Sunday, May 30, 2010

Return from the Dead

My boss when I worked in Toronto used to say to clients that something was 'a process, not an event' to temper their expectations of an unrelealistic timeline. My return from the grips of the grim reaper called Injury has had its ups and downs over the past few weeks, and I'm seeing that it is a process, not a matter of having one decent run and - presto - being back to where I was.

It does seem now that the ups are getting higher, and the downs are fewer and farther between.

After last week's big down of not getting very far into a race attempt, I actually ended up having a great week. My first tempo run in nine months was on tuesday night during the heat wave, and it went quite well, considering. Then some barefoot runs on our property trail, which I always love. And finally, today we capped off the week with my best long run in ages and ages and ages at Frontenac.

It was a beautiful loop, including a cut-across trail that we rarely use (Bufflehead), which was gorgeous. Early on we saw a sweet Canada goose family very close up. Two adults and five little fuzzy ones just about ready to start getting their feathers. I felt good running, really at one with the trail, and finally felt that some long-run fitness was returning. When we finished at 3:08, I was happy to be done, but still felt really great. It was nice that the humidity had dropped and we were mostly in the shade of trees and clouds the entire run.

The most amazing thing was sitting in the car on the way home, when I realized that my left hip area wasn't seizing into a painful throbbing knot of spasms. I just sat there peacefully and it blew me away.

So with a little more patience and some good training through the summer, I think I'll look at the Haliburton 50k again as a goal race. If I feel ready for something before then, then maybe Finger Lakes 25k, but I really need to feel confident before I race again. Today was a good step in that direction.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Run for Tomorrow Trail Marathon and 10K

What do you do when a trail marathon is held just around the corner from your house? Well, even though I’m coming off a long injury and had no business thinking I could run a marathon, I went to run it anyway.

The event is called the Run for Tomorrow Trail Marathon and 10K, and is put on by Malcolm Anderson in Yarker, Ontario. He has carved out a 2.1 km loop that weaves through fields and woods on his property. All day I kept thinking of Field of Dreams and ‘If you build it, they will come’. Malcolm, who has a similar zeal for marathons that Ray Kinsella had for baseball, did indeed build a very pretty trail, and a nice little crowd came out in the first year to test themselves on it.

A small group of us lined up at 9am for the start of the marathon. There was even a couple from England to make us an international field! Malcolm sent us off, and it felt good to finally be running. We completed a partial loop, and then started the countdown of 19 more to go.

I started off easily, and kept in mind that the stars would really have to line up for me to make it to the finish even at a very comfortable pace. The repeated short loops made it convenient to hit the aid station at convenient intervals, and each loop held the anticipation of heading back into the beautiful dark woods where the trail passed downhill by a pond and then up two hills to keep your muscles working in different ways for variety.

Out in the open I was slowly starting to cook under the now blazing sun, and wondering how much longer I’d want to keep going. I'm not my best as a heat runner, and certainly not in May when the last long run I did I was wearing a hat and tights. Then I saw Karen and Julianne Murphy, which was a nice surprise and gave me a lift. I asked them if they were running the 10K which was to start soon, and Karen said she was kicking herself for not bringing shoes. So I tossed my extra Skylites at her to much laughter and applause from the gathering group of 10K runners, and she ended up running a great race.

As for me, those stars didn’t line up, but I managed some decent heat training before pulling the plug for the day. I was happy to get in a few hours, and also that my hamstring held up well and my hips felt pretty good too. Definite progress. I'm in a place now where I can start full-on training and am very excited about that.

Derrick and I stuck around for some lunch and to chat with other runners, and thought about coming back later for the live music that was to take the outdoor stage later. As it turned out we were too tired, but we live so nearby that we could actually hear a few strands of music later when the wind blew just right. We smiled that we weren't missing out after all.

It was a very fun day! Many thanks to Malcolm for hosting a great event!

I received a nice shower from a tent before the race - I really could have used this a bit later!

Aid station being set up.

Race Director Malcolm busy on race day.

A 10K runner rounding the loop and looking strong.

Cute and extremely obedient spectators, the Murphy Dawgs.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Recipe File: Lentil Shepherd's Pie

Potato Layer
3 large potatoes
3 large sweet potatoes

Lentil Layer
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can lentils
1 can diced tomatoes, or 4 fresh medium tomatoes chopped
½ cup salsa
2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
½ tsp hot sauce
¾ cup dry breadcrumbs
½ cup TVP (texturized vegetable protein) chunks or slices
1 can corn
1 red pepper, chopped
Spices: cayenne, cumin, thyme, salt, pepper, whatever you like, to taste

Preheat oven to 375F.

Cube and boil potatoes until soft and then mash. (Optionally add whatever you normally use in your mashed potatoes, but the sweet potatoes make it creamy and tasty as is.) Set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Cook onions and garlic until tender. Stir in rest of ingredients and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Transfer mixture to a large casserole dish.

