Monday, December 16, 2013

Walking Barefoot in the Sand: There and Back

Walking Barefoot in the Sand: There and Back: Things didn't go quite as planned with regards to blogging while I was away. It took me a couple of days to get my laptop to hook up to ...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Walking Barefoot in the Sand: Off And Adventuring

Walking Barefoot in the Sand: Off And Adventuring: It's been a  mere two and a half months since we landed back in the Land of Ice and Snow. And let me tell you, there's been no short...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sloppy Tracks = More Lessons

Yesterday was another day out on the ski trails. I've never realised just how lucky we are to have the cross country trails available here that we have. The ones we're working on now aren't even the only ones we have. I had no idea that our cross country ski networks were so vast. It makes me wonder that if I don't know about it, how many other people, like tourists, know about them?  I think this may be a untapped resource we have in this city that has been ignored for much too long. Sure, some parts of the trails aren't lit, but with the right motivation, someone could apply for grants to get that stuff up and running and before long, our little town could have the potential to be a "go to" ski hot spot.
But, I digress. The point of this whole thing was not to ramble on about the potential for our cross country trails to be a tourist attraction, but rather to go on about my ski yesterday and the work Coach T and I did.
It was a mild day yesterday and I may have over dressed. I had been out ski gear shopping the day before and wanted to try out some of the clothes before we got to Alberta. That way, I'd have a better idea of what would be too light or too heavy. Looking at the forecasted weather though, I don't think any of it is going to be too light. It's supposed to be quite cold while we're out there. So, not only will I be packing my thermals, but Nala's doggie coat and boots are going too. With the milder weather, we had also expected to get some more snow, but unfortunately, it really didn't fall. We got a bit, but not enough to cover up the patches on the trails that are becoming bare from the milder temperatures and use by ski enthusiasts. This meant we had very sloppy conditions to contend with. Well, I say "very," but since I'm no expert, perhaps they weren't too bad. That said, much of the nicely defined tracks I had been using all week were "washed out" or "scrubbed out" in many places. It also meant that the tracks were wider than normal. I don't know the science behind it, but I'm assuming that when a track is used a lot when the snow it soft due to warmer temperatures, the weight of the people widens the tracks and eventually the walls start collapsing.
Of course, this makes things more challenging for me, but I think it's good in a way. I managed to stay on my feet the entire 6 kilometres or so that we did, except for once, despite the messy tracks. This is a huge improvement I think.
First of all, we used my actual skis yesterday instead of the waxless (AKA fish scale) skis. Coach T waxed them up for me and this meant we were moving faster; change number 1. The waxed skis that I have are also lighter than the fish scale; change number two. This is obviously beneficial as it means less effort to make the ski move, but it also means I have to learn how to control the ski in a different way. With the heavier fish scale ski, I used bigger muscle movements to right the ski or keep it from sliding in the wrong direction when the track disappeared. With the waxed skis, smaller movements were needed and it was really easy to over correct which made me flail a bit more. This will eventually be a positive thing as in races and practices, I won't need to expend as much energy to correct rogue skis.
The other interesting thing I noticed was that I could "feel" so much more with the lighter, skinnier ski; change 3. It meant that I could feel the contours of the trail beneath my feet better and once I started being able to read some things on my own, I was better able to keep my feet under me. Of course I still need verbal description of the trail by Coach T, but being a able to feel the trail better meant that I was more confident when gliding down a hill or even up a hill. Blind people, at least this one, use their feet quite a bit to "see" the world around them. It's not completely noticeable in most situations as it's something you learn to do as conspicuously as possible. Putting the skis on meant that I had to re-learn this skill. I obviously haven't mastered it since yesterday was the first day I really began to notice the information the skis were giving me, but it will come with practice; another change.
On top of going faster, wearing lighter skis which required different movements for control and getting information from my feet, the tracks, as I mentioned, were a mess. There were spots where the track completely disappeared on one side, mostly the left, and others where it disappeared completely. In these spots, there was the potential for me to veer from a straight line of travel which happened a few times, and also the potential for me to fall. Learning how to stay standing when the ground under one foot is different from the other while gliding along on a slippery surface is an important skill. I certainly haven't mastered it by no means, but I think I'm getting better. For example, when Coach T would say,
"left track scrubbed out," I would lean most of my weight on the right foot and glide on that while pushing myself along on my poles. My left foot was still on the ground, but with the decrease on weight, I would just glide over the bumpy/slippery/sloppy bit and keep going. If I kept the weight evenly distributed on both feet, I would find myself wobbling dangerously and have to work very hard to stay upright; really engaging my core muscles. The timing wasn't always perfect since sometimes the scrubbed areas were just a small patch or a bit longer and sometimes I glided on one foot for too far or not far enough, but that will come with Coach T and I learning how to communicate effectively. I think we'll learn a lot of that at this upcoming training camp.
We also practised stopping which I greatly appreciate. We did some more double poling and worked up a few hills; learning how to engage the wax on the bottom of the ski to assist in propelling you up the hill as well as using arm strength. The hills we worked up meant we had to go back down and it gave me an opportunity to glide down some hills at a bit higher speed with some scrubbed out tracks. It's amazing what you get accomplished in approximately 6 kilometres.
I was definitely exhausted after yesterday's outing. It was more physically demanding than some of the other days we've been out, but more importantly, it was mentally exhausting. On the way back to the car, I slipped out of a perfectly formed track just because I was so tired I didn't notice. We had talked about trying on skate skis just for funsies, but I was wet from sweating and absolutely knackered. So, I think we may try them today before heading out for our regular ski.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Week 1 Recap

