Saturday, August 27, 2011

Busting A Gut at The Toronto Women's 10km

I'd been looking forward to this race for a while.  Race director Cory Freedman always puts on a good event and it's a lot of fun racing in a women's only field.  Plus the swag is always great.  This time around was no exception.   Another beautifully designed shirt by my pal Natalie Serkin, along with a great finishers medal.
Awesome lime green dri-fit shirt.  This the back.
 The field at these races has become increasingly competitive according to Cory.  This is the 3rd year running for her race series and it has grown in popularity, with the Half Marathon usually selling out months in advance.

Knowing that there would be a lot of top notch runners here, I figured I'd have to pull out my A++ game to get on the podium.  I looked up last year's results and was pleasantly surprised to see that the woman that won my age group did it in 45:28.  Hmmm.  My goal was to run sub 45 minutes.  I figured if I could do that, then hopefully I'd manage to get on the podium.  It would all depend on who showed up to race.
My week leading up to the race was relatively stress free at work, which was a nice change but my eating left a LOT to be desired.  Normally I eat really cleanly but not so this week.  There was a LOT of sugar consumption in the form of chocolate and various baked goods.  I had 2 super crappy workouts late in the week; a not so good interval session and a really bad swim.  I hoped that this was not indicative of what my race would be like!

Since we are living really close to the race start and I had to somehow get a 23km run in, I decided that I'd run out to the start line, race and then run home. I figured it was about 5-6 km out to Sunnybrook Park from where we're staying so that would be a nice warm up.  I left the house at 6:55 am and cruised over to the park.  It's pretty much downhill all the way which was nice.  I got to the park nice and warmed up.  Stretched a bit, checked my bag and wandered off to the porta potty.  I found Gary and Andrew (my nephew) and Gary snapped a couple of shots of Andrew and I together before I made my way over to the start line.

They had marshals with signs that had your estimated finishing time on them so we had to line up beside them.   I found the 40-48 minute finishing sign and hung out around there.  All of the really fast looking ladies were up there too.  Cory came out to the start and got us all to move up right to the end of the timing mats.  So I was right up at the front.  Geez.  The gun went off and took off like a shot.  It was me and another blonde girl in the lead.  What the hell was I doing?  This is not where I belong right now.  My heart rate spiked immediately and I thought "oh God, I'm going to implode if I keep this pace up".  A couple of women passed me as I started to slow down.  Then a few more passed me.  It's ok.  It's still early.  I need to run my own race and not worry about getting passed.  I knew when I hit the first km in 3:58 that I was seriously going to pay for it later on.  The question was, how long could I hang on?  Not the smartest way to race a 10km but I wanted to go "Balls Out" and see what I could do.  Next time I race a 10km, I'll actually have a race strategy.   I hit 2km in 8:04 so I knew I slowed down a bit.  3km blew by in 12:11.  Ok good.  I knew that if I managed to run sub 4:30 km's I'd be golden.  I was running roughly 4:06's so I had a good buffer.  Just past 3km I caught and passed 2 of the women that passed me.   Sweet.  Now I hoped that I could hold them off.
Getting to the 5km turnaround seemed to take forever.  I hit 5km in 20:24 (which is also a PB for me at that distance!) and I got to see where the other women were behind me.  Close but not too close which was great.  I knew that the way back was partially downhill so I hoped that I could make up a bit of time.  At the 6km mark I was really starting to suffer.  My ridiculously fast start was starting to catch up with me.   I ran through the aid station and grabbed a cupful of e-load, spilled half of it on my shirt and managed to get the rest in my mouth.  That boost of sugar helped but the lactic acid was really starting to build in my legs.  When I hit the evil bridge at Don Mills road I thought I was going to hurl.  That hill is just plain awful.  I made it up and looked back and didn't see anyone behind me (whew!).   I eased up heading down the bridge to try and catch my breath.  Once I got off the wooden slats and hit the pavement, I picked up the pace again.   At this point I joined the 5km runners.   They were the mid-packers so I ended up having to run in the middle of the path to get around them.  There were a couple of spots where I had to slow down because I had runners in front of me and runners coming towards me.  I managed to get around them and keep going.

