Back to Running

Last time I ran was January 30th. The following morning I woke up, hopped out of bed and was greeted by some bad foot pain.

A visit to my physiotherapist Adriana at Athlete’s Care on Monday confirmed that I’d annoyed the fascia on the bottom of my foot…the dreaded plantar fasciitis.

I'm a Pepsi fan, but these little plastic Coke bottles filled with water and frozen solid are pretty perfect for rolling your feet.
I’m a Pepsi fan, but these little plastic Coke bottles filled with water and frozen solid are pretty perfect for rolling your feet.

The good news? It was relatively mild. The bad news? No running for a bit. The first few days were easy since running was the last thing I wanted to do on a foot that was angry about just participating in any activity.

Slowly, but surely

But by Wednesday, things were starting to look up. On my second visit to physio on Friday, things had improved quite a bit. Still no running, but at least I was walking normally and thinking about getting back into the training plan.

Sunday I felt like I could have run 5km and been fine. But with another physio session scheduled for Tuesday (today), I held off and took the extra rest.

Today things feel pretty good. The deep massage across the bottom of my foot that was tough to take last week was fine today. Adriana said, “go ahead and run” today, suggesting it would probably flare up a bit, but that it should be manageable going forward with regualr icing, stretching, and rolling of the bottom of my foot.

Back at it

Tomorrow afternoon will be the real test when I lace up my shoes and run the 6km from the house over to Ginny’s work to get the kids. Here’s hoping that things go fine and I don’t find myself hopping on a new streetcar down along Queen’s Quay.

If all goes according to plan, I should be back on track in a week or two. While I missed a pair of long Sunday runs, the good news is that they were 10km and 13km respectively. Considering I’ve been running 16km regularly on Sundays, it’s not a big loss.

That said, things do get serious pretty quickly from here, so I’ll be hyper-focused on making sure I’m stretching, rolling and icing both feet now throughout the week.

Fingers crossed.

An Early Setback

I haven’t run since Saturday thanks to a sore right foot. The diagnosis is a bit of plantar fasciitis and the treatment plan is rest, ice, deep massage, acupuncture and some ultrasound.

What, me worry?

Here I am in week two of my marathon training and I’m already side-lined. This is the first time I’ve had an injury that’s taken me completely out of the game. Am I worried? Yes. Not being able to run is pretty problematic when the goal is to be able to run a fast 42.2km at the end of May.

But it’s no time to panic. There’s lots of time to get back into the swing of things. I was already a week or two ahead of the game and missing a few runs at this early stage is just a minor setback and easily overcome.

The goal now is to get the foot better, then to ease back into the program and get back on track.

I’ll hit the physio again tomorrow for some massage, acupuncture, ultrasound and advice. I’m fortunate to have a therapist I trust who also understands that runners want to run.

Each day it’s getting a bit better, but the one thing that I don’t want to do now is to rush back and re-injure or irritate things.

Knowing When to Downgrade or Drop Out

Training is hard work, and sometimes life or injury gets in the way and you are faced with a difficult decision of whether to downgrade to a shorter race distance or even drop out entirely.

Deciding to switch to a shorter race (or no race at all) isn’t always easy. Sometimes you’ll find yourself on the fence between toughing it out and running an event you know you probably aren’t quite ready for, or switching down to something shorter and then dealing with the regret of not having reached your goal.

Here’s a few tips to make the decision a bit easier:

  • If you are injured, it isn’t worth it to run: There will always be other races, but if you run through an injury you run the real risk of doing more serious or even permanent damage that could mean the race you run will be your last. If an injury is affecting your training to the point where you are falling so far behind that you don’t think you can run the distance, then you need to listen to your body and either downgrade to gain some healing time, or drop out entirely.
  • Take a look at your training log: I sure hope you have a log of all your training, because it never lies. If you find yourself questioning how you’ll get runs done every Sunday, you should look no further than your training logs to see what’s going on. Be honest with yourself and compare your log to the training schedule. If you’ve missed more runs than you’ve done, or came up way short on your long Sunday runs, then it’s time to admit you probably shouldn’t be running the race.
  • Do a commitment check: Ask yourself, “How badly do you want this?” If you don’t have an immediate answer, then deep down inside, you’ve already made the decision. Distance running is a serious commitment. Maybe you bit off more than you could chew, or maybe your priorities shifted. If you aren’t fully committed to the race, you can’t succeed.
  • Consult your buddies: Ask the people you run with what they think. They’ll often know where you are in your training better than you might and if you tell them to be honest, you’ll often get the answer you need. Draw on their experiences as well. It’s likely that some of them have faced similar decisions in the past.

