Week 3 – Chronic pain self-management: breaking the pain and symptom cycle

Me - heading out for my 5K neighbourhood run

Heading out for a 5K neighbourhood run

Well, it’s about 11:30pm right now. My wife Marjory and our two children are sound asleep, so it’s all quiet around the house.

I’m sitting here in my comfy red leather chair writing my blog with my earphones on, listening to some exquisite choral harmonies from musica intima. For me, their music is pleasure and therapy personified, and the perfect companion for my late night writing.

As a volunteer Chronic Pain Self-Management Program workshop facilitator with the University of Victoria’s Centre for Aging, one of the great joys for me is simply getting to know and help the courageous men and women that come to our workshops.

I learn so much as they share their stories and we work together within a warm, caring, non-judgmental and confidential workshop environment.

The source of chronic pain for participants that attend our workshops varies a great deal. Many of them are dealing with musculoskeletal pain such as chronic neck, shoulder and back pain.

Others are experiencing chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia, whiplash injuries, chronic regional pain syndromes, repetitive strain injuries, chronic pelvic pain, post-surgical pain that lasts beyond 6 months, neuropathic pain that’s often caused by trauma, neuralgias such as post-herpetic pain and trigeminal neuralgia, post stroke or central pain, persistent headaches, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes-related neuropathy, and severe muscular pain due to conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

A rainy morning - Fraser River 5K

Rainy morning – Fraser River 5K

Early in the workshop, our participants are introduced to some fundamental tools and techniques that they will need to become good chronic pain self-managers.

Brainstorming and Problem-Solving for example, are introduced in the first week’s session and used extensively during the next 5 weekly sessions. I will share more on these tools and techniques in a later blog.

Similarly, our participants develop their first weekly Action Plan for the upcoming week at the end of their first week’s workshop session. Each participant’s plan must identify something specific that they want, rather than have, to do during the upcoming week. It must be something that’s beneficial from a self-management perspective, and something that’s achievable, action-specific and measurable.

It’s also essential that participants have a high level of confidence that their entire action plan will be completed during the upcoming week.

Using a ‘buddy system’, participants check in with their buddy during the week to discuss their action plans and to offer each other support and assistance.

Mundy Park 5K

Lush forest – Mundy Park 5K

We then discuss how we all did at the beginning of the next workshop, offering feedback as required.

Action planning, brainstorming and problem solving are some of the cornerstone self-management tools and techniques that we learn early, and then gain experience with, throughout the 6-week workshop.

Most participants continue to use these tools after the workshop finishes, since the tools are now an essential part of their own self-management discipline.

During the workshop, our participants typically get to know each other quickly and quite well. They soon realize that the more they put into the workshop, the more they will get out of the workshop.

Most participants are soon comfortable enough to participate and give freely of themselves during every activity.

For many, our workshop is the first time they have been among a group of people that really understands their chronic pain and believes them. It’s a relief for many participants because they no longer feel alone!

Wild roses - Fraser River 5K

Wild roses – Fraser River 5K

Prior to attending our workshop, many participants think that chronic pain is the sole reason for their symptoms.

They are often surprised to learn that their symptoms can themselves contribute to or even cause other symptoms.

This pain and symptom cycle soon becomes a viscous circle that keeps going around and around, until a way is found to break the cycle.

We refer to this interaction as the Pain and Symptom Cycle.

Here’s a brief overview of the cycle:

– Pain
– Tense muscles
– Restricted movement
– Ineffective breathing
– Stress and anxiety
– Difficult emotions
– Depression
– Fatigue
– Pain

One of the primary goals of our chronic pain workshop is to give the participants the ability to recognize this pain and symptom cycle.

Ferns - Mundy Park 5K

Ferns – Mundy Park 5K

Additionally, we want to provide people with a set of tools that will help them break the cycle. We refer to this set of tools as our Self-Management Tool Box.

Here is a list of those tools:

– Physical activity and exercise
– Managing fatigue
– Pacing and planning
– Medications
– Working with health care professionals
– Problem-solving
– Using your mind
– Healthy eating
– Communications
– Understanding emotions
– Finding resources

Patience is a virtue - Fraser River 5K

Patience is a virtue – Fraser River 5K

Over the weeks that follow, I will share with you my knowledge and experience with the chronic pain and symptom cycle and how these self-management tools can help you break the cycle.

