Monday, March 28, 2011

Around the Bay Race Recap

On Saturday afternoon I had a terrible headache and was convinced that I was coming down with something. I was seriously reconsidering running Around the Bay, even though I’d been looking forward to it for a while. But I decided to just take it in small steps. Very small steps. As in, Step 1: Drive to Hamilton. Step 2: Park car. I told myself that I’d see how I felt and that I could stop at any time. Although I wasn’t really sure how I’d get back to the start/finish if I stopped in the middle of the course, it still helped to think that I had the option.

Amazingly, I managed to get a good night’s sleep and woke up feeling well-rested. I ate two slices of whole wheat bread with almond butter (as opposed to my usual one slice) and half a banana, which turned out to be the perfect amount to ward off hunger, but not make me too full.

As I was driving in to Hamilton, I tuned in to the CBC and they were interviewing two guys at the start line for ATB. They were obviously talented runners, having qualified for Boston several times, but they had such a charming and humble attitude. Listening to them really lifted my mood and got me excited for the race. I remember one of them describing to the host how you get to run into Copps Colliseum at the finish and “feel like a real athlete.” The host laughed at this and reminded them “Umm, you are athletes” prompting the runner to say to his friend “Hey! We’re athletes!”

Copps Colliseum was packed when I got there. I went straight to the bathroom and then spent the rest of the time being shoved around and not knowing exactly which way to go. I quickly gave up on the hope that I’d see any I knew running, although I did keep scanning the crowd for familiar faces.

Just before the start I started chatting with a very kind man. He looked to be quite a seasoned runner, I’m guessing in his late 60s or 70s. He mentioned how lucky we were that it wasn’t raining. I agreed with him, and we got to chatting. He asked if I’d done ATB before and when I said no, he asked if I’d done any marathons. I told him that I’d done one to which he replied that we should trade chips, which made me smile. I always like it when I meet someone friendly at the start, it really makes a difference. We got separated by the crowds pretty quickly though, and I wish I had a chance to wish him a good race.

I actually saw my neighbour just as we were lining up, which was quite fortuitous because we run at roughly the same pace. I was very happy to find someone to run with. Unfortunately, our time running together was short-lived because I had to stop to use the bathroom at 4k. (Apparently my urge to go wasn’t just nerves like I had told myself – it was the water I drank that morning.) There was quite a lineup and this experience was definitely an argument in favour of wearing your own watch during races – I lost 14 or 15 minutes off the official time!

I figured that I would never catch up with Jim because I’d have to make up a lot of time, and I didn’t want to waste too much energy during the first 20k. I knew what was coming after that! Nonetheless, the idea of catching up to him kept me going, and was a nice non-race goal that occupied my mind. I actually did see him again at around 24 or 25k, which gave me a much-needed boost of energy just before tackling the last big hill.
Overall, this race was a ton of fun. There were so many enthusiastic supporters along the way, and I found all of the other runners to be very friendly. I actually felt that sense of camaraderie with fellow runners that is so often missing when everyone has their headphones. Maybe it’s the rolling hills over the last 10k that bring people together, but whatever it is, I certainly appreciated it. And, of course, I’d heard about the man who dresses up as the grim reaper and cheers runners on near the cemetery. It’s things like that which really make it a fun day. I’d also been told how great it feels to run through the tunnel into the stadium for the finish, but I guess it’s one of those things that you can’t quite grasp until you experience it for yourself. I didn’t really understand how running into Copps Colliseum could really make the previous 30k worthwhile, but there was something magical about it. There is so much energy from the supporters along the last stretch, and you really get a sense of what a history this race has. As I made my way down the final stretch of York St. I thought to myself what an enjoyable race this had been and I actually had the thought “I can’t wait to sign up for this next year!”

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A "make it work" manifesto.

I had a “make it work” moment earlier this week. I went to the gym after class on Tuesday and even though it’s already February, I still spent 15 minutes walking around the changeroom looking for a free locker. When I finally found one (i.e. stalked a girl who looked like she was about to leave and followed her back to her locker and waited for her to change), I realized that I had left my lock at home. I was tempted to just call it quits and assume that “the universe just doesn’t want me to go to the gym today.” Fortunately, my friend ended up convincing me to bring my wallet with me and leave the rest of my stuff. Of course, given how hard it was to find a locker, it was no surprise that none of the treadmills were free either. But instead of giving in to my grumpiness and moping in the corner, I decided to make it work and ended up getting in a good strength training workout instead.

This got me thinking about what it means to “make it work” and why this phrase appeals to me so much. Making it work is not about waiting for the perfect set of circumstances; it’s about doing your best with what you have right now. Making it work is not about perfect gourmet lunches served on Martha Stewart dishes; it’s about throwing together a delicious and healthy salad using whatever you have in your fridge. Making it work is not about waiting until you earn enough money to buy designer clothes or lose those last five pounds to feel good about yourself; it’s about taking pride in your appearance right now. Making it work is not about waiting to find that moment of pure concentration before you start studying; it’s about reading your notes on the train and absorbing as much as you can. Making it work is not about waiting until you have an entire hour free to chat before calling your best friend to catch up; it’ about calling her to say “Hi” while you walk home, or sending a quick email when you get the chance. Making it work is not about wishing for some ideal universe where you have all the resources you need to do everything you desire and you never need to make any difficult decisions; it’s about doing the best you can with what you have at this moment, at every moment.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hills are my friend?!

