Thursday, October 31, 2013

#GoalGetter2013 - October Edition

Happy Halloween Folks!

Who's dressed up in costume today?  Who's giving out candy tonight?  Who's been eating candy for the past week and had to go back to the grocery store to get more?  That would normally be me, however, this year, since Halloween happens to fall on a Thursday night and coincidentally my run group ALSO meets on Thursday nights I thought it might be fun to dress up in costume, do our workout and then go out for a pint and a bite to eat afterwards.

Fun?  FUN!!  Hopefully the rain stops by 6:30 tonight or I might be the only lunatic out there running around.  Or, I may be sitting in the dark inside my house, hoping it doesn't get egged because we're not handing out candy.

I didn't get too creative with my costume as I wanted something easy and comfortable to run in.  So a sparkly red devil it is.  I have enough red running gear so I should be able to pull this off.

We all know what Halloween means, right?  It means that Winter Is Coming.  I can't believe that November is pretty much here already.  That means I need to start thinking about Christmas and as much as I love it, I'm just not ready.  But I better get on that or else I will be that lady with the crazed look in her eyes tearing through the mall on Christmas Eve.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's look back at October shall we?

I had simple goals for this month leading up to my BIG goal.  All I had to do was keep getting my workouts in (check) and make sure I took care of myself (check).  Oh and I was supposed to put my beerstagrams on hold.  And I did.  Kind of.  But no matter, I still managed to check another big honkin' to do off my 2013 List and that was break 1:30 for a half so I'm quite happy with the way October panned out.

Now that my off season is here, I have two goals:

1.  Work on my flexibility

2.  Get back into a solid strength training routine that focuses on developing power.   Yes, the squat rack and I are going to get reacquainted and I can't wait.  

I'm going to dial back the intensity in my weekly runs as well.  Right now I run 3 times a week.  One long run, one tempo run and one interval run.  I'll keep doing the tempo runs to keep my speed up as I do have one last race left in December.   I'm going to replace my interval run with an easy / medium paced run just so I'm not killing myself twice a week.  There's no need for that session right now.  Once Boston training starts, I'll add that back in.  For now, I'll just enjoy putting one foot in front of the other without any worry about pace or distance. 

How was your October? 

What are your goals for November?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Why We Train Wednesday: Featured Athlete - Kirsten Doyle

I was introduced to Kirsten 13 years ago through a mutual friend.  She had just relocated to Toronto from South Africa and didn't know single person in the city.  So we made plans to meet up and much to our delight we discovered that we both loved running.   Ironically enough we both met our life partners within months of each other as well.  Over the years our lives changed and running took a back seat for both of us for different reasons.   This is Kirsten's story about how she got back into running.   


As you know, I was a runner way back in another life. But then life happened, I had a baby, and I stopped running. Over the years, I made several half-hearted attempts to get back into it, but there was always something stopping me. My dad died of cancer. I had another baby. I got walloped by post-partum depression. I developed a respiratory infection. I had plantar fasciitis. I was a working mom with two kids and no time. The post-partum depression morphed into good old garden-variety depression.

My depression went from bad to worse when my son was diagnosed with autism. I felt as if I had been dumped in the middle of the special needs parenting jungle without a compass, or even any clear idea of where I was supposed to be going. As I struggled to cope, my body got more and more unhealthy. I knew that I needed to do something, and I always told myself that I would start an exercise program “on Sunday".   But Sunday would come and go and there would always be a reason I didn’t do it.

This happened every week for another two years or so, until the morning a chance email landed in my inbox. It was from the Geneva Centre for Autism, and they were entering a team in the charity challenge of that year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Half-Marathon and 5K. Was I interested in joining the team, and raising funds to provide services for children with autism?
At first I contemplated the 5K run. I didn’t think I was capable of more than that. I hadn’t run in years, my lifestyle was completely sedentary, and I was tipping the scales at a little over 200 pounds – a good 70 pounds more than I had been during my physical peak years before.

But then, completely unexpectedly, my old impulsive spirit – the one that had never done things in small pieces – raised its head and told me that 5K wouldn’t make me happy. It urged me to go for more. It told me to aim for something that I would really have to work hard for.  I grabbed a calendar and navigated to the Hal Higdon online training plans, and worked out that with six months to go before the race, I just about had enough time to train for a half-marathon. Before I could change my mind, I completed the online race registration and hit “submit”.
Scotia 2009
And just like that, my motivation was back. Through all the years of hating my body, rueing the state of my physical and mental health, and going through one injury and illness after another, all I had needed was the right reason to run. As soon as I started training, I knew that I wasn’t going to give up. I was going to run this race for my son. 

Over the next six months, I gradually built up my mileage and lost sixty pounds. When the going got tough and I felt like giving up, all I had to do was think about the reason I was doing this. My child had to live with autism every single minute of every single day for the rest of his life – the very least I could do was run for a couple of hours.

I remember very little of the couple of hours before the race, except that I was feeling anxiety so intense that I wanted to throw up. But as soon as I crossed the start line, magic happened. The anxiety melted away and I got lifted up by the collective energy of the crowd.
Two hours and 28 minutes after crossing the start line, I crossed the finish line, triumphant but exhausted (I remember seeing Phaedra among the spectators about 300 metres from the finish, and seeing a friendly familiar face gave me the energy for a great finish line kick).

I've just run my eighth half-marathon since that day, and my fifth for the Geneva Centre. I have become leaner and fitter, and I have shaved more than ten minutes off my time. But I don’t know if anything will ever compare with the feeling I had after that first half-marathon. I was sobbing with the emotion of it all.
Scotia 2013
This story got a lot longer than I intended it to. Really, what it comes down to is this: my son got me back into running, and he’s the reason I will never stop again.

This is who I run for.

Thank you Kirsten for letting me share your story.  It's been a real inspiration to see your passion and dedication in action.

Here's where you can find Kirsten on the web:

Blog:  Running for Autism
Twitter:  @running4autism
Instagram:  @running4autism

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Fresh Start + A Recipe

Oh Happy Monday...

I can't complain too much about it being Monday since I had a 3 day weekend.   It was the perfect way to end my "recovery" (i.e. do sweet f-a) week.   I got back on the workout wagon yesterday morning with my swim group and then spent the afternoon setting myself up for a week of good eating.  I tackled another recipe from the Runner's World Magazine cookbook, I made a batch of my smoky chicken chili, a fritatta and my no-cheese-cheese sauce for some post workout mac and cheese that will likely be dinner on Tuesday night.

I hit the pool again this morning (thank goodness it's an easy week so I won't have to worry about drowning) and will do my first run since Scotia tomorrow night with my run group.  I'm also heading back to the gym.  Hopefully my legs will be recovered from the beat down my massage therapist put on them on Saturday.

