Friday, April 12, 2019

Poop Stories: Volume 2

Poop Stories: Volume One went a totally different direction than everyone thought, didn't it! 

Well Volume Two is a little more along the lines of what you were expecting, but, in my typical style, not really.

Back track to December 2013. I publicly announce to family, friends, co-workers - pretty much any one who would listen, really - that I am going to run my first marathon. Thanksgiving 2014 I'm heading to Victoria for the GoodLife Fitness marathon with the stated goal of breaking four hours!

Telling everyone meant I could not back out. I had to do it, and had a goal to achieve. In hindsight, I clearly had no idea what I was doing when it came to training. Which is fine, because all these years later I still really don't know what I'm doing.

When training for your first ever distance event - the marathon particularly - there are two things that everyone must do. Carbo-load and carbo-unload.

You have to time these things just right. Especially the unload. You don't want to start running with a four hour goal unless you poop before the race. Standing in line at a on-course porta-potty will take out too much time out of your stated goal. And it's terribly uncomfortable to try to get through, and will slow your pace significantly.

Now if you are lucky you are one of those people who can set their watch by their bowel movements. Same times, every day. Piece of cake. But not me. I'm very unpredictable. Which meant starting as early as December 2013 I was charting loading and unloading patterns so that I had two-thirds of year of data to best make may decision on race weekend.

I won't get into too many details, but bottom line is I had to give myself 18 hours after eating. So on race weekend, that meant eating a big ol' plate of spaghetti at noon the day before the race so that I could take care of business at 6am on race day. That gave me two hours of lee-way. 

I did have a bagel and peanut butter was an evening-before snack. And I had a whole breakfast routine planned out. But things did not go as hoped on the 6am unloading plan.

I probably got up by 5 and began executing the plan. But nothing was happening. I went for my trademark pre-race walk. I came back, nothing was happening. I jumped up and down, because I had no idea what else to do. Still nothing.

I had to eat my pre-race meal by 6:30, so I did that. Went back to the bathroom. Then again. And again. By this point I'm starting to panic. And Charmaine, who was still hoping to sleep, was getting annoyed. My butt touched a toilet seat probably 30 times that morning, and nothing!

We left the hotel and went to the starting line. I hit the porta-potty. Nothing. I took in the race day experience, but the whole time I was really worried that I was not pooping! Based on all my charts and calculations, there was no way I was going to make it through the four hour marathon without having an issue.

On the way to the starting corral I noticed an empty porta-potty that others did not seem to note and I rudely jumped in. Again, nothing! By the this point I have resigned myself to having to stop on course, and just hoped it did not become too big of an issue in the kilometers between the porta-potties.

The race started. In some ways this all proved to be a good distraction, as the normal first-marathon nerves were directed away by the toilet rather than the daunting task ahead. 

The race went well. I hit the goal, despite starting out too fast. Race inexperience yes, though I was trying to buy myself a bit of time for when I had to stop at a porta-potty. But the race was good though I don't remember too much of the last 10km or so. And I never had any issues! I had completely forgotten about it at some point in the race, probably because everything else hurt so much. 

I pigged out on food the finishing chute - Charmaine thought I was drunk as I kept going on about how good the oranges were - and went for a big post-race meal at Pagliacci's soon after. I don't remember what we did later in the evening, but I'm sure I had some unhealthy foods of some sort.

Still nothing!

The next day we drove all the way to Courtenay - not the greatest idea to sit in a car for a combined 5-plus hours - to visit Charmaine's Auntie Arlene. She's a lot of fun and had a huge meal ready for us. And I really enjoyed her home. But I never did see her bathroom.

Fast forward to Tuesday. After another big continental breakfast at the hotel, Charmaine is flying home to Terrace. I take a bus to the ferry terminal as I'm going to Vancouver to see my nephews. On one of those awful old flip phones I texted Charmaine from the ferry as I finally took care of the last piece of pre-race business - some 50-plus hours later.

So much for the charts.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Poop Stories: Volume One

Every runner has a poop story. I have two. I'll share this gem with you today. Check back later in the week for the second story.

It's the summer of 2016. It's a hot August day, and I'm working night shifts. I've got a 28km run with Brent planned for late afternoon. It's a key workout with the Victoria race something like six weeks away.

Normally when on night shifts I would get some sleep, but on this day I get up early to call the septic cleaning company. It's, well, let's just say, a little overdue. Having moved in not so long ago, I asked Charmaine when was the last time this smelly task was done, and she said never in the eight or nine years she had lived here. Wait...what? Three teenage girls and a couple of adults filling a septic tank close to a decade without emptying it?

