Run a marathon they said, it’ll be fun they said…

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With only 45 days until the Chicago marathon I thought it was about time to provide everyone with a bit of a training update!

I don’t know about any of you out there but Toronto has been BURNING UP (or at least it was when I started writing this last week), a negative factor that has kept me from training as hard as I’d like to. I will be totally open about this, but I am currently not putting in the weekly mileage I should be at this point as I prepare for the Chicago Marathon. It really is a week-by-week struggle right now. Some weeks I am ALL IN (like this one), and others (like last week) I am barely scratching the surface in my training. Not only is the heat a factor but the time it takes is really deterring me from my training as well. I know, I know, I have to make it a priority. The problem is, I have made other things a priority as well and am struggling to prioritize my running in all of this. I find this especially difficult because I have so many planned weekends away. I really find that getting in a Saturday morning long run with my club is the key to staying on track and setting myself up for success. With being away, it’s so hard to fit in a long run, and especially challenging mentally to get myself to do it solo.

Back in May, I was feeling on top of the world  regarding my running. But then things kind of got derailed. I was having knee and hip pain and started taking it easy. I was job hunting and feeling down about unemployment and also got caught up in a bunch of side work and freelance projects. Basically, I lost steam and was struggling to find it again. I barely ran at all during the month of June. I luckily found and started a new job at the beginning of July but it also threw me off. Getting back to the 9-5 grind plus a 50 minute commute has quite simply been exhausting. Because of this, I was really struggling to get up early on weekends for my long runs for a while, throw in cottage weekends and summer plans and everything was all out of whack and off track. When I miss a weekend long run it is so difficult to try and make a long run happen on a weekday after sitting in a chair from 9-5. THE STRUGGLE IS REAL. Even when I have the best of intentions all day long, by the time the work day is over I just cannot.

In general, I am finding sitting all day difficult, I forgot what an energy suck it truly is. Since I literally help people feel more energized at work and stay healthy, I really need to do a better job with practicing what I preach and get up more during the day for a little walk or stretch. I’m going to start putting reminders in my outlook calendar to make sure this happens and will post an update about it later- hopefully I can stick with it and notice a difference. I am also working in an office with no natural sunlight which is also a challenge mentally and really takes a toll on my energy levels as well.

And now, here I am. I am STILL struggling to stay on track but at least I can say I finally am getting some of my drive back and making it more of a priority. Is it possible to run a marathon after only 8 weeks of REAL training? (Please say yes!)

So how do I feel mentally with 7 weeks to go?

Motivated. At least sometimes haha. My head and heart is mostly in the right place. I am ready to conquer it although I admit it is still a little daunting and I thought I’d be more prepared at this point (does everyone feel this way before their first full?) I am also a bit stressed. Training for a marathon takes A LOT OF TIME and I have accepted I basically have to give up other plans and a “life” outside of running for the next 7 weeks. It’s really tough to prioritize this in the summer when there is so much going on- endless invites for after work drinks, weekends away at cottages and camping, weddings, gatherings, bachelorette parties, etc. After this week, I absolutely have to focus more and stop saying yes to these other things or find a way to schedule my runs around the things I can’t miss with zero excuses. Luckily, I have the local chapter of NRC to help keep me on track.

T-minus 66 days until the Chicago Marathon. It may not be obvious from this photo but I am in near panic mode. Getting back on track (pun intended) and finding my groove again sexy pace style. Slow and steady wins the race right? (Well maybe not wins but I'm thinking a super sexy pace marathon is a personal win). Shout out to @vividsole for pushing me to the point of near death but keeping me going somehow during last nights speed session! 📸: @ak.tivated . . . . . . . #NRC #niketoronto #nrctoronto #bankofamericachicagomarathon #tracktuesday #chicagomarathon #nrcchicago #chasing26point6 #chasing42km #marathontraining #whyWeSweat #4run6 #werunTO #runTO #teamsexypace #nikerunning #betterforit #torontorunning #nikewomen #getouthere

A photo posted by Ali Williams-Brun 🇨🇦 (@aliwillibrun) on

How is my body feeling?

Getting there. It’s hot and I’m still adjusting for that and playing with fueling on long runs. It took 3 hours to do 24km a few weeks ago but I’m trying to not get caught up on the time and just get the kms in. Walk breaks and water breaks are necessary in this heat and I’m trying to listen to my body. My hip is still bothering me on and off. I find the more I run the better it actually feels. However, I am really amazed at how different my legs feel after a 20km+ run. They are so restless and keep me awake after a long run. I don’t remember this happening when I was training distances under 21km. I DO know I felt this way after I actually ran my first half marathon but I don’t remember it in training. My feet are getting some interesting blisters too, nothing too uncomfortable though. Also I find I am SO HUNGRY for like 3 days after a long run and need to make more of an effort to bring healthy filling snacks to work every day. I also need to (somehow) carve time in my weekly schedule for strength training and yoga. I have been doing more yoga recently and find it immensely helpful. I also feel like I’m actually GAINING weight by focusing on running only which is something I need to figure out and hopefully gets better as I focus more on healthy snacking and get some more weight lifting in (summer beers are also probably not helping).

What I’m really into right now:

Endurance tap energy gel.  This stuff is as Canadian as it gets.  I know I am not alone in my struggle to find an energy gel that doesn’t lead to an upset stomach. I discovered it at a recent MEC race and purchased a bunch shortly after. Normally I run with huma gels and banana brownies, with minimal discomfort but I still always get some of those nasty pangs in my stomach shortly after getting a huma down. Also, the gloopy texture of the other gels out there is just so gross.  These gels on the other hand taste amazing as they are just pure maple syrup, ginger, and sea salt. They go down so easily too and are not difficult to consume in their packaging (but be careful, since they are more watery than a traditional gel, they spill easily, as I obviously learned the hard way). The best part? NO stomach discomfort. Finally a natural gel I can get behind! Wooo! Even better, they are local so I feel a bit better about myself every time I buy some knowing I am supporting some (almost) neighbours! Buy them online from their site (linked above), at BlackToe in Toronto or MEC online.

What am I doing to stay motivated?

Recently it’s been Kelly Roberts who blogs over at Run, Selfie, Repeat. I know it sounds silly that a blog written by a person I haven’t met is my biggest source of inspiration but it’s true. Kelly is seriously my spirit animal. Maybe kindred spirit sounds better? Soul sister? Who cares. I am channeling Kelly. She is BRINGING it as she is challenging herself to BQ for the first time and when I read her posts it’s like I am reading posts from a more seasoned version of myself. Kelly also struggles with how tough running can be and makes me feel better as her posts about not looking like a natural runner or having to explain her pace really ring true for me. I feel those feelings girl. Yet she is killing it and getting out there and trying her damned hardest, and bonus, she really makes me laugh along the way. Her blog is super motivational and always brings it back to why we run, not to look better, not to be the best, but to better ourselves and appreciate the lessons in the struggle and the satisfaction of making it to the finish line. She also motivated me to join the #SportsBraSquad and run without a shirt for the first time in forever which was SO empowering. I’m going to post about that later but in the meantime, read her post about it here.

Well everyone, that’s all I have for now! Hopefully my next training update will sound like this: “I’M KILLING IT! I’M GOING TO RUN THIS MARATHON SO FAST”. In the meantime, I will continue to drink maple syrup and hope for a miracle.

Happy trails!

Reflections on “Slow” Running

I was a little hesitant to write this post. Not because I am embarrassed by my speed (or lack thereof) but more so because I don’t want anyone out there to feel like they are not a great runner based on their speed.  Also, I hate using the word slow (I really tried hard to find a better word for the title) and even more than that, I hate using the word to describe my own running pace, using it as a justification as to why I can’t run with someone or even worse, using it to dismiss and diminish an accomplishment.  What does slow mean anyway? Slow compared to what? Everyone is slow compared to someone else. But, everyone is also fast compared to someone else. More importantly, the majority of us are fast compared to when we started. I’m going to throw the word away. My speed shouldn’t come with negative connotations and it certainly shouldn’t define who I am as a runner. I’m taking back the negativity that I have put on myself for being “slow” and hope that in doing so, I can inspire others to do the same.

