Friday, December 20, 2013

Reminiscing...and looking forward

On January 15 I will celebrate 3 years of hard earned sobriety. Appreciating this milestone lead me to evaluate my life and how different it is and how different I am.

There are many things about drinking that I really miss, like the sound the cork makes when it is pulled from the wine bottle or the hiss that escapes the beer bottle when the cap is twisted. I miss the warmth in my belly that errupts following a bigger than proper sip of wine. I miss the cardboard boxy smell of the liquor store. 

I have remained faithful to my commitment to sobriety because the life I enjoy now is a more peaceful existence then the life I lived as an active alcoholic. The largest part of the new peace I enjoy is fueled by my love of running. My desire to run and be the best I can be is bigger and stronger than my desire to drink.

I have created a place in the world among people as a runner. I run and I blog a bit and as such, I have been welcomed into a digital world of positive, productive runners. I am grateful I have found what works for me and I am thankful to those who have helped me find a place where I can continue to build a healthy life. Thanks to iRun and Canada Running Series for believing in me.

The following is a link to the first blog post I wrote for last year's iRun Running Blog Idol Contest. This contest helped me realize that I was good at writing and running.

Canada Running Series has also had a big impact on my sobriety. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be invited, again, to be a Digital Champion for the Yonge Street 10k. I can't wait to run down the middle of Yonge Street on April 14 2014. Join me! Let me know when you register. Follow the buzz on twitter using #TYS10k.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Shamed and Blushing

Me: " how long before I can run? I was thinking I would take a week off."

Surgeon: <laughing...really hard> "A week? Who told you that? Did you read that on Google?"

Last week I had an Abdominal Hernia Repair. A tiny bit of my insides seemed to have worked their way where they did not belong and I was foolish enough to mention this to my doctor earlier this year.

Foolish, I say, because now, I sit with eight weeks recovery time.
 No running.
 I can walk, but who does that?
 I am a runner.
 I run...but not for eight weeks.

I went to see my doctor in the spring because I suspected I had a stomach ulcer. During this appointment I happened to say "by the way, what do you think of this?".

"This" happened to be a small lump about halfway between my sternum and my navel. "This" had been there for several years and was the culprit of a small amount of discomfort when I poked at it. During  "its" lifespan, I just decided not to poke at it and we could co-exist with minimal fuss. No reason to disclose "its" presence to said physician.
When I outed my little lumpy friend, it was in haste. If truth be told (and why not, I have uttered grander truths than this via this medium), I was trying to distract my doctor from the lecture that was building.
I noted the way he cocked his head and gave it a shake as he inhaled deeply. The worst part of the pending lecture or "health teaching" was that I knew exactly what he was going to say.

I am a runner and as such, I have well earned aches and pains. These aches and pains are typically staid by the use of ibuprofen, a wonderful over the counter anti-inflammatory. This miracle medicine reduces inflammation caused by too many kilometers, thereby reducing the pain that is associated with the inflammation. The caution to ibuprofen is that it can be hard on the stomach lining, risking the development of a lesion or hole in the lining, also known as an ulcer...<insert a bit of blushing>

With weeks of stomach discomfort climaxing to a middle of the night attack of severe pain and the taste of blood in my mouth, I went to see my doctor.
He listened to my complaints with concern and felt as though my self diagnosis of a stomach ulcer was probably not the issue, as I had no risk for the development of one...until he muttered, almost to himself and waved his hand dismissively,

"It's not like you are taking anti-inflammatorys for any reason. That would be the only risk someone with your good health would have."

Me:  <with hesitation> "Well...actually I do use a fair bit of ibuprofen to ease my running aches <voice trailing off in shame>.

So there it was, the more than likely, self imposed source of my problem. I gave up beer to become an Advil addict! As the lecture began, (which was made worse by the fact that I am a Nurse and know better),
 I skillfully steered the exam to my abdomen and its pet lump.

Doctor: <with surprise> "How long has this been here?"

Me: <with mission accomplished relief> "Oh, I don't know a few years..."

So, with that smooth transition from one complaint to another, I ended up under the scrutiny of a Surgeon who was decidedly more concerned about the hernia than the ulcer.

The ulcer healed without intervention. I committed to cleaning up my Advil habit and as I put the bottle of pills in a cupboard, out of sight, I noticed that the bottle said "extra strength". I looked closer and realized that I had been taking two of these pills at a time, instead of one. Like a good addict, I reasoned that I could probably still take this medication, if needed, as the problem was not likely the result of the medication itself, but my improper dosing! Addicts can always rationalize their use.

I am happy to share that I am not only sober, but I am clean and free of the anti-inflammatorys as well.

As I sit and write, I am one week post-op, with seven more weeks to heal, all because I couldn't take the heat of a lecture!

Stay tuned for the painfully, inactive weeks to come.

Friday, October 25, 2013

15 mins of Fame and a Good Party

Always at a party with a drink in my hand
In retrospect, I am not clear on how being a recovering piss tank, like myself garners the attention it has over the past year. I always thought that I was well liked and popular as a drunk girl, but never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that the same could be true as a sober girl.