It happens

Downgrading or dropping out happens. Look at the numbers of people who sign up for races every year and then don’t show up on race day. Distance running, especially the marathon, is hard. It’s 18 weeks (or more) of full commitment and it involves all facets of your life.

Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself when the time comes to make the decision. Sometimes having the weight lifted off you mind will help you rediscover running for the love of it.

If you do decide to continue on your training journey, take the opportunity to fully recommit to the training and hold yourself accountable to that decision. Good luck!

Nike Thinks Running is Combat

Apparently Nike thinks running is a battle sport.

Just look at this sampling of tweets coming from their @RunNikeWomen Twitter account this weekend:

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It’s not just these ones either. Have a look – almost every tweet they send involves an aggressive word like dominate, crush, destroy or annihilate.

Running is not something to be defeated

In the world of Nike Running, the goal is to attack a run and annihilate it. Apparently the beautiful act of running, something humans were born to do, is not something to be savoured, or enjoyed. Nope. For Nike, running is nothing short of a war between the runner and the run.

You see the same language in their apps and services as well. When you complete a run with the Nike+ app or watch, you don’t just finish it, you “crush” it.

I run to enjoy, not destroy

I don’t understand why Nike insists on making running a battle sport, but it’s one of the many reasons I don’t run Nike events, or use Nike services like Nike+.

I’m happier to use and support companies like The Running Room, Saucony, and Garmin who celebrate the joys of running and who don’t turn something as beautifully simple as running into a war.

Why the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend Rocks

What is it that makes the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend so special?

That’s what Running Room founder John Stanton asked me as we chatted over the PA at the finish line after I ran the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon on Sunday.

Rideau Canal LocksI told him that what made it special for me was the level of participation. You have over 49,000 people running in the various events that make up the two day Race Weekend.

Add another couple hundred thousand or more who come out to cheer and watch the runners and it seems like the entire city is involved in the event.

Other cities in Canada have big marathons that draw as many runners as Ottawa does for its race. But no other city gets involved in its races like Ottawa.

The spectators

You see it at 7:00 A.M. as you run up Elgin towards the War Memorial. Both sides of the course are lined with people cheering you on. At 7:45 A.M. as I ran through Hintonburg, the streets were filled with residents of the neighbourhood who came out to see the race and cheer the runners on.

There were people at the end of their driveways with hoses misting runners at 36km. I got frozen freezies from two different families who were handing them out by the dozens from cooler bags along the route.

Then there’s the finish. What can I say? There is no better last 2km than Ottawa in any race I’ve ever run. As I told John Stanton, I knew I just needed to get to 40km and make that turn over Pretoria and then the energy of the crowd would carry me home.

The volunteers

Don’t forget the volunteers! Every single water station was filled with excited, helpful volunteers who provided water, gatorade, gels, bananas, oranges and encouragement. Every person I encountered at the Health and Fitness Expo greeted me with a smile and wished me a good race. I felt like a rockstar after the race heading down the chute to collect my medal.

SpectatorsSome of them worked long hours so we could race. Many were up earlier than I was on Sunday morning to setup water stations. Many of those same volunteers were still out on the course working well after I had finished.

Local businesses

Restaurants were in on the act with marathon special pasta plates on Saturday evening, and our hotel (Hotel Indigo) provided towels, water bottles and a special breakfast box for runners. Starbucks added staff and opened at 5:30 A.M. to serve up breakfast to runners and fans.

