Breathing Deeply

It’s been a long while since I’ve written anything. Frankly, I wasn’t in the mood. Nor did I feel like I had anything to say. I even debated taking this site down and shuttering it. But I’m not going to do this. While this type of writing feels very narcissistic, I do enjoy it and it does help me. So I’ll keep going – I’m not writing as often and my posts (in my opinion) are not that interesting as they were back in my racing, training, and Belgium days – but this is just like life – it ebbs and flows and we find excitement and thrills in different ways.

I haven’t been myself lately. I’ve been in a funk. I was frustrated with being injured. I determined that I “hated” summer (the last two summers I’ve been very sick) and now this summer I’ve spent close to six weeks being injured. I’m pretty good at snowballing small things until I’m neck deep in an avalanche barely keeping my head up. I was grouchy. I was unpleasant. I was behaving like a spoiled child. Good grief, I don’t know how Marc tolerated it – he deserves a few medals for his patience and logical words. I completely lost perspective on how unpleasant things can really be.

And now here I sit. I’m working hard at finding the good things in each day. I’m reminding myself how lucky I am and how much I’d rather have sore feet than a cranky and angry colon.  The last couple of weeks have been pretty good. While I’m not back to running and riding (I did manage a 35 minute road ride on Tuesday), I am able to get back into movement.

I know many people can’t understand how important it is for me to move my body and to feel my strength and physicality. Many people just shrug their shoulders and say something like “so find something else to do”. Well, the thing is, moving my body is my hobby and my passion. I love riding my bike. I love running. I love going to yoga. I like lifting heavy things. This is what I like to do. So when people brush this off as nothing – it is hard. Really hard. At first I worried that I’m a one-dimensional person – someone who only likes to do one thing. But this is not the case. I like to do other things – but I like to move my body the most. I guess for many people, moving your body equates to exercise – and many people associate exercise with unpleasant feelings and sensations. (This is kind of the way I feel about gardening, shopping, watching a lot of television, and not moving my body).

One really great thing that has come from this injury is my return to yoga. I used to be an avid yoga student – I had found a very welcoming community at Mountaingoat Yoga studio in Barrhaven. Talented instructors. Very friendly students. Going there feels like a deep warm hug. I didn’t realize how much I missed this until I returned a few weeks ago. Some of the faces have changed but really it felt like I had never left. Getting back into yoga has been a blow to my ego – I used to be very bendy and quite strong. But this is okay. This is me now. I’m happy with this me and I’m working to get strong and bendy again. Most of all, I’m appreciating yoga for more than a physical work-out – I’m discovering how much a yoga practice can do for my peace-of-mind and overall quality of life.

So this is the story. Small steps forward – both mentally and physically. Really learning to look around and see the good in all that I am lucky to have.

(As for the next trail race or other sporting event… I don’t know. I received some great advice on Monday – I’m not registering for any events – if I feel good the week of, then sure I might register. Instead of a focus on this race or that race, I need to focus on the process of fitness/training and overall body care. It’s so easy to get caught up in training for a specific event that, if you’re like me, you lose sight of correct training, rest, recovery, how the body is feeling and the bigger picture.)

And now, here’s some photos – photos that make me smile and feel great inside and out:

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Busted But Not Broken

On our drive home from Lakefield yesterday, I said to Marc in a  rather pained and regretful tone, “I really wish I hadn’t done this to myself. I put myself in this position.”

Marc’s response was, “I’ve been waiting for you to say this and realize what you did.”

So what did I do? Quite simply, I injured myself. I did it all by myself. I did it by ignoring rules and recommendations. I did it by believing that I would be just fine.  I did it by overlooking advice about training volume. I did it by jumping into shoes that everyone recommends I ease into. I did it by ignoring my stretching and mobility routine. I did it by skipping my strength routine. I did it by doing too much too soon.

Yes, this is most definitely my fault. I’d like to believe that this wicked case of plantar fasciitis (in both feet) came out-of-the-blue. But it didn’t. It came on as I gradually began to ignore all of the information out there that told me to take things slow and steady.