I hit 8km in just under 33 minutes.  I didn't have much left in the tank at all.  I figured even I could hang on to 5 min/km's I could still pull off a sub 43 minute 10km.   I knew I was going faster than that so maybe I'd see a 42 minute finishing time.    I was totally dying though and my legs were really starting to tire.  The 9km mark seemed to take forever.  I hit 9km in just over 37 minutes.  I thought I might just be able to squeeze out a sub 42 minute 10km if I totally busted a gut.  I could hear the music at the finish line and I pushed for all I was worth.  I could see the clock counting down to 42 minutes.  One last push and I made it across the line in 41:55.  Sub 42 minutes by 5 seconds.  Whew.  And a PB by over 4 minutes over my previous 10km record that I set in May.  Crazy.

I saw my friend Nat waiting with Gary and Andrew and she gave me a big hug and congratulated me on my race.  Several of the really fast women came by and congratulated me on a great race.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Nat then informed me that she thought I made the top 5 overall finishers.  WHAT? I wasn't really paying attention to where I was in the pack to be honest, I just ran.

I wandered off to get some food and stretch a bit and then I went to check out the results.  Sure enough I was 5th overall and 1st in my age group!  WOOHOO!  All the women ahead of me were in the 30-39 age group.  That is one tough category to be racing in!

So despite my less than optimal week of eating, I still managed to surpass my goals.  The next time I race a 10km, I'm going to make sure I go out a lot slower.  I figured that I lost about 12 seconds per km in the last 5km.  That's a pretty big BOOM.

Nice piece of hardware!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Checking In On Grandma

I fondly remember my Grandma as being one of the coolest women I knew when I was younger.  She was an avid traveler and she used to bring me back the best goodies from her trips.  I particularly remember a pair of castanettes that she brought me from Spain.  Probably not the best thing to give an 8 year old girl who loved to "play music" (that's what I called it but I'm sure to my parents it was pure noise).

My Grandma's house was a place of wonder.   It was a tiny old 2 storey home on a large piece of land up at Yonge & York Mills.   The basement still had dirt floors in some areas and the kitchen was straight out of the 50's.  I have many fond memories of sitting in that kitchen with Grandma, eating Cheerios with brown sugar and listening to the gurgle of the coffee percolator.   The back yard was another wonderland.   It was a very wide lot and fairly deep too.  The neighbours behind my grandma didn't bother putting up a fence.  Instead there was a small footpath that joined the yards.  They had a pear tree that used to be laden with juicy pears every fall.  I remember wandering around the back yard, picking up pears and putting the good ones in a basket.  My Grandma also had a fantastic vegetable garden.  It would not be usual to find me out sitting amongst the plants with the garden hose, pulling carrots out of the ground, rinsing them off with the hose, and then popping them into my mouth.  I could also be found in the big mass of raspberry and currant bushes, happily pulling berries off the branches and stuffing them in my face.

The amount of amazing memories I have of my Grandma belies the relatively short time I had her in my life.  She passed away from breast cancer when I was 13 years old.   My Grandpa (her husband) passed away when I was 6 so I don't have many memories of him at all.  But from the bits and pieces of pictures and letters that I was lucky enough to have passed on to me, I have a very good sense of the man.   He was a talented photographer.  I remember all of this darkroom equipment had a permanent home in that dark basement.    Funny how 15 years later that same hobby became the focus in my post secondary education!

I think of my Grandparents often, especially my Grandma.  The first race I ever did was CIBC's Run for the Cure and I did it in honor of my Grandma (both of my Grandma's actually, my dad's mom passed away from breast cancer at the young age of 39).    I think I still have my "Who Are You Running For" race bib.   I know that she would be incredibly proud of the woman that I've become.   Years after she passed, I remember asking my Mom where Grandma was buried and she told me Mount Pleasant Cemetery.   When I first lived in the Davisville and Yonge area I would walk through the cemetery on a regular basis, trying to find my Grandma's grave.  That was like looking for a needle in a haystack.  Old habits die hard because on my first run back in the same hood, I went through the cemetery, hoping that perhaps I'd luck out and miraculously stumble upon her grave.  No such luck.