When I initially quit boozing, I thought all the good times had rolled and I was left with a life that I didn't know how to live. I thought that a sober life meant I was doomed to a serious, grown up, no nonsense, lack luster existence. For much of my drinking career, I didn't just drink, I partied, which meant socializing. I love people, all kinds of people and the more the merrier. Without a Keith's in my hand (man I miss that), there was no party (I miss that too), no friends and no identity.

I spent the first five months of my sober life, off work, healing, repairing and getting stronger. Not only were the party people absent from my life, but so was the social network that comes from a workplace. There were a few friends and family that knew what I was going through, but it had been my choice to be private about my unhealthy relationship with alcohol and subsequently conceal our estrangement. This decision was made out of shame, vulnerability and fear of judgement and these feelings and perceptions came from an unhealthy mind. I realize now, that had I given others a chance to support me, many would have. I have no regrets though, it was right for me at the time to be isolated despite my previous penchant for social interaction.
Always at a party with a drink in my hand

Me and my Dad...the drink is close by
I lived the first 20 months of my sober life avoiding parties, weddings, and celebrations because my break up with Captain Morgan was not public information and if I was at such events and not drinking, people were likely to suspect something. At the time, I thought it would have been more plausible for people to surmise that I was pregnant than to assume I had quit drinking, because I was typically very committed to drinking a lot and often. I also found it easier to steer clear of these gathering because I just didn't trust that I wouldn't forget that I gave up drinking and slug back a pint before I could catch myself. That kind of thing happened all the time in my weird dreams and still does sometimes.
Me, my G-ma and my Aunt and the wine

It was during the first 4 months of being dry that I started running again. I have written before about how valuable running was as a tool and an outlet for my shame and grief, but I never imagined that it would become my new invitation to an entirely different party. It gave me a ticket to a way to socialize and be
accepted without a drink in my hand (well, maybe a Vega recovery drink).

I firmly believe in timing and at the right time, iRun magazine ran a contest called Running Blog Idol 2.0.
I felt ready to share my story about running and sobriety, so I submitted some samples to the contest and I was chosen as a finalist. The blog posts went live in September 2012 and my carefully protected secret was in black and white on the world wide web for people to read about and pass judgement upon. I was nervous (nearly threw up several times the day it was posted) and I avoided all social media that day in fear of  what people were saying. Writing about my experience turned out to be almost as cathartic as running and the response began to make me feel less isolated. The response was supportive and I felt safe sharing my thoughts and actually began to feel proud of my strength.
First Half in my hand

The contest closed December 31, 2012 and within in a few days I learned that I was not the winner, I was disappointed and lost. I had been a part of something that felt great and it didn't involve shots of tequila. I had virtual friends that I had things in common with that had nothing to do with trips to the LCBO. More importantly, I connected with people that had story's of their own that sounded similar to mine. I was more than a bit depressed to have to let go of that opportunity. The experience ended up being about so much more than a writing contest.

Again, timing became my savior as I woke one morning in late January or early February to a twitter message from Canada Running Series (CRS) asking me to message them. This turned out to be another open door for me to belong and feel a part of something. I was offered the chance to work with CRS as a Digital Champion for the Yonge Street 10k. This involved a group of us blogging and tweeting about the race, our training, preparation and goals. It was great for CRS, but I don't think Race Director Alan Brookes or Social Media Specialist Jenna Petinatto had any idea that it was even greater for me.
TYS10k Andrew Chak, Me and Chris Doyle

That experience blossomed into the chance to do the same thing for the Scotia Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Since May, I have been a part of the greatest group of people I have ever known. These people have accomplished so much through running and didn't care that I may have spent too much time drinking a little too much, in the past. They didn't care that I had never run a marathon before and they certainly didn't care that they had never actually met me. Within this social network, I found acceptance. The only thing that mattered and was asked often was 'how was your run today?" The Digital Champions became my new social outlet and my new party. Even as I ran most of my training runs alone, I knew these people were behind me. CRS had given me the task of motivating and encouraging other runners through social media, but what I found was that I got way more support than I ever dished out.

LtoR: @mirandamac, @stevewlayton, @mikepgww, me, @ultramyron, @alexflint

On Sunday October 20, we ran that marathon that we tweeted and Facebook-ed about for months. I ran that marathon with the help of CRS, the 2013 STWM Digital Champions and the #STWM running community. It is one of the highlights of my life! I believed I couldn't do it because in the past I always seemed to come up injured during the training and couldn't run the race. But I did do it and some of it felt really bad; worse than a terrible hangover. In those fragile moments of discomfort, there was only once that I considered giving up and that was the moment atop an overpass at about 35k, where I considered jumping to end my misery. The thought was brief and passed quickly and was likely a by product of temporary loss of reason due to fatigue and low blood sugar. I carried on and finished that sucker off much slower than initially planned, but that doesn't really matter. It matters that I did it and 2 days later was thinking, "I can do better.When's the next race?".

