My personality change when I’m not running

Whether I’m training for anything in particular or not, I generally run or do some sort of cross-training nearly every day. If I’m not, it’s usually because I’m either sick or too busy and preoccupied with something else. Last week, however, I took the week off of running for no other reason than to give myself a break after my half-marathon in order to come back to running completely refreshed. In my time off running, I tapped into something. It wasn’t time, because I run at 5:00 a.m. so if I’m not running I’m sleeping. It wasn’t physical energy, because I find running tends to give me more energy throughout the day. It was more of a personality change, really, which I can’t quite explain.

Some examples:

My children don’t love vegetables. It is a fairly constant battle to get them to eat them. When I’m in running-mode, I approach it as something to get-done, and force them in however I can (usually at breakfast!) During my running break, however, I decided to take the kids grocery shopping, buy some fresh zucchini, carrots, apples and bananas, and take them home to help me to bake all of the healthy goodness into muffins and loaves. If you know me, you know how uncharacteristic that is and how I sometimes make fun of people who do things like that because really, JUST EAT YOUR VEGETABLES!

Veggie-filled muffins and loaf

Veggie-filled muffins and loaf

I’m a fairly social person, and I love a good party, but I generally have a limited reserve for going out to multiple parties in a row. I call it “doing a double” (similar to double runs) if I go out two nights in a row. It’s a rare occurrence. However, during my running break, I planned, looked forward to and enjoyed going to four social gatherings in three days! Not only that, but I didn’t even worry about wearing impractical footwear.

My party footwear of choice when not running

My party footwear of choice when not running

Usually for Halloween, we appreciate the neighbours’ done-up houses, but we aren’t really the ones who do more than a pumpkin or two. I generally don’t see the point in buying dollar-store junk which will then take up space in our house for a year and will eventually end up in a land-fill, all for one night. But for some reason this year I got a bit more into it. We did the dollar store trip, went to the park to find sticks to use as gravestones, and I let my kids decorate the house how they wished (which included them climbing our tree with all sorts of caution tape wrapped around everyone’s limbs).

What happens when you let the kids decorate

What happens when you let the kids decorate

Happily, I am now back to running. I’m hoping I haven’t done anything permanent, and I’m assuming my normal personality will return. My friends and family will have to wait for my next running break to see a return of the veggie-muffins, multiple late nights and tacky house.

First PB since kids!

It’s true. I just posted my first Personal Best time in running since having my first baby over six years ago. I ran 1:21:43 in the Scotiabank Toroton Waterfront Half-Marathon last weekend, which is sixteen seconds faster than I’ve ever run that distance. In fact, since I’m writing about it I just did a little bit of research and discovered that despite having been fairly consistent in the racing scene for over fifteen years, I hadn’t posted a personal best time in the last nine!

Last few meters in the STWM Half

Last few meters in the STWM Half

Since I’m comparing, I thought I’d take a look at what I do now vs. what I did nine years ago:

Interval workouts:

Nine years ago I did interval workouts twice a week with a competitive group of runners. We showed up after work, and began the ritual of warming-up, doing drills, and preparing our minds and bodies for the workout to come. After completing the workout we would do some more running at a relaxed pace, and often included core work. The entire process could easily take two hours.

Today, I do interval workouts at 5 a.m. I have somehow managed to convince a group of similarly time-pressed parents from my neighbourhood that this is a fun activity and a good idea. We have a group of around seven people, ranging from run-walkers to competitive runners who meet every Wednesday at 5 a.m. prepared to take on whatever hills or intervals I have planned that day. They are amazing, inspiring, dedicated, and definitely get me out there! However, there is no waiting for stragglers, not much of a warm-up and no time for drills. The entire process takes no more than an hour.

A loyal workout buddy doing hills at 5 a.m. in January

A loyal workout buddy doing hills at 5 a.m. in January



Long runs:

Nine years ago I often did my long-runs with my boyfriend (now husband). We would run once we’d eased into our day, had breakfast and read the paper. After the runs the rest of the day was often spent relaxing and recovering.

Today my husband and I coordinate schedules around kids and various activities for me to plan my long runs. They do sometimes still include him, but those ones involve a baby-sitter. Sometimes they involve a baby-sitter and not my husband, and on those runs I tend to break down how much I’m paying per-minute to run and work my hardest to get my best value!

Races:

Nine years ago when I raced I focused on nothing but how to set myself up to run my best times. I made sure my logistics and warm-up were timed perfectly for the start, and during the race I was completely focused on my performance.

Today, I often manage my kids’ support-crew experience (food, warmth, transportation) in cheering me on as much as my own race logistics. It’s important to me that they see my running and racing as enjoyable experiences for them as well as for me. During a race I know they’re looking for me, and I’m just as keen to see them. When I do, I make sure I have a smile and wave – whether I’m feeling good or not.

