Saturday, October 25, 2014

Half-marathon Race Report - Yup! :)

"Tough times don't last, but tough people do." Robert H. Schuller

It was a beautiful fall day, perfect for my return to "racing". I put racing in quotations because I had only one goal and that was to enjoy myself. I knew I could finish it, but I already knew from my very relaxed training that I could have no time goal. Well, okay, I felt that if I came in around 2h30m I would be more than pleased.

Training went relatively well, as I chose a pretty easy-going program. I usually ran three days a week and over the last few weeks, I had started going back to spinning once a week and I started doing my strength workout once a week. Mostly, my runs were slow and all my long runs were done with a 9/1 ratio. I did minor intervals and no tempo runs. The goal was to continue enjoying myself out there.

By race day, I felt confident that I could reach my 2h30m goal. The weather was absolutely perfect, and although there was one very long hill from the 12th to the 17th km, my plan was to walk if I had to and not worry about it.

This race is part of a series of "Gourmandes" races with themes, ours was "Demi-marathon des récoltes" which means "Harvest half-marathon". They are smallish races and so we pretty much all crossed the start line within a few seconds of the gun. I love small races. My son had actually forgotten his bib (but had his shoe chip) and they just asked his name and gave him a new one with a new chip, no ID requested or anything. He was SO relieved. Having my son, my husband, my brother, my sister-in-law (who is my sole sister) and my brother-in-law running the same race...and my sister, my daughter and her husband to cheer us in, made it extra special for me. 

The first few kms I was being passed quite a bit, but my lungs warmed up and then I settled in to a comfortable pace. The colours were so beautiful and I truly appreciated being out there. I had a smile on my face throughout, my thanks to the volunteers were deep-felt, as were my smiles to the photographers. I was so proud of how "strong" I felt, especially of the fact that I did not walk during the long climb during the second half of the race. I kept to my 9/1 ratio and ran a bit slower, but steadily up the long slow climb. Around the 18th km there was a woman ahead of me with a blue t-shirt who kept stopping to stretch her legs and walk a bit. I had already reeled in a few people ahead of me (a few :)) but I wasn't thinking of trying to catch anyone. However, after another km, I realized that I was getting quite close to her. When we got to about the 20th km, I was right behind her and she was walking. In French, I told her to not give up...and "don't let me pass you". She started running again, but not for long and I did end up passing her...and wouldn't you know it, there was the photographer.

Around 600m from the finish line, there was my husband waiting to run the final climb with me. Just as we turned the final corner, the woman in the blue t-shirt passed me back...I let her go, considering she was way ahead of me for most of the race and I really just wanted to enjoying high fiving my family (everyone had finished before me and they were gathered at the finish line :))

2h26m and some seconds

Considering I was not injured, this is my slowest half-marathon. However, I truly managed to enjoy and especially appreciate every minute of being out there! Goal achieved!

Interestingly, this week, after a particularly intense spinning workout, I had purpura on my legs again (the first time this happened was some time in December 2013, and part of the reason I took a three month break from training). So, this was an important reminder that for me, training must remain only about staying healthy. No pushing. Just consistent training and registering for races to stay motivated, but not to actually "race". Who knows what the future holds, but health is my priority...because family is where my heart is and I LOVE spending time with my grand-children :)


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Overtraining, health issues and finding my way back!!

Isn't that sometimes true for all of us...It's all part of being human :)

Life is good. My grand-daughter runs to me saying "Mamieeeee" when she sees me and jumps into my arms! She has a little brother on the way, due mid-June, and my daughter is expecting our third grand-baby due in early December. My eldest son's novel has been accepted for publication and we're very proud of him (sort of like a figurative grand-baby). Our monthly family dinners are filled with laughter and love and we are just so blessed. 

The above is something I never lose track of when things are difficult in other areas of my life. After I ran the Philadelphia marathon last November, I was totally exhausted. Physically, I had no aches and pains, but my energy was very low. A week after the marathon, I went to a spinning class at the gym, the plan was to take it very easy and just basically use the session to recuperate. However, after only a few minutes on the bike I was not feeling well, I eventually decided to leave the room. Luckily, someone followed me, because I ended up fainting before reaching a chair. My blood pressure dropped dangerously low and it was not a good feeling. Tests revealed that my heart is fine and it was concluded that I was probably just exhausted. 