I have tried searching online for a "map" of the plots but I think a visit to the cemetery headquarters is in order.   It's been over 25 years since my Grandma has passed.  I can imagine that she's probably pretty pissed that I haven't stopped by to say "hi".  I figure it's high time I rectify that.  So the next time I lace up my shoes to go for a run through the cemetery, I hope to be able to stop and check in on Grandma.
Mount Pleasant Cemetery, early morning.
copyright:  Phaedra Kennedy 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Varying Degrees of Insanity

Last week I caught myself looking ahead to next years goals.  Being a very goal oriented person and a supreme planner, this seems to be what I do when I have some down time.  I have been tossing around the idea of tackling the 26.2 mile monster again.  Especially now that I have this new found speed and strength.  I was thinking of a spring marathon, potentially Mississauga as I'm very familiar with the course and it's not too far from home.  Mississauga usually takes place mid-May.  However there was also the fact that I wanted to do the Toronto Women's Half again and that takes place at the end of May.


First of all, I am shocked that I even actually contemplated running a full and then running a half 2 weeks later.  Goes to show you how much I've changed mentally as an athlete.

Secondly, I am even more shocked that I was actually somewhat excited by the prospect!

What the hell has happened to me?  I think I have almost reached that degree of insanity that I never thought I'd see.  That of a die hard runner.

To make this prospect even MORE appealing, when I googled the dates for the 2012 Mississauga Marathon, I found, to my absolute delight, that it had now been moved to the FIRST WEEK of May!  That would give me 3 whole weeks to recover AND to reap the fitness benefits from the marathon just in time for the half.

OH yes.  Could this get any better.....??

Somebody get me a straight jacket, I think I need to be committed.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Doin' The Du!

I had been contemplating doing the Cobourg Sprint tri for a few weeks but I'd been so busy that I didn't really have time to sit down and register.  I kept putting it off and then when I tried to register on Thursday afternoon, the online registration was closed but Gary told me I could register at the race.  One less worry.  I was still undecided as to what I was going to do; the tri or the du.  I hadn't done much swimming in the last couple of weeks and I hadn't done ANY open water swimming since my last tri in June.  I guess you could say I was leaning towards doing the Du.   What officially sealed it for me was seeing the Multisport Canada facebook update on Friday that said the water at Cobourg had turned over and was sitting at 58 degrees.  Ummm yeah, I'm out.  No way I'm getting in THAT water.   So the Du it was.

I felt so much more relaxed knowing that I didn't have to swim.  Funny how that is.  I was still excited and nervous but I wasn't anxious, which is a nice change for me.  We got to the race site, racked our bikes and I went to find the registration tent.  I got through registration very quickly and went to set up my bike.  I had lots of time to spare so I took my bike out for a spin to check that my gears were working  fine and then I did a nice little warm up run and stretch.  I was just about to leave transition to go over to the start when I realized that I had forgotten to take my helmet out of my bag and put it with my bike!  I grabbed it out of my bag and put it on my handlebars.  The triathletes were just getting ready to head down to the water so I found Gary and kissed him good luck.  He wished me luck and said "Go out and win it".  I laughed and said "Oh I don't know about that".  I definitely had a podium spot on my mind but not an overall win.

I get to the start and patiently wait, seeding myself slightly behind the first row of runners, and checking out the competition.   It's a small group and I don't see too many ladies in my AG.  In a duathlon the age groups run in 9 year increments whereas in a triathlon they run in 4 year increments.  So in this race ladies that are 45-49 are actually lumped in with the ladies in my age group.  I think it's probably because less people tend do to duathlons vs. triathlons.  And that's probably because they're freaking HARD.

With a triathlon you at least get a "break" from the pounding during the swim.  Don't get me wrong, open water swimming is not easy either, it's just a bit easier on your body (for the most part, although I'm sure the folks that raced in today's freezing cold water would disagree).  In a duathlon, you pound the crap out of your legs on the run.  You then hop on the bike and pound the crap out of your legs again, using slightly different muscles mind you, but it still hurts.  Then, you have to run AGAIN.   No easy task I tell you.

The first run was 5km which is great because I wanted to see how fast I could do a 5km.  So I ran like I didn't have to ride.  Hard.  There were 2 women in front of me and by the first km I had passed them both.  I actually ended up passing several guys as well.  I wasn't sure but I thought I was in the top 10 when I got into transition.  I knew my run was 21 something but I didn't know exactly as I didn't really look at my watch.  I was too focused on how much pain I was feeling in my legs.  
Official time:  21:28

I grabbed my bike helmet, put it on, yanked off my shoes, grabbed a GU Roctane and pulled my bike off the rack.  As soon as it hit the ground, the back wheel dragged.  CRAP.  I stopped and fiddled with it, tried to spin the wheels around and it stuck.  ARG.  I bounced the back wheel off the ground and then it seemed to release.  Off I went, hoping that I hadn't lost too much time in T1
Official T1 time:  1:28.  Not good.

