Call it a comeback?

Happy September, everybody! I am happy to finally get a chance to write this post which is long overdue. I spent the last three-ish months with very limited Internet, so having the luxury of wifi back is more than a treat.

For the last two summers, I was away working and living in Alberta. The first time I went, I brought my running shoes and had a calendar full of goals to accomplish while I was there. I was looking forward to new terrain, a less humid climate and new scenery to accompany my weekly jogs. Turns out, I worked around the clock, ate way too much (even though the food was not too tasty) and didn’t go for a jog once. Not once.

How on earth could I let this happen? I was so consumed by the crazy, fun, challenging work I was doing and every spec of time that I had for leisure transformed into drinks with friends or naps or a bite to eat in town. When I came home at the end of the summer I was exhausted, but also plagued with guilt because I had completely failed all my expectations over the summer for running. After all, that was right around when I started this blog and I wanted to start strong, not rolly polly and out of shape.

Flash forward to this past summer. I did the same job and knew what I was in for. This summer I did not even bring my good running shoes (I did bring runners though.) I knew my running regime wasn’t going to happen. I wound up going for a really cool hike near the mountains, did morning yoga regularly (if even for only fifteen minutes) and did ALOT of walking. I’m happily back in Winnipeg now and back to my running regime.

The moral of my story is there’s no reason to ever feel failure if you can learn to set reasonable expectations for yourself. Feeling satisfaction in your fitness regime should never require comparing yourself to the person on the treadmill beside you, the jogger passing you on the trails, or the Tweeter who shares every time they go for a long run. Do what works for you, and set goals that are reasonable for you. If you can’t measure up to the goals you set, SET NEW ONES. There’s nothing worse than giving up on yourself entirely because your goals were too out of reach.

My message is one you’ve probably heard before. But one of the reasons I’m saying it anyway is because this is an absolutely beautiful time of year to start new goals!

Fall is my absolute favourite time of the year to jog. The air smells so fresh and crisp, and the temperature is near perfect for pushing yourself and wearing normal workout gear. No snow pants and facial Vaseline, no overly revealing and unfortunate jogging shorts. Just autumn breeze and a light jacket.

Don’t wait for New Year’s resolution time to challenge yourself, get out there and accomplish something new! Just keep your motivation high and your expectations reasonable.

Here is a link to a great article by Runner’s World I retweeted last week about getting back into your routine after taking some time away:

http://www.runnersworld.com/getting-started/7-secrets-for-making-a-comeback

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My shoes, my story

If my shoes could talk, surely they’d have a lot to say. I have been running (willingly) for about 7 years. Being 22, that’s nearly a third of my life. And in this life I have only relied on only two pairs of running shoes.

Pair #1

I can’t even remember the brand of this pair. They were the product of a back-to-school shopping list that required students to buy a pair of running shoes with white soles to not mark the floor of the gymnasium. My mother purchased me the finest pair that Zellers can buy, size eight, with shiny silver racing stripes. They were a decent shoe and they lasted me years, being used relatively gently. My feet didn’t grow past middle school, so there was never a need to replace them. The spring I signed up for my first half marathon, I trained in these shoes. I was in no-way prepared to run a marathon at this point, I was just trying to get into shape. About a month before the race, I had only worked up to about 10 kilometres in training—very very bad. So as I kicked my training into rapid high gear in these shoes, I realized that they were not built for long distance running (quelle surprise) so I developed a fairly bad case of ITBS in my left leg. I decided that it was a bad idea to purchase new shoes so close to a race without breaking them in, so I ran and finished my first half marathon in cheap, ugly, department store shoes and was crippled with ITBS for weeks. Not to mention all the blisters I had to bandage halfway through the race. Which brings me to introduce you to shoes number 2.

Pair #2

In line with my bargain hunting ways, I found my next pair of running shoes at Costco. This was approximately 8 months after my crap-shoe-fandango and I was itching to get back running again. There they were, next to a free sample station of trail mix: my white and blue, reasonably priced Adidas. These shoes gave me no pain ever. There was no break-in time. They were absolutely the best investment ever because to this day they still feel great. There really isn’t much more to say about these shoes, they were great from the minute I tried them on. They got me through a much more successful half marathon, a handful of 10 ks and even a winter half marathon. These are the ol’ reliables that I have no reason to replace until they break or wear out.

And that’s it. Just the two. So as you can see, it’s not very often I let a new pair of running shoes into my life. But yesterday I was feeling adventurous.

It all started when I visited Vancouver a few weeks ago. I spent many days walking the streets of downtown Vancouver in sensible walking shoes (not my running shoes.) I couldn’t help but notice that everybody seemed to be dressed as though they were going to the gym. More specifically, every second woman was stomping the streets in Lululemon tights and pink Nikes. If they weren’t wearing those exact brands, they had damn close knockoffs. And seeing these outfits sitting on the sky train, picking up a coffee or dining on a late lunch made it quite clear that all of these women were, in fact, not on their way to the gym. It seems as though this city, who does way more walking than Winnipeg, has found a way to make their walking lifestyle practical and trendy. Because everyone wants to dress the exact same, right? Right.

Winnipeg isn’t quite there yet. We embraced the yoga pant craze with open arms years ago. But from my understanding of prairie fashion conventions, tights with riding boots equals day wear and tights with runners means I’m on my way to the gym. The rules are rarely broken.

