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Here Come The Butterflies

12 May

I am participating in the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon, which means one post every day for the month of May.

Two weeks and one day from now, I will be lining up for my first half-marathon of the season, the Toronto Womens Half-Marathon. I am looking forward to this race immensely. Not only for the chocolate station. And shallow and all as I am, not only for the aid stations manned by shirtless firefighters who douse you with water.

I am excited about the challenge of it. With the help of my friend and coach Phaedra, I have really been pushing the boundaries in my training this season. I have managed to survive some fair significant disruptions, like unexpected travel to South Africa and a couple of bouts of illness.

The two races that I have done this year – the Good Friday Ten-Miler and the Toronto Yonge Street 10K – have both yielded PB’s (personal best times). I am eager to see if I can repeat the performance over a longer distance.

I just have to get through the final phase of training, which is referred to by many runners as Taper Madness. While tapering is an essential part of training, it can be a period fraught with anxiety and mild (or not-so-mild) paranoia.

The science behind tapering is this: you spend twelve or fourteen weeks training intensively for this event, putting in your mileage and your speed work, having a battle of wits with hills, and spending entire Sunday mornings out on the road. You build your stamina and your strength, and you get used to spending long periods of time on your feet.

The training is a long process that should be properly planned and carefully executed. And if you’re not physically capable of running the distance of a half-marathon two weeks prior to the race, chances are that you won’t be ready on race-day either. The last two weeks don’t really have any value in terms of building your fitness level or your strength, so you are better off cutting back your mileage and giving your muscles time to rebuild in time for the big day.

Because you are reducing your mileage, you have more of a build-up of energy, so you get jittery and anxious, and you start imagining that the twinge in your ankle means it’s broken, or that the little pimple on your chin means you have smallpox.

Some runners can get through the tapering period without incident. They are cool, calm and collected, and don’t suffer from any attacks of nerves. “Butterflies? What butterflies?” they ask with infuriating serenity, when you question them about whether they are nervous about their upcoming race.

Other runners cannot sit still. They pace around restlessly, talk a mile a minute and fidget incessantly. They turn into hypochondriacs, anxiously assessing every little ache and every occasion on which they need to clear their throats. Because they stop sleeping, they advance seventy-two levels in Farmville in a two-week period.

Guess which category I fall into? I’ll give you a hint: I’m sitting here typing this at 4:12 in the morning.

Technically, my taper hasn’t even started yet. It will start after my long run tomorrow. But I tend to start feeling the jitters right before that last long run. I feel that there’s a lot riding on the run. If it goes well, I will go into Race Day with confidence, but I will be worried about whether I can repeat the performance. If it goes badly, I will be obsessing about whether I’m ready for the race.

So the butterflies have shown up, right on schedule. No matter what tomorrow’s long run is like, I am going to spend the next two weeks driving my family nuts and breaking out into occasional bouts of maniacal laughter. At night I will be banished to the sofabed because my incessant fidgeting will keep the husband awake. I will constantly bug the children, who will indulge me by playing with me for a while before my six-year-old gets exasperated and goes, “Momm-meeeee. You don’t play the gamethat way.”

Right now, the butterflies are not obeying any air traffic rules. They are flying around in chaos. But it is my hope that when the starting siren goes off on the day of the race, the butterflies will reconfigure themselves, arrange themselves into beautiful patterns, and fly in formation.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ilker/287399328/. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)

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Run With The Sound Of Music: Or Maybe Not

10 May

I am participating in the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon, which means one post every day for the month of May.

To run with music, or to run without music… that is the question. A surprisingly controversial question at that. While many runners are appropriately moderate in their stance about whether or not it is OK to block out the world with music during a run, there are those on both sides of the debate who can be astonishingly militant about their stance.

Those who are in favour of the tunes say that it counteracts the monotony of a long run, helps keep energy and motivation levels high, and simply offers the opportunity to enjoy some good music. They say the anti-music people are antisocial know-it-alls who think it’s OK to jostle a slower runner who happens to wearing earbuds.

Those against the music-and-running combination cite things like safety, being in tune with one’s body, and enjoyment of Mother Nature. They accuse the music-lovers of being antisocial plodders who cannot hear when they’re supposed to get out of the path of a faster runner coming from behind.

