Yes, maybe… probably!

It’s Friday, May 13th (insert ubiquitous bad-luck joke here). The Toronto Marathon is on Sunday. I just flew in to The Big Smoke with as many of my worldly possessions as I could fit in two suitcases and am currently standing (the chairs are in a moving truck somewhere around Moose Jaw) in the kitchen of my new Toronto home. All things considered, I am pretty content… and yet…

The first official interaction I had with Tania regarding this Makeover was on Feb 1st and since then I can (boastfully) say that I have not missed a single workout. To be honest, I didn’t know that was an option. Tania and Lucy told me what I needed to do and I did it (training is easy that way). And yet some how, at this late stage in the game, I feel unprepared.

I have seen remarkable growth in myself as a runner in those 3 months. Growth that I can literally measure in seconds and minutes and still I feel oddly skeptical of my own abilities. Can I sustain 4:15/km for 21.1km? The math says “yes”, my training logs say “yes“, Tania, Lucy and Ilia say “yes”, but my inner skeptic says “maybe“. I can coax him into saying “probably” but that is a far as he will go.

I am familiar with being nervous. I played in the band Captain Tractor for 12 years to every size of audience – 25,000 to 25 people. Prior to that I was a “Male Ballerina” (as Tania calls me) and I have also dabbled in acting, so I feel qualified to say that the feeling I have right now isn’t nerves… it’s just plain, old, unadulterated, doubt.

So, what am I going to do? Here’s the plan: I’m going to remind myself of my training sessions (luckily I have them very well documented), rest lots, eat well, go through my race plan with Lucy and Ilia (I have already gone through it with Tania), enjoy the race expo, try to be congenial (despite my worry level) at the Brunello Carbo Dinner, prepare my awesome Adidas race gear, sleep as well as I can and then “trust in the process” as they say. If that fails… I will high-5 every kid on the race course and finish with a huge smile on my face!

All Day I Dream About… Shoes!

Adizero Boston, Tempo and Adios
The shocking truth is that before this makeover I had never owned a pair of Adidas shoes *gasp*. It’s true! In fact, I had only ever owned 1 pair of Adidas warm-up pants and… that is all. Why? I don’t know. No particular reason, I just didn’t.

Currently I own 4 pairs of Adidas shoes (2 Adizero Bostons, 1 pair of Tempos and 1 pair of Adios) and I love them all for different reasons. I also have 2 pairs of Running RESPONSE Dual Baggy shorts, 2 pairs of running pants (including the ones I owned previously), a RESPONSE 3-Stripes Wind Jacket, 6 pairs of Formotion socks and more Trefoil, Formotion and Climacool t-shirts than I can count (mostly because it would involve rooting through the laundry hamper and I am not prepared for that this morning).

Last weekend I PB’ed (or is it PR? Ha ha) at a 10k in Edmonton (42:49) and here’s what I was wearing: The Adizero Adios shoes, Adidas shorts, a black Adidas Formotion singlet (over another brand’s long sleeve compression shirt… shhhh) and the Adidas Formotion socks. It was a perfect outfit for a cloudy spring morning in Edmonton.

That race solidified it for me – I am wearing the Adios shoes in the Toronto Goodlife Half Marathon next weekend. They are light, fast and don’t have any kind of extra cushioning that could get in the way of my body’s own natural running motion or foot-fall. To top it off, Haile Gebrselassie wore these shoes when he ran a World Record 2:03:59 marathon… so what the heck?!?!

In contrast to the Adios, yesterday while coaching my Team in Training’s Peak Distance session (the longest distance my “running ducklings” will encounter before their race) I wore the Adizero Tempo shoes. The Tempos have a honkin’ heel, tons of cushion and some stability control. They are pretty darn perfect for those long slow sessions where comfort and protection are more important than speed and agility.

