It’s early afternoon on Canada Day and I am doing nothing. I’ve been reading and staring at the internet and drinking water flavoured with blueberries and cucumbers. I’ve been thinking constantly about going for a run, because I’ve been sore every day for the last week and I don’t want it to stop, but it is hot and humid out (heat index is 35C / 95F) and a thunderstorm’s on its way. I’ve been trying to visualize the misery of the treadmill, to prepare myself for what may be inevitable. I’ll be miserable outside, too, but at least I can’t get hit by lightning. But I’ll put a bottle of Gatorade in the freezer, just in case the storm is over before it gets dark.
On Sunday I spent an hour with a teammate tossing a disc and doing drills at Bayfront Park. Afterward I sat in the shade, finishing off my bottle of warm water, thinking about how much I would regret not going for a run if I just went home like I really wanted to. So I ate an energy gel and got a refill of barely-cool water at the drinking fountain and ran a painful 6k. Painful not so much in my legs or my feet or my lungs, but painful because I was drenched with sweat, burning in the sun, and fantasizing about a bathtub full of ice. Painful because less than halfway through it rained for about a minute, a delicious bucket of cool rain for which I pulled off my hat and sunglasses and stood there with my face up to the sky, but then the clouds passed over and the sun returned and the air was more sweltering than it had been, waves of heat coming off the asphalt. What seemed like a fast pace that afternoon was a slow pace on any other day. I staggered through the rest of the run and walked home from the park.
On Saturday I ran 7k, mostly on a shaded trail but without water, and that was brutal too. On Friday I ran 2.5k home from work. On Wednesday I ran 6k after dinner at a pace that would have been easy in May and had to walk home very slowly so that I wouldn’t throw up. Between the heat, the humidity, and the pitiful 43k run in June (compared to 80k in May), I am in sad shape. My heart rate and breathing are fine, but I’ve lost a lot of mental endurance and leg strength. But it will get better.
A couple of weeks ago I was in Budapest for three days, for work, and I had a great time. I never adjusted to the time difference, which meant I never got enough sleep and spent the mornings with heavy eyelids, but it also meant that it felt good to come home. Budapest was beautiful and the weather was perfect and everything work-related went well. I haven’t travelled much for work — Rome, Singapore, Philadelphia twice, Washington DC, Boston, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Toronto many times, all over about 10 years — but being the kind of person who is ever anxious about the unfamiliar, it’s not something I get excited about, and travelling for work usually means there isn’t time for anything beyond the airport, the hotel, and the rides between them, but this trip was different. The flights were less painful than I expected, my travel papers were in perfect order, and I met many very lovely Europeans. We spent a lot of time on the hotel’s patio looking at the Danube and its bridges and the National Gallery (which we all just called “the palace”) and other beautiful buildings on the Buda side. I went for a run one afternoon across and along and back across the river, getting pleasantly lost in a busy pedestrian shopping area (certainly not intended for runners) along the way. I wanted to go for another run the next afternoon, but the hotel patio seemed more attractive in the moment. The conference area had windows everywhere looking out onto the river. I had breakfast every morning looking out on the river. In my room at night I sat on the windowsill and looked out at the river.
The promised thunderstorm has held off so far and it’s slowly getting cooler. The sun keeps appearing and disappearing. The air conditioning seems louder than it did earlier and the tree branches outside our windows are bending and swaying uneasily. Pizza dough is rising in a bowl on the table next to me. I finished my afternoon cup of coffee a few minutes ago. There will be fireworks at Bayfront Park tonight.
Went for a run in Budapest this afternoon and had to keep stopping for photos. Such a gorgeous city. (at Elisabeth Bridge)
The Danube! (at InterContinental Budapest)
Our first two-day ultimate frisbee tournament came very close to being an unbridled and unmitigated and unbelievable success, but we lost the championship (in our division, not in the whole tournament) at universe point. We play to 15 points or time and need to win by 2 points unless time is up; universe point is when you’re tied and time is up, so the next team to score wins. We made a poor handling choice, and the other team gained possession and scored.
