Friday, December 27, 2013

2014: The Year of the Real Deal

A while back I hinted at a big adventure for 2014.  Well folks, the pieces are all falling into place.  The final piece to the puzzle was put in place this morning and quite frankly, I'm so freaking excited I can't even bear it.  Next year is going to be EPIC.  Why?  Because G and I just signed up for this:

Yes folks, that's a 70.3.  And yes, it's in Luxembourg.   We are off to race in Europe once again.  Why Europe?  Well, why not I guess.  It came about on my suggestion that we take a nice trip to Italy in the summer to celebrate 10 years of marriage.  G said that would be great.   A couple of months later G says, I'd like to do a 70.3 next year.  In Europe.  Ok, not really my idea of a nice romantic holiday but the more I thought about it, the more excited I got.  After all, this is what we love to do together.  Yes, I'm a bit apprehensive about doing a longer distance race.  Especially the swim.  BUT, I have to remind myself that this is a half Ironman.  I made it through 2 full Ironman races in one piece, I know I can get through this.  That being said, I am never happy to "just get through" something.  That is not in my nature.  I am a competitor and I want to go out and race it.  With my early season race card filling up and my lofty goal for Boston, I didn't think I could hammer out a training plan that had me peak for Boston, while still getting a good deal of cycling in and then peak for Luxembourg a short two months later.  I needed help.

Enter my friend and colleague Tom Nesbitt.  He mentioned to me that Real Deal Racing was putting together a multi-sport team and he had talked me up big time to one of the owners.  A few weeks later, I happened to meet said owner (Mike Mandel) and talked to him briefly about coaching.  I was just starting to do some research on coaches.  I am definitely someone who follows her gut and I immediately liked Mike.  But I also feel I have to investigate every avenue so that's what I did.  But I came right back to the guys at Real Deal.   I wanted to have my FTP test done so I contacted Mike and said I'd like to go ahead with that at least and that I'd like to talk to them about coaching.  So the night of my test was also like an interview.  They had to make sure I wasn't nuts and that we were going to be a good fit as a team.  By the end of that test, I was completely sold.  Both Mike and Ming are great guys and I'm so excited to be working with them this year.  I have complete faith that they will help me get to where I want to be and it's nice to know that they are excited to be working with me as well.  To quote Mike: We are taken by your passion and excited by your past results and considerable potential.   To say I'm pumped would be an understatement.  

The other big change for 2014 is that I will no longer be racing for Team Running Free.  I am now a part of the Real Deal Multi Sport team.  It's a small but mighty roster of talented athletes and I am honored to be one of them! 

2014 is definitely going to be the year of the Real Deal.  Booya!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas Eve!

To say that the last few days have been chaos in the Big Smoke would be an understatement.  Our weather has been all over the place with temperatures rising and then plummeting.  We've been dumped on with snow and now, good old Mother Nature has covered the city in ice.  So needless to say, I've taken my workouts inside.  Yes folks, I hit the 'mill on Saturday for just over 13km and I did it again this morning for another 7km.  That was before the sun came out and melted some of the crap on the roads.  So of course, I HAD to go out for another run.  It would have been a cryin' shame not to.  Words cannot describe how happy that made me.  It may have been -10 but I didn't care.  I was OUTSIDE in the SUNSHINE.  It doesn't get much better than that.  What a fabulous way to spend Christmas Eve day. 

Our neighbourhood was lucky enough to not lose power during or after the storm, thank goodness.  I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I am for that.  It meant that I got to spend my Sunday afternoon like this:
There was a good solid nap involved- I'd been out late every night for the last four nights in a row (say what?!). And of course, a couple of hours of Top Gear watching.  It was so nice to have a lazy Sunday after all the running around and late nights I've had over this past week.  It was also G's birthday and he was happy to spend the afternoon with his feet up in front of the fire.

We don't start our Christmas insanity until tomorrow.  G and I usually have a nice dinner and exchange our gifts tonight.  Tomorrow we go to his sister's place in the morning and open presents with the kids and then we drive to Guelph for dinner with my family.  And more present exchanging.  Then we drive home.  On Boxing Day everyone comes to our place for another feast.  I seriously LOVE this time of year!!!

Merry Christmas to all you folks that follow along.  I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!!

Do you have any Christmas traditions? 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Testing Testing.....

As part of my "Big Things in 2014" plan, I decided I should probably get my functional threshold power tested on the bike.  I had my lactate threshold tested on the run just over 2 years ago and on the bike about 7 years ago but this whole "functional threshold" thing was new to me.  After doing a bit of research it is essentially the same thing except the number you end up with is not heart rate based but power based.  It's a number that is measured in watts.  What are watts?  Watts, in the most basic of terms, are the amount of power you are able to generate on the bike.   Why is this important you may wonder?  Well, unlike heart rate, which can be influenced by many things like temperature and dehydration, watts are absolute.  Your power is your power, period.  Thus, for training on the bike, it makes much more sense to train with power vs. heart rate.  Now that I have a computrainer, it's something that I want to take full advantage of.  Especially if I want to improve my cycling.

Enter Mike Mandel & Ming-Chang Tsai from Real Deal Racing.  Real Deal offers FTP testing as well as coaching services and computrainer classes all over the city.  These guys know their stuff.  They live and breathe cycling. 

So last Thursday I dragged my slightly scared butt over to RPM for a 90 minute session with Mike & Ming.  One of my fellow coworkers has been participating in a study with Ming and has referred to him as Dr. Pain.  He posted a video on Facebook of the end of one of his testing sessions.  It was scary stuff.  So I was super nervous.  I know how to push myself on the run and I've learned to handle that pain but the bike is a whole other world. 

Mike got my bike up on the trainer and I hopped on and did a warm up.  I chatted with them about racing and next years plans and then Mike explained the test to me.  He was going to have me do some cadence drills to get me really warmed up, then I was going to do a few one minute efforts and then I was going to go into a 20 minute all out ride.  The key, he said, was to not go out too hard or your power would drop off substantially by the end.  In running terms it would be like hitting the wall in a marathon.  Mike advised me to pick something to focus on to take my mind off the eventual discomfort I would feel.  I opted to focus on my cadence up on the screen in front of me.

