January 30, 2017

Following up on my post from a couple of days ago…..

This morning I went to see my physiotherapist, who is awesome. Except when he tells me what I don’t want to hear.

No running.

What the hell? I thought you understood me? I thought we were on the same page? I thought we were friends? How am I supposed to deal with that?

Find an alternative form of cardio. Try swimming.

Now I know he’s lost it. It’s like he doesn’t even know me.

The diagnosis is bursitis in my right hip joint. Painful, but not untreatable and way better than osteoarthritis. Rest, treatment, ice and specific exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the hip.

Piece of cake.

Now can we revisit the whole “no running” thing.

The Best Thing in Life is accepting an expert opinion even if it doesn’t make you happy. A lesson we could all learn.

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January 26, 2017

At the age of fifty two I by no means believe that I am invincible. I was, however, a bit shocked when I headed out for my regular run today and had to stop one mile in because I was in excruciating pain.

Never in my thirty years of running have I limped home from a run.

After my run two days ago my right hip started to give me some trouble. By trouble I mean stiffness, pain and general acheiness. Nothing I couldn’t handle. Nothing I hadn’t felt before. The next day was better and I thought I was in the clear.

How then, could today have gone so wrong?

Could it be that thirty years of pounding the pavement have finally caught up with me? No, I tell myself, that just can’t be true. I’ll stretch, roll on it, I’ll rest….I’ll hope.

The Best Thing in Life is hope…..because right now that’s all I got.

Two Crazy Ladies on a Mountain

rainy trail

What makes people run in the woods?  In the rain and wind.  Up and down the side of two mountains?  A screw loose perhaps.  Maybe.  But for my running partner and I it was what we chose to do last Saturday.  I documented the first half of the run in A Rainy Day Run on Monday.  I’ve also looked at what makes ultra trail runners tick in Run Lisa Run.

I guess the other question is, why am I writing about it?  Partly because it was fun and partly because I wanted to remember the experience.  Because I won’t be doing it again.  Ever.

When I signed off on Monday we had reached the ski lodge at Cypress Bowl after climbing to the top of Eagle Bluffs.  We stopped just long enough under the ski lift base to scarf down a Lara bar and chug some water.  We assumed we would need to find a port-a-potty or just pop a squat in the forest but as we started out again we realized that the lodge was just around the corner and open.  Hallelujah!  I have to admit the warm fire, grilled burgers and cold beer sign were tempting but it was time to use the facilities then get back on the trail.

The course description I had printed out said that from here on it was pretty much 7.5 miles of downhill.  Ya.  Not so much.  We got back into the forest and spent the next hour dodging mud holes and slippery roots all while going uphill.  Okay, so it was a gradual incline, but at this point up was still up.

At one point we heard the thumping of a wild grouse.  It’s an eerie sound that, if you didn’t know what it was, would be kind of scary.  Wildlife is everywhere.  We would find out later in the day that a cougar had been sighted on the same trail a few hours before we passed by.

Just when we thought we may have taken a wrong turn, we heard what we thought was singing.  Or maybe somebody camping?  We came to a trail junction and came upon a group of about twenty Asian hikers.  Covered head to toe in gortex rain gear, carrying hiking poles and at least half of them had……umbrellas?  Keep in mind that we were half way up Hollyburn Mountain by this point.  As we said excuse me, on your right, on your left and thank you over and over while passing them, we giggled a bit to ourselves.  We then realized that they were probably giggling at us too.  Two crazy women in runners, tight and t-shirts running in the rain and wind on the side of a mountain.

The trail opened up now and the rain and wind was relentless and cold.  We stopped briefly to pull on toques.  If my hands hadn’t been so cold I would have taken my camera out and taken a picture of us but that was not going to happen.

From that point it really was all down hill.  For the next hour we headed down.  And down.  And down.  While it was a nice change from the uphill it didn’t come without its torture.  After a while my quad muscles starts to cramp up pretty good.  Even though it was easier and faster to run this section we had to be careful.  We had been warned about “the chute”.  A steep rough section with intermittent drop offs.  Turned out to be a bit anti-climactic.  We kept waiting for it only to realize we had already done it.

trail in the trees

Back into the woods briefly and we ran into a guy coming up the trail.  We had a quick conversation with him about his Hoka runners and asked if we were on track to come out on Craigmohr Road.  He had no idea what we were talking about.  I’m sure he would eventually run into the Asian hiking group and would have a good laugh about the crazy ladies running on the mountain.