Up until lately I have been primarily using the Adizero Boston shoes, which are very versatile (I have worn them on the track and the trails) but with the weather getting better here in Edmonton and (most of) the snow being gone, I have been bustin’ out of my winter cocoon. The Boston’s are likely what I will continue to use as my “everyday shoe” but it is fun to have other options for other workouts.

The shorts are great, though I will pick up a size small next time (the size mediums are baggy enough that I have some skin-on-skin action ‘tween my thighs – eeeee!). The Trefoil and Formation shirts are super cool in both senses of the word. And the socks! Man, I cannot say enough about the socks. Do your feet a favour and go get some. Pure awesomeness. Awesomesocks? Yeah. I’ll go with that.

Suffice to say that I am an Adidas convert. Brand loyalty has never been my strong suit but when I find something that works I stick with it – and this stuff works! Thanks Adidas and iRun for hookin’ me up.

* For more info on the gear (and a photo of me squatting)
see the post Look and feel like a ‘real’ Runner.

Ouch?

Stretching, rolling, getting healthyWell, ok. It might be time to face facts… I am injured. Not badly. Not badly at all. Nowhere near bad enough to pull out of the race or even take time off of training. No no, dear reader, fear not! I’m merely injured bad enough to have enlisted a chiropractor, a massage therapist and a physiotherapist all in one week.

It’s all in my head back. My sacroiliac to be exact. Apparently I run a little lopsided (who doesn’t?) and as my mileage increased, my right sacroiliac joint started to feel the pressure and lock up. The problem first manifested itself as knee pain (weird) which dissipated soon after my first ART treatment (phew!) but has now become a real pain in the butt… literally.

Currently the pain is more localized just above the right dimple in my lower back. I have this strange urge to get a very large man to pick me up by my ankles and hang me upside down until something pops back into place. I know that is not how the body works but… you know – a runner can dream.

This morning my physiotherapist used heat, tens (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), acupuncture and some massage on me. It feels pretty good right now. Tomorrow morning the chiropractor will do some ART (read: wail on me with both hands) on my hip, gluteus medius, iliopsoas and IT band for a while. On Thursday the massage therapist will concentrate on my right gluteus medius, iliopsoas and the muscles above and below (collateral damage).

On my own I have a regime to follow: stretching, foam rolling and strengthening weak areas. Tonight, while watching and waiting for Federal Election Results to come in, I will do: a few sets of Janes, Prone Glute Raises, TA Squeezes and Clamshells until the cows come home. Then on to Cat-Camel, Cobra and a Standing Lateral Bend. Then I’ll spend some time foam rolling everything that is connected to my hip. Finally a quick Ice Bath and to bed early with my heating pad. After all, I have to run 10k @ 5:15/km tomorrow morning!

Feeling Like a Pro

I spent the last week in Toronto sleeping on an air-mattress, sitting on bamboo floors and eating out of tupperware with one spoon. Glamorous, I know! Moving across the country has its moments… but there is a major upside to this “living like a 17-year-old” adventure – I got a chance to run on the track at York University with Lioudmila “Lucy” Kortchaguina and her husband (and coach) Ilia Kounavine. It was an aspiring runner’s dream come true (sorry Tania, it was super cool getting to run with you too but we were running through a graveyard, jumping over puddles, between client meetings on Bay Street).

After about 10 minutes of easy running to warm-up, we planned out the session: 6 x 1000m @ 4:00 to 4:05 (which translates to about :48 / 200m lap). We stretched a little, chatted a little and then after a couple of increasingly faster laps, we began.

Ilia and Lucy stood on the inside of the track as I ran my heart out around them. Each time I passed Ilia would call out my time. “48 and 5″, “47, good”, “52, speed up” and so on. Between each 1000m set we would walk a lap together and I would get notes on my arm swing (too tight and close to my body), my stride length (short, but I’m not to worry about that yet) and what I would be doing in the months to come leading up to my attempt at a 3:20-ish (and Boston qualifying) marathon in the autumn.

