I've managed to stay relatively positive the past few weeks while not running due foot pain. While there are definite negatives, I've tried to keep my mind open to staying busy to occupy my mind and time. I thought I'd create somewhat of a list of things I've done in hopes of giving others hope that it's not all doom and gloom.
My hubby Erick and I went for an impromptu drive and stroll (literally 500 meters out and back) with the dogs along the Martin Goodman Trail. When you are used to running the trail, it's refreshing to stop and explore a spot with no agenda or pace.
I also had a chance to check out the new subway line extension when I headed up to York University and the OMA track meet. I love how spacious the new stations are. Amazing that there is still space within the city to do this.
It's been years since I wandered around a mall. I do so much online shopping or shop at single stores downtown or 'big box' type stores. One weekend day I grabbed one of my Christmas gift cards and we checked out the not-so-new-anymore Sherway Gardens renos. At a couple points I sat to rest my foot while my hubby went into stores and people watched. At lunch time we checked out the food court, we so rarely eat fast food anymore, and was so happy to discover Chipotle! I now have a new go-to for vegan take out.
Given little Ailo this one didn't take much convincing! But you know those friends you've been saying, "It's been so long! We must get together!" DO IT.
My friends know I am already big into cooking and food prep. Sometimes this past year I've had two running events in a weekend which makes it challenging to fit it all in. The past couple weeks I've rejigged my tasks so I can spend my Sunday doing these tasks at a more leisurely pace. This has meant I've had more time to be creative in what I make and even make cookies for the first time in a couple years.
I'm sure this has really helped. I've continued to look into races, jump on a sale for run fuel and read interesting articles about running. Last weekend I took all of my medals and bibs from their storage box and sorted them by year and took photos for a blog post. I realized at that point that I was headed towards my fifth runniversary. The mental wheels started turning considering what I could do to celebrate. You'd think that all of these running things would get me down, but instead they have kept me inspired.
Okay, so maybe your parents already knows how to text. My Mum didn't. I recently gave her my old iPad and we got together to have a lesson on using it. It was weird yet fun to have the roles reversed and to be showing her how to do things. All of those little things we all thought we so cool when we first had smart phones or devices are new again. Emojis. Solitare. Sending photos. Gifs. And the good morning texts from your Mum.
Okay, so even some of our non-running events still involve running! Some of the fun stuff that's happened the past few weeks have been a Gary Robbins and Ginger Runner movie screening and interview of Where Dreams Go to Die, a post race coffee date and half-price pizza afternoon downtown.
Weekends are precious. It seems that there is always so much to do. You say you want to do something and never get around to doing it. This time off has been an awesome opportunity to do some of those things. We drove out to Bowmanville to see my niece play in a volleyball tournament. I'd never been to one and it was really exciting! Two weeks later we got to see my nephew play hockey. We've seen him play before, but it was a couple years ago. It was amazing to see how much he had improved!
One of my early thoughts when I realized my pain wasn't going anywhere was about the races I'd be missing. Well, as it turns out, I don't have to miss the races! I can still go, I just have to change up what I'm doing while there! Cheering at the recent OMA Mini Meet #2 and Robbie Burns was so fun I literally did forget that I wasn't racing. There's nothing like watching a huge crowd of runners take off at the start then experiencing the calm before the storm of their return. I think this has been a huge plus in my mental game.
I have to admit that spending the past few weeks mostly inside with warm hoodies, socks and tea hasn't been much of a hardship given the very cold and snowy winter! Our dogs have gotten the short end of the stick with losing out on their long walks. They have however received numerous extra snuggles. My hubby has been stuck with having me around more, which has meant cookies, so I don't think he minds! Things on my to-do list have been checked off and I've kept up with my blog, which, frankly has provided an amazing outlet for figuring out my thoughts. Which reminds me, it's time for tea!
I haven't run in 12 days.
Frankly the details of the injury itself play somewhat of a minor role in this story. I don't have a dramatic Krista Duchene broken femur finish or wiping out on ice on High Park's Spring Road hill story to tell. Put simply, I have a pain in my foot that I've never had before and that pain is not resolving. My days have been comprised of balancing my fear of making it worse with losing the running gains I've made. But instead of talking pain, swelling or meds, I want to talk about the side of injury that people don't typically think about. Those unexpected things that have come up since I realized the words "I'm injured" were a reality.
This is the biggie. Uncertainty of what the injury is. Uncertainty of who to go to for answers. Uncertainty of how long it will take to get better. Uncertainty of if I should rest or not. Uncertainty of making things worse. Uncertainty of if I will be able to do this race or that race. Uncertainty of how to sort through the varied advice, recommendations and information I've received.