As I said on instagram when I posted a pic of the chili, I am a bit of a freestyler when it comes to making chili.  Actually when it comes to making almost anything really.  I'll follow a recipe the first time around and then gradually start to tweak it every time I make it.  What can I say, I'm a tinkerer, so it's rare that I actually write things down when I make the changes.   I'm pretty sure this chili recipe is an amalgamation of a few different recipes with some things added and some things omitted.  The great thing about chili is that it's easy to adjust it to suit your tastes.  Don't like black beans?  Add kidney beans?  Or no beans.  It's your call.

Smoky Chicken Chili

2 tsp of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 of a large sweet onion, roughly chopped
1 red pepper, roughly chopped
1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped
1 orange pepper, roughly chopped
1 lb of extra lean ground chicken
1/2 of a 15 oz can of black beans with liquid
1 19 oz. can of whole tomatoes (you can also used diced)
2 TBSP of chili powder
1.5 TBSP of smoked paprika
2 tsp of ground cumin
1/8 tsp of finely chopped chipotle pepper with adobo (more if you like it spicy - I am a wuss)
salt & pepper to taste

chopped cilantro
chopped avocado 

Saute garlic and onions in olive oil over low-medium heat.  Add ground chicken and cook until almost done.  Add spices (chili power, paprika, cumin) and stir to coat the meat.  Add the chopped peppers and stir to coat again.  Add black beans and tomatoes and mix well to break up tomatoes (if using whole ones).   Add chipotle pepper and mix in.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat to low, cover and let simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Garnish with cilantro and avocado.

This freezes really well so I usually try to make a big batch and portion it out into containers and freeze them.  That way I don't have an excuse to eat crap when I come home late from work and haven't planned dinner.

How was your weekend?  

What's your favourite chili recipe?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Giving Back & A Giveaway Winner

Happy Saturday folks!

First things first, I've got a winner for my Octaspring giveaway!  Congrats to Gillian Raymond!  Gillian look out for an email from me.  Thanks to everyone who entered.  I'll be hosting another wee one on my facebook page on Monday so watch out for that.  

I'm coming to the end of my leisurely week.  I'll be back on the workout wagon tomorrow.  I've quite enjoyed the physical and mental break but I'm looking forward to getting back into my routine as well.   I hoped to get a workout in on Friday but that didn't happen.  Thursday's late night took it's toll on me.  But it was SO worth it.  Totally one of the best shows I've seen in a long time.  And of course there was dancing.  Lots of dancing.  I'm sure that counts for a workout, right?

This morning I layered up and drove out to Sunnybrook Park to volunteer for the Toronto Women's 8km.  I love this race series and I figured it was a great opportunity for me to give back.  I knew a few people racing too so it was nice to be able to cheer them on.  I got to work the start / finish line area which was AWESOME.  Seeing the emotion on the faces of some of these women when they crossed the line was amazing.  I remember feeling that same way when I finished my first race.  Despite the horrible weather, there was lots of dancing and high-fiving at the finish line.  It was a lot of fun and it's definitely something I'll do again.

For now I'll be spending the afternoon on the couch with my feet up in front of the fire, watching the rain.  Maybe there will be some cooking this afternoon, we'll see.  I've been on a bit of a roll testing out recipes from the new Runner's World Cookbook and I'm due for a good meal prep session.

What did you get up to this weekend?

Have you volunteered at a race before?  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Recovery Week & Making Plans

After all the months of racing and training that culminated in my A race on Sunday, my plan was to cut myself some slack this week.  That meant NO running.  Maybe some gym time and definitely some swimming and maybe a a spin on the bike.  I have been pushing my body a lot these last few months so I really need a bit of down time.  I swam yesterday and just about died.  I was exhausted.  I floundered through a set that I'd normally have no problem with.  I shouldn't really be surprised, I busted my ass on Sunday and didn't exactly eat the healthiest food post race (eggs benedict with extra bacon, a pumpkin spice latte and pizza and beer for dinner).  But that's ok.  I'm not racing again until December so I can afford to take a bit of a break.  This week has been all about taking it easy.  

I was a bit stiff on Monday and my feet were really sore so I opted to skip my swim and sleep in.  Tuesday I figured I should get up and move around so I went to the gym and did some light lower body work, core and upper body work.  Wednesday I hit the pool and today I opted to sleep in again.  I figured I might as well since I'm going to be out late tonight and I want to make sure I can stay up, ha ha.  God I'm old.   Where am I off to tonight you ask?


To say that I am excited would be a gross understatement.  I bought these tickets in JUNE.   I have been listening to their new album all. freaking. week.  I am SO ready to go and bust a move.  I've spent the last 2 days chair dancing in my office.  I even took the day off tomorrow so I can recover, ha ha. 

Saturday I will be doing checking another thing off my 2013 To Do list.  I am volunteering at the Toronto Women's 8km.  I wanted to give back to the running community somehow but with the amount of training / racing I did over the course of the year, finding the time was difficult.  The timing of this worked out perfectly.  I've run this event before and it's excellent - the entire series is actually.  I know a few people who are racing as well so it will be nice to be there to cheer them on.  I'm going to be working the start / finish line so come by and say hi! 

I'm also starting to plan out my 2014 race season.  The first half of the year is pretty much figured out.  Boston is once again my spring A race.  I have several friends doing the Chilly Half so I'll be doing that again as well as Around the Bay.  This year ATB will definitely be all about race day strategy for Boston.  I'm not going to go out and kill myself like I did this year. 

The second half of my season is a big fat question mark right now.  There could be something BIG-ish for G and I but we haven't quite figured out the details yet.  It's also our 10 year wedding anniversary so we were hoping to take a trip to Europe in the summer.  That will more than likely happen it's just a question of where.  So stay tuned for that.   Either way, I will definitely be racing tris again next summer. 

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for my new favourite pillow!  It ends this Friday! 

Have you started making plans for your 2014 racing season?  If so what races will you be doing?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why We Train Wednesday: Featured Athlete: Stephanie Saunders

A few weeks ago I was running with this lovely lady and we were bouncing around ideas for our respective blogs.  It was out of this run that this feature was borne so I felt it fitting to have Stephanie be the first one to share her story.

I'm always fascinated and motivated by people's fitness journeys.  If you are a runner, what made you take that first step?  If you do crossfit how did you get started?  Many of our reasons may be similar but every story is different.   I wanted this feature to be more than just a short Q & A.  I want it to be a place where people can share all the details of their journey and motivate others.  Where they started, where they are now and where they hope to be.   If you're interested in taking part, drop me a line at phaedrakennedy at sympatico dot ca.

Without further ado, I'd like to introduce you to Stephanie Saunders, my first featured athlete.  I have known Stephanie for several years now, having worked together on many projects over the years.  Despite knowing her for several years, I never knew how she got started with running.  Now I do.