I watched the countdown on the screen and as soon as the 1 disappeared from the screen, I cranked the pedals.  I watched my watts spike.  I shifted gears to find the right balance of cadence and power.  I settled into a pace that I thought I'd be able to maintain for 20 minutes.  The first 5 minutes didn't feel horrible.  I was toeing the line between comfortable and uncomfortable.  Mike asked me what my effort level felt like and I said about an 8 out of 10.  I went on to say it kind of felt like a tempo effort in running, because at that point I could still speak in full sentences. 

I was thankful for the spinning class that was happening because the instructor had some good tunes cranked.  The next 5 minutes definitely felt harder and I could see my heart rate had started to climb into the 170's.  That was definitely 10km race pace territory.  My breathing became more and more laboured.  I kept my eyes on my cadence, occasionally glancing up to look at my watts.

My cadence went something like this:  99, 99, 99, 101, 99, 99, 98, 100, 99, 99, 99, 99, 99, 99, 99.  I was almost hypnotic.

I watched my watts start off around 192 or so and then by the time I hit the halfway point of the test they had dropped to 190.  I didn't want them to go below 190.  No rhyme or reason for it, I just didn't want it to go below that.  At the halfway point Mike says you're past the hard part, this is going to be easy.  I laughed.  Because at that point I could still laugh.  Then the encouragement started.  Both Ming and Mike were encouraging me to push harder and try to get my watts up to 191.  I dug a little deeper.  I hit 191.   More encouragement to go for 192.  The shovel came out and I dug a little deeper.  I saw 192 come up on the screen.  At this point, I was really starting to feel the pain.  I was told I had just under 8 minutes left.   Good God.  I knew it was only going to get worse.  More encouragement from the guys to get one more watt.  I found 193.  My heart was in my throat.  My legs were burning.  Mike asked me what my effort level was and all I could say was hard.

With just under 5 minutes left I was at 193 watts.  The guys were pushing me to get to 194.  They were joined by a woman who was setting her bike up for the time trial session that was scheduled after.  She chimed in by saying I was the leader and she was chasing me, she was right on my tail.  That seemed to light a fire under me and I managed to crank out another watt and hit 194.  At this point I could not longer focus on anything.  I was working so hard I couldn't see straight.  My cadence appeared as a blur on the screen in front of me.  The boys were pushing for one more watt.  I didn't think I could do it.  I put my head down and hammered on the pedals.  Just when I felt like I was going to die, I heard the cheers.  I hit 195.  Now all I had to do was hang on.  I had less than 2 minutes.  I put my head down and kept grinding.

Grinding it out:  Shot courtesy of Mike Mandel / Real Deal Racing

When Mike announced I was done, my first words were "Somebody get me a bucket."  I immediately stopped pedaling but Mike said I shouldn't stop.  So I sat up and switched gears so my legs could spin.  He said I could stay there as long as I needed to so I did.  I was actually a little afraid to get off my bike as I wasn't sure if I'd actually be able to stand or walk.  So I spun my legs until my heart rate came down and I had some feeling in my legs again.

I maxed out at 195w.  To determine your functional threshold power, you take your max watts from this test and minus 5% so that put me at 186w for my FTP.  I have no idea if that's good or bad, all I know is that it can be improved upon as my cycling fitness is next to non existent.

I can honestly say that's probably the hardest thing I've ever done physically.  But I'm glad I did it.  I now have a training tool to help guide me through my winter training.  Once I start riding outside, I'm going to have to invest in a power meter if I want to continue training and racing with power.   That's a whole other expense that I don't want to think about right now.  So many toys, not enough money, ha ha.

This is what I got at the end of my test.  I can do this test again on my own at home in a few months to see if I've improved.  Not sure if I want to go through that kind of pain again, but I'm sure my curiosity will probably get the better of me.

Have you ever done this test? 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Snow Day Bake-o-Rama & A Giveaway Winner

Ok I know I'm always moaning about how quickly the weekends go by but this weekend seriously FLEW by.  I got home on Friday and then the next thing I knew it was Sunday night. WTH.  Looking back I guess you could say I was pretty busy.  Friday night G and I wandered up the street to check out the new restaurant that opened.  Seems like everyone else in the neighbourhood had the same idea.  About 20 minutes after we sat down, our neighbours showed up and 15 minutes after them another couple that lives the next street over showed up.  I think we were all pretty happy that the 'hood finally has a decent restaurant within walking distance.  It's a pizza place and while the service needs some improvement (it was good when we got it, they just seem a little disorganized right now) the food was excellent, as was the wine.  We'll definitely go back. 
Dessert - Strawberry Tiramisu
Saturday morning I dragged my butt out of bed and went to a TRX class.  I had planned on running afterwards before the snow storm really hit but when I got out of the class and back to the car, I discovered that my front passenger wheel had gotten a flat.  So, I called my knight in shining armour and he came up to change the tire.  Really I should have just called the roadside assistance that comes with the car but I never think to do that.  I then had to drop the tire off at Kipling tire so they could patch it up.  That whole process set me back an hour and a half and by the time I got home, the snow was really coming down.  Add to that the bitter wind chill and winds and I opted to stay inside and tackle my Christmas baking.
Gotta be festive!
 As if being on my feet for 4 hours wasn't enough, I decided to get on the bike late Saturday afternoon.  It wasn't pleasant given the hard effort I put in on Thursday (that will be another post in itself).  My legs felt flat and heavy but I toughed it out and managed to ride for just under an hour.  I can't let my cycling slide over the winter like I did this past year. 
Sunday, G & I hit the pool but I really wasn't feeling it, especially since it was almost all stroke work so I pulled the pin after 45 minutes, went home and did some more baking.  G came back and then we went off to get our Christmas tree.  Our neighbour told us to go to Ikea because they had trees for $20.  So off we went.  I think we picked the perfect tree.   We brought it in and had to let it settle before decorating it.  So, I finished up my next round of baking, threw some chicken in the slow cooker to make this insanely delicious dinner and then got myself dressed to finally get out and do my run.  It was slow going and really messy but I got it done and that's all that really matters. And I saw this beautiful sight. 
Looking back on the weekend, I guess I was more than a little busy.  I had hoped to get out and finish my Christmas shopping but that didn't happen.  Looks like I'm going to have to try and tackle that this week. 

