I Did It

My 10k run was yesterday and I am proud to say that I crossed that finish line successfully. I won’t lie- it was hard, mostly because it was really damn hot. The first 6km or so were the worst- once we were closer to the lake, the temperature cooled down a bit and there was a breeze, which was wonderfully refreshing. But those first 6km…within about thirty seconds from the starting line, I was roasting. It was hot and humid and there was no air flow AT ALL. I am not used to running or working out in heat like that (gotta love the temperature-controlled environment at the gym) and so I definitely struggled. I had to slow my pace considerably because I did not want to collapse from heat exhaustion before the finish line. My time ended up at 1:14:15- I was hoping for better, but that’s okay. I am still quite proud of my accomplishment.

I think running is a bit like being in labour- in the moment, it is hell, and you vow never to do it again. But once it’s over, the memory of the pain fades and you contemplate giving it another go. Hours after my run was completed, I was already thinking about next year. Meanwhile, I distinctly remember thinking while I was breathless and wiping sweat out of my eyes, “Why am I doing this? This is awful! I want to die! I am never running EVER AGAIN!” And then I crossed the finish line, high-fiving strangers along the way, and I got my finishers medal and saw my completed time, and I thought, “Huh, this is pretty great! I am definitely going to do this again!”

Thank you to all my supporters- those who donated to the cause and those who sent me messages of encouragement and love. You all helped me push through the pain and keep going. You are awesome and I love you all (yes, I may still have a bit of a runner’s high as I’m writing this). As it was Mother’s Day yesterday, I wished my mom could have been there with me, but I certainly felt her presence as I ran, encouraging me to keep running. Now I need to figure out what my next challenge will be- another 10k? Half marathon? As I have now proven to myself, anything is possible!

Before the race

Before the race

After! Penelope loved my medal!

After! Penelope loved my medal!

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72(ish) Hours to Go

Well, May 10 is coming up rather quickly. Way back in February, when I signed up to do this run, it felt like it was so far in the future, and I was full of confidence. “Oh yeah,” I thought, “I can run 10k by May 10- no problem! Piece of cake!” Now that the moment is nearly upon me though, I am more nervous than I thought I would be, and not nearly so confident. Now, the fact that I have recently completed a 10km run is serving to reassure me, but my anxiety is still creeping in. What if I fall? What if I’m too slow? What if my body fails me somehow and I just can’t complete the run?

I am trying not to let these thoughts consume me. Deep down, I know I can do this. And I’m also trying not to be overly dramatic about it- for God’s sake, I’m participating in a 10km charity run, it’s not like I’m a neurosurgeon, about to open someone’s skull and operate on their brain. No one’s life is at stake here. It’s just a run. And all the support I have received from family and friends in this venture of mine has been amazing (check out my fundraising page– I’ve surpassed my goal!) and that has gone a long way to keeping me focused on my goal- to cross that finish line.

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So over the next few days, I will continue to attempt to stay calm and focused, and to psych myself up for Sunday. I’ve already got a pretty good playlist to accompany me- what are your go-to songs to get yourself pysched up for a workout? And how do you stay calm before a big event?

Oh, and if you want to see how I’m doing on Sunday morning, you should be able to search my name (Julie Steel) and track my progress through Sportstats. See you on the other side of that finish line!

Goal: Met

Breathe in. Breathe out. Put one foot in front of the other. Keep moving forward. Don’t give up. These are the phrases I repeated to myself often over this past month (it’s been a tough one). They also came in handy on Sunday, when I decided to test my endurance before my run, which is now less than two weeks away. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a worrier, and I had to get a 10km run under my belt before the day of the race, or else my fear that I wouldn’t be able to complete the course would have gotten the best of me.

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And so, armed with a playlist on my iPhone and a water bottle, I set out to see what I could do. The first 5km were a breeze- I ran that in about 30 minutes, and if I hadn’t been trying to conserve my energy for the final 5km, I could have done it even faster. Kilometres 5-8 were harder, and my pace slowed a bit at that point. The thoughts of “Why the hell am I doing this? What kind of sicko finds this activity enjoyable?” started to creep into my mind. The final two kilometres were the toughest. My breathing was laboured and my legs were tired. I really just wanted a hot shower and my bed. I was determined to finish, though. I thought about everything that my little Penelope has been through- everything she has endured and every obstacle she has overcome. All the testing and therapies and the surgery and this latest hospital stay– she has made it through all of that with a smile on her face. If she can do that, well, then, I can run a measly ten kilometres. Those last two kilometres, I had her face in my mind with every step. And I did it. I ran ten kilometres, and it felt amazing.

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Now that I know that I can actually run 10km, I can rest easy heading into race day. And I have a feeling that running with a bunch of people, with a crowd cheering on the sidelines- it will feel easier than it did on Sunday. I am very close to reaching my fundraising goal for this run- thanks to everyone who has donated! And if you haven’t yet donated and are inclined to do so, you can find my fundraising page here.