As a “slow” runner, I often have had a hard time even calling myself a runner at all. When people tell me they are impressed with what I do I often downplay it saying “ya, but I’m really slow”. The first time I ran a 5k in under 30mins and the first time I ran 10k in under an hour were significant events that I immediately brushed off once I realized how easy that is for some people.

I just want to clarify something; slow does not equal easy. Slow also does not equal unfit. I promise you, when I am out there running 5:45-6:00 minute kilometres, I am giving it my all. I know that I can say the same for many others, especially those who may not be able to pace alongside me.

I also don’t like the word “jog”. Once, when talking to a non-runner about a race they said to me “how long does it take you to run a half marathon?” and when I said “probably about 2 hours, 15 minutes” they responding by saying “oh, so you don’t really run then, you jog”. It took everything in me to not bluntly say “no you jerk, I run, and I run all out, that is just my pace”. (They admitted they had never run further than 5k so I cut them some slack.)

Last weekend when I finished the Sporting Like 10k race in 56:52, it was a huge personal best. I didn’t hit a single km over a 5:45 pace. Running doesn’t come easy for me. Or at least, there was a time not too long ago when it didn’t. I wasn’t one of those people who could just tie up my shoes and get out there for an after work 5k run. It took me some time to run 5k continuously. There was a time when I didn’t think I could ever run more than 5km and the thought of doubling that distance made my head spin. When I finished my first 10k run I honestly could not believe it, (see below) and I think it took me about 1 hour, 20 minutes. I also wasn’t sure if I could take another step or run 10k ever again. The first time I ran the Sporting Life 10k race a few weeks later, I remember thinking I just wanted to run a 6:45 pace. I was very happy when I finished in 1:06 because at the time, it was faster than I ever thought I could be. It made me feel like anything was possible, even at that speed. However, I couldn’t even imagine doubling THAT distance. But somehow I did, and over the last two years I have run 4 half-marathons. I honestly would have laughed in your face if you told me 3 years ago I would run that far and that I’d be training for a marathon in 2016. Yet, here I am. This is what I’m keeping in mind as I start my training for Chicago

First time I ran 10km!

First time I ran 10km!

I was inspired to write this post after reading this article a few weeks ago. It really spoke to me and made me realize that my negative self-talk about my running was only hurting my potential. It was time to reframe how I felt about my speed.

“From a pure performance perspective, thinking negatively can inhibit you from achieving your potential. While thinking you’re slow may seem harmless, every time you preface a statement with the phrase, “I know I am slow, but …” you condition your mind to believe that you can never be fast.

Countless research studies in sports psychology have proven the power of positive thinking and self-talk. Athletes who go into a workout or race with positive thoughts perform significantly better and more consistently than those who approach workouts and races with a negative attitude.

Reframing your belief in yourself starts before a workout or race. If you’re negative and lack self-confidence throughout your training, no amount of pre-race self-talk and mental preparation is going to undo weeks or months of self-deprecation. Positive thinking starts with how you frame every aspect of your running.”

This post is for all you runners out there who have ever felt left behind, who have ever been afraid to run with a group, or who have ever felt less proud of finishing a race based on your time. Perhaps, this is also a little pep talk to my internal self consciousness about my own speed.

You are not slow. You are running. You are doing something amazing for your body and your mind. You are not less of a runner because you can’t keep up with others. In fact, I’d argue that you are MORE of a runner because it takes all that much more determination to go on once everyone has left you in their dust. You will never be an elite runner, you may never run a Boston qualifier. But it doesn’t matter. Each and every time you get out there on the pavement you are winning. You are pushing yourself to be better, pushing yourself to keep going, tapping into your inner grit when everyone around you makes it look so easy.

When you start running with a friend who isn’t a runner and they quickly become faster than you, don’t be jealous, celebrate their success and the fact that they are teaching themselves that same perseverance that you have. When you run a race and the crowd is all gone by the time you finish, don’t be discouraged, be proud that you kept going for that much longer than everyone else.

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When the amazing runners in your club get shout outs for amazing PBs and running cool races, don’t feel ignored or invisible. Know that this keeps you humble and you don’t need the attention to know you have accomplished something amazing. There is always going to be someone who is faster than they are, much like there will always be those who are faster than you. Remind yourself that there will also always be someone who is not as fast as you. Encourage them, run with them, help them understand that they are still crushing it. When you talk about your running, don’t downplay it. Own it. Shout it to the world. You are a runner, you are a 10k finisher, a half marathon finisher, a marathon finisher and no one can take that away from you.

Perhaps one of the greatest things about this sport is that it has become accessible to everyone. You no longer have to be at the top. Besides the elites, we are all in for our own good and to compete against who we were yesterday. We aren’t going to the olympics and we aren’t winning National titles or breaking records. Even the elites face the same fears and challenges that the rest of us do and that makes us all in this together.

My greatest joy is convincing new runners that they too can run a race they once thought was not possible. It’s not about how fast you go, but about learning how to push yourself to do things you thought you weren’t capable of. It’s about the feeling of crossing the finish line, or simply getting up one day and having an amazing run with your crew, running buddy, or just by yourself with your thoughts.

I recently spoke with a pacer about how being a “slow” runner means we actually have to have more endurance- while some can run a half marathon in an hour and a half, we have to pound the pavement and keep going for over two hours. 

But let’s stop calling ourselves slow. We aren’t. We are fast. We are faster than we were last year. We are faster than we were last month. We ran a faster race than we did a few weeks ago. We are faster than when we started. We are fast.

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Get out there and be proud of your 30 minute or even 40 minute 5k, you’re still doing better than everyone else on the couch!

You are a runner, and you’re an amazing runner too.

 

Redemption

“Hello fear, thank you for being here. You’re my indication that I’m doing what I need to do.” -Cheryl Strayed

On Sunday morning at about 8:25am I hurried into a crowd of people as it rained down on us. I was cold, shivering, wet and incredibly tired. I had slept about 4 and half hours the night before. I had acid reflux from the generous glasses of red wine I had the night before. My stomach didn’t feel quite right, my left contact was bugging me and I felt a little twang of pain in my right knee.

Fast forward to 2 hours and 15 minutes later, I’m soaking wet, super hungry, my makeup has run down my face, my right knee is throbbing, I have a terrible stitch in my side and can feel about 3 pulsing blisters on my feet. Yet, I am overjoyed. I just crossed the finish line of my 4th half-marathon, my second in 2 weeks, and I finally beat my PB from almost two years ago, something I’d been chasing ever since.

After my mishap in Montreal last week I kept oscillating between wanting to quit running and wanting to fight back and train harder. A lot of my running friends were running the GoodLife half marathon and I was honestly feeling a little jealous. I wanted to give it another go and be out there  on the course running with them. The course has a pretty big net downhill which appealed to me and I was kicking myself for running Montreal when I should have just signed up for GoodLife, on home turf.

“Why don’t you just do it?” a running friend asked me. No, that wasn’t a good idea, was it? I had just run a half marathon a few days ago. But….I wasn’t sore. In fact, I barely felt like I had been on a long training run (probably because I walked so much). Her voice was in my head all week. I couldn’t possibly do it could I? Was it really stupid if I did?

Something you may or may not know about me is that I am relentlessly determined, or maybe we could say stubbornly relentless (just ask my husband). Once I have an idea in my head, I can’t let it go. And so, I found myself toeing the start line on Sunday morning for the GoodLife half.