In the meantime....I have a winner for the Health & Fitness Holiday Blog Hop!  It's Sarah Griffiths Briggs!  YAY!  Congrats Sarah!  I'll be contacting you shortly for your mailing address.  Thanks to everyone who entered and a huge thanks to Kristy for organizing it! 

What did you get up to this weekend? 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Running the Numbers at B&BT

I normally wait until the end of the year to do my recap, and I will probably still do so,  but I have been inspired by a post that Ty at Seeking Boston Marathon wrote, to do something a little different in the meantime.  If you read his post, you'll see that it doesn't just focus on all things running, which I thought was pretty entertaining and refreshing because running is more than just miles logged.  It also comes with it's own set of experiences.  So, I'm going to #RunTheNumbers from this year and, I'm hosting a link up so all of YOU can #RunTheNumbers with me.  Share your random running and non running numbers by linking up to this post with the handy Linky at the bottom of the page.  Feel free to grab this image as well or create your own and join in the fun!


The number of pairs of running shoes currently sitting by the front door.  Coincidentally 6 out of 7 are Mizunos.  I've definitely become a huge fan of their shoes over the last year and a half.


The number of black toenails I've had this year.


The number of black toenails I currently have.

253, 407

The number of meters I've swam so far in 2013.  I still have 10 sessions left this year.  We'll see how many of them I get to between now and the end of the year.  For now, that's 253.4km.  That would be like driving from Toronto to Kingston.  


The number of pageviews on my #BostonStrongTO post.  That has been my most popular post on this blog to date.  My Boston race report is not far behind it.

13 of 14

The number of races where I made the podium.  The only race I didn't was The Boston Marathon.  Those fast folks are a whole other category of speedy.   Yup, it was a freaking epic year of racing.  Bling Bling!


The number of times I made it to hot yoga in the last year.  I really need to work on that.

Lost Count

Of the number of blisters I got.   I come by my blog name honestly folks.


The number of days you have left enter my Health & Fitness Holiday Giveaway

How about you? Link up below and #RunTheNumbers ! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How Was Your Year of Running?

I love the end of the year in the running blogisphere.  Everyone takes a step back and shares the highlights of their year.  It's nice to reflect on the things that went well.  I find it incredibly motivational to read about other people's experiences so I'm excited to participate in Miss Zippy's #yearofrunning13.  I'm looking forward to reading about everyone's 2013.  Amanda asked 6 simple questions.  Some of which were very easy for me to answer and some of which required a bit more thought.  This year seems very surreal on so many levels, I don't think I've processed it all just yet.

Without further ado, here are her questions:

*Best Race Experience:  It was Boston, hands down, despite the horrible events of that day.  I executed the perfect race.  I ran happy and I reminded myself to be grateful even then the going got tough and I wanted to stop.  I really took in the atmosphere of the race and the support of spectators.  They are the ones that really make that race what it is.  I can't begin to describe the difference that made in my day.  I crossed the finish line with a P.R by over two and a half minutes.   I'm really looking forward to going back next year and celebrating the amazing city that is Boston. 

*Best Run: #BostonStrongTO:  This was a run I organized a week after Boston.  Brian at Pavement Runner came up with the idea and asked me if I would be interested in heading up a Toronto edition.  I jumped at the chance.  There were probably about 50 people that came out to run around High Park in Toronto's West End.  The outpouring of support and camaraderie that was shared that day still warms my heart and probably will for years to come.   

*Best New Piece of Gear:  My Garmin 910xt.  I am such a data junkie and this thing gives me SO much info it makes my head spin.  The best part is, I can use it for all 3 sports (swim, bike & run) because it is completely water proof.  Best $$ I spent this year for sure.

*Best Piece of Running Advice I Received:  Ironically, it's the same as Miss Zippy's and even more ironic is the fact that I got it from reading her blog, ha ha.  She spoke very highly about MAF training and after reading up on it, I decided to try it on my long runs only for about 6 weeks in my down time after Boston, leading up to my triathlon season.  It was difficult to slow down that much but I did find that by the end of my first 4 weeks, I had actually gotten faster at the same low heart rate.  It's definitely something I'd try to incorporate into my training if I have significant down time after an event, or, heaven forbid, after coming back from an injury. 

*Most Inspirational Runner:  Emily Eliason a.k.a Run Emz.  I've never met her but from what I see over the interwebz, I think she has the most gigantic heart.  She comes across as ray of sunshine, always positive, always grateful and incredibly humble. Plus anyone that can run over 100 miles on a treadmill for 24 hours straight is amazing. 

*If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be?   Self discovery, respect, grateful, beyond expectations.  All of those words sum up my 2013 running year.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Health and Fitness Holiday Giveaway Hop

Well that's another weekend gone!  Only 17 days left till Christmas folks, are you ready?  I don't know about you but I can't wait.  I've still got some vacation time left and the studio usually closes between Christmas and New Years so I'll probably have a couple of weeks off.   I'm looking forward to hanging out with G and my family as well as getting some things done around here.   G put the lights up today and brought out our Christmas lawn ornament but we still need to get our tree.  I've been really hit by the Christmas spirit these last few days so I'm jonesing to deck the halls and get the tree up.  But that will have to wait until next weekend.  In the meantime I'll start wrapping my Christmas presents.

Speaking of presents, I'm excited to announce that I'm going to be part of a Health and Fitness Holiday Giveaway Hop that Kristy over at Runaway Bridal Planner is hosting.  YAY!  There are 30 of us in total, all hosting giveaways!  Not only will you get introduced to new blogs but that's 30 different giveaways to enter!  You might be able to win a few extra stocking stuffers for yourself or another runner in your life.  Happy Holidays indeed!

I've put together a bunch of goodies from Clif and of course a pair of Sweat Pink laces as my giveaway item.  I may add a couple of things to it later on in the week, I just have to make sure I can get my hands on them.  My giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada so go on and get clicking on that handy little Rafflecopter giveaway widget.  And don't forget to hop on down the list of all the participants.  You'll see it at the bottom of this post. The giveaway runs from Dec 9th to 16th.  The winner will be announced on the blog on the 17th and will also be notified via email.  You'll have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. 

Happy Hopping!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Making The Most of Your Off Season: Hit the Weights

Racing season has come to a close here in Canada.  That officially means it's OFF SEASON.  I don't know about you but I love the off season.  Some people dread it but I look at it as an opportunity to work on things that need improvement.  Not only is it a chance for your body to rest and recover but to re-build as well.