We eventually reached out destination.  A bit off course but close enough.

The Best Thing in Life is that as we stood there in the rain we both said “that was so fun”. Yup.  Two crazy ladies on the Mountain.

Running. Cheaper Than Therapy.

runners

I can’t remember when I started running. I think I was in my late twenties. Some other ladies I worked with downtown were running at lunch time and I thought it might be fun. Wasn’t everything fun in your twenties?

My first run was, of course, pathetic. I wore heavy tennis shoes, as that was all I had, and made it about a mile before thinking I might throw up. “This is a lot harder than it looks” I thought. I had, of course, had images of myself bounding along the seawall going for miles and miles without a care in the world. Returning to the office glowing from the experience. Refreshed and ready to do it again the next day. Not so much.

Oh right, and the next day I couldn’t move. Or walk downstairs for a week.

My first “race” was the Vancouver Sun Run. This was back in the 1993 when only about 18,000 people ran it instead of the 60,000 that do it now. I had never done a race and had no idea what to expect. I had to pee every 5 minutes for the two hours before the race. What’s that all about anyway? Nerves? Anxiety that I may have to go during the race so just to make sure my bladder is completely empty? Needless to say I did not win or set any records. I did finish it though. And I didn’t have to pee once.

I find running cathartic. There are times when I just put my head down and watch the pavement pass under my feet. It’s my time to think. And not think. So many times I have had something on my mind and running has resolved it. Or I’ve had nothing on my mind and running has brought me inspiration. This blog has relied heavily on my running schedule.

There have been times when I have hated running. Wondered why I ever started. It’s hard, there’s no denying that. And sometime your head just isn’t in it. I’ve gone through times when I have gone running (begrudgingly) and cursed every step of the way. “This sucks” being the very least profane of them. I have been known to scream “just shoot me now” as I push up a hill. But if I leave it too long between runs my husband gives me that look. That “go for a run before you rip somebody’s head off” look.

So why do I do it? Running can be a lot of different things to different people. It can be painful, invigorating, boring, sadistic……the list go on. Some hate it, some love it and some tolerate it. I personally have a few reasons.

I love to eat good food…..and wine
I tend to get to far into my own head
It’s cheap (after your pay for the $200 runners twice a year)
I can do it anywhere

What will I do when I can no longer run? It has happened a few times for short periods of time. A few weeks. But I’ve known there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. A time out there when I will get to run again and I’ve found reassurance in that. But to never ever run again? That’s a scary thought for me and my family.

I still don’t consider myself a “runner”. I’ve always thought that runners were people who trained and actually come close to placing in the top ten of races. People who wear those cute little shorts and use glide to avoid chafing. Chafing? Pretty sure I’m not going fast enough to chafe anything. Why can’t I be a runner. I run. Don’t I? So that makes me a runner right? I should go for a run and think about this some more.

The Best Thing in Life is that I can, just like that, go for a run.

Run Lisa Run

ultra running 3

More and more I am finding that road running is hurting my aging body. The repetitive pounding on pavement is tough on my muscles and, despite some fabulous new runners, my hips and knees are often crying by the end of a 10km run. So I’ve been turning to trail running lately and I have really been enjoying it. Why am I surprised? I think it has something to do with my dislike of running up steep hills. A couple of weeks ago a friend and I ran a 20km trail run with about 1200 ft of elevation gain. It felt great and I patted myself on the back many times. Could I run that again? Could I run that five times over? Not likely. My friend Lisa can and does. She runs ultra marathons.

An ultra marathon race is defined as anything longer than a 26.2 mile marathon. The most common distance are 50km and 100km but people do 50 and 100 mile races as well. The races that Lisa participates in are trail ultra marathons. Run on paths and trails in the mountains. Factors to consider are elevation, inclement weather and, I would imagine, wildlife. You may even start or finish in the dark (or both) depending on the time of year and your speed. Trail running is a different beast altogether from road running. Your pace is way slower (and you just need to accept that) and with roots, rock and creeks to get over you need to pay attention to where you are putting your feet. And it’s dirty. Muddy dirt usually. Or hot and dusty. Sounds like fun. Right?

