Thursday, July 30, 2009

Holy Hannah...



...it's HOT!

The past week has been absolutely glorious. I cannot remember a summer with weather as wonderful as the stretch we are having. As wonderful as the weather has been, today was a little on the hot side. I believe it is a little excessive when cycling from shop to shop causes me to sweat through my dress shorts. As I sit here blogging at 10 pm it is still over 25 degrees on the balcony on the north side of our building. It is in this heat that I ran tonight for our VFAC Thursday night workout.

Tonight we were charging around Beaver Lake with a 1km, 2km, 2km, 1km workout. We were allowed full recovery between intervals. I am unsure if it was the heat or the general fatigue I am feeling that caused me to run a less then stellar workout, but I am happy to have completed it none the less. John presented me with ambitious times to hit tonight and I fell short on two of the four intervals. My warm up felt good, strides and drills were good and when I was nice and warm the workout began. The first two intervals were run with the fast runners going first and the fastest runners going last. John starts us in reverse order to have us finish all around the same time. Most nights I am on my own at the back for all intervals but tonight I got to start the first with the group that is usually in front of me. Usually I am chasing right from the gun so it was very nice to have some company for the first interval. I went to the front of the group as I knew my pace time was around 5 seconds faster then the others. I felt like I was moving swiftly though I found it difficult to gauge my pace and work rate. I finished the interval around 8 seconds over pace. The second interval I started 10 seconds behind the group in front of me and attempted to chase them down. The first km was very similar to my effort in the first interval. Hard to quantify if anything. My legs were a little tired but not unusual, my feet were coming off of the ground without undue strain but I had to put out a lot of effort to hit my pace times. I went through 1 km exactly on pace and was able to maintain my velocity for the second km. The second 2 km piece was not so good. The wheels were not turning and I could not get the engine into gear, maybe I locked the brakes at the end of the previous interval. I was 8 seconds over pace time again. Ynuk was charging from behind and it was difficult not to go hard and race to the line. The last thing I want to do now is race in workouts, so I attempted to hold my pace and use his energy to pull me along. It does not seem to hurt as much when there is someone else to hurt too. The last interval I wanted to survive. I ran as hard as I could to get the workout over with. It turns out I went one second under pace time. It did not feel good but I do not think it was ugly. I was totally exhausted but my stride actually felt crisp and light.

Tonight's workout shows me that when I am exhausted and very hot and missing times I can dig deep and come back with a good effort. I will have to place the interval into my memory to recall when I am in a tough spot racing.

The dog days of summer are here and life has heated up with the temperature. I have been very busy the past few days as I want to enjoy every minute of summer. The combination of feeling like a spinning top between training, work and social life and the reduced quality of sleep from the heat has left me wearied and longing for a quiet night with a good sleep. This will not come soon as I have yet another busy weekend ahead. As the saying goes, I can sleep when I am dead.

Last night I was on a sailboat in English Bay for the Festival Of Lights. The UK lit it up with some Elgar, Sarah Brightman and music from the sound track to The Last of the Mohicans. There were even bagpipes! The city was radiant with the views from the water and the ambient temperature on the water was perfect.

Holy Hannah it's HOT! Time to shower again, this blog has made me sweat.

Happy Training!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Here We Go Again

Sometimes I wonder why I do this.

The initial exhaustion and agitation that comes with training has hit. It happened yesterday at around 1:30. I had run a too fast long run in the morning then met up with my swim training group to head to Kits Pool. Thank goodness Kirsty drove because if not I would not have made it to the pool otherwise. I swam 2 laps of the pool before getting annoyed with the disorder and random swimming of the people in the pool. I promptly left the pool and spent the rest of the time getting some sun while ruminating about the disorder and mayhem in the pool. I may have also complained about the cool temperature of the pool. I was slightly despondent for the remainder of the afternoon with my friends prompting me to either smile or participate in conversation.

I love running and training but I must admit the exhaustion I feel makes even simple social interaction difficult. I have reduced frustration tolerance, little patience and become slightly aggressive and frank in conversation. For example; last night I played tennis with a friend. It was great fun but I was really tired by the end. For the last bit a hot guy played with us. Normally this would be a great opportunity to find a new playmate. I was so tired that I could barely make conversation and did not even flirt. I became frustrated with his banal conversation and quickly lost interest. Am I even gay when I am training hard?