It's also a great time to work on strength and technique.  If you remove the physiological stress of racing, you should be able to add a third or even fourth weight workout into your training routine.  That's what I've done.  During racing season I lift twice a week, as basic maintenance.  I probably lift about 50% of my one rep max during my weight workouts because I'm also doing other hard workouts so I don't want to tax my system too much.

In the off season, you're generally in maintenance mode (i.e few hard workouts and no racing) you should be able to increase your weights to lift much heavier or add that third day of lifting in.  Why do this you may wonder?  How will it benefit me come race season?

Let me count the ways!   Here are my three favourites:

1.  Strength training will help make you faster.  Not to toot my own horn but, I am a good example of this.  I've been going to the gym for years but I never really did any sort of heavier lifting.  I avoided the squat rack like the plague and instead chose to do a lot of functional exercises with lighter weights.  Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for those but if you want to work on building speed, don't be afraid to make friends with the squat rack.  It wasn't until I started an actual lifting program in late 2010 that I actually began to see results both in the way my body looked and performed.   Fast forward 3 years and my times have continued to drop, despite getting older.  I'm chalking it up to the fact that I take advantage of my off season and lift heavy which in turn, has allowed me the strength to really push myself.  Strength training increases your leg strength and improves your bodies efficiency to use energy and oxygen.  According to Charles Polloquin "Increasing the body’s ability to use oxygen efficiently is a primary goal of endurance training, and it is measured by VO 2 max, or maximal oxygen uptake. Simply, if you can decrease the amount of oxygen needed to run at a certain speed, you’ll be able to sustain a fast pace for a longer time and likely be able to run faster overall."

2.  Strength training will make you leaner.  Contrary to popular belief, you WILL NOT GET BIG.  You'd have to be in the gym pretty much every day and eat nothing but chicken breast and spinach.  Oh and you'd have to cut out the endurance THAT'S going to happen.  Strength training helps decrease body fat which will result in a leaner you.  And leaner = lighter and lighter = faster.  See a pattern here?

3.  Strength training can help prevent injuries.  This alone is probably the best reason to hit the gym.  I'm no doctor but I'm sure that many running injuries could be prevented with a good strength training routine.  Almost everyone has one side of their body that is stronger than the other.  If you incorporate single leg work into your strength training plan, you can work at building up strength in your weaker side, resulting in a more balanced, efficient stride.  

For even more reasons to hit the gym you can check out Charles Polloquin's 10 Reasons here as well as Running Competitor's reasons here.  The Running Competitor article also has several links to various exercise programs that are beneficial to runners.  Win / win!

Do you strength train?  If so, do you change things up in your off season or do you continue with your same routine?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Last Hurrah: The Tannenbaum 10km

Yesterday marked the final race in my crazy year of racing.  14 races in 2013.  That's a lot.  I don't think next year is going to be quite as mental.  Not when I'm planning to have a few big things on my racing plate for 2014.

I had wanted to do this race last year but ended up going to Paris instead.  I know, poor me.  With no fancy trips like that scheduled for this year, it was definitely going to be a part of my racing calendar.   I had heard good things about it and figured it would be good to have something to keep up some of the speed work after Scotia.

After Scotia, I dialed back my speed work by taking my track work / interval days out of the equation.  I still kept up my tempo runs with WTP as I really enjoy those sessions as well as the company.   I've also kept up my long runs so I'm not starting from scratch when I start training for Boston.  All that being said, I wasn't sure what I'd be able to pull off time wise at this race.  It was a slightly winding course and the wet and cold-ish weather had resulted in a bit of ice along the route.  We were warned to watch our footing.   I figured if I could come in around 40:00 minutes or so, I'd be happy.

The race starts at the snack bar in The Beach in Toronto's east end and runs west along the Martin Goodman Trail.  It's a lovely place for a race.  It's a small event that actually sold out this year.  At only $40, it's a fantastic value.  The swag bags are great (you get a toque instead of a t-shirt - can't get any more Canadian than that!) and there are excellent draw prizes as well as post race massages and food.  Cobs Bread was one of the sponsors and they had PILES of gingerbread scones post race.   Best post race treat EVER.

I got there fairly early, found some parking and proceeded to do a nice easy warm up along the boardwalk.  My legs didn't feel awesome and my heart rate seemed high for the pace I was running so I didn't really have high hopes for a stellar performance.  I just figured I'd do my usual go hard and leave it all on the course and see where I end up.   I wanted to break 40 minutes but wasn't sure how possible that would be. 

I ran into a few friends while milling about at the start so I spent a bit of time catching up with them.  Then folks started shuffling forward.  It was almost Go Time.  I saw a guy holding a sign that said 40 minutes or faster so I tried to line up as close to him as possible.  I spotted a few ladies up ahead hanging out with the large group of dudes from the Black Lungs.  The really speedy people.   I figured the narrow path was going to be a bit tough to navigate with all these runners so I moved up a bit more.

They started the countdown and then we were off.  I hammered out of the gate.  No easing into any sort of pace.  It was run hard right off the bat.  I figured my body would eventually tell my ambition who's boss but for the time being my ambition pushed the pace.  The first few hundred metres were a bit tough.  I should have seeded myself a little further up as I had to do a lot of dodging people and running on the grass was a bit treacherous due to the slippery footing.  No big deal, I just know for next time.

The trail was fairly straight until about the 2km mark where it started to wind out of the park.  I had run my first km in 3:48.  I was definitely working.  By kilometre number two my body had told my ambition to chill out.  I hit it in 3:59.  I hoped that the next 8 would be around the same pace.

I was in a pack of people for the next km.  I figured that once we got into the Leslie Spit, we'd spread out so I hung on to the fast dudes in front of me.  My long haired friend from Scotia was there again and I stayed behind him for as long as I could, using him as a pace bunny.  As we entered the Spit, the group I was with started to splinter.  I was running side by side with a younger girl and I could see another girl slightly ahead of us.  The younger girl beside me really pushed me to catch that other girl - we were running stride for stride.  We reeled the other girl in and motored past.  I looked ahead to see how many other ladies I could see.  I counted at least 6 and they were a fair bit ahead of me.  I wasn't sure if I had it in me to catch any of them but I sure as hell was going to try.

