Refining my Training as a Runner

On August 8th I went in for an assessment with the Peak Centre for Human Performance in Kanata. Our Summer Marathon Clinic group had a talk from them a couple of weeks back about finding the right pace-zones to get the most out of your training – a good slow pace for your long runs, a challenging fast pace for tempo. We were all really motivated by what we had heard, and so approximately 40 of us ended up signing up to get tested (at a pretty sweet discount!).

It was really easy to book the appointment online, and I was quick to receive a confirmation email which said that I was scheduled for my preferred day and time. Woohoo!

When I arrived I was given some basic paperwork to fill out, and a waiver for what they called the VO2 Max testing. Then they brought me into the room and got me set up. First I put the heart rate monitor around my chest – just like the one I have at home – only they use a conductive gel on the pads to ensure a good reading. We discussed a good pace for me to start at, which would be recovery/Sunday long run speed. For me that was about 7:30min/km on their chart. I warmed up for a few minutes on their treadmill and the person testing me agreed that this would be a good starting pace. It was time to begin!

I neglected to bring any water, so I popped my head into their sink like the graceful creature that I am. Then the contraption of doom I had heard so much about from so many before me was placed upon my face: The Mask. It was a tiny rubbery thing that went over my nose and mouth. Even though I was fully aware that it would make me feel incredibly claustrophobic, I still felt momentarily startled, like “I can’t run with this on my face!” as it feels like you can’t quite get enough air in. I managed to wiggle it around to a point where I felt I could fully open my mouth and nose (which did feel a bit pinched initially), and then I calmed and was ready.

Back onto the treadmill I went. They attached some tubes that went into and out of my mask so that they could monitor my breathing. I glared at the tubes and silently hoped that they would be able to keep up with my air demands.

I started off on the treadmill at my Sunday long run slow-and-steady pace and held that for 3 minutes before they would increase the speed by 1km/h (if I’m recalling that correctly). All of which would be at a 2% incline. Before increasing speed, however, they would take a quick blood sample from my finger. I would place my hand on the side armrest of the treadmill, and they would quickly lance my finger and squeeze out a bit of blood.

Of course, by no surprise to me, I have cold hands with no circulation, and so I pretty much needed to be pricked a fresh hole for every cycle. I didn’t mind as it wasn’t painful. My history with blood tests at this point leads me believe that one would have better luck extracting blood from a stone than from my body!

My goal was to keep running for as long as possible to ensure we were able to collect enough data for my results. I was doing alright with my breathing, even though I did have to straighten out the tube to my mask a few times as it would get caught on the treadmill screen. I kept my mind occupied by watching the computer screen before me, which showed the elapsed time (I wanted to keep going for at least 20 minutes), my heart rate (the heart rate monitor beeping insessantly below me, reminding me that I was pushing myself, in case I wasn’t aware..), and my VO2 readings (which were constantly fluctuating and, if indicative of my VO2 Max, not very impressive).

At one point during what I deemed to be my last run cycle (I was just barely maintaining that speed!), I glanced down at my Garmin and saw that my pace was reading 3 minutes per km! I nearly flew off the treadmill in shock – I have never run that fast before!! Suffice it to say, I broke my records for fastest kilometre and mile run that day! I was positively giddy.


So for me it was definitely the legs that gave out first. Most people reported back that it was their lungs – feeling claustrophobic, not getting enough air in through the mask. I feel a bit disappointed that I couldn’t keep it up for one more 3 minute cycle, and that if I hadn’t seen my pace then maybe I could have. But then I remember I was just barely keeping it together long enough for him to take that last blood sample. When I was able to slow down a bit and catch my breath it was easy to say “let’s keep going!”, but that’s not how the test works.

All in all, it was definitely an interesting experience and I’m looking forward to seeing my results, which will help guide my training!

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Long Overdue Update: I’m a Marathoner Now!

I can’t believe the last time I was posting on here I was a month away from my first marathon, only just starting to wrap my head around the fact that I’m really going to be doing this!

Fast forward to today and I have much to update about. The marathon itself deserves its own post. Suffice it to say, I completed my first marathon! It didn’t go at all as I would have imagined (they say that’s how first marathons go anyway). But it was an amazing day that I look forward to sharing with you all!

Post-marathon I didn’t quite know what to do with myself next in terms of training. I knew I wanted to do another marathon and aim for a much better finishing time, but I wasn’t planning to sign up for the next clinic and was just going to train on my own, and join Run Club on Sundays and Wednesdays.

What ended up happening is that they needed volunteers to lead the various pace groups for the Summer Marathon Clinic, and so I was asked if I could lead the 4:45 group (training to finish a marathon in 4 hours and 45 minutes).