It is at times like this, when I become angry and embittered due to training, that I begin to wonder if I want to go to the dark place required to run faster. The strange thing is that running is when I actually feel better and good. Another example; I had a very long Monday today after an excellent weekend packed with time with friends, training and enjoying the glorious weather here in Vancouver. All day today I was tired, a bit sharp with some of the Docs. and not my usual cheery self. After work I headed to the pool to run with my friends Sony and Nick before our swim. I was a little angry and disheartened before hitting the Sea Wall for an 'easy' off day run. Once I was off and running I felt an instant release of the day's exhaustion and stress. I felt light and relaxed and enjoyed the run with friends. We even finished the run with a little race, I totally out kicked the other two guys. After finishing the run, then the subsequent swim, I felt much better then I had all day. Ought I be able to tolerate a day of anger for a run of joy?

I do not have to run. It is a choice I make because I love the feeling of freedom it gives me. I train because it makes my locomotion of choice, running, effortless and easy. I have confidence from knowing I have a passion and a love that cannot be easily had. Running is the love of my life with all the passion and fire of a steamy love affair. There have been tears of joy and sorrow. Rage from a disappointing result or joy from a personal best. I have felt loneliness from being unable to run and boredom from over familiarity. It is this choice I make that I must respect and acknowledge as I continue on the path of exhaustion and frustration to personal bests. In 10 years time I will not recall the frustrating day of work Monday July 27th, but I will remember running sub 30:30!

Happy Training!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fast Twitch

This morning I hit the track for my first track workout in a month. The fast twitch muscles fibers were firing and my Fast Twitch Flats were fast!

The sun was blazing and the weather hot for this morning's workout. I love training in the heat. As I have a pretty small body it is much easier for my body to cool then others with bigger bodies. This is an asset when training on lovely summer days like today. The heat and warmth keep my muscles warm while also keeping them loose and pain free. In the heat I feel I have a little more power and range of motion in my stride. I also find it easier to complete my drills and I can get my strides and accelerations up to maximum speed a little quicker. It is also nice to train in my tiny high cut shorts and shirtless.

Today's workout was a fast one with 400 warm up followed by 2 times 200 all-out then 2 times 600 all-out. Maximal effort workouts are what I have run all through university. I was never the fast guy so every time we hit the track I had to hammer as hard as possible just to keep at the back of the lead pack. Now that I am older and wiser I have been able to adjust my training so that an all-out workout is all-out and a longer workout is not a race but rather a pace. The warm up 400 went well splitting through 200 in around 31 or 32. I was a little surprised by this time as the effort felt easy. The first 200 interval was fast as I had a couple of guys to chase in Cappel and Brad. I went through in around 26. The second 200 was just as quick with as Brad put the hammer down and flew ahead, at least 5 metres ahead by the end. He has amazing wheels!

I was looking forward to the 600's as they are a great measure of fitness and strength. In an all-out 600 one is to run hard to 400, then harder for the last 200. The thing is, for most people, the last 200 is still the slowest part of the interval. Today I ran even through the 600's with equal splits for each of my 200 sections. The 600's were close to my best ever efforts. For both of my intervals the opening 200 felt smooth and easy, the second 200 required a bit of effort as my breathing increased and my legs became starved for energy and the last 200 was effortful yet contained. I did not feel out of control at any point during the workout nor did I feel flat or leaden. I felt good spring off of the track with barely any time with my feet on the ground. I always try to get my feet off of the ground as fast as possible when training on the track. After a hard workout on Thursday and a tough and exhausting work week I am quite thrilled with today's workout. I am still surprised I did not lose any speed or strength with my time off.

On a sad note, today was my last track workout with my club mate Brad. There is a link to his blog on the left which is called 'Madly Running Around'. Brad is a great guy and awesome to train with. He is the rare combination of quick competitive training partner, cheerleader, congeniality and intelligent conversation. At every workout he has a kind word to say, a good hug and great work ethic. He will be missed when he moves to Victoria with his Fiancee. If only he was single and gay...

Happy Training!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Recovery; How Do I Love Thee?

There was a time when I was but a young, naive runner who marveled at the grace, power and speed of the runners at the front of the pack or in the 'A' heat of a track meet. I thought to myself, "they must never take training breaks." Could I have been more wrong?