I am firmly in the middle of the road on this one. I listen to music on all of my training runs, but never on races.

I do my training on my own, partly by circumstance but largely by choice. I love the feeling of getting out on the open road early in the morning, when it’s just me. It allows me to escape from the “real world” of people and responsibilities, and to be beholden to no-one but myself.

Having said that, two hours can seem like a very long time when you don’t have the company of music. I never find running boring, but it can get lonely, and the music counteracts that. If I find songs with the right beat, it can also be a nifty training tool, and to be quite honest, it is refreshing to be able to listen to an entire song without hearing kids start World War III over a single piece of Lego.

I used to listen to music while racing as well, but the Energizer Night Race of 2011 cured me of that. I had no choice but to leave my music at home, because earbuds were banned from the course. A third of the way into the race I could understand why: the park that the race was run in was very, very dark, and although the headlights that came with the race kit helped light the way, all senses had to be on full alert.

The race went well – so well, in fact, that I started thinking that maybe the lack of music had been beneficial. I tested this theory in my next race two weeks later and set a new personal best time for the distance. And that was enough to convince me to run my races with nothing but the sound of the wind in my ears.

When I race, I’m not running to improve my form or experiment with speed. I’m not out there just for the joy of running. I’m running that race to get the best time I possibly can. I am racing – even though I have no hope of actually winning the race, I am trying to beat the most intense competition there is: myself.

While music is a pleasant distraction on training runs, I find it to be a hindrance on races. Without it, I can focus on paying attention to what my body is doing instead of trying to match my pace to the beat of the music. I can run according to how I feel, and for some strange reason, I am better able to manage my pacing to get a personal best time.

I have discovered that I don’t actually need the music when I’m racing. I get so buoyed up by the collective energy of the runners around me, and that is enough to keep me going. I enjoy engaging with spectators who cheer me on, and I like the feeling of getting pumped up by the entertainers along the course. Although I take my racing very seriously, leaving the music at home definitely helps me get more out of the experience and have fun.

In every single race I have run since I stopped racing with music, I have achieved a personal best time. There’s definitely something to that – at least, for me.

There is room for all runners on the road – the ones who listen to music and the ones who don’t. Watch this space next week for tips on how the two camps can coexist safely and peacefully.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/karrienodalo/3227478067/. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)

Outrunning A Cold

2 May

I am participating in the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon, which means one post every day for the month of May.

A lovely view of the lake eases the pain of a 23km run

Two weeks ago, I started to feel a cold coming on. The timing was dreadful: I had a 10K race coming up and I was aiming to break my best time. As the race approached I suddenly got obsessive about eating healthily and taking vitamins. Anyone who knows me will know that this is not usually the case. I can get up at five on a Sunday morning to go for a 20km run, but I am oddly undisciplined when it comes to my diet.

Race day came and went and apart from a little bit of nasal congestion, I was fine. I found my zone and ran the best race of any distance that I have ever run. I left my previous 10K best time in the dust and had lots of energy left in the tank when I crossed the finish line.

At some point during the half-hour drive home from the race, the cold that had been waiting in the wings finally struck. As I basked in the glow of a race well run, I stayed home from work for the next two days, with my head feeling as if it had been run over by a herd of stampeding bulls.

Although I managed to drag myself into the office on the Wednesday after the race, I was still not well enough to run. Technically, I could have: running lore holds that as long as all symptoms are above the neck, it is safe to run. I knew better than to try, though. When I’m sick, I need to rest. If I don’t, I just get sicker and prolong my recovery. I decided to save myself for the long training run I had scheduled for Sunday.

By the time Sunday rolled around, I was feeling a lot better but by no means recovered. Looking at the calendar and seeing that my next half-marathon was just a month away, I decided to head out for my run anyway. I had the foresight to shove a few tissues into the pocket on my fuel belt – I knew I would need them.

The thing that really got me going that day was the sunshine. It was such a perfect day for running, and if I hadn’t gone out I would have wasted my time staring wistfully out the window. Instead, I put on my hat and a light running jacket that would end up being removed after the first kilometre, and I hit the road.

Two and a half hours later, I limped back into my driveway, hot and exhausted. My legs were feeling every step of the 23km I had just run, and I was ready for three things: a hefty dose of carbs, some coffee, and a long afternoon of lying on the couch.

