5 Things I’ve Learned About Running

It used to be that when I saw someone slogging along on the street, I assumed they were both insane and close to death. “Why would you torture yourself like that!?” I would want to yell. Well, now I am that slogger, but the truth is that it’s only a slog some of the time, and even when it’s awful, it’s one of my greatest joys.

Since I became an annoying running evangelist last fall, I’ve had a number of friends express surprise, sometimes surprise so vehement it could be called ‘shock’, at what I’ve turned into. No one is more surprised than me. Here are five things I’ve learned in the  last few months, 5 things that changed my perspective and my willingness to push on:

1) Running as fast possible is a terrible goal

This sounds really obvious in retrospect, but it wasn’t to me! The biggest misconception I had about running was that the point of the sport was to run as fast as possible. So once a year or so I’d decide to give it a try. I’d start running, and about ten minutes later I’d barf. And then I’d be sore for days, and vow to never do such a thing again. How could people subject themselves to such horror? Why on earth would you do something that made you feel like you were dying the whole time?

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Working in 2015

There’s nothing I love more than a fresh new year. And today the fresh new year takes me back to a fresh new office, which I cleaned with vigour on the Friday before Christmas break. I’ve sure enjoyed lounging around the house, but it will be okay to go back as well, for a number of reasons.

The roles and responsibilities at MPOW are about to shift in some fairly significant ways, and I am really excited to take on some new responsibilities (there are also some new responsibilities I’m less excited about, but I’ll leave those for another time or, more likely, off the agenda altogether). I’m looking forward to new challenges, but I’m also thinking carefully about how to make sure I don’t wind up perpetually running on the “small-scale stuff that needs to be done right now” wheel. I’ve experienced pretty significant workload shifts (in type and amount) before, and that was the first trap I fell into. Unsure of priorities? Answer some emails! Not clear on the end-goal of the document you’re trying to put together? Prep for a meeting!

Have you read Cal Newport’s blog? I am a bit of a productivity junkie and yup, reading about productivity is a thing I love to do, along with making task lists, and organizing folders and scheduled in preparation for some big project. As many, many people have observed: this is frequently just a form of procrastination. Productivity has its own subreddit, and one could spend a lot of time reading about other people having trouble getting things done.

But I find Newport’s blog really good because his big picture thoughts on being a productive and creative person are always accompanied by examples from his own work life, and concrete plans for readers to work through. In particular, his blog post on ‘deep work’ really hit home (the title will either make you flustered, relieved, or annoyed, but if you haven’t read it, do take a look at Knowledge Workers are Bad at Working). I have a job where it’s very easy to fall into what he calls “Shallow Work.” Some shallow work falls under my actual job description, but it’s also very easy to just putter along doing shallow work while leaving larger projects to the side:

“This work is attractive because it’s easy, which makes use feel productive, and it’s rich in personal interaction, which we enjoy.”

And then it’s 5:30 and you haven’t done any of the ‘deep work.’ You know: strategizing, research, writing

“…cognitively demanding activities that leverage our training to generate rare and valuable results, and that push our abilities to continually improve.”

…the stuff you feel you love to do, but that you just couldn’t seem to get around to that day…

You can read Newport’s thoughts on how to actually get down to deep work in the link above. I found the framework pretty compelling.

Anyway, as I head back to my sparkling new desk, I’m making a commitment to doing stuff that is hard this year. But I promise to still respond to your email.

P.S. This ACRL blog post, Lost Time is Never Found by Lindsay O’Neill, was what spurred my latest round of productivity reading. It is excellent, and emphasizes the importance of scheduling deep work in academic librarianship, especially when you’re in a new, emerging, or oft-changing position where it’s up to you to define a lot of your workload and outcomes.  More scheduling in 2015!

 

From an old diary

October 1, 2006:

So I did cry on my birthday (I am still!), but I am crying because I am so excited about what my life can be. Maybe twenty-one isn’t old. There’s so much that’s going to happen to me. I just feel like I’m going to have an exciting life. I guess a lot of it will be my own responsibility.

Things are going to happen. Wonderful things. Every year I feel more like myself.

