Thursday, July 26, 2012

Looking Good

There really isn't anything pretty about someone who has been running for 16 miles and is in desperate need for some water, oxygen and a sandwich or two. Well, at least, I'm assuming there isn't because I haven't run that far yet, but the mud and the rain and the sweat shouldn't stop you from trying to look good, right?
Well, I'm not sure I entirely believe that, but I certainly believe that running in performance specific gear is helpful and with my 29th birthday quickly approaching, my friends and family generously bought me some great running gear to help me on my way to running a marathon.
Yesterday my best friend, Tenie, my husband, Mr. K, and I headed to a sports store in order to find me some better running clothes. The ones I've been running in are primarily cotton and from what I've read and experienced, cotton does not breathe or pull the moisture away from your body. I can deal with it if I continue just running 5 K or so and only three times a week, but once the runs start getting longer and more frequent, I'd really appreciate it if my body had as much help dispelling sweat as possible. Synthetic fabrics are much better at this, at least much better than cotton, and yesterday I was outfitted with a new pair of running pants, tank top and sports bra. We all know that a good sports bra goes a long way.
After doing some research, talking to Laura and observing what she wears, I quickly began to realise that I was in desperate need of more professional gear. One pair of my running pants had shrunk in the dryer due to them being cheap and cotton and the others have to be held on by a safety pin because they are too big. My shirts aren't much better. I have three that I primarily run in, two short sleeved and a long sleeved, and one of the short sleeved definitely is not meant for running. It too is primarily cotton and very warm, despite being short sleeved. The long sleeved is actually great as it was part of my gear from Team Canada when I was swimming, but seeing that it's summer here and your body is supposed to heat up 15 degrees warmer than the outside temperature when running, it isn't very helpful right now. The third shirt is better than the first, but when you are trying to run at least five times a week, and have plans of upping that to 7 or 8, you kind of need more than one comfortable shirt.
My sports bras are okay, but again, I'm lacking in quantity. I only have two that get the job done and when you are washing them so often, they will wear out very quickly; losing their elasticity and thus their usefulness. So, having three to rotate through would be beneficial.
Who would have thought serious, competitive running could get so technical with regards to clothes?
The pants I've been wearing were just a cheap pair I picked up from Azda, the UK version of Walmart, and when wet whether from sweat or rain, they are not comfortable; especially if I have to run in the rain with them. So, the new Nike made pants that claim to pull away moisture will be a welcomed change.
As for the tank top it's a part of the Dry Fit line and is purple. Dry fit, again, will be beneficial in keeping me from over heating while out running, but the fact that it's purple is just as  exciting. I know you're supposed to pick running gear based on its performance merits, and I did, but if I can get it in the colour I like, why not do it? I have a strong liking for the colour.
As for the sports bra, yes I'm going there, I am incredibly grateful for this little piece of equipment because of its snug fit and "moisture pulling away" fabric. I've read about chafing in unwanted areas and that a good fitting sports bra reduces this risk exponentially. So, of course a new bra was on the list of things to get.
The best part is that I still have room in y budget to get a new pair of running shoes. Mine aren't particularly old or worn out, but it's been suggested to me that I have a second pair so that I can rotate the shoes between runs. This helps the two shoes last longer as the workouts off allows the shoes to de-compress, giving you longer life. I'm not sure if that's true, but it sounds like good logic to me. Not to mention, running in Scotland means running in the rain more often than not, and so having a dry pair of shoes to wear instead of stuffing feet into day old, still wet shoes is also welcomed.
I also have good quality running socks on the way as well. When I initially started running, I thought that regular old cotton socks would do just fine, but since running in both running specific socks and just your every day socks, I've noticed the difference in foot temperature, and again, moisture. With only one pair of running socks, an extra few pairs wouldn't go amiss either.
So, am I necessarily looking good while running?
Perhaps I look a bit more like a serious runner, and maybe that means I'm looking good, but the biggest and most important thing is that I'm feeling good due to my gear functioning properly.
Now, all I have to do is go for  run and put my theories of good quality running gear to the test.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