However there’s a twist. I walked through one of Winnipeg’s finest shopping malls the other day and found every athletic store chocked full of pink Nikes and various other fluorescent running shoes. It’s still, like, minus a billion here, but it won’t be for long. So even though I’m not seeing my fellow Winnipegers walking down Portage Avenue in pink Nikes yet, we could be not far off. Only time will tell if our city slowly embraces the style of our western Canadian friends, or if the fluorescent shoes are kept strictly for workouts.

Well whatever happens, I am ready to join right in. Because I have just purchased my third ever pair of running shoes in an exhilarating shade of fluorescent purple and lime green.

snazzy.

snazzy.

For me it’s not just for the fashion. Other runners likely know how motivating it can be to purchase a new piece of gear and hit the streets to test it out. My new shoes make me excited to run, and I love that. But I’ll only wear them every odd jog because I don’t want my old running shoes to feel like they’re being replaced. Not. Possible.

If your shoes could talk, what do you think they’d have to say?

What goes on at a winter marathon?

Finally the Hypothermic Half Marathon is complete and I’m very excited to share my experience with you! With so many winter runners in one place at one time, I learned so much just on the day of my marathon.

How did I do? Well I finished and I am ecstatic about that. It was the slowest time I’ve clocked to date on a half marathon, but that was the least of my worries for this race. I didn’t even wear a watch. I am proud of myself for pushing myself to try something new. And perhaps the only thing harder than running the 13 miles on the -16 plus wind-chill day was weekly long runs in weather even worse than that as I trained. It is not an easy task and merely completing it feels great.

So what’s a winter marathon like anyhow? Well it ain’t no run in the park (ha). You know that feeling you get at a race as people start to gather at the starting line, they wait for the gun shot, and Chariots of Fire or some other comparable classic is blasted and hoards of runners slowly funnel through the arch of the start? Well none of that happened because we were obviously hiding indoors trying to avoid the cold weather until the last possible second. I froze my fingers trying to take a few pictures before the race. That was comforting given I was wearing gloves at the time. Not.

Just minutes before we were ushered to the starting line, we were gathered indoors, zipping up our battle gear and lathering our faces with Vaseline. I was fumbling around with my iPod trying to find where the cord should fit between my many layers of clothes. A woman standing next to me saw me wrap my iPod in a Kleenex before I put it in my pocket. I do this so it won’t freeze from being damp; it works occasionally. She pulled a toe warmer out of her pocket and offered it to me, you know the disposable ones that heat up your boots for hours? It stuck right to the back of my iPod and kept it running the whole race. I thanked her kindly as she showed me that they came two in a pack and attached one to her own mp3 player. What a great tip!

Another cool tip which I caught on camera was that many of the runners were Duct taping their shoes before the race. I shouldn’t have been so surprised, we’re Canadian eh? Well the reason I’ve never written about taping your shoes is because I’ve never really had a problem with cold feet. Even my runners with mesh keep my feet warm, so it’s not something I ever considered. But after running the race it appeared that there were more people taping their shoes than there were people wearing grips so I guess this is the real deal. I will likely follow up on this topic in a future blog post. But I can tell you now that as I ran through the snow, I was dodging fallen Duct tape wads every odd pace. I wonder how well it works if it doesn’t appear to stay on.

I really didn’t face any major challenges during the race that were winter related. Sure, the water at the water stations was a bit frozen. And, yes, it was a dread wearing as much clothes as I was. But overall, the biggest challenge I had was simply keeping focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Near mile 11 I got to the point where I was jogging so slow that I was spending more energy bouncing up and down than I was moving forward. My power walking was more efficient at this point, so I took some breaks. My iPod playlist ran out so I wound up listening to an old running playlist and found myself running to a variety of seasonal hits such as Summer Nights by Rascall Flatts. I was so cold at this point that the irony irritated me. But I pressed on.

The finish line in this particular race was anti-climactic. I had no idea when it was coming, as it was hidden around a bend in thick trees. I knew I was close, but that last mile feels like a marathon in itself, so it’s hard to judge. Anyway, I slowly turned a corner and poof, there was the finish line. I didn’t even have time to pick up speed and pretend I was running that fast the whole way for the cheering spectators. I’m a firm believer in a strong finish. But nevertheless, I was greeted at the finish line with high fives from volunteers and a shiny medal placed on my neck. For me, that’s what this was all about and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Now that I mention that, a HUGE shout out to all the volunteers who handed out water and marshaled us in the right direction. The only thing worse than running around in the cold is just standing there for hours as three waves of runners passed through. You couldn’t see me smiling at you through my balaclava when you cheered for me, but I sure do appreciate all who helped out.

Finally, I was very impressed with the hot brunch served after the race. I stuffed myself with french toast, hot chocolate, bacon, sausages, and dozens of fresh breads and salads. This was a lovely treat and much more appropriate than a post-race Popsicle after such a cold morning.

Despite this wonderful experience, I can’t say at this point that I’m keen on running this race next year. However, I am so thrilled that I am in the shape I’m in now so that I carry on my training for a spring run or two.

Thank you to everyone who followed my journey, your support encouraged me push through and I am ever grateful. You rock!