Every time I had to move for the rest of the day, I grimaced in pain. But I felt good about the miles I had put in, and the fact that two and half hours in the sun had given me a touch of colour.

And my cold? Well, it’s still trying to linger. And I’m trying to bully it into submission, so it slinks away, never to return.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)

Outrunning My Expectations: Toronto Yonge Street 10K

23 Apr

I am participating in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge, in which I publish a post every day for the month of April, based on health-related prompts.

April 23 – Health activist choice day 2: Write about whatever you like.

I was nervous leading up to yesterday’s race. I was not unduly challenged by the distance (10K) or the course (mostly downhill), but during the week prior to the race I had felt a cold coming on. Starting on Tuesday, I started stuffing myself with vitamin C and oil of oregano. I consumed zinc lozenges like they were candy and drank cups of my special tea that combats colds. I drank fluids like they were about to go extinct and got as much rest as my busy schedule would allow.

As God was my witness, I was going to run this race. There was no way I was letting a stupid cold stop me.

I woke up on race day feeling a little stuffy-nosed, but otherwise not too bad. I threw on running clothes that I thought would be appropriate for the weather: shorts, light technical T-shirt, lightweight running jacket, and just for the fun of it, a bright red hat. I gathered up my stuff and drove into the city, enjoying the next-to-nothing traffic on the highway.

When I got to the start, I immediately started to worry about what I was wearing. It was freezing and I was very aware of my shorts-clad legs and gloveless hands. My teeth were audibly and visibly chattering while I was doing my warm-ups, much to the amusement of a nearby police officer.

By the time the race started, though, I was not noticing the cold at all. Either it had warmed up by then, or – the more likely explanation – the start-line buzz had worked its usual magic on me. As the race got underway, I forgot all about my stuffy nose and the fact that my legs had turned purple, and I turned my sights on the finish line. I was hoping for a new personal best time, which meant that I would have to push myself, even if it was a downhill course. Because of the pesky cold virus, I thought I would do well to beat 1:03:00.

When I race, I’m rarely fast out of the starting blocks. I tend to be overcautious in the beginning out of fear that starting too fast will make me fizzle out before the end. My first two kilometres passed in the predictable fashion.

Kilometre 1: 6:31
Kilometre 2: 6:38

As usual, my body kind of automatically picked up the pace after that. The only uphill stretch of note was at about the 3km mark, and I barely noticed the incline as I floated up. I slowed down again in the fourth kilometre, mostly because of a bottleneck at the aid station, but after that, it was all systems go!

Kilometre 3: 6:09
Kilometre 4: 6:36 – because of that aid station congestion.

My body seemed to take on a life of its own during this race. From the fifth kilometre on, I was running well beyond my target pace, and although I kept waiting for my legs to run out of oomph, it just didn’t happen. After a while, I decided to simply let my body do whatever it wanted and enjoy myself. Occasionally I would attach myself to another runner, but inevitably, I would speed up and pass them.

The kilometres were passing almost in a blur, faster than I thought I was capable of.

Kilometre 5: 5:52
Kilometre 6: 6:06
Kilometre 7: 6:13 – and that was only because I slowed to a walk at the aid station, to avoid getting water all over my face.

When I ran this race two years ago, I fizzled out in the eight kilometre, so this time round I was paying close attention to my pace to avoid fatigue. I needn’t have worried.

Kilometre 8: 5:48
Kilometre 9: 5:58 – and that was because I made a quick diversion to a garbage can to throw out my now-empty water bottle.

Usually the final kilometre of a race presents me with immense psychological challenges, and I’m not sure why. My usual pattern is to hit a patch of unaccountable exhaustion right after the start of the final kilometre and slow down significantly. Then, in the last 400 metres or so, I pick up the pace to sprint over the finish line.

I wondered what would happen this time. Would I find myself starting to fade as soon as I saw the 9km marker? Would my legs fade out on me as I was running over the bridge towards the final turn?

Or would the last kilometre be as great as the rest of the race had been? The pace of my finishing kick says it all.

Kilometre 10: 5:26

Total time: 1:01:40.

Not only did I beat my previous 10K best time by about two minutes, I brought the sub-one-hour 10K within reach.