I got on the bike knowing that my legs were not going to want to work.  I wanted to ease into it but that's impossible when you're being chased down.  So I rode as hard as I could manage.   I was passed by several guys, which is not surprising, especially given the fact that I can count the number of times I've ridden my bike this year on 2 hands.  I hoped that I had enough of a lead from the run that I could hold off any stronger cyclists.  I had no idea where the other women were until I hit the 10km turn around.  At the turn around I saw another woman coming fast.   The bike course is a tough one, at least on the way out.  It's got some good rollers and a couple of short steep climbs.  I figured the way back would be a lot easier.  I hammered as much as I could on the downhills, getting into a full roadie crouch when I stopped pedaling.  I thought I might be able to make up some time descending and keep the approaching rocket on the bike at bay.  Unfortunately she caught me with 5km to go.  She blew by me like I was standing still.  All I could do was try to keep her pink top in sight.  Which I managed to do.  I crossed my fingers and hoped that she wasn't a very good runner.  2.5km is not a lot of ground to cover to make up time.
Bike:  42:43.  Needs some work!

I rode up to the dismount line with one foot unclipped already.  I hopped off my bike and ran into transition.  I couldn't quite find my spot and was a little discombobulated for a second.  I spotted my day glo Newtons and made a bee-line for the rack.  I racked my bike, pulled off my bike shoes, slipped on my running shoes, removed my helmet, grabbed my hat and ran out of transition.   The hunt was on.
T2 time:  55 seconds.

As soon as I got out of transition on to the road I spotted the pink top.  She was about 400-500 m in front of me.  Game on.   I was dying at this point.  There was lactic acid running through my entire body.  My breathing was ragged and I just wanted to stop.  I actually thought about slowing down because I figured even if I slowed down, I might actually still get second.  Then I thought, "Are you nuts?  Would you be happy with second if you dogged it?"  Hell no.  Suck it up and get running.  You can DO THIS.  So I pushed harder.  My heart rate was somewhere in the mid 180's.  I started reeling her in.  Just before the 1km mark, I caught her.  Yesssssssssss.  I congratulated her on a great bike and she said she wasn't much of a runner so I figured I was probably going to be ok.  I hit the turn around and didn't look back.  I figured I gapped her enough to be safe.  I saw Gary and held up my index finger to signal number 1.  He said "Way to go, but don't get cocky, there's someone right behind you!"  But I knew I was going to be ok.  I was moving.   I was sucking wind big time at this point but I had to leave it all out on the course.  As I ran towards the finishing chute I heard some people in the crowd say "It's the first place woman!"  Then there were lots of cheers and "way to go girl".   I am pretty sure I was grinning at this point.  As I ran into the finishing chute, I threw my hands in the air and yelled "Wooooohoooooooooo!" as I crossed the finish line.

First place woman overall.  First time I've ever won anything outright.  Final 2.5km run 10:57.

Overall time 1:17:18.  I was 14th overall.  Only 13 people were faster than me and they were all GUYS.

I'm still smiling.    And to top it all off, Gary ended up second place in his age group so we both ended up on the podium today!

Not a bad way to spend a beautiful Sunday morning.

Top 3 finishers on the podium

Friday, August 12, 2011

Working Hard for the Little Prick.

Yes gang, this is going to be a good one.

I know you can't wait to read on and hear all about....

My lactate threshold testing experience.  Or my FaCT test.

What did you think I was going to talk about?

FaCT stands for Feldmann and Chlebek Test.  The test was developed by Juerg Feldmann and Herb Chlebek at FaCT-Canada and has been used on hundreds of athletes from Olympians to your regular weekend warriors like myself.

There are 2 components to the FaCT test protocol.  The first component is known as the Performance Line (or step test) and it is used to compare performance changes over time.  One can see at a glance how an athlete has improved his performance over time, and how to adjust a training program to show continued improvement.  It can also be used to determine whether a particular training program has been ineffective, and allow an athlete to make the appropriate changes to address the problem.*

The second component is the LBP, which stands for Lactate Balance Point.  This is the determination of the body's ability to balance the production of lactate in working muscles, with it's clearance by the body.*  This is what I was interested in.  How well do I process lactic acid?  How fast can I go before it starts to wear me down and cause me problems?

