall, or otherwise embarrass myself, but I never did. The incredible rush I got as I RAN up and down the trail portions we practiced on was empowering, I won’t lie. Most trail runners might reply to my enthusiasm with “ok, yeah… whatev’s”, but for me, it was a huge moment, and a big deal. Couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.

I CAN run on trails and be quick. I CAN navigate this stuff as a runner with some extra weight on her body. I CAN run up these hills, even if I am gasping at the top. The new techniques made it so much easier, and I felt, for the first time, capable. HYOOOGE confidence boost, right there. On those trails, I did not feel pokey or slow. I felt…

Calm. Normal. In control. Isn’t that weird? Catapulting down a hill, over rocks that want to make you tumble, and I felt in control. I also felt like I was able to clear my mind, focus on my footsteps and breathing. It was relaxing!

We moved over to a trail suggested by one of the other students, and we zig-zagged into the cool forest to try our hand (feet?) at drops, rock-strewn paths, branches, and a steep-sloped rock face. I ran up that *%^&ing rock face! UP! Then down. DOWN! It was hard not to want to shout “whee!” and raise my arms up as I came over drops or around bends. When we did our run back down to the parking lot from the top of the zig-zag trail portion we were working on, I was tired. I was ready to stop, drenched in sweat. I had worked very hard during our hour and a half of play and learn. I was dripping off my nose and down my back, my hat was soaked. My handana was a sopping, drippy mess. I had sweat in unmentionable places. Mosquitoes were walking through the DEET to bite me everywhere.

But… As we ran, and navigated all of the trail portions we had practiced, I felt such an endorphin rush, that the tiredness faded. I may have sounded like a threadbare bagpipe about to burst, but I felt incredible. I may have looked about as wilted as a week-old cut rose, but I was energized. “I did that!” I said in my head as we walked back towards the cars. “I did that, and I loved that!”

And now, I want to do it again. Tuesday evenings are the shorter (free!) meet and runs organized by the group that puts on the clinics (http://www.naturalfitnesslab.com/) and I have my kettlebell class on those nights, but maybe once September hits, I will have to go to a few. And between now and then, I want to find a babysitter, so I can drag my husband to Gatineau Park.

I have some trails to run… With my elbows in.

 

 

Hitting the Trail

Tonight, I am going to a women’s beginner trail running clinic at Camp Fortune, put on by Natural Fitness Lab (http://www.xczone.com/labrunclinics.htm). If you want to go, it starts at around 6:15 pm, is limited to 20 women, and is $20 online, or $40 at the trailhead.

Because we have such a great network of trails, parks and the like here in Ottawa, there is a strong trail running community (as well as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing). They have run evenings, just like Running Room does, and announce the location of them on social media a few days before hand (usually located on a Gatineau Park trail). I have been too intimidated to go to one of these runs, fearing my red-faced 12-minute mile pace (on the road, slower on trails of course) would be left behind by the first half kilometre as the more seasoned runners bounce away, leaving someone to stay, wait, and be annoyed at my huffing, puffing finish in the parking lot long after everyone else has left for the night.

I had this same worry going to a Running Room Wednesday night or Sunday morning run too, just for the record. I know I am slower than a lot of “average” runners. My long, slow pace is between 7 and 8 minutes a km, which for a lot of folks, is very, very pokey. Going with my friends to a couple of Sunday morning runs in Westboro, though, made me feel better about “belonging” and keeping up, since you run back to the store, and there is always somebody still there stretching, and you get smiles and such no matter when you get back.

I’ve also made strides in acceptance of my pace this year. Slow is ok. Even if I am slow, I am still doing it. I will get faster eventually… Yup.

Despite my confidence strides this year, I am nervous to go tonight, since I’m meeting a new group of runners, some of whom may likely be muscled paragons of trail running endurance, standing proudly at the foot of a black diamond slope before bounding up in their zero-drop trail shoes, as if channelling the white-tailed deer watching from the sidebush. Scouring videos of the trail running group, and reading about their training and exploits, it made me quail a bit inside. These people are seriously fit. Most of them in pictures do not appear to have any body fat, and look like runners that model for the magazines.

Eep.

Silly, I know, and likely unfounded. But, I am trying to be as honest with myself as possible. If I am nervous, I examine why, so I know how to best cope or solve in the situation. I think it comes down to me not wanting to look ridiculous (solved, I have rainbow socks to wear with my rainbow run skirt and neon shirt), and out of shape. Put a more serious way, I want to participate, but hope it is not going to defeat me when the pace is too fast, the level of exertion above what I am currently capable of.

Oh anxiety… Thou art a vile and bilious &*#$@.

Thank GOD I won’t be doing it alone, and am going with a good friend. She’s got trail running experience, and she’s better at hills than me. We’re going to this together for support, and because we both prefer trail running to pounding pavement on a daily basis. Honest… I love my run routes at lunch around downtown, they make me happy to run in the history and people… but I adore the trails near my house, or running where the trees are on either side of me, the ground not man-made… And there are some hills to heft up.