How’s that for optimism?

Happy 2015!

Bye, 2014

I have been trying to throw out our 2014 TVO calendar for days, but it’s still here on the counter. There’s nothing left there that I need a reminder of except, of course, a whole year of events I want to remember. I thought I’d jot down some events that stuck out, just so I’d have a record.

January: Raptors game. The first conference I’ve been a planner for came to fruition and went pretty well.

February: Started taking Turkish lessons. Taught a social media workshop at the iSchool.

March: Went to Kansas City for the first Library Publishing Forum. Took a marriage preparation course. Went to Austin to present at ER&L with Meg Ecclestone.

April: Hosted many friends for dinner. Had my first trip to Langdon Hall for tea. Went to my first wine show.

May: Got married! Went on a hiking honeymoon in the UK. Best month!

Couple in wedding garb seated on a bench smiling at the camera

Awww, pretty nice, right?

 

June: Started running. Enjoyed Field Trip, a visit to Henry of Pelham with Meg and Scott, and then a sojourn to Charleston for the DH in Libraries conference. Bonus visits with Mimi Luse, who’s moved south.

July: According to the calendar this was a pretty quiet months. Nice dinners with friends, and I got a Nexus card. Big leagues!

August: Hosted Jon’s sister and our niece for a visit. Went to Peterborough to see the Constantines.

September: Ran my first race (Longboat 5k), passed my driving test. Spent a glorious weekend with friends at a cottage on the Trent Severn.

October: Turned 29. Ran the Scotiabank 5k. Tore my glute. Mourned. Elected a new mayor (well, I didn’t do that part, but it got done, and in the end, thank goodness).

Scotiabank 5k stats

Owww

 

November: This is another quiet one. Mostly I couldn’t run, and was miserable about it.

December: Hosted a big work event. Hosted a Christmas party with a hot chocolate bar and carolling (i.e. it was exactly what I wanted), attended many parties, re-joined a gym, began running in tiny baby steps. That was enough.

The truth, of course, is that you mostly only put the nice things in the calendar, save the dentist appointments and vegetable pick-up reminders (also nice). This year brought a couple of big challenges, and they’re not solved yet. I am grateful to have a whole new year to work through them.

Race Recap: Scotiabank 5k

So, even though I shouldn’t have run the 5k at the Waterfront marathon…I ran the 5k at the Waterfront marathon! And it was awesome! And now I can barely walk!

In desperation, I got a last minute physio appointment late Friday. I was prepared for the worst, but also not-that-secretly hoping for some kind of miracle cure. And I pretty well got it! He said my pelvis was tilted, making one  leg longer than the other and causing a glute muscle to spasm. He worked the pelvis back in to place, gave me some stretches, and said there was absolutely no reason I couldn’t run on Sunday.

Magic words!

But every time I tried to start running, just to test myself out, it hurt and I stopped. That was probably a clue that I should stay on the sideline, but I was at that point over-the-top excited, unable to rationally consider my options. My first big race! On the lake! And then right through the heart of downtown! I couldn’t stay off Twitter and Instagram, where hundreds of excited runners were posting about their last pre-race run, their meals, their outfits…so many little details that are probably mindlessly dull, in general, but that I couldn’t stop checking out. I even posted my own!

race kit

 

I set my alarm for 5:20, but woke up ready to go at a few minutes after 5. Bagel in the toaster, coffee on the stove, then into my clothes and onto the foam roller. Desperate times, desperate measures! I was really, really nervous, but kept trying to remind myself that the worst thing that could happen was that I’d have to stop. That was it.

Lucky me, my mother drove me to the race! Better than that, she had a winter coat in the car I could wear until close to start time. It was 3 degrees downtown, and probably colder near the water, so I was very, very grateful for that. It was still fully dark out when we arrived, and we’d parked pretty far from the start line, so we walked along the edge of the road, stopping to exam the elite beverage set up (the 5k went through kilometers 16 to 19 of the full marathon, and 16 to 21 of the half).

The only other race I’ve run is the Longboat Island run, which was wonderful, but very small and chill. This was my first large race: almost 8,000 running the 5k, and close to 30,000 runners overall. My first corrals. My first wave-starts!

at the start line

I guess I was too early? I swear, it was after 7!

