Category Archives: Running

Fitness Friday: 2017 Scotiabank Waterfront Half Marathon

Phew! Two marathons in a month’s time span meant I wasn’t really sure how my body was going to react to the overexertion, but it did make for easy enough training! Instead of training two sets of half marathons routines throughout the year as I normally do, I managed to squash it all into one. I ran the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival back in September, and the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon event was only five weeks after that race!

My husband taking photos from the VIP tent.
My husband taking photos from the VIP tent.

I like the Scotiabank Waterfront Half Marathon course because it’s one of the flatter ones out there. The only real uphills are at the start (which is fine, because you’re only really getting started then) and then the last kilometer or so of the race is a very slight incline. Of course, since it’s at the end of the race, it feels like one hell of an uphill battle. However, this year it didn’t feel as strenuous, and I think a large part of that is because I just run the quite hilly half marathon in Sydney, Australia.

As I’ve done in the past, I opt to do the Scotiabank Charity Challenge for this race. It’s kind of a unique structure for the race. What you do is pay the entry fee, but then sign up to raise funds for a charity. The goal is to raise a minimum of $200 for your charity of choice (this year I chose the YMCA of Toronto) and then you’ll get your race fee refunded. My goal is always to raise about $500 since I feel like that’s a decent amount of cash for charity, but it also gives me and two guests access to the Scotiabank VIP tent where my guests can watch me finish up the race. Not only is the VIP quite large and roomy with plenty of chairs and tents set up in case it rains, but it’s also fully catered. There’s water, juice, Gatorade, muffins and *amazing* grilled salads that you can grab to eat. In the end, I raised $610 and I was so, SO happy with that as I think it’s the most I’ve raised so far.

Anyway, back to the race! Since I’ve done this race a few times in the past (see my race recaps from 2014 and 2015), I don’t have a whole lot to add about the course. The volunteers are always helpful, the kilometer markers are huge and easy to read and there’s gel packs provided around kilometer 12 in case you didn’t bring your own.

The only thing that was weird this year was that I read a number of spectator signs that were actually pretty condescending/petty. And honestly, I was really shocked. The spectator signs are one of the things that really keeps me motivated to keep running all 21.1 kilometers and when you see one that’s just kind of passive aggressive, it really leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth. I saw one sign say “You’re the slowest runner yet”, and I don’t know if that was supposed to motivate me to run faster, but this person was placed within the first two kilometers of the race when everyone is feeling pretty fresh and pumped up. I wasn’t impressed. There was another one that was actually worse than that, and I wish I could remember what it said, but it left me with such a sour taste in my mouth. Race signs are for encouragement, or tongue in cheek jokes, don’t be condescending to runners – they’re out there busting their ass while you’re standing on the sidewalk. For the most part, the signs were lovely and encouraging, so it’s not to say that every sign was bad, it’s just that these ones really made me go “wtf were you thinking when you wrote that?”

ANYWAY, one thing Scotiabank changed up this year was add in a huge screen in the last three kilometers with video clips of people actively encouraging runners to keep pushing. It feels slightly dumb to say it because it’s not like I recognized anyone in those clips, but they were really effective at keeping my motivation up. Half marathons really break me down emotionally, and any kind of positive reinforcement to keep on moving is HUGE!

Almost at the finish line!
Almost at the finish line!

Of course, there was another really emotional piece along this race course as well. If you’re involved in Toronto’s running scene in some capacity, you may be aware of Ed Whitlock. To keep it brief, he was a consistent runner but he died this past year at the age of 86. The year before he died, he ran that Scotiabank Waterfront MARATHON in three hours and 56 minutes! He is officially the oldest person to run a marathon under four hours. And when he was in his 70s? He ran a marathon in under three hours! It’s just absolutely mindboggling to think of that kind of pace at those ages. I can’t even do those kinds of paces and I’m only 34!

Sadly, Ed died in March of this year to prostate cancer. He is fondly remembered by the running community – so much so that they put a pace bunny up with his marathon time at age 85 (3:56:34) and I saw that pace bunny constantly along  my route. Of course, they split off to go do the full marathon, but seeing that pace bunny with the “ED WHITLOCK 3:56:34” sign was extremely motivational.  It was a good reminder that even when I’m frigging tired and don’t want to keep running, someone more than double my age was pushing harder and going faster. I hope they keep that pace bunny up for years to come – it was a really, really lovely touch.

