Throwback Thursday: The Last Time I Followed a Training Plan

Once upon a time, I decided to train for a marathon for which I never signed up. I believe I was riding the high of finishing my first trail marathon, which temporarily fooled me into thinking I might actually be a marathon runner. Regardless of the motive, I decided to follow a legitimate training plan (i.e. free internet training plan) as a means of assessing whether to sign up for another.  All was going swimmingly until one single event stopped my marathon training dead in its tracks: the 32km training run.

It seems, at least amongst most mass marketed marathon training plans, that the 32 km run is the big daddy of the training cycle. It is the longest of the training runs and the true pre-race test of your physical and mental chops.  And I am here to tell you that it was the coup de grace of my marathon training.

Up until the 32km training run, I had been diligently following my training plan, including speed work and tempo runs (side note: any human who claims to love either is clearly not to be trusted).  I methodically plotted out distances for speed intervals.  I used a variety of beats per minute (BPM) apps to find music to help me hold my pace on tempo runs. I even made peace with hill repeats. I felt like anything was possible.

And so, the night before my 32km training run, I was feeling pretty damn confident and I woke up feeling equally optimistic on the morning of my run.  All the conditions were in place for a perfect run:

  • Good night’s sleep: check
  • Properly fuelled: check
  • Hydrated: check
  • Excellent (okay, perfectly sufficient) running gear: check
  • The most scenic running route you can imagine (Banff legacy trail): check
  • Cool and calm weather conditions: check

You know that expression “even the best laid plans fail”?  It was meant for moments like this.  Despite all the crucial elements of a great run coinciding, my run was an utter failure. My legs felt heavy as lead the second I started.  I couldn’t get my breathing rhythm right.  My compression shorts were chaffing my stomach. Even more importantly, my head just wasn’t in the game

Despite all urges to stop and retreat, in the end I put in what I consider to be a valiant effort.  I ran a solid 26km (and by solid, I mean I mostly ran but included regular bouts of walking any time I let my mind contemplate the futility of it all). But at 26km, I threw in the towel and called it a day.

The only problem was I was 26km from home without a functioning cell phone. It was a simpler, pre-iPhone time and Blackberries were notorious for having moisture-sensitive batteries.  As it turns out, sweat from 26km of running was enough to saturate its battery pack and render it useless.I will spare you the details of how I walked another 6 km cursing my Blackberry and seeking a pay phone from which I could call someone (using a CALLING CARD!!!) to beg for a pickup and ride home.  Suffice it to say, this was the end of my marathon training.

To this day, I have little faith in the value of highly structured training plans.  I ran my half marathon and the Mount Robson Marathon with no official training plan. I mean, I ran a lot before both, but I didn’t follow a program.  And I’m reluctant to follow one for my ultra (as you’ve seen in TWIR #1 and TWIR #2).

You may be thinking that I’m crazy, and you’re absolutely entitled to that opinion. However, before you judge too harshly, I invite you to consider the following reasons why I believe I’m quite sane in refusing the ultra training plan:

    • Training plans are forced compliance. When I “have to” do things, I start to lose interest or sometimes even develop a deep hatred for them.  For instance, in university I blatantly refused to read books on my reading list only to turn around and voluntarily read them after the semester was over.  Training plans make me hate running because they specify distances, frequency and “type” of run. Having to follow them breeds such resentment that I inevitably abandon not only the plan, but also any desire to run.  Conversely, training without a plan feels roughly like this and I have no problem keeping to regular running habits.
    • Training plans require a strong mental game.  When the stakes are low (i.e. there’s no external dependencies or motivation), I lack the grit to dig deep and follow through. As it turns out, a lot of life’s activities don’t involve someone holding a (metaphorical) gun to your head. Marathon training is one such activity. No one cares if I finish a training run.  In fact, most of the time even I don’t care.  As a result, it’s easy to throw in the towel whenever the going gets tough (i.e. on a hill, after 5km, when I made wine my best friend the night before…the list is endless).
    • There’s no adrenaline rush when you train.  Granted, I’ve only participated in two formal races. However, in both I experienced the unmistakable adrenaline rush that pushes you way beyond what you thought possible.  The only rushes that training runs offer are cheap thrills like walking the rest of the way home, or bailing in favour of a pint of ice cream. 
    • There’s no competition in training.  On a training run, I can’t tell who is really faster or who has run farther. I am a master storyteller who weaves a complex tale wherein everyone who passes me has either just started running or is training for a shorter race distance that justifies a faster pace.  I am always the lone hero of my story, diligently slowing my pace to compete in a noble ultra while those other fleet-footed fools remain content with their tiny 5km runs.  These delusions die on race day.  When you all start at the same time there is no way to rationalize the fact that another runner is so fast that he appears to you as nothing but a tiny dot on the horizon. I know this means just one thing: I am slow. This is all it takes to fire up my inner competitive streak.
    • There’s no shaming mechanism in training.  On a training run, there’s no sideline of fans who know exactly how poorly I’m doing and who mock me with their pity cheers.  When you want to stop on a training run, no one even notices. No one is going to jump out of the bushes and tell me I’m a lazy failure. In a race, hordes of onlookers will know that I am giving up if I stop.  They will have a deep sadness in their eyes as they witness my sorry lack of fitness and mental fortitude.  To avoid this shame-inducing experience, I will dig deep and find the strength to carry on.