I was in the first of five corrals, for those estimating they’d finish in half an hour or less. This must have been a walker-heavy event, because I am not what you’d call first corral material.

At 3 minutes to 8, we sang the national anthem in our places. Then we were on! Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, then across the start line and off!

I wasn’t exactly in pain, but I could certainly feel my hip, and I tried to slow myself, to enjoy it while also paying attention to what hurt. Running along Lakehshore Boulevard, normally a veritable highway, was a wonderful novelty! And then we were running right past the Skydome and the CN Tower, and I felt so in love with my city (a feeling that’s been hard to come by lately), and so happy to be part of this huge group party.

I was going faster than I thought I’d be able to, and by the third kilometre I decided I didn’t need to try to pace myself anymore—I was going to make it!

Turning up onto Bay was wonderful: less than a kilometer and a half to go, with Old City Hall in the distance promising a finish line. Up through the tunnel past Union Station, then between the skyscrapers, with the road just for us! It was magic.

Too early at the start!

It’s no race picture, but here’s how Google Maps sees the last kilometre on a regular day

In the last 400 meters I started to pick up speed. I also started looking out for Jonathan, who’d said he’d cheer me on, and there he was just south of Queen. I felt freakin great! Great!

Lesson learned from my first big race: you can’t really pick up speed near the end. All those wide streets narrow into a much narrower finish line, and there’s no pushing through.

I crossed the line in 28:07. Not my best time, but I’m satisfied, since I know I held back on a number of fronts. I will get in under 27 next time! I was running fairly even splits of about 5:40/km until the last kilometre, which my Garmin swears I did in under 4:00/km. I can’t really remember it being any faster, but I guess that makes sense given my final time. Basically, my legs were soooo ready for this.

Unfortunately, my hip was not. I got a medal and a juice…and then I realized I almost couldn’t walk. My hip felt so twisted, I had to lie down in the grass next to the exit chute and try out some of my stretches. Not good.

I got my snack bag and my chip time, then met Jonathan and hustled in to City Hall to warm up. To have had my mom at the start and him at the end really hammered home what a supportive family I’ve got. I felt so happy and loved!

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 8.18.20 PM

After some more stretching and a stop for coffee, we headed back towards the finish line to cheer on Leslie, who was running the half marathon. She’d been having a lot of IT band issues, so we weren’t sure when we’d actually see her, but it was fun to see the early half marathoners come in, looking so powerful and not at all spent. The crowd wasn’t massive, but it was super enthusiastic, and runners looking for some love 200 meters from the finish certainly got it. In 2008 I was in New York for the marathon and discovered by accident that I freakin’ love marathon cheering. Seriously, it is one of my favourite activities (the “Obama will probably be elected” zeitgeist definitely made that one extra special, but I will cheer on any running event, truly).

This was my first time cheering as a runner, and while I loved seeing peoples’ outfits, expressions, and names on their bibs, what I loved most this time was seeing their gaits! There may be one best running form, but people seem to do well enough with a wide, wide variety of torso positions, foot angles, and stride lengths.

Leslie ran in really good time (1:47!), and then we stayed to watch the first few marathoners coming in. All of Bay was blocked off, but half marathoners were kept to the left west side, and I hadn’t been sure why, beyond it being an emergency route. Then starting at a little after two hours, when a few police motorcycles whisked through, I realized it was the path for the elite full marathoners, so they could push themselves at the end without dealing with a crowd. The first runners came past us 2 hours and 7 minutes after they’d started running. I felt genuinely privileged to be able to watch them in action.

If you’re able and even remotely interested, I highly recommend being part of the fun next year, even if you do a walk/run 5k. I am so excited to go back a bit more seasoned! Thank you to everyone who makes this marvellous day possible!

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 7.45.55 PM

 

Walking has not been so good since. Am I stupid to say I have no regrets? I wanted to run so badly and I had so much fun! But I returned to the physiotherapist today, who said I had a sprained pelvis. Ah! Technically, I guess it’s the ligament running through the hip that’s sprained but…yeah, it feels really bad, and I can’t run at all now for awhile. But I’ll be back! And I’ll be careful! And I’ll be fast!