Yes, heft. I’m not in shape enough to bound yet. Soon, but not yet.

I want to do more trail running, and take on new challenges with my running. This is important to me. I think trail running is the best way I can boost my obstacle racing endurance, and mentally (emotionally) I need to get away from the concrete a bit more. I am missing the country, the forest, and the quiet it brings to my mind. Perhaps after this clinic, I can meet some other beginners like me, and we can group together to be the caboose for one of the free trail runs this group puts on, time and family permitting, of course.

If nothing else, tonight will be a fun evening with a friend, and a good workout, I am sure.

Finally, some trail-running inspired laughter for your Monday. Remember me posting this?

Well, he did another one, this time extolling the virtues of cross-country trail running to prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse. Heh… He reminds me of Hammy from Over the Hedge. Heeh…

Ragna-what?

My entire right leg is complaining this morning. From the top of my foot, all the way up my shin, into my knee. Ow, %$&^. I just have to get through my 5k this coming Monday, and then I can regroup.

Must. Make. It.

Part of me wonders, when I am grimacing and favouring my various aches, if I could ever run longer than 10k, given how my knees and hips are reacting to this level of activity. I feel creaky, and the backbends at yesterday’s yoga on the hill really hurt my hips. Hurt in a bad way, not in a “oh, let’s strrrrretch” kind of way. My knees have been sore, reminiscent of how they used to feel after long days in the saddle. Last night, to sleep, I took two Tylenol, two Advil and applied Tiger Balm to the lower half of my body. My husband would not come near me.

I smelled delightful (not).

Despite the pain, and cringing at the prospect of another race, I keep looking at all these amazing races I want to put on my bucket list. (I must be nuts). They are all half marathons, or relays, obstacle races… That kind of thing. I know, I know… There is that pressure to run further again. I have time, I get that. By this time next year, who knows where I will be at!

But I like dreaming and thinking of crazy challenges and fun destination runs. Call me crazy, but the idea of running (doesn’t matter the length) on every continent sounds like a neat lifetime goal, don’t you think? Or how about an ambitious goal of running a race in every province and territory in Canada? I have Ontario licked, and Quebec. Already have a head start! Heh…

Must start a Pinterest Running Bucket List, and get it off my iPad and onto a forum I can share with y’all.Also? My OCD organization would be satisfied. Right… Hey Husband, what do you think of a trip to Nunavut to run in a race with me? *evil grin*

One of the races I have enthusiastically put to the top of my bucket list is RAGNAR. I would lovelovelove someday to participate in this. Hopefully with friends, wearing crazy costumes, and celebrating together when we cross the finish line.

“Ragna-What?” I hear you saying. Well, go here: http://www.ragnarrelay.com/ragnar and check it out. I’ve seen lots of relay-type races, but this one, well… it looks like the Holy Grail. There is the original road relay RAGNARs, and there is a trail variant. They are US-based, all over the place, and in gorgeous vistas that give you an unforgettable route.

Basically, the deal is this: You get two vans, and find 12 people to form a team (snappy, fun name required). You have 200 miles to cover, running relay-style in roughly 24 hours (yes, you run continuously, overnight!). Each person does a “leg” depending on their level, as long as the 11 minutes per mile average pace is kept (so some runners may run farther than others in their leg, you can map it out beforehand). Costumes are encouraged, van decorations are , I think, almost a requirement. RAINBOWS! UNICORNS! FART JOKES!

*ahem*…

The very first Canadian RAGNAR was this year, from Cobourg to Niagara Falls (311k, if you are wondering). http://www.ragnarrelay.com/race/ontario – Wow. Can you imagine running through Toronto along the water, at night? Or running along Lake Ontario through wine country? Here is a brief race report: http://runningmagazine.ca/sections/news/inaugural-canadian-ragnar-relay-attracts-120-teams/.

and here is a great video from RAGNAR HQ: http://youtu.be/5ITE87parWI (for some reason, embedding is not working on my blog, so click the linky-doo)

I am so game to try this. Maybe not next year, since it would have to be planned, saved for, and organized. It takes a lot of dedication, and physical/financial/emotional commitment of 11 other people besides me. Huge undertaking. But, I think, it would be worth it. It would be an incredible experience.

Any takers?

Roadside

As I turned a corner on Saturday, running along a country road, I put my hand out unconsciously to run fingers through the waist high grass at the roadside. The seed pods rustled and flowed through my fingers, tickling my palms, undulating like water as I passed them.

I turned off my music to listen to the breeze shift through the beech trees further back in a field, watching the dappled summer green dance in the early summer morning light.

I hadn’t even realized I had stuck my hand out into the grass until I looked down at the tips poking through my fingers, and the sensation made me smile and keep it there, surfing the tops, an old habit from childhood, recovered from some un-accessed corner of my memories.

Suddenly the humidity, the leg pain, the lack-of-sleep discomfort, and shortness of breath all went away. I felt the sun, tasted the fresh air, and took comfort in the quietness of where I was, right then.

