Category Archives: Fitness

Fitness Friday: 2017 Achilles St. Patrick’s Day 5K Race

Just before starting out for the race!
Just before starting out for the race!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! I hope you’re wearing some green and having a lovely day. 🙂

So, my favourite race of the year is always the Achilles St. Patrick’s Day 5K! I’m a wee bit obsessed with all things Irish and green, and I can think of no better way to start my St. Patrick’s Day festivities than with a 5K race in cool weather, surrounded by a sea of green runners!

Coming up towards the finish line!
Coming up towards the finish line!

As I’ve been whining about (for an eternity now), I’ve gained ten pounds in the last two years or so and it’s not really going anywhere. Last year really SUCKED for races for me – I barely stayed under 27 minutes in the 2016 version of this race, and then the rest of the year was spent languishing around 27:30 race after 5k race (which I was personally pretty really ashamed about). So towards the end of last year, I started to make significant strides and changes to my workout program – I was lifting weights on the regular and I was determined to actually train properly for a 5K.  I had set out a plan to do long runs, mixed with tempo and sprint runs and, for the most part, I had stuck to it. That being said, I hadn’t done everything I thought I possibly could do before this race, so I was nervous right up until the night before the race.

Near the end! Rogers Centre (/the Skydome) behind me!
Near the end! Rogers Centre (/the Skydome) behind me!

And then, the night before the race, I suddenly looked at the predicted temperature in the morning and my nervousness evaporated: the morning temperature was expected to be around -12C with a windchill of -20C. My inner monologue was basically “fuck it, it’s too cold. Don’t expect anything out of this race.” Toronto’s winter this year has been warmer than normal and I haven’t had the opportunity to train my lungs for a cold weather run, never mind a race, in temperatures that were around -10. So I figured to hell with the nerves as there’d be no way in hell I’d be able to bust out a decent time.

I. Was. So. Very. VERY. WRONG!

The end is in sight!
The end is in sight!

The morning of the race was cool and brisk, but the wind speed was low. The temperature, while around -12C, didn’t have a windchill much colder than -15! David and I stayed inside the doors of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre until just before the race so that I could keep warm (lifesaver!). For once in my life, my stomach wasn’t churning before the race and I felt relatively at peace (although for about 30 seconds I thought I’d forgotten my earphones… that would’ve been game over for sure).

So when the air horn sounded, I started the race at a really comfortable pace. So comfortable in fact that I forgot to turn my Garmin on for a few seconds! Reality set in within the first twenty seconds and I was like… “well my lungs aren’t dying, I feel good… but there’s a lot of people in my way.” So I started to weave in and out of the pack to get around the slower runners until I caught up to the people that were moving more my own pace. And honestly? I felt GOOD. I felt in control on my body and I felt strong. I wasn’t gasping for air and I wasn’t super dehydrated (which is normally how I start races – with a dry ass mouth because I’m so nervous).

2017 Achilles St. Patrick's Day Race - Garmin Results
2017 Achilles St. Patrick’s Day Race – Garmin Results

Realistically, I didn’t know how fast I was moving because my Garmin really struggles to determine speed when there’s so many tall buildings around. If you look at the map above, you can see how erratic the trajectory line gets on what’s supposed to be the straight line down Wellington Street – so it really overestimates your speed since it thinks you’re doing hella crazy maneuvers. I had an idea that I was moving at a decent clip because I was mostly passing other people and not being passed all that often. Sadly, when we hit the 2.5k mark where the loopback occurs (at Yonge Street), the water I was looking forward to was nowhere to be found. Ughhhh! Next year I need to remember to bring my own water!

However, it was a good thing there was no ability to stop and drink because I kept pushing on… and nailed the finish line with a race time of 26:06! Four seconds faster than my previous personal best (PB) and an enormous 60-90 minutes faster than my average 5K race pace from 2016. I was ECSTATIC! I was so damn happy I almost started full on crying when I saw my chip time come up on Sportstats.ca – there were tears welling up in my eyes! All of the work I had put in, despite feeling like it hadn’t been enough, had DEFINITELY paid off and I couldn’t be any happier! This race only further convinced me that I do far better in subzero temperatures – I am definitely built  for – and thrive in – the cold!

