Monday, 1 April 2013

Winter Training Reflections

There is definitely a little more meaning in the knowing nod or wave from a fellow runner in the winter months. The eyes betray the discipline and determination required to maintain a training regimen in cold weather. Focused. Singular. Abrupt even. But, if you look deeper, in that split second of eye contact, there is respect, camaraderie and kinship.

With my next marathon set for late May in Ottawa, eight weeks from now, I have been reflecting a great deal on the last few months of training. I competed in the Around the Bay road race in late March (30k-Hamilton, Ontario). That race signals the end of winter and the start of spring for me.

Training through the winter in Southern Ontario, definitely has its challenges. Weather being the biggest of them. Cold temperatures are a given. It is the unpredictable mix of snow, sleet and rain that brings questions of sanity to the forefront of ones mind. But, I'm not alone. I'll cross paths with another person.

I assume they know what I know. I can see it in their eyes. The outdoors can be very majestic when not over populated by humans. Some of the best runs I have ever had were in the dead of winter. The roads and trails are nearly deserted. Many times I have come across deer on a snow covered forest path and marveled at how silently they go about their business. Other times, when the snow is fresh and the sky is grey, running on a country road can feel like entering a living charcoal sketch, where the only colours are black and white and the shades between. Then there are times when the air is cold and crisp. The ground is dry and hard. The sun is blinding, and the sky is the most amazing bright blue, a blue very different from the rest of the year. So different from spring, summer and fall that you forget all about it until the next winter sighting. I see all of this in that split second of recognition.

Rather than use the weather as a crutch or an excuse, I try to embrace it and enjoy all it has to offer. It's nice to know there are others who feel the same. There is no better feeling than standing in a hot shower, with a recovery smoothie, taking stock of that days run. The sense of accomplishment and the refocusing on work still to be done is invaluable, and is what keeps me coming back for more.

That, and the knowing glance.

Monday, 15 October 2012

First Marathon

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.”
- Walter Elliott

Ah, yes, perseverance. It truly is the key to reaching most goals. The following four ingredients were the foundation of my marathon preparation. Perseverance and patience played a part in every one of them - ultimately enabling me to complete the Toronto Waterfront Marathon - 10/14/2012;  3:35:45; 5:07/km pace.

  • Training. This is where slowly and methodically the body is turned into a km chewing machine.  As the body gets used to the regimen, it starts to crave the milage. It is very important to take it slow (thus avoiding injury) and gradually build up to the 42km. I gave myself four months to get ready.
  • Diet. All that training requires plenty of fuel. This became a bit of an obsession and played a part in my decision to stop eating meat during my first month of training. The scientific evidence and personal testimonials (special thanks to Matt Frazier, author of "No Meat Athlete") became too convincing to ignore and I feel healthier than ever! Simple inputs and outputs. The healthier the diet, the better the results.
  • Support. Whether it be family,  friends or even a physiotherapist - this journey cannot be completed alone. In order to keep family life functioning and happy while spending 10-12 hours a week training, loved ones can help maintain normalcy in the home. If assistance is offered, accept it. If not, ask for it. 
  • Headspace. Mental readiness is key on the day. While I knew I could finish, it definitely helped to break it down into smaller chunks. Standing at the start line thinking about every single one of forty-two kilometers is simply too much for the average head to wrap around! Thinking in terms of four 10.5 km stages or portions made each section a little easier to digest and complete.  

Isn't it fascinating how the human brain can totally grasp smaller leaps of faith, but crumbles when the scope of the goal/challenge is simply to much to handle all at once? Concentrating on these four areas, individually and then collectively, allowed me to become a marathoner!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Marathon - Before

Well, race weekend is upon me (Toronto Waterfront). Time to put all the training to the test. See how I measure up. Being my first marathon, I am definitely a little nervous, but also very excited. Can't wait to step over that start line and get to it!
There will be some pent up energy, I'm sure, after ramping the training down for the last few weeks. I feel it already. I find music helps a great deal to relax and get in the right frame of mind. The "zone", if you will. Trying to piece together an appropriate soundtrack for the iPod and any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Doesn't have to be crazy fast or heavy, as long as its got a good beat to it. Drums and bass are the key, for me.
I expect it will be a journey of patience and perseverance. Much like training. Much like life itself. Will reflect here post race. See you on the other side ...