Lactate is a metabolic product that is produced in the muscle cells during exercise.  It can be measured by taking a drop of blood from a finger tip in the same way that diabetics monitor their blood sugar level.*    The first time I had it done I was a bit freaked out thinking that it was regular sized needle (I don't like needles) that I'd have to get poked with every 5 minutes.   But just turned out to be this tiny little prick that felt like you were getting hit with an elastic.   So this time around, I knew what to expect.

Friend and pro-triathlete Tara Norton was going to be doing my test at Absolute Endurance.  Very convenient for me now that we're living up at Mount Pleasant and Davisville!   So I got a nice little warm up in outside before I had to jump on the treadmill.  Tara explained the various stages of the test to me while I did a little warm up on the treadmill.  The first part she was going to increase my speed by .5 on the treadmill every 3 minutes.  So if I started at 6.0, at 3 minutes, I'd go up to 6.5 etc etc until I was at a perceived effort of 8 on a scale of 10.  At that point I'd feel that little prick on my finger.   This required me to place one hand on the side of the treadmill, while running fairly hard.  Not an easy feat.  The first test revealed that my blood lactate was only at 1. something.  Ok.  Can I go harder she asks?  I suppose so.  So she increases the treadmill to 8.5 from 8.  Geez.  I'm not sure I can go another 3 minutes.  But I do.  She pricks my finger again.  I keep running for another minute.   My blood lactate only reaches 2.8. Normally she likes it to be at 3 or more.  Tara suspects that my hard workout the night before is effecting my ability to produce lactate.  Apparently when you are fatigued it's harder for your body to produce lactate.  Who knew?
She decides to use that 2.8 reading and we move on to the second portion of the test.  This portion involves keeping my heart rate steady in 5 beat per minute increments for 5 minutes each increment.  She decides to start me at 145 bpm.  I can run at that pace forever.  It's a bit on the slow side for me but it's a welcome change from the harder effort I had just done.  She fiddles with the treadmill speed every so often to keep my heart rate at 145.  After 5 minutes she ups the speed to bring my heart rate up to 150 bpm.  This is where I usually keep my heart rate for long runs so the 5 minutes passed quickly.  At this point Tara takes another sample just to see what my body is doing.  Nothing much as it turns out.  So she ups the speed again to bring my heart rate to 155.  Another 5 minutes passes, another little prick in the finger with a similar result.  I'm feeling ok at this point.  My legs are sore from my gym workout and the intervals I did the night before but it's manageable.  She ups the treadmill again to bring my heart rate up to 160 bpm.  Another 5 minutes.   Towards the end of that 5 minutes it's starting to get harder.  I'm feeling sloppy and tired.  At the end of the 5 minutes, Tara takes another sample.  Finally things are happening!  She asks if I can keep going for another 3 minutes to see if anything changes.  I feel like I'm working really hard at this point, even though my heart rate is only 160.  I think it's from fatigue because a 160 heart rate for me is about a medium-fast pace.  I hit 187 in my interval session the night before so I know I have a lot more in me.  I barely manage another 3 minutes.  I get another little prick in my middle finger, which by now is quite red.   This time she gets the result she's looking for.   She tells me I can cool down so I slow the treadmill down to 3.5 and I walk.  Oh yeah, that feels so good.  By the time I finally stop, I've covered 10km in 55 minutes.  That includes my warm up and cool down.   If you add in my little 7 minute run to Absolute Endurance, I probably ran about 11km on Friday.   Great considering I missed my tempo run last Tuesday!

Tara was pretty impressed with the fact that she didn't have to manipulate the treadmill much to keep my heart rate at 155-160.  I was like a metronome.  Very steady and very consistent.  Her initial thought was that perhaps that I'm running a bit too slow on my long runs.   Interesting.  I always thought that slower was better when running long.  Turns out, I am running a bit too slow on my long runs.  My lactate balance point is 160 bpm.  Or an 8:10 min mile pace (which works out to roughly 5:04/kms).  Which means I can run at this pace comfortably for a long time.  This is good news because it means that I can actually go faster.  Right now, I usually aim to do my long runs at a pace of 5:20/km with an average heart rate of around 150.    So for my next long run, I'm going to push my HR to 155-157 and see how I feel.