Today will be the fifth official day that I'll be out on skis. Somehow, the cold weather has stayed and the snow has, therefore, remained on the ground. After my first experience Saturday, I've been out on skis three more times, with poles, and will be out again today.
It's been absolutely amazing. Sunday and Monday were just home workouts, but Tuesday saw me back on the snow. It was a mild day Tuesday much more so than Saturday, and I thoroughly enjoyed the change in temperature. It wasn't the most pretty performance on my behalf. Other skiers had been out before us and had left small man made tracks, but the snow was soft and my skis kept flopping all over the place. It's a wonder I managed to keep moving forward. I fell probably about a half dozen times that day; maybe more. However, it helped because it made me less afraid of falling. If I could fall that many times and get back up and keep going, then there wasn't anything to be afraid of. We did a 4 kilometre circuit and I was pleasantly surprised that I wasn't incredibly sore the next day.
Wednesday was a much shorter trip out as we were under time constraints. It was much crisper, but I was again pleasantly surprised that, once moving I stayed warm. Tracks had been made and I stayed in them for the most part. It was so amazing to be just floating along. My coach had been great and taken me out all week. He has had to ski with one pole only, especially the first day, since he's used one hand on my elbow or a thumb hooked under the waist of my coat to keep me from taking off into the forest. Wednesday there was less of that because the tracks made it possible for me to get a sense of direction. Despite it being a short outing, I think it was productive. It gave me more time to get a feel for the glide of skiing and how to maintain my balance. There was definitely less falling. I counted twice. The down hills, even though small, were freaking me out and the first hill we slid down I panicked which instantly meant I shifted my centre of gravity back and fell over. I made a real conscious effort to try to keep myself upright when we were out Thursday.
Thursday was another chilly day. The sky was even trying to give us more snow as we glided along. We did the 4 kilometre circuit again and took advantage of a bigger hill to practice going up and how to control your descent. There are a lot of little skills that I have seen just in the past three days building on each other. It's really exciting. For example, doing a 180 degree turn when you're blind and your feet are over a metre long is really tricky. Plus, you have poles in your hands which make you feel like you have four feet instead of two. This skill was alluding me. I kept crossing my skis, stabbing my skis with my poles, not turning the entire 180 degrees. But then, we added in another element-doing a 180 degrees while standing on an incline. I thought flat ground was tricky. Not only were my feet metres long, but I had gravity to contend with. I managed it though, with a lot of help from my coach. (We'll call him Coach T). However, when it came to doing a 180 turn on a flat surface again, it seemed like a piece of cake and I managed it fairly gracefully.
There have been so many things that I've been learning. We practiced going up a hill all three days we were out, but used different techniques in order to show me that there are various options. Yesterday we focused on really using the poles to help propel you up the hill. It was another case of figuring out how to coordinate arms and legs while fighting gravity when wearing equipment meant to make you slide. It felt very awkward and there was much thrashing, but for a few blissful stabs of my poles yesterday, my body finally did what Coach T and my brain was telling it to do. Coach T said to really jam the pole into the ground and use it kind of like a lever to heave yourself up. That's not exactly it, but the point is to make the pole bend; or so I'm told. Of course I didn't see the pole bend, no skier would have since the poles are being planted posterior to the athlete in order to give them more leverage, but Coach T said my poles bent. I certainly felt the difference. There was still much more flailing than pole bending, but the point is that it happened and I know what it feels like. Now, I just have to teach my body to do that all of the time; you use way less energy that way.
We also did a technique dubbed "double poling" on all three days. It's a technique a lot of the world class athletes are using. The first day it didn't go so well since I'd double pole myself into the tree line instead of holding a straight line of travel. The second day it went better, but I still fell doing it. Yesterday, I did the most and didn't fall once. The tracks kept me straight and I could concentrate on the motion of throwing my arms in front of me, jabbing the ground and hurling myself past my arms rather than being concerned as to what direction I was or wasn't going. It's definitely something I'll have to work on in regards to fitness and strength, but I got in a few good ones where I really got going. It was interesting for me to switch from the double poling back to "diagonal striding" (AKA regular skiing) and realise just how fast I had actually been going. The difference in speed really surprised me because I didn't feel like I was going very much faster than when using the regular technique. I think I even managed to get in the little hop at the right time during some of it.
I am by no means ready to race at world class levels, but i feel like I've made progress. I don't scream as much and I only fell on one hill yesterday as opposed to sitting down on all of them. I am so grateful to Coach T for his help and his time he's been dedicating to my cause. I'm grateful to his wife for being understanding and letting me borrow her waxless skis and poles. Even Coach T's daughter has donated to my cause. I was given the wrong boots at the ski swap and she's allowing me to borrow her boots for training before the camp as well as during the camp and my race. I've always believed that athletes are only as good as their support systems and if I can be half as good as my support system, I'll be happy. I couldn't do this without the support of my family and even complete strangers, and people I'm just getting to know. It's just the little things that make the difference: like my husband throwing a sandwich together for me as I rush about putting my gear on; my Mom driving me to various ski shops so I can try things on and price check; or Coach T picking me up for practices. It really makes you realise that there is definitely still good in this world.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