This was the best 10K race I have ever had, and it follows close on the heels of my best-ever ten-miler. My next race is a half-marathon at the end of May. Will that be another “best” for me?

If I have anything to do with it, then yes it will.

Grandpa And The Floozie: Good Friday Ten-Miler

6 Apr

Running is the one area of my life where all of my health interests intersect. It is good for my general health, it does a lot to keep depression at bay, and it is the means by which I raise funds for autism services.

It is no wonder that I take my running so seriously, nor that I’ve been anxiously awaiting my first race of the season: the Good Friday Ten-Miler, which happened today. I had watched the weather forecast throughout the week, and I was excited about the prospect of running in shorts to herald the arrival of Spring.

When I arrived at the start, the bitterly cold wind caused me some anxiety. I could deal with the shorts but I didn’t know if I would be able to take off my jacket. It was sunny, though, and it was only cold when the wind blew. And so I decided to stop being a sissy and leave the jacket in the car.

I headed to the registration area to pick up my race kit, and the first thing I had to do was look up my bib number. When I saw what it was, I actually snorted with laughter.

666. The number of the beast.

Seriously? I was going to have to run ten miles with the number 666 on my shirt? Where people could see me? The man who gave me my bib had a good laugh and told me to “run like the devil”.

I got to the start line with about a minute to spare, and all of a sudden we were off. I was aiming to beat 1:45:00, and in my eagerness to have a good race, I flew out of the starting blocks. I ran my first kilometre in 6:05, and realized that if I was going to meet my target I would have to dial it back a little.

A big hill in the second kilometre took care of getting my pace back in line, and through the rest of the race my pace was more or less consistent. Somewhere between the third and fifth kilometres, I saw my friend and coach Phaedra, who was a couple of kilometres ahead of me in the race. We waved and exchanged a high-five and went on our respective ways.

About six kilometres in, I tucked in behind a tall elderly man who was running at just the right pace. After a while I picked up my pace and passed him. Two kilometres further, at about the halfway mark, I slowed down and the man caught me.

He ran with me for a little while, and then we got to the big hill again, and he turned out to be better at tackling it than me. Off he went into the distance. I saw Phaedra again, but by this point she was entering her final mile and I still had about six kilometres to go.

Throughout the race, me and the elderly man were passing each other but staying more or less within spitting distance of each other.

With about three kilometres to go, I caught up with the man again. Sensing that we were going to be running alongside each other for a while, he started chatting to me. Jovially, he said, “I’ll race you to the finish!”

In wonderment that I could talk at all, I said to him, “You’re on!”

“Well, I gotta tell you. You may be young and pretty, but there’s no way I’m allowing myself to get chicked in a race.”

God bless him. He had called me young and pretty! I’m 42 years old, and having run 13km pretty hard at that stage, I looked anything but pretty. Still, it was nice of him to say so.

There is a fine but steely thread of competitiveness that runs through my veins, and I decided then and there to take on the man’s challenge. I said to him, “Well, you may have a ton more running experience than me, and you certainly look like you’re in better shape, but I’m not letting myself get beaten by someone who’s clearly a lot older than me.”

With a twinkle in his eye, he said, “Let’s see who gets home first. The grandpa or the floozie!”

Like a shot, he was off. And I wasn’t having any of it. I picked up my pace and chased him. I caught him and stuck with him for the next kilometre and a bit. I have to say, he put up a hell of a fight. Every time I sped up, so did he. But that little bit of competitiveness in me refused to lie down and die, so I kept trying.

All of a sudden, I could smell the finish line around the corner. I dug deep and found the biggest finishing kick that I’ve ever had. With about 500 metres to go, I finally passed my elderly friend and sprinted to the finish line, clocking a time of 1:43:10.

Not only had I beaten my target time of 1:45:00, I had absolutely smashed my previous personal best time by almost ten minutes.

And the floozie had beaten the grandpa.

Lessons Learned: Getting The Cup To Be Half Full: Guest Post by Phaedra Kennedy

4 Jan

Almost 12 years ago, I packed my life into checked baggage and moved, by myself, halfway across the world. When I landed in Canada, a country that I had never set foot in, I did not know a single soul. My friend Kane (a truly amazing human being who really deserves a blog post all of his own) put me in touch with his friend Phaedra Kennedy, who happens to live in Toronto. When Phaedra and I met, we discovered to our mutual delight that we shared an interest in running.

