By Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
On Sunday, October 4th, 2009, I reached a new milestone in my life. I participated in the CIBC Run for the Cure for breast cancer with huge trepidation and managed to run the whole 5-kilometre course non-stop. It was quite an accomplishment for me and I’m so glad I did it.
If you’re curious to know what it’s like for a first-timer to run 5K — that’s 3.107 miles for those of you on the Imperial system — here’s a rundown of my day.
I’ve learned that distance running is just as much of a mind game as it is a physical challenge. In this post, I’m trying to recall the types of thoughts I was thinking throughout the morning as I got closer and closer to the finish line and beyond.
Breakfast of Champions
I woke up long before 6:00 am and by 7:00, I ate a big breakfast. Eating a healthy and nutritious breakfast is important every day of the week and on Sunday-Runday, mine consisted of a glass of orange juice and a toasted plain bagel topped with unsweetened, smooth peanut butter, honey and a banana. I also drank a cup of green tea instead of my regular coffee. I haven’t had a bagel in a long time and it was a nice change of pace for me. I think it was a good choice because the meal gave me the energy I needed for the run. In this case, carbs are recommended.
Emily, my Team Bosum Captain, suggested I wear a long-sleeve shirt under my event t-shirt because the morning air would probably be chilly. (Thank God it didn’t rain or worse, snow, like it did in Calgary! We had brilliant weather!) When I unfolded this year’s Run for the Cure official t-shirt and saw the word “Hope” splashed across the front for the first time, a tear came to my eye and I had to take a deep breathe.
Everyone knows that having the right shoes makes a big difference when running and I’m so happy that the New Balance cross-trainers I bought 6-weeks ago fit me like a glove and presented no issues for me. What a relief!
Oh and how can I forget the pink tiara and the fuchsia tutu? More on those embellishments later.
Getting to the start line
I left my house at 7:30 to give myself lots of time to get to the University of Victoria and to find a decent parking space. It took me longer to get there than it should have because I completely missed my exit onto MacKenzie. I just drove right past it. And it didn’t occur to me for at least 5 minutes. I guess I was more nervous than I realized. My excuse is, I was listening to Coldplay’s “Now My Feet Won’t Touch the Ground [Prospekt's March Edition]” on the radio, a song I had never heard before, and thought, wouldn’t that be a fun way to run this race, running so fast and effortlessly like I was running on air. That’s not exactly what happened although one of the photos below gives that illusion.
In spite of my detour, I was the first to arrive from my team. It took awhile for all of the team members to find each other in the crowd. Emily asked if anyone else wanted to wear a tutu. I was going to pass — the pink foam crown was goofy enough for me, but Jeanette, my trainer, insisted.
Local Jazzercise instructors, including Jeanette, lead us through the warm up. I’m so glad they picked the 9-1-1 song — “Fire Burning” by Sean Kingston — because that’s one of my faves these days.
Photo by Adrian Lam, Times Colonist, October 4, 2009
There’s Team Bosum right in the front row. And look at all of the people behind us! I heard 4000 of us registered in Victoria! We managed to raise over $500,000 for breast cancer research. Over $5000 of that was raised by Team Bosum and of that, I raised $300 (200% of my initial fundraising goal).
And they’re off
Well sort of. Jeanette, who inspired me to sign up for the run in the first place, made a deal with me and another Team Bosum runner, Peggy. She promised to tag team between us and motivate us throughout the whole 5-K course, which meant she ended up running way more than anyone else did that day. So the three of us had to start together and there was a bit of a delay because they both had to check their bags and use the facilities right before embarking on the run.
I was losing patience. I just wanted to get this thing over with. Jeanette said to me, “You’re panicking; I can feel it.”
I would not have used the word “panic.” But now I know what “Chomping at the bit” means.
And then she said, “I do this every year. Trust me, we’ll fly by everyone anyway. Just follow me. First we’re going to walk for a few minutes to warm up and then we’ll run. And it’s not a race.”