My times were consistent and pleasing to all of us: 1000m @ 3:59:11, 3.58.92, 3.58.89, 3.56.42, 4.00.43, 3.52.87. Ok, I am not ecstatic with my 5th set… but whatever! I felt like a pro. I was living the dream!

After my 6th and final set we took another walk and Ilia told me that Lucy wanted to see how fast I could do 200m. Now? Well… OK! Why the heck not?! We neared the start line and I started to speed up… I ran with all the gusto I could muster = 200m in 36 seconds. I won’t be challenging Usain Bolt to any races (he runs 200m in 19.93 seconds) but I was pretty darn proud.

We cooled down, did some more stretching, chatted a little and called it a night.

I was still vibrating and itching to brag to someone about the experience so I texted Tania. “I think I did well. The Russians are upping my workout next week.” Tania responded with “Sure changes things when you have an audience during training!” Funny. I hadn’t actually thought of that. I was so engrossed in the moment and in trying to learn everything I could that I missed the fact that they were watching me! Ha! I hope I put on a good show.

Distancing Myself

I had an informal goal last year. It was to run 2010kms in the year 2010. Well, I ended up running 2100.2km (as well as swimming 65118.4m and cycling 2122km). Not bad, if I do say so myself. I know it is nothing like the mileage an elite runner puts on (right Tania?) but I am a musician who teaches university level nerd courses.

Fast forward to this morning —>> so far this year I have run 993.5km! The best part is that it’s only mid-April! At this rate I will likely hit 2800km before 2011 is over!

The bulk of this year’s running I owe to Lioudmila and Tania. They have me on a very steady diet of kilometres, kms and klicks. Last week alone I ran 119.9km divided up over the week as: Monday 8kms easy, Tuesday 14km steady, Wednesday 12km a little faster, Thursday 18km quality (speed), Friday 14km easy, Saturday 21km very easy, Sunday 26km comfortable. Throw in 5km of Hill Repeats with my Team in Training-ers on Tuesday night and you have yourself one spicy meatball!

If you are interested in taking a closer look at my workouts you can go to http://www.workoutlog.com/log/public/brocksky and take a peek. Yes, I love data and between my Adidas miCoach and my Garmin 310xt I track everything meticulously.

*Disclaimer – don’t try this at home unless you have a couple top coaches that will keep an eye on you, some awesome Adidas running gear, a wicked nutritionist tracking your food intake (plus regular appointments with a Registered Massage Therapist, ART Certified Chiropractor, a foam roller, and nightly ice baths). Basically – the iRun Runner Makeover!

The Unwanted Passenger – Negativity

My dutiful gear, waiting patiently for me to get moving.I woke up this morning with a strange feeling: I didn’t feel like going for a run.

Sunday is my distance day and this morning I was scheduled to run 20km @ 5:25/km. No problem, usually… but this morning was different. I had no motivation and worse yet all I could think about was how much work I had to get done today.

Don’t worry, dear reader, I did get out there and ran 21.3km in 1:58 but it was hardly the relaxing, enjoyable run I usually have on Sunday morning. Usually it is just me, my Adizeros, the soothing voice of miCoach (I prefer the “UK English Female”), the Edmonton river valley and as many science/health podcasts my crappy old iPod can carry. This morning I had an extra passenger along. An unwanted passenger. I believe his name is Negativity and he is a jerk.

It’s true that I have 30+ projects to mark for the class I teach at MacEwan University, workflow documents to prepare for a client, a Team in Training newsletter and this blog to write, an ‘intro to running’ session to plan for an AFLCA certification class, PLUS an afternoon tea my significant other signed me up for (I guess there are worse things than that but I don’t even drink tea). All of that is pretty normal for me and without Mr. Negativity on my shoulder I would have greeted this day with determination and grit. Instead I had to kick my own butt (several times), drink an extra coffee, take a deep breath and just jump in – kicking and screaming (on the inside).