FFirst Foot Injury and 5.3 K

I've done a lot of reading about running since I really have no idea what it all entails. I keep reading horror stories about people with black toenails, rashes in terrible places due to chafing and so much more. I've also read how to avoid these things, but I really wasn't prepared for what happened to me less than a week ago.
Last Wednesday Laura and I had planned to run together, but the day was just horrible with high winds and flooding everywhere. I know that runners run in all kinds of weather, but when the water is swirling past my ankles and there is no sign of it stopping, I chose to stay indoors and do a core workout instead. It was that night that I realised there was something wrong with my left foot; the sole of my  left heel to be exact.
As I was curled up on the couch, drinking tea and reading my book before bed, I noticed a huge chunk of my heel was missing. I'm not sure how else to describe it. It was like I had gouged myself on something, but I could not remember doing so. I still have no idea what happened, but I suspect it had something to do with me wearing my every day shoes without socks while walking my puppy. I think the combination of the rubbing and the wet may have cracked the foot. It was so weird. When I was swimming I never had problems with my feet and only two or so weeks back into running and my feet are already acting up?
That said, I don't even think my first foot injury was even running related.
As a swimmer, I would have just gone to practice the next day and refrained from pushing off the wall with that foot, but I was forced to cancel my run with Laura the following day because it was too painful to even walk on. I probably could have pushed through it, but I figure taking one day off was better than sucking it up and running and then damaging the foot further and missing multiple practices. Friday Laura and I were able to connect, just two days after the mysterious foot wound first appeared, and we ran around 3.5 K. I just wrapped the foot up with medical tape and gauze and made sure to disinfect it really well when I was done.
With my foot healing up quite nicely, Laura and I were able to get a good solid 5.3 kilometres in today in 37 minutes. I was really impressed with that time since I haven't been back at it  for very long and also because it was another rainy, sloppy day. It just wasn't nearly as bad as last Wednesday.
With the rain falling down and a healing foot, I think 37 minutes was quite good. I felt really good for the whole run, but definitely was tired when we finished.
I felt for Laura as that was her second run of the day, having gone 9 miles in the morning. She is one dedicated woman and I love her for it. She told me today that she wouldn't have run again today if it weren't for me, but that it was a good active recovery run for her.
Not only am I glad I found Laura to run with, but I'm glad I found her because she is turning out to be a great friend. We have similar senses of humor and today we brought each other cake as an after run treat.
Great minds think alike, I suppose.
So, with a good 5.3 K under my belt, my foot on the mends and yummy cake in my belly, I look forward to my next run with Laura this upcoming Wednesday. Tomorrow it's off to the pool for me for some cross training.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Slowly But Surely

I didn't write earlier because I didn't want to jinx it. I'm not normally someone who believes in the power of  your lucky socks that you never ever wash because they make you win,  but you can never be too sure. So, I kept things to myself until it seemed like a sure thing, and, it seems like a sure thing.
*Knocks on wood*.
It would appear that I have a part time guide runner.
I'll give you a moment to take that in.
Are you good?
I'm still not sure I completely believe it, but after two runs, one of which was 4.5 K, the woman I met for coffee almost two weeks ago has asked me to make a more solid running schedule with her. We'll call her Laura. I am very excited about this.
As of right now, we are running twice a week, Wednesdays and Fridays, with Laura's boyfriend offering to step in on days when she can't make it. I've never met him, but I'll take any help I can get. She's a bit worried that once I reach higher fitness levels, I'll be able to outrun her, but we'll cross that bridge if and when we get there.
Currently, she is training for the Berlin Marathon to be run at the end of September, so our runs together are more of a favor to me than to helping her train as I'm obviously running at much lower volumes. However, I'm sure the double runs she's getting on those two days will help her as well.
I haven't asked her about guiding in a race because I figured that we should get more comfortable with just training together. Running is a recreational thing for her and so my goals of competing competitively may not be up her alley, so to speak, but right now the training is the most important part. It's so nice to get two runs outside instead of being inside every day.
Last Wednesday when we had our run, she had asked me if I still wanted to go because it was raining. She said it didn't bother her and it didn't bother me so we went. It was just good to know that a little bad weather won't stop her; especially since we live in a country where it is almost always raining. Not to mention, we seem to get along quite well. We chatted the whole 4.5 K and that certainly made the time go by. I struggled a little on the last .5 kilometres, but she was encouraging without being too pushy. She was also good with her verbal cues and describing some of the scenery as we passed by. All of these things help a blind runner be distracted from the discomfort she/he may be feeling. Sighted runners can obviously receive these distractions via their own eyes, but we ocularly challenged folks need a little help and Laura did a great job.
So, where do I go from here?
I'll continue training twice a week with her and hopefully meet other runners along the way who would be interested in training and/or racing. I have researched the London marathon and thought that I'd love to run it. It may be a bit of a push since a half marathon before it would probably be a good idea, but it's something I really want to do. So, I'll keep moving forward and see if I can put the infrastructure into place to get me there by next April. If not, I'll keep training and make the 2014 marathon.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Glimmer of Hope