I was surprised by the amount of people who were participating. Jeanette, Peggy and I walked briskly along the grassy median past all of the walkers on the road. Within a few short minutes we starting running. Keep in mind that I trained on a treadmill for the past several months and running outside with people was a totally different experience.
The first challenge was to keep up with Jeanette and Peggy, who is a grandmother by the way, and dodge past all of the people. There were women, men and kids of all ages walking and running at various speeds, shoulder to shoulder, along the campus road. We had to maneuver around dogs too. It was an obstacle course!
We mostly ran along the outside edge of the circuit which also meant we had to occasionally jump over the odd, orange pylon. Later Jeanette said she prefers weaving in and out and forging a path because it distracts her. I think in this case, distraction is a good idea.
Soon enough, Jeanette and Peggy started pulling further and further ahead of me. I just clipped along at my own pace, which was pretty slow. Slowest runner in the west, I think.
I enjoyed meeting other Team Bosum members at various moments along the way. The pink tutus were easy enough to spot and the spontaneous high-fives were a huge boost.
I barely noticed running downhill which apparently can be hard on the knees. Running up hill was a completely different story. It wasn’t a steep hill — it was just long. That’s when I really slowed down. I simply chugged and chugged and plowed my way up. I realized when I finally crested the top, my heart rate escalated too. Jeanette caught up to me at that point and I was breathing heavily. A little too heavily for my liking — somewhere in the 170-plus beats per minute I’m sure and I was having trouble catching my breathe. I told her I was at the top of my zone and she agreed.
And then an interesting thing happened. Jeanette said to pick up the pace. I thought about that afterward and I realized it was a make or break moment. Most times when you think you’ve hit your physical and psychological limit, you slow down and maybe even stop things altogether. The natural tendency is not to increase your effort or over exert yourself. Although counter-intuitive, pushing myself that much harder at that critical moment did the trick and I was able to continue. I applaud Jeanette for reading my situation and for catching that.
And then she felt confident enough to leave me and find Peggy who was out of my sight by that time. I rounded a corner and one of the volunteers yelled, “Less than two kilometres to go.”
I thought I was so much farther along than that. Ironically, that’s when I started to actually add a little stride to my run.
The Home Stretch
Somewhere in the last kilometre, I had a thought. It occurred to me that this whole thing was a given. It was a given that I would finish this run. It was already a fait accompli. A done deal. It was just a matter of a few more minutes. I also remembered hearing someone else say, “Never slow down in the home stretch.” And those thoughts somehow made the last steps so much easier.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted my friend Debbie running out to meet me. She and I have been sharing Jeanette’s treadmill for months and she knows the journey I’ve been on better than most. Grabbing my hand, she said “I’ll run in with you.” And then Jeanette came out of the crowd and grabbed my other hand.
Debbie said, “I know you don’t think you can do this, but you can. I want you to sprint to the finish.”
Somehow, I gave it everything I had and ran all the way home. See, our feet aren’t touching the ground!
All in all, I’m guessing it took me about 50 minutes. And remarkably, my body bounced back well afterward. I felt my quads for a couple of days and that’s about it.
In the midst of all of this, photographer Adrian Lam of the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper was on hand at the finish line too. I was tickled to learn that a professional photographer captured this intense moment, one of the greatest victories of my life, for posterity and posted them online for all to see. Check out the gallery photos at: http://www.timescolonist.com/health/Victoria+Cure+raises+more+than/2065682/story.html?tab=PHOT.
Photo by Adrian Lam, Times Colonist, October 4, 2009
My first run and I get in the paper. It doesn’t get any better than that. It was totally unplanned and unexpected. Pure gravy for me. Thanks Adrian.
Photo by Adrian Lam, Times Colonist, October 4, 2009
Thanks also to Team Bosum with a special mention to Debbie, Emily and Peggy for welcoming me aboard. And finally I’d like to thank Jeanette, a very special person indeed. Onward and upward!
By Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
I’m not a runner by any stretch of the imagination.