Injured & sulking

If you’ve spoken to me lately, you’re probably aware of my new found obsession with running. I started out with Couch to 5k in June, ran my first 5k in September, and have been able to talk and think about almost nothing else in recent weeks. It’s a bit of a problem, but mostly for those who have to listen to me.

My birthday came around, and everyone knew what to get me: running gear! My mom sent me to the Runner Shop, where I ran up and down the hallway in a half dozen pair of stability shoes before finally conceding that the ugly Asics GT 3000s were absolutely perfect. Alas, I do not have the feet for all of the much cooler shoes.

I also got a Running Room giftcard from some kind friends, and after reading every single Reddit post and DC Rainmaker review, I decided I really wanted a running watch, and specifically I really wanted the Garmin Forerunner 220 (well, I really wanted the 620…but even gadget-loving me knew that was too much oomph for my level).

This weekend is the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, and I’m signed up to do the 5k. After the whole phone-in-running-belt logistical confusion of my last race, I really wanted to get the watch and get in a couple of test runs with it before the race. And on Tuesday, it was mine.

Garmin1

The glorious new Garmin, ready to go.

Yep, on Tuesday it was mine. But unfortunately, on Monday some weird glute pain became mine during an easy morning run. It felt like a soreness that might sort itself out, and then it didn’t. In addition to the watch I bought myself a foam roller (ahhhhh), and I rolled the hell out of the sore spot, and sat on an ice pack, and went to pilates, and took the subway instead of riding my bike to work, and generally behaved myself very well. No running for more than 72 hours! And it was starting to feel better! And with only 72 hours to go until the race, I thought I’d take myself out for a test run. Plus, oh man, I wanted to try out the watch so badly.

And this is what happened:

IMG_20141016_193841

Yep. I ran for less than 8 minutes and gave up. My legs felt fantastic after the three day break, and the temperature was lovely. In the first couple of minutes I was thinking I actually felt better than I did at rest. And then what had been a variety of types of soreness became, in addition to that soreness, a sort of tickling numbness, the kind of weird, uncomfortable feeling that says “hey, what’s up? I’m a nerve.”

So: It looks like I have a textbook case of piriformis syndrome. Quite a few people claim it sorts itself out through strengthening and stretching. I am hoping that’s the case, but also contemplating a doctor’s appointment to get a physiotherapist referral next week. Probably good to have that handy anyway, right?

So here I am sitting at home, full of unspent energy and disappointment. It seems highly likely I won’t be able to run this weekend. I know there are lots of other racing opportunities, and that resting is really the best choice. But boooooooo. I feel like I’m being punished for having picked up the best habit ever.

IMG_20141016_193814

 

Farewell, 28

It’s my last day as a twenty-eight year old! When I wake up tomorrow, I will be 29. Rumour has it that’s a good year, in general. It’s going to have to work prettttty hard to top what came before it.

This year I:

  • levelled up to Librarian III
  • got married!!!!
  • started running and ran a 5k
  • got my G2 license

As well, I:

  • wrote a (short) novel as part of National Novel Writing Month
  • went hiking in the Lakes district
  • volunteered for my first political campaign
  • saw a little more of America, travelling to DC, Baltimore, Austin, and Charleston, with lovely friends at every stop!
  • sang all over town with my beloved choir

There were low points as well. Someday the beginning of a great joke will start with the story of how I actually hit another car on the way to get my drivers’ license. People whom I love very much struggled. Sometimes I was my best self to help them. Sometimes it was really hard to be present, and helpful, and loving and I could have done better. These moments are documented as well, just a little more privately.

I would characterize my state of being at the end of this year as calmed. No one has ever used this word to describe me, but it’s starting to be true. I feel more centred than I have in a long time, maybe ever. Wedding planning was not a calming experience, but being married very much is. Running is a huge part of that.

I haven’t dreamed up many lofty goals for next year. Running more! Getting more self-directed projects off the ground at work! Being a good and useful human! Will report back more regularly, I hope.