Since we met, a lot has happened. We met our life partners several months apart and we are both now married. We’ve moved around, stuff has happened in our careers, and for both of us, running took a back seat to other events that were going on in our lives. Now, we are back in the running scene, and Phaedra is coaching me for the 2012 season. This is truly an honour: Phaedra is the kind of runner other runners look at in envy and admiration.

Today, Phaedra tells us about how she rose above personal tragedy and sadness to have a phenomenal season of running. This is a tale of strength and determination that I for one will take with me as I strive to achieve great things in 2012.

When Kirsten asked me to write a guest blog post for her, I was incredibly flattered.  I was also a little befuddled.  Her goal was to start off the year on a positive note so she approached 5 women she considered to be inspirational.  To be included in that group was high praise.  Me, inspirational?  I don’t know about that.  I thought long and hard about what I should write about.  She gave me no guidelines only that it had to be positive.  Which was challenging for me given that I had been in a bit of a funk as of late.   To top it off, I don’t normally think of myself as a positive person.  That had been cemented by the fact that I took one of those online tests a while ago to determine if I was a pessimist or an optimist.  Surprise, surprise, I was a glass half empty kinda gal.   But, somewhere along the way this year, my mindset MUST have changed a bit because this year has been one of the best years of my life and I chalk that up to me WANTING it to be that way.   Positive thought and determination made it so.

It all started in November of 2010.    I had just run a dismal race at the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon.  I had decided to do the marathon after spending 1.5 years going through 3 failed IVF cycles.  It was a half-hearted attempt to get my athletic mojo back.  Over the course of the year and a half, my body had become a science experiment.  I had given up control over it in the hopes of starting a family.  I had been poked and prodded, injected with drugs, monitored on an almost daily basis.  My normal exercise routine went out the window.  I became a slave to my cycle.    Instead of early morning swim sessions, early morning clinic visits became the norm.  It took a toll on my body and my emotional state.  We had one last kick at the can in November of 2010.  When that failed, we were devastated.   When you’re used to being able to train your body to do what you want it to do, to have our 3rd IVF attempt fail was frustrating.  Especially when your doctor kept telling you everything looked great.  For whatever reason, my body was not meant to bear life.   It was a tough pill to swallow.  I went back to running to help soothe the pain.  There were some tears shed on those runs.  But there was also a realization that perhaps I had been given a different kind of gift.  The gift of being able to really follow my passion, to really delve into running like I never had before.  I was coming up on 40 and I thought You know what, I’m going to make 40 the best year of my life (to date).  With that simple vow, a world of possibility opened.   I rose to the challenge of taking the knowledge I had and crafting a plan that would get me to my goal.  I set what I thought was a lofty goal:  I was going to run 3 half marathons in 2011, with my last one being run in 1h 40 min or faster.  And I was going to blog about it.  Blogging would keep me accountable and if I managed to reach out and inspire a few folks along the way, then that was a bonus.

My plan was a departure from most traditional distance running plans.  Too much mileage and I will get injured.  This time around I focused on quality vs. quantity (no junk miles!!) And I added more strength training to my routine.  My diet also changed thanks to an amazing program called Precision Nutrition.  Gone were the processed foods and larger than necessary portion sizes.  I did a complete overhaul. I was quite proud of my little plan and my body responded to it well.

My first half marathon was the Chilly Half in March 2011.  It was the weekend of my 40th birthday.  My goal was to run sub 1:50.  No surprise, it snowed the night before so the conditions were horrible.  I didn’t freak out.  The snow was a blessing.  It made me start out slow.  Which was great.  Even with the slow start, I managed to pull off a 1:47 and change.  Perfect.  I was pumped.  I didn’t let the weather get me down.  I just went out and ran.  Lesson learned:  Don’t worry about things you don’t have control over, just go out and do your best.

