Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Injuries, training, and cyclocross fun (with photos)

I have a new appreciation for people with injuries, mostly because I now have some too. Mine are pretty minor and will heal quickly, but they’re still really frustrating, interfering with my important half-marathon training at a time when I can’t afford to be taking it this easy. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be sidelined for months at a time, but I know that it happens. All I can say is, I’m sorry you have to go through it. I can barely handle a week or two.

The backstory: 4 weeks ago I went for a long run (about 15 kms) and ended up with a problem with my 4th toe. I run on the outside of my left foot, something that is made worse by stability shoes that I have always been told I need (I pronate a lot with my right foot). Stability shoes did improve my knees years ago, so I generally wear them. But apparently the higher mileage means they cause other problems, namely, a bad blood blister on the outside of my toe. So the following week I switched to a neutral shoe (the ones I race shorter tris in) for my long run, this time, a little over 17 kms and my longest run ever to that point. That led to a massive blister on my 3rd toe, again, on the left foot. A week later when I upped my mileage to just over 20 km I wore my stability shoes again and ended up with an even worse blister on my 3rd toe, and feeling like the toe was pretty badly bruised. Not sure why. My stability shoes are not too small, nor are the toe boxes narrow. I have very narrow heals, and so my feet move a lot in shoes, even using lace tricks (which do help a lot). So my toes often take a pounding, which is exacerbated on downhills, but it was a pretty flat course, at least compared to what I’m used to running. It’s less bad if I run naturally, i.e., on the outside of my foot, but apparently, I wasn’t doing that, although I wasn’t consciously trying not to. I know, you’re thinking ‘blisters, that’s not an injury’, and you’re right. But that’s just the beginning. I was so exhausted after my trip that I took a small tumble down a few stairs on my second night back home. Mostly I was fine, but I somehow did a number on my big toe of my left foot during the fall. It was bruised and battered. I was actually worried I had broken it, but it wasn’t swollen enough for that.

The next morning I couldn’t get my shoes on and had to wear flip-flops despite the pouring rain. Students around campus were looking at me like I was crazy (as in, just another kookie professor), which wasn’t fun. But I didn’t have much of a choice. Walking was painful enough - there was no way I could run, so my planned speed workouts didn’t happen last week. But I did ride my bike to/from work a few times, so I got in a bit of exercise. And a fall, with more injuries. It was stupid, a slow-speed tip over. I only have one panier and it’s heavy. I am still getting used to the cleats and shoes on my commuter bike (which I love, it’s a Norco Indie Alfine with electronic shifting!, but it has mountain bike style cleats, not SPDs like my road bike). I was trying to get my right foot out and shifted my weight too much to the left for having the panier on, and boom, over I went. I was just starting out from a stop sign, and had to stop as a car came hurtling as it crested a hill on the cross street with the right of way. Luckily, the cars were all going slowly, so damage was minimal. It could have been a lot worse. Lots of people stopped to make sure I was OK as I got up. At that point it was mostly my pride that was hurt. But I did a number on my left hand and couldn’t use it the rest of the ride home (which was another 20 minutes) and skinned my elbow.

The next morning my hand was a little better, as in, I could move my thumb, but it was really really bruised. I also had an emerging deep bruise on my left hip and another on my shoulder that took a few days to really show themselves. But I thought that my big toe was better, and so on Friday morning despite the bruises from the fall, I joined in my son’s school walkathon, about a 5 km round trip in the rain. Turns out that wasn’t such a bright idea. I thought I might be able to run again this past weekend, but the walk has delayed that for a bit longer, my toe was really hurting the next morning. But on the bright side, I probably did less damage to it on the walk than I would have done had I gone out for a run. And I didn’t have time for a run this weekend anyway. Saturday I spent running around to various family activities, including my husband’s first cyclocross race. He’s been inspired by my tri racing, and was looking for something he might want to compete in. He didn’t finish due to a pulled muscle part way through, but it totally hooked. I love that he has found his own activity, although I really want to try it too. It looks really fun. And my son took part in the kids race which was so much fun to watch. It was extra special because my Dad, who is very active but lives quite far away, was visiting and so got to see one of his grandkids in action.

We’ll be back out at the next race in 3 weeks as long as the pulled muscle has healed. And I am really hoping that my toe hurries up and gets better. I have a half marathon to do in 2 weeks! Sunday I spent trying to rest, as it’s clear that I am fighting my first cold of the fall. I’m pretty sure the cold is winning unfortunately. I really don’t need to have that on top of it all. But as I said, these are all really short term things, and I have a new-found appreciation for people battling longer term injuries who don’t give up. Kudos to you!

Saturday, September 20, 2014


My first ever runfie, along the beautiful Bow River.