Ultra Running 1

I would think it takes a certain type of person to run an ultra race. In general, ultra runners are a well-educated group of people. Focused, organized and definitely type A. And yes, in my eyes, just a little bit crazy. So much of this type of running is mental. Lisa was having a particularly hard time on a recent race and was almost ready to drop out. Her running partner asked her if she was okay. She said yes. “Then get your head out of your ass”. She did just that and finished the race. The community that supports these runners is also incredibly genuine and inclusive. One of the men that Lisa often competes with finished this particular race two hours ahead of her. Yet, there he was as she crossed the finish line cheering her on and congratulating her on a great race.

So when she runs a 100km Lisa is out on the trail for approximately 15-16 hours. I was curious to find out how she fueled for one of these adventures. She said that the races typically provide aid stations that supply, among other things, electrolyte drinks, cola and potato chips. What? These are elite athletes and they are scarfing down junk food every 15km. Yup. Think about it. What are you losing when you sweat that much? Salt and lots of it. And the cola? Well a little sugar and caffeine never hurts, but it can also provide a welcome change from water and electrolyte drinks. Lisa carries Vega gels, stinger waffles and Cliff packs but readily admits to not always eating enough during a race. Sometimes she doesn’t feel she needs it, sometimes her stomach is upset and sometimes she just forgets. I was tempted to ask the inevitable question of how do you relieve yourself, but really, does anybody need to now that?

But really what I did need to know from Lisa was this. You have a full-time job, a husband and young daughter and you spend roughly twelve hours a week running plus cross training sessions. Where do you find the time? I feel that perhaps this is the downside of what she does. She admits that the lifestyle is not always conducive to a balanced relationship with her husband and daughter. They support her and are incredibly proud of her accomplishments, but something has to give when you are spending that amount of time dedicated to a hobby. If you are going to do this you need to do it 100% or it just isn’t worth doing. Also, her social life revolves around running. “If you’re not into running and craft beer there’s a pretty good chance that we won’t be friends.” She does have a dog. Spencer. But apparently he is the worst trail dog ever. Why? “He’s so slow”.

Lisa has run twenty three 50km races.  Last Spring she ran the Miwok 100 and next month she will run the Zion 100. She tries to pick races that are held in places that would be cool to visit and that have activities for the whole family. For her, trail running is about adventure and exploration by foot.  While I am super proud of my 20km trail running achievement, The Best Thing in Life is having something to work toward. Oh who am I kidding. Never. Going. To. Happen.

ultra skeleton

The Best Things in Life

The Best Things in Life can be small and insignificant or they can be monumental and life altering. They also happen every day to everyone on the planet. The problem is that we don’t always recognize them.

This month, November 2014, I hope to change the way I look at The Best Things in Life. This month, each day, I will recognize some small (or monumental) thing in my life by posting a picture, link or quote on my Twitter account. Follow me at @seymourmommy to see what The Best Things in Life are for the month of November.

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

parkinsons shirt

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about my mom’s battle with Parkinson’s. I ended the post with a promise to myself to get more involved. Last Sunday I took my first step towards that goal and participated in the Parkinson’s Superwalk 10km run. The event included a 2km, 7km and 10km routes in Stanley Park. I chose the 10km run, signed up and paid my registration fee. There wasn’t a lot of info on the web site so I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t know how big it would be or, well anything. Early Sunday morning I drove to Ceperely Park and looked for the registration area. My first impression was that everybody was very friendly and welcoming. It wasn’t a huge group but lots of families and groups supporting friends. The group registration line up was twice the length of the individual line up. I think this says a lot about the event. People weren’t just here to do a run and get a t-shirt without knowing what it was really about. People were here to support a specific individual and were happy to be doing it.

parkinsons siwash rock

The run itself was stunning. A gorgeous sunny Fall day in Vancouver never disappoints for runners. It was hot though, especially the first half around the east side of the seawall. The Coho festival was in full swing over at Ambleside and the annual pet fundraiser Paws for a Cause was rocking at Lumberman’s Arch. Inspiring to see so many great causes being supported. I did feel a bit envious though as Paws for a Cause provided their participants (by that I mean dogs) way more water breaks than my run. Seriously considered scooping up that water bowl for some much needed refreshment. I ran for a short time with another lady who was also running for her mom. It was nice to know that somebody else was thinking the same way I was. She mentioned that she had, at first, thought she would just do the 7km but pushed herself to do the 10km. “It puts what they endure every day into perspective”.

parkinsons seawall

I don’t typically run with my phone but I knew that I would want to document this experienced as the views would be outstanding. As you can see they didn’t disappoint. Aside from enjoying the scenery, the run gave me some time alone to think about how I can continue to support Parkinson’s over the next year. I know for sure that I will do the run next year but this time will register earlier and do some fundraising on my own. At the start of the race I ran into a lady who I have met before in my area. She works for the BC Parkinson’s Society and I plan on contacting her to talk about volunteer opportunities during the next few month. This run was just dipping my toe into the waters of the Parkinson’s society.