Oh, shit! That's what I'm thinking to myself. This needs to get done before winter, as I'm not digging through frozen ground. So I make this a priority. I call just get an appointment, thinking I'll get it in a week or two. But no, they're coming over that very afternoon. So much for a relaxing morning getting ready for a hot, afternoon long run.

Now to start digging. Except I don't know where to dig. And apparently there are a whole lot of big rocks under the lawn. It took a whole lot of trial and error, but after 3 hours of digging I was ready. I initially hit the tank, then went the wrong way to find the lid. I had to back track.

Before I could rest much, the big vacuum truck showed up and did it's job. Even though the hole is in a pretty secluded part of the yard, I can't just leave the lawn looking like this. Especially with my dogs sticking their nose where they shouldn't. Quite literally. But I'm not burying that lid like that again.

I hop in the truck armed with a shovel and about 10 large buckets, I head off to find some sand to bury the septic tank. That will be much easier to dig up next time, even in the winter if we had to. I lug these heavy buckets from the truck, bury the lid, pile up the rocks and put the dirt back in place, sort of.

I'm doing all of this while watching the clock. Brent is waiting, the day is only getting hotter.
I text him I will meet him at 4 o'clock. I quickly shower, change, and hop in the car.

To make matters worse, I had not been hydrating all day. And did I mention it was hot? I stop at the Chevron to pick up two Powerades, downing both before the run. That is not the proper way to hydrate, by the way. To make matters worse, I'm now pissed off because Powerades may cost a buck each at Safeway, but the corner store charges nearly $4 each. But what's a guy to do?

I showed up at Brent's and we went for a great run, laughing at stories about my day.

28km later, I hop in the car and drive home. I quickly shower and get changed again. It's time to go to work. I get to recover from a long run by staying up all night working, but only after buying a couple more Powerades at a much more reasonable price.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Learning How To Fall

So as I mentioned in a previous post, I have no race this season.

So one of my key training goals this year is to make a weekly focus to improve my running. Daily habit strategies that I know I need to work on in order to become a better runner. The idea being if I can focus now on these opportunities to improve, they will be ingrained habits by the time I start really training for that goal race a year from now.

Two weeks ago it was hydration. I will focus on drinking a whole lot more water throughout the day, not just pre, post or during runs. That first week was great. I could literally feel a difference upon downing a glass of fresh Thornhill water. I just felt better. My heart rate during runs was more stable, so there was a notable difference.

The second week the focus slipped a touch in the second week, partly because I was focusing on the second new habit, which we'll get to in a second. But I think the hydration will not be problem here in week three with the Prince Rupert event this coming weekend. I'll be motivated to be my best for Sunday, even though it is not a goal race and I'm not going to be at my best. That being said, I'm still looking for a strong performance.

The second week's goal was improving my flexibility. Specifically I was focusing on hip flexibility. I am notoriously inflexible and getting worse with age. I'm excited to attend an upcoming runner's specific yoga session. Over the next numbers of weeks I will expand my flexibility focus, but for now it it my hips so that I can achieve better leg lift in my running.

This focus has not quite caught on like the hydration challenge. I have a number of stretches and exercises I have put together for 20 minute routine I should be doing every other day or more. I've been a bit hit-and-miss on this. Again, with the Rupert event this weekend, it should be easy to improve that here in week 2.

It's time to introduce a new opportunity. And this one is one I can focus on every run I do, so that will give me 5-6 opportunities each, totalling some 6-8 hours. That should be plenty of time to focus. The new focus is to be lean properly in my runs. Leaning from the ankles on the flats, leaning more from hips on the downhills. Engaging the core and glutes. Basically it is all designed to allow me to run more efficiently. I don't want to run harder than everyone else on the starting line come race day. I want to run smarter.

Enjoying a pre-race massage will also help loosen up those hips. I hope it enables me to limber up just that much more.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Loving and Hating The Prince Rupert Half Marathon

Oh yeah, baby! One week until the 2019 running of the Prince Rupert Half Marathon + 8k. The forecast calls for some rain, but the Skeena Valley Runners forecast calls for lots of medals and even more smiles!

Rupert Runners always put on a great event. In fact, I probably never would have attempted to become a competitive runner if it was not for running scene in Prince Rupert.

But I do have a love-hate relationship with this particular race.

You see, in 2016 I won the whole damn show. I have been lucky enough to win a few masters' categories (ages 40 and up) but this was my first ever outright win. I've won three races outright now, but your first is always extra special.

In 2017 I died, laying a wreath around the 13km mark, as overtraining syndrome took control of the reigns. I trained far too aggressively while working a ton all with the Bon Jovi attitude of "I'll sleep when I'm dead." Like literally. I was sleeping four or five hours a night. There were signs that the stress I was putting my body through was catching up to me, but it was in Prince Rupert where I literally powered down, trotted to the finish line and had to answer to everyone what had happened when I only had questions myself. It was no fun, and worse yet, the months long recovery was just beginning.

