Friday, August 31, 2012


Yesterday I hopped in the pool for a workout. It felt so good to be moving through the water. Swimming has always felt so powerful for me, unlike running, which I usually feel like a lumbering oaf. I think I've improved in running, but swimming is still where I feel at home.
My workout consisted of 1.5 kilometres, which makes me laugh because my warm-ups used to be about that long when I was competing in swimming. It felt good with a lot of kick and some "pull," which in swimming lingo means arms only swimming. I borrowed a kick board from the lifeguard and the majority of my workout became kicking. I don't know why, but kicking has always been my strong suit and I've always enjoyed it the most. maybe it's because I can hear my feet and feel how fast I'm going all at once? Either way, it's funny to see how one can fall back into old habits. I'll have to make an effort next time to focus on full stroke swimming and more pull because that is what will get me through the triathlon. My legs will need to be good to go for the bike and the run.
The one thing that did change was how often I breathed. When I used to compete, it was really easy for me to breathe every second stroke which is not conducive to going fast. This is probably why I was a   sprinter because I could just keep my head down and breathe when I got to the wall. When I raced the fifty metres, I tried to breathe as little as possible and often got to  the wall only breathing maybe three times. My every second stroke breathing habit was probably one of my biggest faults and coaches of all varieties tried to change it. I continued to be a one sided breather, but eventually managed to breathe every four strokes for the most part.
Since getting back into the water, it's been really easy to slip back into my over breathing. However, yesterday I forgot my cap and every time I turned my head to breathe, water sloshed into my ear. This was  a very  uncomfortable sensation and it forced me to breathe every four strokes instead of every two. Wy didn't we try this before? :) When I start training for the triathlon at a more competitive level, I'm going to leave my cap at home in order to force myself to have a more effective   breathing pattern. That way, when I get my butt on that 2016 Paralympic team, I will have disposed of one of my bad habits that could potentially have made me less competitive.
Speaking of the Paralympics: have you been watching? I have to admit, I'm pretty riveted. I have little moments where I wish so badly I was there. This morning I looked up the heats for the women's S11-the classification I used to swim in-qualifying times and was shocked to see that I wouldn't have had to swim a personal best time to qualify. The slowest woman swims about a 1 minute .28 second 100 metre freestyle and I used to swim faster than that in practice. Of course the current world record holder from Italy goes a 1.08 with a few mila seconds added on to that, so I may have been out of the medal race, but I could have qualified. Also, who knows how much I could have improved. Maybe I would have been closer to that gold medal position. That said, hindsight's 20/20 and I hated the 100 free anyway. Plus, I retired for a reason. No point in thinking what could have been. I have new and exciting things to focus on...right?
I've talked to a few other retired athletes that I know and they are having a hard time too. Apparently, even one athlete who retired in 2004 is finding these Games particularly difficult. I think it's because London is doing such a great job with the Games. The atmosphere is just fantastic. For me, being so close makes  it harder too.
Regardless of whether I could have qualified or not, I retired and that is that. I have four years to get ready for 2016 and these Games is great fuel for that fire.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Bit Odd

Tonight is the beginning of the Paralympic Games. Tonight is the first time in 12 years that I will not be going to those ceremonies, all crammed into a bus, wearing my Canada gear, waiting to walk into a packed stadium. I'm not going to lie, it's a bit odd.
When I retired from swimming four years ago, I thought I was completely done. I had had enough and I wasn't going to look back. At least, that is what I thought. I have since learned that I was done with swimming, but not really with competitive sport. I always knew that I would never go back to swimming, even though in a sense it could be quite easy as it's something familiar, but that is certainly not an option for me. That is why I've embarked on this crazy journey to find triathlon guides and/or long distance running guides.
I am not done competing.
There is no way to describe the atmosphere of a Paralympic village. It is buzzing with anticipation, excitement, nervousness, joy, fear...a sense of community and all mixed in with an edge of competitiveness. When you walk by a fellow Canadian, or whatever country you are from, you wave or say hi; even if you have no idea who that person is. You are, for the time that you are in that village wearing that Maple Leaf, connected .
You don't walk around your home town waving to everyone you pass just because they are from your home town. But, in a Paralympic, or Olympic village I am sure, you make an effort to support complete strangers just because you have one common goal in mind; to represent your country the best you can.
You congratulate people when you see medals hanging from their necks. You even hug them; again, even if you don't know them. You lend a shoulder for someone to cry on when something just didn't work out. You cheer for your teammates even if you don't like them. You want them to be successful: you want them to win.
It's such an incredible experience and although I am certainly missing it, I am so very excited for those athletes that are there and wish them luck, but most of all, I hope that they enjoy the experience; take it all in because there really  is nothing like it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ondon Marathon