    In my opinion, this is a strong body of evidence against formal training plans. I say run when you want and how you want, and haphazardly build your endurance.  I say wait for race day.  After all, only on race day can the supremely motivating trifecta of competition, adrenaline and shame take your modest training and elevate it to stunning glory.

    Who’s with me?

     

     

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On my price elasticity for race registration

First, don’t listen to anyone who tells you that a basic course in economics is useless. Without it, I wouldn’t be writing a post on price elasticity. It may have taken 15 years to make use of the concept, but I always say better late than never.

Second, this all started with a trip to my new physiotherapist (who, in just one treatment, surpassed my previous physiotherapist in the coveted status of “best physiotherapist ever”).  As he was trying to sort out my plethora of minor issues and injuries, he was telling me about his trail running and giving me little nuggets of trail-running wisdom.

Then he asked me: have you run any of the coast mountain trail races?

Not only had I not run one, I had never even heard of them. Having given up trail running years ago and having only trail run in Alberta, I haven’t kept abreast of what’s what in the BC trail running community.  Thank goodness for Google.  Less than a half an hour after my appointment, there I was signing up for the 13km Survival of the Fittest race in Squamish at the end of May.

As I reflected on the speed with which I registered, and my shockingly minimal second-guessing, I realized that there is a strong inverse correlation between my willingness to commit to a race and the registration fee.  This correlation looks something like this:

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 9.24.09 PM

Note the sharp drop in commitment roughly around $75.

The Survival of the Fittest race comes in juuuuust shy of that “under $50” category where corresponding likelihood of registering is off the charts. There is a simple reason for this:  price elasticity.  My demand is higher when the price is lower.  Mostly, this is because I will walk away from a low registration fee for pretty much any reason.  These reasons could include, but are not limited to: too much wine the night before, sore ankle/knee/sacroiliac, reading a terrifying course description, feeling unprepared, willfully not even bothering to train, simply changing my mind, or the sudden emergence of ever-so-slightly better plans on race day. It’s the ultimate in low-stakes commitment. To date, I have cancelled/not shown up for the following races under $75:

  • 2013 Mount Robson Marathon
  • 2014 Mount Robson Marathon*
  • 2013 BMO Okanagan Half Marathon

Once I get to $75 dollars, however, my price elasticity kicks in and I’m no longer willing to risk losing out on my registration fee investment.  To date, I have not signed up for the following races because their race fees exceed $100:

  • 2016 Disneyland Tinkerbell Half Marathon (which, I have to note, takes the cake for ludicrous registration fees)
  • BMO Vancouver Marathon (any year)
  • 2012 BMO Okanagan Marathon
  • 2015 SeaWheeze Half Marathon (“free” lululemon shorts or not, no one should pay $100+ for a half marathon!!!!)

Yes, I realize that I could sign up for these races and just hold myself accountable for following through but, let’s be honest, I don’t love running that much–especially road runs.  Also, it would greatly impact my financial investment in other frivolous ventures like wine drinking, sushi eating, and subscribing to every streaming service known to man. So instead, I will bow to the power of price elasticity and stick to my cheap races and easy outs.

Survival of the Fittest, here I come…at least, until something better comes up.

* Yes, I fully realize the irony of running the Mount Robson marathon in 2012, then bailing on two consecutive years only to turn around and sign up for an ultra after a one-year registration hiatus. What can I say? I am a conundrum.