Last weekend my coach, Tania Jones, and a load of other iRun folks, ran the Around The Bay 30k race in Hamilton, ON. When Tania emailed me about the race later that day, she said:

“It was a war out there at ATB. Fought for every km. At least I know that my marathon toughness is still sharp… gave me the confidence that I am tough enough to go back to the marathon…”

Check out her choice of words – fought, toughness, confidence, war. I know we are just runners but this is the type of determination I hope I was building this morning when I dragged myself out there and kicked my own butt around the city. I am hoping this will help make the difference between a small but easily attained PB and a hard fought, toughness inducing, all-out war when I run Toronto’s Goodlife Fitness Marathon on May 15th.

PS – My interview with iRun’s own Mark Sutcliffe has been posted for all to hear. Check it out: iRun The Running Show – March 26, 2011 (my interview is near the end of the show).

Is it a PB or a PR?

The ubiquitos biting the medal photoSince I began this Runner Makeover I have PB-ed (or is it PR-ed?) twice. The first one was just a couple weeks into the makeover, when Coach Tania was still trying to get a handle on what the heck to do with me.

The day before the Hypothermic Half Marathon she told me to “run hard but stay in control and respect the conditions” (it was cold, snowy and slippery here in Edmonton). So, I did what I was told.

I saw many a runner bite the dust (more like ‘bite the ice’) during that race but I stayed on my feet and managed to finish in 1:40:50. I placed 8th overall, 5th in my gender and 3rd in my division. I was over the moon! I had PR-ed (or is it PB-ed?) by almost 14 minutes (1:54:05 in Vancouver ‘09).

Tania’s strategy for me is to run faster for a few shorter races before I tackle another full marathon (and try to qualify for Boston) so I also signed up for the St. Patrick’s Day 10km this past weekend. Once again it was a narrow, slippery and snowy race. I watched as many runners lost their footing and went down hard on the ice and snow, all the while wondering when it was going to happen to me…

I managed to stay on my feet and finished in 45:20. I placed 10th overall, 5th in my gender and 1st in my division! That morning I got a medal and a PB (or is it PR?) of 8 minutes (53:54 at the same race in ‘09).

For years before this makeover began I had dreams of doing a 1:45 half marathon and to someday do a 10k in 45 minutes but I had no idea how to get there. Yes, I do coach other racers and have a decent bag of tricks to throw at them but I had run out of ideas and (more importantly) faith in my own abilities. Holla to iRun Magazine and this makeover for hooking me up with Tania, Adidas and Lauren. My faith is back and I am ready to PR (or is it PB?) may way into Boston.

Protein, water and an afternoon snack!

Quinoa & rice with bacon and eggs!Let me start by saying that we all love to hear that we are doing things correctly but there is really something magical about a teacher/coach/leader who can make you feel that way while pointing out the things you can improve on.

I just had my first telephone consult with Lauren Jawno, our Runner’s Makeover nutrition consultant. I’m not going to lie – I was worried. She had us track everything we ate for 4 days (including a Saturday). That was nearly a week ago. I have been waiting (nervously) ever since.

I am 6′ tall and 160lbs. I wear a 31″ waist jean and medium t-shirts usually fit me well, so I’m doing pretty well… for a normal person. For an endurance athlete? I don’t know. Maybe?

In any case, Lauren had some great feedback for me. First of all (she said in her magical way) “You are doing pretty well.” Nice! “Aside from the chocolate croissant and 12oz mochaccino”. Damn, I had somehow hoped that was an ok recovery meal. “Also you are not getting enough protein.” That surprised me. I eat meat, I eat dairy, I even use a whey protein powder. I know protein is an important building block for the body but I really thought I was getting enough.

Next was my water intake. I have to admit to being an on-again-off-again water junky. I happen to be in an off-again phase and I do know better. We athletes need water and lots of it. That is an easy one to remedy.