I have to admit that I am pretty proud of the progress I have made with my fitness. A year ago, if you had asked me to run ten kilometres, I would have laughed and laughed, and then probably passed out from the exertion of laughing. I just didn’t think it was something I would ever be able to do. In my mind, I was too old, too fat, and too scared to really test myself like that. If that sounds familiar to you, well, listen up: I am proof positive that ANYONE can improve their fitness. Seriously, if I can do it, anyone can- a year ago, I was a sedentary couch potato who regularly gorged on ice cream and cookies. And now I can officially add this to the list of my life’s accomplishments: ran ten kilometres. I may even put that on my tombstone- “Devoted Wife. Loving Mother. Caring Nurse. Ran 10km.” It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

A New Goal

Several months ago, I wrote about setting a fitness goal for myself: to do a 5k run in May. As it turns out, this is not going to happen… because I have signed up to do a 10k run instead! Yes, at the urging of my colleague and friend, Heather (who has a kick-ass crafting blog that you should check out), I have decided to double the distance and am running in the Sporting Life 10k here in Toronto on Mother’s Day.

This is not because I just love running so much that I absolutely had to run further than I had originally planned- quite the opposite, in fact. I do not enjoy running. At all. After setting the 5k goal for myself, I started running on the treadmill at the gym. At first, it was okay. But within a few weeks, my joints were aching, I was on the verge of hobbling around like an old lady, I’d nearly vomited several times from overdoing my water consumption during the run, and I’d had enough. So I stopped the running regimen, and went back to doing cardio activities I actually enjoyed.

I truly don’t understand people who like running. Why? What is the appeal? It is painful and you can’t breathe and you can’t even take a drink of water without choking or having it slosh around in your stomach. My dad is a runner- he regularly runs 20-30 km. At ONE time. And he loves it! And unlike his penchant for sarcasm, I did not inherit that trait from him.

I know I don’t sound all that enthusiastic about doing this run, but I am actually looking forward to it. Well, I’m looking forward to crossing the finish line, at least. I know I have enough endurance for it- I work out frequently, with plenty of intense cardio activities in my gym routine. And it’s only when I run on a regular basis that my joints get achy, so I think for this isolated event, I will be fine. And I’m running with a bunch of nurses, so if I get injured or have a heart attack, I will be surrounded plenty of health care professionals to help me.

Now, the Sporting Life 10k run raises money to send kids with cancer to camp- that’s a pretty great cause! If you able to, please consider donating to this organization. Click here for the link to my fundraising page for the run. Even a $5 donation is appreciated!

IMG_7663So here I am: the fittest I’ve been in about ten years, and ready to run my ass off. Bring it on, 10k!

5k by May?

As I have written about before, this current weight-loss journey that I am on is different from ones in the past. I’m not counting calories or weighing myself. And it’s been working pretty well, so far. I have been staying on track with healthy eating and I make time to go the gym at least 3 times per week. The only drawback to this method is that it lacks a specific goal for me to achieve. And then it hit me the other day when I was at the gym- why not aim to run a 5k race in the spring?

When I got home, I looked up spring races in Toronto, and I think I’ve settled on the 5k option of the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon, on Sunday, May 3, 2015. It seems so far away, but I think that’s actually a good thing. It will give me plenty of time to build up my endurance so that I can actually run 5km, and once I’ve established that endurance, I can work on improving my time.

And while running a 5k race provides me with a needed fitness goal, I also want to do it because I CAN. I don’t mean that in an “Oooh, I am so fit and healthy and I can run as far as I want” kind of way; it’s more that I am young(ish) and healthy and there’s no reason I can’t do something like that. I have seen so many loved ones struggle with health issues- life-threatening issues like cancer; or like my mom, whose congenital heart defect resulted in restrictions on her activity, and ultimately led to her early demise. My own daughter faces potential mobility issues- we don’t know when or if she will be able to walk, and she may have serious difficulties with that. I owe it to them to make the most of my health and my life. I owe it to my family to try and live a long and healthy life, because I am not facing those issues at the moment, and I need to do everything I can to prevent that from happening. I want to see my girls grow up and I want to meet my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Gotta do this for them

Gotta do this for them

Once upon a time, back when I was seventeen and the absolute picture of health and youth, I took a phys ed class called “Fun Fit for Women” taught by Mr. Glaad. He was a serious runner, and introduced us to the benefits of exercise like running and weight training. By the end of the semester, I could run 5km in 20 minutes, which was a pretty decent time. I don’t know I will be able to achieve that time again, but I really don’t want to wait another sixteen years to give it a try (Jesus Christ, how has it been sixteen years since my grade eleven gym class? I remember making up excuses to get out of the swimming portion of that class like it was yesterday).

So here I go. I’m going to follow the “Couch to 5K” plan, and see what happens. I’m not exactly at “Couch” fitness level right now, but I abhor running, so I figure that’s a pretty good place to start. And just over seven months from now, hopefully I will cross that finish line without humiliating or injuring myself. It shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Yeah, I know- famous last words.