Training Tuesdays: On Consistency

I don’t have much to offer in the way of actual training tips.  I can’t tell you how to do a proper kettle bell swing. I probably don’t hold my plank form correctly. I can’t give counsel on shortening your running stride to increase efficiency. I can’t offer an informed perspective on what it’s like to run 50km. But there is one area in which I feel competent enough to offer insight, and that area is consistency.

Sure, I’m not always a model for exemplary fitness.  I go through peaks and valleys.  Without question, summer is my peak season and the height of my fitness.  But even in my valleys (i.e. dead of winter), I’m still relatively fit.  There’s just an extra layer of (delightfully jiggly) cushioning around all that muscle and a slower, more clodhopper-ish pace to everything I do. On the definitive spectrum of fitness below, I’m the one in the sassy denim-ish looking skirt. I’m not extreme, but I am consistent.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 6.43.10 PM

You may be wondering, when I say “consistent”, what do I mean? Barring illness or significant injury, I work out 6 days a week. Every week. Did you catch that? Every. Week.

As long as I do that, I don’t fear my inner sloth taking over.  Even more importantly, as long as I do that I can decide on a whim to do ridiculous things like run an ultra marathon.  Know why? Consistency means you are never starting from scratch.  It means you always have a base of fitness to (somewhat) ease the pain of taking your fitness goals to the next level. For those of you who prefer to think in metaphor, consistency is a warm hug and glass of wine after a crappy day.  Wine’s not your thing? How about this: consistency is that first sip of beer after a long hike on an excruciatingly hot day.  

Please note, I’m not saying 6 days a week (specifically) is  required to be considered “consistent” with training. That’s just what works for me.  But you’ve got to find the frequency that works for you to reach your goals–and then stick with it.

Unfortunately, like most things in life, there is no magic trick to getting consistent with your workouts and training.  I hate to quote Nike, but they captured it best in three little words: just do it. For me, this ultimately boils down to one thing:

no excuses

I had this whole lengthy list of tips and considerations but ultimately they all come back to no excuses.  If you want to be consistent with your workouts or training and develop a strong base of fitness, you have to make the choice to be consistent each and every day.  Life constantly throws things our way that can take us off course from the things we say are important.  When that happens, we can choose to make excuses for why we need to give up on our goals, or we can cut the crap and hold true to what matters.

Here’s a list of all the excuses I’ve made (and maybe some of you have made them too), all of which can be counteracted by our new mantra of NO EXCUSES:

  • I don’t have time.  If you watch any TV or spend any time on the internet or social media, you have the time. Consistency requires sacrifice from time to time.  Also, you are not that busy.
  • But I don’t feel like it.  Pssst, I’ll let you in on a little secret.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, I don’t actually feel like working out either. Days when I step outside thinking “Yes! Time for a run!” are unicorns.  I am a sloth on the inside but I’ve learned I can can beat my inner sloth into submission with some good, old-fashioned consistency.
  • Other stuff always seems to come up.  We plan for so much in life: vacations, dinners with friends, binge-watching Netflix parties (or is that just me?).  Why do we treat workouts and training any differently? Although it sounds nerdy, I look at my calendar every single week to see what day looks so overwhelming I can’t possibly fit in a workout. That is my rest day.  On every other day, I block time in my calendar and/or plan for a pre- or post-work workout.
  • It’s so HARD.  Yes,  there are hard days.  But as you get more consistent and develop a base of solid fitness, incremental gains feel less and less difficult.  I vividly recall my first run, which lasted precisely 23 minutes and left me feeling ready to vomit.  I wondered why anyone would ever want to run.  I gave up on running that very second.  For some reason, years later I tried again. It still sucked but I had a different mindset the second time around and so I pushed through. Now, eleven years later, I can comfortably run 3-4 days per week for an hour.  That’s nowhere near “elite runner” status but it’s sure not terrible.
  • I’m just not built for it. One of the great things about running is that virtually anyone can do it. Consistency doesn’t mean you’ll be the fastest or best runner.  I’m not built for speedy running and I’ll never win a race but endurance is important to me so I focus on the long, slow burn.  If you want to be a runner, you can find a style of running that works for you.  If you don’t want to be a runner, I believe there’s an activity out there for everyone. Find what you love and be consistent with that.

There you have it, an antidote for virtually any excuse you can throw at me. Repeat after me: consistency, consistency, consistency, no excuses, no excuses, no excuses. And just like that, you are on your way to running an ultra marathon just like me.