I cared a lot about this race, only I also didn’t really care at all. I was so terrified that it was going to be another disaster that I didn’t really tell anyone (me, not tell anyone? about running? unheard of). My fear almost kept me in a zen-like state. I figured I didn’t really have anything to lose though (except my pride, my ego, maybe my knee…) and did it anyway.

Of course I was hoping for that PB, but I honestly just didn’t really think it would happen after last week. After only really committing to running the race on Friday, I tried to approach Sunday with little to no strategy. I didn’t set any reminders to drink water on Saturday. I didn’t monitor what I ate. I drank wine. I went to bed late. I didn’t take any pre-race photos of my outfit the night before, or even really get my clothes ready (of course I threw together an outfit shot the morning of). I didn’t chug a bunch of water on Sunday morning. I didn’t eat what I normally would before a run. Instead, I ate what I wanted. An egg, a piece of toast to go with it and a half a piece of toast with peanut butter. The weather sucked, it was raining, grey, windy and pretty cold.

Haphazard Outfit Shot

Haphazard Outfit Shot

I drove up to the start line with two running friends and my friend Rachel and I decided that we would start together and hopefully stick with each other as long as we could. Before I knew it, we were off. We took it nice and slow, chatted away and in my head I was just treating it like a nice easy long run.

I had broken down this race into 3 separate parts and I had a plan to get through them all. Part 1 took us from the start line to km 6, Yonge and Sheppard to the area where the sporting Life 10k starts. The first 2km or so are gentle with a steep decline, BUT around km 3, that becomes a steep incline. This hill really is the only tough part of the race and I was pretty nervous about it. To me, this was going to be the biggest challenge and I just wanted to run it without stopping. I figured once I was over this hill, the worst would be behind me, and I was right. My plan for part 1 was to take it nice and easy and not stop. I had never run this stretch of Yonge and wanted to conserve my energy. I made it up the hill without walking. It was a doozy though and seemed to never end but oh man it felt good to reach the top. From there, I kept it slow and steady until we reached the Yonge and Blythwood area.

Once we reached the same area where the Sporting Life 10k starts, I knew it was time to coast. I was familiar with this area having run it many times (going both south and north) and was excited to have it fly by. I called this part 2, a nice easy downhill from about km 6 – km 15 or so, ending at King and River, right around my neighbourhood. This was my time to gain some speed and pick it up a bit and I did just that. In what felt like no time we had reached Rosedale Valley Road and km 11. I started to tire a little bit, but nothing extreme. The weather, while not ideal was actually feeling kind of nice at this point. It was cloudy so there was no sun beating down (I hate that when I run), and the rain had turned into a nice mist. Around km 13.5 I started to feel a bit light headed and started eating the banana brownie I had packed. At about km 15, the end of “section 2” where the Bayview Extension meets the King East area, my knee started feeling really off. It wasn’t bad enough to stop, but it was painful. I knew it was going to be an uncomfortable finish but didn’t think I’d be putting myself in any danger by continuing on. I tried to stretch it out as best I could as I ran by doing some weird hopping kicking movements that I can’t even really explain.

At about km 15.5 I saw Hubs smiling face and he jumped on the course with me to pace me to the end. This was part 3 for me, which spanned from King and River to Ontario Place. I knew this meant it was time to push it and finish strong but I tried to approached it nonchalantly, almost as if I were going for a 6k tempo run through my own neighbourhood as I would on any given day. I knew the route well and knew how quickly it would pass. I also knew this was going to be the hardest part for me. I have always struggled around this mark in any race. I saw my dad at km 17 when I was getting pretty tired and doing a sad limp run from my knee pain. His cheering definitely helped. I had to take it back a notch a few times during this part but I didn’t walk. I was so close to the end. Of course, at about km 19.5 I got a terrible stitch but I was so determined to run through it after making it so far. Right around the 20k mark it was almost unbearable, but it faded away to a dull ache after a couple hundred metres. Zach left the course just after this and I knew it was time to give it my all. I always try and sprint the last 500m, but this time I took off with about 700m to go and I don’t even know where I got the energy. I literally left everything out there on the course. This is always my favourite moment of a race and it always feels like the crowd is there roaring for just me. I knew I had achieved that PB and I pumped my fists up in victory as I crossed the line. I think I maybe even yelled “YES!”

I quickly realized that not only was this a PB, but I also had run a half for the very first time with NO walk breaks and even better, if my calculations were correct- I ran a negative split! It felt amazing!

I waited in line for my medal and immediately realized as I cooled down just how awful the weather hard turned again. Very quickly, I began shivering uncontrollably and I noticed that the wind was nearly  blowing over everything in its path. Still, the smile couldn’t be wiped from my face.  I obviously enjoyed a post-race coffee and butter tart to celebrate 🙂

Frozen but overjoyed

Frozen but overjoyed

Once home I was VERY happy to have a hot bath and the run already started to feel like a distant dream. Did that REALLY happen? It was such an amazing day and I continued the celebrations with a pizza and two beers on the couch in our cozy condo.

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Thank you to everyone for believing in me and for the congrats! I’m having a nice week of recovery and only running a few times because I am also running the Sporting Life 10k next week! It’s such a fun race and pretty much a guaranteed PB every year. After that, I’m going to step back a bit from running (maybe do a long run and an easy run every week) until I start my training for the Chicago Marathon in June. I figure this is a good time to really work and focus on my core strength (hello bathing suit season!) and maybe figure out what’s going on with my knee!

Sometimes, you just have to tap into that fear and show it who is boss. 

Banque Scotia 21k: OUCH

When you ask a runner If they have any goals for an upcoming race they’ll usually tell you a goal that they know they will accomplish. But, they also usually have a goal that they won’t tell you about, one they won’t admit out loud. Usually the personal goals are the ones they really want to achieve but are too afraid to say it in case it doesn’t happen. I can definitely say that was true for me in this race.

I signed up to run the Banque Scotia 21k in Montreal on a whim. One of the groups I sometimes run with had a code for a discounted entry so I thought “why not?” plus, it was a good chance for a mini weekend getaway with hubs (I’m all about those recently).

When I told people I was running this race and they asked about my goals I said “I just want to beat my time from the Toronto Scotiabank half in the fall when I didn’t train” and “I’m really going for a negative split, regardless of the total time”.

But, in my head I honestly thought I would PB. My goal for a negative split and a PB was really what I was after and I knew I could do both. I was pretty cocky confident going in. I stayed kind of quiet about this race because I wasn’t technically “training” for it. In reality though, I had been putting in more long runs and more total runs overall than when I actually was training for my first half, so I felt incredibly ready and definitely prepared. My long runs were getting faster and faster and for the first time in my running life I was actually truly running consistently week after week. I had this. After I failed bailed on running a full in the fall I’ve been adamant about getting back out there and really giving it my all. In fact, just this past week I found out that my entry was chosen in the lottery to run the Chicago Marathon this Fall. Finding this out only made me more excited to run in Montreal and start the 2016 race season off strong.

Oh, how I was wrong.

In retrospect I should have booked a hotel for us to stay in on Friday night AND Saturday night in Montreal because by the time we packed up and hit the road on Saturday, it was already almost 10:00am. There were a lot of fun things I wanted to do in Montreal but our lack of time cramped my style. Also, I’d never been to Montreal with a car before and no one told us how crazy the driving is there. Every street seems to be one way and things are not signed that well. At one point while I was waiting for my google maps to load, I told hubs to turn down a street, and well, I guess I mistakingly told him to turn the wrong way on a one-way (it was dark and there were no cars when he turned so we really didn’t know, I swear he’s not a bad driver) and that put him in a flustered/bad mood. Maybe that was the first sign that things weren’t going to go as well as planned. None the less, we tried to enjoy the time we did have but we were both feeling kind of rushed and overwhelmed.
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I slept really really well on Saturday night which was maybe the second sign that things were not quite right. Because, come on, who sleeps well the night before a race?

