Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Running Success

Yesterday was all I could have asked for. I met with the running club at the designated meeting area and was immediately welcomed into the group by the woman, we'll call her FJ, who had volunteered to attempt guide running. She came over and introduced herself and we pretty much hit it off right from the beginning. We're probably the same height, she may be a little taller, and this lent itself well to us running well together.
We started our jog with my arm draped over her forearm; sort of a beginner's stance that allows the guide and the guidee to get very intimate with each other's movements. It wasn't long before we switched from that position to using a shoelace doubled on itself, between us, which acted as our tether. We both were a bit shaky to begin with, but soon we were running along, as if we had known each other forever.
I did find that I had to change my stride a bit, but I think it's due to the way in which long distance runners actually run. From everything that I have read, shorter strides are better for marathons and such long distances and most of the runners were running in this manner; including FJ.
I really enjoyed myself and was impressed at how easily FJ adapted to running with someone attached to her. She easily navigated me around people, frolicking children and leash free dogs. We ran at quite a slow pace as she is saving her legs for the London Marathon that is being run this upcoming weekend and also because I haven't really been as active as I should. Surprisingly though, I managed to get through two miles feeling really good. I was shocked at how quickly the time flew by and with it the distance. I had no idea that I would be able to run two miles. That was really encouraging to me. Perhaps a half marathon in October is a realistic goal. If that's the case, I have a lot of work to do between now and then.
Sunday I am supposed to meet with more of the runners at a cafe after their long run for the week. FJ won't be there as she'll be off running her marathon, but it will give me a chance to get to know other runners. Apparently, there are at least two other women who are interested in guiding, which will be really nice. The more guides I have, the more likely I'll be able to get outdoor runs in and be able to run that half marathon in October.
One interesting thing that I learned about FJ is that she does triathlons as well. This obviously made me very excited because that means that there is the potential for her to guide me in a triathlon eventually. Obviously, that is something to be discussed in the future, but it's good to know that it may be an option. I really enjoyed my run with FJ and I hope it's something that will continue in the future. She's already said that although she cannot guide me this upcoming Monday, she'd be more than willing to run another workout with me the following Monday. I think it's a great start and is incredibly encouraging.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Tonight is the night: I am off to meet potential guide runners and I am so excited. Okay, a bit nervous as well, but mostly excited. I'm trying to keep that in check a bit as I could get there and the runners may decide that guiding is not for them, but at least we're all giving it a shot.
Tenie, my best friend, has agreed to come with me because she's awesome like that. Actually, she is coming along to help me figure out the route from the bus stop to the sport complex where the runners meet. That is one small obstacle blind people have to figure out, but really, in the grand scheme of things, it's a small worry for me. Tenie is great at laying out routes for me and giving me the details I need to get to my destination safely and Glacier and I are a pretty solid working team. So, once she shows us a few times, I think we'll be able to get there on our own.
I'm also glad she's coming because she really knows how to help me break the tension about my disability; if there's any. I've emailed back and forth with the one woman who is interested in guiding and I kind of get the sense that the tension that comes along with the unknown probably won't be there. However, if it is, Tenie being there will smooth everything out.
I'm not entirely sure what we'll be doing with regards to a workout, but it will probably be light while we figure out how to run in sync and get used to one another's movements. Plus, the guides will have to get used to running tethered to someone else; slower speeds are a good idea. We'll be running along a wide promenade that parallels the sea and so it may be cold, but the width of the path will be an advantage for us. It is pretty smooth, with very few ground obstacles and since it is so wide, it will be easy to navigate around pedestrians and other fixed obstacles.
I haven't completely figured out where Glacier will wait while I run and that is another reason why Tenie is coming. She will hang out with Glacier for this practice and it will give me an opportunity to speak to the people at the sport complex to see if he can wait for me in their office during other workouts. I am so lucky to have such a patient, selfless and caring friend.
I realise this post is slightly inarticulate and all over the place, but I think it's the nerves and excitement. So, I will leave it for now and go and start getting my stuff ready; have to pack water and shoes and make sure  all three dogs are fed before heading out the door. Not to mention, I'll need a snack as well since I'm hypoglycemic...I'm rambling again. :)
See you on the other side, hopefully with guides in tow.

