Tag Archives: cold

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)

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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.

Determination Pays Off

5 Apr

This time, I was determined.

I was determined to drag my ass out of bed when my alarm went off, no matter how tired I felt, and go for a run.

I was determined to go for a real run – i.e. a road run – instead of wimping out because of the dark and the cold and going to the gym for an unsatisfying treadmill run.

I was determined not to make excuses, not to tell myself that I was too tired or too cold, not to let my mind convince me that the kids were going to wake up and create havoc the second I closed the front door behind me.

The first part of my plan, the waking up part, was easy. Through a series of nocturnal wanderings, I had found myself on the sofabed with the kids squished up on either side of me. I had slept uncomfortably, in an uncomfortable position, barely able to move as I was sandwiched between two dead-weight kids. Although I was tired, getting up and moving around was actually a relief.

I got into my running clothes, fumbled around in the dark for my training watch, and downed a bottle water.

My plan almost got derailed at that point when James woke up crying, saying that he had had a bad dream. I got him some milk and managed to convince him that I didn’t, in fact, need the longest sword in the world in order to slay the monster, and he went back to sleep. For a moment I hesitated: should I really go for a run knowing that my child was in distress?

I checked on James again: he was sleeping soundly, with not a sign of distress anywhere.

I looked for gloves, failed. I looked for a hat, failed. I looked for my lightweight running jacket, failed.

Hmmmm… Do I stay or do I go?

Go, I decided, reasoning that I had run plenty of times in colder conditions without all of that stuff. To borrow a phrase from a book I once read: What am I, woman or walrus?

OK, shoes on, music cued, out the door. I felt cold, but I knew that I would warm up quickly. I started the music, pressed “start” on my watch, and began running down the road.

For the first few minutes, all I wanted to do was stop. I felt stiff and had no rhythm, like a machine that hasn’t been oiled since the start of the Industrial Revolution. I kept going because a simple rule that I have: run for just one mile. If you still feel like crap, turn around and run back, and that way you will have at least got in a two-mile run. Chances are, though, that you will feel just fine after one mile and you’ll be able to keep going.

And sure enough, the first mile came and went, and I kept going without even having to make a conscious decision to do so. At some point during the second mile, I suddenly realized that the stiffness had disappeared and that I was actually enjoying myself.

Due to time constraints, I could not get out for a long run this morning. I had to make do with about 4 miles. But still, it was great. After the run I felt alive and invigorated, ready to face the day. And as always when I run despite not initially really feeling like it, I felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

I feel that I have overcome a small psychological barrier that I had put up over the course of this winter. I have been telling myself for weeks I cannot run on the road early in the morning because it’s still dark. But this morning I realized that I do not have that excuse anymore. I could see just fine, I felt perfectly safe, and I even exchanged cheerful waves with a couple of other runners.

I was determined to go for my run this morning, no matter what. My determination paid off, and now I feel great!

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cdharrison/2575008703)

Ask me how I feel today…

30 Mar

Go on, I dare you! Ask me how I feel!

Well, since you ask… I am streaming with a cold, my head is congested, I am sneezing non-stop, and because of my upcoming wedding, I am stressed to the hilt.

And yet…

I feel GREAT!!!

So I have a cold. But it’s only a cold. I don’t have cancer, or multiple sclerosis, or HIV.

So I’m too sick to run right now, and will quite possibly have to miss my race this weekend. But I have two legs that work, and I am physically fit, and I will run again when this cold is gone. I have it way easier than my amazing friend Fran, who has become a runner despite the fact that she lives with cystic fibrosis.

And OK, it’s still a little chilly for my liking, and we’re still getting the odd snowfall in late March. But I live in Canada, not Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya, and all we get falling out of the sky is snow and rain, not bullets.

When I go outside, I have to wear a coat. When people in Japan go out, they have to wear masks to avoid inhaling dust from earthquake and tsumani debris, and they have to worry about radiaion poisoning.

I am stressed from wedding planning. I know people who are stressed from divorce, and other people, like my Mom, who grieve for their soulmates who are no longer here.

While we’re on the subject, every day I grieve for the wonderful Dad who raised me. I have a friend who grew up without a true Dad, but with a child rapist who happened to be her father by biology only.

I spend two hours a day commuting, and there are days when it becomes overwhelming. But I have a job to commute to. I can afford to feed my family and buy birthday presents for my children.

It is true, I do have a child with autism, and every day brings its own unique challenges. But I have my kids, and every time I hug them I think of my other amazing friend Amy, who sat at her baby’s bedside for five months before cradling him in her arms as he died.

So how do I feel?

I’d say my life is pretty darned good, and I am truly grateful for what I have.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hurricanemaine/3429008592/)

Weight a Minute

1 Mar

This morning I realized that after a long, bitter winter, I am done with the treadmill. I actually dragged my feet into the gym and sighed wearily as I punched the buttons on the machine to get the damned thing going.

They’re great machines, treadmills, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them. I’m definitely an open road kind of girl. I like the freedom, and the sunshine (assuming there is any), and the feel of a light wind on my face. Road running makes me feel invigorated and carefree.

Treadmill running makes me feel like a lab rat doing an experiment. I can picture the men in white coats standing on the other side of a one-way mirror, observing my every move and deciding what mind-altering drugs to inject into my brain next.

I have a history of using the treadmill only in extreme circumstances. Last winter I didn’t use the treadmill at all because it was so mild, and there was very little snow. Even though it was dark, I could go running at five in the morning and not worry about ice.

I did have to worry about a chiropractic injury that had me crying like a baby for three months, but that’s another story.

