Monday, October 27, 2008

#27a Pounding Pavement - Training

What an incredible experience! Training for a marathon was the hardest thing I have done in my life, both physically and mentally, but being there in Detroit, running those 42kms was truly the happiest 4:04 hours of my life. Here’s how it unfolded.

July 1st: Day one of training. I had a foundation of 15kms under my belt and had been resting my knees since the Around the Bay 30k the end of March but it was time to pick it up again. I joined a training group led by the wonderful Sherry Watts. She is an Olympic certified running coach and had a wealth of knowledge. I was by far the youngest person in the group, I think the next person was in her mid 40s, but they were all friendly and wanted to see me achieve my goals.

I trained hard through the hot summer months and was up at 6am to do my long runs on the weekend. I would do anything to beat the heat. It took a lot of running to figure out how best to keep my body strong while running over three hours. I had one training run that was 38k and my legs seized up with 10k to go. It was the most painful run I have experienced and I had a bit of a cry in the shower after while I iced my legs. And to think that in just six days I have to do a 40k. The very thought just drained me. This was going to be tough, but I was confident I had it in me to do it. Running is 75% mental. Your body can do amazing things if your mind has the confidence, determination and discipline to do it.

I did discover something beautiful while I was training. The Fanshawe Conservation Area 25k trail. I used this trail about three times during my training. It was gorgeous being out there at the crack of dawn, seeing the sun come up over the trees and watching early paddlers out on the lake. I loved being out there in God’s nature listening to sermons by Bruxy Cavey, a Relevant podcast, books and music to pass the time. Yes all of those in one run…they were long. What would I have done for four hours without my iPod? Thank you Steve Jobs!

My last long training run was a 40k, just 2k short of the full thing. It was a good run and I felt like I finally figured out the right combination of eating, drinking and pace. I finished that 40k in 4hrs and 15mins. Longer than I wanted to be, but my training had suffered as things picked up at work and I started taking an online marketing course. I just couldn’t be as consistent as I was in the summer. Instead of running four times a week I was just getting in three runs and sometimes not event that many.

Things would only get worse though. Two days after my 40k I had severe pain in my right foot. I was forced to stop running for over a week. I couldn’t even put my running shoes on because it was so painful. By the next Sunday I decided to go to the hospital and get an x-ray, I was terrified it was a stress fracture, something that would definitely put me out of running the marathon in two weeks. Thankfully it was not a fracture. The doctor said it was something to do with the soft tissue and that I needed to go easy. He even said something along the lines of me being really athletic, which was really strange to hear since I still have a hard time associating myself, the bookworm, the academic with being athletic.

So I took another five days off until I felt less pain in my foot. The marathon was in 11 days and I needed to get running again, for fear that I would have a horrible race. I did a short 3k, then a 10k two days later. My foot was feeling okay but not perfect. With lots of praying and ibuprofen I hoped to make it to the finish line in Detroit. I would finish even if I had to crawl.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

#26 Bike License

When I told people that I wanted to get my motorcycle license the general response was surprise. I guess I had never really been vocal about wanting it, but I had been thinking about it for about eight years. Probably since I dated Ian who had a bike himself which we would go out on from time to time. Chris also had a bike and the last time I was in Moncton we took it for a spin.

Back in May I started thinking about it more and one day at work we were talking about things we wanted to do and that came up. I said I was going to do it, but didn't know when. Then it struck me, why not do it now as one of my ten new things? And just like that I was 'driven' to get it. I drove all the way to the south Chapters to buy the handbook and started studying for my written test. I forced myself to read that boring book every night until I was done. Then a week or two later I wrote the test. Great, I told myself, I have my license! Problem, I don't have a bike and the license (M1) would expire in three months unless I took the M2 test.

I don't know anyone who has a bike, let alone would let me drive it to practice, so I started looking into the motorcycle courses at Fanshawe. You use their bikes and took the M2 test at the end of the course. Perfect! At the start of July I called them up but they were booked. Call back in mid August to sign up for the fall they said.

Side note, I didn't tell my mom or dad that I was doing all of this. I wanted to make sure I had my M2 and had been on a bike before I broke it to them gently. I like keeping my folks in suspense! I did tell my siblings though, Shane being the most excited because he would like to get his too someday. And they were good and didn't give me up to mom and dad. Thanks guys!

I sent a fax to Fanshawe in August half hour after the registrar's office opened on the day or sign up. However, I got a call later saying that the day I wanted (the only weekend I could take it before my license expired) was full. Apparently it takes three days to process a fax! Who knew?

So the jig was up, I told mom the next time I was home and she was quite surprised. All along she had been trying to guess what I might be up to. Are you getting a tattoo? No. Are you pregnant? MOM!?! Are you moving far away? With these questions I might consider it! She was surprised/relieved/worried and probably happy I hadn't actually bought a bike. Perhaps more happy that I didn't get into the course....little did she know that the week before the course started someone dropped out and I got in.

It was a bit of a mad scramble to get my stuff together. I needed to make sure I had the proper clothing and a helmet. I tried to find someone to borrow from, but in the end had to buy one.

On the Saturday of the course, the first day I we got to ride, I was pretty nervous. They broke us down into groups of ten and we had two instructors who were going to teach us. I got paired with a 79 year old lady who came by herself. She blew me away with her desire to learn. However, by the second day she dropped out. The bikes were too heavy and she was not getting the hang of shifting gears. I was then the only girl in our group and damn if I was going to let that intimidate me!

Of course it did kind of help that one of the instructors, a middle-age man with a mustache, had a bit of a crush on me. He would always tell me I was doing well, ignoring the guys, and even gave me a ride around the parking lot on my bike showing me how to downshift (which I was having a hard time with). It was a little awkward and he was a little creepy, but he was also always looking out for me and gave me extra help when I needed it. If he had been the final tester I probably could have skipped the test and still passed. :)

Riding the bike was really tough at first and I didn't really enjoy it on the first day. There was so much concentration involved in operating the bike. Right hand throttle and front brake, right foot back brake, left hand clutch, left foot gear shift. Four limbs all doing different things at the same time, now that takes talent! By the second half of the first day it was pouring rain but we just kept going. The last exercise of the day was a 'road ride'. All 30 students went around the parking lot which was set up like a box with a plus sign in the centre. It was two-way traffic all around and through the centre which had stop signs. It was utter chaos. Of course no one was going faster than 20kms/hour, but people were dropping bikes at the intersections and stalling out, etc. It was pretty scary! I kept on thinking that driving had to get easier and would eventually become second nature, and by the second day it started too.

The second day went so much smoother. I didn't drop my bike once (though they were really heavy!) and I figured out how to downshift smoother. We even went for a spin around the college. I passed the test at the end with an almost perfect score. It felt really good to have learned something so challenging.

I still don't have a bike, but I do have my M2 which will be good for 5 years. Depending on my living situation and my job, perhaps I will buy a bike one day. But for now, I can at least rent them if I travel or even for a weekend here. The Forest City Road Races committee I sit on has already designated me official lead motorcycle for the race and one of the committee members wants to ride with a camera on the back. Not so sure about that!

Hmmm what can I taunt my parents with next? :)