Typical mid-race pose - regardless of how I'm really feeling!

Typical mid-race pose – regardless of how I’m really feeling!

Post-Races:

Nine years ago after a race I would treat myself to a nice meal, bath, relaxed reading, and usually a nap.

Today that is one thing I’m trying to maintain! I’m part-way there. After my half-marathon the kids built me a “relaxation fort” and proceeded to take turns massaging me. See? It’s all about training them along with you. And I feel like I’m finally getting there.

Relaxation Fort

Relaxation Fort

The next two challenges: a 10K PB and teaching my kids to clean up after fort/playtime. Wonder which will come first??

Secret Demon Training

I’m not sure where it originated, but on our university track team we used to use the term “secret demon training”. Secret demon training referred to any running which was done in addition to what was done with the rest of the team. This additional training would always be done on the sly, as trying to get a leg-up on your team-mates was not cool, and it never looked good to seem like you were trying too hard to get the results you showed. It was pretty hard to actually pull off secret demon training in secret, as all of our runs started and finished at the Phys. Ed. Centre in the middle of a small campus in a small town, but that didn’t stop us from frequently suspecting others of having pulled it off. For example: “John is suddenly way more fit than the rest of us. I think he’s been doing some secret demon training!” or “I think Paula did an extended cool-down instead of running home after workout – total secret demon!”

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of secret demon training. I picture someone leaving their house in darkness to “sneak in” extra miles or a track workout all alone with no one to offer support or praise. The only vindication comes after a race, when their stellar results belie the training they seem to have done. I have no problem with people doing extra work – it is inspiring to all of us. The trick, however, is to spot the secret demon training behind it, so you don’t feel badly about the results you’re getting for the work you’ve put in.

Luckily, I have a trained eye, and I know these secret demon trainers are out there – in running and in other areas of life. Here are some examples:

Your training buddy who shares your ten year old PB’s and with whom you’ve been doing every run for the past five years suddenly has a shiny new 10K PB by over a minute: secret demon training.

Your mom who has a gourmet, three-course, all food groups included dinner prepared for you when you drop by, and claims she’s just “tossed together whatever was in the fridge”: secret demon cooking.

Your acquaintance who you meet for drinks and shows up looking ridiculously well put together with accessorized hair, make-up and outfit but claims to have just “thrown something on and walked out the door”: secret demon primping.

Your friend with four kids, two cats and a dog has a spotless show-room ready house every time you go over, but always apologizes for the huge mess: secret demon all-night house cleaner.

So be awed, and be inspired by other people’s great achievements. But just remember – if their results seem too good to be true, there is probably some secret demon training at work.

Every now and then, my “runner” shows through

Most of the time I go about my life thinking, feeling and acting like I’m a normal person, easily blending in with the non-runners around me. But every now and then I find myself in certain situations acting “out of the norm” and I remember: “oh ya. I’m a runner”. Some examples from a recent experience at a child’s birthday party:

The birthday was a swimming party. All went fine until I found myself wincing, and easing into the pool ever so gingerly anticipating the stinging which would tell me how badly I was chafed from that morning’s long run. Not too bad, although I got some odd looks from the marks I seem to constantly sport and tend to forget about.

somewhat permanently present chafe area

somewhat permanently present chafe area

Then I attempted to start up conversations by talking about the most current world issue: the men’s marathon world record of course, which had just been broken that morning! In my mind, the world had changed just a little bit as the limits of human potential had been stretched. I was received by either blank stares or pleasant nods and a change of subject. I made mental note to brush up on non-running related current events to increase my ability to maintain interest in a conversation for more than thirty seconds.

Wilson Kipsang sets a new World Record

Wilson Kipsang sets a new World Record

After the pool, it was on to the party room. It was a warm day, and almost everyone was in sandals, but I was working my fall footwear, hiding my callouses and damaged toe nails. I have been told by some pedicurists that my feet aren’t that bad. For a runner. But I was paying those people. I think I should take it to mean they are that bad. For “normal” people. On with the fall weather and close-toed shoes regardless of the summer temperatures!

my party footwear

my party footwear


everyone else's

everyone else’s

Then it was pizza time. I tried to calmly graze on my one slice of pizza, but I was hungrily eyeballing all of the crusts on the kids’ plates which were left un-eaten. Oh, sweet carbs! I wondered if it would look too strange if I did a tour of the room, scooping up and eating all the left-over crusts.

how can you resist?

how can you resist?

In the end, although I’m different, most people are very accepting of my running-quirkiness. In fact, despite my odd actions and appearances at that party, I ended up with a few more recruits to join me on my early morning runs. Just a warning: once you become one of us, you will never quite be the same!