After the race the staff at the restaurant where we ate asked us about our race and congratulated us on our accomplishments. You could tell they genuinely meant it.

Even VIA Rail, which got us from Toronto to Ottawa and back for the weekend, got involved sending out tweets to participants.

The City of Ottawa

Apart from the races and running, Ottawa is also a beautiful city to visit. After the races, we walked along the Rideau Canal, checked out the locks and strolled past the Parliament Buildings.

There’s no shortage of things to do around the city between areas like Byward Market, and the various museums and attractions like the Museum of History, and the National Gallery.

To sum it up, Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend is the biggest and best running weekend in Canada (and maybe anywhere), in one of the nicest cities you’ll ever visit, with the best spectators and volunteers you’ll ever encounter.

Mark your calendars — the 2016 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend takes place May 28-29, 2016.

Thanks to Pierre Lachaîne for the race photo above.

Obsessing About Marathon Day Weather

In the week or two leading up to race day, weather watching becomes every runner’s new hobby. Seems every minute spent not running is spent obsessing over the forecast.

The weather for Ottawa Race Weekend is looking pretty good right now. In fact, if I could, I’d “lock it in” right now. That said, even when a runner knows exactly what the weather will be like, they often imagine it to be worse than reality. Light rain becomes a monsoon, some wind becomes a gale, warm temps become a furnace.

Ottawa? More like Hottawa!

My big concern for Ottawa is always heat. We don’t call it the Hottawa Marathon in my running club for nothing. So far it’s looking pretty decent on the temperature front with a forecast high of 21ºC. Of course that doesn’t stop me from imagining that forecast to be worse than it is.

What I imagine the temperature graph will be like:
HOT
What I wish the temperature graph would be like:
PERFECT
What the temperature graph will probably be like:
REALITY

Advice from the Medical Director

Whatever the weather ends up being, make sure you adjust your running to fit the forecast. Dr. Jon Hooper, Medical Director for the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend has some great advice for you to ensure you have a safe, successful run.

Good luck, and stay safe!

Dreaming of Boston

This morning at work I put the live feed of the Boston Marathon on my second monitor and undertook the mindless task of checking every single price in our pricing system at work for accuracy.

On my main monitor, amongst the roughly 10,000 prices I checked, I found quite a few incorrectly priced SKUs. On the second monitor, amongst the tens of thousands of runners on course, I found an incredible amount of personal inspiration.

Boston calling

I’ve never really felt all that drawn to the Boston Marathon, mostly because I’m not nearly fast enough to qualify to run it. The last thing I’ve wanted to do over the last five years of running marathons is to get obsessed over a specific, unreasonable time and feel disappointed if I didn’t attain it.

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I visited Boston in the fall of 2010 and ran across the finish line just a few months after my first marathon in Ottawa in May, 2010.

But this year was different for some reason. I watched the race from start to finish and then kept watching the finish line live stream and tracking map as my friends and fellow runners finished their races.

I found myself thinking about what running Boston would be like. I felt drawn to it.

Reality check

My personal best for the marathon is 3:48:30 which I ran last year at the 2014 BMO Vancouver Marathon. Currently, I’d need to run a 3:15:00 marathon to qualify to race Boston next spring. In reality, I’d probably need to run a few minutes faster than that to account for the fact that there have been more qualifiers than spots in the race the last few years.

Knocking more than 30 minutes off my time at the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon in May just doesn’t seem possible right now so I’ve put it out of my mind. But I’m turning 44 in a couple of weeks and it turns out that the qualifying times for men aged 45-49 is 3:25:00 — a ten minute difference.

Looking forward

In the back of my mind I think a 3:40:00 is probably possible for me, maybe even this year in Ottawa. Add the additional ten minutes I get next year for getting one year older, and I feel like I could be within striking distance of that magical 3:25 qualifying time in 2016 or 2017.

I confess that for the first time Boston has a bit of a grip on me today. Nothing in running is ever a sure thing, but I think that over the next few years I might be able to commit to the significant training required to bring my marathon time down below 3:25:00.

For the first time, I feel the way others feel about Boston. And I think I’m okay with that.