I started running later in life, and as such, I have had a deep held belief that I have to run twice as hard and far as my competitors, who have many more childhood miles in their legs. I also reasoned that because I had to make up for lost time I should train through my teammate's and competitor's breaks. Recovery was a concept my coaches spoke of and fell on my deaf ears. When I finished my Varsity running career, after my Master's degree at McMaster University, I was burnt out and exhausted. I still loved running but I had lost the desire and need to train hard. The last thing in the world I wanted to run was an interval and the last thing I needed was a coach. I had been at a plateau for a couple of years (around 33 minutes for 10km) and needed time away from the sport after 6 years of steady training with no longer then a couple of days away from training. Even when I had a serious injury going into my last year of UNB I still managed to either pool run or swim once or twice a day.

It was during my break from running when I moved to Vancouver. It was the break from running that impressed upon me the importance of recovery. When I joined VFAC it was with fun and speed in mind. I also wanted to join on my own terms, running my own plan, for myself. It was when I was able to let myself take a day off when I was getting over trained (like when my heart would beat in my throat on an easy off day run...) or skip a workout to spend time with a cherished friend that I moved from the plateau and began to climb to a new peak of fast times.

My latest recovery period has ended with a surprising workout tonight. I cannot remember the last time I took a whole week off. When I was told by coaches to take time off I usually ran anyways, having surgery was what was needed to keep me out of my running shoes and out of the pool. Tonight we ran a longer mileage workout. I think the loop was 1 5/8 miles. We started with a double loop followed by a single loop with full recovery between efforts. Upon finishing the workout tonight John informed me that I may have run a best time for the first double and it may have been my best overall workout on this loop ever. Not bad for a first workout back!

I am surprised and a bit wary of this early speed and endurance. I can think of a few reasons I ran quick tonight. I am fresh and motivated and the men I train with are all running really fast and are fit. They are unbelievably lean (and of course straight...) which makes a nice target in workouts. I am still slightly guarded with my reaction to this workout. I wonder, where do I go from here?

I have no answer to this question. If this is a new starting point to build from then I will have a new slate of best times in the fall and 30:30, the next 10km milestone, may become closer to reality. If this is a result of having fresh legs with no aches, pains or niggles then I will have more of the same and will continue with my gradual drop in times. The biggest message for me tonight though is to take some time to recover. After three weeks away from hard intervals, a week of no exercise with an upper jaw surgery and some later nights with some lovely drinks and excitement I am running faster than I anticipated.

I also realized tonight I have a love/hate relationship with training. I enjoyed my time of relaxation and energy for the last few weeks. The fatigue is setting in already and I am a touch anxious for Saturday's track workout. I hope my legs get a chance to recover before then. I am also starting to warn colleagues and friends that I may become a touch snappy and moody in the next few weeks as the initial exhaustion that comes with getting back into heavy training sets in. I will have to ensure I have patience with those who I choose (and choose me as well) to have in my life as well and those I do not choose to have in my life.

I will take a dip in English Bay tomorrow night to flush some 'junk' from my cells while avoiding unnecessary pounding and Saturday morning I will be on the track.

Above all else I am glad to be back! It was great to see familiar faces tonight and catch up with the guys.

Happy Training!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Multi-tasking

I am ever the ambitious one.

Tonight was my first meeting as secretary for the English Bay Swim Club. This is a queer oriented swim club here in Vancouver. It is one of the largest master's swim clubs in BC and almost won BC Provincials last year. I am excited to be on the executive as it enables me to promote queers in sport beyond my narrowly focused blog. On the swim team alone we have several athletes who have Canadian Master's Swimming records to their names. Being the secretary will also be motivation to train in the pool more then I have in the last year. It looks like I will be starting the long road to Ironman Triathlon (Ironman in the far future) as I start swim training again. I will be cautious with my training as I do not want impair my running performance.

Tempo Tuesday is back and just as good as ever. I ran 25 minutes at tempo pace combined between the trails of Stanley Park and the Sea Wall. I have some pains from strength training and general aches from the onslaught of running this past week. My Achilles and Gastrocs are a little tender, not in an injury way but in a well used way. I had to focus on holding sub threshold pace despite wanting to go hard and fast. At one point, once on the tarmac of the Sea Wall, I starting imagining I was at Nationals running on someone's imaginary shoulder. When I started wheezing I snapped out of my stupor and took my pace down a notch to get back to sub threshold. It is nice to know I have not lost any hunger to run hard.

Tomorrow I have a light run and swim then Thursday my first night back to intervals. I am even more excited for Track on Saturday. I formally hated track workouts, now I can hardly wait to slip on my spikes and run some fast times! I will have to be gentle with myself the first few weeks back to account for a loss of fitness but I am excited regardless.

I also had my stitches removed today from my surgery. It feels nice to be back to normal in every way!