2018 I never returned to the race. Though I had a good showing at the Cunningham sea wall race in Vancouver in November 2017 (40:04) I did not have the confidence to return to the race where I had failed. In fact, I never went to any Rupert events in 2018 except for leg one of the Skeena River Relay, which, nicely enough, happens to be basically the first half of the half marathon race.

That proved to be therapeutic. Yet I still had no desire to return to the Rupert half this year. Hey, I'm getting old. It's tough keeping up with these young whipper snappers.

That changed when Brent Webb told me I had to. I had to represent Skeena Valley Runners. I had to support the local running scene. He didn't want to answer the "Where's Joe?" question.

Of course he is right. And he is also my relay partner in 2019.

You see, the Rupert Half Marathon can also be run as two person relay. Brent has a marathon in Wales the following weekend, so he only wanted to run about 10km. So this works out perfect for him.

This also works out perfect for me. I will be able to return to the race that I love and that I hate. Am I going there to win? You betcha. A couple grandpas looking to beat the young punks!

But I'm going there to have fun first and foremost.

Monday, March 25, 2019

How To Train When You Have No Race

2019 is an interesting dilemma for me.

Quick background story. 2016 was the best year of my running life. 2017 I badly overtrained. 2018 I had to work my way back. There were some ups and downs, but a top 10 finish at a very competitive Oak Bay 10k and winning the Texada Island trail half marathon led me to believe I was on the verge of breaking through once again.

But in 2019 I really have no races. My vacation time has me going on great adventures in the American desert and the Mediterranean, and my daughter is getting married. Now I could sneak down to Vancouver on a weekend maybe in November, or I could try to squeeze in Prince Rupert's Cannery Race as a goal race, but in all likelihood I am waiting until the spring of 2020 before I race again. And maybe the fall of 2020 before I can truly breakthrough, if all goes well.

It's kinda tough to keep that feeling of breaking through for that long. And training at the level necessary to breakthrough is dangerous. Extended base training is better than pushing too hard without the goal race to measure your progress.

It's also tough when your closest running friends are training at a higher level than your maintenance training allows. It could be a lonely running year.

So how does one train like this for a year or more?

Firstly, I'm embracing the opportunity. Not only do I get to go on some amazing trips (did I mention we're going to Italy and Greece!), but I will get the opportunity to do much more hiking and camping. Those outdoor activities I have always loved in the past, but had to put on the backburner to get key training runs. I will also get more trail running in, rather than pounding the roads all the time. I am greatly excited by this.

Secondly, I'm going to integrate opportunities to improve on a weekly basis. Hopefully by the next true training block, I will have turned these into positive habits.

Last week, I began a conscious effort to hydrate better. Not just for runs, but at all times. More water. It will help me with my heart rate training and with my recovery. I have a bad habit of not drinking enough water, and that changes now.

This week I have begun to focus on flexibility. I specifically have focused on the loosening my hips so that I can get better leg lift and leg rotation. I am terribly inflexible, and often my hip flexors ache. If I can loosen them up, I can run more efficiently.

Next week I will have to find a new focus. But if I can consistently work on these opportunities to improve, I will be so much further ahead when I finally do get to start training for a race.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The Time I Accidentally Ran In My Underwear

Charmaine likes to buy me running clothes. Shirts. Shorts. Underwear.

Sometimes I can't tell the last two apart.

She buys me lots of running clothes because I run a lot. And because she really doesn't like the smell of my running clothes. Which is totally the wrong strategy on her behalf, because the more running clothes I have means the less times I have to do laundry. I can just pile it up in one big, gloriously smelly pile.

She likes to get the tight underwear, often black. And while she normally buys traditional running shorts, once she got me a pair of the tightest Lululemon compression running shorts. They are tight! It's her favorite purchase. I make them look good, but I don't wear them too often.

Another time she bought me a similar garment from Old Navy. Same color - black. Same length of leg - longer than most underwear. So in a hurry I grabbed these shorts from my bin of running clothes and headed out the door.

When I came back I don't know who was more surprised - me or her - when she told me I had just gone running in my underwear.

Seriously, there is no difference between the Lululemon running shorts and the Old Navy underwear. Except for price, maybe. So you can sense my confusion. Then again, there is no difference between either and what a gigolo might wear on a night out, either!

So yes, I once ran in my underwear. And yes, it may happen again.

Poop Stories: Volume 2

Poop Stories: Volume One went a totally different direction than everyone thought, didn't it!  Well Volume Two is a little more al...