Tag Archives: strength training

Digging down for my marathon spirit

Spirit has fifty times the strength and staying power of brawn and muscle.

Here’s the deal: I’m boarding a plane to Regina this afternoon and I’m running a marathon there on Sunday.

Here’s the catch: I’m limping.

Here’s the story:

I have been feeling fantastic: training went well, taper started a couple weeks ago, I’m feeling strong and well-prepared.

I went for a run Monday night: 10-11 km was all that was on the schedule, including a 5k pick-up at about a half-marathon pace.So I warmed up for 1.5k, ran 3k tempo and slowed it down a bit for 2 k. Then I met up with Scott (the loyal, consistent member of my Running for the Truly Terrified group) and we ran an easy 6 k from there.

Towards the end of the run I noticed my calf was a little stiff. We stretched when we finished, it went away. Then when I got home I iced my feet and had a hot shower – no stiffness. The next day I felt great – nothing hurt or was stiff.

It was rainy though, and I broke out my winter shoes and walked around all day in them. I don’t have a car, I live close to downtown, work, grocery stores, etc. so mostly I walk to where I need to go.

That night though the pain came as I lay in bed: upper calf just below the knee. Ouch. I iced it, then I heated it. The next day: same thing, but I though it’s just those pre-race nerves you get that amplify every little creak and grown in your body. I laughed it off — sort of.

I flew to Vancouver, where I walked from the Helijet terminal to our office downtown, and back at the end of the day. It was a beautiful day, I wouldn’t think to take a cab or shuttle!

Except my leg kept hurting. I started to get worried, but I thought – no problem, I have my pre-race massage booked for Thursday afternoon.

Nicola, my massage therapist, explained as she worked on it, that it’s a little sausage-like muscle right behind the knee that has stiffened up. She tells me if I heat it, and work at it myself, a couple times a day today and tomorrow, I should be OK to run.

As I walked to meet up with some friends last night it was acting up again, hours after Nicola’s magic touch. Discouraged, worried, sore, on the verge of tears, I hailed a cab home, put a warm pack on my knee and commiserated with my daughter.

What if, after all that training, that one little sausage-like muscle keeps me from finishing the race? What if I can’t even run at all? How am I supposed to run if I can’t even walk without a limp?

Well then, I wouldn’t be the first runner felled during a race because of an injury. One wise marathoner told me the true test of my mettle would come the day I had to DNF (“Did Not Finish” – it’s what they list you as if you drop out in the middle of a race). I’ve never done it, not over a number of 10k, four half marathons and one marathon – not finishing is just about the worst thing I could think of doing.

I keep going over my past week wondering what I could have done differently. Did I push the pace too much Monday night? Was it the winter shoes I broke out on Tuesday? Why couldn’t I just wear old runners in the rain and bring other shoes to work? Did I walk too much thinking it would loosen up?

Woulda coulda shoulda – what’s done is done. Even as I write this I realize all is not lost. I will follow Nicola’s instructions. I will be there at the starting line on Sunday. I will probably finish the race – but the dreaded DNF is an option if I’m completely crippled by injury on race day.

It wouldn’t be the end of the world, just another story in my running/life journey.


Queen City Marathon: how to help a runner

Queen City Marathon day is one week away – September 12! I have done all the training (including a couple of long runs when I was in Regina over the summer) and I’ve been tapering for two weeks already.

I’m excited to finally be running the full 42.2 km marathon in my *hometown. It will be great to see friends and family on the course to cheer me on – but I have a need for some extra race support. I’m hoping I gather a crew for that day:

1.     Gear/layer shedding.

  • It’s always chilly at the start of the race and I bundle up. At the start line and at the 3 – 4 km mark it would be great to have someone on hand to whom I can hand off my extra layers. Running gear gets expensive and I don’t want to lose it!
  • Likewise – if the weather turns bad – it would be nice to have someone at the 25k mark or so to hand me a dry, warm layer if needed.

