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Rain In My Running Shoes

3 Oct

I have never been one to let the weather stop me from running. While I prefer clear, cool conditions, I have been known to go out in the rain, wind and snow in order to rack up the miles on my running shoes. From time to time, the seemingly adverse weather conditions have worked to my advantage. It is amazing how refreshing a light shower of rain can be during a long run.

And so, when I woke up yesterday to the pitter-patter of raindrops against the window, I was not deterred. I had a long run planned, and nothing short of a meteor hitting my driveway would stop me. This was to be my last long run before my half-marathon on October 16th, so I really needed to get out there and get it done.

It was cold enough for me to abandon the running shorts in favour of my longer fall-weather running pants. I stuck to the short-sleeved tech shirt, but added a lightweight running jacket. Although the sun was not shining, I wore my hat: the peaked cap is a great way to keep rain out of my eyes. I stocked my fuel belt, cued my music, laced up my shoes, and hit the road for a 20km run.

Sometime during the second kilometre, I became aware that the gentle rain had intensified, and that raindrops were now hitting my face from the side, hard enough to feel like tiny little pellets. By the time I had completed 5km, I was running in a torrential downpour. The wind was buffeting me from side to side and I was wishing that I had brought my gloves. Worst of all, my socks were squelching inside my running shoes. I had to stop twice to pour water out of my shoes.

Still, I soldiered on. People driving by in their cars were looking at me with astonishment, as if to say, “You’re running in this?” I felt validated when, in the fifteenth kilometre or so, I saw a fellow runner braving the elements. It always helps to know that I’m not alone in my running insanity.

After more than two hours of running, I came to a stop in my driveway, having run my allotted 20km. My hands were so cold that I struggled to fish my front door key out of my pouch. Fortunately, my five-year-old son was waiting just inside the door for my return, so he spared me the necessity of actually having to unlock the door myself.

Twenty-four hours later, I am still hurting. My legs are chock-full of lactic acid, and my left ankle is aching. I feel as if I will never walk normally again (I will, of course, be fine by tomorrow).

There are those who wonder why I put myself through this, what possesses me to go out in dreadful weather conditions for the privilege of having sore legs for the next two days.

Part of it is the joy of the sport, the sense of freedom that comes with being out on the open road, the “Runners High”, and the sense of accomplishment when the run has been completed.

Part of it is that I don’t have a naturally fast metabolism like some people, and if I don’t stay active I fall out of shape very quickly. Running is the only form of exercise that really works for me.

The biggest part of it, though, is that I’m doing it for my kids. In two weeks, I am lacing up for my third annual Run for Autism. All funds that I can raise leading up to this event will go straight to the Geneva Centre for Autism, to be used for much-needed services for children and youth with autism.

It is services like the ones provided by the Geneva Centre that have helped my son achieve phenomenal things in the four years since he was diagnosed with autism. In order to see a continuation of the progress, we need a continuation of the funding. This facility really does help people with autism to touch the stars, while also providing support for their siblings and parents.

Ultiimately, I run so that I can do my own small part in making the world a better place for my children. I think that’s a pretty darned good reason to go running in the wind and the rain every now and then.

To sponsor me for my half-marathon, please visit my fundraising page. All sponsorships are being matched by a donor who wishes to remain anomymous, so any funds raised will be doubled!

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/13013135@N00/5879848337. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)

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Running In The Rain

3 Aug

This morning I woke up to the gentle pitter-patter of rain against the window.

Actually, that’s a lie. I woke up to the alarm on my phone going off, making a blaring, raucous noise that set every single one of my nerve endings on edge.

Once my central nervous system had gotten over the initial shock of being awake, then I heard the gentle pitter-patter of rain against the window.

Damn.

I wanted to go running, and I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to run in the rain. Thanks to all of the dental goings-on of the last few days, it had been about a week since I had run at all. I was not in the mood for dodging puddles and having rain drip into my eyes. I was in the mood for a nice, uncomplicated run that didn’t require any actual thinking.

Who’s in any fit state to think at five in the morning, anyway?

I had a choice to make. Don’t run at all, run in the rain, or run on the treadmill.

I knew that not running at all would lead to a day filled with angst and guilt, and I had no desire to see the inside of a gym (almost a month of showering in the gym due to our dearth of hot water at home has left me a little gym-weary). So that left me with no choice but to run in the rain.

I threw on my running clothes and added a hat as a measure against the rain. Music cued, training watch set, and off I went. Following the logic that the faster I went, the sooner I’d have this over and done with, I set off at a hearty pace.

The run went surprisingly well. Not only did I find the rain to be refreshing and soothing, I actually managed to maintain the pace that I set at the beginning. Usually when I charge out of the starting blocks like a racehorse on steroids, I kind of peter out after three kilometres or so. Today, though, I finished my 5.65km in just a touch over 31 minutes, at a very respectable pace of around 5:42 minutes per kilometre.

I really should wake up more often feeling half-hearted about running. These runs always turn out to be the best ones.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/angee09/2264408983/. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.)

Running Through The Fields On A Summers Day

20 Jun

My next half-marathon, which takes place a month from now, will involve a variety of running surfaces. The route will take runners along trails, on the streets, through a tunnel going under the highway, and through a number of fields in the farming community hosting the run.