Race Results

  • Finish Time: 26:06
  • Pace: 5:13 per kilometer
  • Overall placement: 323/1313
  • Age group placement (Female 30-39 years): 38/262
  • Gender placement (F): 108/742

By the way, if you’re ever interested in the other races I’ve run, you can always visit my Race Results page for a breakdown by year and by race. Enjoy!

Fitness Friday: A Whiny Post on My Lack of Self Control

Me after a run in Florida in April
Me after a run in Florida in April a few years ago, but it does depict my current annoyance!

Hooooo boy. You know, it’s like one step forward, two steps back lately for me. I’ve been on a great training rotation, and then it was less good, and then it was adequate, and then I started eating garbage and it basically destroyed all the work I’ve put in. [insert various curse words here] Why am I telling you this since it’s not especially uplifting? Because I don’t want anyone thinking that exercise, fitness and appropriate caloric-intake is always smooth sailing.

My “happy” weight is around 147-149 – that’s where I feel the most comfortable. But I’m around 158-160 right now and it’s BEEN DRIVING ME NUTS. That being said, it’s been driving me nuts for two years now  so clearly I’m not headed in the right direction. I occasionally fluctuate down to 156 at times, but I can’t seem to cross back into the 155 and under area. My pants are fitting uncomfortably tight right now and it’s making me super damn grumpy.

I exercise about 5-6 times a week and that may seem excessive to some people, but I enjoy it. (I run 2-3 times a week, weight lift 2-3 times a week and play soccer once.) So it’s not like I’m lacking in the physical fitness department – I am exceptionally strong and my endurance is such that I could go out and run a half marathon on a whim.

So my problem isn’t how much (or little) I exercise, but rather my food and alcohol intake. I frigging love food and I frigging love wine. And I have a bad habit of consuming a lot of both. I’ve gone through phases in my life where I’ve had a lot of willpower, I mean, I did go from 196 pounds down to 149 several years ago:

So I know it’s possible, but I seem to be lacking the drive to get there in the last few years. I need to somehow relocate my sense of self control when it comes to food, but damn if it isn’t hard!

Anyway, thank you for listening on this rather off-track blog post, but if you’re struggling with something, maybe you’ll take heart in the knowledge that you’re not the only one! If you’re up for sharing, let me know what your current personal complaints are and maybe what your goals are! I always find it motivating and uplifting to hear others talk about their plans so maybe you’ll give me the drive to more forward with mine. 🙂

Fitness Friday: Improving My 5K Race Time

Although my fitness posts may have fallen a little bit off the radar in 2016, I still managed to stay really consistent with my exercise. In 2016, I ran two half marathons and four other races ranging from 5 kilometers to 5 miles. And while I did okay with these races (except for that terrible Iceland half marathon – that was just BAD), I never really improved upon my race pace. It’s been a dream of mine for a while to get better and faster at my races, but when it comes down to it, I’m more than willing to put the hours in to running on a regular schedule, but I generally don’t want to put the effort in that is required to get faster. (Because let’s face it – getting faster usually involves doing something like sprints and those are pretty nauseating.) I can usually do it for a handful of weeks, then I fall completely off the rails.

Almost there!
Almost there!

Anyway, where’s this going? One of my favourite races is coming up in the middle of March – the Achilles St. Patrick’s Day 5K race. I put out my personal best time on this race back in 2015 and I’d really like to beat that. Ideally, I’d like to get under 25 minutes, but for now I’ll settle with under 26:10 which was my previous PR. Considering I barely squeaked in one race under the 27 minute mark in 2016, I’ve got a lot of work to do, and I’ve only got three two months to do it (shit, I literally thought I had three months, but nope)! This may seem like short notice, but I like it for a number of reasons:

  1. It gives me a concrete deadline. The race is March 12th – which means I need to get my butt in gear immediately.
  2. I’m better at accomplishing things with a relatively short timeline and under high stress. This is because I have zero opportunity to push it off till “later”.
  3. I frigging love St. Patrick’s Day and want to do well in a race I already have immense fun doing.

So, where to start? I have always used the Hal Higdon training programs for running. This time I’m going to be following the 5K Intermediate Plan which is intended to make you faster. Having done Hal’s programs in the past, I know that I usually need more time than what’s allotted (just in case something happens like injury or laziness). This 5K program is an 8 week one, which is great because (as of typing this) I have 9.5 weeks until the race.