My first memory of any formal running dates to age 9 when the higher ups of the school made every student run 6 laps around the school yard to gauge our fitness level. It was a painful experience for me because I was fat. There, I said it. Fat. I remember looking at the skinny girls with such envy as they effortlessly raced around the track as I huffed and puffed and cried and cursed.
Right before I entered high school, my parents sent me and my brother to a sports camp in upstate New York. I remember being laughed at for the facial expression I was making as I was trying to sprint. Shot put seemed so much easier but I wasn’t any good at that either. Long distance running was even more awful for me. I have a clear memory of running through the forest far behind every one else in my group and arguing with the camp counsellor (a good-looking blonde boy who was named after my father and who ended up as an Airforce 1 pilot in the 1st Gulf War — not that that makes any difference one way or the other — I’m just painting a picture). Anyway, he was trying to make me run and I was not having any of it in spite of his army fatigues and drill sergeant tactics. Oh, I hated him that day.
Don’t get me wrong. I like sports. I just don’t like running. It makes me so uncomfortable.
Fast forward 25 years. My personal trainer and I have been working together to get my weight down since July 2007. For the longest time nothing was working and I wasn’t making any significant progress. Then I started my workouts on the treadmill instead of just doing resistance training with weights. Suddenly, as I increased my cardio activity in my target heart rate range of 134 to 169 beats per minute, the weight started coming off more readily. My trainer calculated all of those numbers for me based on my resting heart rate. The more time I spend in that zone, the stronger my heart gets and the more efficient my exercising is.
To get my heart rate up, I started running a few minutes at a time on the treadmill instead of just walking briskly. I’m thrilled to say, on a great day, I can now run 20 minutes non-stop. High 5’s all around.
Now I’m training for a 5-kilometre run. It’s my newest goal. I’ve signed up for the CIBC Run for the Cure.
Thank you for your donation of $5 toward a cure for breast cancer.
When I signed up for the challenge, they asked me, “Who are you running for?” I had to think about it for a minute. I decided to run for my Great Aunt who died in 1995 around mother’s day after having breast cancer. She had surgery and unfortunately, when they sowed her back up, she lost some range of motion in her arm. She was generous and loving and a beautiful soul. I miss going to visit her in upstate New York where she lived in this gorgeous colonial mansion with pillars and 2 staircases and a enormous pink bathroom and a barn in the backyard where elves used to make shoes, so my cousins said. She also owned a motel and restaurant with a swimming pool 9 miles down the road. What an ideallic, childhood fantasy land!
I’m also running for another friend of the family who beat breast cancer several years ago but is currently recuperating from another cancer treatment for another area. She inspires me, too.
How to Donate to the Run for the Cure
If you would like to donate and help me raise $150 toward research, please visit https://www.cibcrunforthecure.com/html/en/about.asp, find the Get involved menu, click on the donate arrow which will bring you to another page. On that page, click on donate to a participant which pulls up the search for a participant search boxes. I would really appreciate it if you put in my first name, Maria, my last name, Koropecky and Victoria for the Run Location. When you hit the search button, you will see my name next to Team Bosom. Click again on Donate to this Participant and on that page you will be able to fill in all of your information. If you decide on giving $5, then that will work out to $1 a kilometre, which is will go a long way to help fight breast cancer.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart. And thank you on behalf of everyone else who has been touched by the ugliness of cancer.
Where and When
The run will take place on Saturday, October 4, 2009 in cities across Canada. I’ll be running at the University of Victoria with my personal trainer and Team Bosom by my side.
For the last couple of years I have been on a mission to lose weight and get fit. In April of 2007, I hit my all time high in weight and did not want to see the next higher number. You can guess what the magic number was. I’ll never say. I have been going to Jazzercise classes for several years but that wasn’t really helping my situation at that point. I needed to increase my exercise and I also needed to change my eating habits. And my stress level, by the way, was also pretty high at that time, but that’s a topic for another post.