Perhaps the most gratifying and fulfilling experience as a workshop facilitator is to watch a group of individuals undergo such an amazing change in perspective over the course of a 6-weeks workshop.

They are seemingly transformed into a group of strong, positive, self-disciplined, and determined people who are now fully committed to their own chronic pain self-management; and also to helping other people in need. It’s a wonderful thing and truly a joy to behold!

I will close, as always, by saying that if you or someone close to you is dealing with chronic pain and you are an adult living in BC, I strongly encourage you to consider taking the chronic pain self-management workshop. Please use the link below to find out more information.

Have a great week!

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6 week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops (2½ hour per week) available free of charge across BC, to adults and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and other free of charge workshops, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Other Self-Management workshop and programs include:
– Arthritis Fibromyalgia
– Chronic Disease
– Diabetes

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Week 2 – Chronic pain self-management: what chronic pain means to me!

Noons Creek - 4K walk

Headed down Noons Creek on my 4K walk

I decided to a take a complete break from running for two weeks. It seemed like a prudent thing to do after training hard for 4 months and then running 21K in the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon race!

I really love to run, as you know. So taking a two week break is quite hard for me, especially given that I can run again following my accident in 2010. It took a good year and a half’s rehabilitation before I could run for any length of time again.

When I am not running, my body and mind seem to miss the endorphins. So I have to get back to my running routine by the end of this week, at the latest!

This past week has actually been a tough one for me, and not just because I haven’t been running. Last Sunday, I was bending down, got up quickly and hit my head on the corner of a piece of wood shelving in the house. It was a freak accident, it happened in a flash and it really hurt!

The top of my head was cut and there was quite a bit of blood. Although I knew that it was nothing like as bad as my accident and brain injury back in 2010, it was bad enough. I was dizzy, in pain and my headache and tinnitus greatly increased. I was also experiencing that same ‘mental fogginess’ that I had for a long time following my 2010, and still get with extreme stress and fatigue.

For the next few days, I was concerned that I might be dealing with a serious setback in my recovery. I was also very frustrated and upset with myself for ‘letting this accident happen’, especially considering that I was feeling so good after completing over 4 months of ‘running rehabilitation’.

Fortunately, my increased symptoms and the ‘fogginess’ had subsided by the end of the week, and I am now almost back to where I was before this accident.

Megan's butterfly garden

Megan’s butterfly garden

Given all the stress around the accident, re-injuring my head and the increased symptoms, I really needed to rest and relax this past weekend.

So I did some gardening on Sunday with my 7 year-old daughter Megan. We created a butterfly garden together by the side of our house. We first cultivated and then we put in lots of wild flowers that we think will attract the butterflies.

Megan is so proud of her butterfly garden. It looks really beautiful and she can hardly wait for the butterflies to arrive.

I have come to love gardening over the past 2 years. There were times when gardening was the only exercise I could do without bringing on my symptoms.
I have found gardening to be extremely therapeutic and fulfilling.

Gardening also offered me quiet times and the solitude I needed at the time to reflect on what had happened to me and contemplate my future.

Another activity that I often recommend for chronic pain self-management and rehabilitation is to volunteer your time and help others in your community.

I am currently a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC, where I facilitate our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops.

Shoreline Trail - 5K run

My 5K run – Shoreline Trail

It’s continues to be an incredible experience for me. I feel honoured and blessed to have this unique opportunity to serve others in need within my community.

As a workshop facilitator, one of the first and most interesting discussions that I have with our participants is when we ask ourselves ‘what is chronic pain?’.

Most of us agree from our personal experiences that it’s a pain that lasts for more than 3-6 months, it typically varies in intensity from mild to excruciating, and it can affect one or multiple areas of the body.

Also, we realize that chronic pain has no survival value. In other words, the pain no longer warns us of any immediate danger. Although the mechanisms of chronic pain are not well understood, we know that it’s typically a long-term situation with no cure.

For most of us, it seems that our chronic pain seems to somehow be inter-twined with chronic stress. Additionally, we agree that physical activity, balanced with rest, is key to managing our chronic pain and stress. I have certainly found this to be the case, having utilized running rehabilitation a great deal over the past year.

Another question that we discuss as a group early in our workshops is ‘what does chronic pain mean to me?’