This winter I’ve been making extensive use of the treadmill because the weather has been so messed up. We have spent some time in a deep, deep freeze, with temperatures going down to -30 degrees Celsius (or -22 degrees Fahrenheit). When it’s that cold out, I cannot even breathe, and despite layer upon layer of clothing, my entire body goes numb within about five minutes.

Along with the cold, there has been snow and ice. When the cold has abated, the snow and ice have remained. It has been treacherous out there, and so I have only been willing to run outside at times when I can actually see where I’m going. Without the ability to see where I’m planting my foot, I run the risk of landing on my ass while anyone who happens to be nearby points and laughs. Since I only have time to run before work when it’s still dark, this has meant a long sentence of treadmill running.

This morning, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I got onto the treadmill and decided on a hill training workout. Just fifteen minutes in, though, I’d had enough and I had to stop. It wasn’t that I was tired (I wasn’t). It wasn’t that my legs were sore (they weren’t). I was just out-and-out fed up with running on the treadmill.

Despite cutting my run short – something that did not sit well with my consciousness – I managed to make a decent workout out of the whole thing. I headed over to the weights section and pumped iron for a while.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It has been months since I did a decent weights workout, and this morning convinced me that I should reinstate it in my regular routine. I liked feeling the burn in my muscles, that sensation that allows you to visualize the cells in your muscles knitting together and getting stronger.

Regular weight training will make me a better runner.

It won’t hurt when I want to look pretty on my wedding day, either!

From Cold Meds To Running Shoes

1 Feb

For the last week or so I’ve had a cold.  It snuck up on me with no warning, last Tuesday afternoon.  On Tuesday morning I went to the gym and ran on the treadmill.  I had a great run – very fast (for me), averaging 4:57 minutes per kilometre.  I felt fine while I was running, my heart rate was not elevated, and I felt great when I was done.  I went off to work and had a good morning.  While I was on the subway coming home, I suddenly got that feeling of pressure in my face that usually heralds a cold.  By the time I went to bed that night, I had cold sweats and felt absolutely awful.

Since then the cold has ebbed and flowed.  Right now, it is flowing.  My throat hurts, my head is throbbing, my nose is running, and my eyes are oozing.  I look – well, let’s just say that I don’t look my best right now.

As always when I get sick, I have been fretting about my inability to run.  I have been thinking about the races I am registered for and wondering how I will train for them if I’m sitting here with a snotty nose.  The truth, of course, is that this is only a cold, and it will be gone a matter of days from now.  I will no doubt be doing short runs again by the weekend, and by next weekend I will in all likelihood be well enough to go for a longer run with my running club.

Despite the fact that I always turn into a pathetic crybaby when I have a cold, my attitude has made a more positive shift this morning.  Yes, I’m still fed up with the cold, but I’m feeling excited about running again.  It’s a positive kind of excitement.  It’s not the kind of excitement that says, “Go out and run no matter what, even if you feel like crap.” It’s the kind of excitement that says, “Rest and get better, and then you’ll be able to really enjoy yourself when you’re back on the road.”

So that’s what I’m doing.  I’m resting, drinking orange juice, taking vitamins and supplements.

My anticipation to get the running shoes back on is a great incentive for me to get better.

The Parent Who Disappointed

31 Jan

This weekend I had the dubious distinction of being The Parent Who Disappoints.  It’s not a nice feeling, I tell ya.  In fact, it’s downright awful.  I feel like someone’s reached down into my throat and twisted my heart around when I see my five-year-old son standing in front of me with fat tears rolling down his cheeks because of something I’ve done.  Or in this case, failed to do.

James was supposed to go to a birthday party on Saturday afternoon.  The party was being held for a little girl who goes to school and daycare with him.  She is a really, really lovely child with equally lovely parents.  James was excited about going to the party, but the catch was that I would have had to stay at the party with him. He’s not ready to be left without either of his parents at an unfamiliar house (and frankly, I’m not ready for it either).

It’s not that I mind staying at these parties.  In fact, I kind of enjoy sitting there chatting with the other parents while our kids run around and play.

On Saturday, though, I was sick. I was streaming with a cold, using up Kleenexes at the speed of sound, inhaling cough drops like they were Smarties, and feeling as if my head was about to explode.  And by Saturday afternoon I had started developing pink-eye, and my eyes were oozing in a very unsavoury manner.

Would you have wanted me hanging out in a house full of moms and kids in that condition? Would you have even wanted me driving in that condition, with my eyes pretty much sealed shut with gunk?

Gerard was not able to go, because he had an appointment with a client at work.

Gerard’s mom, the only other possible candidate, was at a funeral.

It fell to me, in my sick, dreary state, to break the news to James that I would not be able to take him to the party. James was not angry, and he did not throw a tantrum.  He just started weeping in a very, very sad way.

Now, in addition to being as sick as a dog, I felt like a piece of crap parent. I felt so sad for my little guy that I started to weep myself.

Just in case you were wondering: crying when you have pink-eye is not a good idea.

I apologized over and over to James.  I explained to him the dual problems of putting everyone at risk of illness and not actually being fit to drive.  Later, he assured me that he understood and that he didn’t hate me.  But still.  I felt horrible for disappointing my baby.

I asked him what I could do to make it up to him, and he said he’d like a birthday party of his own.  This works for me – I have plans to throw him a party anyway – but his answer has prompted me to step it up a notch, to make a supreme effort to provide him with a special day. He wants to have his party at an indoor playground, and he wants a Lightning McQueen cake.  I’ll provide him with a Lightning McQueen cake if I have to go all the way to Radiator Springs to get it.

James misses out on a lot. It must be tough for him, being the brother of a child with autism, and the son of a Mom who gets sick at just the wrong time.

The least I can do is give him a day that he can call his own, where he will be the centre of attention.