Happy Training!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fuel for the Fire

Fire needs fuel. It needs energy to stay alive. I have gotten some fuel to keep my fires alive.

Summer time, for those who live in rural Canada, is a time to get the fire wood chucked and split in preparation for the long cold Canadian winter. In some ways summer for a runner can be a time to get some fuel for a tough fall schedule. The last few weeks of recovery have enabled me to rest my aching bones, my weary mind and fuel my desire to run fast in the fall. The fuel has come in a few forms.

I received an exciting letter from BC Athletics on Friday inviting me to National 10km Championships in Toronto. Motivational fuel for the fire. I know that I will be running in a competitive race in October that will give me a chance to run a new personal best. I am also heartened to not have to run on a tough course in Ottawa. On the days when it is cold and raining and I do not necessarily feel like running I will think of my race coming up, the opportunity it presents and I will train. Fuel for the fire.

I have had some time to eat good food and rebuild my muscles. This is real fuel in the form of energy. I wanted to gain a bit of weight to get me through the summer but that did not really happen. For the next month of training I am going to get into the weight room in the hopes I will get hungry and start eating more and gain some strength for the fall. It would not be terrible to have some biceps too. The extra energy and strength will get me through some tough long runs and very hard workouts and races. Fuel for the fire.

Time away from running has been great to see friends, go out into the city at night, have a few drinks and relax. The time away has also made me want to go back. I missed the freedom I get from running and the energy rush from a good workout. I also missed seeing my club mates on a regular basis and the camaraderie at VFAC. I enjoyed not being a runner but I am ready to train. Time away from running has been wonderful to show me again how much I love running fast. Fuel for the fire.

I have lots of fuel to build a nice fire. Now I have to ensure I do not build a blaze to big to burn all this energy before I peak in the fall. I will also have to remember to stoke my fire by taking time to recover from my hard training periods.

I had my first long run yesterday in my new training period. I ran 10 miles and it felt good, not great. I will continue to build my long run and in the next few weeks it will begin to become more comfortable as I get more comfortable with running slow for an aerobic base.

As for playing with fire away from running I have not had much opportunity. I am fully enjoying my summer without repeated disappointments on a personal level. Of course I would love someone to stoke a little fire with, but my summer has been hot enough as it is. I am going to enjoy the freedom of being a singleton for the rest of the summer and not concern myself with the trappings of relationships. It is nice in the summer to do/go/see whatever I want with whomever I want without having to take someone along or ask permission. As I took a training break I want to take a break from thinking about dating anyone, possibly till after this next hard training session. Maybe get some fuel for a new fire somehow.

I have fuel for one fire and doused another. The summer continues...

Happy Training!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Glorious Summer

I love summer.

Today was another glorious day in Vancouver. Although I could only look enviously out the hospital windows, I was excited to head out into the brilliant summer sun as I got off of work at 4:00. I took the long way home on my bike then laced up the runners for a nice little jaunt on the Seawall, with a pit stop at Brockton Oval for some drills and strides. My legs have been a little sore after my spirited run on Tuesday and I felt a little sluggish today. I have not run a workout in two weeks and I did not get my heart rate above 80 for a whole week so being a little winded and heavy is not unexpected. Once at Brockton I did my full range of drills with some core strengthening and strides. I want to give my body a taste of running hard before I actually hit the trails in a weeks time.

Yesterday I was in the pool for the first time in a week. It was a good swim although I feel weak and generally lousy in the water. I want to be swimming like I was over a year ago when 3000 meters was a breeze and I felt like I could pull myself easily through the water. Now I feel like I have no muscle strength or feel for the water. To get back to my previous mediocrity (I was never a great swimmer) I will have to spend much more time in the pool then I am now. I will have to decide soon if I want to subject my body to any extra training on top of my running. One of the hardest facts about swimming is that there is no empirical research evidence to suggest any cross over from swim training to running. Knowing that going to the pool is not going to help my running and may actually hinder my running is a huge disincentive. I would very much miss my training group though. Maybe I should hit the sea for some open water swimming.

This weekend is the Summerfest Race which is put on by my club VFAC. I will be the lead cyclist which should be fun. I am slightly disappointed I will not be defending my title but at least I will still be at the front of the pack! For the rest of the weekend I have some very important beach time planned. Did I mention I love summer?

Happy Training!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

On The Road Again

I am up and running.

