Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Back on the Line

I have not chronicled my recovery as much as I first intended. Perhaps that was laziness, and perhaps it was because I thought I would bore people with the play-by-play. But lately I have come across people who have suggested that I write again.

As I warmed up for this past weekend's Sun Run, it felt strange to think that three years ago to the weekend I came second at Boston. Since then, I have had one road abismal effort where I struggled to run a 16:04 5k.

I must admit that I came pretty close to packing things in after that run. I felt I was in much better shape and yet struggled so badly over the last kilometer. I was left wondering why I was bothering to try to race again. I mean I will never run another personal best. I likely won't even get another master pb unless I run distances that I haven't raced since my thirties. After much thought, I decided to get in a solid month of training and see where it left me. I dropped in with Paul O'Callaghan's group and did a few track sessions, upped the mileage, and ensured that I was reasonably consistent.

About two weeks ago, I had a session where I suddenly felt that I was at a different level of fitness. It was as if I had suddenly made some progress. With that confidence I headed over to Vancouver to do the Sun Run.

It felt good to be back in the action and to be lining up feeling ready to race. I felt no real pressure and had nothing to prove other than that I had overcome a pretty significant injury. So with that I readied myself for the countdown.

Decked out in my spring fashions from New Balance (thanks Mark Rosenthal!!), I lined up with the other New Balance athletes like Lucy Smith and Eric Gillis (eventual winner). I navigated around this crazy looking guy with a hockey stick and Canucks flag and settled into the pace.

Overall, it was a solid run until about 9k. Heading up on Cambie Street Bridge, the wheels started to fall off the wagon. I was dropped by the pack and was quickly caught by Kevin O'Conner. It was a struggle from there. I crossed the line as 3rd master in 32:00. Slower than my goal, but satisfied that I was back on the start line and starting to improve.

May 1st will be the TC 10k. It will be my next shot at running sub 32 and it will offer an opportunity for my youngest lad to see me race. It was his request for me to race again that first nudged me to go from jogging around the park to wanting to get back to racing. Although he has seen me race, he was very young and only knows of his dad's racing from pictures or videos or tall tales:)

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven" Ecclesiastes 3

Funny...for so many years I was so driven to race fast. It meant the world to me, probably because it helped define me to the world. Now it is a fun past time...a hobby. Somehow that feels right at this point in my life. I feel like I want to do this, and not that I need to do this.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Earlier in the fall, the Woodies RV Marathon brought me into Red Deer to speak at their carbo gala. I love public speaking, so I usually dive at these opportunities to tell my stories and yak for a while with a microphone in my face. While I am essentially brought in to inspire the runners to go out and run well the next morning, I often find that I leave the race being the one that is inspired.

This was certainly the case in Red Deer. I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Nelson, a local legend and overall great guy. He was on a quest to run 100 marathons, when he was diagnosed at age 60 with Parkinson's Disease. The hitch was that he still had 35 marathons to go to get his goal and the disease was advancing quickly.

I was deeply struck by how optimistic he is and how he persevered through what is nothing short of a very debilitating ailment. I left thinking of how if Bill could muster the strength to run his last 35 marathons, then surely I could find the fortitude to overcome a 2 year injury. There are days when my Achilles is sore and swollen (although fewer now than before), and I recall Bill's still burning drive to get out running. I find people like Bill or the women who have dropped huge amounts of weight to run their first marathon incredibly inspiring. I always looked like a distance runner, and even during my injury, I still looked like I was a runner. I have had it pretty easy compared to a guy like Bill.
The goal really had been to get back to running. And now, I am back. I can do runs up to 80 minutes and have started doing some intervals. The other night I got in my first sub 3 minute km in over 2 years. I even did a session of repeat miles (averaging slower than my best marathon pace I might add...haha). But, I am having fun with it.
A few weeks ago, my seven year old son, John, started a conversation that went something like this:
John: Dad, are you going to start running?
Me: Well, John, I am doing some running right now. I am slowly getting back at things.
John: No...I mean racing.
Me: Would you like me to start racing again? [I figured that my racing was more of an inconvenience on the family]
John: Yes!!
As I started to think about this later, it occurred to me that John would not remember seeing me run. I mean most of my racing was either before he was born, when he was too young to remember, or when I was in another city. He would have heard a lot about my running, but wouldn't be able to have any memories of it of his own. When I retired from open running (RVM 2004), he would have just turned 2.
So, I am now inspired to race for John. I am training for some races in the fall were he can see his ol' man run. I guess you could say that I am inspired to give my son a memory of his dad racing.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Feeling Like a Runner

Late last week, I took a bit of a risk and ran for a longer distance...8 minutes. WOOHOO! It felt really good. The day was warm and I was in shorts, and I even begin to feel like a runner.