Where to find Stephanie online:

twitter:  @SSaundersDesign
instagram: stephaniesaundersdesign


I started running about 7 years ago when I lived beside High Park in the West End.  I had always been an avid walker -ever since I was kid I loved going for walks to clear my head or to spend time outdoors (and escape my hectic home).  Running seemed like a natural extension and so I started on the park trails by running short little bursts of 20 minutes or so twice a week.  At that point, I thought I was doing well and was super happy to join the rest of the awesome people I saw doing the same thing.  I kept it up and slowly extended my time and distance and loved every minute of it.  My job can be very demanding and running became the thing I did at the end of the day to balance out my mood, to be away from the phone and emails and get a much needed endorphin rush that made my stress disappear completely.  It was a bridge between work and home that I came to look forward to and need.

About a year-in, I met someone, fell in love and decided to uproot my life and move to the other side of the city to be with him, leaving my beloved park behind.  At the time, I was happy to do it but unfortunately I also made the short-sighted choice to put my running mostly on hold.  My new partner is a top-caliber triathlete and my role became that of meal-maker, driver, bag-holder and cheering section.  There just wasn't enough time for both of us to be the athlete and (truth be told) I was really intimidated anyway.  So I stopped and so did my progress.

After that relationship ended I moved to the Beaches and needed an outlet to make myself feel better.  Without going into too much detail, it was one of the darkest times of  my life.
Luckily, I was living in one of the brightest and prettiest parts of Toronto:  I found an apartment very close to the boardwalk and it may have saved my sanity.  I've heard many tales of people who run to fix a broken heart and I can tell you from experience that it is an excellent way, although there are some pitfalls to avoid.  At first I thought that running fast and hard as often as possible would get me back to where I was pre-relationship and would burn away all my feelings of sadness and anxiety.   Unfortunately, as with everything, you can't rush your training any more than you can force your heart to mend.   I gave myself a very painful stress fracture in my left foot that made me stop for 6 weeks.  That was a big mistake and I found it devastating at the time.  These things take time and patience and a slow build. 

Eventually, I found a trainer to help me learn how to do it properly (what? you mean many of my kms are supposed to be slow and easy??!!) and I spent 3 months working towards my first half marathon.  For me, it was a way to get my power back and to feel like I could do whatever I set my mind to. I wasn't on the sidelines anymore, I was doing it and it felt amazing.  Running provides innumerable life lessons and racing sharpens those lessons in a way that makes them very meaningful.  When you have only yourself, your shoes, and your watch to rely on you have to dig deep to find your motivation and even deeper to find your source of power.  I have never done anything more difficult than to keep running when my body is screaming to stop and walk.  It takes a stubbornness that would shock a donkey. I crossed the finish line with the exact time that I was aiming for (1:45) and from then on I was totally hooked.  It was a triumph!  I was back in charge of my life and I was on fire!

Since then, I have run several more half marathons (most great, one bad), 5 kms and 10kms races and my times are getting better with every try.   I have had a few small injuries, run with a group, had two great coaches, met some inspiring running-friends and logged countless training hours on that boardwalk.  I JUST ran the Scotia Half on Sunday and knocked nearly 10 minutes off of my original time after just 3 short years of work.  It may not sound like a lot to everyone but to a runner 10 minutes represents hours of blood, sweat and tears.   As I look at it now, this is a lifelong process and I am right in the middle of it.  After every race, I look up to the sky and say a little thank-you to whatever power is looking down and allowing me to do this.  I feel lucky and privileged to be a runner and it will be a part of my life as long as I have two legs and some shoes to carry me down the trail.

Thank you Stephanie for allowing me to share your story!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Got My Mojo Workin' - Part Two: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon

When I originally started this blog 2 years ago it was to document my journey to run 3 half marathons in a year and cap it all off with a sub 1:40 half at the age of 40.   Since then it has evolved into so much more that I ever it expected it to.  Much like my running.  So it seems fitting that I entitle this post Got My Mojo Workin' - Part Two.  Part One happened two years ago at the same race.  At the time the thought of running a sub 1:30 was just crazy talk.  A pipe dream.

Fast forward to 2012 and the Chilly Half.  Out of nowhere I managed to run a 1:31 and change.  Then I started to think that maybe, just maybe, I'd be able to break 1:30.  I wasn't going to try to do it that year though.  At that point it was all about trying to qualify for Boston and then running NYCM in November.  But perhaps 2013 would be the year I'd give it a shot.

Once again the Chilly Half in March of this year proved to be a good testing ground for me.  It was my birthday so I was extra pumped to have a good day.  Amazingly I ran a 1:30:49.  I knew that if I trained hard over the summer that I'd definitely break 1:30 in the fall.  I had a P.B at Boston and then spent the summer racing my a$$ off in short course triathlons.  Testing my limits on a regular basis.  I can honestly say all that racing prepared me for this day.  Going all out for anywhere between 1h 15 and 1h 45 really builds your speed.  I definitely raced myself into really good shape.   My workouts leading up to this race had been way faster than my prescribed paces.  I was starting to see sub 4:00 min km's on a more regular basis.  THAT blew my mind.  The speedy guys in my run group helped to push me too.  After my last few track workouts, I knew that sub 1:30 was going to happen.  The question that I was now thinking was How Much?  I had a number in my head but wasn't sure how possible it would be.  We'd see how things panned out on race day.

Race morning was freezing cold.  I bundled myself up in layers and laced up my trusty Mizuno Wave Sayonaras.   G was driving the "race bus" loaded up with my friends David, Heather and Sue.  All of us were running the half.  It was Heather's first and Sue's first half in about 7 years.  We were all fairly nervous, with the exception of David.  It was just another race for him.   It was nice to have the company on race morning.  Normally it's just me and G.   The plan was to have G drop us off while he went to find parking.  He pulled onto Elizabeth street to drop us off and spotted a free parking spot.  SWEET.  He pulled in and we all piled out.  We were really early so we made our way down to the bag check and then opted to keep our warm clothes and hang around inside a nearby hotel for a while.  We ran into one of my run group pals, Steve so he joined our little posse.  8:00 am rolled around and I was starting to get antsy.   But of course there had to be a photo op before we headed out into the cold.

Steve, Heather and I weren't checking bags so we waited for Sue and David to check theirs.  Heather was on a mission to find an indoor bathroom so she ran up to the Metropolitan Hotel.  She came back about 5 minutes later and said that the bathroom was pretty much empty.  SWEET!  At that point I figured it was definitely going to be a good day because luck like that NEVER happens at a race like this.  Sue and I hustled over and were in and out in no time.   We followed the signs to the corrals and as we got to Nathan Phillips Square, G said he was going to head back to the car.  So I got my good luck hug and kiss and everyone else got hugs from G too.  I was really starting to get excited.  I didn't do a warm up run, which is a first for me but I figured if I did a bit of a dynamic warm up while I was in the corral, I'd be ok.