Friday, April 13, 2012

One Step at a Time

You'll have to pardon the pun that's in the title, but I thought it was kind of appropriate. After being a couch potato for the past month and a half-with the occasional visit to the gym when I felt guilty-I have managed to get in two beginner's workouts in the past two days. I feel really good about them.
Wednesday I headed to the gym, which is about a fifteen minute walk both directions. I count this as a part of my warm-up because Glacier, my guide dog, and I don't meander. When we are walking, we are on a mission and we walk at most people's jogging speed.
My workout would probably be considered a light one, considering I used to be able to run between six and seven kilometres without stopping, but I was happy with it. Just getting back into things, I didn't wan to over do it. Over training can lead to injury, fatigue and illness. I want to be healthy and ready to go on Monday when I have my first workout with the running club. So, I took things a bit easier than I would have liked to.
I started off with a 12 minute  warm-up on the rowing machine. It was supposed to be 10 minutes, but the gym staff forgot me and I was left rowing for a bit longer; not necessarily a bad thing. I think I went around 3.5 kilometres and I was feeling pretty good. Then I hit the treadmill for the first time in nearly two months. Every other time I've ben to the gym recently, I've avoided the treadmill; using the bike, or the cross trainer, anything to stay away from the treadmill. Knowing that I'm going to start actually running though, motivated me enough to get back on the treadmill.
My run was only 25 minutes long, with me going 2 minutes of walking and 3 of running. I only cycled through that four times and walked the last five minutes at a very brisk pace. I had thought to push through the last five minutes, but I told myself that I had set the workout out originally with the last five minutes just being a fast walk and that I should stick to that. No point in doing  it so that I wouldn't be able to come back the next day.
The intervals felt good, surprisingly, but I could tell that I was working at the same time. It's amazing how quickly you lose your fitness you've worked so hard to build up. However, I know that with a little consistent work, I'll be back there in no time. I think I'm lucky in that way: I don't know if it's because I was an elite athlete for so long or if my body is just meant for sports, but my body responds really well to physical activity and I am grateful for that.
Yesterday's workout was not at the gym and was just a very long walk. One of my friends and I walked from her flat all of the way into the down town area, which was calculated to be 2.7 miles each way; giving us a grand total of 5.4 miles. I'm sure with the extra walking we did downtown  that we hit the 5.5 mark. Again, she is a fast walker and I think a long, controlled walk like that was actually beneficial at this stage. Perhaps when I'm at the point of being able to run 8 miles it won't be as beneficial, but I think it was useful at  this stage.  The walk was  also refreshing because the sun was out and it was nice to be outdoors and not stuck in the stinky, stuffy gym, running on a machine that makes you feel  like you are on a giant hamster wheel. :)
All in all, I think the last two days were a good start. I actually wish I had a pedometre as I did a lot more walking than just the 5 or so miles into town. It would be interesting to know how far I really went.
As for today, I'm not sure what the plan is, but I definitely have to get some kind of workout in. My friends and I are planning for my husband's birthday and need to do a lot of grocery shopping, so perhaps I'll have to get a gym run in before we set out for the day. Either way, I'd like to exercise   today and tomorrow and take Sunday off,  but we'll see how it all pans out. If I mis today, or tomorrow, I'll be going in on Sunday. I figure I can have one day off; I'm just not sure which one it will be.
Now that I've managed to figure out this whole running club thing, at least it seems I have,  I have one more concern: I need to find running pants with a draw string. I know that doesn't sound like a big deal, but sizes here in Scotland are designed bigger and my gym pants fall down when I'm running. Do you have any idea how awkward it is to have to keep reaching around to yank your pants-or trousers as they call them here-up while you are running on the treadmill or outside with a guide? We stopped in at one running store yesterday, but all of the "trousers" they had in were much too big. Even with the draw string, which I thought I could just tighten up, the pants were sliding down. Maybe I need double sided tape or something? I may need to pick a few runners' brains to see if anyone else has this problem and if they do, how they go about fixing it; especially since I will be getting smaller if anything.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Coming Together