See all those little red dots?  Yeah my finger was a bit sore.
My training zones broke out like this:

Zone 1: < 150
Zone 2: 150-160 (this is where I should be doing my long run training in)
Zone 3: 161-170
Zone 4: 170-180
Zone 5: 181++

So realistically I can really push myself harder on my tempo runs too.  My interval work might actually be a bit TOO hard.  But then again isn't that the point?  They should be hard.  My tempo runs should be somewhere in Zone 4 so I'll have to work at that.  Sometimes I'm up there, sometimes I'm not.  It depends on how much I decide to dog it in my warm up.  My next test will be to determine my max heart rate (I am currently taking a wild guess).  It's not an incredibly scientific test but I've read that's it's fairly accurate.    It will involve yet another form of pain; running up and down a steep hill at varying speeds.   I guess I better get the barf bag ready, I'm probably going to need it.

*NB:  The info on FaCT testing came from an Absolute Endurance hand out.  Those are not my own words!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Faster Dash=More Flash!

I'm not quite sure when this happened.  By this, I mean my penchant for flashy footwear.  I was always a plain white running shoe kinda gal.  The less flash the better.  But now, well, I must confess, the brighter the shoe, the better.   Good thing shoe makers seem to have re-kindled a love for the neon brights of the 80's.

My 2 recent shoe purchases put an exclamation point at the end of that sentence.  If I look at my shoe collection as a whole, I'd have to say that it mirrors the build in my confidence as a runner.  The faster I've gotten, the flashier my shoes have become.


I think not.

My Shoe Collection left to right = old to new.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Christmas in Summer

I waited patiently all week for this day to arrive.  It was like Christmas right smack dab in the middle of summer for me.  We had finally settled in our new temporary digs and Sunday was going to be my first long run in the new 'hood.  I had planned the route in my head, double checking some things on google maps to make sure I knew where was going.  I was so excited.  Imagine my chagrin when I woke up to rain and the rumblings of thunder.  Rats.   I wouldn't have minded running in the rain.  The rumblings of thunder always make me a bit wary so, I poured myself another cup of coffee, puttered around the house, wasted time on facebook and waited for the thunder to stop.

Finally around 11:00 am the thunder stopped and the rain had slowed to a very light drizzle.  At LAST!  I grabbed my fuel belt & ipod, laced up my new Newtons and bounded out the door.  I had planned to run for an hour and 40 minutes.  I wasn't sure if the route I had planned would be long enough.  I thought about doing an out and back but that's what I always do.  I was in a whole other world on this side of the city.  One filled with tons of trails and bike paths.  Out and back?  Nah.  Let's just go explore and see where I end up.

So I headed out east along Davisville to Bayview and as I turned south onto Bayview, the sun came out. Holy hot.  The temperature felt like it went up another 15 degrees.   I wished I had brought my sunglasses.   Oh well, I was going to be heading into a trail shortly so it wouldn't really matter.  I turned right onto Moore Park and motored along.  I was running at a decent pace and my legs actually felt quite good, despite the beating I've put on them over the past couple of days.  The new shoes were also pretty amazing.  I came to the entrance way to the Moore Park Ravine trail and met up with a family on bikes.  It's a pretty steep downhill at the start but it eventually turns into a nice gradual downhill.  Hitting that trail was like entering another world.  It was so quiet.  I could hear the slight rush of a creek and the crunch crunch crunch of my shoes on the gravel.   I ran along and saw this.  It was almost like a doorway on the path.  So cool.

At this point I am pretty sure I was running with a big grin on my face.   It was so beautiful.  And to think this is literally just outside the downtown core of the city.  Amazing.

I followed the path all the way to the Bayview Extension.  This is the area I wasn't sure about.  I went on Google Maps to see if I could figure out where the path started up again and how I could get on to the Don River Path.  I couldn't quite figure it out looking at the map so I just went with what I knew.  I turned and ran up the Bayview Extension (on the nice wide shoulder of course) and over to Pottery Road where I knew the Don River path crossed.  They are doing some major construction on Pottery Road and it has affected the first km or so of the bike path.  Instead of being nice and wide it's this very narrow lane.  No big deal as there literally was no one else around.  I motored along up the path running in and out of the shade.  The sun was out in full force and there was no breeze so it was pretty hot out.

I ran up the Don River path and picked up the route of the Toronto Women's Half.  I realized just how tough that race was as I was running along and watched my pace get slower and slower.  I was starting the gradual climb back up.  After running down to Bayview, I knew I'd have a pretty tough slog back up.   My plan was to run all the way up the Don River Path to Wilket Creek Park and exit the path at Leslie.  From there I'd run west along Eglinton and turn down either Mount Pleasant or Yonge depending on the time.