But we won all our other games (four on Saturday and one semi-final on Sunday before the final), I think without ever falling out of the lead, although it came close a few times. It was much different than our previous tournaments, where we were mostly playing teams a lot better than us; in Toronto we were in the low intermediate division which meant we were playing teams at or below our level. The team we played in the final, especially, was a really good match for us, so it was a satisfying game for us that way, but frustrating that we let that final point happen when we had started out playing really well. We have a lot to work on, but we’ve come a long way from last year.
I wore bandages and sports tape on my feet again, and kinesiology tape on my hip in a Vonnegutesque asterisk, and they continued to prove their quality. I ate a package of oven roasted turkey slices over the weekend, which were delicious. I ran out of pretzels but really enjoyed my frozen green grapes. I broke the nail of my first finger well into the nail bed (in spite of or perhaps because of keeping my nails ultra short) but amazingly it hasn’t bothered me much. I only got a little sun on my face in the late afternoon when we were finishing up our last game on Saturday and my hat wasn’t as protective as it had been earlier in the day, but I was otherwise diligent about sunscreen. I had a pint of Steam Whistle and pulled pork & bacon poutine after the finals on Sunday before heading back home to Hamilton. I commuted with a teammate both days and never felt awkward.
After doing a lot of research, I bought football cleats last week — big bad-ass ones, mid-tops, with a strap over the ankle. I only got to wear them in one game before the tournament, so they weren’t even close to broken in. I wore them for the first two games on Saturday and played the second two in my usual soccer cleats. Transitioning between the two types of cleats was crazy — the football cleats are heavy and stiff, with huge detachable studs, and they were wearing at the backs of my heels and my ankles, but overall gave my foot a lot more support and let me move a lot more quickly, especially on hard cuts. Right after putting on the soccer cleats again, I tried to make a hard cut and felt like the shoe was about to fall apart, because it could not hold my foot in place. I adapted after a while but I was sold on the football cleats and wore them in both games on Sunday, and they’ve been great as long as I wear the sports tape correctly (i.e. not too tight). The only improvements I need now are to break them in further and to get replacement cleats that are a bit shorter than the huge 3/4” ones I have now so that I can play on the inevitable hot dry summer grass fields without murdering my spine.
Tonight I played my eighth game in four days: after the six tournament games, we had league on Monday and I subbed on a Tuesday league game tonight. I feel a lot better than I expected to. Although I am stiff and sore when walking around (especially first thing in the morning and after sitting for long periods), I still felt good when actually running around on the field, and even tonight the exhaustion I was expecting has not set in. On Monday, two of the girls defending me from the opposite team had a hard time keeping up with me and said so (I always have an advantage because of my height, but one girl chasing me said I made her feel old, although she was only 20. I didn’t tell her I’m almost 30 and played all weekend). My feet ache and my knees ache and my hips ache and my neck aches, but none of it is unlike the ache after running 12k or more, the kind that goes away in one day now instead of two or three. I almost want to find a team somewhere who needs a Wednesday night sub so I can continue this streak, but a rest day is definitely in order. Unless I feel like going for a run.
First ultimate frisbee tournament of the season last Saturday in Waterloo. Another this weekend in Toronto, Saturday and Sunday. I’ve only played a week of regular league games, in addition to a few practices before that, so my body is still adjusting to the particularities of ultimate frisbee, but my legs, my lungs, and my heart are in good shape.
My feet are something else, though. Cutting and turning has become brutally painful this year in the soccer cleats that were totally fine last year. Maybe because I’m so much faster and stronger than last year and my feet can’t keep up with the shearing forces of my awesomeness? Wouldn’t I like to think so.