Upon arriving home from work today I quickly changed into my favorite spandex shorts, took off my work shirt, laced up my New Balance Trainers (Courtesy of Rackets to Runners) and headed out the door. I ran the first three blocks at a regular pace, the last block before the Park I could not hold back anymore and I sprinted the last half block into Stanley Park. The freedom I felt to be running again is indescribable.

I had a really good run today in the park and on the Seawall, that is until the last mile. Which leads me to a new segment...

Running Etiquette Lesson One: It is not appropriate to stop running, wait for a random stranger to come along, then run on their shoulder.

This has happened to me 3 times in Vancouver and I find the phenomena very annoying. The first time this happened I was on a light recovery run, which for most people would still be a fast pace. I was moving along the Seawall when I passed a man who was running much slower then I was. When I passed him he suddenly picked up his pace and glued himself to my shoulder. I picked up my pace to drop him as I chose to run by myself for a reason and he was not making any enlightening conversation. He picked up his pace and continued to run on my shoulder. Over the course of a kilometer my pace went from relaxed easy run to tempo and this guy would not quit. If I slowed he slowed, if I picked up the pace he picked up the pace. After a mile I abruptly stopped and turned for him to go by. The second occasion was somewhat similar and again very annoying. At least these two individuals were already running. Today on the Seawall, as I was coming around to Second Beach Pool I noticed a man in the distance doing some random stretches that I am sure were not prescribed by any coach or health care professional. I was cruising at my off day pace, out for a lark of a run. I hung a right at the pool to run along the water and he started up behind me, and pasted himself on my shoulder. If I can hear your breathing your are running too close. I slowed my pace to let him go by as I thought he might have been doing a tempo, he did not budge from my shoulder. I returned to my regular pace as I thought maybe he had a little bit of energy at the beginning of his run, again he did not budge from his position on my shoulder. I was feeling quite annoyed at this point so I decided to have a little fun and play a little game with this guy called 'surge'. I gradually increased my pace so he would have to work harder and harder to keep up, then I would drop slightly to let him catch his breath, then go again. I repeated this pattern approximately 3 times, and each time this annoying man stayed in my shadow. The last surge was followed by a significantly slower piece, I wanted him to think I was tired. Again he made no move to pass. I then put the hammer down and ran hard. I heard his heavy breathing grow more distant as I dropped him with ease. The moral of this little exercise; run on my shoulder, get dropped. If I cannot knock you out with a punch, I will make you suffer with my pace.

To finish my run I wove myself around the beautiful tree lined streets of the West end, enjoying my freedom. Altogether I ran 5 miles with no pain in either my lower extremities or the incision from my surgery. It feels absolutely wonderful to be back running and I am looking forward to training. I do have to prepare myself for the road ahead of me though. I have very much enjoyed my break and I still have a week until my first hard workout. Soon I will be back into hard training which drains much of my energy and some of my bright spirits. Beware for posts of a slightly negative nature as I push my body and mind as far as tolerable.

I am excited to push hard but also a little nervous with lots of questions. Will my body respond to my training program as it has the past year leading to more personal bests or have I plateaued? Can I stay injury free? Can I cope with the exhaustion and push beyond it? Will I accomplish my goals? Will there be anyone to bring me cheer when I fuck up a workout or race?

I am back running and I could not be happier!

Happy Training!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

One more day.

One more full day before I get to run again!

I spent this morning at the Vancouver 1/2 Ironman Triathlon. I got to watch some of my club mates from the English Bay Triathlon Club race as well as chat with some friends. I love being in the running/triathlon community as going to races is like going home with many familiar and smiling faces. Going to watch a race is also very motivational. Big Kudos to all the EBTC'ers who raced today whether in the sprint or the 1/2 Ironman.

I really should not watch triathlons, especially when friends and club mates are racing. I get much too inspired by their efforts. By the time I left the race I had a plan in my mind for buying a new bike and getting back into training. I can imagine getting up every morning at 5am to train and then doing my second workout after work. I love training and being an athlete. There is no better feeling then finishing a race or snapping off the shoes at the end of a long ride. I also have to keep in mind the difficulty involved in having a life outside of sport when dedicated to sport. I am unsure of how my work performance would be if I was training 3 or 4 hours a day outside of work. My reality is living in an expensive city where I need to earn money to survive. I have no one but me to pay the bills so I must work to live and training has to come second. I will get back into triathlon, it is in the 5 year plan. For now I will try to keep a bit of feel for the water, try to get a little more strength in my legs for cycling and run, run, run!