Upon waking on Sunday, I ate my usual pre-run breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter and banana and drank half a coconut water and a terrible cup of instant coffee (note to self: always remember to bring my own coffee and french press, duh). The race didn’t start until 10:00am so I was feeling pretty relaxed and had a lot of time in the morning to eat, get ready and make my way there.

I always feel like such a bad Canadian anytime I am in Quebec. My French is atrocious, and actually kind of embarrassing. I don’t even bother most of the time because I’m so embarrassed by it, and I hate being that person who just says “hi” the second someone says “salut”.  Because of my terrible french, I was a little confused when we stepped off the metro at Parc Jean-Drapeau and couldn’t quite figure out where the start line was. I was too stubborn/embarrassed to ask anyone and since the 5k race was just finishing, following other runners around didn’t really seem to get me anywhere.

I finally made it to the start area and was feeling pretty great. The weather was perfect, sunny and about 5 degrees. I wore my favourite t-shirt (I originally was planning on wearing my NRC Singlet but it was only 0 when I woke up so I changed my mind), shorts, compression socks and a hat (but I forgot sunscreen and have a hideous collar burn to prove it).

The race is not a very big one, about 2500 people were running the half, so though we were in separate corrals, the start times were not staggered. I filed in behind the 2:15 pacer. My plan was to stick with the pacer for the first 5-8k and then slowly pick it up with each km. Before I knew it we were off. I was feeling good. So good. Maybe too good?

Normally any sort of run SUCKS for me for the first 4k at minimum, but I was feeling amazing from the get go. The pacer was super positive and talking to all of us. I didn’t quite get what she was saying but I do know she kept saying “patience, patience” which was something I needed to hear because my mind and body were telling me otherwise. I have blown my pace early on in other races only to lose all my steam halfway through. Since I REALLY wanted that negative split I was trying so hard to keep it slow. After what felt like seconds, we had reached km 1 and my app in my headphones spoke to me saying “average pace, 6:39/km” and I had to fight EXTRA hard to not speed right up. I kept reminding myself “negative split” and had even started to plan this blog post  and how I would talk about my method to achieving that negative split.

I inched slowly ahead of the pacer (not too far) and with each passing km, my announced pace in my ear was increasing by a few seconds. Before I knew it I had passed 4km. This race was going to be a breeze.

And then it happened. A stitch so bad and so sudden I doubled over in pain. No no no no. I wasn’t going to stop. I have always been someone who has suffered from stitches but I had never felt one like this. I am not kidding when I say I have tried everything, but no matter what, it seems that on almost every run I get a stitch (did you know that there is actually no proven scientific knowledge about what a stitch actually is and what causes it?). This is so beyond frustrating because none of the suggested solutions ever seem to work for me. I can usually run through them and they usually go away but this was different. I pushed through for a full km, pressing on my side and slowed right back down but it only got worse. I saw a sign in the crowd that said “You’re running better than the American government” and it cheered me up a bit. I made a mental note to tell hubs about it later and was distracted for a split second but then, I couldn’t take it. Just beyond 5km I walked and from that point on it only got worse. Every time I tried to run again the pain was so bad I thought I was going to pass out. I would run a few steps and then be forced to walk from the pain. And so it went…

I waited for it to subside. Stretching, breathing, walking, but nothing helped. I passed 6km, then 7km and the 2:15 pacer flew by me. I couldn’t do it. I started to cry and plan my exit. Have you ever tried to run while crying at the same time? If not I will tell you this, it’s impossible. What came out was the sound of hyperventilation. I was so angry. A kind man asked me if I was okay and I only cried more. He asked if I needed help and I nodded no.

I was out. Mentally, I had finished the race, checked out and accepted a big fat DNF. I was ready for Poutine and beer and a really good cry in sweatpants. I had run rage . Every awful thought that could cross my mind did. “I hate running” “I hate myself” “I’m going to quit running” “I’m definitely not going to run a marathon ever” These loops of negative self-talk continued on until I almost forgot about the pain and was simply just PISSED.

I texted my running pal as I walked along in tears “I think I’m going to quit” to which she said “no! don’t do it! You’ve got this! Just take it slow for a bit” and I replied “I tried already. I’m not even at 8km. I can’t do it.” I text my husband “I’m dropping out, I need you” and he too encouraged me to go on. I was so defeated. I had spent the money to be here and had visualized in my head over and over again that PB. I was having a serious self-pity party. I called my husband and he talked me through it. “Where are you?” “Are you sure you can’t do it?” “Can you take a few steps running?” This distracted me and I walked on, after a while and I could hear the cheers in the background from where he was standing as the top finishers ran by him.

I was at the 10k mark and still ready to quit, only, to my dismay it seemed like that wasn’t an option. I was now on an F-1 race track and the only way out was back. Still, I looked across the track and couldn’t believe how far I’d have to go if I chose to go on. I started crying again “this track never ends but I’m stuck”. If this had been a course anywhere else down city streets I would have walked off that second, no doubt in my mind.

We kept talking, I ran a few more steps, then a few more. Then I continually jogged a slow but steady pace. The stitch was still there but it wasn’t going to make me pass out. All around me were people looking SO determined and trying so hard. I made it to the next water station, and they all cheered “ALI ALI!” which excited me until I realized they were actually saying “Allez! Allez!”

I made it to 11km, then I made it to 12km. Then I reached 13. By the time 14 came along I knew I was going to finish the race but I just wanted it to end. I hung up the phone (while also realizing that everyone around me must have thought I’d been talking to myself, oh well) and trekked on. As mentioned this was a smaller race, making it so much more difficult to place well. I had now been running along more or less with the 2:30 pacer and had accepted that I would probably finish last in my category. I couldn’t decide what was worse, going home and having to tell everyone I dropped out, or finishing but coming nearly in last. I tried to get my pride in check and enjoy this humbling moment but I’ll be honest, it was a struggle.

Still, I had the chance to notice some things that I normally wouldn’t. The runners around me were seriously giving it their ALL. There was a woman that I ran side by side with for quite some time who was air drumming along to her music the whole way, something I often restrain myself from doing. She was SMILING. She was going to run a 2:30 half and was so joyful. I really needed that. There was also a man who must have been 70, slightly hobbling along but never stopping. And then there were two other girls around my age, obviously struggling but their friendship was apparent. They did NOT stop encouraging each other and it reminded me of my own running network and all the amazing friends I have who keep me going when I want to stop.

I also took some time to think about a camp friend of mine, Rusty, who is currently RUNNING ACROSS AMERICA, averaging over 30 miles a day in support of the Boston marathon bombing victims and survivors. If he can do that, then I could do this.

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I saw Zach at 17km and it was all I needed to finish. It dragged on, but eventually, I made it, somehow finding it in me to sprint the last 500m. It was done. I finished. I sucked up my pride and decided it was definitely better than a DNF. And then I cried again…out of relief, anger, determination…I don’t even know.

2:31 my watch read. Not the worst, but certainly not what I had been expecting.

No negative split, no PB and a million walk breaks.

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So happy to have finished!

Still, I beat my time from the fall when I ran scotiabank in Toronto without training so not all is lost. After all, this is what I told people I wanted to do. Plus, besides the stitch I felt absolutely fine and was not tired or sore. If it hadn’t been for the pain of the stitch I really do think that I could have achieved that PB. AND, I didn’t come in last- I was 120/134 in my category, again, not the end of the world.

The most frustrating thing about running is that it’s not always going to go your way. It’s such a love hate relationship because when you have a great run, you’re on top of the world, but when you have a bad run, it’s such a defeating and awful feeling. You can do all the right things and prepare the best you can. You can go into something thinking that you’ve got it, only to have it completely turn around and kick you in the ass. A humble reminder that running is such a metaphor to life and full of so many lessons.