2017 Scotiabank Waterfront Half Marathon - course map
2017 Scotiabank Waterfront Half Marathon – course map

So in the end, I was faster than my Sydney Running Festival pace, but not by a whole lot. I was slower than my fastest race, but not by a whole lot. My half marathons vary between 2:07 and 2:09 and for that I’m happy since it’s a pretty consistent pace. I say this every time, but I would like to get under the two hour mark… but I really don’t think I have it in me to do the training necessary to get there. Ah well, maybe one day I’ll have the motivation!

Race Results

  • Finish Time: 2:08:51
  • Pace: 6:06 per kilometer
  • Overall placement: 4966/9806
  • Age group placement (Female 30-34 years): 311/769
  • Gender placement (F): 1893/5006

Fitness Friday: Blackmores Sydney Running Festival Half Marathon

Finally! I hadn’t run a half marathon all year and I was starting to feel really weird about it. I like to run two a year, but this was my first one of 2017, which feels weird given that it’s in September. I usually like to space my half marathons out a bit more so I spend more time training overall.

But anyway, I was equal parts excited and nervous about this race. Excited because I was going to be running in beautiful Sydney, Australia. We were going to run across the Harbour Bridge and see absolutely beautiful vistas of the city. But I was also nervous because this was my earliest race starting time to date. The race STARTED at 6 am – which meant I had to get up at 4 am (the grossest hour of the day) to eat breakfast so that I could properly digest everything before the race. And the other reason I was nervous was that once we got to Sydney, we discovered just how very much NOT FLAT the downtown area is. There are some seriously vicious uphills in Sydney and I was more than a bit horrified.

If you’ve been following me on Snapchat (snap is “muyourmind”), you’ll notice I tend to talk a lot more about fitness on there. But for those of you who don’t follow me: I was plagued with about a month of sickness after we moved into our new condo in August. Between unpacking, painting, and whatnot, my husband and I constantly had some kind of cold we kept passing back and forth to each other. It was so bad that I couldn’t work out for 4-5 weeks, which meant I was incredibly nervous about my physical capacity to finish this race. Once I finally got over the various sicknesses, I had only two weeks left to exercise before we left for the first leg of our trip which was in Bali. I knew I’d have zero chances of running the week we were in Bali (which is where we went before Australia) because even the nighttime temperature hovers around 27 degrees and my body and lungs just can’t handle that for running.

Thankfully, before I got sick I had been following my half marathon training plan to a T which saved me a lot of pain later on. Had I slacked on it, I would’ve been completely set up for failure. So I was able to utilize the two weeks before vacation really, really well. It meant doubling up on long runs during the week, but by the end of the two weeks I felt moderately comfortable that this was a race I may not do amazing in, but that I would at least be able to complete with my dignity intact. With this in mind, I was hoping to complete the race in about two hours and ten minutes.

Fast forward to race day. I got up at 4 am and ate my breakfast, and, miraculously, I didn’t feel vomitous. There’s something about getting up that early that usually makes me feel like I want to heave, but I didn’t have any of that this time. I ate my breakfast (granola and yogurt (or oatmeal) before a race – always), then went back to bed and sort of just rested for the next hour or so before I had to get up and out the door. The lovely city of Sydney has an absolutely subway system that was up and running by time I caught a train at 5:15 am from King’s Cross over to the race start zone at Milson’s Point. I went by myself since it really wasn’t necessary to get David out of bed just escort me to the start line. The only thing that was a bit poopy about that was that I had to wear nothing but what I was racing in to the starting zone. And given that this was a 6 am start time and Sydney was finishing up their winter season, it was very brisk 6 degrees when I left our AirBNB in Darlinghurst!

I got to the start zone about five minutes before the race started, which was PERFECT. We started off the race without kerfuffle (honestly, it was a pretty subdued start – I think because it was so freaking early.). The first part of the course forces us to run up an incline, loop around and then we get on the Harbour Bridge. I’m not generally one to take pictures during a race because it’s detrimental to keeping your race pace, but since I figured I wasn’t going to be busting out any kind of personal best this race, I wanted to document some of the neat things I saw on this race. And that shot of us running over the bridge was one of those moments. It was like “ohhh wowwwwww!” (Pictured above.)

