Monday, 29 December 2014

#136 Reason to Think Aloud

2014 - My year in review

I could probably sum up the past year in a few short words, most fittingly: Not Running Sucks! But a more complete and detailed analysis is perhaps warranted. Here then, is my (mostly running-related) year in review.

The Good.

Because my life isn't 100% running, I am extremely excited to be engaged to my amazing fiance Melinda. This happened in mid-August and just a few days later, we embarked on what turned out to be an incredible trip to British Columbia and two weeks of sensational scenery, crazy-awesome amounts of craft beer and fun-filled times with friends and family. Not running is perfectly fine (sometimes) and there are plenty of other amazing things in my life that matter so much more than training and racing. This was the year I finally realized that!

That said, I do happen to enjoy running on occasion and the first half of 2014 was not too bad in that regard. I had some memorable races early in the season including small PBs at Robbie Burns 8K and the Chilly Half. My racing streak at Around the Bay 30K, my unofficial favourite event on the calender, stretched to five years and was another amazing experience even though I fell about a minute short of my goal. Then, just a short time later, the 2014 Boston Marathon would forever become a race to remember, especially given what happened the year before. Despite some reservations, I think most would agree that we were simply amazed and impressed by the overwhelming amount of support and celebration of and for the Boston community, the running community and the event itself. And although I once again fell short of my time goal (sub 2:34), I will be forever grateful to have had the opportunity to run this edition of the race and show my own support and appreciation of the event. 

My only other notable race experience of 2014 was another trip to Cape Breton in May to run the Cabot Trail Relay Race with the Black Lungs. Our team finished second overall (no surprises there) for the third straight year which is all the more impressive given the circumstances (we only had 9 runners). I ran two legs including the infamous Leg 4 (Cape Smokey) and was very pleased with my performance (second place) given an unstable and unpredictable hip flexor, which would pretty much be destroyed by the end of my second leg and signal my ultimate downfall.

The Bad.

I ran much less than I wanted to this year and I didn't come close to meeting most of my racing goals, which a year ago seemed very reasonable and attainable. I also end the year in a very precarious position. After a satisfying result at the Tannenbaum 10K (my first race in 5+ months) in early December, I was again afflicted with more hip and groin issues/pain which has put a stop to all running for the last few weeks of 2014. With no way of knowing whether I am indeed any better off than I was before, I begin 2015 with little confidence in my fitness or even my ability to run strong and healthy again in the short and long term. Having also taken steps to get healthy and work on my weaknesses, yet seeing little to no improvement, I now lack the motivation to want to train and race again. Needless to say, an uphill battles awaits.
The Ugly.

For the first time in almost three years, I finally took my turn on the injury-go-round when a suspected stress fracture to my pelvis forced me to miss two full months of running. This unfortunately took place during prime fall training time and after missing all of August and September and only slowing building back in October, I was in no shape to run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and no where near where I had hoped to be in attempting to run a sub 2:30 marathon. And despite taking time off and coming back in a smart and sensible way, I am still in no place to run and train at my best and left wondering where to go from here.

The Awesome.

Running has provided me the tremendous opportunity to become a better person and to live the life I want for myself and to share it with others. It has afforded me many incredible and memorable experiences and made me so many treasured friends and connections along the way. It is certainly an important part of my life, but again, is only one part of it. I have much to look forward to in 2015 and many amazing people with whom to share it. As we tend to do this time of year, a new year brings the opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments and successes of the past, while considering and implementing the changes we want to make for ourselves, for others and for our world in the present and for the future. With the importance of persistence, perseverance and patience on my mind more so than ever, I leave you with some simple but powerful words of wisdom: If you can, when you can, how you can, just keep running (i.e. moving forward)! 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

#135 Killing the Blues

"Leaves were falling, just like embers. In colors red and gold, they set us on fire. Burning just like a moonbeam in our eyes."

I'm not exactly sure what it is about December... The limited daylight and cold, dreary days? The upcoming holidays with busy schedules and consumerism? The arbitrary but ever-present pressures of a new year with all its hopes, dreams and aspirations? Whatever it is, I always find that December, for me, brings on a kind of year-end depression and heightened anxiety about what's to come.