Training for this event is proving to be interesting. For one thing, I have to do my training runs on a mix of terrains – easier said than done, for someone who lives in a definitively urban area. But still, there are ways and means, and I’ve been trying to incorporate the trails in our local parks into my routes.

The bigger challenge for me is the fact that this race is happening on July 17th, in other words, slap-bang in the middle of summer. Although I hail from sunny climes, and probably have more endurance for hot-weather running than most North American runners, I’m not a complete masochist, and still opt to run in cooler conditions where possible.

But this race, taking place at a time of year when the mercury is already hitting 30° Celsius by eight in the morning, is forcing me to change my usual training strategy. Because where I would usually go running at 5:00 a.m., I am now looking for opportunities to run later in the day, when it’s warmer. It’s all about acclimatization. When race day rolls around, I don’t want to be the weasel who cannot handle running in the heat. I want to be the one who runs strongly throughout.

And that is why I voluntarily headed out for a 16km  run shortly after lunchtime on Saturday. It was hot. Blisteringly. Although the actual temperature was only 19° Celsius, the humidity reading was pushing it up to the mid-thirties. Although this would never have potential to be a run I would describe as “pleasant”, the heat in itself was not the whole problem. I had not fueled myself properly for the run. More importantly, I had not hydrated myself. So not only was I hot, I was intensely thirsty as well, and I just didn’t have the energy stores I needed.

After 6km I gave up, and decided to do the long run the following morning when it was cooler. Usually I would hate the idea of cutting a run short, but since I had initially intended to run on Sunday anyway, I felt OK about it. I just chalked this up as a bonus 6km run.

When I got home I looked at my training schedule and saw that I wasn’t even supposed to do 16km this weekend. I was only supposed to do 10km. If I’d realized that I would have stuck out my Saturday run for the full 10km.

Maybe next time I will consult my training schedule before I hit the road.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stamargo/4894061863/)

Whatever The Weather

17 Apr

This morning I woke up, somewhat hungover after yesterday’s party at which Gerard and I were the guests of honour, looked out of the window, and said, “Oh crap.” April 17th, and it was snowing. We’re not talking about minor flurries here – we’re talking about copious quantities of the white stuff falling out of the sky and settling on the ground.

I had a problem with this for three reasons. First, my wedding is less than two weeks away, and that doesn’t give the weather much time to get its act together. Second, I really wanted to get in a decent run today and I didn’t relish the idea of running in the snow and the wind. And third, I’m just fed up with crappy weather. Anyone who knows me knows that I turn into a pathetic crybaby at the slightest sign of winter.

Nonetheless, I needed to go running. I have a half-marathon six weeks from now and my training lately has not been up to scratch. So I waited for a couple of hours to see if the weather would improve, and then I got dressed, laced up my shoes and braved the elements.

As I stood at the end of my driveway waiting for the satellites to find my training watch, I thought, Hey, this isn’t bad. The snow had stopped, the wind had died down to a tame breeze, and it wasn’t all that cold. It actually seemed like perfect conditions for a run.

I set off down the road at a moderate pace, and after about three minutes, it started to rain a little. I don’t really mind running in the rain, but this was not normal rain. Normal rain does not feel like icicles against your skin. The air temperature was fine, but the rain temperature was bizarrely cold. I kept going, though. I’ve run in worse conditions.

As I was running over the Rouge Valley bridge, though, the wind suddenly kicked up about ten notches, and it started to hail. The  hailstones were tiny, the size of the gravel you get for fish tanks, but it hurt. Believe me, those little hailstones flying at you with a hefty wind behind them can feel like tiny but very effective jackhammers against your face.

I came very close to turning around at that point, but I kept going. I knew that I would not feel good about myself if I gave up on my run after just a mile.

The hail continued for the next 2km or so. After that it gave way to snow. Not the cute little snowflakes that gently drift to the ground like you see in romantic comedies. These were big fat snowflakes that were flying to the ground like missiles. I felt like I was in Space Invaders. A snowflake flew into my eye at high speed. It hurt.

But still, I kept going.

At around the 6km mark, I suddenly realized that I was enjoying myself. The weather had righted itself without me really noticing it. There was no snow, no hail, no rain, and no wind. The sun was even peeking out from behind the clouds. I had a lovely time for the next 3km or so.

Right after I had completed 9km, a gust of wind came from nowhere and almost blew me away. If I’d had an umbrella I would have looked like Mary Poppins. This wind was unbelievable. It was blowing straight at me with such force that it actually took my breath away.

I still had 2km to go, which in the scheme of things is almost nothing, but when you’re running into wind that feels like a solid wall, it’s a long way. Those last two kilometres were really, really tough. I had to slow my pace because the wind was so strong and I’m not a Kenyan.

By the time my aching legs carried me back into my driveway, I was absolutely spent. My time for the 11km run was not great, but it was well within the range of what it should be. Most importantly, though, I had done it. After several weeks of poor training that had made me wonder whether I still had the right to call myself a real runner, I was once again the kind of runner I love to be.

The kind of runner who goes out and logs the miles, whatever the weather.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hanspama/4199315435/)