If it's windy on the Spit, it can suck the life out of you.  That happened to me at the MEC 10km in the summer.  Thankfully this time around, there was no wind.  None.  Conditions were absolutely perfect.  My shadow and I hammered along towards the 5km mark.  Then, all of a sudden, I lost her.  I figured her and I would run stride for stride for the rest of the race, she seemed to be running so strong.  I was coming towards the turn around so I was able to see how many women were in front of me.  Sure enough I counted 6.  A couple of them looked to be in their 20's, then there was Michelle Clarke who I know is in her 30's and another woman whose age I couldn't place.  She could have been in her 30's.  Maybe in her 40's.  It was hard to tell.  Michelle and this other woman were only about 300-400m ahead of me.  I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make up the gap.  I figured they'd have to slow down for me to catch them as my splits had been pretty even for the first 5km:  3:48, 3:59, 3:58, 3:57, 4:00.

I was feeling surprisingly strong through 5km.  Yeah, I hurt but I didn't feel like I was fading yet, which really helped buoy my confidence.   As I made my way towards the 7km mark, I realized that I was starting to reel in Michelle.   I pushed harder.  My lungs were burning.  Just before 7km I caught her.  Never in a million years did I think I'd catch her.  I ran with her for a bit and encouraged her to push.  I think that's why that km ended up being the second fastest one I ran (3:54).  Surprisingly I managed to pull away from her.  I couldn't see any other women ahead of me.  I was starting to do the mental math at this point.  Less than 12 minutes.  Then my watch beeped and I realized I just passed 8km.  Sweet.  Less than 8 minutes.  I knew at that point that I would break 40 minutes.  The question was by how much.  I turned back into Ashbridges Bay and was warned by a volunteer to watch out for my footing so I slowed down.  Shortly there after I came up on the mystery woman who was off to the side of the path, walking.  WTH?  I asked if she was ok and she said "Not really but I'll be fine".  Then she proceeded to cheer me on.  That is why I love runners.  Right there.  Seriously amazing. 

I hit the 9km mark and glanced down at my Garmin:  4:04.  Whoops.  Guess I better pick it up.  I could see the finish line.  Out of nowhere, a couple of guys came barreling along and passed me.  I had nothing.  There was no way I was hanging on to anyone.  I could feel my hamstrings starting to scream at me.  I kept my eyes on the big orange arch at the finish line.  As I got closer I could see the clock counting down.  I came flying across the line and hit stop on my Garmin:  39:39.  I had done it.  Broken 40 minutes for a 10km.  I couldn't believe it.

I got my medal and ran into Dave Emilio the race organizer.  He asked how I did and I told him I finally broke 40 minutes.  That got me a hug and a congrats.  I went back out on the course and did a short cool down run.  I cheered my friends Rooster and Linnea in and then went to get my bag.  It was damp and chilly out and I was starting to get cold.   They didn't waste any time posting results.  Shortly after I grabbed my bag, I saw the results were up.  I wandered over to take a look.  I found my name and was very happy to see a few things:  4th woman overall and 1st in my AG, which meant that I got first place Masters Female because the age groups were in 10 year increments.  WOOHOO.

I met up with my friend Kirsten and we milled about with a bunch of other folks while we waited for the draw prize / awards ceremony to start.  I helped myself to a second gingerbread scone.  Oh my.  Dave started with the draw prizes, then took a break to announce the overall winners.  Another Team Running Free Athlete, Mindy Fleming, ended taking third place woman overall.  YAY Mindy!  Dave then asked if I was still there so I put up my hand and he then announced that I had won first place Masters Female.  I went up to get my medal and was handed a hat and a cheque for $75 as well.  SWEET!  That's the first time I've ever won money at a race.   What an amazing way to cap off a stellar season of racing.  I honestly don't know how I'm going to top this year, I really don't.  I do know that I will be back at the Tannenbaum 10km next year to defend my title and see about setting another course record. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

#GoalGetter2013 - November Update

Well folks, here we are, only 31 days left in 2013.   The holiday fun is literally just around the corner and I can't wait.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's take a look at now November went shall we?

Main goal?  Work on my flexibility.  I won't say EPIC fail but I'd say pretty close to it.  I made it to yoga ONCE this month.  ONCE.  G has been 6 times in the last 10 days.  WTH?  Although, I have been making an effort to foam roll and stretch a bit more, even when I haven't done a work out.  I really need to keep on this as my PT seems to think that my knee issues are a result of my insanely tight calves and ankles.  Yes, everything is connected.  So moving forward this will be something that I HAVE to do on a regular basis.

I also said that I was going to get back to heavier lifting and strength training 3x a week.  Check - sort of.  I'm back in the gym and the squat rack and I have become friends again but instead of lifting 3x a week, I'm lifting twice a week and then I've added a TRX class as my third day of strength training.  Good LORD is that ever hard.   It works all the little muscles that the big lifts don't always get to.  I thought I was in pretty good shape until after my first class.  I was sore for 3 days.  3 freaking days.  But I loved every minute of it.  I'm going to make of point of doing it as much as I can in December.  Once training for Boston starts, I'll have to forgo it but for now, it's staying. 

Goal for December?  Maintenance baby.  That's it.  I've got a good thing going right now, my body is in a happy place and I'd like to keep it there for as long as possible. 

How did your November go? 

Friday, November 29, 2013

8 Cool Gifts for the Endurance Junkie in Your Life

You reading along G?

Who am I kidding, I gave him my list ages ago.   Of course a few of the things on my list made it on to this list.

For those of you that haven't started your Christmas shopping yet....what are you waiting for, the last minute??  Or perhaps you're all out there now taking advantage of the Black Friday deals.  If you are, good for you.  I would rather chew tin foil than face crowds like that.  That's why I've done almost all of my Christmas shopping on line, which coincidentally, is how I found most of these awesome goodies!

The best part of this list is that all of these great things are under $50!

 ROAD ID.  Anyone and everyone that ventures outside to do some form of physical activity needs one of these.   Period.  They come in all sorts of great colours and styles.  If you don't want to wear something on your wrist, they have one that even attaches to your shoe.   I have two.  One I wear on my running shoe and another I wear on my wrist when I'm cycling.

Training / Race Day Nutrition:  My pick?  Salted Caramel GU.  Lawdy Lawdy this stuff is AWESOME.  It's GU's latest flavour and right now it's a limited edition holiday flavour.  I am crossing every single part of my body in the hopes that they make it a permanent addition to their flavour line up.