My feet had barely enough skin left for running in a straight line, much less playing ultimate frisbee, so in preparation for Saturday, I applied second skin to the open blisters, another bandage on top of that, then several layers of sports tape, then an access of body glide, and finally two pairs of socks. And then recited some choice passages from scripture and sprinkled drops of extra virgin olive oil on my socks. Between most games I changed socks and applied an extra layer or two of sports tape. By the end of the day I didn’t have any new blisters and hadn’t made the existing blisters much worse, so I consider these methods a success.
I was worried about my hip as well, because although it hasn’t bothered me lately while running, during ultimate I can tell it isn’t fully back to normal. So I tried kinesiology tape, a few strips applied to my hip the night before, and although I’m not sure it actually made a difference, my hip feels a lot better than I expected it to. I stretched it a lot during the day and it mostly didn’t bother me or slow me down, at least a lot less than my feet did.
In the few tournaments I played years ago in my teens and early twenties, my rule was not to eat anything during the day — I only drank water and Gatorade. I’m smarter than that now, and with last summer’s experience I have a very specific menu: coffee with a meal replacement shake (chocolate) with extra carbs for breakfast, then between games, 2-3 more meal replacement shakes, 1-2 pre-workout energy bars (also chocolate), 2-3 bananas, a small bag of pretzels, 2-3 small boxes of orange juice, and 1-1.5L each of water and orange Gatorade. I always bring a twelve-grain bagel with me too but never actually eat it. This worked well for a one-day tournament for a sunny but not really hot day, but for two days I think I will need more protein — meat and cheese slices I think, and replace the carb-heavy shakes with protein-heavy ones. I could probably do with some grapes too. I’ve been thinking about trying some of those crazy pre-workout supplements, but I’m not sure how well that would work over an 8- or 9-hour day. All I really know is that most energy bars don’t agree with me on tournament day, and Clif bars especially I will never eat again while playing ultimate, unless I’m ready to collapse and there’s nothing else to eat.
On Saturday the weather was perfect although a little windy — not a cloud in the sky and right around room temperature. However I didn’t reapply sunscreen enough during the day and ended up with a bit of a burn on my shoulders and legs (I wore knee-high socks most of the day, to help protect from the sun and from the layouts I didn’t actually do, because I’m still scratched up from laying out on turf a week ago). I wore a hat all day which saved my face from sunburn, but only because someone stepped on my sunglasses during the first game.
The games themselves were fun. Our team is still getting to know each other so our first game was a warm-up and we only started to get it together the second game. We played our third and fourth games against the same team, an all-women’s team, who were amazing, but we beat them both times (it was their first time playing together as a team, so props to them for playing a co-ed tournament). We also played our first and fifth games against the same team, and did a little better against them the second time (I actually scored a couple of points).
Another women’s team — ranked third in Ontario, I heard — were playing a co-ed team the next field over after we finished our last game, and they were utterly phenomenal. Girls way shorter than I am, evenly matched against guys way bigger than me. What have I been doing with the last fourteen years of my life? I’ve been playing ultimate every summer since I was fifteen, and the coolest things I can do are throw a decent hammer, throw a reliable flick, catch with my left hand, play a strong wedge or cup when I have enough energy and no blisters, lay out when the stakes are high enough, and occasionally run faster than people expect me to. But my throws are not as accurate as they could be, my catches are not as reliable as I like to think they are, and my sense of positioning on offensive plays needs some work.
Some of the team went for a short cool-down jog and spent 20 minutes stretching after the game, like real athletes. I felt really good after that and didn’t start to feel exhausted until a few hours later, probably just as much from the constant sun as from the physical exertion. I took a two-hour nap before dinner, slept in about two hours later than usual the next day, and then had a two hour nap on Sunday afternoon. I’ll take all the recovery I can get before the weekend.