On Skis

It would appear that Old Man Winter is on my side. At least, this year, I consider him dumping 3 to 4 inches of snow on us as being on my side. Sure, it's minus 9 C, with a wind chill that drops it a few more degrees I am sure, but there's snow and that means I actually got to find out if I can actually ski.
That's right-I am Alberta bound to attend a training camp for skiing ATHLETES and we weren't even sure I knew how to ski. Turns out, I can. I'm a little relieved to say the least. Can you imagine me showing up with all of the national athletes and being like,
"Hi, I'm here to learn how to ski while you train for the Paralympic Games coming up in a few months."
We've had a few days in the past month where you could get out and ski, however, one of my guides was first out of town on a conference and then ended up having three kidney stone attacks.  So, skiing was out, to say the least. However, today worked out with having snow and everyone being healthy and so at 8:30 this morning, I made my skiing debut.
Technically, I've skied before which I think has helped, but it's been over 20 years. I was a little wee thing the last time I strapped on a pair of skis, participating in my local Jack Rabbits program. So, when I decided to embark on this crazy adventure, I thought that eventually it would come back to me, but I didn't realise that it would come back so quickly.
Instead of going to the ski trail, my guide thought it would be more beneficial to ski on a golf course. That way, the ground would be even and we should be mostly on grass; covered by snow of course. Also, the golf course would probably be empty which would give us the time and space to teach me how to ski. The first golf course we hit was a bit of a bust. A woman came out and told us that we weren't allowed to ski on the grass until there was a foot of snow because we would ruin the grass due to the chemicals they had put down. My guide was a bit confused since the owner of the place had told him we could ski, but since the owner wasn't there, we moved on. No point in burning bridges if we didn't have to.
The second golf course ended up being where we skied. We had a bit of a problem getting my right boot to stay clipped into the binding, but eventually it stuck. Snow had packed into the bar that goes across the toe and under the boot as well. At first, we were concerned that the ski binding was broken and our effort to ski was being thwarted again. The skis we used were "waxless" skis which means that you don't need wax on the bottoms. They are good for beginners, like me. The waxless skis don't have as much glide as the skis with wax, but again, it was good for me. Another small glitch we ran into was a bit of a miscommunication about poles.
I had told my guide that I had bought my poles and he thought I had them. However, the store was supposed to be cutting them to length and hadn't called to tell me they were ready yet. So, he thought I had poles when I didn't. That meant, my skiing debut was minus poles. At first, I was concerned. I thought having the poles would help me keep my balance as well as give me a reference point. Skiing on the golf green meant there weren't any pre-made tracks to guide my skis. I was freaking out a little bit, but I knew my guide had patience and that I could take my time.
Our first loop around the green went well. My guide stood beside me and held his arm at a 90 degree angle, as someone would when running with a blind runner who wasn't quite ready for a tether. I placed my hand on his wrist and we began striding along. All I could think was:
"How do I make myself move?"
But suddenly, I just started moving. It wasn't a motion I had to learn. It was like my muscles remembered what to do. After that first loop, my guide asked me if I wanted to try just skiing beside him, without his arm. I wanted to scream "noooooooooo!" There weren't any pre-made tracks. I didn't have poles! I hadn't been on skis in over 20 years! Was he nuts? I certainly was not ready. However, I thought of my training camp coming up in just two weeks and I let go of his arm; albeit reluctantly. I can't even walk a straight line, how was I supposed to ski in a straight line without poles or pre-made tracks?
The thought of:
"How do I start moving?" came again, and I just started moving forward again.
We spent an hour out there, sun shining, North wind blowing fiercely and me re-learning how to ski. It really didn't feel like an hour though.
As we did one loop after another, my guide started talking about more technique. He skied a circle around me while I stood still so I could hear the "kick" part of his stride and how far one "kick" made him glide. He said he was impressed and that I was already a good skier, we just now had to make me into a racer; all in good time.
And do you know what else? I only fell three times and my guide fell before I did.
My first fall came as I was working on the "glide" part of my stride. I got going faster than I was comfortable with down a small hill and panicked. I leaned my weight back in order to stop the "wooshing" motion (I really wasn't going that fast, but it felt like it to me) and I went straight down on my butt. My guide had said that if you don't fall you're not working hard enough so I hollered from my butt plant,
"I'm working hard enough now."
My second fall came when I was stepping closer to my guide because I had started drifting away from him by accident. My skis crossed and down I went. The third one I have decided wasn't my fault. We were heading back to the car and there was some kind of unnatural surface under the snow-maybe a polished platform-that was super slippery and I landed on my butt again.
Even though I fell three times and the stinking North wind was peeling my face off, I loved it. There's something to be said for being able to glide over snow completely unattached from a person or guide dog. I have always said that working with my guide dogs was the ultimate freedom because I could walk by myself without having to hold on to a person, and it still is, but from my experience this morning, cross country skiing is, apart from the guide dog, the closest thing I will ever come to moving as an independent person. It is the most amazing feeling. I've decided that if we can't make me a racer, I will always cross country ski.
I probably owuld have stayed out there for another hour, but I had a run scheduled in for the afternoon and I had cycled some intervals the night before. I am eager to get better and faster, but I really need to make sure I pace myself. Going into the training camp with an injury would be much worse than going in with a bit lower fitness level than I'd like. So, we loaded the skis back into the car and headed home.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Walking Barefoot in the Sand: My Traveling Bumble Bee