After the fainting spell, I waited a few weeks and tried the spin class again (once again I took it easy). This time, the next day, I had purpura on my lower legs (inflamation of the blood vessels).
Picture taken day 2

This led to a visit with the Rheumatologist who has since confirmed a mild case of Churg-Strauss syndrome. This is quite serious and requires blood tests and visits with the Rheumatologist every three months. I didn't highlight and give a definition of Churg-Strauss, because my case is mild and as long as we continue to control my lungs, chances are that apart from skin issues once in a while, I'll mostly be okay. However, this is an auto-immune disease and like most such conditions it can lead to fatigue and other minor issues. 

What all this means is that because I ran 760km more in 2013, than I had in 2012, in addition to strength training, yoga, spinning, snow-shoe running and hiking, well, for that end of the year marathon was not my best decision. I felt so great after my half-marathon in April 2013, so strong! I then pushed too hard, especially considering my auto-immune condition and ended up exhausted. Oh and you can add menopause symptoms to the package!

After a few weeks off, I tried to get back out there, but I just could not do it. My lungs just would not cooperate and I was completely exhausted. Coming in from a 3km run around the 'hood left me feeling as tired as the last 500m of my marathon. So...I took almost three months off of any training at all, except walking or hiking. Then, I slowly tried to start running again, but it was HARD. This was quite discouraging and I was beginning to think that this was how it would be from now on.

Finally, three weeks ago, I decided  to follow a "pre-training" program...but, progress was non-existant. Finally, last Tuesday, I felt good! Then again on Thursday's run...and my Sunday "long" of 40 minutes felt really good...and then today, as I was on the treadmill, my eyes teared up and I even choked up for a few seconds, as I realized that I was feeling like myself once again. 

It has been six months since my marathon and this is the first week that I have felt like smiling while running. 

A few weeks ago, we registered as a family for a fall half-marathon...I finally believe that, yes, I will be a part of that wonderful family experience!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Philadelphia Marathon Race Report!

"Mental toughness is to physical as four is to one" Bobby Knight

First a quick update as to the last few weeks of training. Things went generally well and I was extremely relieved that my 30km long run went more than smoothly. I felt great throughout and I could have continued no problem, plus my pace was close to marathon pace. Just the perfect run. It was a definite confidence booster and I knew I would be able to do this marathon! did it go you ask. ;)

A great view of the New York city skyline on our way to Philadelphia!

An important part of this whole marathon experience was the fact we were there to celebrate my Super SIL's 50th birthday. Our group included her husband/my brother and her two brothers, one of which ran the marathon with her. Together, those three boys are extremely funny and definitely kept the pre-race jitters at bay. We had a blast at the Expo and then we all went to see The Rocky statue. It was so much fun to watch the boys do the Rocky run up the steps (filming and playing the music at the same time :)) - of course, my SSIL and I also ran up the steps...doesn't everybody! So a very relaxing and fun day before the big DAY.
                                                 At the expo!                           Up the steps!

Overall, everything was in place for a great marathon: the weather was perfect (low 60's and sunshine), I slept relatively well, I carbo loaded and was able to get all my breakfast down, I wasn't actually feeling too stressed. In a way, it's like I was in denial about going out and running a marathon! 
My gift to my SSIL for her birthday marathon were these matching "Sole Sister" hearts that went on our running shoes. That way, even though we didn't run together, we were linked!