Today I ran 22k, which is just over half marathon distance. Running has been sporadic for the last month after I injured my right hip running 16k with a skewed heel insert and then a week later made it worse playing ultimate frisbee and doing drills for three hours in pain. I limped for two days after that practice. Deep tissue self-massage helped a bit. Two weeks ago I found a stretch that helped a lot (cross right ankle just above left knee and squat; press right knee down if there’s no pain; oh god it felt so good), but the problem didn’t go away. I fixed the heel insert but bought a new pair of shoes anyway (I’d accumulated probably 500k just in those shoes). A two-day ultimate tournament was cancelled, which was both disappointing and relieving, because I had a presentation to work on that weekend and a hip to heal before going to Boston and dammit I was going to run in Boston.
I skipped running for a week — not to heal exactly, but because there weren’t enough hours in the day — and finally ran again on Saturday morning, through Boston Common and Public Garden in the rain. The parks were beautiful — spring was a week or two ahead of us in Hamilton, buds and flowers galore — but my hip twinged reminders that I wasn’t fully healed. We walked for hours on Saturday and then I ran again on Sunday when it was sunny, even though we were flying out later that day (have you ever thought through the logistics of running in the morning when you have to check out of the hotel at noon? I mean as long as you’re the type of runner who sweats a lot). I sprinted down the rare empty pathways and charged both up and down the hills. Boston is the first American city where I felt I could get used to living there. The public transit buses look just like the buses here. I finished my run, crossed my right ankle over my left knee and stretched, washed my clothes, hung them to dry, devoured a large breakfast at an Irish pub, and then we went out to walk some more.
I kept my runs on Saturday and Sunday to Boston Common and Public Garden because they were near our hotel and I was sure not to get lost. I looped both several times, since they really aren’t that large. On Sunday late in the morning we walked again through the parks (they were much more crowded by then with cameras and ducklings) and found the bridge over to the Charles River Esplanade and walked along the river and drank exorbitantly-priced hand-pressed lemonade. I watched the hundreds, thousands of runners there wistfully, regretful that I didn’t go beyond the parks.
After Boston, I was motivated to find the time to run better than I had been doing. Post-work runs were unlikely so morning runs were the next step. This past week I ran twice before work, Wednesday and Friday, just 5k or so with a bit of pain at the end. The first morning I didn’t drink coffee and was sore most of the day; the second morning I did drink coffee beforehand and ran my third fastest 5k ever without breaking a sweat. Okay, that’s a lie; I did sweat a lot, but it didn’t feel like my third fastest 5k ever — it just felt like a great run on a cool morning with no waiting at stoplights.
Yesterday, Saturday, I ran just under 8k and no hip pain whatsoever. It felt like a miracle. It was a cool and cloudy afternoon so the trail was mostly deserted. I ran backwards for a bit, sprinted for a bit, sang along to my music out loud for a bit (when no one was around). By the time I was heading home it was warmer and sunnier and more people were out.
Today was the perfect day for running, although I’d find it too cool normally: partly sunny, around 15C, cool strong wind with no briskness in it. I didn’t wear my usual baseball cap because it tends to make my head ache and tries to take off in a gust, so the wind was always in my face, and for once I enjoyed it. No pain specific to my right hip; just general hip and thigh pain starting around the 13k mark. I did a lot of walking of course, but when I did run my pace stayed around 6:00/km-ish without me thinking about it, which is about 30 seconds faster than my default thoughtless pace in the winter (can’t really compare winter and spring paces though, obviously, even on the same terrain).
I was aiming to run 18k today but then somewhere around the 16k mark (my previous longest distance), I figured that I might as well get to my end-of-May 22k goal now while I had most of the distance covered. I don’t think it was an entirely irrational decision; I have an ultimate frisbee tournament at the end of May so it wasn’t going to happen then, and all the long-weekend chores I had planned were already shot to shit with running 18k or whatever anyway so I would have to do them next weekend, so why not go all the way? My lungs were fine and only my legs were hurting which I could do nothing to prevent at that point, whether I kept running or walked home or called a cab. So I looped a lot of extra blocks downtown in order to get to 22k and finally hit it a block from home, muttered a “Fuck yes” since no one else was nearby, turned off RunKeeper, and limped the rest of the way home.