Shout out to my amazing husband Zach who literally talked to me on the phone for over 30 minutes while I “ran”, drove me all the way to Montreal and back and ate ALL the poutine with me after. Also, shout out to the folks at Canada Run Series for designing a course that didn’t allow me to quit. Stubborn and proud me would have dropped out if it were easier but stubborn and proud me is also grateful I didn’t really get that chance.

Do I still want to quit running? No. In fact, if anything this has made me MORE motivated to stay out there and keep trying. The next opportunity to PB will come, and eventually, that PB will become an old one as I continue to improve. And I will run a marathon, I will run the Chicago marathon. Can’t wait to share my journey with everyone!

 

And just for fun, how I celebrated finishing:
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If you are ever in Montreal- check out Pikolo!

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AMAZING beer at Dieu du Ciel

 

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And of course, Poutine! (I shared with Zach don’t worry)

Consistency

How sticking with one thing can change everything

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Over the Easter long weekend Happy Hubs and I drove to Northwest Indiana to spend some time with his parents as well as spend a day in one of our favourite cities- Chicago. If you haven’t been to Chicago I highly recommend checking it out. It has some amazing coffee shops, incredible food, beautiful buildings and a waterfront to make all Torontonians envious.

Normally when it comes to travelling, even 3-day weekend getaways, I let everything fall out the window concerning the healthy lifestyle I lead in my day-to-day life (because nothing counts when you’re on vacation right?) However, at the beginning of this year a friend and I vowed to run a minimum of 100km/month for all of 2016. At first, I thought this would be a no brainer and was pretty excited to see that number reach over 200km/month once I started training for some goal races. However, after looking over my training logs, it seemed that I was in for a bit of a challenge. If there was anything consistent with my running, it was that I am unbelievably inconsistent.

Up until recently, it was apparent that I thought I was running much more than I actually was. Looking over my logs, even in the months leading up to my first half marathon, my runs were scattered all over the place. One week I’d run 4 times, the next only once, some weeks had no runs at all. I embarrassingly realized that I wasn’t even giving myself a real shot when it came to training.

While I am aiming to run a marathon this fall, I didn’t really have any upcoming spring races in mind (besides the Sporting Like 10k that I run every year) when I started running a consistent 100km/month. Very quickly though, I started to notice some small changes. I have been sticking to a long run every. single. week. and my gains have started to become very apparent on those long runs. Each week, just by consistently running 14-17km, I am getting faster, something that has never happened with long runs before. Building a base at these distances has helped me immensely. Until this recent consistency, I always took walk breaks but I haven’t taken a walk break now for over a month on a long run! While I have been doing speed work for quite some time, and throw in hill workouts every now and then as well, it’s really all started to come together since I started sticking to my long runs. For the first time, I feel like I am seriously improving at distance running and I feel I can begin to set some solid time goals (before, my approach was always “just finish”).

A big thing that has helped with this is that I started doing my long runs with the club I run with whereas I always used to do them alone. Running with people has helped me so much because we push each other to keep going, and chatting away week after week makes the kms fly by. On a bit of a whim, I have decided to run a half marathon at the end of the month in Montreal. I’m approaching it as more of a training run, just to sort of see where I am after a few solidly consistent months of running.  I think I kind of owe it to myself, now that I’ve actually been staying consistent.

All of this being said, one thing that I love about Nike Run Club is that so many different cities also have a club that more or less follows the same schedule. It’s pretty cool to see the larger Nike community on social media and know that we are all in this together. Happy hubs and I decided to stay overnight in Chicago and, to not throw off my consistent training, decided to do my long run with NRC Chicago on the Saturday morning.

I sure am glad we did. We have both spent a fair amount of time in Chicago before, but there is something to be said about seeing it on a run. We woke up bright and early at 7:00am, put on our run clothes, scarfed down some breakfast and headed out. It was chilly, but nice and sunny which definitely made up for it. It was pretty cool to see the Nike space in Chicago. While the space was different, it had the same vibe that the Toronto club does, a solid group of like-minded people buzzing about all there for the same purpose. The pacers were super welcoming and glad to have visitors from Toronto joining them.

We ran a gorgeous 8 mile out and back south along the waterfront. The waterfront trail in Chicago is just amazing. Sure, we have some nice parts of ours in Toronto, but it doesn’t even come close to the beauty that is the waterfront in Chicago. I’m already dreaming about running along it the next time I am there. If you are visiting Chicago, make sure you take a walk along the waterfront (north or south, it’s all gorgeous). The view from the Adler Planetarium is something else.

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If you had told me a few years ago that I would wake up at 7:00am while on a holiday for the purpose of running 8 miles, I would have not believed you. They say that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Now that I am three months into consistently running, I can’t imagine NOT running, even on vacation. It’s crazy how easily something can become a part of your life if you really make the time for it.

Now excuse me while I go get ready for a run….

Happy trails!

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FREE Yoga!

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Living in Toronto has some serious perks. It is clean, it is full of incredible culinary talent, there is never a shortage of stuff to do, it is diverse, it is full of ravines and parks, it is friendly, there is an endless supply of incredible coffee shops and we are home to the best hockey team in the NHL (just kidding on that last point). I know that since I have never lived anywhere else for a LONG period of time I am a little biased, but I kind of LOVE Toronto. I also love that Toronto is finally starting to be recognized as a “cool” place to visit (thanks Drake) as I have always found myself trying to explain that Toronto is a worthwhile city to visit to my less-than-informed American friends. What I love most about living in this city though? The endless opportunities it provides me with to stay fit and not have to pay a single cent.

It is no secret that I am actively involved in Nike Run Club and Nike Training Club here (not like I talk about it on Instagram or anything…) which is an incredible community to stay active with. However, there are also so many other opportunities out there as well that go beyond Nike. There is literally something for everyone.

I’ve been trying to stay a lot more consistent with my running recently and made a vow to start practicing yoga again so I can take the time to stretch and balance out my tense muscles from increased running mileage. I always knew that Lululemon offered free community yoga classes but for some reason I never actually looked into it.

Well, after speaking to a fellow Nike Run Club member, I felt it was about time I checked out a free yoga class. The class I decided on was the community class at YYoga Queen West, an hour long Flow class that starts at 2:45pm hosted by lululemon.

I would suggest if you check this class out, arrive a good 15 minutes early to claim your spot (you can’t register ahead of time for this class). When I arrived at 2:30, it was clear the class was going to be very busy. The studio is beautiful and guests to the community class are allowed to use the lockers and change rooms. Bring your own yoga mat or rent one for about $2.00. There are also a lot of props (blocks, straps) in the studio that are available to use for free.

The class was packed, but not in a way that hindered movement. I secured a spot near the back of the room as it had been quite some time since I had practiced. The instructor was great, and led us through an energizing vinyasa sequence. The selected music was perfect for this type of class and helped me get into the groove and comfortable with the poses. I was definitely sweating a little bit once we we were deep into our vinyasa, by the time we ended the class in savasana I was feeling so perfectly rested and stretched out. In fact, it was definitely one of the best Flow classes I have ever been to, and it was free!

The instructor did an amazing job of walking around and correcting everyone’s poses when needed, especially given the class size. It was apparent that everyone in the room was more or less familiar with the poses and because of this, I don’t think this would be the ideal class for someone who has never done yoga. However, it wouldn’t be that difficult to follow along if you are new to yoga.

I can’t wait to get back and stretch it out again and look forward to attending as many Saturday community classes as I can!

Check in with your local lululemon to inquire about the free classes they offer. A lot of studios also offer donation-based community classes once a week, a great option for those who may not be able to spring on a class membership.

Toronto is truly great this way, and I know that the Toronto Public Library system and Mountain Equipment Co-op also offers free yoga classes. Stay tuned as well for the schedule of outdoor summer Park Yoga, something I am very much looking forward to attending.

Namaste!

Spokehaus T.O.

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It takes a lot to get me out of bed before 7:00am. Even on the most exciting days, it can be tough. However, yesterday I actually got up before 6:00am!! All in the name of a solid sweat session!