I felt my body shed tension like a shaggy dog emerging from water, shaking the vestiges of city dust and noise away like water droplets.

My run was hard. The comfort of where the run happened was easy.

I must remember that when running starts to be less joyful, I need to drag my *$% out to the country, pick a road, and run. Out there, I’ll find it again.

It works. ♥

 

This is Spartaaaaaa! – Spartan Sprint Race Recap

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OK, so I did not yell that as I crossed the finish line, shaking my fists and channeling a really irate Gerard Butler. I was too bloody tired. But I wanted to! I did, however, exclaim as we rounded the corner to the Gladiators with their Pugil Sticks “Those who are about to die; We salute you.”

I’m sure it was not the first time the very handsome young fellows holding massive foam Q-tips have heard that, but hey, it seemed fitting. Heh…

This past weekend (June 15th) was my first Reebok Spartan Sprint, and my third obstacle course race since May 11th (I am officially nutty, and ready for a break). I went into the race worried about my legs, specifically my hips and my right shin splints. I was sad because I had hoped more of my friends who were running could have ran in the morning with me (most had heats in the afternoon, or on Sunday). So I was alone for my start, along with 250 other participants, most in teams. My husband ran at 9:30. I ran at 10. He wanted to be competitive, or at least get a decent time, and I knew I would hold him up, so I encouraged him to run without me. I regretted that a bit, missing him.

I will say this as a summary: I absolutely loved this challenge. I felt empowered, I had fun, I accomplished some pretty bad#$% things. I ran where I could, I climbed some steep hills, and descended down them again. This race had tougher elements than Tough Mudder, and easier parts too. It was way less muddy than Mud Hero (I think any other race would be, to be honest), and yes, burpees suck.

This was the best obstacle race I have run, so far, in my short yet packed OCR journey. I recommend it to everyone. I mean it. You will be challenged, and you will be tired, and you will be extremely proud of yourself at the end. The slogan for the Spartan races is “You’ll know at the finish line”. Yup.

The fastest time of the day was 49 minutes, which is freakishly fast, if you could understand how rough and steep some of the climbs were. Freakish. My time was almost 3 hrs. Yes. Slow. But I did not care about that. What I cared more about was finishing, being proud of my effort, and coming away with a positive experience. Which I did. My husband’s time was roughly an hour and a half, and he wasn’t as pleased with that. He was tired going into the race for some reason, and felt off. I think he should be proud of his result, but that is just me. I believe that was a very good average time, given the challenging climbs.

So, below the cut, please find my (really LONG) recap of the Ottawa Spartan Sprint, held June 15th, at Edelweiss Ski Hill in Wakefield, QC.

Getting There

We started the day early, leaving the kids with a sitter for the day before 8 AM, which was the right call to make. As I was getting dressed, I was just as excited to spend some time with just my husband as I was to be running! I think this kind of thing may become our way of getting away without the kids, and doing something fun. I know, crazy. “Let’s go away for the weekend and run around in the mud, climb walls and stuff!” Why not, eh?

The first “Doh!” of the day was when I went to put on my socks. My beautiful red and black skull socks bought as a gift for me by a good friend for finishing Tough Mudder. I love them, and couldn’t wait to wear them, having squirreled them away as soon as I received them, keeping them especially for the Sprint.

They didn’t fit. I couldn’t get them up my gynormous left calf muscle. I nearly cried. (Turns out they are a perfect fit on my arms. I may take the foot off of them, sew the ends, and make arm warmers out of them! HAH! take that manufacturer who thinks skinny people are the norm.)

Instead, they got re-squirreled away, and the trusty Rainbow socks got pulled on. Was I glad for them later!

We got to the hill with lots of time to spare, parked easily for $5, and my husband went off to the season’s pass line. I stood in line for a good ten minutes waiting to get checked-in. Thankfully I had my online check in done so I was through quickly. We did not get the email for the online check-in until the day before, so a lot of folks did not have theirs, or came completely unprepared to check-in. *grumble* The bibs are hand numbered, and quite flimsy. The chip (which seemed to be supplied by the ski hill) was zip-tied to my shoe, which I thought was brilliant. No unlacing of my shoes required, which is a pain. I got sharpied on my arm. A lot of folks got sharpied on forehead, leg, and arm… It was a tad ridiculous. However, you had an option not to wear the bib so… When in Rome… errr… Sparta?

What I was surprised at was that bag check was $2! We had to pay for it. That was a first. We pay a not-so-inexpensive fee to come run these races, pay to park, and then you charge us for bag drop? It was only $2, and worth the convenience of not having to trapse back and forth to the car, but it was kind of a money grab, and a little off-putting. I am hoping the money at least went to charity, or was a fund-gather for something other than profits.

Start it Up!