Now, this party, too has run its' course. I have gained the unwavering support of a fabulous on-line running community and I have my first of many marathon finishes under my hydration belt. I have friends that have healthy lifestyle habits in common with me and who are eager to plot the next running adventure (which looks like it's going to be Around the Bay for many). I no longer feel isolated and alone with my alcohol issue, in fact it is less of an issue all the time. It will always be a part of me, but I am learning that it will not always be all of me. I am many more things than a recovering drunk. This experience has finally allowed me to let go of some of that image of myself and has let me begin to replace it with the image of a marathon runner that chooses to treat her body and health with respect. This new life is so far from my original fear of sober living. It is anything but boring and lack luster. I just ran 42.2 frigging kilometers. If that's not a shiny and exciting enough existence for me, than I am gonna have to bedazzle the crap out of it, because it is a hell of a lot more glorious than drunk hair, smudged eyeliner and my face in a toilet bowl!

Thank you for being a part of my story and of my 15 minutes of fame. Each of you means much more to me than you will ever know:
and the rest of the #STWM running community!!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Taking Inventory and Finding the Meaning of Life

With less than two weeks left before I run my first marathon, I am counting my blessings.

Alone, but not lonely
Running gives me ample time to think, and to be alone with my thoughts. When I am alone with my thoughts, I am quiet (those that know me will testify that this is rare). When I am quiet, I am aware of a lifetime of experiences and people. When I pay attention to my thoughts and memories, I become overwhelmingly grateful for every step I take and every step or mis-step I have taken. While I run, even the mis-steps lend meaning to the woman I have become. I can forgive myself and others and I can appreciate that all of it has importance; that all things had to be the way they were in order for things to be the way they are.

When I head out the door on any run, the first 3-4 kilometers usually feels less than great, so right away I find that my mind has to find something else to think about. If I can preoccupy my brain for 20 minutes or so, I can get warmed up without focusing on every little detail that doesn't feel right. Like all things, practice makes perfect and this is no different. For months I  have practiced thinking about the weather, the trees, the birds and the people that have come, gone and stayed.

I think about my childhood best friend Tara Murphy and the fun we used to have, all while being tied to each other's hip.From that friendship I learned that connection made me confident. There was at least one person in the world that thought of much of me as I did of her and it didn't really matter if no one else liked me.

Beautiful countryside
Mrs. Jeremy was my grade eight teacher and she taught me that I could do math (she was a smart lady and right about a lot of things, but I still don't really 'get it' when it comes to math). I think about how frustrating it must have been to teach me algebra and that I really should thank her. Unfortunately, she died not long ago.

My Grandma Betty lands in my thoughts. She has always been there for me which is why I try to excuse the moments she tells me she doesn't like my hair or my cooking, or I'm gonna have a heart attack from all that running or I don't pay enough attention to her since I got that new job. I will always be there for her, it's just not always by her agenda which has made me realize that 'No' is a perfectly acceptable answer when it comes to making myself happy.

I always think about my Mom. Many things have shaped me, but none of them have been as impactful as my Mom. I am all the things I am because of her. The longer I live, the more people tell me how much I am like her. She never believed she was beautiful or smart or talented or strong, yet those are the things that I am. How did she teach me those things and not believe them of herself. I like to imagine that if she had lived longer, she would have seen herself in me, as others do and maybe she would have believed she was those things too.

When I run, I take stock of what people mean to me. I am content with the people who have come into my life and have gone for one reason or another, just as I am with those who have stuck around. We aren't all meant to play the lead role, sometimes we have supporting roles, and sometimes we are walk-ons or extras, but it's all worthy and worthwhile. These things are so clear to me once I get my mind off my IT band or my tight calf.

Through running, I have uncovered the meaning of life for me and it is "connection".
If you have touched my life, whether it has been in a starring role or as an extra, you are valuable to me. I can say this because I have spent many hours and kilometers taking inventory of my relationships and without them I have nothing worth remembering. Any event I can think of simultaneously brings to mind the person I shared that moment with.

October 20th and the Scotia Toronto Waterfront Marathon is fast approaching, yet it won't hurry up and get here. On that day, think of me, running my first of many marathons as I will no doubt
be thinking of you :)

You can also watch a live stream of the race starting at 0815 on October 20 and click on CBC

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Runnin' the roads...on empty (still)

This is a functional post to explain my blogging absence...

Where have I been? What have I been doing?

For those of you who have feared the worst and imagined me drunk on an island, imprisoned by the tempestuous effects of my former love, Alexander Keith, lift your heads and rest your hearts. I have not returned to that destructive relationship. I am as sober as when we last met.
No, the cause of my absence has not been a torrid and impassioned affair with the nectar of the Gods. While I continue to mourn the absence of a good stiff drink, it's not in the same desperate way that it once was. The deep sense of loss I felt over giving up the hooch continues to be replaced by the sense of accomplishment and pride I get from running. It has actually been the running that has kept me from putting pen to paper.

The days, weeks and months have passed, as they always do, the difference is the time has been used for good and not evil. I have made good use of the time that has lapsed since my last post. In May I shared a post  that highlighted the new coaching relationship I was involved in, which at the time had me running around my neighborhood slower than my Grandma as we made use of heart rate training. That approach served me well.

In June I began the marathon training schedule that my coach took great care to create. The plan focused on making Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon my 'A' race and getting me there injury free. As the spring turned to summer the weekly kilometers built and with that came a bigger time commitment. Between running, cross training, strength training, foam rolling and stretching I put in between 8-12 hours on top of my full time job and family responsibilities.