No, I never thought I would say that either. But after last night’s hill workout, my attitude towards hill has changed. Something happened when I ran up that first hill. Something strange and wonderful. Instead of feeling terrible and out of breath, I felt, well, not terrible. Possibly even good. I ran up a hill without feeling like collapsing at the top and somehow this gave me the confidence and energy to tackle the next seven hills.

I think that this is the first time that I have every really felt progress or improvement in running. When I got to the top of that first hill I actually thought to myself “Wow, maybe my strength has improved!” I slowly started to understand what runners mean when they say “hills are your friend.” They’re your friend because they make you a better and stronger runner. They’re not your best friend that you want to call up regularly for a coffee date. They’re more like your “tells it like it is” friend who is always honest with you, even when it’s not what you want to hear. Not to get carried away, I’m sure I’ll still dread the nine hills that are planned for next week as they approach. But I’ll also look forward to the benefits they bring.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hungry Hungry Hippie

When we came back home from the Christmas holidays we were craving salad and vegetables. So, for the past week I've been making a lot of what we call "Hippie Salads". I think these taste even better knowing that you can create something at home that you'd pay $10 for at Whole Foods.

It's really just a "whatever's in the fridge" salad. Here's what mine included today:

mixed greens
steamed Chinese cabbage and broccoli
cherry tomatoes
a handful of raisins
1/4 of a yam cut into cubes
a few cubes of avocado
a sprinkling of goat cheese

For the dressing, I just mixed together some olive oil, red wine vinaigrette, and mango chutney.

Other versions have included steamed kale (which I prefer over the cabbage, but we're out of kale), lentils, and chickpeas.

All told, this made for a happy and colourful lunch!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Crafty To Do List

I like the idea of keeping a Crafty To Do List. I really just love list-making in general, so naturally I’m a fan of this idea. Here are some things I’m hoping to make in 2011:

1. Baby blanket quilt for E.
2. A larger quilt for our couch.
3. A drawstring pouch for my stethoscope.
4. A slouchy knit winter hat (for me).
5. An engagement sweater.*
6. A sweater for my Dad.

I’m sure I’ll come up with some more things to knit or sew for fun as well, but these should keep me going for the time being.

*I think that I’m finally ready to get over the Boyfriend Sweater Superstition.

Friday, December 31, 2010

It's been a while

It’s been a while since I last posted. Almost a year, actually. But here I am again, back with the urge to keep writing. This time for real! Have I said that before? Probably. But this time I really mean it.

A new year calls for a new title, one that better reflects my current state of affairs.

When I started this blog last year, I was pretty miserable. I was struggling to get through grad school, uncertain of the future, and full of anger towards just about everything. Okay, not everything, but a LOT of things. The point is, I was grumpy and spent a lot of time complaining about my situation to whoever would listen, and I hated myself for doing this. I knew that my grumpiness made me unpleasant to be around, and I wanted to change that and get back in touch with the good-natured person I used to be.

I started this blog as an attempt to remind myself of the things that I still enjoyed in life. I wanted it to be a place where I could practice not complaining, because somewhere deep down I knew that things were not really so terrible. And that is why I chose the title “A Little Less Complaining.”

But a lot has changed since last year. I applied for and got accepted to med school, successfully defended my Ph.D., got engaged to the love of my life, ran my first marathon, and moved to a new place to start school (not entirely in that order). I’m no longer the miserable girl I was when I was in grad school. Of course there are new challenges, like going back to school in a class with people several years younger than me (who look confused when I make Saved by the Bell references), and living in a new place away from my friends and family.

So, now that I am no longer complaining all the time, I don’t have as much need for a forum to practice not complaining (although I still think it is a useful exercise). I think that what I do need is a creative outlet. Lately, I’ve been spending most of my time studying and then when I take a break from studying I feel restless. I want to do something relaxing and creative, like knitting, or photography, but I don’t seem to have the energy. So, I’m hoping this blog will help motivate me.

I’ve decided to go with the title “Stepping it Up” at least for now. Mostly because it’s the best thing that I can come up with at the moment. When I used to watch America’s Next Top Model one of my favourite reality show clich├ęs was the phrase “step it up and take it to the next level.” As in “Your photo shoot was okay this week, but you really need to step it up and take it to the next level.” This always made me laugh, because I can’t imagine how infuriating that would be to hear as “constructive criticism”. I mean, how exactly do you go about “stepping it up” and where is the next level and how do you know when you’ve reached it? But the girls would nod diligently in agreement and then confess to the camera “I’m really going to have to take it to the next level now.”

So, for 2011 I am resolving to step it up and take it to the next level. I am going to be fiercer than ever and Make It Work!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Base Training: Weeks 3-5 Recap

Total Distance:
Week 3: 27.3km
Week 4: 22.7 km
Week 5: 28.0 km

This weekend I was reminded of the benefit of having a training plan to follow. The temperatures began to dip into the negative twenties on Sunday, and the streets were slippery with freshly fallen snow. Without a schedule, I would have had the following conversation with myself:
Running Self: Let's go for a run today!
Lazy Self: But it's cold and windy and icy. Can't we just stay home where it's warm and wear pajamas and curl up on the couch for the day?
Running Self: Did you say icy?
Lazy Self: Yes, ICY! You could fall and get injured.
Running Self: We should probably avoid injury.
Lazy Self: So it's decided then, we'll stay in.
Running Self: Fine. But we'll try again tomorrow.

Instead, it was already decided that I would run six miles on Sunday, so the only decision I had to make was whether to run outside or on the treadmill. I really do dread the treadmill, especially for longer runs, but I psyched myself up for it, and it was okay. It helped that I had the "A Very Sedaris Christmas" episode of This American Life to listen to. And I felt great afterward!