In the past when I've had a medical issue I'd make an appointment with my doctor, dentist or optometrist. I guess maybe I've been lucky up till now as I've typically found answers fairly quickly or was sent for further testing or referred to a specialist who could provide assistance. With this injury I've had a hard time figuring out where to get answers. I've tried a couple routes, but have resigned myself to the fact that I'm going to have to wait the three weeks to see the sports medicine doctor. I'm impatient when it seems like something that should be pretty straight forward and it's a matter of scheduling that holds me back from those answers. I've practically considered breaking into the medical tent at a race to get a sports doctor to just take a peek at my foot. I only hope that when I finally get to see him that he'll have answers for me and that I don't do something in the meantime that sets me back further while waiting. I truly wish there was a system to assist athletes in navigating the system.
As I tried to figure out where to get help, I thought that reaching out to those who had gone through something similar could provide me with guidance. I told a couple people in confidence in the first couple days. As time went on and I wasn't getting any better I felt the pressure to tell others when it became obvious that something was up. I was turning down invites to run and even my social media posts that were previously very running based had evolved to food, family, dogs and nature. The word 'injury' is one of the worst words in a runner's vocabulary. Some of the reactions I've gotten as I tell those around me (or they hear from others) have honestly surprised me. From daily notes of support to recommendations, to opinions, to doubt to silence. Admittedly this has been hard for me to deal with. I guess the plus is that I've learned when I hear someone is injured, I'll just let them know I'm there. The most comfort I've had these past days has been from those that just let me know exactly this.
I knew from watching many of my running friends go through injury that the emotional side would be as challenging to deal with as the physical side. Forget the simple fact that the body is used to several endorphin boosts a week from running. Suddenly a big part of your life is uncertain, of course you are going to feel confusion, pain and loss. Even if it's true that "time will go fast", "you'll still be able to run this or that race", "you'll be fine," your deep down feelings still sting in the moment. I'm working at trying to find different outlets to distract and enjoy, but sometimes yes, I'm sad about the fact that I'm not running. And honestly, I think that's okay.
I have seriously been at a loss as to what day it is since I stopped running! I realize just how much my schedule (and my husband's and even my dogs schedules) revolves around running. I used to run on Tuesdays, Thursdays, some Saturdays and Sundays. Silly things like forgetting to shower as I typically shower at work post run or walk commute to being confused about meals I'd planned for which day and constantly writing down the wrong date.
I've learned more about foot injuries and anatomy in the past two weeks than I ever thought possible! Dr. Google can be somewhat informative, but also frustrating as I've yet to find any results that makes me say, "That's it!"
Given I am quite set in my ways with regards to the foods I eat, it has been a 'kick me while I'm down' to have to cut back on my calories as my body adjusts to less activity. Given this has all landed just after the holiday season and off season for running, I already was facing a smaller spoonful of peanut butter with my breakfast!
The lure of early-bird pricing is hard to resist. Currently I've already registered and paid for several spring races and a full season pass to the indoor track. Watching a whole season of OMA indoor track and those races start to fall away definitely hurts a bit.
The first week I rested completely. The second week I convinced myself that since walking was mostly painless that it wouldn't set me back. Given the location on my foot, I've haven't wanted to do any cycling, rowing or elliptical. Over the past few days I've come to accept the fact that I will lose some of my running fitness gains but that ultimately I just want to get better.
One last funny one...You'd think I'd be doing a lot less running clothes laundry...alas I realize that is pretty much all I wear anyway, so no difference there! Ha ha! Oh, but I haven't had to charge my Garmin as much, so there is that!
I did not write this for sympathy or answers, but instead I wrote it for me, as putting the words and thoughts down often helps me sort those things out things in my mind. I've written and edited it three times over the past three days, and in doing so I feel more of an acceptance of what's happened. Looking at it from the different angles has been a good way of dealing with each individually. I really do hope that this can help others runners who are facing a similar challenge. It is truly amazing how much one little spot of pain can domino all the pieces of your life!
So when you sign up for Ragnar road or trail, you look at the distance and difficulty of the three legs you'll be running to judge how you'll do and feel.
What I never factored in were the 'extra' kilometers that weren't on the race plan. The kilometers of walking to and from the van. To and from the campsite. To and from the washroom. To and from food. And all of these extra kilometers? Every step is for the team, for the fun, for the experience.
Worth it? Absolutely.
When I started running I considered it to be a solo activity, something to do to stay healthy and fit. I never could have imagined how running would become intertwined with so many people and things in my life. Running introduced me to some of my closest friends. It's meant having the opportunity to chat with every elite runner who has ever inspired me. I've represented races as an ambassador to encourage people to register or to support charitable races. I've designed logos, a race medal and event signage. The running community has truly changed my life.