I have been trying to maintain my training for my half marathon through the first few weeks of term, my son starting kindergarten, and this trip to be with my mom for her surgery. I have managed to up my mileage and get in a few tempo runs and hill runs. I was up to just over 17 km last weekend,  enough that I could finish the race, but not enough that I was mentally convinced I could finish the race if that makes any sense. So I really wanted to do one last long run that was closer to 21 km, but fitting that in was going to be hard. This week I have been sitting in a hospital chair all night long, grabbing sleep while I can, helping my mom out when she needs it and mostly just being there for her. So I'm pretty wrecked in the day time. I grab a few hours of nap when I can, but don't want to get totally turned around because next week I have to go back to my regular schedule, which includes teaching on Monday morning. So I had planned to grab a short run on Thursday and a long run on Saturday. My short run ended up being a little over 10 km. I went pretty slow. It wasn't so much that my body needed the mileage, but my mind did. So I ran as long as I needed to. Then today I managed to get out for a run that was just over 20 km. I ran along the Bow River from near the hospital where my mom is to past the zoo and back. It was too easy. Partly because it was flat, at least compared to what I'm used to, and partly because my mind welcomed the respite. My body feels really beat up. I have a date booked with our roller when I get home tomorrow night that's for sure. But now I can do a shorter long run next weekend, and concentrate on tempo runs between now and the race. I know I can finish feeling OK. If only I knew the same for my mom.

A rough day.

September 17 was a tough day. My mom had a 14 hour surgery to remove as much of a brain tumor as possible. It had been scheduled for 6-12 hours, but went even longer. Apparently the anesthetic started to wear off part way through – it had gone much longer than the surgeon had anticipated. I only found that out several days later. I had to teach that day, and was on pins and needles all day as I waited for news, but just kept getting texts that said “not done yet”. I had managed to sort things out so that I could go be with her the following day without cancelling any classes, but teaching on the 17th was hard. I was very glad I was giving a very familiar lecture, albeit with adjustments, as my ability to spend time prepping while still awaiting news about my mom’s surgery late that night was pretty much non-existent. So I gave as good a lecture as possible under the circumstances, spent a few hours sorting out a few last minute things for my other class that someone was covering for me, and went to the airport.

As I waited to board, my brother texted me to see what time I was arriving and when I would be at the hospital. I was on a 5 pm flight, which after luggage retrieval and getting the rental car, meant I had intended to just head to where I was staying while in Calgary, not heading to the hospital until the next morning. But he and my mother’s husband needed some relief, so it was decided that I would head in for a night shift. I was not ready for this. I was mentally prepared to see her the next day, not that night. My tears welled up. I had been holding in so much worry and emotion, trying to not upset my son, and not cry in my classes, but it was going to need to come out. But the gangway was not the place, so I choked the tears back in and resolved to think about the fact that she made it through the surgery, not the fact that it could have gone the other way. I distracted myself with bad TV on the plane as much as possible and managed to mostly not cry the whole flight. I got off the plane, gathered my bag, got my car (its own adventure as it’s from an off airport location that seems a little shaky), and headed south to where I was staying. As I drove, I was on the verge of tears, steeling myself for my evening. I couldn’t be bothered to move off of the pre-set top 40 style radio station. About 20 minutes into my drive a song that always makes me cry and think of my mom came on the radio. It was from our playlist from the hospital when my son was born. My mom had come down to California for the birth. She arrived at the hospital at a particularly bad moment, things were going south for the first time. They stabilized us (mostly me) for a bit, but in the end, I had an emergency c-section. Only one person was allowed in the OR at a time, so my husband came in for the actual birth. We had hastily arranged for my mom to come in when he left with the baby. There was a mix up and some nurse wouldn’t let her in at the last minute. I was left alone, no baby, no husband, and no mom, and a song that had been a favorite came on over the sound system (the anesthesiologist hooked our ipod up to their sound system for the section) “Are we human or are we dancer” by the Killers, as I was awash in intense loneliness.  I didn’t know she hadn’t been allowed in, but I did know she wouldn’t have abandoned me. Now that song always makes my heart ache, although we sometimes have family dance parties to it because it is a song very much associated with my son’s birth. Anyway, it came on the radio, quite different  from the other music they were playing, and I lost it. I just cried out to my mom that I was on my way. I would be there for her. I made it to my friends’ place shortly after that, spend an hour and a bit catching up with them and making arrangements for my comings and goings, grabbed a spare throw blanket from them, and headed back north to the hospital.

