The hurdles of running

It’s Monday night on a cold January evening as I glance out the window to see dark cloudy skies blanketing the horizon. It sends a shiver down my arms, and my mind reverts back to the same mental battle I’d been fighting all day – how to survive half -marathon Monday. Although the work day is almost done, I’m wishing the clock would slow down just a bit. Typical me, avoiding the inevitable. I look down loathingly at my workout bag on the floor, overflowing with warm winter running clothes, and I can still smell the waft of chlorine from my swim earlier this morning. It makes me ponder how I’m going to muster up the energy for workout number two. This is just how Monday’s go. From the beginning of December to about the middle of April, we run long on Monday evenings with times ranging from 1 hour 15 minutes to 2 hours 30 minutes. It’s a slow, social pace designed to build our base fitness at the beginning of the season, yet it’s one of the hardest workouts I face all year. There really isn’t anything all that arduous about running at a casual, social pace for hours on end. All I have to do is put one foot in front of the other and keep on moving. But, every Monday by about 1 in the afternoon, I start to think about it, over think it, and then dread it. Maybe it’s because it’s the first four months of the season, and I feel heavy and out of shape, and the nights are dark, the air is cold, the frost is fierce, the ice is treacherous and the snow is slick. Or maybe it’s because I have a strong love-hate relationship with running, and this is the mental battle I go through before every run.
Long distance running has never been my thing, and it was never meant to be my thing. With broad shoulders and tree trunk-like legs, I was more suited towards soccer, basketball, field hockey, and rowing. No one ever looked at me and said, “gee, you’d make a great runner.” And they were right, I was terrible. But deep down, I always wanted to be a great runner. I would enter road races and compare my times to my peers, and it would always end with the same disappointment and frustration. I could never understand why they were fast and I was slow. I started to blame my body type, and lived by the excuse that I just wasn’t designed to run, and I started to hate it. Yet, hate it or love it, I kept running, and eventually decided that, despite my poor running background, I would sign up for an Ironman, which involved a lot of running.
When I showed up for my first run workout with my training group two years ago, I was the slowest runner by miles, and I was always self-conscious about being that girl who would never fit in with the pack. I questioned myself – a lot, and without really knowing it, I set the expectation for myself that I would always be slow.
After almost two years of consistent training, I have learned a lot about setting expectations and overcoming some tough mental battles. Most of this learning has been achieved by simply doing, but it’s also been from the wise words of my team mates and the inspiration from others. In just the past year, I am slowly coming to understand that my limiting factor isn’t my body, it’s my mind. I’ve had to prove to myself that it doesn’t matter if my legs are skinny, or long, or short, or thick, but it’s what I tell myself I can do. Excuses will never allow me to succeed and it’s only once I’ve let go of my inhibitions that I wil truly see what I can do.
My road to Ironman didn’t start because someone said I would be good at it, I started because I wanted to see what I was made of and what I could do, and a large part of that journey has been learning to overcome mental challenges. 
While I’m still the slowest runner by miles, I am able to move my tree trunk legs just a little bit faster, and my pace is improving, my lungs aren’t dying, my heart rate is lower, and I’m overcoming a lifelong struggle to accept running into my life.  It still remains a love-hate relationship, and I believe half-marathon Mondays will always be a struggle, but I’m working on it and maybe one day, I will truly love to run.


Another year, another adventure

Getting back into the routine and grind of training can be a bittersweet journey. My mind and body have long been ready for structure and a break from being on a break. The off-season provided some much needed time to fly by the seat of my pants, indulge and otherwise float along free and without constraints. And while it was good for me, I also came to the realization that structure works in my favour. Without it my life is one giant zig-zagging swirl, much like a carefree child running after dandelions in the wind. It’s fun and freeing for a short while, but eventually I have to float back down to reality. So, here I am, looking ahead to the new year with a plan in my mind, challenges on the horizon and an uncharted path to carve out.  Despite being my second Ironman year, I have no doubt this one will become unique in its own way. There will be new milestones, new tests, new triumphs and new stories to tell.
On December 7, the start to the season was kicked off with a swim. As I do at the beginning of every year, I pulled my bathing suit off the back of the bathroom door for the first time in months. It’s the dreaded moment of putting back on a bathing suit that may or may not fit. As tradition goes, the straps felt tight and my ass seemed large.
Once at the pool, I shuffled half asleep onto the deck with my hoodie still on and looked through my half open eyes at the turquoise still water. As with every first day back, I pondered whether the pool was longer or not. Either way, it didn’t matter, if I procrastinated any longer my coach would have dropped kicked me in, so I eventually lowered myself into the cool water and kicked off the wall. Despite always being the last one in, the water is my favourite place. While some of our training sessions here can be gruelling hard work, it has also been a place of healing for me and I always look forward to the first day back at the pool.

In just the first few weeks of my new training schedule, I’ve already felt in familiar territory but I’ve also realized I’m starting in a different place. My mindset is more focused, my knowledge and experience base has broadened and with each start to the new season, I’m stronger than the last.
As 2016 begins, I’m at the beginning of another year of many unknowns and unchartered territory, but that’s the beauty of celebrating the start to a new year. I get a blank canvas, and I look forward to painting it with all the patterns and all the colours.  2016 will be my year of adventure – in work, in play, and in everything that comes my way.