These 8-12 hours have been well spent and still fall short of the weekly drinking time card I used to punch. Spending this time in my running shoes has kept me from sitting at a computer. There you have it! This is where I have been all summer...out running the roads, for real.

Monday, June 17, 2013

My "Aha" Moment(s)

I am honored to be a part of the Fit Approach team as a #sweatpink ambassador. The following is a link to the blog post I created, highlighting the moments when things began to take a turn toward sobriety and an active lifestyle.

Check it out. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Christa :)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Running & Fundraising for Asperger's Society Of Ontario at STWM

Six weeks ago our nine year old daughter Tilley was diagnosed with high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. For years we knew that our child was different than her peers, but there always seemed to be an excuse as to why. At a very young age, we recognized that intellectually, Tilley was more advanced than those her age, but she struggled with social norms. In Kindergarten, she could spell and read better than children three grades ahead of her, but she couldn’t handle waiting her turn to play. She could work numbers as well as kids much older than her, but had a meltdown if her pencil broke.
Our home was filled with unhappiness and frustration as we tried to move from one day to the next hoping to avoid anything that might cause Tilley to have a meltdown. Our morning could be going fine until something as simple as a drop of apple juice spilled on her clothes at which point she would strip down (often right as we were trying to go out the door) and begin rolling on the floor crying. When this happened, it could take 20-30 minutes to get her to calm down. Most times once she “snapped” out of it, she behaved as nothing had happened.
Over time, we became familiar with the types of things that would set her off, and as such, we became very good at micro managing her life. The biggest glitch in that plan was that we couldn’t control everything on her behalf as a large portion of her day was spent at school. At school, there were teachers that tried to understand and help her and there were those who often made things worse. She has always referred to them as either “warm fuzzies” or “cold pricklies” and to be honest, I have always agreed with her assessment of her teachers. Kids know a decent adult when they meet one.
When she was diagnosed, we were not surprised. We had exhausted every possibility for her “quirky” behaviours ranging from “she’s gifted” to “she’s spoiled” to “she’s a perfectionist”. The diagnosis actually was a relief because we had a direction to move in to try and help her and our family heal.   

In the first few days after the diagnosis we began to see that there were many agencies and organizations available to help us help her. Tilley’s diagnosis of high functioning ASD is also sometimes known as Asperger’s Syndrome; at least this is what we identify with. This is why I have chosen to fundraise on behalf of Asperger’s Society of Ontario at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
This organization in particular requires our attention and support as they do not receive government funding for the support they provide. The STWM is one of their biggest opportunities to raise funds to help them provide services and I have committed to fundraising on their behalf.
Running is a great way to fundraise as most people are willing to donate their money as long as you are the one doing the running. “Take my money; just don’t ask me to run”. I am so excited to be tackling my first marathon at STWM and to be aligned with ASO.
When I last communicated with Alexandra at ASO, she indicated that a pressing issue on their agenda was a meeting space that was affordable and accessible. If you have space like this please contact her.
Please help me to help them continue to help people like my sweet Tilley, by registering for the STWM and fundraising or by donating to my effort. This is something I CAN do.
For more information about ASO:
Follow me on twitter @christadavidson


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Beer Replacement

Last weekend, here in Canada we celebrated Victoria Day. The long weekend is fondly referred to as
May "2-4" weekend. Historically this was my favorite long weekend of the summer. It was like a ribbon cutting ceremony to the start of summer. Cheers to that!

It's name alone suggests a 3 day party, powered by beer, bars and barfing.  The weekend has not changed, but I have. I just spent my third May "2-4" weekend as a sober girl. Admittedly, this year was much easier to get through than the previous two.

What made this year easier?

It certainly wasn't the sight of packed patio bars or a parking lot full of eager to drink, consumers, at the liquor store. Those things will ignite a craving so strong that I can taste the icy, cold beer and I can feel the cool glass bottle in my hand and the condensation dripping. Those kinds of triggers will probably always stick with me. Just as the sound of the bell made Pavlov's dog salivate, the sight of certain things reminiscent of a good drunk fest will arouse liquor hunger in me. The part that makes all of that livable this year is strength.

I think about drinking often, but not to the point where I am moments away from popping a cork. They are thoughts without action. My thoughts of drinking are often the same, full of good feelings and happiness, but I don't act n them. Time has marched on and with it a healthier mind and body have emerged on my behalf. These changes have not come by thought alone. These modifications have taken root through strict and conscious action.

I eat a clean, healthy plant based diet. I get enough rest. I drink 4-6 litres of water a day. I exercise, except by now, I don't really consider it "exercise", it's just a part of the routine to my day. These choices have all come together to create not only physical strength, but emotional and psychological toughness, as well.

This fortitude is what made this year's May "2-4" weekend pass by without the same desperate longing as the years before. I still thought about drinking, but those thoughts sat somewhere in the back of my mind and not front and centre. The front and centre thoughts were of running.

Canada Running Series posted a page on the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon site, introducing it's "Digital Champions". I am so flattered to be part of this group of influential and dedicated runners. The people at CRS have no idea how good this is for me. When a recovering alcoholic has things to focus on, other than drinking, healing is so much easier. They are playing a big role in my continued wellness. Consider following our journey to the #STWM in October, or even better, run with us.