Shoreline Trail - wild flowers

Wild flowers – Shoreline Trail

For many of us, our chronic pain means that we are unable to work due to chronic pain, stress and various other symptoms. Given this situation, most are concerned how we will support ourselves, and our families for the future.

Chronic pain for most of us means that there are many physical things that we used to do that we can no longer do. Personally, I can still no longer do any sport or physical activity that involves sudden movement and/or rapid starts and stops that causes my brain to be shaken around, such as playing soccer with my kids or even coaching their soccer teams.

As a group, early in the workshop we all seem to intuitively know that becoming a good self-manager is our ultimate goal and will serve us well.

Once we are good self-managers, our healthcare providers then become our highly valued ‘teachers and advisers’ helping us self-manage our own chronic pain. After all, no one knows our body and chronic pain better than ourselves!

In next week’s blog, I will talk about the ‘chronic pain and symptom cycle’ and also about what we refer to as our chronic pain ‘Self-Management Tool Box’.

Shoreline Trail - 5K run

My 5K run – Shoreline Trail

In the weekly blogs that follow, I will share more with you about the various tools and techniques within our ‘Self-Management Tool Box’.

As for myself, after a tough few weeks, I am back to feeling optimistic and philosophical. My accident served as a reminder that I must still stay vigilant to avoid further head injuries.

It has become clear to me that my stress and fatigue-related headache and tinnitus symptoms are indeed chronic and may always be with me just beneath the surface, so to speak

It’s time for me to move forward and focus on honing my chronic pain self-management skills rather than looking for a rehabilitation program that will completely ‘cure’ my symptoms.

After all, I now have many tools and techniques that I know work well for me to break the pain and symptom cycle. Tools such as running, healthy eating, meditation, quality sleep, adequate rest, and volunteer work.

It’s time for me to live life in the present moment again, and to be thankful for all of my blessings. I want to enjoy more time with my wife Marjory and our two children. I also want to find additional work where I can serve people in need.

In closing, if you or someone close to you is dealing with chronic pain and you are an adult living in BC, I strongly encourage you to consider taking our chronic pain self-management workshop. Use the link below to find out more information.

Thank you!

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC. He currently facilitates their 6-week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop, available free of charge across BC, to adults and their partners and caregivers who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on the Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and several other free of charge workshops, go to http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

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Week 1 – Chronic pain self-management: welcome & introduction

Proudly wearing my BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon medal

Wearing my BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon medal with pride!

What shall I do next?

This question did pass through my mind many times during the days that followed my running the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon on May 5th.

The completion of the race itself essentially brought my 4 month ‘running rehabilitation’ story to a close.

However, my overall rehabilitation journey following my 2010 accident and brain injury continues.

I know that there are still things that I must do to further improve my health and wellness.

During the past 4 months, my running has had a phenomenally positive impact on my rehabilitation. I have also discovered that blogging, sharing my story and helping others has a tremendously positive effect on my health and wellbeing.

Similarly, my volunteer work with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging has been fulfilling and therapeutic. As a volunteer Program Leader over the past year, my primary role has been facilitating their free of charge, 6-week Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops.

There is nothing more fulfilling and therapeutic as giving back and helping others.

Thinking back to my own rehabilitation, I have had lots of personal chronic pain self-management experience. Within weeks of my accident and brain injury in 2010, I intuitively knew that I needed to self-manage my own rehabilitation effort.

Although I had lots of help and support from my family, friends and healthcare professionals, I could not have made the progress that I have made without being a good self-manager.

My 4-month running rehabilitation effort is clearly a tough act to follow, so to speak.

So what to do now…. well, let me share my thoughts.

My 5K walk - Colony Farm

My 5K walk – Colony Farm

I will certainly continue with my commitment to running and fitness, but that will not be my focus for the next few months.

Given my positive blogging experience over the past 4 months, I will continue to blog.

However, this time. my blog will be dedicated to sharing my knowledge and experiences with chronic pain self-management with others. I will write and publish a series of weekly blogs on Chronic Pain Self-Management over the next few months.

Yes, that’s what I will do!

Following this initial introduction, my next blog will provide you with an overview of chronic pain self management. It will include a definition of chronic pain and what it means to myself and others that are dealing with chronic pain in their lives.