Portable lights, like this Light Guide.  With the arrival of winter, most of us end up having to run in the dark.  Combine that with potentially poor visibility and running at night can become a potentially hazardous endeavor, so in the interest of safety it make sense to be lit up like a Christmas tree.  The brighter the better because sometimes just being reflective doesn't cut it.

Do your race bibs just end up in a pile of chaos in your night stand drawer?  No?  Ok, maybe that's just me.  Anyway, if they do, perhaps you might want to look at doing this:

Yes, those are coasters made out of a race bib!  I love this idea.  I have kept every single race bib from every single race I've ever done.  Yes, I'm THAT person.  Granted I'm not sure where all of them are but I know I have them somewhere.  The best part is, you don't have to part with the actual bib, all they need is a photo!  You can get them done over at  Go For A Run

If you're like me and you keep all your race bibs in a less than organized state then this lovely Bib Folio would be an awesome gift.  It's like a photo album for bibs.  And it's much nicer than shoving them into your night table drawer.  You can even get this personalized!  So everyone knows that you were the one that busted your butt training, spent a crapload of money on race entry fees, and earned every single last one of your black toenails (just in case they didn't already, haha).

We all know that hydration is of utmost importance when it comes to training and recovery.  I take my hydration very seriously so when I saw this, I knew I had to have it.  It will hold a pint of beer OR a post workout smoothie perfectly.  What's not to love?  They also have wine glasses for those who prefer grapes to barley.   #DoubleBonus

With the arrival of the colder temps, it's time to start thinking about layering.  And for me, it all starts at the bottom.  Literally.  So when I found these awesome running gitch from Oiselle, well they immediately went to the top of my list. 

Clothing can always be a bit hit and miss as a gift but I think any cycling nut / triathlete would appreciate one of these t-shirts from Apres Velo.   They have some fantastic designs for both men and women.  I would have a hard time picking just one.  So I picked three.  I think the Tyred and Cranky is my fave.  Probably because I've been there many many times on my bike. 

The best part about all of these items?  They're all available online so you don't even have to get out of your pj's.  That's my kind of shopping!

What's on your Christmas list?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Busy Weekend & A Whole Lot of Upness

I am writing this post while lying almost horizontal on the couch.  This has been a busy weekend and I'm tuckered out.  Yesterday I did another TRX class and followed it up with a 3000m swim and a peppermint mocha.   That was followed up with some Christmas shopping.  I am happy to say that I am *almost* done.  Only a couple more gifts to go and then I'm good.  WOOHOO!  My credit card will be happy to see the end of the spending. 

This morning, my friend David and a couple of pals from my run club joined about 40 other crazy like minded folks at tackled the infamous Marquis de Sade route that runs through the High Park area in Toronto's West End.  It's supposed to be 18 hills in 21km but the route is so confusing that people either miss a few hills or do more than they are supposed to.  I was in the latter group.  I ran 20 hills in just under 21km.  Ouch.  Good thing my hamstrings were sore from my TRX workout the day before.  Hopefully I'll be able to walk tomorrow, ha ha.

Technically this is a "race" so there were a few really fast folks from the Black Lungs that showed up.  Normally I'd try and hang on to the crazies but I told my friends I wasn't going to go nuts.  I saved that for the last 4km, ha ha.  It was nice to run with a group, even though we were really spread out.  And it was nice to really bust it on the hills.  My normal running route is really flat so this was a great change of pace.  Shockingly I only managed to take one picture.

David jumping for the camera.  See those stairs in the back - yeah they're evil

David turned off to head home at about the 17km mark so after that I decided to drop the hammer and try and catch some of the folks out front.  My legs actually felt alright, which was surprising, so of course I let loose.  Those last 4km were really freaking hard.  And, I took a wrong turn based on some misinformation from one of the other runners.  Which added another hill.  Probably one of the worst hills on the route as well.  But I did it.  That was a whole lot of upness folks.

I got back to the store, stretched and waited a few minutes for the rest of the WTP crew to get back then it was off for coffee.  But not before we snapped a few pics.  Don't our shirts look awesome??

 I had a muffin the size of my head and an Americano.  Both really hit the spot.  I had a recovery smoothie and a bagel when I got home and I'm actually feeling hungry again but I honestly don't feel like moving.   It's times like this when I wish I had telekinesis.  Or maybe a butler / manservant.  Maybe if I whine enough, G will get up and make me a snack. 

Yeah right, who am I kidding  Football is on and he's under a blanket in front of the fire. 

Maybe I'll just have a nap instead.

Happy Sunday y'all! 

What kind of fun did you get up to this weekend?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

G.O.H.A.R.D & Another Milestone

Lately, whenever I go on twitter, I always seem to find out that it's some kind of special day celebrating something or other.   Peculiar People Day (January 10th, in case you were wondering),  Do a Grouch a Favour Day (February 16th) National Goof-Off Day (March 22nd and yes, this has been marked in my calendar) and National Lost Sock Memorial Day (May 9th).  You can see the complete list here.   Not only is October 31st Halloween, but it's also National Magic Day and Increase Your Psychic Powers Day.  Seriously?  I'm dying.

Well, I've got another one to add to the list. 

Today is a day I can truly embrace (pun intended).  It's G.O.H.A.R.D day.  Normally GO HARD is something I'd say when dispensing 5km racing advice.  But in this instance it stands for Globally Organized Hug A Runner Day.

I'm a hugger.  And a runner.  So this is my kinda day.

Thanks to Run the Edge for this:  "Every runner deserves a hug. A real hug. The kind of hug that says, "Even if I don't understand why you do it, I appreciate and recognize your effort."

So, for all of you reading, I'm sending out a virtual hug (because I'm pretty sure you're almost all runners that read along). Those of you that see me on regular basis, don't be shy!!! 

On another note, you may remember (or maybe you don't) that one of my other goals earlier on in the year was to get to the 250,000m mark with my swimming.  The next big milestone (where I get another fancy swim cap and pin) will be 500,000m.  I figured it would take me a while to get there especially since I swam less during the summer.  Well folks, today I hit 400,000m and if I manage to keep up my mileage I may very well make 500,000m by the end of March. 

Only 98,510m left to go!  WOOHOO! 