There has been a lot of publicity and hype over the ALS ice bucket challenge this summer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great way to spread awareness and raise money for a great cause. However, when my son did it and then challenged me I told him I wouldn’t do it. “What? Why?” He couldn’t believe I would be so lame. (His words, not mine.) The reason I didn’t want to do it was simple. I have chosen my charity and want to be able to support it. We are not lacking in money at this point in time but there have been times in the past when giving to charity just wasn’t an option. I made a decision at that time to be selective in my donation dollars. There are so many amazing causes to give to. Cancer research, AIDS, MS, ALS and the list goes on. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to support them all? Perhaps we could redirect some professional sports players salaries to cover what we can’t?  The Best Thing in Life would be to have enough money to support everybody who needs it but for now the Parkinson’s Society of BC has my full support.

parkinsons finish

33 Hours in a Van

ragnar start

It’s 7:30 am and twelve moms are arriving in two vans at Peace Arch State Park in Blaine, Washington. The plan is to race with 500 other teams on a 200 mile course from Blaine to Whidbey Island, Washington. Each team member will run three legs over the course of about 33 hours. Some legs are easy and some are hard. Some will be run in the heat of the day and others in the dead of night. We are all excited and nervous at the same time. Am I ready? Can I do this? Too late now. The announcer is calling our team. We line up to see our first runner go. Five, four, three, two, one…..race!

Lisa starts us off with a 10 km leg while van two heads back to the hotel. They won’t start running until 1:45 this afternoon. They may get a bit more sleep but I don’t imagine waiting around for five hours does anything for the nerves. At least we, van one, are off and running; literally. The temperature isn’t bad for the first two or three legs but by the time I run at 11:40am the sun is full on and it’s hot in Ferndale. As I start my 10 km run through the small town, I can’t see any other runners and no vans have passed me for a while. I start to panic and my heart rate goes up. What if I missed my turn. I don’t see any signs. Crap. Finally a van passes me with writing all over the windows. Okay, I’m going the right way. Head down keep running. Where the hell is that “one mile to go” sign? Once I’m done there’s one more runner and we are done our first legs. Time to eat and rest.

ragnar 1

After a much needed meal at the Train Wreck pub in Burlington (how appropriate) we get out our sleeping bags and find some shade at the high school designated for our exchange with the other van. All over the schools lawn teams are sleeping, fueling or just chilling. Team spirit is alive and well in these events. Some go all out with costumes and themes. We see two team members dressed as sumo wrestlers preparing to meet their runner. The “butt girls” as we have named them, are all running with plastics bare butts around their waists. These runs are hard enough as it is, why make it harder? Another team is dressed as the cast of Star Wars. Storm Trooper and all. We are Team Reruns Eh. We proudly represent Canada in our red and white maple leaf t-shirts with some embellishments provided by Sharon. We can easily identifiy Emily by her sparkly tutu. We wonder how van 2 is doing? It’s hot and they have some serious elevation to run.

At about 6:30pm our second legs start. It will be dark soon so we all make sure we have our night gear. Reflective vest, butt flasher and head lamp. My second leg starts at about 9:30pm. It’s pitch black as I ran up the hill and around the corner in a light rain. I hear bull frogs croaking in the ditches and imagine some backwoods crazy jumping out and pulling me into the woods. It weird what goes through your head when you’re running alone in the dark. All the runners I had seen during the previous leg have suddenly disappeared. Did I smell that bad? Slowly they start coming up behind me. One at a time they pass me. Good job. Good job. They each say as they motor past me. I was probably at about 13km and I needed to walk for a bit and stretch my calves. A guy comes up behind me and says “Don’t stop.” Under my breath I say “Asshole.” Two seconds later another guy passes me and says “You’re doing great. Keep it up”. As he catches up to the asshole who has just passed me he chastises him for being negative. My faith in runners is re-established.