My long run on the weekend was also a source of focus that kept the thoughts of boozing from taking centre stage. I am still following my coach's low heart rate training plan, so my runs are measured by time and not distance. I ran for1 hour and 45 minutes and didn't once think of beer. What I was thinking about was the energy supplement I had taken prior to heading out for my run.

Jonathon from energybits gave me the chance to try the product which is great because I am always interested in new things. I was even more interested in energybits because many of the tweeps I follow have incorporated them into their training. What Jonathon didn't realize is that he was also giving me an opportunity to be a part of something that redirected my thoughts from the firewater. The product is 100% organically grown spirulina algae. To a vegan this means another plant based option for protein which is another reason I was eager to give them a go.

As I ran I was happy to find that my energy level stayed consistent. I did not have a big burst of energy at the beginning of my run, nor did I experience a big crash of fatigue part way through as I have with other glucose based products. I had no uneasy feeling in my stomach and I had no regurgitation. I felt as good at the end of my run as I did at the start and my thoughts were just as wholesome as the supplement. Beer was once again sstationed far away from my mind's spotlight. Instead I was considering what I had to do to get my hands on more energybits.

CRS and energybits are two of the things keeping me focused on staying sober. I have so many other things in my life that are deserving of my sobriety, including my family, my friends and my job, but I always had those reasons and I still drank. The number one reason I am sober and staying that way is because I want to. I want to be the best I can be for the things that matter. My motivation and strength to continue honoring my commitment comes from these external things and people. The more time and space I can put between me and my last drink, the better. If it takes running 100km and alignment with 100 ambassador programs, that is what I am going to do. I don't see it as "cheesy", I see it as therapy. It feels pretty damn good to have people who don't even know me, believing in me. I am replacing the good times and feelings I had drinking beer with the good times and feelings I am experiencing via the running community.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Desire and the De-hydration Station

Have you ever noticed that the moment you realize you cant have something, you want it even more?

 A shift in thinking takes place from previously feeling somewhat ambivalent about said desire to feeling like you cant go on without it. If you have been following along since my inaugural post for the iRUN blog contest, you know that  the desirous object of mention, for me, is alcohol. For anyone who doesn't know my history, I am a past drinker with  two years and four months sobriety to my name. I run instead of drinking.

Last Sunday, I ran the Goodlife Toronto Half Marathon and the object of my usual want and desire took a back seat.

 My coach, Greg advised me to take it easy on the course as my training was in a phase of rebuilding and had not been speed driven. I had no problem with the plan as I knew I was going to at least be running faster and more freely than the slow training runs I had been doing.

Typically for distances greater than 10k, I use a hydration belt. For this race I decided against the belt as it feels cumbersome and restrictive around my waist and I just wanted to feel light and free. I also reasoned that I was not going to be aiming for a personal best, so it was fine to be losing a bit of time using the hydration stations on the course.


Even with an 8:30am start time, the day was quickly heating up and the sun's UV rays could be felt. I wasn't concerned because I knew I wasn't going to be pushing myself hard in the race. Approaching the first water station, I planned to grab and go and not to worry about the extra time it took to dodge people and flying cups(I am, after all, an experienced bar girl). I was surprised when I realized that runners were at a full stop and even worse, had formed a line to get a drink. As I looked closer, I saw that each cup was being filled and given to the waiting runner. I was immediately reminded of "last call" at the bar, same scene, different vice, but in this case I'm not leaving a tip. If I was concerned with time, I would have flashed some cash to get served quicker.

The station was wiped out of pre-filled cups and the volunteers were working frantically to pass out water, but the demand was too great for them to get ahead. So, one by one we got our fluids and moved on. Many people seemed frantic;checking their clocks and speeding away.I was fine. No pressure to perform today. I was just along for a great Sunday run.

Each station I came to had the same problem with back log. Again, I handled it without getting anxious. As the kilometers passed by, so did the time of day, bringing the sun higher in the sky making it hotter on the course. With heat comes perspiration, and with perspiration comes dehydration. A strange thing happens when you run far, you can feel on top of the world and in a flash, something changes and you feel like you might not make it. That happened to me around 16k. I came around a corner, smiling and feeling great and by the time I had run 100 meters in the new direction, I was feeling, a bit lightheaded and chilled, my legs were heavy and I was dying for a drink. I spotted a guy in front of me with a water belt on and I was considering whether I could lift a container without him noticing. I further considered just asking him for one, counting on the idea of a running brotherhood and no runner wanting to see another suffer, but I didn't. I saw spectators with bottles of water. I considered snatching one form their hands as I ran by(I once did that with a bottle of beer, to an unsuspecting dude in a bar). I didn't do that either. Obviously I was not desperate enough for a drink, as I did not lower myself to stealing from my fellow man, but water was all I could think about.

At 17k there was a water station and I didn't care how long it took, I stood in line for a second cup.
The symptoms of dehydration do not just recede with a cup or two of water, so I still felt heavy and chilled, thankfully there was no nausea, so I knew I would be fine. The 19k mark offered another chance to hydrate, and the line up situation there was even more pitiful. The volunteers had by passed filling the giant bucket with water and scooping from it, to filling cups directly from the hose!