I am now post op day 5 and despite some residual swelling and a crooked smile I am doing well. I had a bit of a dicey situation this morning with a little bit too enthusiastic a tooth brush but I do not think I caused too much trouble. The pain is almost gone which is a blessing in disguise. I can rationalize going out for an easy 10km when I do not have any pain, one more day.

Happy Training!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Goal Setting

It is official, I was third in the Timex Series for BC. I am pleased with this result and the cash will go towards good use, maybe towards 10 km Road Nationals. I would love to return to Road Nationals and make an attempt at top 10, very ambitious! If I have some good training and a good day in October then who knows what will happen. I never would have imagined entertaining the thought of top 10 in Canada for road race, how far I have come.

Today is post op day 4. I thought I would be better by today and would be back to usual. I am still not allowed to run (Arg!!!!) but I was hoping to be pain free with no more swelling. There is still pain and I look like I have a bit of a palsy on the right side of my face. Not very attractive. I still cannot smile and talking hurts. Oh childhood accidents and their long term repercussions.

So it looks like I have a good goal for the fall, Road Nationals! It seems like a far ways off as I sit here at my computer not able to run. I had a great time in Ottawa last year as I have a few close friends from undergrad in Ottawa. It seemed like every time I rounded a corner in Ottawa I ran into someone I knew. Even my old coach from McMaster was amazed at all the people I kept bumping into.

The difficulty with the fall running season is the mix of cross county and road. I love cross country. I get teary when I watch old videos from university and there is no better feeling then running on grass. Some of my best memories of running are from cross country. But I am a better road runner. As much as I love cross it has become apparent in my age that I am better suited for road running. I find the mixed tempo of cross difficult as well as the break neck pace from the gun. At nationals last year I sprinted as hard as I could at the gun and wound up towards the back of the pack and tired. I do not like Oxygen dept from the gun. It also turns out my body is not that great at racing in the cold. I love the heat of summer and my body handles the heat much better then others. I find training in the cold very difficult as well. Where some athletes may enjoy long recovery, my body just cools down rapidly making consequent intervals painful. I am going to give cross country another kick at the can, for the love of running, but I do not have very high expectations for results. I would love to go back to Nationals but we will see how the fall turns out.

It looks like the power of now has totally run out. I will convalesce today dreaming of the future. Oh and what a stage of the Tour de France today! I love it when a young rider wins a stage, especially from such a gutsy break away!

Happy Training!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Now?


The power of now has worn thin.

I am post operation day 3 and still have a considerable amount of swelling with some oozing blood and pain. I am back on caffeine and entirely fed up with not running. Today is only the third day, but the sun has come out and I want to strip down to my short shorts and hit the trails for a good workout. How will I survive until Tuesday?

I will survive by trying to organize my thoughts around labels.

'I am not what I think I am, I am not what you think I am, I am what I think you think I am' One of the few quotes that I retained from Sociology class at university. With regards to labels I have the labels that I think others see in me from a distance moving to the labels that I see in myself.

My Labels
  • White, Male, Middle Class (first impression)
  • White, Gay Male, Professional, Runner (on closer inspection)
  • Runner, Gay, OT (the ones that stick)
For me labels are a tool to identify individuals with similar interests and beliefs. Within each of these labels there are also sub sections. In the label of runner we can break it down into many smaller sections.

Runner
  • Elite vs Recreational
  • Distance vs Middle Distance vs Sprinter vs Trail Runner vs Triathlete
  • Fair Weather vs Hardcore
In the running world I would be described as an elite distance hardcore runner, and this is how I see myself. These labels enable me to see others and get an idea of who to train with and also the individuals I have a common bond with. Already, if I see a runner I know we have something in common, but it is only a certain few runners who truly understand the commitment and drive necessary to become an elite runner. I know I will have much more in common with an elite runner then a recreational fair weather runner.

I am also gay and there are very many labels to categorize the homos. This is where there is a divergence between what I see in myself and what others label. I think I am a jock (I am very athletic, duh) though if you were to ask 9 of 10 gay guys they would identify me as a twink (although I am getting a little old to be a twink...). This is where labels can be difficult.

There is also a difference between the labels we are born with and those we choose to take on. I did not choose to be born white, middle class, Catholic or gay but I did choose to be a runner and an OT. In my psyche I think of myself as a runner then gay and all the rest. I do not usually think of myself as white but that is because I am of the majority. It seems like it is the labels we do not choose that have the most resonance in society and the labels we choose that have the most importance to our inner selves. There is also a contextual influence. On a track at a workout it becomes quite apparent that I am an elite runner, not gay, not OT. In the hospital I am an OT, though I may be thinking I would rather be running. Over time at work I would become the gay OT or the runner OT to separate from the others. The key label though is OT.

