Category Archives: Running

Fitness Friday: Sporting Life 10K 2017

Myself and Jordan before the start of the race
Myself and Jordan before the start of the race

This was my third time running the Sporting Life 10K as I had somehow gotten myself roped into it by my coworkers. I say “roped into it” because a the 10K distance is my least favourite race distance. There’s just something so awkward about 10K – you have to run close to your 5K pace… and yet it’s for double the distance! Ugh! Plus, I had kinda bombed my last 10K race in New York City (that race recap can be found here) so I kinda figured I wasn’t really set up properly (in training) for this distance.

The one massive upside though? Almost the entire course for the Sporting Life 10K is downhill, which automatically means you’ll be pulling a faster time overall.

The start zone for the Sporting Life race - facing south down Yonge Street
The start zone for the Sporting Life race – facing south down Yonge Street

My friend Jordan and I live in the same neighbourhood so we Ubered up to the start zone and got in our corral mere minutes before the race started. I like getting there just before the race starts because then you’re not standing around idle freezing your butt off until you start running, so it worked out well for us! We were both in the 56-59 minute finish time corral. I was hopeful for a 56 minute finish, but my last race a month prior had been just shy of 60 so I was kinda doubtful. Jordan had never done a 10K race before, but he’d run the distance the previous week and had clocked in around 55 minutes, so he could’ve potentially gone in the faster group. As our group started out, we wished each other well and started out at our own pace.

I tried to find my coworkers throughout the race, but I never saw them. I knew we were in the same corral, but when the race has approximately 20 THOUSAND people in it, it can be very difficult to find someone amongst the masses!

Hitting the finish line track mats!
Hitting the finish line track mats!

Although the 10K distance is not my favourite, this IS a lovely course. The downhill section (basically the first 7-8 kilometers) gives you a completely different vantage point than you would normally see in any given race. You’re constantly looking far down ahead of you and all you can see are masses of people. It might look like a crowded mess at times (and it certainly feels like that when you’re trying to get around people!), but it’s a beautiful mess because you know that we’re all in this together.

Sidenote: This was one of the WORST races in recent memory of people coming to a crashing halt in the middle of the course. People please – DO NOT STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE COURSE! Slow yourselves to a halt by the sides, not in the middle! (Read this post on What NOT To Do In A Race – it might be helpful.)

All finished!
All finished!

I crossed the track mats a little bit unaware of my finish time – I couldn’t for the life of me remember what my previous paces had been on this course. I prefer comparing this race only to my other Sporting Life races because of the downhill aspect – everyone is automatically faster on this course, so using this as a personal best time is just ridiculous since it has severe advantages over even a flat course.

In the end, I finished the race with a time of 56:12 – which turned out to be my fastest on this course (by 11 seconds from my 2014 race). Even more interesting is that I basically kept the same pace for the entire race – which is something I almost never manage to accomplish. My first 5K was at a pace of 5:36/k and my second 5K at 5:38/k. Usually I plummet in speed for the second half of any race, so  this really felt like I had more endurance overall. I was DEAD pleased about that!

This year is shaping up really well for my race paces and I’m so, so happy that I finally feel on track again!

2017 Sporting Life 10K map and stats via my Garmin
2017 Sporting Life 10K map and stats via my Garmin

Race Recap

  • Finish Time: 56:12
  • Pace: 5:37 per kilometer
  • Overall placement: 6118/18500
  • Age group placement (Female, 30-34): 409/1687
  • Gender placement (F): 2314/10552

Fitness Friday: 2017 UAE Healthy Kidney 10K Race Recap

2017 UAE Healthy Kidney 10K Race - before

A trio of us ( were in New York City last weekend for IMATS and my friends said they were more than happy if I pulled myself away from our group for a morning race on the Sunday we were in town! In looking around for a race on the Sunday, the one that popped up was the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K race that takes place in Central Park. I was elated – not only was I finally going to get the opportunity to run in Central Park (something I’d always wanted to do but had never gotten around to actually doing while on vacation), but the race start zone was walking distance from our hotel! I mean, how perfect is that??