The next day, I decided to push things and determined to run for a full 30 minutes. The Achilles actually felt great. The rest of my body hurt (I need an adjustment really badly). The following day was 40 minutes.

I can't tell you how good it feels to actually be out shorts...on the trails. Tomorrow is my first run with someone else (excluding the jogging I did with my 11 year old son). I am giddy like a school girl.

I wish I could say I am completely pain free, but that is not yet the case. I pushed things pretty hard in the gym yesterday and really worked the balance work. I find that this catches up to me. While it is lots of fun standing on Bosa balls and catching rebound balls, it does push my ankle around.

Monday, May 3, 2010

"To sleep, perchance to dream" (Hamlet)

Saturday night's 10,000 at Stanford was incredible. Chris Solinsky became the first "white guy" to break 27 minutes and Simon Bairu smashed Scheibler's record. Awesome.

I think that the image that stuck in my mind was of Bairu embracing Solinsky at the end. It reminded me of the amazing, almost intoxicating feeling of finishing a hard race and being exhilirated by the results. Seeing this image and the video was inspiring. It made me miss the commaraderie of running and the joy of racing. I have to say that I have toyed with the notion of never racing again. I have doubted my ability to "want it" bad enough at this stage of my life to hurt like I know racing requires. But this race inspired me to want to return to racing. This embrace inspired me to be part of a running group again.
Last night, I had two very vivid dreams. In the first, I was at a track late at night under the floodlights. There were packs of runners doing mile repeats, and although I couldn't tell you who they were, I knew that I knew them. I had an irresistable urge to hop in and see if I could keep up for a quarter. But there was a lot of people on the track and I was never able to get in the group to run with them. I tried two or three times and then gave up, blaming the fact that I was wearing training flats and they were in spikes.
The next dream was at a road race and the scenario was the same. Friends were racing and I just had to see if I could keep up for a couple of minutes. I tried to jump in, but by the time I did, I was about 10-15M behind the pack. I tried to catch them, but it was late in the race and I knew that they would be finishing soon. I pulled to the side and watched them finish.
Perhaps these dreams were my sub conscious telling me that even if I wanted to rejoin the group, I would never be able to catch up. Perhaps it was my sub conscious expressing how much I miss being in the pack. Either way, I awoke wishing that these were not just dreams. I was wishing that I was back.
Today, I did two run jogs (30' of 5' run/1' walk in the morning and then another 20' of the same in the evening). I will probably be sore, but it beats just dreaming of running.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Steady progress until...

Things were progressing along quite well. The pain in my Achilles was becoming quite managable and I was even toying with the idea of starting my walk/jog program in advance of my next appointment with the surgeon. Then...

We were vacationing in Puerta Vallarta and had decided to rent a jeep for the day. On my way out of the jeep, I jammed my heel on the inside of the vehicle as I was stepping down. I was stuck there for a moment, on foot jammed in the jeep and another on the ground struggling to keep my balance. Perhaps you heard the scream.

The result was a peanut size bump on my Achilles, right on its most tender spot. When we returned to Coquitlam, my physio (Mark Cresswell) simply said that this was a step backwards. Since then, I have been icing a lot and trying to push things as much as is possible without it flaring up.

Today I did my first elliptical session since the accident (3X8minutes hard with 2 minutes rest). It felt okay at the time, but is starting to become painful now. Time for more ice.

I have really tried to be conservative with the recovery and do what I am told. I am not in a rush to return to racing, so I needn't be in a big hurry to push the envelope.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My First Run Back...

You must forgive my delay in posting. It is the Olympic Games, and I am things are a bit crazy here at work (happens at Games time when you work for the Canadian Olympic Committee).

I had my first dry land run a couple of weeks ago...300m with a torch in my hand. When we selected a surgery date, it was with the hope that I would be mobile for the Games and also for my torchbearer position on February 11th. I honestly didn't think that I would be able to run with the torch. I figured that the best I could hope for was a fast walk. But the roar of the crowds and the hype made me chuck out those plans and suck it up.
The crowds were amazing and as luck would have it I was running within two miles of my house. It was great to have my family and friends out to see me run. Afterwards, I was essentially mobbed by those wanting autographs and photos and a chance to hold the torch.
I must say that it was a very moving experience. To hold up the flame that started in Olympia and was racing to the opening ceremony was a thrill I will never forget. There is something magical about the Olympic flame. It touches people. For most, it is the closest that they will get to the Olympic Games and so to touch or hold the torch is an incredible experience. You witness how it transforms ordinary people into community celebrities. It is awe inspiring.
Despite having been to Olympia and having developed school curriculum for the Olympic Torch Relay, I think that the whole significance of the relay had not really sunk in. But seeing how the flame unified people from coast to coast to coast was a bit of an epiphany.
It took me a few days of pain until my foot felt right. Think I'll keep my running to the pool for a few more weeks.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

How I fell in love...