We left the hotel wearing some throw-away clothes and feeling excited. However, I could tell that I was having a hard time remaining calm and relaxed. Not so much stressing about the race, but worried there'd be a big line-up when we arrived (there is now a security check) - there was no line up. Then, worrying I'd be late in my Corral, so not able to just relax as my SSIL and her brother were doing a warm-up jog - I was not late at all. Still, the start of the race was again, perfect! My SSIL and her brother were with me and my SSIL showed me a quote she'd written on a piece of paper that was all about enjoying the run, we hugged and teared up a bit and then they went up ahead. For the first time ever, I was going to listen to music during a race, but I waited until after the first mile. I had downloaded some new songs and was looking forward to the boost of hearing them during the later miles. 
My goals: A = finish somewhere between 4:45 and 4:50
                B = finish under 5 hours
                C = finish!
Then, we were off. The first few miles are never easy, but usually, my lungs warm up and my pace increases after about 20-30 minutes. However, by mile two I realized that I didn't seem to be able to increase my pace to where I was hoping to be. It was steady, but slower than I hoped. Then, around mile 6 or 7 there was this long uphill incline and I was starting to feel mild pain on my right side. I knew that this usually led to a painful side stitch. By the time I reached the steeper climb at mile 8, the side stitch was a problem. I tried running through it as much as possible, but I had to stop every few km's to press against my side and bend forward in order to try and loosen the tight muscles. Luckily, by mile 10 or 11 it passed and never came back! However, at this point, I knew that the A goal was not going to happen and that the B goal was going to be tough. I wasn't feeling strong and mentally, that was tough! I tought about all the hard work I had put into my training over the last year and of the people who encouraged me. Also, because we were crossing the runners that were ahead of us, for quite a while, all I did was search for my SSIL and this kept me focused on something outside myself. It was such a boost to finally cross her around km 32...she went to high-five me, but I told her I needed a hug...I teared up a little as I watched her go. I could see that she was doing great and I was so happy for her! By then, I was aware that I could still come in under 5 hours and I knew it was all going to be about mental toughness at this point. My music was not much help as many of my new songs never came on (I use an ipod shuffle) just didn't help me as it had when I did my 30km training run. However, there are two mantras that I often use, one I use more while I train - see image below.
A friend had this made for me, as she had seen it on my fridge!

The second mantra is one I use during a race, when I'm starting to want to give up or panic a little inside - "Keep calm and run on". Everytime I would tell myself to just keep calm, it was enough to make me notice that my body was fine...I was okay! Definitely better than some of my other be honest, it was early in the race that I started thinking that I would not be racing this distance again.

Then, I'm at 39km and looking at my watch and all I'm thinking is, "Just keep running Anne", "Try and come in under five hours", "You'll be so disappointed if you give up now". Then I'd walk a bit and think, "I will be so pissed off if I come in a few seconds over five hours". Then I'd run again...but before I reached the 40km mark my Garmin died. It was almost a relief..."Oh well, I'll just try and run as much as I can". Finally, I heard the announcer and the crowd and I knew the finish line was near. I just gave it my all and hoped for the best.
A few meters from the finish line - turning towards my brother's call.

Here I am with my SSIL who knows that she reached her A goal (4h32m59s). She had the perfect race! Myself, I still do not know my time at this point.

As we are walking back to the hotel, I'm pleased that I never let myself give up and just kept pushing. However, I know I will be VERY disappointed if I come in over five hours and yet, I have a feeling I did come in over five hours. Just as I am entering my hotel room, I get a text from my daughter - "4h58m35s = under 5h!! Yahoo maman!!! I love you and I am so proud of you!!!" She had checked the results :) I was so, well relief is what I felt at first...then proud and excited. Relief that I didn't let my mind take over and then proud that I pushed through even though I didn't really have any "easy" miles, even at the beginning. 

So, although I was convinced that this was it for me, no more we're driving home, my SSIL says that her brother told her that Hamilton is flatter than Philadelphia (which is really not that flat)...and my reaction was "Oh yeah?!" followed by "I can't believe I just said's been one day and already I'm sounding interested in doing another one"'s a disease I tell you!

Here I am with my brother. I am so proud of him. He has been working hard to try and run his half-marathon under two hours. Finally, at age 53 and four years after getting the flesh-eating bacteria in his leg, he completed his half-marathon in 1h59m!! As Diana Nyad said: "Never ever give up"!

Finally, my body has recuperated quickly and well, which reassures me that I was well trained for this race! Now, my goals for this winter into spring training season is to work on speed. I've always had this barrier that because I have severe "eosinophilic" asthma I should focus on long distances. Since I started running four years ago, I have completed seven official half-marathons and two marathons. Any time I ran a 5K or 10K race, it was part of an endurance training program and never because I wanted to improve my time on those distances. I am was convinced that I don't didn't have the lung capacity for short "fast" races. So, although pace remains relative...I have decided to focus on speed work and to try and finally run a 10K under one hour, but the ultimate goal is under 59 minutes. As for a future marathon...who knows, maybe Hamilton in October 2014 ;)

Thanks if you took the time to read this whole thing...your encouragement has always been much appreciated! BTW - note the prednisone update in the sidebar...I have finally broken my record for number of days off prednisone...YAY!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Where it's at!