Walking Barefoot in the Sand: My Traveling Bumble Bee: Nala is my third guide dog. We've been together for about nine months now and she's already moved across an ocean. One of my friends...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Alberta Bound

I got the good news yesterday morning. An email came in saying that I had been selected to go to the training camp in Alberta as a part of the contingency Ontario was sending. There are eight of us and I know no one; not necessarily a bad thing. We leave December 05 and the camp runs until the 8th. However, I won't be back so soon.
There is an International Paralympic Committee (IPC) sanctioned Cup of some sort being held after the camp and I'm racing in it.
Haven't been on skis in over 20 years and I'm heading to a training camp and then racing.
Why not?
The real reason is because I'm going to be getting classified which means that eye doctors basically confirm that I'm completely blind. This whole process requires that they see you competing after the classification to make it all official. So, if I want to be classified, I have to race. Classifiers aren't present at every competition so it makes sense to just get it done now.
We obviously don't care about the time, but are more concerned with technique and just getting the race finished. I'm not so nervous about the race-at least not yet-but I am a bit nervous about the camp.
Here I am going in with a bunch of athletes who are competing at the international level and I haven't skied in forever; never mind what kind of physical fitness I'm in. I've been working on that, but it's still nowhere where it used to be.
But, I'm slotted in now and so I'm going. All I can do is keep working out the way I have been, hope for some snow so I can get on skis before we go out there and enjoy the ride. I should probably also go buy some actual skiing clothes as well. ;)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

