You can’t pour from an empty cup

Right now I am supposed to be sitting in my cramped Kia Rio driving from Chicago to Toronto after having run the 2016 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Instead, I am sitting at the kitchen island in my Toronto condo after shoving my face with a Thanksgiving feast writing this.

This is now the second year in a row that I haven’t reached my goal of running a full marathon and to say I’m disappointed would be an understatement. Social media is currently agonizing, taunting me and reminding me where I should have been this weekend, but here I am sitting Toronto, having run a total of zero kms this weekend. While last year I didn’t make it to the marathon because I admittedly wasn’t training enough, this year my decision not to run was based off of agonizing hip pain that made even walking feel impossible after any long run. Despite the slow start to my training, I was SO determined to run this year and once the hip problems really set in I tried to ignore it and really really thought I could push through it and find that inner grit and mental strength that every marathoner talks about. I just wanted to get there and finish, even if it meant crossing the line in over 5 hours. But I couldn’t ignore the fact that my hip was so sore I couldn’t sleep after a long run, and then it started happening after shorter runs too, and then it was starting to hurt just from walking down the street. I was stretching, rolling, doing yoga and trying anything to self-rehabilitate.  Eventually, I decided to suck up my pride, look after myself and defer my entry until next year.

While the pain this year was certainly out of my hands, I do keep asking myself if trying harder earlier on would have got me there. While the pain was there all summer long, I also started noticing something else in those early summer days. My head was not in the game. I don’t know if this was from the pain or from something else. I just didn’t want to run. This wasn’t normal exercise procrastination this was a straight up I-hate-running-and-don’t-want-to-run feeling. Training was becoming a chore, and something I absolutely dreaded. If I missed a run, I ended up stressed, angry at myself, and totally let-down. I don’t know if these thoughts were a result of the pain or if the thoughts were making the pain feel worse than it actually was. While all of this was going on work was getting crazy and I still hadn’t settled into my commute and my new routine at my still-new job. A true perfectionist, it took me a long time to admit that my pain and my negative thought loops would keep me from running a decent race, or even finish the race, not the way I wanted to make my debut at this distance. After much reflection and a run where every single step hurt, I decided to defer to next year. I cried and cried and cried when I hit the defer button online. I couldn’t believe I had let myself down again. But then something happened- I felt relief. I suddenly didn’t feel as stressed.

I quickly came to the realization that the very same thing that inspired me to START running was now the cause of one of the main reasons I had to completely stop running for a bit; stress, and the perfectionism in my head I constantly try so hard to quiet. At first, I felt shameful about this. It was hard for me to tell people that I was having hip problems and that I also honestly just didn’t want to run. Being a runner, after all, had become such a large part of my identity and social life. But slowly, after a few weeks of coming home from work and literally doing nothing, I came to terms with it. My body and my mind had been trying to tell me something important, I just needed to stop and listen. I really tried to focus on myself and not on what everyone else would think of me dropping out of the marathon. I normally wouldn’t advocate for this kind of lifestyle but honesty, I was very lazy for a few weeks, I ate what I wanted and drank what I wanted and it felt great. I’m not saying that this is the best way to take care of your mental health, but I think in this situation I just felt so relieved and relaxed and let go of the impossible standards I so often set for myself. Learning that this is okay was a huge lesson for me. Of course, being the active person that I am, my body started telling me it was time to move again. Instead of lacing up my sneakers and hitting the pavement, I listened to my still sore body and focused on walking more, getting off the subway a stop early, taking breaks in the day to do some stairs, carving time in my schedule to get to a yoga class. Mainly, I didn’t stress about fitting tons of activity it. I did it when I felt like it and if I skipped a day, that was okay too. I tried some new fun recipes, I enjoyed lazy Saturday morning coffee walks with my husband and my dog, I made social plans after work with my non-running friends. I like to think this was just as healing for my mind as it was for my hip. I truly believe that we can’t be well physically if we aren’t taking care of our mental health first.

As I prowled social media this weekend and watched my favourite blogger cross the finish line in Chicago, I started finding what I had been missing again. My hip is feeling a lot better, I’ve achieved a bit more (of that impossible thing called) balance in my life, but most importantly my mind is ready. My motivation is there again, and it’s REALLY there.