"What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step."

C. S. Lewis 

First, a quick health update. The excessive fatigue is gone...the culprit was not (just) hormones, but Candida! This is a side effect of my inhalers. I have been taking Fluconazole for this and my energy has now returned to my normal. Yay!

Training is going better now that I don't feel so exhausted. The last two long runs included segments at marathon race pace and it went really well. I'm running by myself again as my SSIL has a faster race pace than I do, but so far, we've always ended up meeting at one point during our runs. We hug and wish each other a good run and then off we go our separate ways. It's a nice boost.

One cool thing is that I did the Montreal Marathon 10k with my whole family. It was such a wonderful experience. We plan on doing it again next year and hopefully, the partners will join us too :)
I was still quite tired in this photo, but I felt such joy!
How lucky am I :)

Everybody was really pleased with their race. It was tall son's first race and he nailed it (47m32s)! Myself, I ran it as a training run and stayed relaxed but strong throughout (1h03m). 

The week after was a fund-raising 5k for my god-daughter's school. It was an absolutely beautiful day and most of the race was done on trails. It was the day after my long run, but the fatigue was lifting so I felt good.

Bringing it home in 29m42s

Less than six weeks until Philadelphia marathon weekend! AHHH! :) Now that I feel better, I am slowly getting my confidence back. 

Happy training everyone!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A family run, some training, and perspective.

“Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: be kind. Do more than forgive: forget. Do more than dream: work.” 
 William Arthur Ward

Another week, another long run. Well, this week is a recovery week, so it was more of a longish run (16km). Since my last post, I am mostly focused on resting, eating well and getting my workouts done. I often take a short 20-30 minute nap in the afternoon (I work mornings and evenings). Still, it's all getting done. Bonus - When I first started my current strength training program (I do this once a week, after spinning, at the gym) I could not do one single girl's pushup on the ground! I had to resort to doing my pushups up against the wall. However, after slowly doing more and more of my pushups on the ground, yesterday, for the first time I did all 45 pushups on the ground (that is 3 series of 15 pushups). Yes, they are "girl" pushups, but believe me, I am extremely proud of my progress!!

Asthma update: One really good thing is that my lungs are doing well these days. Although I still take inhalers, I have been able to reduce the number of puffs per day, which is excellent. 

La Virée des LaLa! :)

After our run on the mountain a few weeks ago, my brother (the one who had the flesh eating bacteria a few years ago and almost lost his leg) enjoyed it so much that he decided he wanted to try and organize a run with cousins and family. We rarely get together with our cousins, and some of them we barely know. He has remained extremely aware that today is all you can be sure of and so within a month the run was organized. The name of the run was called "La virée des LaLa" because both our parents' last names begin with the letters "La" so "LaLa"! Two cousins and their families came down from 7 and 9 hours away up north (Abitibi) and another from about an hour away, along with both of our families. It was a beautiful day and we had a great time. We then all went to my brother's house for brunch...and were joined by our mom and her husband. My brother achieved his goal of uniting family in an active and fun way. It was a huge success and I know for a fact that a few other cousins are seriously considering starting to run so they can join us "next year"!!

Raise your hand if you're ready to go! :)

And we're off...

My brother leading the pack with one of our cousins. She has her own story. She has lost 45lbs since she started running a little over a year ago! 

It was truly a beautiful place to run :)

Finally, I just finished this book called "Until I say Goodbye" by Susan Spencer-Wendel...She is a woman who has ALS - Lou Gehrigs disease, and has chosen to live her last years with joy. She is a wife and the mother of three young children and she is just admirable! An extremely inspiring and strong woman, who definitely puts symptoms of menopause into persceptive :)


Friday, August 23, 2013

Hormones (or lack thereof) men consider yourselves warned ;)

“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.” 
Eckhart Tolle

It's already been three weeks since I last blogged. Overall, marathon training continues to go relatively well. 

A nice mountain run with Uber H, my bro et my SSIL.

It was tough on some of the climbs, but we flew on the downhills!