You Won't Miss Me

Today was the ski swap. This means, from what I gathered today, that loads of people cram into a location, searching through used and new ski gear; trying to find the exact item they want. I, on the other hand, had no idea what I was doing. So I stood aside until the guy who is thinking about being my coach arrived on the scene and showed me the skis he had put aside for me. The vice president of the ski club was originally going to help out, but she had gone out of town unexpectedly. So, her husband stepped up and found me a pair of boots. The problem was...
my feet were too big.
I've always known I have big feet, but when a men's UK 42 didn't fit, I began to think I didn't need skis; mine were already attached to the ends of my legs.
My big feet turned out to be a blessing in disguise though because those boots were more than slightly used. The leather had tons of creases in it and I was concerned the previous owner had left his stride pattern embedded in the bottom of the boot. That could potentially cause some serious postural issues.
Since everyone was shocked at the size of my feet, we began examining the possibility of me having to buy new boots as opposed to used. (Or, perhaps waxing the bottoms of my feet would serve just as well). The upside to purchasing new boots would have been that I could have worn the boots in to fit me. However, the downside was that new boots were significantly more expensive. As I stood on the church floor in my socks, the idea of new boots started to appeal to me. The new boots would last longer too. That said, dollar signs kept whizzing through my brain-150 for a "decent" pair of boots. I don't think my regular winter boots cost that much.
The decision was made for me though when one of the ski shop venders appeared with a pair of (much more) gently used women's ski boots. More excitingly, my abnormally large feet fit. There was enough wiggle room for a thicker pair of socks and potential feet swelling from physical exertion. Initially, my personal assistants were concerned because the boots are designed for skate skiing which I won't start until next year, but I pointed out that having the extra ankle support that skate ski boots provides as a blind person is not necessarily a bad thing. It was also brought to my attention that the colours of the boots and skis are quite loud-the skis being a bright yellow and the boots screaming even louder in red and yellow-but I figured, despite the obvious clashing, people would know it was me coming. In the future, when I'm purchasing new gear, I can be concerned with matching and perhaps not such a bold statement, but for now, this stuff will serve its purpose. With my reflective pink outer shell jacket that casts pink glare off of ice and snow, my vest that boldly proclaims "blind skier" on it, my nearly florescent yellow skis and my even brighter boots, you won't miss me.
The only thing I'm missing now are my poles.
I wonder what colour they will come in...?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Moving at Race Pace

To quote one of the coaches that I've been in contact with, she said I am "moving at race pace. And, she's not kidding.
It's been a mere week before my crazy plan was put into motion and it's picked up some momentum since then.
In just this short time, I've managed to be invited to a training camp out in Alberta, refused to go because I didn't have the funds, and then be offered the funds by an anonymous sponsor. I can hardly believe it.
Let me start at a somewhat beginning point.
This evening I sat down with a member of my local cross country ski club, a coach and a ski enthusiast. A meeting that I assumed would last about 45 minutes to an hour went over two hours. We sat and discussed my goals and what I needed to do to get there. The most obvious was getting a hold of ski equipment since I currently own none and then the chat turned to the training camp that I had so kindly been invited to and had regretfully declined. We talked about my commitment and how important I thought this training camp was.
I told them that I think the camp is important for many reasons, one of them being that it would expose my coach and/or potential guide to Para sport in an environment conducive to learning. I don't know what I'm doing quite frankly and no one here has ever trained, let alone guided, a totally blind athlete before. Of course other camp opportunities will come up, but who knows if I will be invited again and who knows when those will be. With this season being a Winter Paralympic/Olympic Games year, a lot of the development elements aren't being focused on, and rightfully so. We could take this season to "get our feet under us," so to speak, and muddle through the best we can, but going to this training camp would give us a good leg up. It would also be a good opportunity for me to see if I'm even cut out to be a Para Nordic skier.
After I rambled on about why I thought this camp would be beneficial, I was told that there was someone willing to sponsor me. Basically, the money to go to the camp was there if I wanted it.
I'm not over exaggerating when I say that I was fighting back tears.
Here I had struggled for nearly five years to get back into competitive sport and within two hours, I was on my way.
My meeting also resulted in me getting my starter equipment taken care of. So, now all I have to pay is my club fee and trail pass fee which obviously makes things so much easier for me. Not only was the financial support completely amazing, and slightly humbling, but the confidence that these three people had in me made my head spin.
We still have work to do, like the recruitment of guides for both on the snow and off, but right now I think I will just revel in the genuine awesomeness of this entire situation.
It's been a few hours and I'm still in shock and probably will be for the next few days.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I think the actual title of this blog should be "Sometimes Writes." I think most blog authors are guilty of just not writing. I've left this blog mostly abandoned for a few reasons, but the primary one is because I really didn't have anything to write about. This was supposed to be a chronicle of my training and eventual racing stories, but I wasn't training and hence not racing. So, the blog stood empty for a very long time.
But, I might be back.
I say "might" because some logistics are in progress, but for all intents and purposes this blog shouldn't stand empty any longer, or at least not suffer from the very random postings that I had tried to do before.
This is a new beginning.
How many times have I written that in the mere 75 previous posts? A lot I think.
However, this time, it really is a new beginning. Not only will I have new guides, and new coaches, but I'm in a new city and trying a new sport. Okay, the city isn't entirely new because I'm back in my hometown, but I've been away so long that it's new enough; in a familiar way.
I've totally thrown out the running idea. In fact, I've scrapped summer sport entirely. I'm making the  big move from environmentally controlled swimming to the out of doors and not in warm temperatures.
I never seem to do things half way.
Forget the bikes and the short shorts. bring in the scarves and fuzzy hats.
Okay, perhaps you don't wear fuzzy hats when training or competing, but I'm sure I'll wear a fuzzy hat at some point.
No more trying to train for three sports and failing. Instead, I am embracing winter sport and attempting to cross country ski,, at top speeds. We'll see how I do.
I skied as a kid and loved it. There's something about gliding that I love. That's why I liked swimming so much and wasn't a fan of running. I never felt any glide. With cross country skiing though, there will be plenty of that-,or so I assume.
To be honest, I really have no clue what I'm doing. I'm just getting started, but the beautiful thing is that it appears that I have the support from the ski club and its members.  I don't know a whole lot of details yet as I'm only in emailing stages, but I have a meeting with one coach next week. So, we'll see how that goes.
In the mean time, I've started my own self inflicted workouts. Nothing too major, but yesterday I used my mom's elliptical for 30 minutes. Today is a skipping and tubing day and tomorrow will be a day off; only to start back on Saturday.
It's a start and I promise that if  this doesn't work out, I'll stop trying to revive this blog and my sporting career. ;)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Judging Speed