Sue and Heather were in different corrals so we said goodbye to them and made our way into the red corral.  Of course I made a beeline towards the front.  We ran into my friend Bob so we all stopped and chatted.  And of course took some more pics.   I also saw my friend Shannon and stopped to chat with him for a while. 
Freaking love this pic.  We're nerds.

David & I:  Totally freezing our a$$es off.
Steve and I were jonesing to get up to the front so we wished David and Bob good luck and made our way through the crowds.  I was trying to find the 1:30 pace bunny but I didn't see him at all.  I figured eventually he'd show up somewhere towards the front but he never did.  I saw another Team Running Free athlete, Mindy Fleming and wished her luck.  I figured she'd totally crush it.  She's super fast.  The national anthem started and I closed my eyes and smiled.  It was finally here.  I got to the start line in one piece.  I was happy and I was grateful.  The anthem ended and I opened my eyes and looked around at the crowd.  Everyone was buzzing.  The energy was palpable. I saw my friend Patrick and said hi.  Two seconds later, the gun went off.  I crossed the start line about 3 seconds later and it was game on.

My original race plan was to find the 1:30 pace bunny and stick with him until about 14km and if I felt good, I'd drop the hammer.  Well, that plan quickly went out the window when I didn't find the pace bunny.  I started hauling ass up University and immediately spiked my heart rate.  My lack of a warm up was felt in my legs for sure.   Steve was right behind me.  I dodged and weaved through the crowd to make my way closer to the curb lane.  As we rounded the bend a long haired fella past me and wished me luck on breaking 1:30.  Caught me completely by surprise.  I always forget that putting yourself out there in the social media world means that people that you've never met in real life may know exactly who you are.  I thanked him and tried to catch a glimpse of his bib so I could see his name but to no avail.  Shortly after that Roger Jonas, a fellow WTP'er passed me.  I tried to calm myself down but my legs didn't seem to want to slow down. 

As we turned onto Bloor I figured I'd try to slow myself down.  No go.  I didn't feel great when I slowed down.  My legs really just wanted to go.  Ok.  So be it.  I'd let them go and see how long they lasted.  Totally not the best way to race a half but it wouldn't be the first time I've done it.  It would be the first time I raced a half without my trusty fuel belt though so I had to make sure I got fluids at every aid station, which I did.  Made the timing of my gel taking a little more difficult than usual but I managed.  I hadn't been using much in the way of gels during my long runs but there was no way I was going to race without them.

We booked it along Bloor and I saw my first familiar face at the first aid station - Paige - a prop stylist I've worked with several times.  She saw me before I saw her.  Of course I got all excited and started woohoo-ing.  There was a lot of that on the course..  I kept my eyes peeled for one of my photographers, Vicky Lam, who said she was going to be cheering in the Annex but I didn't see her.  As we turned onto Bathurst I figured I'd see Christina and Michelle Clarke when I got down towards King.  Michelle had mentioned on IG that she would be down that way.  Sure enough, there they were cheering like crazy.  I had just passed the 6km mark and I glanced down at my watch to see 24 minutes and change.  Holy smokes, was I flying.  I kept telling myself I needed to slow down or else I was going to pay for it later.  Didn't happen.

I motored along, ticking off the km's.  I didn't know where Steve had gone and most of the time I was running solo.  There were usually a few people in front of me and a few people behind me.  I knew that once we hit Lakeshore and the Prince's Gates I'd probably see my friend Kim and her boyfriend Mike.  Mike is the Scotia Sign Guy.  I couldn't wait to see what he'd have this year.  Sure enough as we came up to the gates, I saw them.  He was dressed as a beer bottle with a sign that said "I know you want me".  Best. Sign.  EVER.  Totally made me laugh.  Of course that got a loud WOOHOO from me.   I took my first gel just before the aid station around the 8km mark.  I remember looking at my watch and seeing 33 minutes.  Wow.  I couldn't believe the pace I was running at.  I was curious to see what I'd hit the 10km mark in.

I started to notice some of the people around me and just up ahead of me was my long haired friend that wished me well at the start.  I made it my goal to keep him in my sights.  I glanced at my watch as I hit 10km 40:59.   Wow.  Just wow.   We were coming up to my favourite part of the race.  The turn around at Windermere.  I knew that my friend Kiki would be down there.  She said she'd be at the 12km mark.  Sure enough I spotted her jumping up and down and yelled woohoo and flipped my rock star fingers.  The crowds were dense along here.  It's always a really popular spectating spot.  I totally picked up the pace because of the people cheering.  I rounded the bend, looking forward to hitting the 13km mark and seeing my run group at the aid station.  Much to my surprise, I saw Kiki again.  She crossed the road to come and cheer on the other side of the road.  I high-fived her as I ran by. She yelled that Roger was just in front of me.  There was no way I was going to catch him, I was already pushing it. 

I could see the aid station coming up and I was trying to figure out what side of the road the WTP gang were on.  I spotted a blue shirt and saw Peter so I pointed and smiled.  I grabbed my Gatorade from him, then another from Al, whose hand I almost ripped off.  I woohoo-ed through this entire stretch.  I grabbed water from Monique and one other person.   It was so awesome to see them all.  Gave me a huge boost for the next little while (FYI, I ran a 4:01km through here!)

I was coming up to the Legion and figured I'd try to see if I could spot some other folks that I knew.  As I chugged my way up the hill I heard someone yell my name.  Sure enough it was Danielle.  She got a loud woohoo in return.  Apparently woohoo was the word of the day for me.  I kept scanning the crowd for people but didn't spot anyone else until just before Ontario Place when I saw Dawn from Shrinking Inkd Girl.  I hollered her name but she was totally in the zone.  We were coming up on the 16km mark.  I was starting to hurt a little bit.  My feet were really feeling it.  I definitely had a blister forming on my right foot.  It was throbbing.  Just ahead of me, I could see my long haired friend.  I was starting to close the gap.

We came back by the Prince's Gates and I saw Mike and Kim again.  I ran across the road to go and high five both of them and then ran back into the pack.  I was flying through here, buoyed by the cheers of the spectators.  I took half a gel as I could feel a bit of fatigue starting to build in my legs.  I started the mental math and the self talk.  I hit 18km and started to pass a couple of guys.  Only 3km left.  Less than 15 minutes.  There was a small pack of us coming up to the Lakeshore ramp.  I held on for dear life as we went up the ramp.  Any sort of incline at this point just made my legs hurt.  I figured the turn up Bay street was really going to suck.  I let my legs go on the slight downhill.  The self talk was in full effect at this point.  19km.  Only 2 more km.  Roughly 8 minutes at your current pace.  Hang on.  Part of me didn't care what I ran the last 2km in.  I knew I was going to break 1:30.  The competitor in me was having none of it.  This was a race and in a race, you give it your all until you hit the finish line.