So we are done with our second legs and it’s time to get some rest. We drive to Oak Harbour and find some space in the gym to lay out our sleeping bags. It’s 1:15am. Within minutes we were all asleep. Okay, maybe not everybody as Donna made the unfortunate choice to lay down beside somebody who snored; loudly. In what seemed like about 10 minutes it’s time to get up. it’s 4:30 am.  At this point the only thing keeping us going is the fact that we know this will be our last leg. When this one is done we were finished. It’s cool and threatening to rain. The last runner for van 2 is coming in. They have had a brutal night. Three of their head lamps died, Leanna had to give another team her flashlight as their headlamp died too and didn’t have a back up and Rosa tripped and gashed her knee. They are still smiling though.

ragnar 2

At this point you can tell that runners are tired. Stiff legs and lack of sleep is catching up with everybody. My final 8km leg is along a beautiful shady road with views of the water. I could have just stopped and headed down to the beach. No, really I could have, that’s how tired I was. Somehow, though, we all manage to cut a few minutes off our projected times and arrive in Coupeville ahead of schedule. Chris, van 2’s first runner, is fueled with a good breakfast and ready to go. They have gotten some rest and are also looking forward to their last legs. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you have accomplished so much in really, a very short time. As Jen said on Saturday night when it was all over, it’s a leap of faith to get into a van with 5 women who you may or may not even know and push yourself to do things you probably have never done.

At about 3:45 pm as we all run across the finish line together I think to myself, The Best Thing in Life is spending 33 hours in a van, finishing a race with 11 other crazy women and having memories and friendships that will last forever. It is a leap of faith that I will most likely take again…..but not for a couple of years.

ragnar 3

Marathon Decisions

running man

I’m thinking about running a marathon next Fall. Actually I’ve been “thinking” about running a marathon for a long time now. My go to excuse has always been that I wouldn’t have the time to train between work and kids activities and hubby’s travel schedule. So having recently quit my job, I seem to be all out of excuses. I’m a bit preoccupied right now with deciding if I will in fact do this or not. I’m turning fifty this year and it seems like a good milestone to work towards and check off my list. Right?  So why is so hard for me to commit?

The marathon I wanted to run was in San Francisco in October. It was the Nike women’s marathon that had an amazing (albeit hilly) course with spectacular views winding through the city and past the Golden Gate Bridge. I envisioned myself running; no bounding, through the streets of San Francisco as the fog parted and the sun shone down on me leaping across the finish line with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. How’s that for incentive. Not to mention the hunky firemen handing out Tiffany necklaces at the finish line. I am writing this in the past tense because Nike, in their infinite wisdom, has chosen not to offer the full marathon in October of 2014. I have to say I was a bit deflated when I heard this. “Now what?” I thought.

I’ve been a regular runner since I was in my late twenties. I’m not a great runner. I think if I had to sum up my running style it would be consistent. I’ve never run any faster than a 10 minute mile, even after weeks of training. But on any given day I can go out and run a solid 4-6 miles (with hills) and feel pretty good. I’ve been fortunate in that I haven’t had any major injuries. Stiff sore muscles and a couple of bulging discs (not caused by running) have occasionally sidelined me for short periods, but for the most part, I have been lucky. There’s this guy who runs quite regularly in my area. I would love to run like him. He makes it look so effortless and natural. Like a gazelle. I’m more like a small pony.

What does it take to run a marathon ? What is the motivation ? What is holding me back from committing? Could it be the monumental effort it would take to push my body to run 26.2 miles? I have run a half marathon before and have been told that the rule of thumb is, if you can do that, then you can do a full marathon. Who makes these rules anyway?  I’ve read all the training advice. Printed out the training program. They totally make it seem doable. Actually, the reality is that it is doable. It won’t be fast or pretty but it is doable. On my run this morning I thought “I feel really good. If I just follow the program I will be fine.” The voice inside my head when I am running is very different from the voice inside my head during the rest of the day and way different from the voice in my head at 7:00 in the morning.

I guess what it comes down to is deciding if I want to push my body to do it at this point in my life? It’s only 18 weeks of training and then if I never want to run again I would be okay. I think. Why is this so hard? Why do I do this when I have to make a decision? I did it when I was deciding whether or not to quit my job. Back and forth, back and forth. I nearly drove my husband crazy one weekend changing my mind every half an hour. I know that when I finally do make a decision it will be the right one and that I will see it through.

I thought that writing about this dilemma might aid in my decision making process. Not so much. It’s interesting to me that I started this post thinking about running a marathon but in actual fact what is bothering me is the fact that I find it so hard to make a decision and commit.  The Best Thing in Life would be for somebody to just register me and tell me that I’m doing it.  But what would I learn from that?