My second half marathon was the Toronto Women’s Half in May.  I had been really looking forward to this race.  I had finally gotten back out with my running group so I had been getting some good speed work in.  I couldn’t WAIT to see what I was capable of.    The course was rolling and it was on bike paths so I figured it might be a bit challenging.  Bring it.   Race day was muggy and gross, but nothing that a few cups of water from some shirtless firefighters couldn’t help.  I busted my butt in this race.  Went out way too hard and paid for it near the end.  But I pushed through pain that normally would have me backing off.  I came out with a 1:41:39.  A new PB! And 5th place in my age group!  Lesson learned:  I’m tougher than I give myself credit for.

I went on a racing frenzy during the summer. It seemed like I raced almost every other weekend.   With each race, my results were better and better.  I started to get spots on the podium.  I won my age group a few times and then I actually snagged a women’s overall win.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have a year like this.  It took positivity to a whole new level.  I trained hard and continued to race all summer.  I learned to really listen to my body.   I went into each race with a positive outlook.  And a goal of working hard and giving it my all.   My new motto became leave it all on the race course.   This was a new thing for me.  I was always so cautious when I was racing.  What if I went out too hard?  What if I blew up?  No longer a concern.  I had faith in my abilities.    This was new to me!

As my 3rd and final race got closer, I thought about revisiting my goal time.  I was running the Scotiabank Half and it was flat so my husband said I should aim for 1:35.  In the back of my head, that became my new hard goal.  I recruited a friend from my running group to pace me.   This time I wanted to race smart and not go out too hard.   Race day I was calm cool and collected.  I knew I could do it.   Sub 1:40 would not be a problem.  Could I break 1:35?  If I raced smartly, and trusted my abilities, I figured I could.

In typical fashion I wanted to go out hard but my friend kept me in check.  I made a few mistakes early in the race that would have saved me some panic late in the race but at about 19km, I knew I was going to make it.  It would be close but I knew if I pushed myself I’d be ok.  Before I knew it I had hit the 500m mark.   I was overcome with emotion as I ran towards the finish line.  The culmination of a year of hard work was coming to a head.  The doors were finally closing on an old chapter of my life and opening on a new one.  I could see the clock counting down to 1:35.   I crossed the finish line in 1:34:48.   Amazing.  What was even more amazing was that I managed to place 6th in my age group out of 662 women.  6th!!!   When my husband told me that I burst into tears.  Tears of joy, amazement & thankfulness.

Lesson Learned:  Trust in your ability and most importantly believe in yourself.

I had exceeded my original goal by 5 minutes and I had crushed my PB from May by 6 minutes.    I never imagined I’d have a year like this.   All because I made the decision that 40 was going to be the best year of my life AND I actually did something about it.  I was amazed by the things that happened along the way.  I realized that my mindset has changed.  I’m no longer a glass half empty kinda gal.  I’m not quite at the glass half full point but I’m working on it.  2012 will be the year the glass becomes half full.  Of that I’m certain.

(Photo credit: Phaedra Kennedy)

2011 – My Year In A Nutshell

27 Dec

January 2011

I start off the year on a good note. Tired and slightly hungover, I take part in the Resolution Run on New Years Day. With my wedding just four months away, I start to stress about the little details, like where to get married and where to hold the reception.

This month, I also donate blood for the first time  – at least, the first successful time. My inspiration is baby David, affectionately known as Captain Snuggles. Sadly, David dies just days later, at just 8 months old.

 

February 2011

We have a wedding venue and a minister! I will be getting married in the same church where both of my children were baptized into the Christian cult fellowship. My running has slowed down a little, because the stress of wedding planning has made me sick.

March 2011

We have a venue for our wedding reception! We almost booked the first place we looked at, but then we went to see the hall at the Royal Canadian Legion. They initially had the hall booked for our wedding day, but the other people have graciously agreed to move their event to the previous weekend. This means two things. First, we get to have our reception in a place that supports the veterans. And second, we now have all of the information we need to send out our wedding invitations.

This month is frantically busy. We have left most of our wedding planning to the last minute, so we have to book our DJ, our flowers, get a cake sorted, find someone to do my hair and makeup, and so much more.

April 2011

My wedding is on the last day of this month! Most things are organized, but my hairdresser and my makeup person have both bailed on me. While I dissolve into tears, my fiancé gets into the car and goes out for a drive. When he comes back, he tells me that the hair and makeup problem is all sorted out.