I exited the park and hit Eglinton at about 1:08.  I checked the distance on my watch:  12:86km.  Sweet.  I figured I was at least 5km from home, maybe more.   I had 32 minutes to cover that distance.  And a MONSTER of hill to climb.   That hill up Eglinton towards Laird is just plain NASTY.  It's long and it's steep.  I pushed up it, keeping my pace at just under 6/min km's.  I remember thinking to myself that if I don't become a stronger runner training out here well, then I'd just give up.   The worst part is, the rest of the way home even after climbing this hill is also uphill.  It evens out a bit and then steeply climbs again once you pass Bayview.   Evil.  Just plain evil.

I checked my watch while waiting at the light at Bayview and figured that I probably wouldn't have to go to Yonge to make the time.  I made a slight misjudgment in distance and time, so I ended up having to make my way towards Yonge street along Manor Road.  I turned down a side street just before Yonge and made my way through the 'hood towards Millwood Road.  I got to the water park and was VERY tempted to jump in with the kids that were playing.  But I didn't.  I filled up one of my flasks and gulped half of it back.  I followed the path out of the park and on to Davisville.  I had 4 minutes to get back.  No problem.  I crossed Mount Pleasant and turned on to Belle Ayre with 1.5 minutes to spare.  So, I ran past the house to the end of the street, turned around and ran back.  When I say I'm going to go out and run for a certain amount of time, I don't like to "cheat" myself out of that time, even if it was only a minute and a half.

I came back to the house all excited and energized, kinda like a kid that had just been given the best gift ever.  Given that I haven't been this excited about going for a long run in ages,  I suppose it was.

Next Sunday can't some soon enough.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Running Adultery: My Take on the Saucony Kinvara

I have a confession to make.

I've cheated on my sole mate.

Cheated with a tarted up pair of Sauconys.  That's right.  I've committed running adultery.  And I have to say, it was nothing short of spectacular.   Don't get me wrong, I still love my Newtons.  But these Sauconys, well I've never felt this way in a pair of shoes before.

I first laid eyes on them a little under a year ago when a friend of mine bought a pair.  They were so light and flexible.  Almost like slippers.  "Oohhh", I thought, "I'd love to get a pair of those on my feet."  At that time I was newly in love with my Newtons and in the middle training for a marathon.  No point in straying...

Fast forward almost a year.  My current pair of Newtons are not doing it for me anymore.  I had decided to try a different pair in the Newton line up (The Lady Isaacs) and well, the shine had worn off.  So it only stands to reason that those tarty neon pink Sauconys took my breath away when I laid eyes on them in Sporting Life.  Especially when they were on sale for 50% off.  Nothing like a cheap tart to lead you astray.

I finally took them out for their first real test ride today.  They did not disappoint.  I felt like I was running on sponge pockets.  They were cushy and responsive.  And they made me feel fast, effortless and alive.   Like my first pair of Newtons did.  I did an easy half hour in them (along with my new orthotics) and it was sheer cushy joy, despite my tired legs.  Now, there were a couple of hot spots as these shoes are a bit narrower in the toe box than my Newtons.   Not totally annoying but then again I only ran for half an hour and I started to notice them about 20 minutes in.   I also noticed that my stride got a bit sloppy towards the end of my half hour.   I'm thinking the combination of 2 hard days of workouts and the low profile, limited stability shoe affected my stride.   It was still an enjoyable ride.  One that I definitely can't wait to do again.  But, and there is a but...I am used to running in Newtons.  I have worked hard on my running form, set several PBs and those shoes were a big part of all of that.  I can't just throw that all away.  Especially with my A-race coming up.

Totally not cool.

So, as much as I love the Sauconys, they will be my "special occasion" shoes.  My shoes for short distance races.   So for anything 10km and under, I'll lace up these neon pink ladies and give them the workout they deserve.  Something hard and fast.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How My Love of Running Found Me My Running Love.

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A couple of weekends ago friends of mine got engaged at Ironman Germany.  They met through mutual friends who were also triathletes.  In a sense, their love of a sport brought them together.  If neither one of them were into triathlons, would they ever have met?  Probably not.  Of course this got me thinking back to how I met Gary (aka "G").