Isn't it funny how you go long periods of time just waiting, with nothing happening and then, suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, things come very quickly together; almost like a snowball racing down a hill, gathering speed. It almost seems surreal and like it's happening to someone else. Plans have been made and I'll be meeting some of my potential guides on Monday. One person in particular is interested and we're going to do a  light walk/jog workout to get the feel of the tether and whether or not guiding is something this person wants to do. Looking toward the future, knowing that this potential guide is going to be running the London Marathon on the 22nd, makes me hopeful that I will not only have practice partners, but people who will want to guide in a race or two as well.
We've also made plans for me to meet other runners on the 22nd, after their 8 mile run, in order to discuss the possibility of guiding. They seem like a very social group and I think that sitting down in a non-workout environment would be incredibly beneficial. It will allow us to all chat without having to worry about completing a practice, which means we can just focus on getting to know one another. This was something ERC had talked about doing, but it never actually happened. I think that because this is a part of this particular club's routine, it will be even more conducive to getting comfortable. I think this laid back attitude will translate well into finding a pool of guides.
A lot of the other clubs that I contacted were very serious and very focused on training. As much as I think that is great and want that, I come from that background and I want training to be enjoyable this time around. If I learned anything from my swimming career, it was that there is a place for being "all work and no play," but that enjoying what you're doing is just as important. I think this club may, in the long run, be a better fit. Not to mention, their laid back attitude may be what makes them more open minded and willing to try new things. Needless to say, I'm incredibly excited and also a little amazed at how open and welcoming this club has been thus far. It definitely is a breath of fresh air.
With more solid plans laid out, that means no more excuses: I need to go to the gym and increase my fitness. It's not fair of me to expect people to help me if I'm not up to par. So, it would appear that I have a date with a treadmill later this afternoon, but the difference is, I won't be dreading this workout as I have done in the past because I know that there is a point to all of the madness. I will get to train outside and eventually, I will get to race.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Running On

I realise that this blog has been silent for far too long. To be honest, my triathlon/long distance  running endeavors have pretty much been absent from my life basically since my last post here. I was feeling defeated and decided that perhaps competitive sport didn't have a place in my life any longer. I started thinking about how maybe that chapter in my life was closed and that I would just go to the gym three times a week just to stay healthy. I even stopped going to the gym consistently; although it shames me to admit it. :) Then, in the course of a few days, things changed very quickly.
One of the members of the Won with 1 team emailed me to see how things were going. She had heard through the grapevine that triathlon wasn't something I was actively pursuing anymore. Her email was very sweet and considerate and it got me thinking again. It didn't ignite that crazy, passionate fire in my belly, but it gave me a little push to do some more enquiring. Somewhere along the way, I found myself emailing two running clubs and I had a response from one of them within a couple of hours of sending in my enquiry. I was surprised when I went into my in-box and saw the reply email and was even more surprised when I read what it said.
Basically, the woman I contacted said that they had had a low vision runner once, but that he had his own guide. My hopes sunk when I read that line as I had explained to her that I not only needed a running club, but that I was attempting to gather a pool of guides. She went on to say, though, that it would be a new challenge for them. Her email seemed promising and it turned out to be when I received another email this morning explaining that the question of guiding had been put to a group of runners last night and there were interested people. There is even a woman who assists a blind woman to go grocery shopping and such and she was definitely interested.
I was speechless.
For months, I sent out email after email; had meeting after meeting; attempted to make connections with various sport/disability minded organisations and all it took was one email to a random running club I found on Google. I had picked them because I had liked their website and the message of inclusion  they had conveyed. They welcomed beginners to the very serious marathoners and train very close to where I live. That means, getting to practices will be quite feasible.
I've been invited to come and run starting on Monday, and although I am very excited by their openness and enthusiasm, I may need to take some time at the gym to re-establish some semblance of fitness first. I am really impressed at how quickly the club has moved on this and I really hope that I may have found a new running home.
If so, that means this blog will not sit silent any longer. :)