Monday Musings: On the Perils of Comparison

I have a confession to make. I judge ultra runners.  I like to think of them as mildly unhinged, perhaps somewhat masochistic, and certainly a little bit athletically elitist.  In my mind, they obsess about their gear, their PRs, their training, their distance, and the next big trend in fuelling gels. I imagine that they are constantly irritated by having to put up with all of us ‘non-runners’ who have the audacity to be out on sidewalks and roadways generally getting in their way, and even going so far as to enter races we have no business entering.

If I let my tendency for gross and unfair generalizations take over, I’d imagine a human pyramid of runners. In this pyramid, the lowly 5k runner is stuck on the bottom of the heap holding up the next echelon of barely-better 10k runners. Getting closer to the top of the pyramid, you’d have your worthy-of-some-respect half marathoners hoisting up the worthy-of-even-more-respect marathoners. But at the very top of the pile you would have your ultra runners, all of whom would be puffing their chests out, sounding horns and brandishing expressions of smug superiority.

As I said, I recognize this is an unjust characterization.  Not only is it unjust, but given that I’ve just signed up for an ultra, it is also hypocritical.

So why do I do it?  For no other reason than evil, evil comparison. I read enough running blogs to know just how much time, effort, and thought a ‘serious’ runner puts into his or her training.  And I see how it pays off. I read about their races, their placements, their paces, their ever-increasing distances and it’s all just so very…discouraging.

When it comes down to it, I am a delicate flower who likes to occasionally dive into a very dark and defensive place.  I don’t like to recognize that I’m not good at something, that I might have to work at running and that, even if I work at it, it may not translate into greatness.

Rather than respect an ultra runner’s accomplishments, it’s just so much easier to be dismissive of their effort and assume they have a ‘natural gift’. It’s easier to judge them as elitist runners who take themselves too seriously so when I don’t take my own training seriously I can laugh off an abysmal finish and say ‘at least I’m fun’. It’s easier to look at their running prowess and wonder why I should even bother trying.

Comparison and its ensuing defensive judgment is not a pretty colour on me (nor anyone, I imagine).  Comparison takes that tiny (or not-so-tiny, as the case may be) ember of self doubt and fans it into a towering flame of confidence-crushing, motivation-shattering limiting beliefs.

Think I’m being overly dramatic? I’ll invite you to consider something that you really want to be doing, but aren’t doing right now.  Then I’ll invite you to consider why you’re not doing it. Chances are, if you strip down all the layers of excuses you’ll get to some sort of limiting belief about yourself.  Chances are even stronger that if you examine that limiting belief, you’ll see it amplifies every time you start to compare yourself to others. It’s like the cute little mogwai that, when fed after midnight, turns into a hideous and destructive gremlin.

gizmoWhy hello, I’m the adorable limiting belief hiding in your subconscious. 

gremlin
Uh oh, you’ve started to make comparisons and now I’ve turned into a heinous Gremlin.

See? I told you it’s not a pretty colour on anyone. Unfortunately, if you were looking for tips on silencing the comparison monster and learning to appreciate your own unique gifts, you are reading the wrong blog.  I have not been tearing you down in order to build you back up. I have no answers.

What I can say is that, although it will require constant effort, I need to try to shake that comparison gremlin for my own sanity in this ultra training process,  I’ve no doubt that if I can, I might just be able to transform myself from a runner who places in the bottom 10 to one who places in the bottom 15. And that, my friends, is a win for this runner.

TWIR #2

Happy Good Friday! It’s time to get our TWIR on (training week in review for those not in the know).  I’d like to say I had a more focused and intentional approach to training this week but I did not. Instead, here is a summary of what I managed to accomplish:

Saturday
Activity: Hill repeats/running
Relevant Stats: 17.26 km, 280m elevation gain, average pace of 5:53 min/km
Observations: First official attempt to apply a training technique! Lo and behold, slowing your pace works and I managed to knock out my longest run in roughly five years.

Sunday
Activity: Glorious and lone rest day of the week
Relevant Stats: Hosted brunch for 10, attended Easter dinner.
Observations: This was my first of two consecutive Sunday Easter turkey dinners. I feel no shame for my current or future turkey consumption. Gluttony and sloth unite in beautiful harmony and I take fewer than 1000 steps the entire day.

Monday
Activity: Run/Spin
Relevant Stats: 3 km run, 52 min spin
Observations: After the stellar success of Saturday’s training run, I expect motivation to be at an all-time high.  As with many things in life, my expectations go unmet. En route to the office, I run to the gym with a backpack holding my change of clothes and other things needed to make me look un-gross following my workout.  The consensus: running with a giant backpack sucks and causes spin to be a completely unspirited ride. I blame both Sunday’s gluttony and the backpack for this failure.