Now if you are one of the many thousands of individuals that live with chronic pain on a daily basis, I realize that you probably know all about what chronic pain it is with or without a definition.

However, I feel that it’s important for me to discuss some of the chronic pain and self-management fundamentals early in the process.

Following this overview blog, in my subsequent weekly blogs, I will share my knowledge and experience with different self-management tools and techniques that are often helpful in self-managing chronic pain. Some examples would be exercise, deep breathing, meditation and diet.

Colony Farm - wild foxgloves

Wild flowers – Colony Farm

I will also tell you about my own experiences with each specific tool and technique. However, I must emphasize that what works for one may not work for another, and vice versa.

It’s very much a personal journey. The experiences, preferences and benefits realized will vary from individual to individual.

So if you are experiencing chronic pain, my advice would be for you to give them all a good try before deciding whether it does or does not works for you.

Of course, if a particular tool or technique involves an activity that a physician has advised you not to do, then you certainly should not do it.

Also, if you have a condition that restricts you from doing certain activities, then you should consult your physician before trying any similar type of activity.

Your ultimate goal should be to find a suite of tools that are safe for you to use and that work for you, and then to have them readily available for you to use when you need them.

Colony Farm - Purple Swallow bird boxes

Purple Martin bird boxes – Colony Farm

It’s a fact that there are thousands of people that are suffering with chronic pain. Many of these individuals have exhausted all of the traditional sources for help and are now resigned to quietly living a life of suffering, often feeling helpless and desperately alone.

My hope is that my blog reaches as many of these people as possible.

In closing, if you or someone close to you is dealing with chronic pain and you are an adult living in BC, I strongly encourage you to consider taking our chronic pain self-management workshop. Use the link below to find out more information.

Thank you and I hope that you enjoy my chronic pain self-management blogs over the coming months!

Warm regards, John

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

UVic colour - horizontal -NO Centre-crest on lhs

John Murphy is a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging, based in Ladner, BC, where he facilitates their 6-week, free of charge Chronic Pain Self-Management workshops available across BC to adults, and their partners and caregivers, who are dealing with chronic pain.

For more information on our Chronic Pain Self-Management workshop and several other free of charge workshops, go to http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

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Sunday May 5th: BMO Vancouver Half Marathon 21K – my awesome race day experience!

Almost there!

John at 20.5K – almost there!

My alarm went off bright and early at 4:30AM this morning. I had a good sleep and was feeling very enthusiastic about my race day.

Having worked so hard for 4 months, I was glad that my race day had finally arrived.

I checked the weather on my iPhone first thing. It was already 14C, which was awesome news!

That meant that I would not have to worry about what to wear. Running shorts and a tee shirt were the order of the day.

My wife Marjory rose early with me, but the children were slow to rise. They were going to come with me in the car right down to the start line at Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver.

Surprisingly, there were no early sky trains scheduled from where we live to the marathon this year.  So I really appreciated being dropped off right outside QEP!

First, I had a nice warm shower to loosen up my muscles. Then I enjoyed a small bowl of cereal and a cup of tea for my light breakfast. The kids enjoyed a little extra time in bed and they had muffins for their breakfast in the car on the drive down. This helped make the early morning easier for everyone.

We left our home in Coquitlam for the race around 5:30AM and it only took us around 30 minutes to reach the Queen Elizabeth Park. Traffic was pretty light at that time of the morning.

At the start line - ready to go

At the start line – ready to go

We pulled up outside QEP, I gave everyone a kiss and a hug and they all wished me good luck. Then I left and joined a long and seemingly endless stream of runners headed to the start line.

I had some friendly chats with quite a few runners before the start. Everyone was in great spirits and especially happy with the nice weather.

One of the runners graciously agreed to take some photos of yours truly, and I did the same in return for him. It was lots of fun!

The cheerful ‘runners banter’ about training and the upcoming run was suddenly interrupted with the opening lines of  O Canada.

I love singing our national anthem and so I did just that. It was a stirring moment for everyone.

The sun had been up for some time when the race finally started at around 7:15am. I was around the midpoint in the pack of runners waiting to file under the official start line.

I have to admit that I did not actually hear the starting gun or horn, but everyone in front of me shuffled forward and I just shuffled along with them. Eventually, we passed the official start line and I turned on the timer on my watch. It was now official, I was off and running!