A few weeks ago I saw something on social media about a new Spinning studio called Spokehaus that had opened up in Toronto. Fast forward to last week and I finally looked into a little more. They are offering your 1st class for free as a trial so I figured I may as well give it a try! According to their website, Spokehaus promised to be an experience like nothing else:

“We reinvent your typical spin class- the spokehaus workout is a kick-ass, low impact, high intensity full-body cardio party on a bike. We warm you up, work you out and cool you down.

Targeting your core, legs, butt, arms and heart through a series of carefully choreographed movements that will transform your body, your mind and the way you feel about your workout.

Music is at the heart of everything we do.

Every 45 minutes we bring down the house with specially curated playlists that will push you out of your comfort zone and help you get lost in the movement- music that is continually inspiring, motivating and will challenge you to push through each work-out- break free of the daily grind and let us help you find your rhythm.”

Those words were enough to get me to sign up. To me, it sounded a lot like Soul Cycle, which I know has a bit of a cult-like following from my friends in New York. Since we don’t have anything like Soul Cycle here, I think Spokehaus has a chance at being really successful in Toronto. An experience it was!

I used to take group cycling classes back in University and in recent years have been a big LesMills RPM fan. I find a cycling class is a really good way to balance other workouts with running. It’s a killer cardio workout, amazing for your legs and core and a good way to “flush out” my legs after a week of running many kilometres.

Needless to say, when Happy Hubs and I walked in to Spokehaus, located at City Place, at 10 to 7:00am yesterday, I was feeling pretty confident about getting through an early morning sweat session and assumed I knew what the class would more or less entail.

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The front of the studio is bright and simple, with lockers (no lock needed, they are all keyless and you can set your own code) and a big open reception area (including that fun light sign pictured above). We were greeted by a very friendly young woman who gave us cycling shoes, this is a clip-in class but shoes are provided. Shortly after, we walked into the studio with our Instructor, Courtney, a bubbly brunette who was exactly the right level of enthused for a Monday morning (anything TOO enthusiastic can be a bit too much sometimes, but especially early in the morning). It was at this moment that I realized this was going to be anything BUT a normal Spin class. The studio was dark, except for a handful of large candles in front of Courtney’s bike, something I appreciated as I was still struggling to keep my eyes open.

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That all changed the minute the music started. I suddenly felt like I was at an uber-cool club and I wasn’t sure if I was asleep and maybe still dreaming. After a track or two I knew I was definitely awake as I was sweating my face off. In fact, I don’t think I can remember a time in recent history when I have sweat that much. Courtney led us through the tracks (top 40 EDM remixes) and we did everything you’d expect in a cycling class- sprints, climbs, standing sprints, heavy resistance etc. What I liked about the class however, and something that I haven’t experienced in previous cycling classes, is that most of the tracks included some sort of upper-body work. We did a lot of different push-up type movements over the handlebars and one track was even pure upper body. We used small hand weights and sat upright while Courtney led us through bicep curls, tricep extensions, shoulder presses etc. I will admit, I am pretty fit and scoffed a little bit at the 2lb weights when I first picked them up- but my arms were burning by the end of this track. We cycled on home to an angry Eminem song and then were all handed cool wet towels with eucalyptus oil which was an amazing treat and the perfect energizing and cooling boost I needed after such an intense sweat.

I exited, surprised that it was sunny and bright outside the studio as I had honestly forgotten whether it was day or night. Spokehaus sells juices and Kombucha from Greenhouse Juice Co. and I couldn’t resist a “Root Beer” Kombucha. Not too sweet, and just the right amount of root flavour. The changerooms are bright and clean (although a bit small) and filled with great natural bath and body proucts for guest use.

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I left feeling so glad I had forced myself out of bed at 6:00am for the class. It was a great experience and what really made it stand out was that it was a total body workout- not something I’m used to from a spin class. The music was great, the atmosphere was super fun, and the extra little touches went a long way. And they should- at $28 for a drop-in class you’d expect something different, fun, luxurious and a killer workout. I don’t know if I’ll be back- not because I didn’t love it (I did), I just probably (and unfortunately) can’t stomach a class that is fairly steeply priced. If I had more money, I would find it easier as it is worth it, it’s just a shame that the cost makes it a little elitist (but I think that is what they are going for here, and I know Soul Cycle has faced the same criticism).

Spokehaus is still offering you to come try your 1st class free for a limited time though so if you want to check it out head on over to their website and prepare to sweat your face off!

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27 Kilometres for 27 Years

With an early January birthday, I often feel that my birthday is the REAL beginning of a new year, because it is literally a new year, at least for me. I find it hard to believe that as of last Thursday, I am now in my 28th year of life. The highlight of my day may have been when my mum FaceTimed me from school and had her entire kindergarten class sing “happy birthday” to me. The most endearing part of this is when they did the “are you 1, are you 2, ” part and the kids stopped counting at 9. I’m not sure if they just didn’t know how to count beyond 9 or if they just couldn’t imagine that their teacher had a “kid” over the age of 9. With a bit of coaxing, they (exhaustingly) made it to 27, and I think I heard one kid say “wow!” haha. I hear ya kid, when I was that age, if someone said “27” I would have thought wow too. Yet here I am, now in my LATE twenties, when most days I still feel about…14.

I will say, as I mentioned around New Years, I’m always amazed at how quickly time seems to pass as I grow up. With each year, it just seems to go faster and 26 FLEW by, and what a year it was. Being in the latter half of my 20s has without a doubt been such an amazing stage of my life thus far. Of course it  has had its challenges, but I am so acutely aware and have enough perspective to know that these challenges are often somewhat juvenile, and in the grand scheme of things, life in my 20s has been truly charmed and dare I say “easy” (I’m being really positive today guys).

As 27 approached, and I thought about how I would like to ring in my own personal new year I knew that I wanted to start this year off by challenging myself more than I had the year before. I got the idea from a camp friend of mine who is always a big advocate for pushing yourself and making yourself better through it all. With a few big goal races in mind this year, I decided to start the year off with a big challenge of running 27km, a single kilometre for each of the 27 years I have spent on this planet. While my camp friend often does her birthday run in MILES (so impressed) I’m not quite there, but 27km would definitely be a challenge for me, and the furthest I had ever run.

So, on the dawn of my 27th birthday, I set out with a running buddy and long time friend of mine (seriously bless her soul for agreeing to this insanity) to run 27km. I decided ahead of time I would dedicate each kilometer to something that had made an impact on me in my 27th year. I figured that this would give me a reason to get through those tough kilometres when I was struggling and didn’t feel like I could go on. I knew that this would be difficult, but I wasn’t quite expecting how difficult it would actually be. The first 17kms were not that bad, however, since I haven’t really been training distances longer than 12km in QUITE some time, the distance definitely caught up with me and the last 10k was STRUGGLE CITY. All in all though, we did it! Even if that meant having to take some pretty hefty half kilometre walk breaks in the final third of our run. In the end, it felt AMAZING.

Without further ado, this is what got me through each and every kilometre and what made my 27th year one for the books:

Kilometer 1: This one went out to my dear husband (it’s sometimes still weird saying that) and the love and support he brings to my life day in and day out. Thank you for being my best friend, biggest fan and my rock. I absolutely love our little home and the life we are creating together and I can’t wait to see what the next year and all of those after it bring with it.

Kilometer 2: Dedicated to our beautiful fairytale wedding, including all of the stress that went into it and the two weeks of sleepless nights leading up to the big day. I wouldn’t have done it any other way and sometimes I still can’t believe it was real and actually happened.

Kilometre 3: For my running buddy, Sarah who somehow agreed to run 27km with me on a day when it was -3. Who does that? Well, she did, and I absolutely could not have done it without her!