Yesterday Laura and I headed out for our weekly run. She's the only guide runner I've found locally and we manage to get a good run in on most Wednesday evenings. I was a bit worried because the previous week my run had not felt very good at all. We had gone about five K and I nearly threw up by the time we got back. I had run two days later for 50 minutes on the treadmill and had not felt that bad, but I was concerned that our outdoor runs were so much harder than just holding on to a treadmill.
When you're running outside there are so many things to pay attention to that you tire really quickly. At least, I do. I think seasoned blind runners probably learn what to listen to and what to filter out, but I'm still pretty new and I haven't quite mastered that skill. Hence, my runs outside tethered to a guide by overlapping shoelaces can be a bit harder on me than the indoor runs. However, these outdoor ones are so important since any races I'll be entering will be obviously outside with  a lot of other distractions.
I also worry that I hold her back a bit. She's already run quite a few marathons and I would hate to be slowing her training down. That said, Laura doesn't strike me as the type who would keep guiding me if it impacted her negatively. Often, she's already had a run in the morning and runs home from work before she comes to meet me. The woman's a machine. :)
Anyway, as we ran Wednesday night, we both agreed to take it easy and see how we felt. Laura's legs were heavy from running intervals that morning and I was concerned that whatever I was doing in training wasn't paying off-somehow, the previous Wednesday's run was a real struggle despite me training more consistently.
So, we set off at a leisurely pace with no particular mileage in mind. We fell into an easy rhythm and soon found that we had easily run about 4 K. She asked me if I wanted to extend the run at that point and I said that I did. I was feeling much better than the week before and so we pushed on.
As we ran we chatted; me doing most of the talking. Chatting away to her kept my mind off of the small stitch developing in my side and how tired my quads were feeling. I know breathing regulation is a big part of running and so I tried focusing on that, but I think sometimes as a blind person running along without seeing what's going by can lack some stimulation. Laura is excellent at describing, but for the most part she's busy keeping us safe and giving me verbal directions. So, I yapped.
It was a really nice night and so inevitably we came across cyclists, walkers, dogs and of course other runners. It was interesting for me when a man ran past us, his footfalls much slower, but much heavier. I think that if I had been standing still I wouldn't have known just how fast he was going because his stride was quite long. From how heavy his footfalls were as well I think I would have assumed he was moving slowly because he sounded as though he was lumbering as opposed to running. It really got me thinking of my perception of speed and how it's really off. He sounded as though he was going slow, whereas, he was going fast enough to over take us and pass us. Most of the other runners we past were going the opposite direction so it was difficult for me to gauge if they were going faster than we were in relation to how fast their feet were moving. It made me realise that I really have no clue how fast we're running at all. The splits on Laura's watch, or my Iphone, let me know, but I think a race situation will be good for me so that I can have a better understanding of how fast people actually move. Maybe even being a spectator at a race would be educational. Regardless, I think it will be something I pay attention to more when we're out running next week. Maybe it'll teach me a thing or two about pacing and efficient running.
Aside from my little "ahah!" moment, we also ran six K and it felt good. I was excited and started thinking that maybe I struggle with over heating and not bad training. The week before had been much warmer and I had been way over dressed. Laura pushed me to finish the six K to prove to me that I could be ready to run a ten K race in July. So, I think that is my new goal-running ten K locally in July.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