Getting back into it last week with my fav running pals

 

Am I going to jump back into running 5 days/week? Absolutely not. But I am going to slowly get back into it, keeping up with my yoga and other strength classes, doing some proper physio with a professional and taking care of my head again. Hopefully I will start to rev-up the training again mid-December in preparation for some Spring races, but if my head isn’t there, I won’t force it. So much about being healthy is about finding what works and keeping it as enjoyable as possible. Of course, I want that to be running. But I want it to be running for me, for my goals, for my mental health, for my well-being, not for my perfectionism, my worries about what others will think or because I think I have to run a marathon to call myself a runner.

Thanks to all who have listened to me agonize over this and still loved me anyway, marathon finisher or not. You know who you are!

Run a marathon they said, it’ll be fun they said…

Attachment-1

With only 45 days until the Chicago marathon I thought it was about time to provide everyone with a bit of a training update!

I don’t know about any of you out there but Toronto has been BURNING UP (or at least it was when I started writing this last week), a negative factor that has kept me from training as hard as I’d like to. I will be totally open about this, but I am currently not putting in the weekly mileage I should be at this point as I prepare for the Chicago Marathon. It really is a week-by-week struggle right now. Some weeks I am ALL IN (like this one), and others (like last week) I am barely scratching the surface in my training. Not only is the heat a factor but the time it takes is really deterring me from my training as well. I know, I know, I have to make it a priority. The problem is, I have made other things a priority as well and am struggling to prioritize my running in all of this. I find this especially difficult because I have so many planned weekends away. I really find that getting in a Saturday morning long run with my club is the key to staying on track and setting myself up for success. With being away, it’s so hard to fit in a long run, and especially challenging mentally to get myself to do it solo.

Back in May, I was feeling on top of the world  regarding my running. But then things kind of got derailed. I was having knee and hip pain and started taking it easy. I was job hunting and feeling down about unemployment and also got caught up in a bunch of side work and freelance projects. Basically, I lost steam and was struggling to find it again. I barely ran at all during the month of June. I luckily found and started a new job at the beginning of July but it also threw me off. Getting back to the 9-5 grind plus a 50 minute commute has quite simply been exhausting. Because of this, I was really struggling to get up early on weekends for my long runs for a while, throw in cottage weekends and summer plans and everything was all out of whack and off track. When I miss a weekend long run it is so difficult to try and make a long run happen on a weekday after sitting in a chair from 9-5. THE STRUGGLE IS REAL. Even when I have the best of intentions all day long, by the time the work day is over I just cannot.

In general, I am finding sitting all day difficult, I forgot what an energy suck it truly is. Since I literally help people feel more energized at work and stay healthy, I really need to do a better job with practicing what I preach and get up more during the day for a little walk or stretch. I’m going to start putting reminders in my outlook calendar to make sure this happens and will post an update about it later- hopefully I can stick with it and notice a difference. I am also working in an office with no natural sunlight which is also a challenge mentally and really takes a toll on my energy levels as well.

And now, here I am. I am STILL struggling to stay on track but at least I can say I finally am getting some of my drive back and making it more of a priority. Is it possible to run a marathon after only 8 weeks of REAL training? (Please say yes!)

So how do I feel mentally with 7 weeks to go?

Motivated. At least sometimes haha. My head and heart is mostly in the right place. I am ready to conquer it although I admit it is still a little daunting and I thought I’d be more prepared at this point (does everyone feel this way before their first full?) I am also a bit stressed. Training for a marathon takes A LOT OF TIME and I have accepted I basically have to give up other plans and a “life” outside of running for the next 7 weeks. It’s really tough to prioritize this in the summer when there is so much going on- endless invites for after work drinks, weekends away at cottages and camping, weddings, gatherings, bachelorette parties, etc. After this week, I absolutely have to focus more and stop saying yes to these other things or find a way to schedule my runs around the things I can’t miss with zero excuses. Luckily, I have the local chapter of NRC to help keep me on track.