I first met Gary in 2001 when I was training for my first marathon.  We were in the same Running Room clinic at the High Park Running Room.   I thought he was quite cute but he didn't give me the time of day.  We ran together once and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't engage him in a conversation.  So I made up my mind that he was a bit of a jerk.  Our training program ended and we both went off to run our respective marathons.  He ran the Ottawa marathon and I ran the Vancouver marathon.   There was a small group of folks (about 5-6 of us) that actually kept in touch after the clinic ended.  Towards the end of the summer we all decided to start running together again in High Park.  The goal was to do some hill training. One of the guys, Greg, was the instigator of this idea.   I think he showed up once.  Gary and I were the only regulars.   That first week it was just Gary and I and I remember thinking, "Oh great, this is going to be like pulling teeth."   But surprisingly that first run together went really well.  Gary had just signed up for his first Ironman and I remember telling him I thought he was completely nuts.  The conversation flowed fairly easily and at the end of the run we made plans to meet again the following week, regardless of who else was going to show up.   This went on for a couple of months.  Sometimes it would just be us, sometimes there would be other people.  But more often then not, it would just be us.  My opinion of Gary changed dramatically in those weeks.  I found him to be quite chatty and engaging, which just made him even more attractive.
November rolled around and the running became a bit more sporadic but I still kept in touch with the group.   I had decided to have a pre-holiday party in late November and I invited all of the running folks I still kept in touch with.  The majority of them showed up, including Gary.   This was the first time he had ever seen me in "normal clothes" instead of my baseball cap and sweaty running clothes.  I'll never forget his reaction.  He said "Wow, you have a lot of hair".  I'm not quite sure how he didn't notice the huge bushy ponytail that hung down my back.   Especially since he was usually running behind me back in those days.   But I digress. That night,  I tried to be the a sociable host but I ended up spending a large part of my evening chatting with Gary.   We talked about everything and laughed a lot.    That night sealed the deal for me.  I was smitten.  But I had no idea how he felt about me.  He's definitely one that plays his cards close to his chest.  I think most women generally have an idea when a guy is interested in them.  I had absolutely no clue.  Until I got the invite to his birthday party in December.  When I showed up to the Madison that night, his face lit up like a Christmas tree.  He told me he was really happy I made it out.  Apparently he had mentioned me to his friends as well as they were all sizing me up.   I think the fact that he had had a few beverages by the time I got there helped loosen him up.  By the end of the evening I had given him my phone number and told him to call me if he wanted to go for a run.  I didn't hear from him for a few days so I followed up with an email to make sure he survived the evening and wasn't too hung over.   He did and we made plans to go for a run on New Year's Eve day.  We went for a great run that day and he finally suggested that we go and see a movie in the new year.  So on January 5th, 2002, we went on our very first date. We've been training partners ever since.

We've trained for and participated in numerous races together.  I watched him do his first Ironman, he paced me to my first Boston Qualifier and in 2006 we tackled Ironman together.   Our love of a sport and the enjoyment of leading a healthy lifestyle brought us together and it has been a constant in our relationship.  I firmly believe that the couple that plays together, stays together.  I'm looking forward to crossing many more finishing lines with my Running Love.

Happy Ironman Finishers in 2006

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Pros and Cons of Cottage Country Training

Highway 35 Scenery
I was fortunate enough to spend this past long weekend up at our friends cottage on Raven Lake.  It's just outside of Dorset off Highway 35.   Beautiful area and very hilly.   Going for a run at the cottage is a regular occurrence and I have done more than my fair share of training on those roads.  While I was out on Sunday, my mind started to wander (which is not unusual) and I started to think about what I love and hate about running up north.

The Pros:

* Very little traffic
* Great scenery
* Long stretches of uninterrupted road
* Lots of discreet places for an emergency bathroom break
* Challenging hills
* Being able to jump into the lake right after a run
* Enjoying a great meal and post run beverage on a dock by the water, followed by a nap on the dock.

The Cons:

* Very little traffic (if something happens to you and you don't have your phone, you could be waiting a while)
* Long stretches of uninterrupted road (can be mind-numbingly boring no matter how beautiful)
* Being a mobile snack machine for whatever bugs happen to be out that day.
* Looking like a complete spaz because you're swatting the air around you while you're running to keep the bugs from buzzing around in your ears.
* Challenging hills (tough to deal with if you're on the verge of bonking)
* Having to drive 3 + hours in horrible traffic to get there.