I finished the race with a time that is far from my best, but given my training stage, the lack of pressure I put on myself to perform and the hold ups at the hydration stations, I accept my results humbly.
What I have learned is that I will be wearing that stupid belt whether I am taking it easy or running hard.
I have handled the constant crave for alcohol, but I can't handle wanting water and not having it.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Confession Time...

 I have a confession to make.

First let me reassure you that this confession does not involve an admission of a drunken relapse, consisting of a night or two of partying with my former bff, Alexander Keith. It might be worse than that...

Hold on to your (free from the last race) running hat and promise me you will read on for a full explanation after I drop the bomb! Place your left hand on your running shoes and swear to me that you will not judge me until you have read my last word!

At the end of March I began working with a running coach. My objective in putting him in charge of my training was mostly to find a better way to train. I found that I didnt have enough physical power to support my will, perseverance and desire to be better. I also have very little patience for taking the long way to my goals. These pesky realities have served me injury, after injury on a silver platter, and there is no glass of wine to wash them down with.

Injuries halt progress and leave you starting over, which takes time and I already mentioned, I dont have the patience for that. I am sober because I run, so when I am sidelined, I get anxious that my old coping strategies (which consisted of beer) are only a twist top away. The sooner I can run the better I feel.

My coach, Greg, made a lengthy assessment of everything about me that related to running. When he came up with the plan, he cautioned me more than once that I needed to focus on my long term goals and be smart about my workouts (I'm getting close to the confession). This is where Greg presented me with the schedule and explanation of what I would be doing for the coming weeks.

Since the end of March I have been running using the heart rate approach developed by Phil Maffetone known as Maximum Aerobic Function or MAF training. This means I have been running with a heart rate monitor and I am stricken to maintain my heart rate to 135 beats/min.  Please repeat that sentence to yourself and let it sink in, take a drink if you need to and please have one for me too. Can you imagine how slowly I am running? I can't even crack 7km in 60mins. Take a moment and let that resonate...

Let me help you understand. I got passed by a walker, the other day. My Grandma can run faster than me right now. A crawling baby could lap me.

I have spent time encouraging others to run. I advise anyone that holds the belief that being slow is a bad thing, that it doesnt matter how fast you go, it just matters that you go. I have authored blog posts that in black and white outline my ideas that its not important how long it takes to run anywhere, just run. Here's the confession...

I am a  big, giant, lousy HYPOCRITE.

I believe that speed doesn't matter...for everyone else. I apparently don't hold myself accountable to that mantra. The day the white haired lady with the obvious double knee replacements and the "let's get physical" sweatband overtook me, I will be honest and say I picked up the pace despite my nagging Garmin alerting me that my heart rate was over the limit. In that moment, I let my pride win and left the oldie in my dust.

 The people in my neighborhood are aware that I run and that I like to race. Many of them have been curious enough at times to ask me what I do and how I do it. They seem to think I am awesome and amazing for doing all the running I do. These days, when I am approaching their yards and I see them out working away, I have to pick up the pace as I pass by because I don't want them to reconsider their previous assessment of my awesomeness. I am embarrassed to be seen running so slowly.

Lastly, I have found it impossible to run at a snail's pace when I am passing by a construction site. Enough said on that one.

There is extreme value in the training I am doing and that is why I continue doing what Greg has palnned for me, beyond these little incidents of ego driven disobedience. Along with the MAF running I have been doing, strength and flexibility excercises and cross training fill the rest of the plan. I am rebuilding to be stronger, faster and more patient for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October.

I am very happy I chose to work with Greg. In June, he assures me the speed work will begin, in which case I may wish for the days of the slow easy run.

In summary, it's okay for you to run slowly, as long as you are up off your couch and running, how far and how fast are unimportant. No one looks at you and thinks any thing other than, "good for her/him". Unfortunately, I am having a hard go off accepting my own advice.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Aha! This is who I was meant to be...

A little more than two years ago I was struggling to live day to day without a blood alcohol level. I didn't know who I was without a beer in my hand or a bottle of wine breathing on the counter. The early days of sobriety were highlighted by physical and emotional challenges.

Physically I experienced mood swings (i was a bitch), insomnia (thank goodness for Netflix), tremors (same as I would with a hangover) and a relentless preoccupation with alcohol (did that server just ask if I'd like something form the bar?). Many of those uncomfortable symptoms of detoxification were treatable with beer...however that wasn't the plan, so a bit of Valium served as a replacement (that's another story).

Retrospectively, I would identify the emotional upheaval I experienced as the most difficult part of choosing sobriety. I had an identity crisis. I doubted that there was a place for me in the world without alcohol. My friends drank and the social circles I travelled in were rooted in alcohol. My distorted perception of what a good life was, lead me to believe that as a sober girl, I would never have fun again.

Last Sunday I ran the Toronto Yonge Street 10k race and it was better than fun. It was rewarding and inspiring. Running my a** off has replaced partying my a** off (true story) and I am having a blast. There are the obvious rewards like feeling great physically and mentally, but I have also happened upon a few things about my new life that I did not expect.