Lastly, I need to eat a snack in the afternoon. I am “going too long between lunch and dinner without food.” Hrm… yeah, I guess I usually workout in the morning and consequently eat a lot between 5:30am and noon. Afternoons are not my hungry time. So, from now on I will grab some cheese and fruit around 3:00pm. I can do that.

That was about it. We had some quick exchanges about putting real food before sport food and she asked me why I had switched from Gatorade to coconut water recently (mostly out of curiosity and being tired of fake fruit flavours). She also encouraged me to start taking an Omega 3 fish oil to “help my general health and to lubricate my joints”. I like the sound of that!

So, this is great. I have 3 things to concentrate on: Protein, Water and Afternoon Snacks. Easy, clear and doable. We’re planning to check in with each other in about 10 days to see how I’m doing. Hopefully I will be proteined-up, well-hydrated and afternoon-snacked.

Whoops – it’s 3:30 and I haven’t had my cheese!

Run a marathon – it’s doctor’s orders!

Coach Brock and the TnT TeamLast night I had my Team in Training athletes out for their first Hill Training session. It was fun watching the terror in their eyes dissipate as they realized that it wasn’t as bad as it sounded. For them anyway… I had done 12km at 5:00/km followed by 30mins of resistance training earlier that day. Running hills was the last thing I wanted to be doing. I faked some “coaching moments” to give myself a break and hid some lazing at the bottom of the hill as “cheerleading moments” and made it through the session unscathed.

There was one moment last night, while trying to keep pace with one of my more experienced and speedy runners, that I was reminded (by the pain in my chest) of how and why I got into all this craziness in the first place – it was doctor’s orders.

Despite the fact that I am a coach for a team dedicated to the eradication of cancer, it’s actually my own personal heart health background that has driven me to gather the resources, education and training I have amassed over the last 5 years. In December of 2003 I got very ill and contracted pericarditis / myocarditis and spent a lot of time in and out of hospital over the next 1.5 years. I suffered heart failure numerous times (”bradyed down” as they say in the ER), was rushed in for an angiogram, developed an abnormal heart rhythm (Type 1 Second-degree AV block) and basically had the scare of a lifetime (buy me a coffee sometime and I will tell you all about it).

After I had the “all clear” from my cardiologist, instead of leaping for joy, I fell further into the self-pity and depression experienced by many who have had scares like mine. After a few return visits (and even more 24-hour holter monitors) Dr. Williams told me that I needed to do something to prove to my brain that my heart was ok “Like, I don’t know, run a marathon or something”. Heh… little did he know how powerful those words were.

It’s now 11 full marathons, 6 half marathons, 4 triathlons, 2 road bike races (1 century and 1 IronBike), and several 10&15k runs later and I pretty much never think of my heart as anything but a hard working, pumping machine. Thanks doc and thanks running!

Without My Ducklings

Running so fast I blurredIt has been quite a while since I have had to train on my own. Actually, I can literally pinpoint the day – the day I joined Team in Training.

Sure, I would head out for the odd run alone but I could always count on having at least two training sessions per week (”quality” and “long slow”) with my peeps (is that still a word?). Since I started the Runner Makeover I have been aspiring to speeds that I would dare not inflict on my unsuspecting team of trainees. Don’t get me wrong, I am loving everything about this makeover but it is a little lonely without my little running ducklings (a name my 2009 Vancouver team got as they followed me, single file, through the rain to the race expo).

I still meet up with my team on Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings (when the weather permits, this has been a long and harsh Edmonton winter) but that only accounts for 10-15kms of my weekly 70-80km, of which most are done between 5:45am – 8:00am. I blame the ridiculous time of day on my work week. I work full-time as a web developer, teach Design Studies at MacEwan University, coach for Team and Training, get my own training done… and try to have a life. Ha!

I’m not complaining, I enjoy a busy day but it does lead to lonely runs, at early hours, without my running ducklings.