Although I won’t be able to complete all of the runs on a weekly basis in the race chart found in Hal Higdon’s plan, my goal is to complete the difficult ones (like tempo runs, long runs and the horrific sprint/recovery/sprint runs). I’m opting for this because I do not want to give up weightlifting and I still play soccer every week which is a lot of exercise to shoulder on top of everything else in my life.

I’m excited to get this going because the timeline is really contained. I’ll try to do an update here and there on how I’m doing and I’ll definitely be posting a race recap after the 5K to see just how well this training schedule worked out. Wish me luck!

Fitness Friday: Niagara Falls International Half Marathon

201611_niagarafallinternationalhalfmarathon_medal

Since my cousin’s wedding in October meant I couldn’t attend the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Race event (I’ve done the half marathon for the last two years), I decided I’d try to find another half marathon to do before 2016 ended. I like the idea of doing two half marathons a year because it forces me to keep in consistent racing shape. I may not always be at my fastest racing pace, but if I space half marathons out by six months or so, it forces me to be consistently training for something.

I feel like I'm looking at the photographer suspiciously...
I feel like I’m looking at the photographer suspiciously…

While I would’ve preferred to race in another country (although I did do my other half in Iceland this year!), the only semi-convenient one was the Niagara Falls International Marathon event (there’s the full, a half, a 10k and a 5k). Niagara Falls is about a 90 minute drive from Toronto so I could easily rent a car, get a hotel overnight and do the race in the morning. Not to mention the medals are STUNNING! (Seriously, that medal was a huge incentive.)

Hands down the most unflattering shot of me I have ever seen from a race. DAAAAAAAAMN.
Hands down the most unflattering shot of me I have ever seen from a race. DAAAAAAAAMN.

So that’s what we did. My husband and I headed down to Niagara Falls on Saturday the 29th and stayed overnight. The half marathon portion of the event started at 10 am, so it was a rather peaceful morning since it’s not like I had to be up before the crack of dawn to get some fuel in my system.

At the finish line
At the finish line

Unfortunately, it was relaxing until, rather abruptly, it wasn’t. As we were headed out to the race start zone (about 20 kilometers away from where we were staying) we discovered that Google maps had instructed us to get on the highway at an exit that was closed (and had been closed for several months!). I was like okay, whatever, take the side roads to get there. Then Google Maps dumped us onto the Niagara Parkway, which was, of course, closed for the race. We came screeching up to an entrance to the Niagara Parkway and some guy was like “I can’t let you on this street since the race starts in five minutes!”. At this point, we were still 10 kilometers away from the start zone! He told us to go back to the highway, get on the next exit (pray it was open), go two stops and then figure it out from there. I was legit panicking at this point because it was 9:55 am and the race started at 10! So we did as we were told, all while trying to calculate the best route on Google maps. We came roaring up to the start zone for the race at 10:05 am. And it was EMPTY, all the runners had taken off five minutes ago! I jumped out of the car, threw my sweatshirt at my husband, and bolted for the starting track mat. So I ran TO the start zone, looped around it so my bib tracker would start recording my run, and then started out on the run by my lonesome self.

This guy though - he does what I tell everyone NOT to do - he came to a grinding halt at the finish line and I nearly fell on top of him.
This guy though – he does what I tell everyone NOT to do – he came to a grinding halt at the finish line and I nearly fell on top of him.

To be fair, there were some spectators still left at the start zone who were cheering for me to start the race (haha), so that was kind of cute. But my god my nerves were at all time high stress level. In hindsight, I don’t really know why – it’s not like they ever really close down the start area of the race, and it wasn’t a loopback course, so it’s not like they needed to convert the start zone to an end zone.

So off I started, with very few people in sight. This was a smaller race (only 1715 people ran it), so it was at least fairly spacious on the Niagara Parkway and I didn’t have to dodge too many people. Of course, since I started five minutes behind people, I was behind even the walkers, which meant I was constantly passing and moving around people because I wasn’t in a group of people who would be going my pace. It also meant I had a lot of ground to cover to even get to the very edge of the group of people who would finish in under two hours and ten minutes (and in the end, I still never caught them – that guy in yellow that’s in a lot of my shots finished around the 2:13 mark, but I came in under 2:10).

Video cam shot from right before the finish line.
Video cam shot from right before the finish line.