Many  even those very close to me  will be surprised to hear that I have struggled  and still do – with mental health issues. Depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsiveness and disordered eating. And while I have dealt successfully with most of these and am often able to control any relapses, I do still occasionally succumb to life's many and mounting stresses and fall back into deep and dark spaces.

"Now I am guilty of something, I hope you never do. Because there is nothing, Sadder than losing yourself in love."

Running to me has always been as much about maintaining positive mental health as it has about chasing fast times and PBs. Running was, has and is one of few 'aspects' of my life where I feel I have complete and constant control. No matter what life throws at me, a run will seemingly makes things better (if only for the time I am away). Running is the rock that provides a foundation and allows me to safely and confidently be me. It provides me with a valued and important identity, belonging to a group and working and contributing to both individual and shared goals and outcomes. It provides me with purpose. 

"Now you asked me, just to leave you, To go out on my own. And get what I need to. You want me to find what I've already had."

Now, as I continue to struggle with an ongoing injury/issue and am prevented from training and performing at my best, I am in what seems a highly uncertain and unsafe place. I am lacking motivation that has always been there and failing to enjoy an activity I usually love. And while I continue to run for my own sanity, I know I may be preventing myself from healing and getting back to the place where I can train and improve again.

If there is one, the point I am hoping to make is that running and training, to me, is not as simple as "run or don't run". It's not always easy to stop, especially when you don't have too. 

Just as good habits are sometimes hard to make, bad ones are hard to break... so what happens when what you're doing is a bit of both? We are told to "listen to the body" and "know your limits"... but what of what our heart and our head says? What do we do when the two are at odds?

"Somebody said they saw me, swinging the world by the tail. Bouncing over a white cloud, killing the blues."

Friday, 5 December 2014

#134 Big Parade

Hey everybody. Long time huh!

2014 is now coming to a close but so too must my half-of-the-year hibernation. So here I am: I'm alive, I'm well (almost/kinda) and most importantly, I'm running and writing again!

Looking back on the past few months, it's been tough. After struggling with escalating pain for more than a month, I called it quits at the end of July and took two months completely off running. Then, after way too much time on a stationary bike, I was ready and rearing to return to the roads. I came back in early October, slowly and sensibly, and have been running ever since. Unfortunately I am still not 100 per cent and periodically plagued by an ongoing hip/groin issue — a literal pain in the ass — that has hampered my comeback and limited (almost entirely) any quality/speed training.

My motivation also took a massive blow and "the drive, the spark, the desire" to keep training simply ceased to exist. I even began to wonder — and still sometimes do — whether I'll ever get back to the fit, fast and fun-loving runner that I was...

Luckily and at no better a time, I have found new inspiration and all the motivation a marathoner needs to get back at it and give everything I've got.

And what I have is a goal! 

#TORW2015 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend: The largest, loudest and one of the greatest running events in the entire country. Not only is the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon a fantastic and FAST course through the heart of our nation's beautiful capital, but it is also one of the best organized, supported and executed events around, meaning I'll have nothing to worry about other than training my legs to run fast for 42.2K. The Ottawa 10K is also the only IAAF gold-label event in the country, as well as the Canadian 10K Championship, which means it will attract a fast field of top athletes. Needless to say, #TORW2015 is set to be a stellar event.

Better still, I have been given the honour and privilege of being a part of 'Team Awesome', a group of highly motivated and social media savvy — at least we think we are — individuals who will share all things running, training and racing as we plan and prepare for the big day. Our aim is to inform and to inspire. To share our own 'wisdom' and experiences as well as connect with others who are also working and training for their own #TORW2015 goals and outcomes.

#TORW2015 takes place on May 23-24, 2015 which means we have plenty of time — and hopefully tolerable/runnable winter weather — to train and prepare. 

Right now, I'm committed to getting 100 per cent healthy again which means strengthening my core and hips and ridding myself of this annoying issue. Luckily I can continue to do what I love and build a base of mostly easy, manageable mileage until I'm ready and able to increase the volume and intensity. As always, I also have my incredible club/crew, Black Lungs Toronto, to push and pull me through the training and perhaps/occasionally have some fun while doing so.

Thanks as always for following along and taking an interest in my journey. I am so excited to share my knowledge, my experience and my passion for something so simple — Left foot, right foot, repeat — yet so incredibly challenging and rewarding.