I stretched on the front steps of the building, enjoying the breeze that, if I were not running, I would call cold and grab a sweater and whine about when summer would get here, but, post-run, was absolutely refreshing. I fantasized about what I would drink and eat once I got inside. I listened to the last couple songs on my playlist, just mostly not moving and plucking up the courage to walk up the stairs, walk to the elevator, walk into our apartment, down a couple of glasses of very cold water and a quick protein shake, take off my clothes, take a cool shower, and try, as much as possible, for the rest of the day, not to use my legs at all, in apology.
Great run this morning in the drizzle through Boston Common & Public Garden. (at Public Garden)
Good news: new friction gloves & discs came in the mail today. Bad news: tournament this weekend cancelled due to soggy fields. #ultimatefrisbee
I finished the Around the Bay 10k relay in 1:01:16 (chip time). My realistic goal was under an hour, my hopeful goal was 58:00 (based on the 5k race in November), and my implausible goal, hahaha, was 55:00. Nothing to be ashamed of, certainly, but I can’t help thinking that I could have done away with those 77 seconds had I been better prepared. So, some thoughts about the race that I want to remember for next time:
- My final weeks of training fell apart because of a couple of illnesses and long work hours, so instead of a taper I had a kind of pre-race letdown, which was especially painful after running over 100k in February (75k in March was my lowest-volume month ever). I didn’t miss anything critical during that time, but it was disheartening not to be able to keep working at it in the final buildup. I felt like I was losing fitness although I knew I wasn’t, and I let it get me down. Next time: expect and allow for interference with training and don’t let getting behind scare you. Training schedules are not as sacred as you think.
- I was overdressed. It was above freezing and sunny, so I would have been better in two layers instead of three and some hat other than a fleece toque. It kept me warm while waiting at the start line for 40 minutes but in the second half of the run it was uncomfortable. I didn’t want to take it off because I would have sprayed sweat on everyone within 10 feet. Next time: worry more about overheating and less about being cold, unless it’s below freezing.
- I did a vague warm-up beforehand, jogging to and at the start line (which stretched over three blocks) and walking to keep warm and avoid just standing around. No sprints or anything, not much stretching. Most people weren’t really warming up, but I thought it was nice. It helped keep me calm more than anything. Would do again.
- I spent a lot of energy weaving around the course to pass people, mostly because I was at the very end of the start line with the other relay runners (10 minutes between the gun and actually crossing the start line!) but my pace should have put me in the middle. This ended up aggravating me, especially when people ran too close together or too slowly to let me pass. Of course that’s part of the nature of these big, crowded races. Next time: be more forgiving of other people, get more into the spirit of giant races (you aren’t competing against these people! you’re only competing against yourself!) and start in the middle of the pack if possible.
- I had a lot of negative thoughts between 7 and 9k, mainly because I was thirsty, regretted skipping the second water stop, and missed the signs marking the kilometres. I didn’t know how much farther I had to go and ended up walking dispiritedly more than was really necessary. I had a potentially imaginary stitch in my side which gave me another excuse to walk. The problems: I didn’t use RunKeeper so I didn’t have my stats read into my ear every 500m or 3 min like usual (because my phone’s battery tends to die in the cold when Location Services is on), and I changed my Garmin’s default screen to show time and average pace, when I really needed to see distance and pace. Next time: be really super extra familiar with the course and where it ends, and make sure you can see the distance completed very easily so when you feel all hope is lost at least you know how much farther to the end. At the same time, don’t set too much store by GPS distance because it won’t always be accurate.