Make sure you get out and hug a runner or two today!

Monday, November 18, 2013

'Tis The Season

Well gang, we're already halfway through November (WTH?!?) and judging by the influx of party invites that happened over the course of the weekend, the holiday insanity is literally just around the corner.  That means that my normally fairly regimented self is going to be shuffling things around over the next few weeks so I can get festive.  Thank goodness Boston training doesn't start till the week after Christmas! 

This past weekend kicked off our busy season.  Friday night we were over at a friends place for drinks and we didn't get in till midnight (*gasp*).  I dragged my butt out of bed a little earlier than I wanted to thinking I'd have enough time to get my run done before we had to go out to Orangeville.  Uh, right.  I didn't so I did it when I got back.  But at least it got done.  We were in Orangeville for the MSC Triathlon awards banquet.  G and I were both getting age group awards.  It was one of my goals to get on the overall podium in this series for my age group this year.  I'm happy to say that I snagged first place in the women's 40-44 year old age category.  G got third in his age group.  What I didn't realize was that had I registered as an elite (which I could have based on my times) I would have been eligible for prize money!!  Given the fact that I actually placed as an overall finisher in 5 of my 7 races I could have had at least $250 in my pocket.  Oh well.  Next year I'll think about that, especially if I work on my bike over the winter.  However, I did get this awesome plaque with one of my favourite race photos on it.

Speaking of working on my bike...I managed to last 90 minutes on the trainer yesterday without 1) losing my mind from boredom and 2) losing feeling in my crotch.  Number 2 is huge btw.   I have been having crotch issues all freaking season and it's come down to finding the right saddle.  That was my longest trainer ride this year and even then, I'm still not 100% sure about this new saddle.  Well, new to ME saddle.  It's the Adamo time trial saddle I bought G for Christmas last year.  He wanted it, I so I bought it, he ended up hating it, so now I have it.  Merry Christmas to me I guess, ha ha.  It's definitely better than my old saddle but I'm still not 100% sold.  I think it's just a bit too wide.  But I'll keep using it for the next couple of months.  Mainly because I don't want to spent the $250 on a new one right now what with Christmas just around the corner.
Not sure why I look so scared...must be the giant 'fro I'm sporting
Speaking of Christmas...who has started their shopping?  Who's got their decorations up already?  I've bought ONE thing so far.  One.  As for decorations, since I live with the Grinch (and you thought G stood for Gary, ha ha) we probably won't have anything up until mid-December.  G isn't a huge Christmas lover....mainly because it means that winter is here and he hates winter.  So unfortunately Christmas, being at the time of year that it is, takes the brunt of the hate.  He's not a total Grinch, he's just not as enthusiastic as I am.  If I have my way, we'll have a tree in and set up by the first weekend in December. 

Do you start your Christmas shopping early or wait till the last minute?  I usually start fairly early but somehow end up leaving a few things to the last minute every. single. year.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Runner's World Cookbook Review

Disclaimer:  I was given this cookbook by Runner's World Magazine in exchange for an honest review.

When Runner's World offered me the opportunity to review this cookbook, I was giddy with excitement.  I have a confession to make.  I am a cookbook-a-holic.  A recipe junkie.  There is something about cracking open a cookbook for the first time and flipping through the pictures that excites me.  I love food and I love to cook.  Especially good for me food.  So this opportunity was definitely one I wasn't going to pass up.

After much trials and tribulations with Fed Ex, the book arrived via G.  Thank goodness he works in the U.S from time to time!

I sat down with it immediately and flipped through it.  It has an excellent intro that goes through the nutritional requirements of runners.   Within the intro is a series of guides to things like oils, grains and proteins.  They list different types of each, along with suggestions on how to use them or in the case of proteins, what cut gives you the best nutritional bang for your buck.  A fantastic thing to have regardless of your level of expertise in the kitchen.

The cookbook itself is divided up into the following sections:

Breakfast (this features an entire section devoted to pancakes and toppings.  I seriously died and went to pancake heaven)
Snacks and Smoothies
Salads and Dressings
Soups and Stews 
Sandwiches, Pizzas and Burgers (YES!)
Sauces and Pasta
Meat and Poultry Mains
Fish and Seafood Mains

This is where most cookbooks would stop.  But since this is a cookbook geared towards fulfilling the unique requirements of runners, they've taken it one step further and categorized each recipe using the following keys:

low cal
gluten free

There is also a handy section on how to stock your pantry and then to top it all off, there is a special recipe list at the back of the book that groups everything according to the above categories.  Looking for a recover recipe?  Instead of flipping through the book to find the tab under the recipe, you can just refer to this list.  How awesome is that?

When I got the book, I bookmarked no less than 8 recipes I wanted to make immediately.   I decided on 3 and made my grocery list.   I wanted something that was quick and easy (Thai beef and snow pea stir fry), I wanted a soup because it was starting to get cold out (sausage and mushroom soup) and of course, I wanted a pizza (caramelized onion and fig pizza).   None of these recipes disappointed.  The thai beef stir fry was definitely quick, easy and very tasty.

The sausage and mushroom soup was very hearty.  I had some cooked quinoa that I added it to it instead of the rice and it was delicious.  It also seemed to be one of my more popular instagram posts that week, ha ha.  Must have been the colder temps.

And lastly, the pizza.  Oh lord almighty.  Caramelized onions and figs are a match made in heaven.  Add goat cheese to the mix and it's beyond amazing.  I didn't make my own crust, I used a pita instead.  I don't really think it matters too much what you put this on, the combination is so good, it would make cardboard taste delicious! 

I'm happy to report that this book has not left my kitchen counter since I've gotten it.  I've made a couple of other recipes that have also been very easy and incredibly tasty but didn't make it in front on my camera or my phone before they got gobbled up.  The recipes are easy to follow and don't require any crazy ingredients.  I think the recipes in this book would be easy enough for kitchen newbies to follow and are tasty enough for seasoned pros to enjoy as well.  Suffice to say this book has quickly become another go to source for flavourful and healthy recipes that keep me up and running. 