Let's do this! 10k race in Central Park! #UAEHK10K

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The morning of the race was sunny and beautiful. The air was on the cool side of things and for me that makes for lovely running conditions. However, my stomach was a bit of a mess that morning and I had slept uncomfortably the night before because I kept waking up every few hours and STAYING awake for long stretches of time until I dozed off again. It was predominantly to do with race jitters which is something I can never seem to shake no matter how many races I’ve got under my belt at this point. It’s odd too – I hadn’t trained for this race in particular, so I knew I wasn’t going to put out a stellar time so I should not have been nervous at all.

Anyway, I ended up forgetting my Garmin tracker as I was headed out the door which ended up putting me a little bit off kilter when it came to the actual race. I thought my Nike+ app tracker would be sufficient (which is why I didn’t double back to get my Garmin) but it definitely wasn’t, and I certainly won’t be making that mistake again.

2017 UAE Healthy Kidney 10K Race - Nike+ Course Map
2017 UAE Healthy Kidney 10K Race – Nike+ Course Map

Despite my stomach feeling rotten and the weird race jitters being ever present, as soon as I got into the starting lineup for the race, all of my worries melted away. And as soon as I started the actual race, I felt entirely at home. Running has become such a part of my life that it’s actually incredibly soothing to me. I know that sounds a little bizarre to some people – that the idea of bouncing up and down while covering long distances could even be remotely soothing, but, to explain it a bit more, the movement of putting one foot in front of the other… it’s become such a practiced and comfortable movement for me that it instantly puts me at peace. I experienced this same feeling last year when I did that Half Marathon in Iceland (which had crappy weather conditions and I felt less than stellar due to lack of sleep). It’s like my body just knows what to do and I can just give in to that feeling.

Anyway, I was lacking my Garmin, so the only feedback I had about my pace was coming from my Nike+ app, and it was only telling me once I finished a kilometer. I actually thought I was going at a really good pace, but in the end the Nike+ app was overtracking my kilometers and thinks I finished the race about 600 meters before the end which made all of my pacing totally out of whack. Not much I could do about it – by the time I realized the mistake I was so close to the end and I couldn’t run double my pace to make up the difference. I never really realized how much I rely on my Garmin to keep me on pace. Having that information feedback on your wrist is so, SO freaking vital! In the end, I ended up going a touch faster than my half marathon pace (pace details are at the bottom of this post), so yeah, it was a pretty slow race for me! And I wasn’t really sore the next day so I definitely wasn’t pushing myself. Ugh.

2017 UAE Healthy Kidney 10K Race - All done!
2017 UAE Healthy Kidney 10K Race – All done!

One thing I was not prepared for was just how many dang hills there are in Central Park. HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS. It’s like a constant series of uphills! I couldn’t believe it! Especially the northern end of the park – it felt like kilometer after kilometer of ascent. I didn’t stop to walk any of them, but it definitely sucked some of the energy out of my system.

One of the things I need to mention about this run is that this was my first experience with seeing “threat level” flags in a race. I assume it’s because of what happened with the Boston Marathon bombings, but every checkpoint had a green flag with something that said “Race Status Alert Level: Safe”, which I anticipate they would change to yellow or red depending on what the conditions were ahead. I think it’s a necessary measure considering what has happened in the past, but when I finally clued in to what those flags meant (took me a few checkpoints to realize!) I was horrified – chills were running up and down my body. It was a moment of “what the hell country am I in where this is a necessary measure?”. It was a really bone-chilling moment for me.

All in all though, the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K was an extremely well organized event. I appreciated just how many hydration stations there were (which even included bathrooms), alongside the safety checkpoints. The volunteers all seemed happy to help and encourage and the overall atmosphere was really enjoyable. Overall, I didn’t LOVE the course design, but there is not much that can be done about that due to the structure of Central Park. So for me, I was just really happy to participate in this event!

Race Results

  • Finish Time: 59:25
  • Pace: 5:56 per kilometer
  • Overall placement: 5197/8615
  • Age group placement (Female 30-34 years): 430/887
  • Gender placement (F): 1764/4032

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: 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!