As everyone who reads this blog regularly knows, finding sighted guides has been the greatest challenge for me as a blind athlete. Originally, I had wanted to compete in a triathlon and eventually attempt to make the 2016 Paralympic Games, but finding guides who are the same sex and who do all legs of the race has been quite difficult. So, I had made a few changes, deciding that finding a guide for just one sport, as opposed to three, would be easier. I'm not saying it was easier, but I may have made a small break through. In disability sport, every baby step is celebrated and so I am just excited to have made the progress that I have.
The website
Jogging Buddy
and the RNIB have partnered up to assist blind and visually impaired runners find guides. When new members create profiles, they are asked if they are blind or visually impaired or if they would be willing to be a guide runner. Because of this program, I may have made contact with two potential guide runners.
The first person I got a response from is a guy who lives in England, but he is very excited to guide and is willing to be a guide for races. We've already discussed some races to compete in and we're supposed to have a phone chat tomorrow evening. Sure, it's not ideal with him living so far away, but he's willing to travel for races and to help with a workout plan and that is a good start.
The other person is a woman who is actually quite local to me. Mr. K and I are going to be moving this upcoming weekend and our move brings us even closer to her. She and I had a little coffee date on Friday and then went for a short 2 K run to get an idea of whether or not we fit and to see if she liked it. We didn't use a tether, just draped my forearm over hers in order to learn how each other's body movements felt, but I think we did really well considering we had just met and she had never guided a blind person walking before, never mind running.
She is quite a bit taller than me, but I actually think that is good. Our stride is quite similar and we hardly broke step with one another. Her verbal cues were good as well. Once, she had to jump over a puddle, but I did not and she warned me well enough in advanced that she just hopped over, I kept running and then our feet fell back in sync.
We chatted the whole time we ran and I found her body movements really easy to follow. When she was going uphill, she leaned forward and I could feel the power from her legs pushing her up the hill. When going down, her weight shifted backwards and her stride lengthened, which I could feel without her saying anything. I was surprised at how well we worked together despite only having met an hour before.
After the run, I wasn't sure how she felt about it so I told her to think about it and to contact me when she had made a decision. We agreed that if she wanted to guide, we could make a schedule at the beginning of every week and go from there. Due to her working schedule, we can run together only once or twice a week, but that is definitely better than nothing
Needless to say, I was very excited when I received a text from her last night asking me if I wanted to run Wednesday evening. She's even going to pick me up. That last bit was every bit as surprising as the first. Here was a woman that I spent just over an hour talking with and then just under another hour running with and she already knows how to make things easier for me and she doesn't mind.
So, I think that if all goes well on Wednesday, I'll have a part time guide runner who is local to me. How very exciting.
I've always believed in the saying, "good things come to those who wait," but, to be honest, my faith had begun to waiver a bit. It definitely has been restored.
I've put a few more feelers out with other organisations and will continue to do so because the more guides I have, the better. So even though this has been a long process, I think persistence has won out here. There is still a lot of work to do, but each small victory moves me one step closer to my end goal of running a marathon.