We visited the enormous bank of washrooms (no lineups!) on the far side of the chalets, and took in the scene. My husband was amping up for his heat, so off we went over to the start box. The MC (who again, is no Start-Line Sean, that man has ruined me for all other OCR starts, ever.) was tall, and dressed in a quasi Roman/Spartan uniform. I had expected him to be carrying a replica Dory (http://www.ancientmilitary.com/spartan-weapons.htm) , but instead, he carried what looked like a straight-shaft cudgel. Likely for convenience? I don’t know. He was wearing a fairly representative Spartan Hoplite helm, minus the plume and some other accoutrements.

Ok, I think I might be officially geeking out a little. Where was I… *ahem*

He tried to rev the crowd, but most folks never stopped chatting or doing their own thing. The sound system was atrocious, and it was hard to really catch what he was saying. Maybe this is an Ottawa thing, or maybe Tough Mudder really does have the formula right, but the start box was really, really underwhelming, with a lack of excitement coming from the crowd. Both my husband’s send off and mine were kind of anti-climactic.

I was really, really calm in the start box. I stood, simply taking in the hill in front of me, the people around me (including the crazy costumes, fun chatter, and yes, nerves from others), and took some deep, cleansing breaths. I felt good, I felt energetic, but there was no nervousness. My normal corral M.O. was in place, which was a good sign.

There was no gun, no Spartan battle horn, nothing other than a “Go!” and the herd moved off.

Straight up a hill. This would become a theme.

Climbing

The first thing we encountered was the mountain itself. Edelweiss is known to be one of the steepest hills in the Gatineaus, so I was quite unprepared for the path all the way to the top of the hill. I paced with some other folks who were red-faced and puffing, just like me. Yeah, I was slow, but I didn’t care. I reasoned with myself as we climbed that I was pacing myself, doing my best.

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The first obstacle was some cut-in-half corrugated pipes to step over, halfway up the first stage of the first climb. I hopped over those with some difficulty (Being short sucks sometimes, and other times it rocks) Then it was just climbing until we got to the top. take 50 steps, stop, catch breath, then take 50 more. One step at time. In all, we climbed up and down that mountain three times over the course, starting on a gentle slope, and ending on the black diamond, which was (with only slight exaggeration) straight up and straight down. I slipped a few times, but was able to stay on my feet for all descents. I caught up to a new friend on the last descent, and she did a reverse bearcrab crawl down a slope that was extremely loose with gravel, and really steep. It was neat to watch her so adeptly maneuver her way like this. She does a boot camp called Soldiers of Fitness, and I think some of the training there came in handy for her.

The terrain, if you want to label it, was rough. Tough Mudder had fairly well groomed, wide pathways, whereas our path at Spartan was over rocks, through gulleys, over ditches. Sometimes you were scrabbling in brush, other times scaling a wee bit o’ the Canadian Shield itself. Spartan course designers, you really outdid yourself here. The mountain WAS the obstacle. I tip my Tough Mudder hat to you. It was really difficult, but I loved the challenge and in the end, was appreciative of what I had done. Plus, the views from the top once you got there were stunning on such a clear, sunny day. The reward for the effort, I suppose.

This is where I mention the second and third “Doh’s!” of the day. I did not bring hydration. There was only one aid station, halfway through the course, after the second climb. This was not enough fluid for this kind of exertion. I was beyond thirsty at the end, and drained my water, and drank a Gatorade as well, which I normally do not allow myself. I should have brought my fuel belt, it would have survived the mud just fine. I also only brought one gel, my emergency one, that I always carry on 5k runs in my trusty SPI Belt. I used it at the aid station, and realized I should have brought two, not even thinking that the climbs and the time I took on course would be like this. I was very thankful for the intake of calories, and I had several strange stares, and several comments of “I should have thought of that!” as I sucked it back. It tasted amazing.

It helped immensely, along with two cups of water and a five minute pause before the deck block drag to let my stomach process some of the water through. I hate stitches.

Oh, there was also a water cannon to walk through at one point, right before the water station, which I was unsure of, but then wished for more. It felt amazing, and I stopped to stand in the cold mist for a moment, cooling off, rinsing some mud from my face. The other refresher was their version of the Arctic Enema. It was not too cold, and I wanted to stay in to soak my shin splints a little. I was not allowed. *insert sadface* I did get to rinse my gloves off! That was nice. Big difference from a dumpster full of bone-chilling reefer truck cold water.

Just remembering that Tough Mudder obstacle is giving me chills. *brrr*

Lift, Carry, Pull

My favorite obstacles of the entire race were the ones where we had to lift, carry or pull something. I know… Huh? Most people would groan at that, and I wasn’t sure what to expect but as we progressed through the race, I looked forward to them. I felt very good about myself while doing those obstacles, feeling my strength, seeing others struggling (including really fit guys… whaaa? Yeah, one dude dropped his Jerry can saying “This thing is heavy, man!” while I carried mine on my shoulder). These obstacles were empowering, and I completed them with, well… What I felt was ease.

