Tag Archives: hills

2011 Running Season Is Off And Running

2 Apr

From left: Dave, Penny, me, Kim

It’s official! My 2011 racing season is underway! I kicked it off today with Harry’s Spring Run-Off – an 8km run in the hills of High Park. It’s a gorgeous run, really. You’d be hard-pressed to beat it for scenicness (yes, that is a word – doesn’t matter that I just made it up thirty seconds ago), but oh dear Lord, it’s hard. Especially if you’ve just emerged from a winter lean of runs, and it’s been mere days since you recovered from a bad cold.

What made this race different to most others that I have taken part in is that I ran with some fellow members of my running club, Kim and Penny, along with Penny’s boyfriend David, who is not technically a member of the club but is part of the furniture enough for us to regard him as such.

We all started together, but we separated fairly early in the race. Although I really enjoyed the fact that my running friends were there with me, I felt a need to run the actual race by myself. Running with someone else, I would have felt obligated to match their pace. Having just recovered from a cold, and in view of the fact that I need to do some work to regain form and speed, I wanted to run my own race, following a pacing strategy that would make sense to me.

I ran fairly easy for the first three kilometres, aided by a long downhill stretch. The downhill was followed fairly quickly by an uphill, which was not long as the downhill had been, but the gradient was steeper. After getting to the top of the hill, I was utterly spent – and I still had 5km to go.

Cripes, how was I going to do this?

Sheer grit and determination, same way I’ve completed many other races I’ve struggled in. I took it fairly easy for the next kilometre, and then I reached the magical halfway mark, which is a psychological wonder in any race. From this point forward, every step I took meant that the distance remaining was that much shorter than the distance elapsed. For the next 3km, the hills were rolling (up and down) but manageable.

Then…

1km to go…

The first half of the last kilometre started well enough, but then, with a mere 500 metres left, there was another hill to tackle. A nasty, NASTY one. You know the long downhill stretch I mentioned at the beginning of the race? It was the same hill. Only instead of going down, I had to go up. After having run for 7.5km. It was not pretty.

I made it up the hill (Determination? Stupidity? Act of God?), and as I reached the top I was about to stop and take a breather when I saw the finish line around the corner, maybe fifty metres away. Those fifty metres felt like about fifty miles, and when I crossed the finish line, I was never more grateful to be able to stop running.

I received my medal with gratitude, went to the food station and inhaled a banana, and went to a predetermined meeting spot to meet up with the others.

We finished the race with varying times, and happily made our way out of the park with our medals hanging around our necks – our badges of honour that proved to the world that we had earned the right to have aching legs and look like crap.

Was this race my best one? Not by a long shot. With a time of almost 57 minutes, my average pace was slower than it had been in over a year.

But I FINISHED, damnit! It was a hard race and I finished it!

And that, my friends, is good enough for me.

 

There Will Be Hills

1 Apr

My running has been very much on again/off again throughout this winter, and it’s been causing me some degree of stress. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to run, and I have still laced up the running shoes when I’ve been able to. It’s that life has just gotten in the way lately. We have had an interesting run of illnesses in my family over the last several weeks – hopefully the cold that I have had over the last week will represent the last of the winter ailments.

Add to that the fact that it’s been winter, and the weather has been – well, crappy. Toronto had a very cold winter, resulting in thick sheets of solid ice on the sidewalks that I have wanted to avoid. There’s no point in going running when there’s a good chance of breaking a leg. So much of the running I have done has been on the treadmill. Not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. The thing is that I can only stomach the treadmill for so long. So I have done very few distance runs lately.

Brecause of this cold, I have not done any runs at all for about a week and a half. Usually I would, since the cold has been only in my head and hasn’t affected my breathing or anything below the neck. But I have erred on the side of caution because I have a race coming up tomorrow. I would rather rest and increase my chances of being well enough to participate.

And the strategy seems to have worked. Apart from a few residual sniffles, my cold is gone, and I will be able to run the race tomorrow. I’m not expecting it to be a stellar performance. It’s 8km, which I always find to be an awkward distance. It’s just too long for me to just go hell-for-leather from start to finish, but it’s too short to justify the pacing strategies that I use for longer distances. In addition, there will be hills. Lots of hills.

But still, this is a significant race. It marks the start of my 2011 racing season, and it will kick off my training for the Toronto Women’s half-marathon at the end of May. The Toronto Women’s half-marathon is a stepping stone to my main event of the year, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half-marathon in October – my annual Run for Autism.

And that, as we all know, is the reason I run. It is my way of doing something for the autism community.

What better day to kick it all off than tomorrow: World Autism Awareness Day.

The karma of that brings a glow to my heart.

There will be hills. Every single one of them will be worth it.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bazylek/5096924747)

On The Road Again

13 Mar

I have made no secret of the fact that lately, my running has not really been up to snuff. Due to a combination of factors – illness, hospitalization of the kid, atrocious winter weather, wedding planning chaos, and the fact that I turn into a pathetic crybaby every winter – it has been hard for me to get out for my runs. For a couple of months I was going great guns on the treadmill at the gym, but I reached the saturation point with that, after which I just couldn’t stomach the thought of the treadmill.