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Kilometre 4: I ran this one for the sport of running. For each and every run that I was able to go on this year and for being better for it after each one. For the deep meditation that comes along with the sport and for every race I ran this year. For the people that I have connected with and re-connected with because of running and the community that I have found within it.

Kilometre 5: For landing an amazing job shortly after my 26th birthday. I work in a pretty niche field and there are not many people who have finished my grad program and ended up in a job actually in the field. Through some incredibly hard work (and having the fortune of “right place, right time” on my side) I landed a dream, adult job in my field with zero connections in the organization. THAT was satisfying.

Kilometre 6: Unfortunately, said dream job was a contract filling in for someone who was on leave. This wasn’t a case where my job could be extended unless the other employee did not come back. So, in December I found myself unemployed again. Kilometre 6 went out to dealing with this frustrating reality and learning to be positive when things didn’t play out the way I wanted them to.

Kilometre 7: This one went out to my colleague Michelle who was my life line over the 10 months at said job. Seriously, I couldn’t have done it without her and I am so grateful for the friendship we formed, which helped me get through the bad and stressful days!

Kilometre 8: Went out to Jose Bautista, because Game 5, need I say more.

Kilometre 9: Went out to my family who is there for me no matter what happens. This includes the family that I was born into and the family that I have chosen as my own. It was definitely a year when I had to lean on all of you and ask for a lot of support and I was met with that and then some, every step of the way.

Kilometre 10: This one was dedicated to our new government. HALLELUJAH!

Kilometre 11: This one went out to my very first grown-up, and probably overly-generous salary. For the first time in my life I was able to save, pay all my bills and then have a solid sum left over for spending. This amazing salary allowed me to do so many great things in my 26th year and I recognize it was a real privilege. This kilometre also went out to the loss of said salary and learning to be okay with it. R.I.P. disposable income

Kilometre 12: This one went out to the beautiful Canadian rockies and the west coast. The beauty of our country is truly something that everyone should see in their lifetime. I am lucky enough that I have seen this area twice now, and it was so special to share that beauty with Zach this year.

Kilometre 13: This one went out to coffee. I don’t need to say anything else really, but living downtown has it’s perks, and FINALLY being able to walk to about 4 different incredible coffee shops in under 5 minutes was definitely a highlight of this past year.

Kilometre 14: Craft beer. 26 was a year of discovering and trying so many amazing beers both here and in the states. Enough said.

Kilometre 15: This one was for our condo, we waited a long time to find the perfect place and it is so great to have a place that we call home in (what we think is) the best neighbourhood in the city.

Kilometre 16: This one was for the sun who decided to shine on the second half of our run, making what could have been a very cold day a little more bearable. Thank you for 27 years of sunlight.

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Kilometre 17: This one went out to my new in-laws who are quite possibly the sweetest people in the world. We may come from very different places, see the world a different way and I may be really LOUD while they are pretty quiet, but I believe these differences make us have a stronger relationship and I was so happy to welcome them into my life as parents this year.

Kilometre 18: This one goes out to kleenex because god knows I cried a lot this year (which wasn’t unique to being 26, but is just me)

Kilometre 19: Went out to my mum who let me and Zach live with her well beyond our stay and gave up so much to help us as we got on our feet independently and for all that she sacrificed to help us make our dream wedding come true.

Kilometre 20: This one went out to airplanes. Airplanes are INCREDIBLE people, how do we forget this? This year airplanes brought me some REALLY special people who I hadn’t seen in a long time, and that was awesome.

Kilometre 21: This one went out to my camp friends (some of whom arrived by said airplanes this year) and having the type of people in my life that I can go years without seeing and still have the closest of relationships with, picking up right where we left off!

Kilometre 22: This one went out to the St. Lawrence Market for bringing me so much joy this year. Food=joy.

Kilometre 23: Went out to my legs. Who just could. not. at this point. But, the pain was a reminder that I am alive and I am able bodied and I am runner. This went out to my legs who carried me to and from work every day and led me to win quite a few “workweek hustle” fitbit challenges this year. Despite their flaws, and my negative feelings that I sometimes project on their appearance, they are truly the greatest thing I own.

Kilometre 24: This one went out for a year of a really healthy mind. I’m not sure that there have been many others in my life that have been this healthy. Of course I had my moments, BUT I believe that is just what we call life. Our mental health is so precious, and I am so grateful to have had such a healthy year.

Kilometre 25: Went out to my Aunt Janet who was so sadly taken from us this year, much too early. Aunt Janet was a force to be reckoned with. She was an incredibly successful and determined business woman who often reminded me to work hard if I want to get where I want to get. I still can’t believe she is gone and I am so happy I was able to spend time with her before her passing.

Kilometre 26: Went out to my country and the gratitude I feel every day for living in a place where I feel safe and have the power to make the choices I want surrounding my life and my body. It was a bit of a scary year and I often have to remind myself how lucky I am to have been born by some random chance in a country like Canada. There are so many other people out there who didn’t get that lucky, and it is so important to remain humble about this.

Kilometre 27: This one was for no one else other than ME. For freaking doing it and running further than I had ever run before and living to tell the story. And for my 28th year and everything it is going to bring. For being the best I can be.

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Let it snow!

I have a confession to make. Last Saturday I didn’t get out of my pjs until about 6:00pm. On Sunday, I didn’t get out of them at all (unless you count the 40 minutes that I put leggings on for to go get take out, after which I put my pjs back on). Monday was not much better.

I had planned on going for a long run on Sunday as I start to train to run the Around the Bay 30km road race. However, with no one to run with on Sunday and the choice to instead enjoy that post-holiday bliss on the couch with never-ending “Friends” episodes, I chose this option and didn’t get out there. On Monday, I had tentative plans to run with a friend that didn’t pan out (i.e. I slept in) so I was faced with another long day of pjs and “Friends”. “I’ll go later” I kept saying. I find it so easy to just continue down a path of laziness once I’m on it, am I alone in this?

I really don’t like going for long runs on my own and I especially don’t like them when it’s -14 with the wind chill. I just kept thinking about this all day and it was making me pretty grumpy. WHY HADN’T I GOT UP AND JUST GONE!?  I thought about doing it on the treadmill in our condo gym, but the thought of running in the same place with nothing to look at for over an hour made it even more unappealing. Naturally, the solution seemed that I just shouldn’t run at all.

At about 4:30pm I had been thinking about this (a.k.a. whining about it) for a solid 6 hours. “ENOUGH,” I said (okay, I didn’t actually say that, but my husband did). “If you want to go for a run, then go for a run!” He was right. The more I sat around and thought about it, the later it was going to get. Eventually it would be too late, and then I wouldn’t go at all and would be so grumpy from two full days of no movement. “It’s cold!” I whined. “Then what did you buy all that expensive running gear for?”. He had a point. Besides, I had to get into my training at some point if I really did want to run Around the Bay and it would only take about an hour out of my evening, which included approximately 0 other plans.

At about 5:40 I FINALLY had all my run gear on and was ready to go. I headed out, and quickly realized that it was very windy and then ice and snow started pelting me in the face? oh well, must keep going, it wasn’t that bad. Only it kept getting worse and eventually I was running through the thick of Toronto’s first snow storm. I knew that it was cold and a bit windy out, but you’d think with all the excuses I had come up with, I would have looked at the forecast a little more closely and noticed the storm warnings (and then used this as the ultimate excuse to not go running). The streets were pretty dead, and the snow was starting to pile up. I considered turning around and heading back, but just around this point I found my pace and noticed what peace can be found running through a winter storm (occasional blustering gusts of wind aside).