I'm not going to sugar coat it.  Those last two km were ugly.  They really flipping hurt.  The last km in particular.  As soon as I came out from under the tunnel on Bay Street I felt like I was going to die.  I was running uphill and into a headwind.  A HEADWIND.  REALLY?!?  There had been no wind on the course all day and now this, in the last kilometre.   I remember glancing down at my watch and seeing 5:19km pace.  I gritted my teeth and tried to relax.  Then I thought "Just are almost done."  So I smiled.  Amazingly I felt better.  More relaxed.  I watched the signs as they counted down the metres to go.  A girl in pink whizzed by me with about 500m left.  I had nothing.  No answer.  Another girl came up and was just behind me, running just off my shoulder.  I wasn't sure if she was drafting or just didn't have enough gas to pass me.  Whatever the case, her being right where she was flicked a switch in me and I started to pull ahead.

I was closing in on the 300m to mark when I felt the blister on my right foot pop.  I am pretty sure I grimaced when that happened.  It really hurt.  I faltered a bit but regained my stride and kept pushing.  My shadow and I were coming towards Queen Street.  The crowd was awesome.  So much noise!  Amazingly I heard someone yell PK!! and I looked up to see my friend Rick (Sue's husband) yelling and waving.  I waved back.  There was just over 100m left to go and my shadow was still on my shoulder.  I didn't have a whole lot left but I had enough to drop a mini hammer and pull away from her.  I came flying down the finishing chute, a big silly grin plastered on my face as I looked up at the clock.


I had done it.  I blew sub 1:30 right out of the water and I hit my goal.  I had only told 2 people what I thought I might be able to do at the race - G and my friend Caitlin.  In my head I had 1:27 something as to where I thought I'd finish.  Guess I really am getting to know my abilities.

As I walked into the finishing chute, I saw my long haired friend again.  We made eye contact and I went over to him and gave him a hug.  He congratulated me and I told him I kept him in my sights for as long as I could.  I tried to catch a glimpse of his bib once again and I think I saw Alexandre but I'm not 100% sure.  If you're reading this - THANK YOU for your words of encouragement and for being my "Bunny".   The finishing chute turned out to be quite the party place.  Shortly after I saw my long haired friend, I ran into Mindy who ran a smoking 1:23 and change, a P.B for her.  Then I ran into Christina and Michelle.  I have no clue how they managed to get into the finishing chute but they did.  Crazy ladies.  It was great to see them.  I saw my friend Pat who ran 15km to the start then proceeded to run a 1:22 and change.  The guy is a machine.  I grabbed my post race food and started to head out of the chute when I heard my name and saw my friend Stephanie.  I waited for her to come around and we walked into Nathan Philips Square together.  She had a great day as well, beating her previous time by a couple of minutes. 

We came out into Nathan Phillips Square and I saw G right away.  I went up to him and gave him a HUGE hug and a kiss.  I was still in shock.   He was beaming with pride and had his usual "I told you so grin" on his face.

We regrouped on the other side of the fence and waited for the rest of our contingent to come in.  Next up was David, who had a great day despite his lack of training (he ran a 1:38:36 and that was with a pit stop!).  Then I saw Carrie from my run group.  She came bounding over to give me a huge hug.  She had an AMAZING day, running a 1:40 and change taking over two minutes off her previous half P.B.  She was positively beaming.  Next up was Bob, who also had a P.B of 1:44:02.  Like Carrie, he took two minutes off his previous time.  I'm telling you, our little run group is filled with a whole lot of folks who push each other and work their butts off.   Shortly after Bob rolled in, we saw Sue.  Yup, you guessed it.  Another P.B.  1:47:26.  A whopping 6 minutes faster than her previous half time.  Shortly thereafter, Heather came in, grinning from ear to ear.  She ran a 1:55:38 for her first half marathon.  I was so proud and happy for her.  It was definitely a day for records to fall.  Both Lanni Marchant and Krista Duchene broke the Canadian Women's marathon record that had stood for the past 28 years.  Totally amazing.

While we were waiting for folks, G was checking the stats and informed me that I came in third in my AG and was the 21st woman overall.  I was completely overwhelmed with emotion.  I got really choked up.  Carrie gave me a huge hug while I blubbered away into her shoulder.  Never in a million years did I ever expect to be in that position.   I had hoped to make the top 5.  I didn't think I'd have a chance at the top 3.   Checking the results online today, I found out that I was actually the 3rd place Masters woman.  This whole Masters thing is really freaking awesome. Ironically this was also my 13th race of 2013.  Definitely a lucky 13!

When I got home I found out that 3 more of my friends all had great races as well.  My friend Kirsten beat her previous time by almost two minutes.  Danielle, whom I have been coaching, had a 1 minute P.B over her previous time at the same race and Krysten also ran a P.B.  Smiles all around. 

I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day.  The weather was spot on.  Sharing the start experience with my friends was amazing (thank you Heather, Sue, David, Bob & Steve).  Seeing G and his big I told you so smile totally made my day.  The best part was the feeling I had going into the race.  I believed in myself and my ability 100%.  There was no doubt.  I can't ever remember going into a race without that doubt.  I guess I've come a long way.  My friend Shannon's comment on my Facebook post summed it up nicely.  He said "You had a positively vibrant aura this morning."  I think my confidence has finally found it's way out and it really helped me shine yesterday.

Thanks again to everyone who has been following along here, on twitter and on instagram.  All your messages of support and encouragement mean so much to me.  As long as I'm able to move forward, I will continue to push my limits.  I hope that you will continue to follow along.

One last if there weren't enough in here already.   3 very happy finishers.  Woot woot!

Did you race this weekend?  How did it go?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This: Dormeo Octaspring Evolution Plus Pillow - Review & Giveaway

 Disclaimer:  I was given this pillow by Dormeo Octaspring Canada in exchange for a review.

As an athlete, I think that most of us forget that sleep is one of the most important things required in a successful training plan.   If you're pushing your body day in and day out and not getting adequate amounts of quality sleep, your performance will suffer.  Guaranteed.  So many things can affect our sleep quality, from what you've eaten before bed, to your stress levels.  Even something as simple as your pillow can also affect how well (or not) you sleep.

I'm a picky person when it comes to my pillow.  I don't like anything too soft and squishy.  There needs to be some support and firmness to it.  That being said, I don't like overly firm pillows either.   There has to be a bit of give as well.  Not an easy thing to accomplish in a pillow.  My current pillow is getting up there in years so when I was offered the opportunity to review this pillow and I checked it out online, I jumped at the opportunity.  Do you know how expensive a good quality pillow is??  These pillows retail for $159.99.  That, my friends is a pair of running shoes and maybe a gel or two if your shoes happen to be on sale. 