For those of you that have a runner / foodie in your life, I think this would make an excellent gift.  Especially for YOU if that runner of yours does all the cooking.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why We Train: Featured Athlete - Courtney Fields

This week's Why We Train Featured Athlete is Courtney Fields.  Courtney and I "met" through the Sweat Pink community.  She is a fellow triathlete who has set some awesome goals for herself next year.  Today she shares her story as to how she got started in the sport of triathlon and what keeps her going.
Perhaps a bit of background about myself would be nice. I'm Courtney, 25, recently married, currently underemployed for my education and experience level, own a house and a crazy chocolate lab named Griswold with my husband Rob, and we live in the thriving heart of New York wine country. 

I've been athletic my whole life just about. My parents had my brother and I in all sorts of sports growing up. I dabbled in gymnastic, showed horses competitively for three years and did a season of swim team that I was not a fan of. But I found my athletic niche early; running. 

I joined modified track at the tender age of 12 and from there I developed a love for running. I ran track all through junior high and high school and even qualified for states as a short distance hurdler, the 110 meter and 200 meter hurdles respectively. Don't let my skill over the hurdles fool you though. I top out at 5'3.5" on a good day, but I'm bottom heavy so I'm all thigh, which made me an excellent jumper. I also competed in, and frequently placed at, the long jump. And even taking full course loads, working full time a BBQ joint, and taking a night class at a local community college, I managed to make time for track up until my senior year, and even after that I still ran and worked out regularly. 

Off to college I went and it was at orientation that I learned of women's rugby. I had always been fascinated by full contact sports and longed to play one, so I joined rugby my second semester at college. This was both good and bad. I loved rugby, and still do, but I felt underutilized and over looked. It was a club sport and we didn't have a coach, so our team was run by captains and playing time was seemingly directly correlated to how much you partied with the team in your free time. And while I do enjoy a raucous college party as much as the next kid, I had my own friends I preferred to party with, so my field time suffered. Over the two years I did spend on the team though, I played enough to have some fun and get hurt a few times. One broken knuckle, one torn meniscus, and one cracked rib that was my final straw (the knee and the rib were back to back weekends too, which should tell you how hardcore women ruggers truly are. Don't think we don't tackle bitches just as hard, if not harder, than the boys). And while the pain in my knee flairs up, usually from too much driving, my rib dent has almost all but returned to a normal, not sunken in and terrifying state. 

It was with Rob at college that I competed in my first 5k. I had been only running here and there and from time to time at this point, nothing consistent. We tried to get out and trail run or go to the gym sometimes but it was infrequent. The day of the race it was horridly hot and humid and the course was an out and back in the direct sunlight on the shoulder of a busy county road. I walked twice, complained, panted and cried. As someone who was a state qualifying track star, this was a low place to be. 

It took some time post college for me to get back into running and working out on a regular basis. I accepted my first big girl job right out of college, a teaching position at the worst (I'm not lying, the state and national statistics back my claims) school district in the state and one of the worst in the entire country. The full time job I was verbally offered fell through after I was hired and by the time I signed my contract I had a piece meal job working in three different school all on opposite sides of the city, teaching half the day outside my certification to Spanish speaking students (I speak zero Spanish, in case you're wondering). It was exhausting, mentally, physically, emotionally. I spent an hour drive in, about half an hour driving from school to school, and an hour drive home. My weight suffered terribly and the kids were horribly mean. They spit on me, cussed me out, threw things at me, told me they hated me, called me fat, you name it. Nine times out of ten the parents didn't give a crap about the behavior their kids exhibited and the administration was even worse. It varied from school to school and when one would become successful they'd refuse to share whatever secret they had figured out with the rest of the district. I got scolded, belittled, and demoralized. And even though in February of that school year I was offered employment elsewhere, I toughed it out. But you better believe in August when they called me back at a cut position I politely declined. 

From there I spent about eight months unemployed. As if working in Hell prior wasn't defeating enough, being unemployed definitely was. Nonstop job applications just to never even merit a rejection letter and the only places offering me employment paid minimum wage by the hour. I was so over qualified for the educational requirements that were generally high school diploma or GED, and there I sat half way through my Masters. 

Finally, I got a call from The Council. They were offering me a job. They were the job I turned down in February, re-interviewed for in August and got turned down for the position, and now they were calling just straight up offering me a job. And I jumped. While the pay isn't great, and it's not teaching, my passion, it utilizes my health degrees and the benefits are fantastic so I can't really complain. And now I've been here about a year and half and it's just peachy (minus being chained to desk 9-5 unless I'm out at a program, ugh). 

Triathlon was always something that intrigued me. But it wasn't until August of 2011 that I said, "I can do that". That year, a number of people I had gone to college or high school seemingly participated in the Syracuse Iron Girl, a longer sprint tri. I saw the pictures and facebook statuses and thought "pfft, if they can than so can I". And I did. When registration opened at midnight on November 1st for the 2012 race I registered. It sold out in 23 hours. Now, with a goal in mind and paid for, I had to get back to working out. I started running again and I had started going to a beginner’s lunch time spin class while I was unemployed. Once spring rolled around I started popping into the local YMCA to use the pool. And on August 5th, 2012 I stood on the shore of Oneida Lake ready to plunge into my first ever triathlon. 

The Syracuse Iron Girl is the longest of the IG triathlons, topping out at a 600 meter swim, a 30K(18.6 mile) bike ride, and a 5k run. I crossed the finish line in 2:14:45 and something in me changed. I’ve never really been able to describe what it is about triathlon that is so different from other sports, but there is something unique, an indescribable and overwhelming feeling of accomplishment unlike that of any other sport I had participated in. And as someone who had done so many other sports throughout my life, I can say with certainty that it is something unique and great. Something just clicks that first time you cross the finish line of one. And from that point forward I was hooked. 

This summer I ran three triathlons, two sprints and an Olympic, and five road races including my first half marathon. I frequently place for my age group in 5k’s and 10k’s thanks to all the hard training I’ve put in. Next season I’m already looking at six potential triathlons including the grueling Rat Snake Reverse Tri and my first half Ironman, Ironman 70.3 Syracuse, which I’m already registered for. I plan on running my first full distance Ironman in 2015 either in Chattanooga or Lake placid.  

I truly believe triathlon is a sport that anyone can get into and realize how special it is and how amazing you are. Everyone is beautiful, everyone is capable, and I truly believe anyone can become a triathlete. 

You can find Courtney online at:



Thank you Courtney for allowing me to share your story!  Best of luck with all your races next year!  I know I'll be watching and cheering you on!