One of the first group of runners I interacted with were the Digital Champions of the Canada Running Series Toronto Yonge Street 10K and Scotia Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2014. They provided me so much inspiration and information. It became my goal to give back to others the way they did to me. I applied to become a DC, but since I didn't have all of the requirements back then, I wasn't accepted. As I started working at meeting the social media and blog requirements, I started meeting incredible people and getting involved in running events. In 2015 I became an RBC Race for the Kids ambassador. It was an incredible experience and such a well organized event. Suddenly in 2016 I was being asked to represent several races, some informally because they were ones I already loved, and others as an official ambassador, including the spot I'd coveted with STWM. It was a crazy year of races and cheer-leading. A couple of the races were for really important causes, including youth mental health and assisting runners with disabilities. It felt great to be making an impact.
Heading into 2017, I'd agreed to three more ambassadorships for the spring and summer and a couple race directors were asking for shout outs for events on social media. One day recently I found myself creating a graphic for one event, posting about a price change for another and trying to remember a promo code and hashtag for a third. It suddenly hit me that this was too much. Messages were getting diluted and told to the same audience repeatedly. Plus I was losing my own 'voice' as a runner by spending time promoting other people's events.
Those who know me know that when I'm asked to do something, I give it my all. By no means does this mean that I don't treasure the incredible moments and memories I've had as an ambassador. I made friends, I helped inspire runners to try new races. I helped raise funds towards good causes. I had fun! I know that I made an impact, and I am proud.
But, it's time to hang up my ambassador hats. I want to give other people the opportunities I've had and spend more of my time focused on other things like masters track running, trail races, and focusing extra time and effort on helping to build JPsTeam.
It's not to say I won't be on social media or posting on my blog--I will. But instead of posting about promo codes, early bird pricing or thanking sponsors, I'll be posting about photos my training, articles I love and things that inspire. Sure, some of those may be about a great race or event, but not because someone asked.
Thank you to all of the races that have given me the opportunity to 'run with' their event and brand, especially RBC Race for the Kids, Scotia Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Achilles Canada St. Patrick's Day 5K and the Beaches Running Group's Tannenbaum and Jazz Run.
Running has made me brave. It's paved the road to trying new things, like I did this past Sunday. Five years ago I'd never imagined I'd be running--let alone racing, especially on the track as a new member of the OMA (Ontario Masters Athletics)!
Last year when coach / friend Michelle told me she was hoping to break the Canadian Master's W40 indoor track record for 5000M, I told her I'd come cheer her on. (Recap here). I walked through the doors at the Toronto Track & Field Center that day and felt like visiting another country where things looked similar, but everyone is speaking a different language. I'd learned a whole lot about road running since the summer of 2013, but as I stood on the sidelines trying to not get in the way (tip: the cushioned wall at the end of the 100 meter dash is not a good spot to linger if you don't want to get bowled over), I realized this was no road race environment. The bibs and running where the similarities ended. While road races have hundreds or thousands of participants, on the track you can count on one or two hands the number of people you are running with. Even though I heard it multiple times that day, the sound of the starter's pistol startled me every single time. Some races were being run in lanes. Some started in a line and made their way to the center. And there were so many races happening all afternoon!
I wound up going back to cheer for Michelle a couple times over the season, slowly absorbing the subtle differences. One thing that really stood out at each of those races was the camaraderie. During every race people were clapping, cheering, and congratulating friends, strangers and competitors. People were running to better their own time, not necessarily to beat a competitor. Not to mention the most amazingly inspiring part: the list of competitors went from eight-year-old kids right up to runners in their eighties.
How could I not feel inspired? Over that year, I had it at the back of my mind to join. It was the email from the OMA talking about the early bird annual membership that said, 'just do it' at the end that got me. I did it and texted Michelle to let her know she'd inspired me and I was going to be joining her this year!
EEK! As the days got closer, I started to get both excited and a little nervous. Although I'd done workouts at the local track, I'd never done a race. I know I'm not fast. I know I'm far from a model of perfect running form. A track meet was going to risk being in the spotlight more than being just another participant hiding among the crowd at a road race! Questions started filling my head and I had visions of doing messing up big-time, doing something like blocking a runner from beating a world record as I made some stupid newbie move!
Michelle very kindly picked me up on race day. I was glad, as it was one less thing to think about. My duffel bag was packed with everything I could think of to bring. She had suggested I try the 1500 and 600 meter races to get my feet wet. Given they were in the middle of the distances, I thought that this sounded like a good plan versus races at the other ends of the spectrum like 100 or 5000 meters.
We arrived at the track and picked up our bibs. My first track bib! After plunking down our gear, we did a warm up. I have to admit that prior to training with Michelle, I thought that a warm up would use up all my energy to race later, which I now know is not the case. We did about 3K on the outside of the track as many of the 'field' events (shotput, long jump, high jump, etc) and short sprint races were underway. With so many events in a day, it is almost inevitable that schedules get delayed, so our 1500 start was to be about 25 minutes late. We did more easy loops around the track and Michelle showed me how to do striders to get my legs ready to go fast.