I have to be honest, I was a little skeptical about this pillow but, I'm always game to give new things a go.  I've used a memory foam pillow before and I wasn't a huge fan.  It made my head hot and I didn't find it to be all that supportive.  But the technology in this pillow was different than traditional memory foam pillows.  Most memory foam pillows are a solid block of foam that is contoured accordingly depending on what position you sleep in.   The Dormeo Octaspring pillows are actually filled with memory foam springs that are shaped like honeycombs and vary in firmness throughout the pillow.  It was this technology that made me think hmmm...this might actually be good!  You can get the inside scoop here.

This is what the pillow looks like inside:

Octaspring describes their pillows as having "comfort zones".  They use a firm memory foam pillow spring to give support under the neck and soft breathable memory foam pillow spring for under the head.  The pillow case is also designed with mesh end panels to allow for air circulation. Talk about the best of both worlds!  You get the support of memory foam without the hot sweaty head.  Win / win in my books.  The brochure I received also said that "this pillow respects the natural contours of your vertebral column thus providing a good sleeping posture so you wake up ache free and well rested in the morning."  If there's one thing I have problems with it's that.  I cannot tell you how many times I've woken up with a sore neck or shoulders from either the lack of support from my pillow or the way I've slept on my pillow.

So.  Let's get down to the nitty gritty.  What did I think?

First Impressions:

It comes in a box.  I am pretty sure I've never bought a pillow that comes in a box.  A box means business!

The pillowcase is incredibly soft.  I could probably just sleep on that alone.  I always put an actual pillowcase over my pillows.  It's one more layer that my drool has to get through.  I may try sleeping on it without one just to see what it's like. 

It's been a while since I've slept on a memory foam pillow so when I first lay down on it and my head didn't sink in to it immediately I was a bit sad.   I love plopping my head into a big fluffy pillow just because I love the way it feels.  I don't love the way they feel when I wake up sore and achy in the morning though so I was willing to trade that for a good nights sleep.

Normally when I get a new pillow, there is a bit of an adjustment period until my body gets used to it.  Probably because I've never stuck with the same pillow, ha ha.  I slept like a baby that first night and I woke up totally fine the next day.  No aches, no pain, no muscle tightness, nothing.  Same with the second night.  And the third.  I've been using it for two weeks now and I haven't woken up with any sort of soreness or discomfort no matter what position I sleep in (back or side). The other thing I noticed was that my pillow always felt slightly cool.  This is a big deal because I am a furnace at night and I usually wake up at some point during the night and flip my pillow over to the cooler side.  I haven't had to do this once with this pillow.

Final Verdict:

I'm sold.  This is my pillow of choice.  And when it dies, I will probably go back and actually purchase one.  These pillows actually come with a 2 year warranty as well!  Gotta love that.

Now the fun part!  I get to give one away to a lucky reader!  I was really hoping to be able to open the contest up to folks in the US but unfortunately it's for Canadian Citizens only.

Contest starts today and ends at midnight next Friday October 25th.  Winner will be announced on Saturday October 26th.

What do you need to do to enter?  Go to the handy Rafflecopter Giveaway and get clicking!  It's as simple as that. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Somebody Get Me a Chill Pill.

It's official.  I'm in bouncing off the wall mode.  4 more days till RACE DAY.  I was completely calm until late yesterday afternoon when I received my bib number (10682) and corral assignment (red).  As soon as I saw my email, I got butterflies. As Shrinking Inkd Girl said yesterday when she posted her bib number on Facebook - "S**t just got real".

Despite my nerves, I am really looking forward to this race.  The half is apparently sold out, which has never happened in the history of this race (as far as I know).   I have SO many friends and blends running, it's crazy.  Ben Kaplan from the National Post / Each Coach is running the marathon, Krysten at Darwinial Fail is running, Danielle at Work It, Wear It, Eat It is running - I've been coaching her a bit so I'm really excited to see how she does.  Dawn at Shrinking Inkd Girl is running there are a ton of twitter folks that I follow that are also running. 

I've been pretty good with following my list of things to get me through this week. I've been eating much better (no crap, although there have been a few pieces of dark chocolate) and the Thanksgiving bloating is starting to subside.  I am in a constant state of hunger though and it's a bit maddening.  I'm also still hemming and hawing about my race day attire because it now looks like it's going to be freezing (4 degrees at the start with the chance of rain - BOO).  I haven't been able to whittle down my playlist to 90 minutes either so I figure I'm just going to leave it as is.  It's just over two hours.  If anything it will give me a little extra variety.

I clearly have a few favourites. 

As for the Steer clear of the Beer....well...I had one on Tuesday night.  I took my friend Kiki out to see Two Door Cinema Club for her birthday and we went out to dinner first.  So of course I had a beer with dinner.  A Blanche du Chambly in case you're wondering.  I'd have to say that Tuesday was probably my one bad day so far this week.  Beer, a late night + standing / dancing = one very tired lady on Wednesday morning.  It was worth it though, the concert was awesome.  And, miraculously, the heel and foot pain I was experiencing magically disappeared when I got up yesterday morning. Must have been the dancing.

Balcony seats didn't stop us from dancing.
 My goal over the next few days is to get a couple of nights of good, solid sleep because I'm pretty sure I won't sleep well the night before the race.  My fancy new pillow is definitely helping me with that.  I was given the opportunity to test out and review a Dormeo Octaspring memory foam pillow a couple of weeks ago.  The review will be up tomorrow AND, the folks at IDEA Workshop have given me one to give away as well!  So check back tomorrow for the review and the giveaway details.

Speaking of giveaways, I'm trying to bump up my Facebook page numbers to 350 (baby steps people, baby steps).  I'm currently at 325.  When I get to 350, I'll do another giveaway that will include some Sweat pink laces and some of my favourite racing & recovery fuel (Can you say GU?).  So if you're reading along and you haven't liked my facebook page, go on over and click that button!  I'll be forever grateful. 

Who else is racing this weekend? 

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Little Things

I awoke to the buzzing of my alarm and momentarily forgot what day it was.  For a minute I thought I had to get up to go to work.  But then I quickly realized that it was a holiday.  Yet I was still getting up to an alarm, in the dark.  I should still be sleeping, I thought, as I threw the covers off and searched for my slippers.  Two seconds later I hear buzzing from the other side of the bed.  That was G's alarm.  Alarm number two. Time to head downstairs and make breakfast.  All I really wanted to do was crawl back under the covers and go back to sleep.

I took out two of the pancakes I had made the day before.  Pumpkin spice of course - it was Thanksgiving weekend after all.  I put them on a plate and warmed them up in the microwave.  Added a healthy slather of maple syrup and washed them down with a glass of water.   Time to get myself organized.   Better check the forecast first, I thought. here I come.