I was doing not badly but then I got greedy and wanted to run longer and more often. I ignored my trusty bicycle and instead laced up my running shoes to give my body another pounding in the woods. I love trail running – there is nothing like being out in the Gatineau Park surrounded by lush greenery with only the sound of your footfalls and breath to keep you company.

If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to get back to this by the end of July. Yes, that is a long time from now. I have to miss the race that I’d been training for with my super running pal. I have to miss out on our epic Saturday morning runs and chats at the coffee shop in Chelsea. I have to miss out on the Tuesday night trail runs with some many invigorating people. I have to miss out. Right now, I can’t even ride my bike.

Very frustrating. But please don’t read this as a tale of woe. Read this as a cautionary tale. You don’t want to be like me – missing out on the best of the summer because you did a number of silly and stupid things that culminated in an injury. So just as a reminder here is a don’t list for you:

  1. Don’t increase your running mileage by more than 15 minutes every two weeks. And this doesn’t mean that if you’re doing a two-hour long run on Saturdays that adding in an additional two-hour long run on Friday is okay.
  2. Don’t start running in zero drop shoes for every run. Transition into them. Follow the guidelines that come with the shoes. Don’t think that you won’t get injured. Because, you will.
  3. Don’t ignore your stretching and mobility routine. You’re not a spring chicken and your muscles, tendons, and joints need some love and care. If after driving home from the Gatineau Park after a Tuesday night run, you find it hard to get out of your car and untie your shoes – you’re likely tight and need to stretch.
  4. Don’t subscribe to the more is better approach. While I agree that more peanut butter and more chocolate are always better, this is not the case for running and especially for new runners.
  5. Don’t assume that a training system you used for bike racing will work for running. While back-to-back hard and long days worked on the bicycle and gave you lots of fitness, don’t assume this approach will work when running. Especially if you’ve got soft fragile feet that are used to being pampered in cycling shoes.

If like me, you make a mistake and do one or all of the above, remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Your life is not ruined and over. There are lots of other things you can do, such as: Yin yoga, kayaking, riding a bike with flat pedals, foam rolling, stretching. and remembering how lucky you truly are to even be in this position.

(A huge thanks to everyone who has emailed, called, texted, Tweeted, and commented on Facebook. I’m icing, seeing a physiotherapist, foam rolling, stretching, resting, and seeing a podiatrist – hopefully all of this will speed things along so I can get back outside and play.)

Injured

So today this happened:

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It was not what I had planned. My plan was to enjoy a nice ride to Merrickville. I got up at the crack of dawn and was out the door by around 7. I lasted around 20 minutes before I turned around….

I’ve got a running injury – two very sore achilles tendons. I’m guessing it is achilles tendonitis (hoping to get in for a physio appointment tomorrow). I haven’t run since Tuesday – I’ve been icing, foam rolling, using compression, stretching, and rubbing in Voltaren. I’m starting to think that my achilles tendon’s are feeling better – but I’m not sure….

On Saturday I got out on my mountain bike for the first time. I didn’t do a real technical ride – just a nice steady and somewhat hilly ride from Champlain Lookout to the Fire Tower. I thoroughly enjoyed this and my achilles felt really good. So today the road ride made sense. Well, I think my road shoes must fit more snuggly than my mountain bike shoes and this put some pressure on my heels – which caused this dull nagging pain.

The kind of dull nagging pain that a few years ago (likely even last year), I would have ignored… but this year I’m trying to be smarter. You see I’ve got the Ultimate XC coming up in a few weeks. On June 28 I’ll be running 21 km over rather rugged and technical trails. I want to be ready for this. I’ve done the training – got in some good long runs., some excellent back-to-back long runs, been working on technical running skills, been running up lots of hills, practicing fueling and drinking. So I’m ready. Except for this little problem. I know it will work itself out and I’ll be there on the 28th, but the waiting and the resting is really hard to do.

I’ve got lots of other stuff I want to do this summer – a couple more local trail running events, mountain biking, some cyclo-cross riding, more road rides, and I’m looking ahead to doing another 21 km or so trail race in the late fall. So I guess now is the time to heal up and get recovered.