I have no leadership skills whatsoever, and so I felt that this would be the perfect challenge for me. And that’s how I ended up back in the marathon clinic for the summer! It’s great because we have new instructors bringing in a lot of new information for our weekly talks, and new approaches to our training plans! However, it turns out that there were no people looking to run at 4:45 this time around, and so I’ve been moved up to pace the 4:30 group instead. This works out well because I was hoping to move up anyway! It’s just a bit nerve-wracking too because, as the leader, I don’t want to find myself at any point struggling to keep up! So far that hasn’t been a problem, thankfully – in fact I’ve been doing 4:15’s tempo runs when training on my own! I’ve managed to follow the route directions and not get us lost. Though I definitely still ask for assistance from my group in helping me stay at the right pace, and with things like deciding which side of the road we should go down.

I still haven’t figured out what my next marathon is going to be. By the time I was convinced that I should do Marathon du P’tit Train du Nord, it was already completely sold out. And no bib transfers, so that’s totally off the shelf for me now. A bunch of friends from the marathon group are doing the Wineglass Marathon, but I’m not too sure about the logistics of me travelling to States. The Niagara Falls International Marathon is an option too, just because I love running by water! And our marathon group is ‘officially’ training for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. I just don’t know! Ideally I’d like to have a good friend to share this experience with too (even if we don’t run the actual race together). So, we’ll see what I end up deciding.

As a last option I could always just run from Petrie Island to Parliament Hill and back again and call it a day, haha. At least that way I can run when I feel it’s a good day for it, for free, and without the stresses of race day!

Something else I’ve been venturing into this summer is trail running. I found a trail near my house and went off to explore it one day. I like it there because I sauntered in half-cocked, not having a clue where I was headed, and managed to saunter back out again without getting lost, lol! It was a pleasant alternative to the usual boring roads and traffic; lots of beautiful scenery, and the trees offer wonderful shade on hot summer days.


I got to experience my first trail race this summer too, with friends Erika and Michelle.

On July 9th we participated in the MEC Race Three at Camp Fortune, where we scaled 5km of ski hills! It was incredibly difficult (I pretty much walked up all the hills), but my legs the next day were crazy strong – I broke my first 4-minute km on the treadmill following that epic run! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that!!

I was so happy for the opportunity to join friends for my first trail run, as I have been a bit nervous about going out there on my own. It was comforting having them by my side. Even now I am still a bit hesitant. I think I just need more experience running trails to figure out how far I can go, how long I can keep up, and whether I can work my way though a route without getting terribly lost.

July also marked my second full year as a runner! I have already reached over 1,000kms for 2017, too! I can’t believe how much I have progressed this year!

Marathon Training, Week 14

Things are going well! I’m having an absolute blast with the group I’m training with. I can’t believe I’ve made it all the way to week 14, which includes hill training of up to 10 repeats and 32km long runs that span 4 hours. I’m doing things I never imagined I could be capable of doing! Especially considering the fact that I’ve never been particularly athletic – I went from couch to runner about 19 months ago, and basically moved up from 10k training straight to full marathon this January. The original idea being that I would hang in there for as long as possible, and that all of this would at least help me become a stronger runner for my 10k race in May. I wanted the challenge, but I was ok if I wasn’t yet strong enough to complete the full training. And now here I am four weeks out from Race Weekend actually considering switching up the marathon – a thought that both thrills and terrifies me in all the right ways! 😉

Highlights from my training so far include going beyond the 6 hill repeats of my 10k training, and tackling the never-ending hill on Trim Road. By the time I had completed 8 repeats there, I had reached an elevation gain of 189 metres, or 620 feet! I felt so badass! I’ve definitely been getting some sort of sick, twisted enjoyment out of the otherwise tortuous hill training, lol. My approach is to just zoom up those things and get it over with as fast as possible. In doing so I’ve become a much stronger runner and people think I’m crazy, bahaha.

Sunday long runs have also been enjoyable. Particularly because the people running the marathon clinic at the Orleans Running Room love to come up with ‘themes’ for our outings. For example, one Sunday we ran around town keeping our eyes peeled for the motivational posters they left out, and we had to collect our tag from each one (I run with the 4:45 group). We also dressed in our Canadian gear because it was the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. It’s little things like that which bring a whole new dimension of fun to our long runs. Plus the water stations where people volunteer to set up food and drinks for us are amazing. The treats are greatly appreciated on these runs where we’re now burning over 2,000 calories. (I never realized how much fuelling up during runs helped give me the energy to keep going until now!!) And the enthusiasm of the people running these water stations is so uplifting. Neighbours get involved, many selfies are taken. Then we’re back on the road with big smiles on our faces.

I really don’t think I could’ve handled these long runs if it weren’t for my group by my side. Not only do they help keep me at a pace that allows me to keep running these longer distances without burning out, but the conversations help keep me out of my own head and focused outside of myself too, which I really need. Thoughts like “maybe I should cut this run short and turn back” just can’t enter my head anymore.

It feels absolutely amazing to be part of Run Club and connecting with so many fantastic new friends. I’m so happy that I went for it! I walk in now and see the familiar faces of people I trained with in the 10k clinic last year, and my marathon group this year, and it’s like we’re all a big family. I love it.

Group photo with our Boston Marathon runners!