2.    Water bottles/gels.

I carry my own water usually, that way I can carry my own electrolyte concoction, plus I can avoid the bottlenecks at the aid stations (I haven’t mastered the art of drinking enough liquid out of those paper cups.) I have four bottle holders on my fuel belt plus a spare set of four. If I can trade empties for full ones with someone at about the 20 km point, have them refilled, and then pick them up again at the 35 km point, that would be ever so wonderful. (Neil Balkwill Centre – 2420 Elphinstone Street is Kilometer 20 and 35 I believe.)

3. Finish Line!

  • Chocolate Milk 500 ml — I think my daughter Pocketbuddha has offered, but she will have Oliver with her, so perhaps some help for the mama of a 1-year old is in order? (PS I CANNOT EXPRESS HOW STOKED I AM THAT MY SON, MY DAUGHTER AND MY GRANDSON WILL BE AT THE FINISH LINE CHEERING ME ON!)
  • Red Breast 12-year old Irish Whisky in a flask. My son Aidan has this one taken care of I think – it has become somewhat of a tradition for me to swill some whisky after Halfs and Full Marathons, thanks to my Victoria drinking buddy Tim (@Howlabit on Twitter). By the way – if anyone has any 15-yo Red Breast – talk to me. I’m sure we can work something out 🙂
  • A warm blanket – those plastic ones they hand out to all racers are OK – but they just don’t do the trick.

4. Après-Finish

I’m getting a really big meal that day, thanks to Margaret Levett who is going to stuff me full of jug-jug, rice ‘n peas, and other Caribbean and British delicacies (including the sorrel. Mmmm the sorrel!).

Of course if people just want to come out and cheer, make me a sign that says “Go Tori” or just yell and scream when I run by, I’m up for that too. It will be a huge help. Did I mention running a marathon is freaking hard? Every little bit of encouragement helps — except don’t say “you’re almost there” until I’ve hit the 39 km mark.

The race web site (http://runqcm.com/marathon/course/maps_narratives_startfinish) has a handy “Spectator Zone” guide for spectators and includes information on the best spots from which to watch (that are easier to get to given the traffic restrictions that day).

*Swift Current, SK is technically my hometown, but I lived in Regina for most of my adult life: 18 years.


My second job

Did I simply forget how tiring it is to train for a full marathon? Or could it be the extra weekly run and two extra boot camp sessions per week that have me begging for mercy?

Take a little from column A, a lot from column B and you have the reason I wake up in an exhausted fog some mornings. This training schedule is like a second job. For instance, here’s this week’s schedule:

  • Monday: morning tempo run 10-11k; evening “recovery” run with the Running for the Truly Terrified group I started.
  • Tuesday: morning spin class at the YMCA where I’m a volunteer; evening boot camp.
  • Wednesday: evening speed workout with Frontrunners marathon clinic.
  • Thursday: evening boot camp.
  • Friday: one-hour hot yoga at noon because lord knows I need to stretch!
  • Saturday: 19k run (long slow distance: pace 6:50/k, a little over 2 hours)
  • Sunday: hike Witty’s lagoon! (I’m really looking forward to that one!)

As luck would have it, my real job is busy but not crazy-busy, and during the summer I haven’t (yet) needed to put in any overtime hours or travel too much. If that were the case though I’d have to give up something – probably a boot camp session.

As a matter of fact, come August (when my mileage starts climbing again) I will drop one of the boot camps per week, and during taper I won’t weight train at all.

The perennial question for runners is: what are you running from?

Good question. The harder answer (given the fact that marathon training is actually hard on the body) is I have no idea. I can’t think of what I’m avoiding in life by working out so much, I can’t think of anything “chasing” me that would cause me to run away.

The easy answer is: I simply love this, I love running, working out, getting strong, staying youthful, staying healthy; and I love doing it with other people, helping them achieve their fitness goals at the same time I’m achieving mine.

What other possible answer could there be?

Photo: Tori running the Royal Victoria Marathon October 2009 by Bill Broughton