I'm Back ;)

It's been a while hasn't it? Almost six months to be exact; well, kind of exact. A few things have changed since my last post and things that are helping me get consistent training in.
I went away and was matched with my new guide dog. We've been together for nearly three months now and things are going well. One of the first routes we learned wen we got home was how to get to the gym. Obviously, this means I can train more consistently. I've also started running outside on Wednesday evenings with Laura again and that's been really good. We've been out twice now and I'm really enjoying it. I don't really know what goal I'm working towards, aside from getting fitter, but that will come. I really think that the first race I enter will be for me. I'd like to run for charity in the future, but just getting a race under my belt, so to speak, is my first priority. After that I can focus on finding another race and fundraising. I had always thought running for a charity would motivate me more, but I think at the end of the day, it just muddied the waters a bit too much; at least in the beginning. As Laura aptly pointed out, I have a lot of things to get used to running in a crowd of people without having to worry about raising a certain amount of money for a charity. So, for now, I am going to find a race and run it for me and then after that I will run another for someone else. Part of my decision has come from a realisation that I thought I had internalised a long time ago; apparently I forgot. It's really important to do things for yourself. I.E., quitting smoking, losing weight Etc. Training and/or racing could be the same.
I had been running with a friend to help her get into better shape. When the excuses not to run kept coming up or when she kept telling people I was dragging her out, it became clear to me that I needed to do my own thing. I was getting faster and she wasn't improving at all. The last straw for me was when her excuse not to run was, "I already showered today." You can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped. So, instead of tailoring my workouts around her, starting today, I will do my own workouts. If she wants me to write her up some workouts, I can do that, but unless I run with her as a second workout in a day, I am done. Running with her had been enjoyable because we were outside and I got to run with another person, instead of running by myself on a treadmill, but if I actually want to run a half marathon or a full one in the future, I am going to have to switch gears.
Also, a woman I had been in contact with a while back is moving close to here and has suggested we train for a triathlon together. She's willing to be my guide and although I'm not sure if it will work out, I am really excited about at least trying. It sounds as though she's in better physical condition than me, so in order to catch up a bit, I need to actually improve. Running 3 minutes and walking 2 minutes which was what all my workouts with my friend consisted of, at the same pace week after week is not going to get me there. Since this woman wants to be competitive in the triathlon, I can't afford to hold her back either.
So, it's with all of this in mind that I prepare to head to the gym in the next little while to run some intervals on the treadmill. :)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Change of Plans

If you haven't been able to figure it out yet, plans are always changing around here. :) This time the change in plans was a hard decision, but I think it was probably the best thing to do.
I have withdrawn myself from the London Marathon. I've emailed the Guide Dogs events team and explained that because of training with my replacement guide dog, I cannot commit entirely to the training and fundraising that is necessary for such a large event; at least not this year. This decision did not come easily. I spent probably over a week thinking about it and talking to a few people about it including my husband and my current guide dog trainer. Both had logical things to say and ultimately their sensibility won out. The guide dog trainer knows someone close to him currently training for a marathon and talked with me at length about the commitment to training. Also, he expressed a concern out loud that I had had for a while now but had not voiced; I have not trained with my guide at all yet and 26 miles is a long distance to be attached to someone that you've never run with before. Sure, sometimes blind runners participating in long distance events such as marathons are paired with guides they don't know and consequently have not trained with, but since this was going to be my first marathon, I wanted to be familiar with my guide. As the guide dog trainer said, "marathon training is like having a job" and with the commitment I have to make to this new relationship between me and my new guide dog, I just can't do it right now. However, that does not mean I won't apply for the 2014 marathon. I will have bonded with my dog by then and it won't hurt our relationship for me to be involved in something like that or to have to travel.
I also have not given up on my challenge of running from Edinburgh to London to raise funds for Guide Dogs. Logistically the challenge is sort of running into a few glitches, but I figure that if I can't find guide runners, I'll just cover the mileage on a treadmill at my gym. Certainly not the same, but still works.
I feel a sense of relief having given up my spot. The fundraising and training were really quite stressful, knowing that I had so little time and so many things to do. I feel a bit guilty having said yes initially, but the London marathon is such a fantastic event that I think it is only fair that whoever participates put 100 percent into completing the challenge of running the 26 miles and raising the required 2,000 pounds. I know someone will fill my place and be better equipped than I am at this point to complete these challenges.
So, although I am a little disappointed at my change in plans, I am also relieved. Now I can focus on bonding with my new dog when the time comes. This eventually will mean more independence and freedom not only in every day tasks, but training for events such as the London marathon as well. Also, my MSc dissertation will get more attention if I'm not busy trying to train for a marathon. The proposal is due around the time of the marathon and perhaps it was wise even for just that reason to give my spot up.
It's amazing what growing up will do to you. Just three years ago I would have probably tried to do everything and been able to give ony part of my effort to three major tasks, resulting in some so-so outcomes. Now, I've come to realise that I can't do everything and that it's okay to be great at just one thing as opposed to trying ten different things and attempting to be great at all of them; it just doesn't work that way. :)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ninety Days!