- There were minor hills I didn’t realize existed until a couple of weeks before the race, so I was a little underprepared, but not by much. I kind of wanted to be able to blame them for my (imagined) slowness, but I really can’t. All blame goes to my brain, which for some reason decided to run (too fast) for a while and then walk and then run (too fast) and then walk, and repeat, repeat, repeat. That was unlike me and I should have known better, but my brain was alternating between being upset about my slow pace and being realistic about being too far behind at that point to make up time without killing myself. I should have just calmed down and enjoyed it. There were brief moments of enjoyment, but not enough.
- I ran with one earbud in, listening to Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3. I pulled my earbud out in frustration around the 8k mark. Next time: listen to something more upbeat (or nothing) to help ignore the crazy brain talk. Gorecki and ambient Eno are great for solitary or quiet group runs, not so much for giant-ass races.
- The porta-potty lines were really long, especially at the start line. I was very glad to live nearby (and to be running a short race) and not need to use them. If I run a huge race like this away from home, I need to make note of other washrooms nearby. There were a lot of nearby facilities that people could have used outside of the official race facilities without having to wait in a 30-minute line for a supergross portable toilet.
- I didn’t think much about my ‘hydration strategy’ (I love runner’s jargon) but I should have, because I always bring water with me when I run more than 30 minutes and drink whenever I need to. I know it seems silly to bring your own fluids for only 10k, but I’d prefer to hydrate on my own schedule and not have to wait for and navigate the water stops. Judge me all you want.
- Chewing gum while running is not for me. I thought it would help with the infrequent water stops but I think it made things worse. My favourite thing lately on training runs has been to suck on a peppermint (specifically giant King peppermints, which we would get during the sermon at church growing up). I tried Halls that time I ran while I was still sick and didn’t like it. I’ve tried Mentos and other mint candies recently, but I prefer peppermints.
- The best part was Scott yelling my name and waving from the overpass at almost the same moment the finish line came into sight.
Up next: half-marathon in November, probably, with a 5k/8k/10k race or two in the meantime. I am planning to do one run at half-marathon distance (21.1k) by the end of May, which may sound like I should do a marathon instead of a half, but I don’t think so. Ultimate frisbee twice a week plus several weekend practices and tournaments from May to October, plus the cross/strength training I should start taking seriously, will be enough to keep up with. I may as well set realistic goals now, because no matter what I accomplish there will always be potential to do better.
#around the bay
I’m late for Sibling Day but here we are. Love them all to pieces. This is one of my favourite photos of us ever. (I’m the priss in the middle.)
One week to race day! I am ready, although I’ve run very little in the last two weeks because of a cold and lingering cough. I’m still a little worried about some of the logistics and what it’s going to be like running with 9,499 other people, but we drove most of the race course today (I was going to run it but there are no sidewalks for the last third and seriously Burlington Street is gross — I can’t believe they moved it there this year — trains, I know, but still, it’s going to be gross) and I am definitely prepared for 10k (maybe not for the overpass hills but it’ll be fine). I’m just worried, as usual, about everything except the run itself.
Today was my last long run — just over 9k — and I’ll do one or two short runs this week to keep from getting lazy. In theory I will do a lot of stretching too but that probably won’t happen. I did a race-ish pace run two Saturdays ago (10k in 1:02) and today I was able to maintain my usual pace (except the part where I ran up the York stairs, which seemed like a good idea at the time, hahaha) and I felt much better than when I tried to run last Wednesday while I was still sick (it was so sunny and I was able to leave work on time and I was starting to feel better but my legs had forgotten what running was and I was still congested and my lungs were not ready for the exertion and I got wobbly pretty quickly). I’m optimistic about doing a PB (runner slang for personal best but it just makes me want peanut butter), which will be anything under 1:00.
If you’re interested in wishing me well in monetary form, you can donate to the cause I’m running for — St. Joseph’s Healthcare.
#around the bay
That one time Dorothy Sayers wrote Sherlock Holmes self-insert kidfic where her original character Peter Wimsey consults Sherlock Holmes over the affair of a missing kitten.
Click to embiggen image to get the full fanfic.
Undecided about what to read next.