After a few more months of denial, in July of ‘07 I finally decided to hire my Jazzercise instructor as my personal trainer. She has a studio in her house. I have been working out every Thursday afternoon since (more or less) in a group with three other women, all with our own challenges, goals and stories. For the longest time, nothing much was happening with my weight. I was exercising more but not enough to compensate for my love of chocolate chip cookies. Eventually though, slowly but surely, I started making some progress.
In May of 2008, I was weighed and measured and that’s the number I use as my current bench mark though it is only 5 pounds less than that awful other number. And since then, I’m happy to say I have lost 24 pounds and 23 inches. I guess it just took a while to get the snowball rolling.
In any case, I am eating much healthier these days. No more cookies, chips, cakes, etc. My trainer also suggested I try eating Quinoa. I was like… Keen whaaa?
Lots of people are really enthusiastic about Quinoa and it is considered a “superfood.” Although it is new to me, Quinoa was first cultivated more than 5000 years ago by the Incas in the Andean region of South America. The Incas revered Quinoa as sacred and called it “The Mother of All Grains.” Because it contains all eight essential amino acids, it is considered a complete protein. If you’re a vegetarian or have issues with gluten or have diabetes, this one’s a keeper because it is plant-based, has no gluten and helps regulate blood sugar levels. As far as nutrition goes, Quinoa is high in calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and Vitamin D.
Here is the “mother of all grains” recipe I served as part of my Mother’s Day menu. I found the inspiration in Rose Reisman’s, The Complete Light Kitchen, 2007 Whitecap Books, page 108 but made my own adjustments.
Quinoa Greek Salad
2 cups organic chicken stock
1 cup quinoa — you can find it in the cheap and cheerful bulk food section of your grocery store
1/2 half cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup peeled and diced field cucumber
1/4 cup chopped chives — my mother just happened to have some growing in her garden
1/4 cup diced red onion
2/3 cup light feta cheese, crumbled
1 TB lemon zest
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 TB good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried basil
2 small vine tomatoes, quartered for garnish
1. Optional: Rinse the quinoa in cold water before cooking to remove the possible bitter, mineral taste, though it really doesn’t permeate through the recipe once the quinoa is mixed with other ingredients. You might also want to toast the quinoa in a pan for 2 minutes to release a nutty flavour, but I didn’t this time.
2. Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in the quinoa. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the quinoa grains are tender and there is no liquid left in the pan. Transfer to a mixing bowl to cool.
3. Add the chopped cucumber, red pepper, onions and feta cheese to the cooked and cooled quinoa.
4. In a separate bowl or jar, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, dried basil and pepper and pour over the salad. Garnish with tomato wedges.
Enjoy this recipe and let me know how it turned out.
And if you want a spa treatment recipe using Quinoa, try this foot scrub:
Quinoa Dry Rub for Dry Feet
2 cups uncooked Quinoa – Rich in vitamins and minerals, this grain exfoliates without dehydrating skin. Also has anti-fungal properties.
1/3 cup whole coffee beans – Sniffing coffee helps clear the nasal palette. Can be used to soothe inflamed skin, remove cellulite and to exfoliate skin.
peel from 1 orange – Uplifiting orange eases depression, calms anxiety, lulls nervous tension and enhances a room’s atmosphere. Also, the Alpha-Hydroxi Acids clean and exfoliate skin.
1 TB olive oil – Pressed from juicy olives, this lovely, fragrant, heavy oil calms, soothes, nourishes, cleans, softens and moisturizes skin.
Method: In a bowl that is large enough to fit both of your feet at once, combine all ingredients except olive oil. Tear the orange peel into various shapes and pieces.
Manner: Eat the orange if you haven’t already now that you’ve peeled it. Step into the bowl and roll the soles of your feet over the grains to massage out the kinks for as long as you want. Wipe off your feet with a towel. Follow with olive oil or lotion to moisturize feet.
Storage/Shelf Life: Store in a glass jar or bottle. May be re-used by the same person.
Note: I designed this recipe so it wouldn’t be messy and clog drains.