I hate Calgary, or more correctly, I hate getting around Calgary. But as it turns out, the easiest route to the hospital was one that I had made us take 2.5 weeks previous while we were on an end of summer road trip to Alberta. Someone I follow on twitter had recommended a local tri-shop, and we did a slight detour to get there. It took us along the 1, which merges with a local city street for quite a while (unbeknownst to me when I requested the route change). DH was none too happy about crawling along on what should have been a highway, especially since in the end I didn’t end up buying anything at the store (they didn’t have my size in the things I liked). But a customer and the staff at the store had directed us to a great little café close by where we had stopped for lunch. Anyway, turns out the shop and the café were right near the hospital. So not only was I comfortable driving the route to the hospital, I am familiar with the local roads nearby, and knew a great little café to grab breakfast or lunch. My little unsuccessful shopping detour had prepared me perfectly for this visit to Calgary.
The night wasn’t too bad. I was glad I had my blanket as I was cold, mostly from being tired and stressed and not having eaten enough during the day. The beeping of all the monitors was unpleasant, but I thought back to something an amazing friend of mine, let’s call her Althea*, wrote. has a child who was born with a heart defect and now lives because of a heart donation. She is in the process of writing a book about her family’s emotional and psychological journey called ‘Love Lemons’. It’s amazing and you all should buy it when you can. Anyway, she has a term she invented ‘posilution’ that basically is the act of finding something positive in everything, no matter how awful it may seem at the time. She posiluted about the machines – they were keeping her baby alive. The machines hooked up to my mother weren’t necessarily doing that, but they were allowing people to monitor her, and more than once that night, alarms went off and she needed to be checked. So the machines did their job. So I channeled Althea and loved those machines.  And I loved the fact that I have a 5 year old son who has only rarely slept through the night. I have gone from being a very sound sleeper to someone who wakes up at the slightest sound, and who can deal just fine with constantly interrupted sleep. Last night, I needed to be able to respond when my mom needed some help moving, or getting her water cup, or the dish for her to be able to throw up into. And by respond I mean, wake up and jump to it. So it seems that my previous unsuccessful shopping attempt and my very poor sleeper of a child had prepared me well.

It almost seemed like fate. But when I was out for a run this afternoon I had an insight. I am not at all religious, and to me, that extends to not believing in any sort of force in the universe that is responsible for things. But then how do you explain fate. Fate is just our brains findings patterns. Out of the totality of any human being’s experiences, a subset of them will have some relationship, however tenuous, to any other situation. And the more open you are to seeing positive in even bad events and circumstances, the more likely that you will see the hand of fate at work. So I am choosing to be positive about how my past experiences made and are making this visit easier. No guiding hand at work, just a brain that sees patterns and a heart that is open to seeing things in a more positive light. But you can call it fate if you want to. Since if it hadn’t been for a series of things that lead to my developing a friendship with Althea, I wouldn’t be thinking like this at all.

*Althea is not her real name. She writes under a pen name but I’m not sure what it is, and I don’t want to use her real name to protect her family’s privacy. I chose Althea for a reason though. It’s meaning is very appropriate for her. And not just with respect to her daughter.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Changes, in life, and in plans

So as my handle implies, I'm a professor. So is my husband. So this time of year is really really crazy for us. Summers are time for recharging for us, and that time is over. Our 'free' time is pretty much non-existent as of now. (Free is in quotation marks because we don't have summers off, as many people seem to think. We just don't teach in the summers. But because of that, things are a little less insane during the summers.) This fall's even crazier. My little guy started kindergarten this past week. He's enjoying it (although he thinks he's in the wrong class - it's too easy and he's not learning anything new), which is great. But managing around his schedule is not easy. (For instance, we can't travel for work, something we need to do, without help. We've worked out our schedules so that one of us can take him to school and the other can pick him up after after-school care ends. But neither of us can do both.)

Training is going to be harder, but necessary. But I will likely not post much for the next few months.

My fall is made more complicated by the fact that, as mentioned a few posts ago, my mother has a brain tumor. She is getting surgery mid month, and I am going to be with her for a few days after her surgery. But that is complicated. I don't have the kind of job where someone can just step in and cover my classes easily. But I have managed to sort things out so I am not gone for long, and everything is covered, and importantly, by people who are very able to instruct on the particular topics on the schedule (they know as much or more than I do about it). So I feel OK about going.

It also complicates my race plans for the fall. I was supposed to be doing the Cultus Lake Triathlon again this year. But that would mean leaving DH alone with our son for the weekend, or having them both come with me. Either way, he wouldn't get any work done next weekend. And since I'll be gone the following weekend, that would mean 2 weekends of extra responsibilities for him. That's not really fair. And I was getting stressed about when I was going to get lectures prepped, admin work done, etc. (we work pretty much every weekend during the term), with two weekends being interrupted. So I made the decision not to go. Training and racing is supposed to help alleviate my stress, not cause it. And although I'm bummed that my season came to an end before I expected this year, it was the right decision and I feel good about it. I am having a hard enough time fitting in ramped up longer runs that I need to do before my half marathon in October!