(Yes, feeling a bit frustrated with this entire thing. But I’ll take being injured over being sick anyday.)

Oh and it’s Father’s Day!! Happy Father’s Day Dad!

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An Anniversary of Sorts

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This weekend there are two events happening that are both close to my heart: Gutsy Walk for Crohn’s and Colitis and the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour.

Way back in 2009 I was deep into riding my bike and training very hard. I had never heard of the Gutsy Walk for Crohn’s and Colitis and I thought that riding 177 km on both Saturday and Sunday was a bit crazy. Neither event registered on my radar. Flash forward about a month or so later and I had just received my diagnosis of ulcerative colitis.

This news changed my focus – while still racing and training, all of my free time was spent researching ulcerative colitis and IBD. In June 2010 – as luck would have it the Gutsy Walk for Crohn’s and Colitis and the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour were not on the same weekends. I participated in both events – I was quite sick but determined that ulcerative colitis would not stop me from getting out and being active.

Thanks to the generosity of friends and family, I raised a good amount of money for the Gutsy Walk and I enjoyed seeing so many people come together for the event. Rideau Lakes that year was one that many people are still talking about – beauty of a day on Saturday and downright miserable on Sunday with horrible cold rain. I loved every second of it. I did the ride with some great friends who knew of my health status and I had a blast. (I did have to take six Imodium tablets each day to get through it – not recommended and in fact quite dangerous for folks with IBD.) That weekend is still one of my cycling highlights.

Since 2010, I’ve registered for Rideau Lakes every year. Each subsequent year, I’ve been too sick to participate. I registered again this year. While this year, my health is much better, I’m not participating. Now I’ve learned after close to five years of living with ulcerative colitis that I can’t push myself super hard anymore and I really have to pay attention to my energy levels.

I also haven’t participated in the Gutsy Walk since 2010 – being too sick in past years to participate. This year, I didn’t do any fundraising but three amazing women who are tremendous role models of how to live a well-rounded and balanced life while battling Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis have been working hard this year to raise funds. If you feel like contributing to the Gutsy Walk for Crohn’s and Colitis and helping us to find the causes and cures for these diseases – please follow this link: Gutsy Walk for Crohn’s and Colitis and search for Marie-Josée Lafleur, Laurie Ann Crawford-Renwick or Alex Beaudoin.

So this first weekend in June 2014 is an anniversary of sorts. I’m finally getting my health on track. Two big events are happening this weekend that have impacted me in many ways. People are coming together to raise awareness of IBD. People will be out riding their bikes to Kingston and back – hitting new personal milestones.

Long Steady Ride

You know that feeling when you go out for a “long steady” ride? The effort is a little higher than your usual effort but it is not verging on tempo or close to threshold. An effort that is just enough to remind you that you’re doing some work but it is not an effort that you can’t sustain. At the end of the ride you have a deep feeling of satisfaction that reminds you how much you appreciate your bike, your fitness and the opportunities you have to ride your bike.

I think the best thing about the long steady ride is how it gives me a chance to ride with others. Pretty much anyone can come out on a long steady ride – riding two by two or in a pace line or simply sitting on – each option is perfect. That’s the thing about a long steady ride, you can make it what you want, it is your ride after all.

Long steady rides offer coffee shop stops where we can hang out, much cookies, guzzle Coke and wonder out loud about the wind. The second half of the long steady ride can have a few struggles with sore bums and heavy legs but this is the stuff that makes the long steady ride so worthwhile. Pushing through the hard spots makes you appreciate the descents and the tailwind.

Getting home after a long steady ride and sitting outside in the sun is simply brilliant. The ride is discussed with plans for another one next weekend. Maybe the route will change or some new people will come out. Or maybe you’ll decided to squeeze in a solo long steady ride – just because you can and want to.

Yes, there is no better feeling than that of the long steady ride. The sensations remind you why you do the hard training in the rain and the cold, the threshold and VO2max efforts are all worthwhile when it means you get out for a long steady ride. The hard stuff all comes into perspective during a long steady ride.

Thanks long steady ride for reminding me that the hard moments will definitely be softened by the good.