Smooth the mashed potatoes over top. Sprinkle with paprika, ground flax seed, sunflower seeds, or other topping of your choice.

Bake 40 minutes.

Lentil mixture:

Potato toppings, flax and sunflower seeds:

Dig in!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I'll have what she's having...

Nature Girl had her redemption run last week, and I set off for my long run on Sunday needing one as well. After my stomach woes last week, the goal was to get this one in without dying. Turns out I was sick with a stomach bug for most of last week, so that explains why last week's run went south so badly. I had a very light week of running as a result, so I went in to this one well tapered.

Derrick and I did a loop of Big Salmon and Little Clear Lakes at Frontenac Park, where the first hour was extremely technical. That tired me out and made my hips sore, but once we rounded Big Salmon into the northern part of the park the surface started to get smoother and I felt much better. We ended up doing exactly three hours, which was a big milestone for me. It was cold out so I was wearing lightweight tights, a jacket and a buff around my ears. Very different than last week's hot long run!

Last night I followed up with an hour trail run with some good climbs, trying to blow some more rust off from the winter of injury. Today I have nicely sore (as in not in an injured way) leg muscles. That feels good!

Derrick mentioned Fred the Breadmaker in his latest blog, but Fred isn't the only new addition to our household. We also picked up Viren, our new manual lawnmower from Finland. He is a Fiskars Momentum and works surprisingly well. We spent a bit more on a good quality design and we're glad we did. Living out of town we drive a lot, but we decided we could stop using the gas lawnmower at least. We're leaving wider borders around the edges of the lawn and encouraging wildflowers to grow. I think it is going to look great, and suits us nicely.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Finding My Lost Self on the Trail

You have to be very needy for a long run to enjoy even a good bonk.

Yesterday we headed to Frontenac Park, in all it's single-track glory. Derrick was running with Taylor and I opted for a smaller loop than them, but still one that would take me on a tour of the northern loops (North Big Salmon, Hemlock, Gibson, Little Clear). My hamstring has been feeling really good, improving significantly since Karen and I have been doing hill workouts the past three weeks. I was so excited to hit the trails feeling in such a good place.

Everything felt perfect on this run for the first 90-100 minutes. Even though it was hot, there was a bit of a breeze and I felt amazing, just flowing along the trails happy as anything, and grateful to be there. The green of the woods was back, with trilliums everywhere, and lakes brimming with life. I felt the rejuvination of spring mirrored in my own recovery. The rolling hills that I sometimes struggle on felt almost easy just because I was so happy. And really, not yet being in peak shape for going long feels a whole lot better than the 'scraping the bottom of the barrel' I felt last year. If I had kept it to a 2-hour loop, all would have been 100% perfect. But I was on a 2.5 hour loop, which was a bit more than I could handle given that it was an increase of a half hour for me, it was hot, I hadn't eaten much, and I only brought one water bottle to wash down my gels with. Not being long-run fit right now, my margin of error isn't wide enough to get away with all of that so I paid the price.

It was kind of interesting how spectacularly I bonked. I've had some very bad long runs before, but never, ever, ever have I not even been able to shuffle back, however slowly. This time my stomach was so upset and I was so zonkered I actually sat down at one point. It was heaven to sit down, and I was hoping my stomach would calm down. I had to get back though, but couldn't manage to run for more than 5 minutes at a time before having to walk. Hills were out of the question, I had nothing left. I felt so BAD physically, but still I was so HAPPY. There was no hint of despair, it all just felt good, even in it's awfulness. The amazing first part of the run more than made up for the challenge at the end, it was so incredible to be back on the flowing trails.

I've been in bliss ever since, even if a bit queasy still. I feel like I have come home. When Derrick and Taylor passed me, Derrick gave me some more water and even met me near the end again, both of which helped. But besides that I was grateful to have the run to myself, I really needed it for me. A few weeks ago my Naturopath asked me if I had anything besides running that helped me deal with stress, and sure, dealing with stress is one thing, but nothing fills up my soul like a long run through the forest. Through nature and on trails that are soft dirt from only ever being covered by footsteps. It's undeniably my church, my meds, my cleansing; it taps me in like nothing else. I knew how much I'd missed it, but I didn't appreciate how deeply that went until yesterday.

I know what my Naturopath was getting at: running relies on the body, and is therefore a vulnerable connection to rely on. Injuries, sickness, accidents can take it away in a flash. Still, what choice do I have but to accept that. In "Body, Mind, Spirit" the body comes first, it is of of equal importance. But all the Vogue magazines have it wrong; the beauty is in the function. To me the Body is the vehicle through the Mind and ultimately to the Spirit, and to have use of it is a true gift.