The first one I encountered was simply to roll a tiny kettlebell up on a dowel and let it out again. I got my first “better than a guy” comment here. It seems I am adept at winding stuff on a dowel? All those years of re-rolling polo bandages came into play on that obstacle, my horsey friends. So don’t grumble next time you have a pile to do, k?

The Sandbag “pancake” carry was a lot of fun, and considerably lighter than a feed bag. One beef though… Why in %^&$ do women get a lighter sandbag than the men? I suppose I could’ve just grabbed a guy one, but I followed directions and picked up a girl’s bag. Next time, I will not. The women’s sandbags were considerably lighter, from the looks of it. I want to find out where I can buy one of those sandbags. They would be a lot of fun to train with.

The ammo box carry was just like hefting two buckets of water. I have no idea what was in ’em, but they were solid little boxes, and since you had two, that was the easiest carry of the race, balanced out. The Jerry can carry was difficult for a lot of people, since they were half full of water. Simply put it on your shoulder, tilt it back, and hold the handle. Let the water sit in the bottom of the can, it won’t slosh, and you balance it for the duration of the carry. Easy-peasy. It was amazing how many people could not figure that out.

My favorite of these, hands down, was the pulley weight-lift. It was a concrete weight, on a rope, that you had to pull up through a pulley to the top of a frame, then let it down again. I was scared a bit going into this one, thinking “I might not be strong enough to get this”. I watched a bare-chested, well-muscled guy start his pull, and he had trouble with it. Uh-oh. Then I remembered my physics. Gravity, weight, and pulleys all work together well. While muscle-dude was grunting and pulling bent forward with just his arms, I planted my feet wide, grabbed that rope, leaned back, and simply hand-over-handed it to the top. Then I let it fall slowly, my gloves cushioning any rope burn. I started after him, and finished before him. I got my second “Better than the guys!” comment from the volunteer there.

I left that obstacle feeling absolutely friggin’ amazing.

No Wall too High

I completed all of the walls. I had help on them, of course, being that I am 5’1″ and require help to simply reach the top. But I did them all. The tall one right before the Monkey Bar rig was a bit shorter than the Berlin Walls at Tough Mudder, but as I sat on the top and looked around quickly, I felt really, really vindicated and let out a “WHOOP!”. Next year, when I do Tough Mudder (and yes, there will be a next year) I am doing those walls. No excuses now!

I also did the Cargo Net, which was very similar to Mud Hero, with the exception that the net was not secured to the bars in the A-frame very well. As I climbed up, I was talking myself through it out loud, feeling the net shift and move as people clambered up. Eep! It was disconcerting, and I had to adjust my grip to not have fingers caught between a frame pipe and the net several times. As I was descending the other side, I set my foot on a bar, only to have the net sink down over it and start pressing, as three people went down past me.

I could feel the bones in my ankle grinding. I called out “My foot is stuck! My foot!” and two large guys on either side of me stopped to help. The pressure at that point got worse and I said “My foot is breaking! It is BREAKING!” feeling the bones beginning to twist. So they simply armpit lifted me, wiggled my foot out of the slack rope, and set me back on the net in a split second. All at, oh, about 15′ in the air.

Gah… Can you say heart rate through the roof?

Thank God for you, fellow Spartan racers, and your help. My shoe prevented a large bruise, and I am no worse for wear. Wish I had gotten your name so I could look you up and kudo you properly. Their ability to simply stop their race, help, and not worry about their time is what OCR’s are about. Help your fellow racer. Accept the challenge of good sportsmanship as you compete, balancing it with a competitive spirit. This is paramount for me in all sport (which is why I really dislike fighting in hockey, it feels wrong to purposely hurt your fellow sportsman), but particularly here.

I will never, ever take my course time over helping someone on one of these races. I will always put helping someone cross that finish line, if need be on my shoulders, over my own finish.

Many times I stopped at touched a shoulder of a slumped climber, or simply asked a prostrate person “Are you ok?”, getting their response before moving on. I can’t tell you how many hands I grabbed to help folks out of tunnels, mud, or steady on slopes. I also can’t tell you how many people I met who encouraged me, whom I encouraged, or who we simply helped one another with kind words and “you can do it’s!”. The girl next to me in the hay tunnels was having a panic attack, so I talked to her the whole way through. We came out on the other side, I looked at her, said “You did it!” and she smiled the biggest smile! Apparently that was her boogeyman, claustrophobia.

That made my day.

Strength

It took me a good twenty minutes to do my first set of 30 burpees. The parallel bars were much, much too wide for me to even think about finishing the obstacle, so I opted to the side to burpee it out. I bit them off in chunks of five, resting, then doing another five.

I am fully aware my burpees are rather pathetic and sad looking. I am ok with this. It got me through the day. I have until the fall to get better at them. My husband, who is as fussy about exercise form as his Crossfit coach (yes, dear, you are), told me he found it humorous watching people do burpees so horribly wrong. I am glad he said that in the car, and not around anyone else.

That might have got him decked.