Speaking of which, this week I did a 6 km tempo run on the track on Tuesday and yesterday (Sat) got in 15.7 km in the morning. That was the longest I'd run by about 3 km in about 10 months. But I finished. Next week I'll likely do the same again, and then try and go for about 17 the following weekend. Hopefully that'll be enough to get me across the finish line of the half. I was pretty knackered yesterday after the run, but feel great today, so I think I'll be OK.

Then I'd like to try some trail running I think. And DH is supposed to be trying out cyclo-cross this fall, so I look forward to being on the side-lines cheering.

A good trip

So August was a whirlwind month. We spent the last 2 weeks of the month on a big road trip. We camped for 3 nights at Kettle River Provincial campground. We love it. We've now been there 3 times and will be back. It's got big sites, spread out from each other, a playground for the kids, a river to frolic in (with some pool like spots so it's not all current), great other campers, and it's on the Trans Canada Trail. DH got in a bike ride or two, and I did two 'good' runs. I went out with the intension of running for 1.5 hours, but it was super duper hot and I only have 2 small bottles on my run belt. The trail merges with road for a bit and there the heat got overwhelming, so I decided to turn around at that point and cut my run short. It still ended up being about an hour (I'm trying to up my mileage to get ready for an upcoming half marathon.) Better cut a run short than collapse on the route (although DH knew exactly where I was going and how long I expected to be out - we're really careful about that when working out while traveling). Then a few days later the heat broke and I went out in the other direction for a tempo run. That run went really well, and I was feeling good about managing to get in workouts while traveling.

Then the weather turned nasty, as in, thunder storm nasty. By that time we had moved on, and headed towards Nelson, BC. I have some family there we try to see when we can, and we had a campsite booked nearby. Son loved seeing the Kokanee run, and we loved seeing my family, but we didn't stay in the area long - the weather was going to be awful and we were at a site with no trees, and so no way to put up tarps (we're old school - we tent). So off we went to Wasa Lake. Got there in the dusk and set up camp quickly enough to beat the rain. We managed to get packed up the next day before it really started to pour too. Unfortunately the little guy didn't get to ride in the little dirt track they have there. He would have loved it. DH is a smart man, and figured we might want a break after so many nights camping, so next we were off to a condo in Invermere. Son enjoyed the pool, DH got in a really great ride (his first 100km ride ever) and I went for a 40 min run. Wasn't out for any speed records, just wanted to move my legs, and it's a town on a hill, so it was not unchallenging. But it felt great to get out and run. I was thinking at how 2 years ago when I started moving again running for 25 minutes was super hard. And now a 40 minute run is a nice short jaunt for me. I'm not where I want to be yet, but I've come a long way. And that feels good.

From there we were off to Calgary to visit with friends and more family. DH did another ride, and I got out for a fartlek session on the path along the river in Okotoks. Then it was off to Drumheller. My son is mad for dinsosaurs, has been for years. Last time we visited the Royal Tyrell Museum he was 3 and we told him if he still liked dinosaurs in 2 years we'd go back. Well, we went back. Eating well was harder there, as we were reliant on restaurants and the selection there isn't great, to say the least. But we stayed at a nice litle B&B style inn with self-serve breakfasts, so at least we could start our days as we wanted.

Then in was back through Calgary on our way west again. I popped into Tri It Multisport. Unfortunately, they didn't have anything I wanted in my size, but I would totally shop there if I lived closer. The staff (and customer) there pointed us to a great little cafe nearby for lunch, the Extreme Bean Cafe, so it was worth stopping in.

Then we camped at Lake Louis. We won't be back. Partly it was the weather, cold and wet, and partly it was just the vibe. It was very transient, people weren't really there in the day time, so there were no kids playing or riding around together in the typical bike posse that is common in campgrounds. DH got in a wretched ride (cold cold rain hit while he was descending) and I didn't even bother. I'm reluctant to go trail running solo with the threat of bears being so high, and I am trying very very hard to avoid too much time on the pavement. Anyway, after 3 nights there we were ready for some inside time, so it was good that we were done with camping.

We spent the next 2 nights in a 'hotel' in Golden, BC. It was cold there too, but we found a few neat restaurants that were totally unexpected, and I discovered that pool running can be a good workout. The place had a pool and the little guy really wanted to hang out there for a while. So I snuck in a bit of a workout while he played. Although we'd planned a trip out to Alberta this summer anyway, the timing was dictated by a wedding, my brother's, that was the day before Labour Day at Emerald Lake. It was a lovely occasion in a spectacular setting. But given that all three of us had the first day of school 2 days after the wedding, it meant a long drive back to Vancouver the day after the wedding. So staying somewhere that cut even a little bit of time off of the drive seemed like a good thing.

Anyway, that's a very abbreviated version.