Over the eight week period leading up to TYS10k, I was part of a circle of people, gathered by Canada Running Series, known as #digitalchampions. We were given the task of blogging and tweeting about the upcoming race. My first reaction after being invited to be a #digitalchampion was disbelief. I thought they were confused about who I was. I am not a decorated champion runner. I don't hang out with elite athletes. Jenna Pettinato at CRS assured me that they were right in choosing me.

It would seem that they remembered a post I made when I was a contestant in the blog contest hosted by My post highlighted my experience at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (half marathon) in 2012 Once it was confirmed that there was no mistake, I began to enjoy tweeting and blogging about the upcoming event.

Last Sunday I dragged 2 friends and my husband along to the race. My husband is always race support as the farthest he runs is the distance between bases, and @TamaraConroy3 and @PaulaVollick were just lucky enough to get conned into running with me. We all had great races. The event was well organized and the course was fantastic. You can't beat running down the middle of Yonge Street with thousands of other runners. It is uplifting to hear only the sounds of footsteps hitting the pavement in a place that is usually so full of the sounds of traffic.

I am learning every day that there are so many things that make up who I am. In the early days of giving up the booze, I had no idea that there would be days ahead that were better than being a drunken party girl, but those days are now. The lifestyle I identify with most now, is one of health, fitness and friends who are like minded. I have discovered that I love to write and I love to inspire others. I was ashamed to tell my story at one time, and now I realize that sharing my experience is what has released the burden of shame. I wouldn't give a moment of this up for even a sip Keith's (even though I can imagine how good that would taste). My future and my family's future is so much brighter because of the choice I made to break up with Ernest and Julio Gallo and their friends. I miss those guys, but I am truly better off without them.

Thanks to CRS for giving me the opportunity to digichamp for TYS10k. Your belief that I had something valuable to offer the running community is humbling and empowering.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Notes for Novice Runners from my Running Universe

Dear Novice Runners

I wanted to take some time to pass on some running wisdom. I am not an expert by any stretch, but I have learned a few things and because running keeps me out of the bar, I am always happy to encourage others to  give it a fair shot (not of tequila). Please note that this advice is not in anyway meant to discourage you from running, it is simply meant to help you understand what you can expect from your new athletic endeavor, as I see it.

1) If you want easy, look somewhere else. Running is not easy but that is what makes the reward so fantastic! When you achieve your goal, you can be proud knowing it took everything you had to make it happen. Stick it out.

2) You are, without a doubt going to meet more than one person that calls you "crazy" and says "all that running can't be good for you". Take notice...these will often be the peeps who consider walking to the fridge to grab a beer, exercise. You can offer them a seat on your "crazy" train by asking them to join you for a run, but I bet you a gel pack that they decline.

3) Adopting a barefoot running philosophy is NOT a good way to avoid spending your cash on running sneaks. Buy the shoes. Enough said.

4) You will get mixed running messages from a variety of sources..."listen to your body and don"t push it" vs. "push through the pain, you can do it!". There is a time and a place for both pieces of encouragement. Your challenge is finding out when and where the advice fits the circumstance.

5) In the world of textiles, 100% Cotton is a benchmark of quality. In the world of athletics, it is a bad, bad fabric. Oh yes, it will absorb your sweat...and then it will cling to you like a heavy wet suit. Now, go forth better appreciating the need for those Spandex shorts.

6) A full set of toenails is overrated. Don't be ashamed of your feet. You have earned every blister, callous and blackened or non existent toenail on them. As my daughter, Tilley advises me, I will advise you...wear them like trophies, they are reminders of your hard work.

7) It is not the end of the world if your children don't share your desire to run.They may not decide to follow in your running shoes and commit to heading out the door, but they will be aware of your dedication and if demonstrated consistently, they will absorb the message.

8) Races are for runners of all abilities. If the word "race" bothers you, refer to it as an "event". Only a handful of participants are there to try and win, and of those people, only one will cross the  finish line first. There! I just took the pressure off of you. Go experience the thrill of saying you did it. Go feel the lift you get from strangers cheering you on. People in worse shape than you with concerns greater than your own do it, so why not you.

9) If you are not walking, then you are a runner! Stop calling yourself a jogger. Jogging is lame. Saying you are a runner commits you to behaving like a runner. Erase the the word "jogger" from your vocabulary. It doesn't matter if a sloth could pass you, you are still a runner. Pace has nothing to do with categorizing your effort.

10) The things I say don't really matter if they don't resonate with you. If they are meaningful to you and your development, then pass them along to someone else that may may need them.

Yours truly and still sober,

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Coerced or Inspired

Perspective is what defines a situation for a person. Each of us sees the world from a different and unique context. Our background, education and experiences are only a few variables that shape our beliefs about the world, and as such, our response or reaction to stimuli.

Growing up, independence, strength of mind and body and a hardworking attitude were modelled and encouraged, by my parents. The message to me was, "you don't have to be the best, you just have to give your best". This is the perspective from which I see the world, myself and others. Others might see things differently.

I have a strong will and a strong personality. A few might even say I am bossy. I say I am directive. They might say I'm obnoxious. I say I am outgoing. Your definition of things is directly dependent upon your perception of the world, yourself and others.