I did not attempt the rig obstacles. I know my upper body strength is not enough to hold my 180 pounds right now, so I opted for burpees. Evidently, so did most other people. There was literally no room to burpee! We were ok’ed to do jumping jacks, so myself and my new friend, whom I had caught up to at this point, as well as two other racers, did our penance like high school gym class.

I did 60 straight. I am hard core. Sign me up for SEAL training, yo.

The spear throw was not long after the rig, after the fire leap. Now, the fire leap looked kind of hokey, and I was not worried about it. But I tell you, running and leaping that flame was kind of a fun thing to do. I felt empowered and bad *&^, feeling the heat as I passed over the low line of burning wood. It was not by any means a big leap needed, and there was only one leap. I was hoping for multiple lines of fire, but I am sure there was all kinds of concern for keeping the fire to just the concrete, and not taking the whole resort with it.

My spear throw, expecting to be pathetic, was awesome. I picked a short spear (which is really a shovel handle with a spike on the end) I threw it like the javelin I sort of learned how to throw in high school (in which I was never any good), and it thunked, with much satisfaction, into the wood just underneath the straw bales. I looked, not believing my eyes, when it stayed put. The volunteer was appropriately impressed, and I wish I could have taken a picture.

I felt strong as we made our way to the end of the course. Strong, capable, and in control.

20130621-123009.jpgThe End?

The last obstacle was a climb up a slippery, rubber-coated wall, using a rope. On the other side, you had to slide down a rope. I climbed up the sloped wall easily, really excited to be done, and really excited that this felt easy.

Of course, the knots in the rope, and the trail shoes I was wearing kind of helped. I mean, come on, I am not a spider. *ahem*
Remember when I said I was glad for my socks? Yes, this was that moment. No rope burn for me as the volunteer helped me wrap the rope around my leg to help my descent not be too fast. I was a tad worried about it, not wanting to land on my broken tailbone and hurting myself literally feet before the finish line.Yeah, cuz that wouldn’t be embarrassing at all.

Looking at it now, I suppose having shin protection on the course is quite necessary, and I won’t do a race without it. I may be a tad warm in full leg coverage, but man, no bruising, cuts or scraping on my legs is quite nice.

Plus, rainbow knee socks are awesome. Jes sayin’.

My husband was waiting for me as I shuffled through the water and T-Shirt line, dirty, tired, and wearing his own medal. I saw him and waved. He was craning and hopping, looking for me. Apparently he had gotten worried since he thought he might have missed me come in. Awww… I assumed he would already be passed out in the shade somewhere, napping, a burger already digesting in his tummy. Right behind me, our next door neighbour, who Crossfits with hubs (Crossfit, yo!) came in to the finish. I am super proud of him too, he really did well with his time, and loved it. *high five* Sir! Glad to have shared some of the day with you.

There was no food given out at the finish, just water, and as I lifted my foot onto the box for a volunteer to cut off my timing chip, I felt the sides of my stomach flap together. I was HUNGRY! Feed. Me. Now. Once I had retrieved my bag, we stood in line for food, and I had a cheese burger. Screw the calories, I needed sustenance, and I was not about to have a salad. Are you kidding? Meat. Carbs. Grease. OMNOMNOMNOM.

Also? No blood sugar lows on course. No wibbly-wobbly’s. I think my cardiovascular fitness and my Diabetes control is getting better. Win.

Proud

I am really ^&*%ing proud of my achievement. I attempted all but one obstacle. I completed all my attempted obstacles except one. I conquered that mountain. I lifted and carried ^%*, I climbed walls, crawled, ducked, ran, jumped… It was kind of like playing, but with a big crazy goal, not just for giggles. I had a true endorphin high after finishing, and all the way home in the car, was bouncing a little. I an quite certain my husband thought I was certifiable. I kept looking at my medal and smiling what felt like a massive, dorky, goofy grin.

As I said, it was the best obstacle race I have done, and I want to do another one. Spartan may be a tad disorganized when it comes to their website and registration, the obstacles may not be as mentally challenging as Tough Mudder, and the start line a little ho-hum… But I absolutely loved the race itself. I owe a thanks to the course designers for giving me a much needed boost to my confidence, and showing me that even though I have a long way to go to being optimally fit for this, I can achieve awesome things with the body I have right now.

I am seriously contemplating making the Trifecta a goal for next year. Not sure about the Beast, since it is literally a half-marathon with obstacles, but…

…Remember in a previous post that I didn’t know when my first Half would be (https://mustangsabby.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/the-heavy-half/)? Next year, this might be it.

Stay tuned.

Almost There

Every part of me is sore. Not even kidding. My toenails are a tad sore from all the downhill work, my hair hurts from the tight ponytail I had it in.

I wish Body Glide came in an SPF format (does it?). Where I “glided” on the weekend is burnt, because I am a dork and applied it after the sunscreen we luckily found in the back of the car.