I have fallen a little bit out of shape – not drastically so, just enough for me to be aware of my hamstrings when I’m running up hills.

That in itself does not bother me. I have been running for long enough to know that from time to time, life just gets in the way and interrupts that training program. It’s not the end of the world. Sooner or later I always get back into it, and I find that my loss of fitness and speed are negligible.

This time, though, something different happened. I started losing my enthusiasm for running, and that was absolutely alarming. To not want to run, to not need to run, is so foreign to who I am. Losing my love of running would be like losing a piece of myself, and I was determined not to let that happen.

And so, this morning – despite the time change that cost me an hour of sleep and created its usual confusion, I got up and prepared to join my running club for the Sunday run. I last ran with them about three weeks ago. Truth be told, I last ran at all about three weeks ago. I was feeling a little bit daunted at the prospect of running with people who were no doubt going to be in better shape than me.

Here’s the thing that got me going though: I actually felt excited. I was looking forward to getting out there and going for a run in the open air with friends.

There were three of us running today – all women (Where were the guys? It was such a lovely day for running.) We decided on a 10km jaunt through a park that none of us had been in since before the snow started.

Yikes. I haven’t run 10km for weeks. I have done some insanely fast 5km and 6km runs, but not 10km.

There were hills. I haven’t run hills for weeks.

As runs go, it was not my most stellar performance. I didn’t pace myself properly, and in the last 3km or so I could feel a blister starting to blossom on my right foot.

But I finished the run. My butt muscles were hurting and I was exhausted, but I finished. That completely trumped the fact that the run was a tough one.

I feel like I am back on the road, and even though I’m hurting this evening, I feel great.

Winter Trail Running

20 Feb

This morning, for the first time in weeks, I went running with my running club (it’s not my club in the sense that I own it, it’s my club in the sense that I’m a member). I have been kept away since early January by a combination of illness, kids’ hospital visits, and temperatures that would make Hell freeze over. I had been looking forward to this morning all week. I’ve missed my running buddies, and the support and companionship that comes with running in a group.

I woke up and turned on the TV to check the weather. -10 Celsius (about 14 Fahrenheit). OK, that’s cold, but it’s certainly a temperature that the runner in me can live with. According to the TV, there was a hefty wind chill, so I put on my windbreaker running pants and took along gloves, hat and lightweight running jacket that doesn’t add to warmth but is superb at blocking out the wind. I grabbed my water bottle and my post-run coffee money, and headed to the community centre.

There were three of us running today. There was Alan, a veteran marathoner who hadn’t run since November due to a nasty knee injury. There was me, who has only run intermittently for the last three months and has definitely fallen a bit out of shape. And there was Penny, who has religiously shown up for the runs every week, no matter what the weather was doing, and gone for the runs even on days when she was the only one to show up.

Alan and I both needed to take it slow as a result of being out of practice. Penny suggested a route that went along the lake and through the Rouge Valley park. It was about 7km and included a long hill – something that both Penny and I need, since we are registered for a very hilly race in early April. Alan and I agreed to the route, and off we went.

We started off well enough. The weather was perfect for running: crisp and cold, but no wind to speak of. We had a big thaw at the end of last week, so the ice on the sidewalks was almost all gone. Running along the lake, I marvelled at the scenic beauty. Not for the first time, I lamented the fact that I did not have my BlackBerry with me – I would really love to take some pictures of what I get to look at when I’m running on that trail. It is so beautiful along there that it almost makes me believe in God again.

While we were running along the lake, Alan decided to cut his run short. It was his first run after hurting his knee, and he didn’t want to push it. He took the next cutoff to the road that would take him back to the community centre, and Penny and I continued on our way.

It was lovely. The wind stayed down and the path was completely clear of ice, although we did have to dodge a couple of large trees that had blown down across the path during this weekend’s wind storm. I was running better than I had expected to. I was maintaining about 6:17 minutes per kilometre and I was feeling good.

Somewhere around the 4km mark, we left the lakeshore trail and cut into the park. And that’s where the fun really started.

Clearly the big thaw that we had on Thursday and Friday did not extend to the park. We crossed from the nice clear ice-free waterfront trail onto an uneven surface of solid ice, at least two inches thick. We gamely continued running, albeit at a slower pace, crisscrossing from one side of the path to the other in an attempt to find some traction. At one point, we had to slow all the way to a walk just to avoid landing on our asses.

We were heartened to see a lone runner bravely passing us, going the other way. At least we weren’t the only ones crazy enough to be running on a sheet of solid ice.

Finally we made it to the long, icy hill leading back up to the road. We ran up the slippery hill, with Penny several paces ahead of me. Somehow I maintained a run all the way to the top, and then the two of us paused for a moment to catch our breath. From this point it was only about a kilometre back to the community centre.

That last kilometre was all on the sidewalk. It was heavenly. Running on a clear flat surface made us appreciate just how hard our legs had had to work in order to get through 2 km of ice.

Back at the community centre, we agreed that it had been a good run. Tough, but good.

We totally deserved that post-run cup of coffee.

Tomorrow my legs and my core muscles will tell me what they think of all this.