Forecast checked, I now stood in front of my closet staring off into space.  I should still be sleeping, I thought as I shoved a pair of gloves into my bag.  What else do I need?  Armwarmers, jacket, helmet, shoes.  Don't forget your booties.  Up and down the stairs I go, remembering everything else but what I actually went upstairs for in the first place.  I really should still be sleeping.  But I continue to move around the house, grabbing things as I see fit.

It was chilly when we walked out the door.  The sun was just starting to make its way above the horizon.  I questioned my choice of attire but we were already running a bit late so I hopped into the car.  The windows were dewy.  I turned the seat heater on, lay my head back on the seat and closed my eyes.  We headed along Lakeshore and G pulled in to get coffee.  Ahhh, this is just what I need.  I was starting to feel a bit more human.

We picked up Adam,  our little protege, and hit the road.  It was a quiet ride up.  The sun had risen above the horizon and was casting its warm orange glow along the farmers fields.   It was shaping up to be a beautiful day.

We arrived at the parking lot about 20 minutes early.  I wanted to stay in the car and keep warm but G and Adam were ready to get going.  Kiki and her friend Katherine showed up shortly thereafter and the bike assembly party was underway.  Heather and Jordan showed up a few minutes later and within a few minutes our contingent was assembled and ready to go.

Those first 20 minutes on the bike were cold.  Really. Freaking. Cold.   I knew I wouldn't be cold for long.  We were heading towards 6th Line hill.   We flew along single file, wheels hugging wheels.  We made the turn, a wide swinging arc of bikes, and headed towards the base of the hill.   The climb splintered our group.  My legs weren't feeling that good but I soldiered on.  Breathing hard and gulping in the crisp fall air.  Loving and hating it all at the same time. I got to the top, no longer cold.   One by one we crested the climb and caught our collective breaths.  Conversation began to flow.  The sun was out in full force.  The sky was a bright blue, the breeze no longer cold.  

We wound our way around the countryside.  Up and down hills, across train tracks and back again.   Past the big houses, saying hello to people we passed.  Seven friends, on 14 wheels, enjoying each others company in the great outdoors.  Time flies when you're having fun.  We made our way back to the parking lot, our appetites fully recovered from the previous days over indulgence.  Bikes packed up, we made our way to a local restaurant for a post ride meal.

I found a table for 6, grabbed a chair for the head of the table and we all sat ourselves down.  The chatter started and only stopped when our food was served.  It's amazing how the arrival of food can temporarily halt a conversation.  We ate in silence, all of us hungry from our ride.  One by one we emptied our plates and the conversation started up again.  The sun was streaming through the window by my seat, bathing me in warmth.  I smiled, listening to Kiki tell one of her crazy stories.  I didn't need sleep.  This was what I needed.   This is what I was really thankful for.  The little things like sunshine, blue skies, newly paved roads, slow moving trains, strong legs, two wheels, good friends and a post ride butter tart. 

What are you thankful for?


Sunday, October 13, 2013

7 Steps to Get Through Race Week

Well, it's finally here...the final countdown to #STWM 2013 a.k.a #sub130orbust is on.  That also means its taper week for me.  So, I'm going to do my best to heed my own advice this week and not lose my mind.   Everyone deals with race week a little differently.  Since I am the Queen of list making it would only make sense that I've come up with a little to do list for this week.  These are things that I try to do in the days leading up to the race. 

Get the Knots Out

I did my last long run yesterday and promptly went and suffered through treated myself to a 90 minute massage.   I always find it important to get a massage before and after my big races.  When going for a massage before your race, figure out if you want it to be a deep tissue massage (i.e get the knots out) or something a little lighter just to flush your legs out.  Given the beat down I've put on my legs over the last 4 weeks, I opted for the get the knots out version.  The deeper the massage, the longer the recovery time.  At least that's what I've learned over the years.  If you're going to go deep, give yourself a week to recover before race day.   If not, you could probably get away with doing it 3-4 days pre-race.   It all depends on how well you recover.  This is what has worked for me in the past so this is what I've stuck with.

Race Strategy & Visualization

Visualization is something I like to work on pretty much every day leading up to the race.  I picture myself in my race day outfit, getting into my corral at the start line.  I let the butterflies come and I breathe through them.  I practice calming myself down.  If it's a race I've done before, I visualize myself running along the course.  Remembering the landmarks.  Luckily I ran the re-vamped Scotia course last year so I know what to expect come race day.  For my goal races, I usually have some kind of game plan going in.  Sometimes I stick to it and sometimes I don't.  Given my goal this time around, I am definitely going to be sticking with my race plan.  I'm going to start with the 1:30 pace bunny and see how that feels.   If I feel good at the 13km mark, I will start to pick it up and try to hold 4:10's until the 18km mark.  If I'm still feeling alright at this point, I'm going to drop the hammer and go all out for the last 3km.  Obviously if I'm not feeling great, I'll stick with the 1:30 pace bunny and hold on for dear life.

Keep it Clean

I generally eat fairly clean about 80% of the time but during race week I make a concerted effort to stay away from the junk.  Especially any sort of refined foods and sweets.  I look at it this way:  Would you fill a Formula One car with low grade fuel and expect it to perform its best?  Of course not.  It takes premium quality fuel for it to perform its best.  Your body is like a race car.  Why on earth would you fill it with anything less than premium fuel?  Not only will your body perform better, you'll feel better and recover better as well.  It may also help boost your immune system, which is a huge bonus leading up to a race.  The last thing you want is to get sick just days out from your goal race.  After all that training, how much would that suck? 

Plan your race day outfit

I am the worst for this.  I will weather watch for days leading up to the race and hem an haw about what I'm going to wear and change my mind a million times (totally a woman's prerogative!).  Fall races in Ontario generally mean cooler temps and sometimes rain.   Last year, it was muggy and rainy.  I wore a t-shirt with my Running Free singlet over it, plus arm warmers and I was totally overdressed.  Of course I've checked the forecast already and right now the forecast is a high of 11, low of 5 with showers.  Awesome.  I think that this year I'm going to forgo the t-shirt and just wear my singlet and arm warmers.  I am hoping to be working hard enough that I won't be cold for too long. 

Make Your Race Day Playlist

Given the choice, I always chose to race with music.  I don't find it takes away from my racing experience or my concentration.  It's a soundtrack to my race experience.  Background noise that somehow manages to enhance my race experience.  I always enjoy making playlists, although I think this time around it's going to be tough.  I currently have about 3.5 hours of music on my shuffle that I'm going to have to whittle down to 1.5 hours.  Guess I have my work cut out for me.  Stay tuned this week to see what I've decided on.