We initially headed up a bit of an incline to get out of the park, but then it was a long and steady downhill all the way down Cambie Street to the Cambie Bridge.

Vancouver skyline from Cambie Street

Vancouver skyline from Cambie Street

The first 3K or so down Cambie was absolutely exhilarating. We were all treated to a spectacular view of the Vancouver skyline that got larger and grander as we approached the bridge. It felt great to be running downhill but I took great care not to go too fast.

I was feeing terrific at this time and so was everyone around me!

There were a few runners that got caught up in the moment and went  flying down the hill. I was actually quite concerned for them and hoped that they would be okay later in the race.

Once over the bridge, we soon found ourselves running through historic Chinatown, which is always interesting. To our great surprise, we were all treated to a group of Indian ladies dancing to a Bollywood number on the sidewalk. Not exactly what we expected in the middle of Chinatown, but superb none the less!

Just as we reached the top of the Homer Street hill, there was a great brass band playing a very ‘brassy’ military number. I loved it, so I stopped to take a photo of the band. The conductor gave me a smile and then he motioned for me to come over to him. I was most intrigued.

Then I smiled a broad smile. You’re asking ME to conduct the band! How did you know that it would be a dream come true for me to conduct your brass band. Yes, I would love to, I thought, as I nodded my head. Thank you so much!

Strike up the band!

Strike up the band!

As he handed me the baton, he then gestured for me to hand my iPhone over to him.

You want to take a photo of me conducting? Wow – how neat, I thought.

I then began to swish that baton like I was born to conduct. The band seemed to appreciate the moment and my enthusiasm for conducting. They were terrific!

Not bad, I thought. In fact, this is going quite well!

What a great 60 seconds or so I had conducting the band. Many of the runners let out huge cheers as they went by the scene. It was such a wonderful impromptu moment; I will treasure the memory always

My thanks go out to that very special brass band conductor!

I motioned a fond farewell to the band and I continued my run down Homer until it turned Mainland signifying that we were now running through Yaletown.

Yaletown

Trendy Yaletown

As I ran down those cobbled streets past the many fine restaurants and bars, my mind briefly took me back to a time gone by when I used to live in the heart of Yaletown in a rather luxurious apartment .

I used to frequent many of these fine establishments at the time. The Century Grill was my favourite spot at the time. I had my fair share of oysters on the half shell during my time.

Those were the days, I thought. Lots of fun and great memories, but I’m quite glad to have moved on.

Once out of trendy Yaletown, we turned onto Pacific Boulevard and travelled up a short but steep hill. Fortunately, we were soon going downhill again under the Granville Street Bridge. Then we took a sharp right and followed Beach Avenue until we found ourselves running by English Bay.

The water on the bay was sparkling in the sunlight. The view was beautiful, but not as beautiful as the sight that I was about to see.

As I looked forward down the road, there standing by the roadside, bearing huge smiles and cheering, was my dear wife Marjory and our two children, Ian and Megan.

My cheering section - Marjory, Ian and Megan

My cheering section – Marjory, Ian and Megan

It was quite a moment. We had a quick hi and how are you. The I got some big hugs and kisses. They said that they would see me again at the finish and wished me good luck. Then I was off and on my way again.

It was around this time that I became aware of some pain around my left groin area. It was the same pain that I had experienced periodically over the past three weeks on my long training runs

I was still determined to remain optimistic that this injury would not get worse and that my race would go well.

Never the less, I did take the Extra Strength Advil that was in my waist pack and swallowed it with some water from my hydration bottle.

My optimism was rewarded because the pain did not get any worse and was not much of a factor in my race at all, thank goodness.

Soon we left Beach Avenue and English Bay and headed into Stanley Park, the jewel of Vancouver.  My journey though the park was both spectacular and demanding, especially around the 17K mark.

It's a little warm out here!

It’s a little warm out here!

Although I was quite confident that I would get to the finish line, a general body fatigue was now setting in.

I had now been running for over 2 hours and longer than I had run during my entire 4 months of training. In fact, it was now my longest run since I ran my last full marathon about 8 years ago, right here in Vancouver.

I managed to run the last three kilometers but did take a few short walking breaks along the way. I was totally okay with this. Time was not a major factor.

