Thursday, December 8, 2011


It was a simple question. Back in September I was at a coffee shop with a friend. We’ve just ordered our coffees and I mutter:

“I really should switch to decaf”. I’ve probably been saying this for 5 years now because every time I give up coffee I feel great, calm, focused. But then life gets crazy and I’m going on little sleep and I fall back into the pattern of the rich, dark, warm morning goodness.

His response to my question: “When Amy?”
Silence. I had no words.

His was not the typical response. And it made me realize that I had said this so many times and most of the time my friends would empathize with me, instead of calling me on my statement. He was absolutely right. Why say it if you’re not going to do something about it? Why do we make these statements: the should have, would have, could have statements that imply that somehow there is an outside force acting on our lives instead of taking responsibility for our own actions? And more importantly, why do we fall into patterns so mindlessly which then become the fabric of who we are? When do we decide to break those patterns, move them out and replace them with things that make us feel empowered and good about the direction our life is going? When do we choose to follow our dreams and take that first step, as small or large as it is?


Well... now.

There’s a saying: “If it’s important to you you’ll make it happen, if it isn’t, you’ll make an excuse”. I have been hesitating in writing about this because once I do, I’m committed. But here goes: I’ve decided to attempt another marathon. And my goal is to go under 3 hours. On January 15 in Phoenix. Crazy, unrealistic, stupid. But that’s part of the experiment. Is it possible? I don’t really have enough time. But I’d like to see what I’m capable of.

I only decided this a couple of weeks ago. Most people (smart people) would suggest a minimum of 10-12 weeks of lead up time for a marathon. As of the start of this week, I have six. Or five if you count the one week of taper before the race. But I’m the type of person who as soon as you tell me I can’t do something, I am probably going to do it just to make a point. Sometimes it works out and it drives me enough to prove something to myself. Other times it bites me in the ass and I totally screw up or get injured, or am not prepared for a given situation. But I think this might just work out. While September was a total write off after Trans Rockies and I only ran just to run but without any specific focus, about mid way through October I started increasing my mileage, aiming for 100k/week. Instead of my usual 10-12k loop, I started making it 15-20, mostly on the trails and with lots of hills. I got up to about 85 or 90 a few weeks in a row, then had to back off for a week, and then back up. Knock on wood, so far I’m injury free. So I’m feeling pretty good these days, although all of that mileage has just been mileage. Nothing specific and no real method to the madness or speed work or tempo running (although lots of hills).

I am an emotion driven runner. Without a doubt. I always have been. Something bothering me: I run. Something I’m super happy about: I run. Piss me off, look out. (My boyfriend was the lucky recipient of this little burst of energy one morning a few weeks ago when I had received a frustrating email and incidentally completely shut up, put my head down and ran. Needless to say next time I offered him banana pancakes or a run, he chose the pancakes over the “pain cave” as he puts it :)

Looking back I think that might be why I started running when I was a teenager. Through my parents divorce it was my escape, not to mention a great endorphin kick that I gradually became addicted to, a way to calm me. Maybe I was avoiding something, but right or wrong, it always worked. The way I look at it I could have gone the ‘troubled teen’ route and become addicted to drugs at that stage when things were tough. Fortunately I had some really great coaches and role models in my life and so I count my blessings and I became addicted to running. I find these days a lot of things make me run fast, an inspiring song, inspiring stories, music, or someone’s struggle and persistence against odds. That always gets me. I’m taking a risk here, but most people laugh when I tell them that I listen to 2Pac on days when I need to run really fast. There is something about someone fighting through crappy circumstances that increases my pain threshold. I know that this marathon goal is a bit unrealistic, but it’s also giving me a boost of energy for exactly that reason.

When the alarm went off at 630 this morning, the last thing I wanted to do was run 20k, but I had to get it done and that was my window. This week I set a goal of 100k total. I was at 70 as of this morning with two days to go. I fed the dog, pounded a cup of coffee and the Vega electrolyte energizer, and I literally had to force myself out the door. The cold hit my lungs and really woke me up as I sprinted the km or so over to SAIT where I bought a pass to use the treadmills for mornings just like this when it was too cold and I just didn’t need the added fight against the elements on my run. I decided that I’d made it this far so I was going to do a proper warm up and ease my aching body into it slowly. 5 miles in and I felt great. I had woken up and was ready to test myself again.

Part of the reason I was so tired last night was because I had stayed up too late reading. Blogs, books, and even watching you tube videos on marathons. Sorting out pace predictors, deciding on my pace, wondering what was possible. Can I actually run 42k faster than 6:50/ mile? I don’t really know, but until I start getting comfortable at that pace or even as fast as 6:15s, I don’t stand a chance. I can either hurt in the training or hurt during the race. My choice.

I don’t know if maybe the treadmill is off at SAIT but last week I attempted my first 10mile tempo run and did it in 64 minutes. I don’t know how. But I did. This morning after my 5 mile warm up I ran a 38.45 10k (and yes, the elevation was set at “1” for those of you who know treadmills), and felt pretty good. My 10k road pb is a 38.30 so I was really happy with this time, especially given how awful I felt when I woke up. The same song was on repeat on my ipod because it was what I needed to hear to get through the workout. I’m at 90k now, so if I do another 10-15 tomorrow I will have hit my goal of 100k this week. I’m just not making excuses any more. And I’m not going to blame anyone, or take anyone’s advice at this point. I think I can do it. And... to be completely honest, if I don’t make it I’m ok with that. But I want to try. If nothing else, it will give me a focus through the holidays.

My New Years resolutions came early this year.

And... I’m turning 30 at the end of January. Not something I’m worried about or fearing but it is a milestone. I feel like I've accomplished a lot in my life so far, and I am completely happy. And the only thing I really have left on my bucket list right now is a sub 3 hour marathon. I attempted it once in 2006 when the kids were 18 months old. Training for a marathon while pushing twins on every training run was tough. The Calgary marathon is known to be a bit of a slower course so I was relatively happy with a time of 3:17 and a 2nd place finish in my age group, but I knew I could have done better because I had run a 126 half a few months prior to that. I entered the Vancouver marathon in 2010 but had to pull out with an injury at 32k. Disappointing. Last summer I ran a 125 half in Calgary, which was a last minute entry. I’m still kicking myself for not attempting the full that day because I feel like I could have done it.

Regardless, WHEN is NOW. I have the focus, the desire, the health, and I think the base to do this so I’m going for it.

There I’ve said it. Out loud. So now you can hold me accountable.

So what’s your WHEN?