Marathon Mom Krista DuChene Gets Ready for Back to School

Krista DuChene Gets Ready for Back to School

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We’re five months into this ugly COVID-19 pandemic and getting a little (or a lot) weary, anxious, tired, bored, discouraged, depressed, sad … you name it. There are no big races on the calendar, the Zooming is getting old but here to stay, and we’re done with the jokes and conversations about sourdough bread, toilet paper, haircuts, hand sanitizer, and working from home in our pyjamas. The conspiracies continue to both anger and entertain, and businesses are getting innovative and creative in order to survive while others have sadly lost the battle and closed shop for good. 

The most recent cause for a stir of emotions is the difficult decision parents are facing with sending, or not sending, their children back to school. I’m not going to get political, but I will say I get fatigued with the criticism about how to best handle this situation, and the pandemic in general. I will say that I believe that Doug Ford, the Premier of Ontario, where I live, has done an excellent job. From the beginning he admitted that he lacked knowledge about the science behind COVID-19, but he trusted the experts to make the necessary decisions believed to be best for our province. He’s been fair to allow individual regions to progress through the phases as appropriate, and is now working for a solution to satisfy the needs of thousands of parents, teachers and children. Not an easy task.    

There is a lot of misinformation and strong opinions that are making this much more complicated. From the non-maskers and the anti-vaxxers to the people who report the non-compliers and know the exact number of daily active cases, many seem to be experts with an us vs them mentality. Unfortunate.

We know that there is no perfect solution that will make everyone happy and comfortable. But we must support those who are working hard to try to make a solution. Whether at home full-time, at school full-time, or a hybrid (for those with this option), each family needs to decide what is best for them. Since our children go to a private Christian school that has smaller classes this year, we aren’t faced with the concern of larger class sizes. However, our oldest will attend a public high school and we would send our children to public elementary school. In general, we feel that there are risks in life and we need to return to some level of normalcy. 

But that’s us, our decision. We’ve had many dinnertime conversations with our kids throughout this time, going back to when life was so abruptly halted in mid-March. My advice to parents is to talk openly with your children. Be objective and stick to the facts. Keep the content and decision-making appropriate for their level of understanding and start preparing them for their new normal. Show them the exact length of two metres, only allow screen usage when they are wearing a mask, and explain the importance of hand hygiene and cohorting. Have an open mind about change, focus on the positive, and avoid any negative messaging you may be knowingly or unknowingly relaying to them.

In one quick Google search, I found the Centre for Disease and Control and Prevention, which is way more beneficial to read than the comments from Facebook experts. Another expert I appreciate is Dr. Isaac Bogoch (I watch him on Cable Pulse 24 and follow him on Twitter), who gives a practical and scientific answer to a variety of questions. Lastly, just like with racing, be prepared for a back-up plan. Know what you will do if we have to return to a previous phase in our reopening plan.

Just like with racing, take a deep breath. We will get through this and it will be a story our kids tell their kids someday. 

I’ve certainly found myself experiencing that long list of emotions I mentioned earlier. In March, I took the race closures as an earlier than scheduled resting opportunity; a time to slow down from the busyness of parenting, coaching, training and working. Surely life would return to something somewhat familiar in the fall. Races would look different, but they’d be back, school would be on, but with moderate change and extra-curricular activities would resume with caution. Nope. Nope. And nope.

I decided I wasn’t going to let this ruin my summer and have aimed to keep conversations positive, but to be honest, I too have struggled with mourning the loss of another season. Possibly another year. One of the last events that will return is our mass participation races and that stinks. Marathon racing is my profession and I fear this pandemic may have forced my retirement, at least from how I’ve known racing.  

When spring marathons were cancelled, Reid Coolsaet, my coach, the Canadian Olympian, adjusted my plan to focus on shorter time trial (TT) races. After two unsuccessful 10K TTs in May and June—but one decent 5K TT of 17:07 in June—I felt myself letting go a bit. I would keep training with lower mileage, but was going to keep enjoying ice cream nearly every day while not paying much attention to things like pace or whether or not I would wear my Saucony Endorphin shoes for workouts. I’ve enjoyed running with my friends Sandra, Sten and Tara while at our cabin and staying healthy with a moderate amount of quality work within a range of 100-120Ks over six days/week (one rest day). I’m now shifting gears again, planning to attempt another 10K TT next month with the hope I’ll avoid another fail. I haven’t put any effort into analyzing workouts, but am slowly going to allow myself to focus.

Just looking at my Strava today, I can already see some progress: one month ago I did 10x600m at 3:29/km. Yesterday I did 14x600m at 3:25/km. In July I did the workout on a rolling road and in August it was on the track, but I’m happy. Happy, enough. At my time trial, I’ll be far from my personal best of 32:52 (2013), but it gives me something to work toward. At this point in my career—and at my age—I don’t need to be logging the high weekly mileage, but I do need to stay sharp, and use it or lose it.

I wish everyone well as we aim to wrap our heads around a very different looking school year and racing season. Stay positive, support others, put your running shoes on, and move forward. We’re getting there. Shout out to my support team: Saucony, Eload Sport Nutrition, Endurance Tap, Stoked Oats, Smith Optics, Essential Physia and David Zulak RMT.  

You never know what the future might bring.