Today was our longest run in this training cycle...almost 25km, and althought it went okay, I felt tired through most of it. However, our pace managed to stay the same and we chatted almost constantly. Although sometimes, I just listened :)

Here's the little fountain I mentioned  where we go rinse our hands and face. That picture is from two weeks ago...since then, I've lowered my fuel belt to the hips (not as stable) because it was chafing at my waist.

Lately, I have some good runs, but also some difficult runs. Lots of ups and downs, like my energy level these days. I was hesitant about addressing the issue of menopause this week...but, coincidentally, the Mother Runners decided to talk about it a few days ago. However, it was talked about with humour and not very seriously. Which is totally fine, but not what I was looking for. I'm in my mid-fifties and had not been very symptomatic so far. I was feeling lucky, "No not me, I don't really have any bothersome symptoms". Not anymore! It seems that things have changed over the last month and the hardest part is the general feeling of fatigue that overtakes me sometimes. I'm finding it harder to get out there for my weekday runs...and the long runs are often harder to get through than just a few months ago. Also, on long run days, I know I won't get much else done, because I need the whole rest of the day to recover. This partly explains my lack of motivation to sit and write a blogpost. Thank goodness the fatigue is not constant, it tends to come and go over the day, but I'm not enjoying the drain and mild nausea that sometimes accompanies the fatigue. So...what's your secret ladies? How do you deal with the fatigue, the hot flashes, the headaches, and training?

Myself, I've been very diligent about getting to bed between 9:30 and 10pm. I try to eat enough protein and, well, enough healthy food! I've added a day off to my work schedule every second week. I still get out there and complete my workouts. Even if I'm tired, I still get them done. It's just rarer that the workouts feel easy. Oh and in case you're wondering...I just had my annual check up and all is good - no anemia, and thyroid, cholesterol, blood pressure are all good. Only difference from previous months - this is definitely TMI for the men and some women, but hey let's be real...the biggest difference is a period that never ends (it's been on and off since July 23rd)...this has never happened before. 

What's happening though is that this is affecting me mentally, not just physically. I'm worrying that the long runs will be too difficult and that now may not be a great time to run a marathon. That's on the one side, on the other side, I'm just trying not to think...getting out there and doing what I have to do and hoping that it all works itself out.

Like many of you, I write this blog for myself mostly, to be able to read back and see what went well and what didn't and how it turned out. I felt this was important to remember when I looked back on this marathon training cycle. Thanks for any input you may have!


Friday, August 2, 2013

Every day is a new dawn!

"With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts."
Eleanor Roosevelt

Last Friday, my Super SIL and I had 22km on the program. We slept in (NOT) and then headed out at 06:30. The weather was perfect and although I felt a little tired, I was confident that it would be another nice long run spent chatting away with my SSIL. However, it wasn't one of those runs, I started not feeling great by around 8K and the feeling came and went. By the last few kilometers, I suggested that we shorten the time between our walk breaks (we usually do 14/1 - we switched to 9/1). It was a difficult run, by the end I wasn't chatting much at all and I was happy to be done with it. 

Here we are post-22K...I'm smiling, but that's because I was done!

Last week was another vacation week. I ran by the ocean, I ran in the rain and I hiked some more. Despite a chilly start, we had some nice weather and were able to enjoy the Bic National Park trails. Our cottage was by the ocean, we were staying with friends, and it was just a really nice break. 

Love being in the woods and hiking!

Today was another long run. This week, we had the shortest of 24km or 2h25m on the program. Once again, we were out there at 06:30. I hadn't slept too badly, but not great either...I think I was a little worried about how it would  go if I didn't sleep well, so of course I didn't sleep great. Anyways, off we went and I was feeling really good. We got caught in some rain, but it didn't last, and it was actually refreshing. We chatted non-stop and the kilometers just flew by. You'd think I was a different person from last week. I felt strong and extremely comfortable through the whole 2h25m...for a total of 21.1km. Actually, we ran an extra 50 seconds in order to reach .1 and make it a complete half-marathon. You know you're a runner when... ;)

Here we are enjoying a post-run breakfast!

Overall, training continues to go well as we reach the 1/4 point. Today was the beginning of week six of our program and once again, I'm amazed at how well my body is holding up (touch wood)!