Steer Clear of the Beer

Those of you that follow me on Instagram know that I love a good beer.   I don't over indulge, I usually just have one, maybe two.  I find that sometimes, if I have two, it can affect my sleep.  I end up tossing and turning and not sleeping well and we all know how important a good nights sleep is, especially two days before a race.   Some people have no problem drinking beer the day before a race.  I am not one of those people so I choose to avoid it for at least 3 days before the race.  Afterwards is an entirely different story.  I have an amazing bottle of Pumpkin Ale waiting in the fridge for me for after the race next week.

No New Foods!

I am a creature of habit in terms of my diet and my body knows that.  I try to feed it things that its used to eating in the days leading up to the race.  The last thing you want is any sort of stomach upset or digestive issues because you've eaten something you're not used to eating.  Race morning jitters are more than enough to keep me in the bathroom, let alone eating something I'm not used to the day before the race. 

Focusing on these things in my "down time" this week, should help me deal with the tapermadness crazies that will inevitably start to creep in sometime in the next few days.  Lucky for G he is away for work this week so he won't be around to have to deal with it.  I think he planned it that way.   Smart fella.  Maybe I should just save it all up for Friday night when he gets home and unleash it then, ha ha. 

Truth be told,  as of this moment, I'm feeling pretty excited about next Sundays race.   Let's see how I'm doing come Friday.

Do you have anything you'd add to this list? 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words: Why I Love Instagram

I've always been a visual person.  So it's no accident that I ended up studying visual arts in University and then went on to work in advertising.  I think I ended up almost exactly where I should have.  I say almost because lately my passions don't always match up with my job.  Don't get me wrong, I have a pretty cool job and I think I'm pretty lucky in that regards but sometimes my job can take over my life.  When I'm really busy, I usually go for days without even lacing up my shoes or hitting the gym.  Sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day but I try to balance the two as best as I can.  Blogging and blog reading usually takes a back seat when my life is like this.

Enter the wonderful world of Instagram.

Through Instagram, I can live vicariously through all you folks on the interwebz...simply by looking at your pictures and vice versa.   Sometimes that's even better than reading or writing a blog post.  Especially in my case since I tend to be a bit wordy.  My job generally requires a lot of "hurry up and wait" so after all the hurrying is done and I'm standing around in say a farmers field waiting while the photographer is shooting, I can peruse instagram and check in with all my virtual pals.

Through this magical world of pictures, I can see what people are eating, how people are training, what people have seen and what people are wearing.  Yes folks, you can see it all on Instagram (I'm pretty sure that is very true...I haven't checked and I'm not sure I really want to...some people have no shame).  The people I follow are as diverse as my taste in music.  True to my artistic side, when I first got on instagram almost 3 years ago, I followed people who were clearly photographers.  Their images were (and still are) stunning and beautiful.  These are a few of the folks whose images appeal to my inner photographer.

Michael Schulz - @berlinstagram - His handle says it all.  He's in Berlin so that is his subject matter.  The best part - everything is shot on his iPhone 5.  Some of the other folks I follow shoot on regular DSLRS and import the images.  He's got a great eye for composition. 

Niall O'Leary @nialloleary - He is an art director at Millenium Images and documents images in his daily commute / life.  I feel like a bit of a voyeur when I look at his pics but I love them none the less.

VuTheara Kham  @vutheara  - A designer and photographer in Paris, France.  Another one whose images are all iPhone only.  Stunning shots of Paris. 

Dave in Toronto - @daveintoronto - Lover of the 3Rs - repetition, relfections and Rchitecture.  So says his profile.  Love the graphic nature of his shots.

Chris Gordaneer - @cgordaneer - I produced for Chris when I first started out at Westside.  He's an awesome photographer and a great guy.  His body of work is pretty freaking amazing.

Derek Shapton - @thunder_pino - I produce for Derek and his Instagram feed is always interesting and somewhat quirky.  It's the complete opposite of what he shoots commercially and I love that.

After a while I started to follow some fellow tweeps and bloggers.  Some of them foodies, some of them runners, some of them triathletes, all of them dedicated to a healthy lifestyle.   Now my feed is made up of all sorts of images.  A grab bag of eye candy so to speak.  Yes, reading a blog can give us all some insight into your life but sometimes a picture says it all.  Especially if you hashtag it like a boss.  I am going to be honest, sometimes I don't have the mental energy to read - I just want quick, simple and to the point - thus my love of Instagram.

These are some of my fave folks that I stalk follow on Instagram:

Christina  @the_athletarian - Christina is hilarious.  Her selfies are the best.  And she has the best workout clothes.   And her dog Princeton is pretty cute too. 

Emily @runemz - What can I say about Emz, that hasn't been said by a million people already.  She is your one stop inspiration station.  A running machine, a ray of sunshine and she can hashtag like no other.  

Kierston @candyfit - always positive, always stylish and her and her partner Super Fit are too cute for words.  They always look like they are having so much fun together.  And I totally love it when she busts out her FUFace.

Further Faster Forever @furtherfasterforever - A community of athletes inspiring other athletes.  Doesn't get much better than this.  Some of the folks I've seen on here have blown. my. mind.

The Balanced Bean Counter  @thebalancedbeancounter - Her food pics are great as are her recipes and I just love her attitude.  Even though we've never met, we go way back, ha ha.

Krysten @darwinianfail - Always lovely, always positive and always smiling no matter what life throws at her.  How could you not be inspired? 

Michelle @run_bake_blog - always great food pics and recipes especially if you're trying to go sugar or gluten free.  Every time she posts one of her muffin pics, all of a sudden I'm craving baked goods.  Definitely passionate about clean living and is a wealth of info. 

Pavement Runner @pavementrunner - Who DOESN'T follow Brian at Pavement Runner.  The dude is a social media icon.   Lots of great shots of San Francisco as well as token shoe shots, race bling, selfies and group shots.  He's got it all covered.  Makes me want to go back to San Fran sooner rather than later.  Such a great running ambassador too.

Truth to Being Fit @truth2beingfit - I've just recently started following this woman and good lord, I can only hope I look that good at her age (she's 55!).  She's got a great outlook and she definitely knows her way around a gym.

When I started posting on Instagram, I was mainly using it as a tool to take pretty pictures.  It's become so much more than that for me.  It's become a way to connect with and be inspired by other like minded folks.  It can also take the place of blogging for me when I'm super busy.   You'll know I'm busy because instead of pics of running shoes, healthy food, and finishers medals, you'll see pics of light stands, people hovering around computer screens and other random shots, all tagged with the hashtag #setlife.  Setlife= No life, ha ha.  

Instagram is my daily dose of inspiration.  It's another way for me to share and interact when I might not have the time for words.  Sometimes it's even better than words.  

With that I'll leave you with a few of my own favourite Instagram shots from the last year.

Are you on Instagram?  If so, who are some of your favourite people to follow?

The Pyramid at the Louvre, Paris, 2012

The MET, NYC 2012