My soon-to-be brother-in-law introduces me to a wonderful lady, who agrees to be in charge of both of my boys for the day of the wedding. This is a very big deal for me. I worry about how my son with autism will cope with such a big day.

The big day arrives, and it goes perfectly! My hair and makeup look lovely, and the dress – made by my mother-in-law – is perfect. I marry the man I love, and everyone has a lovely time, including the kids.

May 2011

I spend time with my Mom, who has come for the wedding. We go shopping, we go for drives, we spend time with the kids, we chat and drink wine. It’s wonderful to have her with me.

One of the lowest lows of the year happens this month, with the unexpected death of our friend Ken, just days after our wedding. It is an honour to have had Ken and his wife at the wedding. It is good that we got to see him one last time. He will always be missed.

June 2011

My younger son James graduates from Kindergarten. I have a surreal kind of feeling as I watch my baby up there on stage, wearing his construction paper graduation cap, receiving his Kindergarten diploma. When he and his classmates start singing their songs, I just about die from the cuteness.

 

July 2011

I am having difficulty with my running. I struggle to find time, I am lacking motivation, and I am injured. I have missed the last two races I was registered for. On the plus side, the sporadic nature of my recent training does not appear to have affected my speed. There has not been any improvement in my performance, but there hasn’t been a noticeable decline either. This may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re struggling with something you usually love, you have to take what you can get.

August 2011

2011-08-25 11.19.19This month turns out to be unexpectedly busy. The big news is that my older son George graduates from his provincially funded autism intervention program. He has had two years of IBI followed by a year of the school stream program. His progress has been off the charts. He is ready for this graduation. I, on the other hand, am not. It represents a growing-up that I am just not ready for.

Things seem to be looking up with my running! I run two races this month, just a couple of weeks apart. My performance in the first isn’t great, but in the second, I do a lot better than expected.

September 2011

George turns 8, and I’m not really sure how this has happened. It seems like just yesterday that I held my tiny baby in my arms for the first time, and now he’s this long lanky boy who keeps growing out of his shoes.

My 2011 Run for Autism is three weeks away. I run a 10km race at the zoo and make a personal best time. The following morning, I go out for a long run in foul weather, and the day after that, I can barely walk. I feel good, though. I feel ready for the half-marathon.

October 2011

75738-1975-025f[1]The day has finally arrived: the race I have been training for all year. This is the reason I run – to raise funds for autism services, to make the world a better place for children and youth with autism and their families. I dedicate this race to my son George: my joy and my inspiration. If he can live every day with the challenges of autism, I can run a two-hour race.

It goes really, really well. I get a personal best time for the half-marathon and beat the 2:20:00 target that I’ve set for myself. What makes this day even more amazing is that I have done really well with my fundraising for this race, surpassing my combined total for the previous two years.

November 2011

I am insanely busy at work. I am on four projects, and I am also in charge of the month-end reporting for all of the projects in my department’s portfolio. I am enjoying the additional challenge that this gives me, and every month I am getting better at it.

I feel like I am starting to gain some traction in my writing. It is hard work, building up a blog following, and it’s an ongoing process. I am becoming quite prolific, though. I have my blog, I write for an ezine, I write for a project called World Moms Blog, that is growing very fast. I have been voted as one of the top 25 Canadian mom blogs, and people are starting to ask me to guest post for them. I have also resurrected the novel I started working on a couple of years ago.

I run another race at the end of the month, and demolish my previous personal best time. If I can do this after the difficult season I’ve had, what will I be capable of if I actually train? I ask my running friend Phaedra to be my coach for next year, and she agrees.

December 2011

As usual, my Christmas preparations are a last-minute frantic rush. Somehow, I get my shopping done on time and the day is a big success. We all weather the festive season with life and limb intact. It is a hard time for George, with all of the sounds and lights and people and busy-ness, but he gets through it.

On Christmas Day, James turns six. I feel a little weepy over the fact that my baby is no longer a baby. There is just something about the transition from 5 to 6.

Also on Christmas Day, I somehow manage to pinch a nerve in my back. It’s eerily reminiscent of 2 years ago, when the same thing happened. The incident in 2009 puts me out of action for two months, and I really hope this does not happen again.

The story continues in 2012. What script will I write for my life in the coming year?