Soon they announced that the 1500 meter participants were to check in. Check in? Everyone who was registered for the 1500 meter race gathered around one of the staff members with a clipboard. It was somewhat like elementary school attendance with her calling out the names and letting each person know what heat they were in, which was based on seeding. Track lingo lesson learned: When I registered for the races I needed to give an estimate on my race finish time, similar to how we list for road races to determine which corral we will run in. If there are too many registrants for one race they use your seed time to determines who you will run with to keep the competition closer. Each running of the race is called a heat. I was to run in the first heat, which spanned ages eight to eighty!
We lined up on the track for waterfall start. Another term! This meant that instead of staying in the lane you start in all the way around the track, we were to make our way as soon as safely possible to the inner lane once the race started.
1500 meters is 7.5 times around this track. Michelle told me what times I should see on the clock at the finish each time I passed. She said I'd also see a 'laps remaining' sign, but to beware that this was based on the leader, so if you get lapped, don't get too excited that you are almost done as you may still have more laps to go!
We were spacing ourselves out along the start line and someone commented that the eight-year-old boy needed to have some space so no one crashed into him. He was beside me and looked up and said, "It's okay, I'm small." This was a great way to ease my stress with a laugh.
Before I had a chance to think, they were saying "On your mark..." and the starters pistol went off (it didn't scare me this time!) Everyone flew from the line. I darted forward with them and near the curve found a spot towards the inner lane. I turned the corner and eyed the clock ahead. Oops. I was WAY too fast. The first two and a half laps were okay. I heard Michelle cheering me on at each pass. On the third lap I wondered if I was at three or four. Someone near the finish yelled "Four more to go Cathy," which I was grateful for...yet really wished it was only three as I was starting to lose steam. Michelle was calling to pick it up. Of all things my arms were hurting. My throat was dry. I kept going. Two laps to go. Then finally the last lap. I heard Michelle calling to me around the outside of the track but could only focus on the finish line, I honestly don't even remember anything else around me. I crossed and flopped against the high jump mattress working to catch my breath. I'd done it! It wasn't pretty. It was tremendously hard. But I'd stuck to it and got it done!
After the other heat of the 1500 which Michelle ran spectacularly, we did a cool down and I had the chance to review my race with Michelle. She was happy with the result of my first race, and offered me suggestions on how I could improve including getting into the inner lane quicker and that we would need to work on getting my knees up. The obvious suggestion was not going out too fast. I stored these suggestions away in my brain and prepared for the next race.
A banana (I was suddenly really hungry), more water and a warm up were on tap. The bunch of us were all hacking like crazy--a combination of post-flu lingering coughs and 'track hack' which I'd also experienced after the 5th Avenue Mile in New York. Michelle's mom was in charge of dispensing Ricola lozenges dug up from the depths of Michelle's packed bag. I grabbed one as I headed to check in for the 600 meter.
Again, Michelle gave me the times I should be seeing on each lap. This time when the gun went off I was in the inner lane almost immediately. I circled the track and when I crossed the first lap the clock was 13 seconds ahead of what I was supposed to be. Oops again. I heard Michelle yell, "Just go with it!" Okay. I had already done one, just two more, I could do that. I came around the corner again, and just like that it was one lap to go! I pushed and as I came around the last turn, I could hear Michelle yelling, "Catch her! Catch her!" and I focused in on the woman ahead and sped up, sprinting for the finish and hearing my friends cheering. Wow. A totally different race. I was elated, and this was 14 seconds less than we'd predicted!
So that was my first track meet. Am I glad I did it? Absolutely! I learned so much in just a few hours and gained the confidence to totally want to race again. Was I happy with my result? I am trying to see this as all relative. Fast for me, yes. Fast compared to those I was racing with? Uhm, no. But, as I mentioned above, when there are only 16 people doing a race in a huge range of ages, there are also going to be a huge range of abilities and paces. How did I place? Last in both races. Do I care? A resounding no. In my mind I set out to do something I'd never done before, I took a big risk and I did what I set out to do. I ran my first track meet!
I am greatly looking forward to participating in the next two mini meets and the Ontario and Canadian Indoor Championships. It's my hope that I will see an improvement on the track by the end of the season. I already know that the physical and mental skills I pick up over these next couple months will benefit my road racing.
I challenge all of my running friends to come out and try a race. You won't regret it! I know I'm definitely counting down the days till my next track meet! But first? A nap!
Running. Design. Family. Dogs. Gardening. Food. Crochet. Canadian.