So the question remains, are labels good or bad? As with the labels we put on our spices or files at work, labels help us organize information into groups to identify what is going to be useful and what we do not need at the moment or what we can throw in the trash. Labels help us to identify certain individuals who will either help us in our attempt to reach our goals or who will hinder our attempts at personal growth and improvement.

A danger with labels is they can be inaccurate or stigmatizing and thus turn us away from individuals who may provide a great deal for us to learn. For example, gay. There are some who continue to believe that gay is a choice and bad. I am sure there are people in the running community who would not want to train with me or support my running because of this label. They may affix to this label an image of 'immoral' behaviour that would not be in keeping with the image promoted by running. In reality I am one of the most focused, driven and dedicated athletes I know. As for the immoral gay, in university it was the straight members of my team (everyone except for me) who made me look like a chaste monk. Because some people may think I would be a bad influence on their little running life they may not train with me, solely because I am gay (thankfully I have not met anyone like this).

To conclude, I understand the utility of labels to organize society into groups of like minded individuals. I also see the danger of labels to separate and divide society. There is also the risk of wrongly labeling individuals who one may learn a great deal from. I have been very fortunate to learn some of my greatest life lessons from people with labels that I once stigmatized. Working in mental health enabled me to meet many people who taught me about the strength of the human spirit despite pervasive illness leading to marginalization from mainstream Canadian society. People who I would have never communicated with because of their outward appearance became real and genuine. When I looked beyond the label 'crazy' or 'addict' I saw father/mother, friend, survivor and most importantly person. With running I have learned my biggest lessons from those who may not be the fleetest of foot but have more passion for running then can be imagined. Maybe the key with labels to use them to identify like groups in society but also to mix up the labels and learn something from someone on the other side of the spice cupboard.

Happy Training!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Real Recovery Begins

And then there was no exercise.

I had some surgery this afternoon and consequently have begun a week of no exercise. I am a little worried as I do not remember the last time I spent a whole week sedentary. My surgeon recommendded only light walking as the most strenuous of exercise.

I am a tightly wound person. I am 'type A' and have issues with staying still, I like to move, the faster the better. I also think I have a touch of ADHD which can drive one mad. I can spend quiet time at home but it usually involves recovering from a workout. With my usual exercise routine tossed out of the window and my work week ended I will have free time and energy I have not known for years. I am hoping I do not love this time away from training and become a sedentary heart attack in waiting. On my way home post op I saw someone running, I was jealous...maybe I do not actually have anything to fear.

I have been trying to stay in the present. There is a movement afoot that espouses living for the now rather then the past or future. Advocates of now believe we should live in the moment without judgement or bias while accepting who we are and loving ourselves. There are some aspects of this philosophy that may work for some people. Elite athletes? Maybe not.

I am happy now, and am content in what I am now, BUT, I see in the future training and faster times. I live for the future. In many ways all athletes, and especially endurance athletes, live for the future. The years of training we complete are enjoyable and we are present for those hours but they are for a future goal. I do not run a fast workout to win the workout, quite the opposite. I run a hard workout in the hopes that the effort will lead to a future fast time. If I have a club mate to chase even better. There are many boring and tedious long runs that I have completed not necessarily for the joy of that run, rather to increase my aerobic capacity for my next race. Even when one of us crosses the finish line the immediate thought is 'great race' followed by 'I wonder if that time will get me into (insert big race here)'. After a hard effort in a big race I still do a cool down so I can have a good run the next day.

I sit here, off the exercise for the week, thinking of the races I will be doing this fall and into next year. I think it is finally time to bite the big one and attempt a marathon. I am thinking sometime next spring, long term goal. My next race will be in September. I want to take my time getting back in shape after this week off. After that I am planning on some cross country, maybe road Nationals and then possibly Cross Nationals. After that, marathon training begins.

Time to ice, rest and work on being in the 'now'. One week until I am back to the future!

Happy Training!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Reconnecting


It is said the most important part of training is recovery. For years I struggled with this concept for I believed that if my competitors were resting while I was training then I would have an advantage when it came time to race. After taking a year off of running, then running faster then I have ever run in my life, I have learned the importance of recovery. I am now enjoying some recovery and am reconnecting to the life I knew when I first moved to Vancouver.