Tuesday
Activity: Run
Relevant Stats: 15 km, average pace 5:41 min/km
Observations: My enthusiasm for working out rebounds with the exciting return of partial sunshine (!!!!!). I once again employ the slow pace technique and find this an easy run from an endurance perspective. What is decidedly not easy is slowing my pace on a road run. If anyone has tips for this, I am all ears.

Wednesday
Activity: Spin/Core
Relevant Stats: 60 min spin intervals, 10 min core
Observations: God, I hate sprint intervals. I am built for endurance, not speed. I dream of the days when my old spin instructor used to do 20 minute hill pyramids. Of course, everyone else hated those…But I digress. Core work is much-needed but painful as my sacroiliac has been acting up. On the plus side, this prompted me to finally book a physio appointment to get it checked out.

Thursday
Activity: Hike
Relevant Stats: 9km return, 729m elevation gain, average pace 11:45 min/km
Observations: My observations are three-fold on this impromptu hike. 1. I am slower downhill than uphill on steep trails 2. I should stop doing steep trails as punishment for poor food and beverage choices throughout the week 3. If you weren’t already aware, drinking a half bottle of wine and a cocktail on a weeknight constitutes poor beverage choices, and will slow your pace.

Friday
Activity: Run
Relevant Stats: 9km, average pace 5:20/km, pigeon attack count: 2
Observations: Morning running is one of my least favourite things. I avoid it all costs, except when forced to by things like morning flights for Easter holidays. As expected, it is slow to start but gradually gets better as I daydream of being back at home stuffing breakfast in my face in between shots of espresso. In fact, that mental picture is so appealing that I run my last km at a 4:28 min/km pace.  Also, the pigeons have read my blog and are really out to get me now.

This week’s self-rating:

half ass

Throwback Thursday: On Bears as Motivation for Trail Running

Before I begin, here is my official disclaimer: I’m not actually advocating for running from bears.  I’ve read my Parks Canada pamphlets and various other publications on living in bear country, all of which have informed me of proper protocol upon encountering a bear. Take their advice, not mine.

I would, however, like to point out that proper protocol (i.e. rationality) goes out the window when you’re miles from the trailhead, haven’t seen a single human being in hours, and hear the distinct huffing of a bear. I would also like to add that I’ve run my own statistical study and have found that 3 out of 3 times that I have employed trail running when suspecting a bear in the area, zero bear attacks occurred. Just try to argue with statistics like that.

With all that preamble aside, let’s move on to the topic at hand, which is that bears can, in fact, serve as powerful trail running motivation.  Anyone’s who’s been following my brief blog life probably has a good sense of my thoughts on motivation. I’ve talked about guilt as a powerful motivator, but I’ve failed to mention an equally powerful motivator: fear.

And so, let me briefly recount three of my personal experiences using (my largely unfounded) fear of bears as motivation for trail running:

    1. Rockbound Lake–2009ish. I was not a trail runner at this point in my life. In fact, I had fairly recently moved to Banff and was just getting into hiking. Typically, this is a popular and crowded trail.  As luck would have it, though, I happened to pick a day where I encountered exactly four people.  There is a section of trail before the final climb to Rockbound Lake that crosses a wide meadow that I assumed to be highly bear-friendly.  On my descent, as I passed through this section of trail, I became convinced that there was ‘something out there’.  Mock me if you will, but I have always trusted my intuition in nature and it has rarely led me astray.  In my mind, the source of my rapidly escalating nervousness was a giant, lumbering grizzly. With that image in mind, I commenced a slow jogging pace and inadvertently ran my first 3ish kilometres of trail ever. Moral of the story: even if you don’t see a bear, it may be there, and it is best to use that to your advantage by testing out your running chops to ensure a safe escape from the area.
    2. Sunset Pass–2011ish.  I regularly trail run at this point but was enjoying a peaceful hiking day (in other words, I was too lazy to run) on the iconic Icefields Parkway. After about 12km of solo hiking and only two human encounters the entire day, I had already travelled through way too many kilometres of anxiety-provoking bear habitat.  In fact, I had already been jogging off-and-on across one particularly terrifying meadow lined on both sides by bear-hiding, shoulder-high scrub.  No sooner had I exited this meadow, and just as I was about to breathe a sigh of relief for being safe from bears, when I heard a loud huffing and what sounded like something large and ungraceful in the brush behind me.  Without a thought, I launched into an adrenaline-fuelled sprint for the remaining 4 km of the descent. Moral of the story: You are never really safe from bears, even when you think you are no longer in prime bear habitat, so you might as well run the whole damn trail.
    3. Tumbling Pass–2015.  At this point in my life, I have given up entirely on trail running care of many nagging injuries.  So on this day, I was out for a 25km out-and-back on a section of the stunning Rockwall trail. Roughly 5km in, I had encountered zero humans and one giant, steaming pile of bear scat.  I continued anyways, because I like to live life on the wild side. That said, I was in a heightened state of alert (i.e. making tons of noise and generally jumping at any sound or sign of life in the forest). I made it to the pass and revelled in its splendour.  On my way out, I passed exactly two other hikers. Solitude is great…except when you are walking amongst berry-laden bushes as far as the eye can see.  Right as I encountered the same, giant pile of bear scat, nature decided to teach me a lesson about solo hiking.  I heard huffing and a rustle in the woods.  As with my experience on Sunset Pass, zero rational thought occurred. I just ran like hell.  And, like that, I inadvertently completed my first trail run in years, albeit only 3 to 4 km. To add to nature’s lesson, as I drove away from this hike, a black bear ran across the highway directly in front of my car. I am convinced to this day it was the same bear I heard in the woods, not-so-subtly informing me that he had been out there and had only allowed me to survive out of sheer pity. Moral of the story: if you’re going to hike alone, you might as well run to lessen your chances of encountering a bear.

    And so, if you’re uncertain about whether you can trail run, let me assure you that you can, particularly if you share my slightly over-anxious temperament.  If you’d like to leverage bear anxiety for motivation, here are my quick tips:

    1. Find a secluded trail. If there’s more than 5 cars in the parking lot, keep looking.
    2. While hiking, listen intently for any possible noises in the woods, any bear scratchings or diggings, and even more obvious signs like fresh bear scat. When you encounter these, do not turn around.  Stay the course.
    3. Work yourself up into the anxiety riddled hiker who jumps at every sound and sign of motion, which I assure you are plentiful in nature.
    4. When your anxiety reaches it’s tipping point and/or you legitimately see or hear sign of a bear, follow your true instinct and run like you have no other option.

    Congratulations, you are now a trail runner.

Dangers of Running

In all likelihood, you’re anticipating a post about injuries, dehydration, dodging errant cyclists, or maybe even chaffing.  If so, you may want to stop reading right now because today I’m here to talk about a very different–but equally real–danger of running: pigeons.

Yes, pigeons.

pigeon

Don’t be fooled by their tiny stature

It’s important for me to clarity that I am not generally afraid of birds.  I even find some of them to be pretty. They typically seem to keep to themselves and, when that’s the case, I’m on good terms with them.

Pigeons, however, don’t seem to respect the whole “I’ll-leave-you-alone-if-you-leave-me-alone” thing and, because of this, I consider them my enemies. Particularly when I am running, they appear determined to scare the shit out of me with their haphazard flying and swooping.  As I’ve been increasing my running distance, I have had several encounters with these tiny minions of the devil. At each encounter, they’ve appeared calm and nonplussed by my presence until the very last second, at which point they launch themselves into the air and generally in the direction of my face. I then recoil in horror, shriek and duck awkwardly (all while running). As you can imagine, this causes not only extreme embarrassment (who wants to be that girl?), but also the acquisition of a slight pigeon phobia.

Now, when I see pigeons ahead, my adrenaline starts to kick in.  I try to dodge them, but it’s always to no avail.  It’s like they can smell my fear…and find extreme delight in it.  They are knowingly menacing beasts.

Lest you think I’m crazy let me assure you the threat is real:

  • My thorough (i.e. two websites) internet research shows that, like crows, pigeons are capable of remembering humans faces.  Studies have shown that they recall faces of individuals who have mistreated them.  The only logical conclusion I can draw from this is that, at some point, I’ve scared a pigeon and he has systematically spread the word to the entire Vancouver pigeon community.  Now, they are all out to get me.
  • They can actually harm me. For instance, did you know that “Pigeons have been associated with a variety of diseases, including histoplasmosis and cryptococcosis“? I have no idea what those diseases actually are, but neither sounds pleasant.

If you have encountered pigeons-as-running-hazards, I welcome any and all tips on suitable peace offerings and/or strategies to manage my anxiety.  I will also accept suggestions for pigeon-free running routes.