I am coming off the weekend ready for a break. Yes, my Spartan recap is coming, I promise! It might be split into two posts, not sure. Let me preface it by saying I absolutely loved it. It was challenging, fun, achievable, and empowering. I’ll fill ya in more, later.

Because of the damn-and-whoa DOMS coursing through my muscles and joints, I am taking a week off completely, this week (save walking to and fro the bus). The past two nights I have tossed and turned in bed, my hip bleating painfully, my IT Bands and knees thumping, and various other muscles tweaking in sympathy.

Ow, ^*&%.

I am almost through the challenge I have set for myself. One more race, a 5k on Canada Day, and I can do a reboot to my training, start fresh and rebuild. The thing is, I was looking online last night for an obstacle race in July or August I could do. (No Husband, I am not signing up for something without talking to you first) I was looking at some races that I wished were coming to my part of Canada like Peeplechase (https://peeplechase.com/) or Warrior Dash (http://www.warriordash.com/index.php). There is a Warrior Dash in July up north of Toronto, but my husband’s Beast is that weekend, I think… Doh…

I have also volunteered with the Mudd, Sweat & Tears folks to promote the Ottawa races as part of their Mudd Mob. http://www.muddsweatandtears.com/ is the website, go check it out. Yup, another proudly Canadian operated obstacle/mud race, and I am signed up for the Sept. 28th Urban race here in Ottawa (come do it with me!). So, look for me to mention this one a few times, plus their 5 and 10k OCR on Labour Day weekend, up at Wilderness Tours Resort (I would do this one, but we reserve Labour Day weekend for family activities like camping or beach playing, no exceptions). You may also see me pasting posters up here or there, to spread the word and make the Ottawa races a success! They do have a Crossfit affiliate program for discounts on race fees, fun WOD’s, etc (Crossfit, yo!) so if anyone with eyes on this is part of a box and wants more info, send me a message and I can forward the deal-io to you.

*sheepish mumble* I think I might be hooked.

Next up is my husband’s Spartan Trifecta (Did I mention that I signed him up for all three races as an Anniversary present? Yeah, I’m sweet like that…). He has leg 1 done – the Sprint. Now the Super at the end of this month, and the Beast in July. He did not have as good a race on Saturday as he would have liked, and I think he is a tad worried. He shouldn’t be, he will do fine. I think he was just tired.

Is it bad that I want to sign up for the Super too? I won’t, my body needs some rest, I have to figure out some nagging injuries and an imbalance in my leg muscles (I have an inch difference in the circumference of my calf muscles! O_o). I have to reset, take it easy, and work my way back up to some intensity by September to rock the MST Urban race, and perhaps try another 10k road race to PR.I also need to figure out my food again, because the past month I have been an out-of-control roller coaster of eating. Must get that back under control or my Diabetes Beast will have a field day with me and I will have to go back on the dreaded Metformin.

I have pushed myself in the last month more than I have in a long time. Yet I feel like I haven’t, which sounds weird but it isn’t (waffle much?). I haven’t been weightlifting at all, I have curbed my running during the week to once a week and short… But, I have completed three obstacle course races and a 10k race. In just over a month. Holy Moley… Did I really do that?

So yeah… Pushing it a little, and now almost done. No wonder my runs feel slow and ploddy, and my body weight exercises tough to complete. I think my body is saying “Dude, we need a vacation.” Like to Le Nordik, or perhaps to an RMT for a complete workover…

OI… Almost there. ❤

No Luck

I don’t like wishing people “Good Luck!” for their races.

It feels wrong to me, so I stopped awhile ago. I don’t admonish anyone else for the sentiment, when uttered or written, th0ugh. I liken it to the appreciation someone has for being wished a “Merry Christmas”by someone who didn’t know they were Jewish. It is the sentiment that counts, right?

I know. I am mean, heartless witch. Such a nice way to offer support to friends and say “GOGOGO!”, and I am all “PFFFHT, no way, Sparky, you get nuthin'”.

Not exactly, and here is my explanation. I hope it makes sense.

I have been thinking about encouragement, and how I can best be that positive voice while staying true to myself and my beliefs, instead of an autobot cheerleader I feel I sometimes slip into. I want to be able to support my friends in an awesome way, just for them, each of them. Targeted and meaningful. I have a lot of friends that run now. Each of them have a special place as a positive influence in my life, each in a different way. So I want to acknowledge that.

Right… You can all call me nutty now… Writing this out makes it seem wayyyyy weirder than it sounds in my head. So… bear with me. Seriously… Why did I start writing this post again? Oh right, because I want to share my strange and sometimes off-beat thoughts with y’all…

*ahem*… Where was I…

Wishing someone luck on a race, for me, feels like I am telling them that I hope a random, chance influence has a positive outcome during their hard-fought effort. OK, so maybe that is an overthink, but I base it on my own experience and efforts. See, when I hop into that corral, or toe the start line, the journey to get there is incredible. I worked hard, I planned. When I participate, finishing is a foregone conclusion. I will succeed. The achievement is getting to the race. The race is the celebration.