Being injured for this long (17 months) has given me a load of time be away from running. I guess absence makes the heart grow fonder, and my love of running is more intense than ever. I miss the activity I came to love.

I can remember the day that I fell in love with running. I was twelve years old, and I had just run my first marathon, and I was celebrating with a brunch with my family. It was the only sporting "success" I had ever had, and I was hooked.

When I was a kid, I was one of the shortest kids in my grade. I was dwarfed by the others, and they reminded me of it on a frequent basis. When it came to sports, I was hopeless. I was one of the last picked on teams, and was, on a very good day, pathetically uncoordinated. When we played softball in gym class, I ran for the outfield where no one could possibly hit the ball. It was safe there...far from the embarrassment of dropping the ball and losing the game.

I spoke funny. I had years of speech therapy so that I could learn to pronouce "r" and "l" and not sound like Elmer Fudd (Witto Wed Widing Hood). I was a December baby, so I was developmentally behind my class. This led me to feel rather stupid. All in all, I was not bursting with self confidence.

I remember watching the film footage of the 1976 Olympic Games and thinking that there had to be a sport where little uncoordinated kids could beat the big kids. I prayed "God, if you find me a sport where I can win, then I will work really hard at it." I honestly believe that God answered that prayer, because within a year I discovered running.

I went to a summer camp in Ontario when I was eleven, and met a counselor named Rob Reid (now the owner of Frontrunners). Fresh from a few marathons, he was evangelical in his zeal for running. He soon had a camp full of kids in his "30 Mile Club". Lured by the prospect of earning a t-shirt, kids would run 30 miles over the span of the 3 weeks they were at camp. I signed up, but it probably wouldn't have gone anywhere if I were not intrigued by the marathon thing. Whenever the other counselors spoke of Rob's running, they expressed obvious respect for his marathon running. Not having a clue what a marathon was, but wanting to find out, I asked him if we could go for a run. I figured that if I could get him running, then I would pepper him with questions about what on earth a marathon was. He kindly explained that he was training and that the shortest run he did was 5 miles.

To this day, I don't know why I said I could run 5 miles. I mean, the furthest I had run to date was across the school yard while being chased by another kid in a game of tag. It was as close to a lie as I could get, and now I would have to prove it. I took to the half mile loop around the camp, figuring that if I stopped it wouldn't count and Rob wouldn't run with me. It was somewhere around the 8th or 9th lap that the thought occured to me that most of the big kids couldn't run 5 miles. Maybe, this was the sport I longed for.

When I returned home 3 weeks later (wearing a 30 Mile Club t-shirt...fuzzy iron-on letters and all), I was determined to keep running. I went out for school cross country, which involved showing up before school and running around the school yard. There was really no coaching to speak of, but I figured that the longer I ran the better it would be. I soon was running 5-10 miles a few mornings a week. If I won a few races or had some coaching, I probably wouldn't have even thought of running marathon, but my first races had me finishing towards the back. I became convinced that I was a long distance runner and needed to move up to the marathon. Besides, Rob was a marathoner and he was now my hero (incidentally, Rob was no hack...2:22).

When winter came, running became more challenging. I eventually was teamed up with a friend of a family friend who told me how to dress to run in the cold (cordoroy pants!). He eventually helped me run my first marathon in the spring. I was given a very rudimentary schedule of 3 miles, 5 miles, Long Run, day off, 3 miles, 5 miles, Long Run. I would add a "mile" to the long run every week. I say "mile" because my concept of a mile was more like a kilometre. I eventually worked up to a 20 mile run before the 1978 National Capital Marathon. I finished the run in 3:30 and, because I was so young and small, got a fair bit of attention. It was attention that I so badly craved. It was something athletic that I could do that bigger kids couldn't.

Later that day...I fell in love with running. I suppose that it was young love. I would say that I had a big crush on running, not unlike the school kid who kisses the girl in his grade 8 class and "falls in love." I fell for what running could give me...a bit of attention and the chance to be good at a sport.

Now my love has matured. My running is not a crush based on how it can take me to other countries, win me medals or prizes. Now I love running in a more sincere and honest way. I love running for the motion, the wind against my face, the feeling of working hard...the sensation of pushing to the crest of a hill...the taste in my mouth after I finish a hard interval...the satisfaction of finishing a run in really nasty weather, the smell of the forest on a cold crisp morning run. I love the rhythm and sound of my own footsteps. It is now no longer a is a lifelong love affair. It is like the elderly couple that you see holding hands at the local Denny' know that they have been through a lot and yet have emerged with a deeper love.

I miss running.