Running a marathon had become a secondary goal for me-after the whole triathlon struggle I've had. I needed something else to focus on and a marathon seemed like a good idea. It took me a while to figure out which one I wanted to do, but I've put an application in for the London Marathon 2013 and will find out in October if I got a spot. Not only do I want to run the marathon, but I've applied for a spot to be the fundraiser for the Guide Dog organisation. It's a charity that is close to my heart and so if  I am selected, it will be very exciting.
The only obstacle I had to work around was finding someone who wanted to run the marathon with me. I hadn't really put too much effort in finding a race guide as October was a   ways off yet. However, I've been talking with a friend who I met through a mutual friend, and she is interested in guiding. She ran the marathon last year and so would be a great partner in that she knows what to expect.
We chatted on the phone tonight and made a basic plan to train until October, find out if either of us were accepted and then go from there. She currently lives in London, so we are a bit apart, but we figure we'll each make a few trips to visit one another and use that time to train together. It would be beneficial to visit her in London because then we can do some of the trickier parts of the course in order to solidify our running partnership.
The situation isn't exactly ideal because it leaves me still trying to find training guides here and running workouts on a treadmill, but on the other hand, what would be the point of all of that training without having a guide to run the race with you at the end? I'll just have to run on the treadmill and make good use of the runs that I do get outside.
I am really excited about this whole thing and I think Miss P is too, which makes this even more exciting. :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It's all Good

Today I headed to my new gym for my "induction" session. Mr. K and I have been going there for just over three weeks now, but it took us a while to have our introduction. The guy who showed us around and explained the different machines was incredibly helpful and Mr. K and I were both extremely impressed at his instructions and explanations. He had obviously had thought out what he was going to show us and how best to deliver it. That in and of itself is impressive. We also may have struck an agreement that would be fantastic for my training.
As we were leaving the gym, he asked what we'd be up to for the rest of the afternoon. Mr. K said he had school work and I told him I had to give a massage. I haven't put a massage business into full swing, but I work on some clients from time to time. Today is one of those days. When I had been moving around the gym, I had mentioned my desire to compete in triathlon and he said that he'd be happy to help me with some workouts. He then suggested, half in passing, as I was leaving that we should trade triathlon instruction for massages. The more I thought about it, the more I thought it was a good idea.
Having some instruction would help me out greatly as I feel I've sort of run into a wall with regards to training ideas. Not to mention, he may know a person or two who would be willing guides. Paying for coaching is incredibly expensive and I just don't have that kind of money right now. So, trading skills works for me.
I've also been in contact with Para Triathlon Canada, thanks to a friend's suggestion, and they seem keen to help me with obtaining coaches, guides and perhaps a tandem bike. I don't exactly know what is all involved, but we're supposed to have a Skype conversation in the next few days. If I could somehow bring the personal trainer into the mix, that could make things easier for the Para Triathlon people.
It seems kind of funny to me that this whole triathlon thing, or even marathon running for that matter, is only slightly about the training and way more about finding the correct support network. I think all athletes need a support network to be successful, but I think athletes' with a disability networks have to be that much more larger and solid. I've been writing for months about small victories and potential help: I feel like that's all I write about. It's probably because, as of right now, I'm doing more of the leg work to get that network in place as opposed to training consistently. However, training consistently really needs to become a priority, otherwise, all of this will be for nothing. That said, at least it's finally all starting to move forward.
As for that training consistently, I'm off for a long run tonight with Laura. Let's hope the rain holds off.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sunday I ran a good 5 kilometres with a new guide runner. I met this guide through the running group Laura introduced me to a week ago. Laura doesn't run on Sundays because they are her recovery day and so this person offered to run with me on the days Laura wasn't available. She, we'll call her Eve, also suggested we go swimming together as she likes to intermix swimming as a cross training technique, which I like to do as well.
I was really impressed by how enthusiastic Eve was and how easily she stepped into a guiding role. She not only guided me on the run, but also through the gym facilities and all of the way back to my flat.
Our run took us over some rougher terrain, up and down hills, along smoothly paved paths and busy city sidewalks; quite a mess for a first time guide, but she did a fantastic job. We chatted most of the run and quickly developed verbal cues for directions and various obstacles. At some of the larger curbs, we just stopped running and walked over them as we were both not confident enough to run them. I think that perhaps once a guide and blind runner are more in sync such ground obstacles are easier to navigate and you are able to keep up your pace, but with us just starting to run together we took the safer route in order to ensure neither of us came out with a twisted ankle.
The only thing that worries me about Eve and I running together is that our stride is very different. I am approximately 5 foot six and even though this isn't particularly tall, I have a longer stride than most people my height. Eve is a few inches shorter than me and her stride is quick and short, which means we don't match very well with regards to stepping in sync. We are missing rhythm.
When Eve first started running, I was completely taken aback. I had forgotten that stride match was a concern. I quickly adapted though and we carried on. I don't think she even noticed. Every once in a while over the course of the run, we would fall out of sync and I would just hold a step or two longer until we were on the same foot and running rhythmically again.
I shortened my stride in order to run with her, but my hamstrings were all sorts of tight later that afternoon and the next day. I've read a lot of articles published on running technique and they suggest long distance runners take smaller steps, landing mid foot rather than on the heel strike, but I think that perhaps Eve may just naturally run with the smaller step.
The other thing that makes it difficult to read her body language is that she kind of hops when she pushes off; kind of like a show horse prancing. It's like she's using the force of her stride to go up rather than forward. A few of my friends described this as a jogger's style of running. I'm definitely not a running expert, but the bopping along  seems like an energy waste to me.
Despite her springy step, I think she'd be a great training partner. She's very motivated and wants to improve. She is also in better fitness than I am and that is important for a guide runner/blind runner combination. She's also pleasant to be around, which is another bonus when you're going to be attached to someone for potentially 20 kilometres at a time, but the stride discrepancy is something to take into consideration in the future.
As of right now, if I'm being honest, I'm hard pressed for guides so I will probably stick it out. One of my swimming coaches used to say that if you were going to practice it wrong, then don't practice it at all. I can see where he's coming from, and I definitely agree, but perhaps the shorter stride training will come in handy? Not to mention, if we only run together once a week, I should be okay for now. I'll keep my longer distance runs to be run with Laura because our stride matches much better, therefore, I won't be hobbling the next day from restricted hamstrings.
All in all, it was a very good run, but it gave me a few things to think about: one of them being that just because the willingness to guide is there, that does not mean that you will be compatible, whether it is personality wise or in relation to your stride. I knew all of these things, but I think it was a good reminder.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