I just happened across a web page today that told me that the London marathon is only 90 days away. I nearly choked on my coffee. Can it really be that close? Where has the time gone?
In just three months I am supposed to run 26 miles and have raised at least 2,000 pounds.
What was I thinking?
I had a late start considering the marathon team didn't let me know that I had a spot until right before Christmas, but I only have about 80 pounds raised and there's no way I'm anywhere near being ready to run 26 miles. Sure, I don't have to do it tomorrow, but 90 days isn't a lot of time. But I'm committed now. Nothing left to do but buckle down and  figure out some fundraising plans and get my butt training even harder, or else I'm in huge trouble.
Wish me luck or if I can be so cheeky...if you're out there reading this and can spare a pound or two please sponsor me. Your money goes to a great cause. :)
PS: I was matched with my new guide dog on Friday. The dog still has a month of training left and so if everything goes well, we'll enter team training together at the end of February. It's been six months, but good things really do come to those who wait. Another reason why I feel so compelled to raise funds for this fabulous organisation.

My fundraising page can be found at:

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Fundraising Frenzy

After being granted the charity ballot to run the London marathon for Guide Dogs, the deadline for fundraising really started setting in. I knew the training and the running of the race would be a challenge in and of itself and I knew the fundraising would be an added pressure, but I didn't think I'd be more worried about raising the money than running the marathon. Maybe when we get closer to the marathon I'll be more concerned with that, but as of right now I am more concerned with raising 400 pounds by March 31st.
According to the London marathon Guide Dogs events team, and the contract I signed with them, I have to have the first 400 pounds of the 2,000 pounds in to them by March 31st. I currently have 80 pounds raised. So, that means a lot of fundraising for me in the next few months; along with training, hydrating right, sleeping correctly and hopefully completing my MSc with high grades.
I never have picked the path of least resistance. ;)
I have a few ideas for fundraising, but the logistics of such things need to be worked out.
First of all, my Virgin Money Giving page is still up and that is where I've collected my donations for now. I'm incredibly grateful for the individuals who have donated thus far.
My next endeavor is to plan a Companion Dog Show. These shows are licensed by the Kennel Club and sound like a lot of fun. Not to mention, it's an inexpensive way to raise money. It definitely will take some work, but I'm actually really looking forward to planning the show. The organiser gets to select novelty classes, along with confirmation classes, for the dogs to compete in. I figure that since it's an event to raise funds for Guide Dogs it would only be fitting to have a class for "best guide dog" or something like that. Hopefully I'll be able to get some guide dog handlers and maybe some puppy walkers (AKA puppy raisers) out as well.
Of course there's always the good old fashion method of carrying around pledge forms and asking people to donate. I've never been very good at that, but it may become a necessary evil.
Since I'll be doing most of my training in my gym, I thought about asking if I could run some sort of event within the facility or put up a pledge sheet. I haven't quite figured that one out yet, but I think it'll be a good place to find sponsorship; I hope.
University starts up again on the 14th after about a month's break and I've also thought to ask the head of the department if I could have a bake sale or at least pass around the pledge form in class. There's got to be a way to tap into that population. I'm of the mindset that every little bit helps.
Other than that, I'm sort of stuck for ideas. One of my guide runners suggested bagging groceries as that is a popular way to raise funds in the UK, but I'm not sure I have enough man power to pull something like that off. I really can't help bag someone's groceries-okay, if it came down to it I could, but I'm not sure how well that would go-and I really don't know a whole lot of people here to ask to bag groceries with/for me. Again, another idea to look into.
There's a cafe we go to a lot and have become friends with the owner. Valentine's Day will becoming up soon and I thought about making a basket with a hand made blanket, some wine and chocolates-or something like that-for her to raffle off, or maybe some of the jewelry I make. Either way, I'd have to obviously ask her first and then make the stuff.
So even though it's only the 5th of January, I really need to  start fundraising. The 31st of March will come up really fast and the 23rd of April-race day and due date for 1,6000 pounds-will come even faster.