A 10km run isn't a big deal to me because I have been training for a marathon. Someone who is not accustomed to this distance might find it intimidating. This week, Paula, a life long friend of mine, took a big step and registered for the Toronto Yonge Street 10k #TYS10k. This is an important commitment for her because this will be the first 10k event she has participated in. To her, this is a tremendous undertaking. To her credit, she didn't put up much of fight when I suggested she do it with me. She asked a couple questions, while I was busy trying to sell it to her and before I could make my third point, she advised me that she had registered. Though her experience would suggest to her that this task is weighty, she's doing it anyway, because some other life experience tells her that she can do it.

Paula and I have been connected since before we came into the world. Our parents were friends long before we were thought of. From the time Paula was born (six months after me), we have been linked. We grew together as toddlers, through learning to walk, toilet training and her habit of biting me. We graduated from elementary school and moved into secondary school (where she refused to skip classes with me). We matured into 16, 17 and 18 year olds (where she refused to participate in under age alcohol consumption with me). At some point when we weren't looking, we became young adult women. We spent 2-4 nights a week in bars (which are now called "clubs", despite being the same establishments). Paula didn't drink much, as I recall, but I drank a lot and often, so my memory about that may not be reliable. When I drank abundantly, I would smoke (yuck! I know) and one time I tried to make Paula smoke with me (you guessed it, she refused to join me). Now here we are, very grown up women with many responsibilities.

At the end of December I decided to get a very meaningful tattoo and you guessed it, I asked Paula to join me (and she did). This week I asked her to join me at the TYS10k and she will. Two years ago, I sobered up and gave up alcohol. I started running again. I eat a plant based diet. Perspectives can change with experience. Mine have and Paula's have.

I know from experience that Paula is going to have moments of doubt, uncertainty and a little anxiety about her training over the next eight weeks. I also know that if she trusts her training and does the work, she will be fine. On April 21 when she stands at the start line, with thousands of other runners, she will be excited, nervous and maybe nauseous. Her perspective may even be that I coerced her into doing this, as I have attempted to do, so many other times. My experience also tells me that as she crosses the finish line and is filled with the pride of accomplishment, her perspective will change. I hope she no longer sees me as the one who coerced her into running 10k, but as the one who inspired her to achieve her goal.

Note: On race day, please do me a favor and hold a sign high, for my friend that says "Go Paula V.--Christa is proud of you".
Please send me a picture of you holding your sign!

Friday, February 8, 2013

When One Door Closes...

Following the notification that I was not the winner of the iRun blog contest, I was disappointed. I wanted to win so bad,I could taste it. It was almost as if winning would have validated my struggle to remain sober. The win would have meant people were reading and interested in what I had to say. I spent a short period of time feeling lost and unsure of which direction to go. I allowed myself time to grieve the loss of something that really mattered and then I let it go.

I shared my perspective because I thought I had something to contribute and because I love to write. During the journey, I found many people did care and were engaged by what I had to say, others were just hangin' around hoping I wouldn't fall off the wagon and just maybe there were a few rubberneckers waiting for a train wreck to happen. Whatever their motivation was to read, people returned post after post to check up on me.

I have spent the past month setting up this blog page, writing and running. This blog spot has sat empty until today because I didn't feel inspired to write. My inspiration has returned and it has not come in the form of a fancy cocktail. This inspiration has come from the people at the Canada Running Series, @RunCRS.

Earlier this week, I woke up to a twitter message from @JennaPettinato from CRS. It turns out that I was invited to be a #digitalchampion on behalf of CRS to help create excitement about the Toronto Yonge Street 10k, #TYS10k. It seems as though I have been taken by the shoulders and pointed in a direction.

My ability to craft words into thoughts that reflect how I see the world has opened a door for me, and it's not the automatic door at the Beer Store! It's a door to a world of running and writing and writing about running. This door is like door number one on Monty Hall's "Let's Make a Deal", only I will not be trading this door for what might be behind door number 2, not even if there was a lifetime supply of Alexander Keith's behind that door.

Follow me on twitter @christadavidson

Moving Forward

Recently I was part of a blogging contest hosted by a Canadian running magazine called iRun. The winner of the contest would be the blog writer that had received the most "hits" during the contest period.

I was chosen, along with nine other bloggers to compete for the title of "Running Blog Idol 2.0". At the halfway point in the contest, half of the writers were eliminated leaving 5 people to continue on. I was one of the remaining 5.
In early January the magazine announced the winner, which wasn't me. I spent a day pouting and moping with disappointment. I really wanted to win.

In the end, I decided I wasn't going to quit writing because of the loss. I had actually gained much more over the contest than a simple "win" would have given me.

I am a recovering alcoholic and I miss a cold beer (or 6) and a glass of wine (or 6), in the worst way. I have been sober for two years because I run. When I want to drink, I run. It has worked so far, so I am not changing my sobriety strategy. I just keep running.

The posts I created for the iRun contest highlighted my struggle to stay sober over the past two years.
The content is now property of iRun, so it's not posted here, but click on the link to read my story.
I am proud of my story and of my writing and have decided to continue sharing it here.