I have been running this week but just for fun. Friday night, after a lovely run, I had a few drinks at a cool lounge in the Gaybourhood. By a few I mean 3 beer over 5 hours. I have lost my Maritime tolerance for booze as a sledge hammer visited me in the morning to provide a hefty hangover. I did not run yesterday and instead had brunch with wonderful friends then hit Wreck Beach for some relaxation and sun worship. I love the beach. As a child I spent my summers between the backyard pool and the beach. I think my innate ability to run comes from racing to the beach, through the woods in my bare feet, to meet my cousins. I was very fortunate to grow up in rural Nova Scotia where, as a child, I did not need someone watching over me during the summer. I could finish my chores at home and meet my cousins at the beach. Yesterday I got home from the beach quite late, sun kissed and exhausted. Sleep came early last evening and has left me refreshed and ready for a light run.

Strangely my right foot started causing me problems yesterday. It is strangely ironic that miles and miles of training will not result in any injury problems yet one day walking around the city and UBC leads to quite severe pain in my foot. I was able to play some tennis this morning without too much grief. It will be interesting to see how it reacts to an easy run.

Recovery continues. I am very much enjoying my excess free time and energy. I am enjoying now and not really looking forward to anything, which is a nice feeling. I have been around the homos a bit which has been nice (although when at the lounge on Friday night I noticed that all the men were huge and by huge I mean tall and wide. I think I was the smallest person in the place by 100 lbs, and this was not a bear bar). I will take this recovery period as time for me to heal for some fast times to come. For now I will enjoy smelling the sweet salt sea air and worshiping the sun.

Happy Training!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Recovery

My body is recovering.

I had a gentle yet sprightly run today in Stanley Park. I ran some of my favorite trails including Siwash Trail. I felt great. All day today my body has felt great. I woke up this morning without my usual limp to the bathroom and noticed no foot or knee pain my whole day at work. I took the long way home and again had no pain. My run today felt fast and easy and I enjoyed the freedom of being fit without a plan. Running is my play and when I am fit I have access to many more games. I love trying to catch bicycles on the Sea Wall. Today I passed a mountain biker in the park cycling up one of the trails. I thought she was going to have a heart attack when I lightly skipped by. As an added benefit of running on my own I had some extra time on my hands and was able to make a great supper of quinoa, chicken and peas.

I checked out some of the race photos today. In some ways I am lucky when I race because I have a tendency to forget what I have done during a race after a race. One of the race photos made me acutely aware of my fist pump after crossing the finish line. The pic would not be too bad only my stride is really messed up, I look quite ridiculous.

I foresee fewer posts in the next few weeks. My training will be greatly diminished and I am generally cheerful and in good spirits. I may post on some past memories from UNB and McMaster. I have also been thinking about running gay and how being gay makes me different. There was a great comment made to one of my early blogs about labels. I attempted to write about how we label ourselves and how it serves a very important purpose in society. The post did not make sense so I deleted it, maybe I will try again. Of course I should write a follow up on my love blog from a few months ago. If I write it now it will be filled with optimism and possibility, in a month when I am back into a hard training period and I am totally and utterly exhausted and cranky it will be sad and depressing, filled with woe and foreboding.

My body is recovering and my mind is too. I am looking forward to a weekend without any races or workouts. What will I do with all my free time?

Happy training!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness III

Maybe I ran harder then I thought.

The past two days have involved difficulty donning pants, rising from chairs and descending hills/stairs. Even my massage therapist was alarmed with the state of my legs, he got out the ice packs after working on my destroyed legs. I am relieved to have this DOMS as it is direct feedback that I ran as hard as I could. I had similar pain after Sun Run. Yesterday I was able to get out for a light run and towards the end I was feeling much better. Strangely I was having difficulty holding back and had a strong desire to hammer a good tempo, but I am on break. To reiterate my last post, I have never felt this good going into a break and I still want to train hard. I have fallen in love with my training program and I am excited to get back to training after my break.


I believe the biggest change in the last few months has been to realize how much I love training and being outside. The most valuable thing in my life is not monetary nor is it an object. What I value most is my health, relationships and fitness. I love that I got up early this morning and went to the tennis courts to hit for an hour (I have not played tennis in two years so it was a little ugly). I was going to go for an easy run but I got distracted by a cup of tea and a blueberry muffin. I hope to meet some friends for my first open water swim of the year then hit the beach for the afternoon. What could be more perfect then getting up early and enjoying all the beautiful sunshine?

The training break continues. Hopefully tomorrow the DOMS will have resolved and I will be able to cycle to work!

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Training!