T-minus 66 days until the Chicago Marathon. It may not be obvious from this photo but I am in near panic mode. Getting back on track (pun intended) and finding my groove again sexy pace style. Slow and steady wins the race right? (Well maybe not wins but I'm thinking a super sexy pace marathon is a personal win). Shout out to @vividsole for pushing me to the point of near death but keeping me going somehow during last nights speed session! 📸: @ak.tivated . . . . . . . #NRC #niketoronto #nrctoronto #bankofamericachicagomarathon #tracktuesday #chicagomarathon #nrcchicago #chasing26point6 #chasing42km #marathontraining #whyWeSweat #4run6 #werunTO #runTO #teamsexypace #nikerunning #betterforit #torontorunning #nikewomen #getouthere

A photo posted by Ali Williams-Brun 🇨🇦 (@aliwillibrun) on

How is my body feeling?

Getting there. It’s hot and I’m still adjusting for that and playing with fueling on long runs. It took 3 hours to do 24km a few weeks ago but I’m trying to not get caught up on the time and just get the kms in. Walk breaks and water breaks are necessary in this heat and I’m trying to listen to my body. My hip is still bothering me on and off. I find the more I run the better it actually feels. However, I am really amazed at how different my legs feel after a 20km+ run. They are so restless and keep me awake after a long run. I don’t remember this happening when I was training distances under 21km. I DO know I felt this way after I actually ran my first half marathon but I don’t remember it in training. My feet are getting some interesting blisters too, nothing too uncomfortable though. Also I find I am SO HUNGRY for like 3 days after a long run and need to make more of an effort to bring healthy filling snacks to work every day. I also need to (somehow) carve time in my weekly schedule for strength training and yoga. I have been doing more yoga recently and find it immensely helpful. I also feel like I’m actually GAINING weight by focusing on running only which is something I need to figure out and hopefully gets better as I focus more on healthy snacking and get some more weight lifting in (summer beers are also probably not helping).

What I’m really into right now:

Endurance tap energy gel.  This stuff is as Canadian as it gets.  I know I am not alone in my struggle to find an energy gel that doesn’t lead to an upset stomach. I discovered it at a recent MEC race and purchased a bunch shortly after. Normally I run with huma gels and banana brownies, with minimal discomfort but I still always get some of those nasty pangs in my stomach shortly after getting a huma down. Also, the gloopy texture of the other gels out there is just so gross.  These gels on the other hand taste amazing as they are just pure maple syrup, ginger, and sea salt. They go down so easily too and are not difficult to consume in their packaging (but be careful, since they are more watery than a traditional gel, they spill easily, as I obviously learned the hard way). The best part? NO stomach discomfort. Finally a natural gel I can get behind! Wooo! Even better, they are local so I feel a bit better about myself every time I buy some knowing I am supporting some (almost) neighbours! Buy them online from their site (linked above), at BlackToe in Toronto or MEC online.

What am I doing to stay motivated?

Recently it’s been Kelly Roberts who blogs over at Run, Selfie, Repeat. I know it sounds silly that a blog written by a person I haven’t met is my biggest source of inspiration but it’s true. Kelly is seriously my spirit animal. Maybe kindred spirit sounds better? Soul sister? Who cares. I am channeling Kelly. She is BRINGING it as she is challenging herself to BQ for the first time and when I read her posts it’s like I am reading posts from a more seasoned version of myself. Kelly also struggles with how tough running can be and makes me feel better as her posts about not looking like a natural runner or having to explain her pace really ring true for me. I feel those feelings girl. Yet she is killing it and getting out there and trying her damned hardest, and bonus, she really makes me laugh along the way. Her blog is super motivational and always brings it back to why we run, not to look better, not to be the best, but to better ourselves and appreciate the lessons in the struggle and the satisfaction of making it to the finish line. She also motivated me to join the #SportsBraSquad and run without a shirt for the first time in forever which was SO empowering. I’m going to post about that later but in the meantime, read her post about it here.

Well everyone, that’s all I have for now! Hopefully my next training update will sound like this: “I’M KILLING IT! I’M GOING TO RUN THIS MARATHON SO FAST”. In the meantime, I will continue to drink maple syrup and hope for a miracle.

Happy trails!