I told myself there wasn’t really a good reason to turn around now and running through this storm was perhaps my punishment for putting it off for so long. I set out to do this, and I would do it, if just to prove to myself I was stronger than my excuses. Plus, there is something so satisfying about getting out there and doing something that others may find crazy. I think I’m a little masochistic that way at times. Why run 12km in nice conditions when you can do it through a blizzard? Take THAT excuses. I had already put of this run for so long I didn’t want to give up, even if it wasn’t the best of conditions. Somehow, I made it to my turn around point at 6km. The distance back never seems as bad, and it really wasn’t. I was actually surprisingly warm too, proof that all you need is the right gear and a little movement. I passed another runner on my way home and we shared a friendly nod and wave as if we were in on some secret together. There was some comfort in knowing I wasn’t the only crazy one out there, and that’s what I love about this sport. Even on the strangest weather days, you’ll always see a runner out there.

There is always going to be a reason not to get out there and move. Trust me, I am the queen of excuses. Too hot, too cold, too humid, too rainy, too full, too dehydrated, too tired, etc, etc. However, as long as you have the right gear and aren’t putting your safety in jeopardy, you’re never going to regret a run. Even in the blowing wind and snow, it felt GOOD to move after two days of being sedentary. Besides, “crazy conditions” are all relative. Through the bad windy patches I reminded myself of my cousin who goes on day-long snowshoe expeditions in the Northwest Territories. On any given day there, it is -40, before the windchill! Yet, she gets out there and moves, for fun and because it feels good to move and be active. On the opposite end of the spectrum there are athletes who train through 100% humidity and 40 degree weather!

We don’t have control over the weather and this was a nice reminder that if I want to run a race in early April and train through the winter, I will probably be faced with more days like this. I owed it to myself to at least try. Now that I know I can do it, I know I don’t have any good reasons to not follow through on my training and run this race come April 3rd.

It’s all what you make it my friends. Stay tuned for more anecdotes as I attempt to take on a full training schedule throughout the winter months, a first for me.

BRING IT ON 2016!

How can you tell if someone is running a marathon?

… Don’t worry they’ll tell you.

Last year around this time I was that obnoxious person who was ALWAYS talking about running. “I’m running a half marathon” I would boast, without even being asked.

This year, you may have noticed there has been a lot of radio silence around here. You may have also noticed that I posted about running a full marathon a few months back. Well I’m here to tell you that I failed, BUT I have also come to realize that no failure is a true fail.

My almost-silence on this endeavor came from the fact that I was really not sure I could do it. I KNOW I can do it now, but I didn’t think that I could, and that overwhelming thought got in the way and I stopped talking about it. I was terrified that I wasn’t putting everything I had into it, and I ended up putting nothing into it and giving up. I will be the first to admit that boasting about runs can be annoying but just think about it for a moment. The training involved in running any sort of distance race is time consuming and honestly, not always that fun. Telling people is a way that I (and other runners) hold myself accountable. Even if no one really cares that much, there will always be a few people who will remember and then ask you later “how’s your training going?” Which is an instant reminded to pick it up when I’m slacking.

With moving, wedding planning and a few weeks of extreme heat, my training was pushed to the back of my mind. Eventually, it disappeared.
Up until about mid-August I was still SO determined that I would run the full. I went on a 20k training run after a few weeks of not much training and smashed it. I truly felt unstoppable, but I was quite honestly not prepared for the amount of work that came with planning a DIY wedding, especially in those two weeks leading up to the event. I was exhausted. My life was consumed by wedding planning and work. I have always been one of those people who says “you just have to make time for it anyway. no excuses” when it comes to exercise and I’d like to apologize right now if I’ve ever said that to you, because as I have learned, you truthfully sometimes don’t have time. Especially when that time involves putting 3+ hours into going for a long run.
My wedding was perfect, and so was my honeymoon, and I swore once I got back to a normal routine I would pick up where I left off and run that race damnit! But I was never able to pick up where I left off. Work was insane upon my return, and life sucked me up, and I gave in. It is SO easy to stay off the bandwagon once you have fallen off and nearly impossible to get back on.
Yet, here I was, a full TEN weeks since my last run feeling incredibly sorry for myself that I hadn’t just got back on. But, my friends, life happens and I had to live with the life I had been living and be okay with it. I decided I would run the half marathon instead. This mostly came from my self pity and wanting to prove to myself that I could do it. I knew I could, or at least that’s what I told myself, so that was that, I would do it. But I also had to learn to let go of any unrealistic expectations in my head. I decided my only goal would be to finish. So, on Sunday, I laced up my sneakers and set out to run a half marathon with essentially no training.
I don’t recommend this. It wasn’t fun. My legs weren’t ready. While I had not been sedentary, I certainly hadn’t been running, and it HURT. Yet I am still glad I did it, and if you are/were a runner, you could probably do it too, just be careful and don’t push yourself. Here is my mini re-cap I posted on instagram about said run:

Finished the half!

Finished the half!

Kms 0-2: “okay I’m just going to turtle this whole thing. I got this. I see the 2:30 pacer so I’ll just stick with them. Not so bad”
Kms 2-5: “oh wait, I can run! I forgot I used to be somewhat good at this, alright, see ya later 2:30 pacer”
Kms 5-10: “I’m a machine! I’m going to beat my time from last year! This is the easiest 10k of my life. Okay I may not beat it but I’ll be pretty close. I could have run the full. I have so much energy! Running at my old race pace is so easy I could probably run an ultra!”
10-11km: “wait a sec. My legs aren’t working. Maybe I should have trained. Oh well I’m still in front of the 2:30 pacer I guess I’ll take a walk break”
11km: “ouch, walking hurts more than running”
12km: “just keep swimming, just keep swimming”
13km: I don’t think I can see properly my legs hurt so bad, and what is that stitch in my side?”
14km: “okay that’s a bad stitch. Where am I? What is life? Everything hurts.”
15km: “so much for finishing in 2:15, the 2:30 bunny just passed me”
16km: “I think I’ll just walk the rest of the way. Wait never mind, I can’t walk”
16.5km “gels! I forgot about those! And I have one! Oh and hey look at that smiling stranger cheering everyone on! Okay, one foot in front of the other”
16.75km: “I got this I got this!” 17-21km: “I’m not sure if I’m running or floating and I can’t feel anything but I’m doing it! Won’t stop until it’s done! Yup, I can totally run a full next time”
21.1km: “why do people run?”

Now, back to why this wasn’t totally a failure. Sure, I didn’t run the full like I had wanted to, but I ran a half marathon, without training! That still counts for something right? Even though I finished pretty close to the bottom of the pack in my category I still did it. Second, it was all I needed to remind me WHY I run and why I want to continue to do so. It forced me to look at my goal of running a full again and reevaluate how I can make that happen.
I may have turtled that race all the way home but I still did it! It may not have been anything close to any of my races that I actually trained for but sometimes you just have to get out there and get it done and be proud of just that.
At the runners expo on Friday I met a woman who had just found a lump in one of her breasts and was awaiting results, she said it put a huge damper on her training but “sometimes you just have to do the best you can under the circumstances”. Her words couldn’t ring more true. My only excuses are that I planned a wedding and went away for 2 weeks, but I still have an able body and health and that’s no excuse to back down from a challenge that would have been easier to just not face at all.
That, my friends is what running is all about for me. Being grateful I can move my body and that I have my health to do so. There are days where I can run like a champ, and days where 5k feels impossible, but you really just have to go out there and do the best you can, under the circumstances. So many lessons in running can be applied to real life.
After all is said and done, it was still an important race in many ways. I ran the first 10k without stopping. I’m not sure if I’ve ever done this. It wasn’t my fastest 10k time by far, but even in my fastest 10k races I have taken brief walk breaks. I also didn’t take any walk breaks up any of the hills that forced me to do just that last year. Even the last hill at the end when my legs just could. not. even. In fact, I passed every single person who was around me on that hill.
And now, as I hobble around the city of Toronto, I am telling myself (and others) that I WILL run that full this coming May. So you bet that I will be talking about that A LOT around here. If you don’t hear anything about it…ask me.
“It’s only impossible until it’s done”