By now I was quite warm and had sweat running into my eyes so I took the time to rinse my eyes and my forehead with water at each of the remaining  water station.

About 500M from the finish line, I saw Marjory and the kids standing by the fence that now lined the road. What a site for sore sweaty eyes.

I stopped for more kisses and hugs. Marjory took a few photos. Then I ran on slowly and deliberately towards the finish line.

I glanced to the side of me as I ran, and there were Ian and Megan running with me. It was a touching moment.

I’m sure that they would have run right to the finish line with me but for the security fences around the finish.

Crossing the finish line was an emotional moment for me. It was not my longest race and it was far from my fastest.

However, it was my most satisfying and fulfilling race.

Mission accomplished!

I did it!

Finishing the half marathon felt like a tremendous achievement for me. It’s my first race since my accident and injury in October of 2010 and finishing the race marks the completion of four long, and sometimes challenging, months of training and running rehabilitation.

Although I was physically tired, at that moment, I felt strong mentally and fulfilled spiritually.

After spending about an hour cheering on lots of other runners as they approached the finish line, we decided to go for lunch at The White Spot, which was just across the other side of Georgia Street.

Fortunately we got a table right on the deck so we were able to continue to watch the marathoners as they ran up Georgia from the park towards the finish line. It was a lovely lunch!

Just before we left to head home, I found myself alone with some time to contemplate.

These were my innermost thoughts in that special moment.

First, I gave thanks for the most amazing half marathon race day and also for my past 4 months of training and running rehabilitation. It has been awesome!

Although I may not understand the real purpose of this experience right now, I know that I will understand it at some point in the future.

Time to relax and celebrate!

Time to relax and celebrate!

I acknowledged that I must continue to be patient and accept what is and what will be. Then, when the fog clears a little more, I should be ready to take on the next challenge on my path to wellness – the next piece of the puzzle, so to speak.

I also reminded myself that I should not try to find that next piece of the puzzle.  It will find me!

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

I enjoyed my moment alone. Then my family rejoined me, and we decided it was now time for us to go home and enjoy the rest of the day!

And now it’s time for me to bring this story to a close.

Thank you for being a part of my journey thus far. I hope that my story has been of interest to you and also helpful if you or someone close to you is personally living with concussion.

As for the future, I am planning to blog on a different topic soon. Please see below for more information. I have also posted a few more race photos too. I hope that you enjoy them.

Bye for now, and I will look out for you on the trails.

Namaste.

John

———–

For those of you that might be interested, I hope to soon be blogging on another personal area of experience and interest – Chronic Pain Self-Management.

Currently a volunteer Program Leader with the University of Victoria’s Centre on Aging,  I regularly facilitate 6-week Chronic Pain Self-Management Program workshops. Held in various locations across BC, this workshop is available free of charge to adults living with chronic pain issues.

For more information on the University of Victoria’s  Centre on Aging and our complete Self-Management Workshop offerings, follow this link to our website:

http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca

Thank you!

———–

Here are some more photos from the BMO Vancouver Half Marathon.

'Boston strong' in Vancouver

‘Boston strong’ in Vancouver

Almost home!

Almost home!

It's a walk in the park

A stroll in the park

The beat goes on

And the beat goes on

Underneath the arches in Chinatown

Underneath the arches in Chinatown

The quiet before the storm

A quiet moment before the start

Running in the city

Running in the city

May 3rd: Final training week and my BMO Vancouver Half Marathon on Sunday!

Canada Place - Vancouver Convention Centre

Canada Place – Vancouver Convention Centre

The reality of running my BMO Vancouver Half Marathon Run this coming Sunday really hit home when I picked up my race package at the Vancouver Convention Centre at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver this morning.

The convention centre was packed with hundreds of other runners who were all, like myself, quite excited and full of anticipation. I treated myself to a bright yellow singlet, a stylish red tee shirt and some new socks for race day.

Strictly speaking, one should not wear anything new on race day. However, my current socks are worn out and I also need a bright running shirt so that my wife Marjory and our two children can find me among the thousands of runners that will be out on the course on Sunday morning.

Mundy Park - off trail path

Mundy Park – off trail pathway

This final training week before the run has been comparatively restful and relaxing, but not without some concern.

As I suspected at the time, my 5K run last Monday did turn out to be my last training run.