With my training becoming more of a consistent thing, there seems to be more pieces slowly coming together. The pieces may not fit, but at least the opportunity to examine them and decide for myself is there. A lot of it  has stemmed from starting running with Laura. Unbeknownst to her, she has opened a whole lot of doors for me and I am truly grateful to her. When I thanked her she replied,
"you still have to run on your own two legs."
I laughed, but I really don't think she understands the full weight of what she's done for me. Because of her, I may have found a small pool of runners willing to run with me from time to time.
When Mr. K and I moved to our new flat, we not only moved closer to Laura but also to a different gym. She encouraged us to join this gym and after some discussion, we decided to do it. So far, I have really enjoyed my time at this particular gym and it's been because of this that I've met more runners.
The UK wide shop called the Sweat Shop organises community running programs and there just happens to be one associated with the gym we've joined. Laura spoke to the manager and he said it would be no problem for me to come along to the runs. They run Sunday, and Tuesdays and after attending my first run on Tuesday, I've found two other volunteers who are interested in guiding for me. There have been others who have put up their hands as well, which is very encouraging.
Laura usually only runs with the group on Tuesdays so having someone, or a few someones, there on Sundays would be great. I am supposed to run with one of the new volunteers tomorrow to see how she likes it and if we are a good match.
Laura and I are going to continue running on Tuesdays with her guiding me but as a part of the running group. We will also  do my long runs on Wednesday evenings just on the trails by my flat; just the two of us. She and I chatted this past Wednesday about a workout schedule and this week will be the first week I'm implementing it. I really hope with my new plan and potential guide runners, I can really get things moving even more than they already are. Exciting times.
On top of  all of this very exciting stuff, I've finally heard back from Triathlon Canada. I contacted them almost two years ago with no results. Para triathlon had not really taken a hold in Canada only two years ago, but with London 2012 approaching for Paralympians and triathlon being added to the 2016 line up, Triathlon Canada is starting to develop a Para-triathlon team. Originally, I had been in touch with the UK team, but no one was very interested in helping me go anywhere with triathlon. I suspect that it may be because I'm not from the UK and they'd be training me to compete against them. I hadn't entirely decided who'd I compete for, but if Triathlon Canada wants to take me on and support me, then I would compete for them.
The person I am supposed to talk to about my situation is currently on vacation, but hopefully I'll hear from him soon. The guy who responded to my enquiry, said that I was the type of athlete they were looking for and so, (hopefully again), something will come of all of this.
I also spoke to an acquaintance about potentially running the London marathon together. She ran it last year, but injured herself at mile ten. She finished the race, but she's hoping to better her time since she finished in over six hours. I've applied to raise funds for the Guide Dog organisation in the UK, whereas, she's applied for a general ballot with no fundraising pressures. We both kind of thought that if one of us gets a ballot, we may be able to work something out where we run together.
Again, more "hoping" and "potential," but I like this kind of "hoping" and "potential." A lot of good things could come of all of these things.