So how was it? Honestly, one of the best courses ever! It was either flat or downhill, with only the smallest of hills to cross a very, very tiny bridge towards the end of the race. I was never out of breath and the scenery was beautiful. It was a bit bracing at the very start of the race though because I could see the Skylon Tower in the very far distance (which is roughly where the race ends) and I was like “oh my godddddddddd that is SO FREAKING FAR AWAY”. But whatever, I know I can run the 21.1 kilometers in a half marathon, it was just about buckling down and getting it done.

At the start of the race the weather was beautiful – around 11C degrees and I honestly thought I’d worn too much clothing. But about halfway through the race the weather changed dramatically. All of a sudden it dropped to about 6 degrees and it started raining. It was pretty freaking miserable – I lost feeling in my hands and could barely hold the water bottle they gave us at the finish zone. It’s almost a week later now that I’m writing this blog post and I’m still dealing with the terrible chaffing I got from this run. Ugh. (Under my chest, on my torso, and oddly, on my lower back which I can only assume was from the back pocket on my shorts.) Despite the cold, I didn’t get any kind of knee lockup (which I’m prone to on very long runs) and my feet didn’t go horribly numb (which is an annoying problem with my current shoes)!

Niagara Falls International Half Marathon - Course
Niagara Falls International Half Marathon – Course

In the end, I finished the half in 2:08:52, which is about 90 seconds slower than my fastest. Given this is a half marathon distance, I’m 100% okay with that speed because I was really only running once or twice a week to train for this. That really isn’t enough time per week to train for a half, but based on my previous experiences, I knew it was possible for me to complete it with so little training.

Just a few details about the course that I think others would be interested to know:

  • There is no race kit pickup on the day of the race, even for out-of-towners. You MUST get it the day before at the expo.
  • There are no gels provided on the course – so bring your own. (I picked one up the day before the race as the expo as I was picking up my race kit.)
  • There are power bars to eat on the course, but the last thing I want to be doing while running/racing is chewing on something like that!
  • All of the volunteers are SUPER friendly and helpful – I tried to thank them when I was getting water at the stations because they all just seemed so lovely!
  • Water/gatorade stations and porta-potties are frequent, but you’ll find there’s often a lineup for the bathroom since there’s only ever ONE stall. I saw a few people run into bushes to go to the bathroom instead, but the forested areas are really only near the start of the course.

This course is hands down the best half marathon one I’ve ever done and I can’t recommend it enough to others. The scenery, path and number of people in this race made it a really enjoyable experience and I’m really glad to have run this one!

Race Results

  • Finish Time: 2:08:52
  • Pace: 6:07 per kilometer
  • Overall placement: 844/1715
  • Age group placement (Female 30-34 years): 57/123
  • Gender placement (F): 395/1034

Fitness Friday: 2016 Pride and Remembrance Run

201607_prideandremembrancerun1

Two weekends ago I took part in the Pride and Remembrance Run 5K race in Toronto. It’s one of my absolute favourite races to run, not only because I literally live around the corner from the start zone, but also because it’s a community event for me in the gaybourhood that has a lot of “feel good” moments surrounding it. I’m running/racing with my community, my friends always sign up for it so we get to hang out at the start (and afterwards) together, and the energy of the event is so welcoming and inviting.

Somewhere in the middle of the race
Somewhere in the middle of the race

You may also remember that the Pride Run is also my racing anniversary as this is the run that got me into racing in the first place. I first took part back in 2013, and since this is 2016, this is the fourth time I’ve done this run. Truth be told, it’s not my favourite course I’ve ever done (it’s a double loop and back to the start) and it’s always wayyyy too hot during this run, but I do it because I love my community and this race holds good memories for me. They also offered free photos this year (pictured above) which is really, really nice. I wish more races included that in their signup fee!

Coming up near the finish line
Coming up near the finish line

As with the Rat Race, I did far worse that I was hoping to do. But you know what? It was a few seconds faster than my race from two weeks ago, so that’s okay, at least it’s not a downward trend.

Nearly there...
Nearly there…

I huffed and puffed my way to the finish line, not even spotting my husband who managed to get close enough to me to get some up close shots! End result? Not my best, but still not my worst!

2016 Pride and Remembrance Run - course map
2016 Pride and Remembrance Run – course map

Race Results

  • Finish Time: 27:28
  • Pace: 5:29 per kilometer
  • Overall placement: 576/1463
  • Age group placement (Female 30-39 years): 58/223
  • Gender placement (F): 164/695