Luck has nothing to do with it.

All that time spent sweating and pushing myself has lead to this point, so I don’t need luck. I own it already. Yeah, *&%^ can go wrong, and it can suck *%$ when you can’t complete the challenge you trained for. But all that training and working and thinking was not for naught. Pick up, dust off, do better, right? (Sometimes I have a hard time with this one, and not beating myself up, but it is getting easier… I learned a lot at Tough Mudder. I am trying to enforce this more positive attitude on my efforts at subsequent challenges.)

I assume this way of thinking for my friends too. I want to tell them I believe they own it too. That this race, what they are about to embark on, is the culmination of one heck of an achievement of miles logged, weights lifted, etc.

So instead of a “Good luck!”, I say “Have a great race!” or I focus my best wishes on an aspect of the challenge I know that friend is trying to meet. For example, if someone is trying to stay calm in the corral, I will say “Sending calming and happy thoughts for your race!” or if someone is trying to PR, I will say “Hoping your legs are super fast today!” or “You got this! RAHHH!” (or something to that effect, I may or may not do a little happydance if in person…).

It feels more personal for me to say that. it feels like I am providing my best support possible. Perhaps it is selfish, or silly, or I am a whackadoodle…

But it is me. And I hope it helps.

Busses, Fitness, and Rudders

Been a tad busy the past couple of weeks. Who knew having a family and a job and a home and a garden and social life and running in races to motivate my fitness would be so time consuming…

Well we did, but jes’ sayin’…

Life is busy right now. Buuuusy! Take pity on me. Send me a maid, or some wine so the house doesn’t look so messy after a glass or three. Heh. Also, a sitter so I can spend time in the same room as my husband where we aren’t parenting, cooking, cleaning, working, or sleeping.

Thank God we have a sitter for Spartan. We get to spend some quality time together this coming weekend! YAY!

One of the changes of late that makes me feel busier is that I am taking the bus to work every day now. It is exhausting. I am not used to it, and as most of you know, I am an introvert. Being around people that much has been draining on me. I get home and I want to be left alone for a few minutes to recover from the people, overly loud headphone music, drone of the bus, exhaust fumes while juggling a backpack, laptop and whatever else I am packmuling home.

I try to time it so I am home alone for a few before the noise machineschildren descends from the car with my husband. I don’t always get that. Gah…

It is adding 3k of walking into my fitness day though! This is a good thing. I am also considering the odd fitness commute where I bus to a location and then run the rest of the way home. I have a great backpack for it now. It would add in a run when I don’t really have time for a run during my work day. Plus, I can rock the fitness look on the bus, and have people stare at me if I decide to wear my mismatched pink with my bright green pack and bright blue hat (which I have already done). That was fun, yo. I was the weirdo on the bus! Haha!

Being on the bus has given me time to think, and catch up on some podcasts, which is nice. In my pondering, I have discovered I feel a bit rudderless in my “training” since starting the month and a bit of packed-together races. I haven’t been going to the gym regularily, my twice weekly strength workouts are sort of once weekly… But I have kept running, which is good.

It started on May 1st, when I began taper for Tough Mudder. Two weeks after Mudder, I ran the Ottawa Race Weekend 10k. Then a week later was Mud Hero. Now, Spartan Sprint is looming, then two weeks after that is Canada Day and a fun 5k with a friend.

I am glad that 5k is my last race until September. At least, that is what I have decreed… We all know what can happen with me, a credit card, and an idea. Oi.

So to prevent signing up for anything before my Mud, Sweat and Tears 5k obstacle race in September, or to mitigate the impulsive “I can do that!” sign up twitch, I have been thinking about setting up an honest to goodness training plan. For what? Well, that is where it kind of gets fun. It is open ended. I have no distance in mind, not time in mind, no “goal”. I just want to train, focus on simply training, with a few stipulations:

– Increase my long run distance by 1/2 to 1k weekly (or biweekly, depending on how it feels)
– Increase my speed work to 1x per week (track workouts, intervals, FARTLEK, mix it up)
– Do hill repeats once every two weeks
– Get stronger via bodyweight and functional workouts
– Try and put my gym membership on hold until winter

I’ll follow this for awhile until I figure out if it works, tweak it, see if I can increase distance faster, or back off completely. My body will tell me what’s what. Right now, it is telling me it is pissed of at me. I may have a stress fracture in my right foot, my knees have been sore and stiff since Mudder, and my right shin splint nastiness is really, really angry. (Maybe I am pushing myself a wee bit right now? Nahhh… that isn’t it…)

I am hoping to take a week or so off of running after Canada Day, and perhaps focus on some different types of exercise. Take a break. Then, start fresh and new and looking forward with some new places to run, and some different running workouts to try, and my new “plan”.

I am going to try and get the rudder righted, so I can continue gaining strength in my body, and get fitter. That is the overall plan for this year. Simply get fitter, get stronger. Rarr, right?

I’ll get back to you on the Rarr… I need a nap first. ❤