Having experienced some groin pain and then after much deliberation, I decided not to run again until race day. I did not want to risk further injury and thought it wise to give the groin more time to heal.

In the meantime, I have been stretching, icing and then applying heat to the affected area. Hopefully, this will avert or at least minimize any problems during the race.

Wednesday was a beautiful day, so I decided to go for a walk and explore the less-travelled paths off the main trails among the woods of Mundy Park.

Judging by the tire marks in the muddy parts of the trail, it has to be the local mountain bikers that frequented these trails rather than runners and walkers.

Walking rather than running that morning turned out to be quite exhilarating and refreshing. There were times when I did not really know exactly where I was or which was I was headed but that just made it more fun.

Moving along the path at a slower pace also afforded me the opportunity to reflect, contemplate and give thanks for an incredibly satisfying and enjoyable 4 months of running.

Statistically, over the last 4 months I ran a total of 55 training runs and 403K. My four longest training runs ranged from 14-17K and most recently I have been running at a 6 minute per km pace.

Sasamat Lake

Sasamat Lake

Comparatively, before I started my half marathon training, I was only able to run for a maximum of 30 minutes at about an 8 minute per km pace maximum.

That’s quite a performance improvement, I think.  I am most pleased with my progress as well as my hard work and determination!

Equally important, I feel that I have managed my training well and have progress without adversely impacting my concussion and tinnitus symptoms.

Although I still experience daily headaches and tinnitus symptoms, they do seem much less severe now than they were before I started my training.

I firmly believe that my training program has increases my endorphin levels, which has helped reduce my stress levels and consequently my stress-related  concussion and tinnitus symptoms. The fog is gradually clearing!

I do not think that I would have been able to achieve this without the self-management knowledge that I gained from the University of Buffalo Concussion Clinic’s ‘running rehabilitation’ program that I followed for about 6 months last year. The program was recommended to me by my psychologist and physiotherapist at the Coquitlam Concussion Clinic.  Thank you so much!

Throughout this final week of training, I have had the opportunity to reflect on all of the beautiful trails that I have run over the past four months.

There’s Port Moody Inlet, Mundy Park and Burnaby Lake and others that I have run many times and will always enjoy. Then there’s the many new running trails that I discovered, such as the Pitt River Dyke and the Sasamat Lake trail. I enjoyed them immensely and will undoubtedly run them all again in the future.

Stanley Park seawall - 3rd Beach

Stanley Park seawall – 3rd Beach

Highlights of my training included the opportunity to revisit runs that have run many times in the past but not for some time.

A prime example would be our very own world-class iconic run – the Vancouver seawall around Stanley Park. It’s one of the most beautiful runs on the planet!

Over the past few days, I have been looking forward to my half marathon race on Sunday morning.

Although I still have some concerns about my left groin pain, I have now rested it for 5 days, so hopefully it will not be a problem on race day.

I am therefore feeling confident that I will have a good race. I have worked very hard over the last 4 months and have prepared well.

Now all I need to do for the rest of the week is to stay positive, eat healthy, drink lots of water, rest and relax, and get two really good night’s sleep!

On Sunday morning, our family plan is to rise around 4:30AM. It’s supposed to be warm and dry, so I will dress in shorts and my new tee shirt or singlet for my run. I will enjoy a light breakfast, and then we will head off in the car, and drop me at the Canada Line.

PoCo Trail - Pitt River Dyke

PoCo Trail – Pitt River Dyke

While Marjory and the children find a restaurant and have their breakfast and then find a spectator cheering spot on the race course, I will be riding the Canada Line train down to Queen Elizabeth Park and the start of the race.

I’m hoping to arrive at QEP at around 6:15AM so that I have sufficient time to stretch, prepare mentally, soak up the atmosphere and be ‘ready to go’ at the start line for the 7AM starting gun.

My heart is racing a little faster just thinking and writing about race day. I still have two sleeps to go!

If you live in the Vancouver area, be sure to come to the race and cheer everyone on. It’s a great spectator experience; I am sure that you will have a terrific time.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to give all of my fellow runners my sincere best wishes and lots of good energy for a great race day on Sunday.

I’m looking forward to seeing all of the cheers and smiles, and to saying hello to some of you.

Good luck and God speed everyone!

John - good luck everyone!