Letting the dogs out

I’ve always loved dogs. We grew up surrounded by dogs, especially the larger breeds such as Great Danes and Boerboels. In my teenage years, my sister and I worked at the SPCA on weekends. So when my Junkie friends, Brenda and Erica, asked if I’d like to join them to walk the dogs at a local dog shelter, I immediately said yes.

We arrived at the dog shelter and were taken on a short tour of the kennels. My heart stopped. Most of the dogs were big. Very big! They were magnificent! I guess I had grown accustomed to being around Annie & Emma, my little Brussels Griffon breeds and had not spent time with any large dogs in a very long time.

We were paired up in two’s and shown how to hold the dogs on the lead. It was a case of taking turns to walk the dogs down the street, then return to the two different enclosures for the dogs to be able to run freely, which they did. And in the one enclosure, there was a pool which they loved!

I won’t lie, I was scared. The very first dog I took was difficult to hold, strong and heavy. I was relieved that the young girl I was paired up with was a regular dog walker to that shelter and while I panicked in my head, she told me the background story to each and every one of the dogs we walked. Their names, where they came from, their personalities. She clearly had favourites. I was relieved she could “read” each dog well.

While we walked the dogs, another bunch of volunteers cleaned the kennels and provided bowls of food and fresh water. Their blankets were laid out in the sun to dry. That smell of wet kennels and jik permeated the air and brought up many memories of those SPCA days.

We all thought it would be a quick and easy morning. But it was hard work! My hands were broken and it felt as if I had been hit by a bus. Tucking into Steers burgers on the way home, we all acknowledged that it was harder than we had initially imagined.

When we left the shelter, the dogs were fed, walked, clean and happy. There are special people who commit to making sure this happens each and every day. They dedicate their lives to not only looking after these amazing animals, but to finding homes for them. But they cannot do it alone.

You can find more information on their Facebook page. We all promised to be back to do it all again. It’s so rewarding!

Okay heart, let’s try stop the beating

A few weeks ago, my personal trainer SuperStacey noticed that every time I ran, my heart rate would skyrocket above 190bpm. It’s never bugged me and I wouldn’t be faint or out of breath when I ran. But it didn’t look right.

Heart rate

This is what my heart rate usually looks like. I start running & it shoots up!

In typical Stacey fashion, she did some research to understand the issues and came up with a mini programme to train my heart. In her words, “…it makes no sense to only strengthen your hamstrings, glutes and core while your heart is what’s letting you down on the runs.” I did also occur to me that with all the running that I was doing, my aerobic fitness was terribly low. Not good.

Running Junkie Francis recognized my new running program on my Strava update as the “Maffetone” method. The what?

*Created by Phil Maffetone, the Maffetone Method is a style of training that focuses exclusively on aerobic running. Using a heart rate formula of 180 – your age (plus several corrections for injury, fitness level, health, etc.) you come up with an “aerobic maximum heart rate.”

In a nutshell, the low heart rate based Maffetone training method is meant to build up my aerobic base and keep my runs in the fat burning zone. Sounds good!

Talk about frustration, but the last couple of runs have been dreadful! Just when I get going, my watch beeps warning me that my heart rate is over the limit into what Garmin calls “Threshold” and a little red heart flashes on the watch face. I’m meant to slow down a bit until the heart turns to green indicating that my heart rate is down to aerobic levels.

Lower heart rate

Forcing myself to stop and bring down the heart rate – so far so good. It’s a big difference.

I run a few meters, hear the beep, slow down and then come to a crawl before I can run again, hear the beep, come to a crawl… a few times I’ve even had to stop to bring it down as it hovers in the 170’s!

This morning’s run felt a bit easier and it is something I’m keen to get right. It’s the patience I’m not so good with!

This is a run in March vs. May. Notice the difference in running zones.

I’ve discovered with running that there’s always something new to learn about my body and to shape my training around a new challenge.

Speed sessions. Strength training. Breathing techniques. Building my core. Leg work. When it comes to running, the training programs are endless.

I must also confess that I’m not the biggest fan of running in winter. This “maffetone phase” of mine suits me because it means I can focus on a few shorter runs, even run at the gym and not have any long distance training runs to focus on during the colder days. I might as well give it a go.

Have you ever tried it? Has it worked?

* Source: https://strengthrunning.com/2015/02/maffetone-method-and-base-training/

Treading lightly

The RAC 10km race is one of my favorite road races on the running calendar. It’s well organized, you can enter on the morning and the best part is the 8am start which means you still get to sleep in and enjoy your Sunday long run (bonus)!

Having taken a break since last year for his stress fracture in his femur, KK decided to run with me. We never run together. He’s too competitive and runs almost double the pace faster than what I can run. Which usually means we fight. And besides, I was worried about his leg. Would he manage 10kms?

But 2kms into the race, my worries turned to my own pain. My foot!

When I had X-rays taken in November last year for my sprained ankle, what surprised me most was finally seeing what had caused months of heel pain. The plantar fasciitis was in actual fact a heel spur!

I had not felt the stabbing hot poker to my heel since I started running again in January but boy did it rear it’s nasty head at this race.

I was disappointed. Was it ever going to go away? Most probably not.

Did it ruin my race? Definitely not!

Watching KK’s body language, the glee written all over his face at the fact that he was running: priceless! We stuck together for the entire distance.

And when he pushed me up that last 500m into the RAC field, I didn’t hate him. I would’ve run another 10kms if he asked me to.

Running through the Jo’burg streets engulfed in the most beautiful autumn colors. Just beautiful!

There are a few more winter races coming up soon and we’re both looking forward to them.

Will we run them together? Judging from his motivation to regain his running strength and fitness, most probably not. As I blog this post, KK keeps moaning about the DOMS from his training. There’s no such thing as baby steps in his life! Dude’s on a mission!

Baby (running) steps

“How was your run?” 

It’s the same question KK asks me every time I return from my run. I’m so busy sync’ing my Garmin to my Strava that I often reply with, “Great!”. But this time, it was different. My run was fantastic and I could not get the smile off my face. Looking at my watch, I was asking, “What? A PB?” I had just run my fastest time on a regular 4km route from home. I was thrilled!

Strava

Strava details comparing my runs on the same route

It’s my last month taking blood thinners since my pulmonary embolism scare in December. Six months of rehabilitation and slowly getting back into running. It’s not the only excuse reason I have scaled back on my running. With KK’s femur stress fracture, we’ve both been living life in the slow lane this year.

But I haven’t been sitting idle…

  • I’ve been training regularly with a personal trainer (and friend) Super Stacey. The focus of my training programme has been on strength exercises, and especially targeting areas such as glutes and hamstrings.
  • I’ve also returned to following a more balanced eating plan *whispers: LCHF/banting*. More veggies, less meat. Cutting out dairy for the first time in my life. What an eye opener! Lots and lots of water. It’s made a huge difference to how I feel. (and yes, I keep promising to update you in a follow up blog on my diet.)
  • Shorter runs. I love heading out for a 4km run before the sun sets in the evening. My route is out, up, down and back in. Mentally, it’s easier to handle after a tough day at work. I keep the longer run for weekends. And when I say longer, I mean no more than 7kms.

Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 9.47.16 PMI’m unable to say what has made the difference to my progress specifically, but I’m guessing it’s all of the above. It’s a factor of quality over quantity in my running distances, proper eating, focused strength training all wrapped up in one, and time… in my case, 6 months.

You can’t just run. You need to strengthen and fuel your entire body. And sometimes, you need to stop thinking about half marathons and be pleasantly surprised by the joy and relaxation of a simple 4km run.

In other news, KK is ready to start running again. Baby steps….