Another one of those moments was this sadly blurry shot. We were running down an offramp (maybe an onramp?) that I think accessed Harbour Bridge. It was so freaking cool for all of us to be tunneling down this ramp together. I loved seing the rock walls on either side of us.

And of course how could I not take this photo? The sun had fully risen at this point and there’s the Sydney Opera House in the background. The green balloon ahead of me is the 2:10 pace bunny. Which is funny, because I had thought that I was ahead of her by this point!

The race course itself was one of the most interesting ones I’ve done to date. The course meandered through a lot of downtown Sydney and while there were a lot of switchbacks, it never felt awkward. That being said… there were a lot of inclines. The course avoided a lot of the bad ones I’d become aware of in the core, but they were still there and they were an energy sucker. That being said, I was putting out an insane pace for this race to start off with. For the first 10 kilometers or so I was pushing a pace of 5:50 per kilometer and I honestly thought “holy crap, I will actually nail a pb!”. I felt amazing – my body was happy to be running, I didn’t feel sick from being up so early and the temperature was cool which meant I could breathe easily.

Sidenote: this race had the best manned water stations I’ve ever seen. Each station had loads of volunteers (amazing, given the hour of day) and plenty to drink. I was able to guzzle water and non-branded “electrolyte drink” at every station. Some of them had jelly bean gels, and, even better for me, a few of them had GU gel packs. I had forgotten to pick up any gels for this race, so when I saw the gel packs around kilometer 12 I was elated. Even more amazing? They were actually chilled! If you’ve gone and downed a gel pack mid-race you know that they generally tend to be warm and gross by the time you eat them. (Usually because you’re carrying them on your body and they’ve warmed up, or they’ve been sitting in the sun for a while.) Not these gels! They were blissfully cooled which made choking them down so much easier (because, let’s get real – those gels aren’t exactly the most fun things to shove down your throat while you’re running).

Despite my excitement over myself race, around the 16th kilometer my left knee started to suffer. And it was weird because it came out of absolutely nowhere. In my training runs I hadn’t had any joint issues (but I also hadn’t been running this fast either nor doing these uphills) so I was really taken aback when it got so bad that just bending at the knee was problematic. I forced myself to start doing kickbacks with my legs in order to loosen up the knee joint, and it worked long enough for me to cross the finish line at a gallop (but dang if it wasn’t painful), but at this point my pace had slowed down so much that it made my previous quick pace irrelevant.

In the end, I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 2:09:21. Which is under the 2:10 I wanted! A personal best for me would’ve been under 2:07 or so, but given all of the circumstances that lead up to this race and how I felt towards the end of the race, I am EXTREMELY happy with this result!

Race Results

  • Finish Time: 2:09:21
  • Pace: 6:07 per kilometer
  • Overall placement: 4845/7219
  • Age group placement (Female 30-34 years): 33/539
  • Gender placement (F): 1888/3434

Fitness Friday: Panic Sets In (Half Marathon Training)

(old photo from several years ago - conveniently recycled for this post!)
(old photo from several years ago – conveniently recycled for this post!)

This will undoubtedly be an uninteresting post to many, but sometimes you have to face reality and just… put it out there.

So what’s the issue? Basically… I’ve got a half marathon in Sydney, Australia scheduled for September 17th and the longest run I’ve done in the last thirty days is 7 kilometers (this past Monday). By now I should be doing 60-80k per month and have solid lungs and muscles in place in which to complete a half marathon. But, with the condo purchase and move, and my never ending  various sicknesses (in case you missed my update video: I’ve had two colds, an eye infection and horrifically debilitating food poisoning in the last three-four weeks), my last long run was only 11k and it was on July 22nd. To say I’m panicked about this upcoming race would be an understatement.

I went back to training this past week and set about an insane plan: I’m alternating 7-8k runs with weight training and then adding in progressively longer long runs as time goes on (I’m doing 12k tonight, then 14k AND a 15k next week alongside weight training and some shorter runs, etc.). The sad thing was that given my immediate start on Monday of this past week, it meant I only had 2.5 weeks to train for a half marathon which is a rather daunting task.

Of course, I do have a solid level of fitness that has helped keep my muscles from atrophying too much during the last month where I’ve done NOTHING, but it’s still really frightening to realize you are not only sorely under trained for something, but that you’ve got very little time in which to make up an entire MONTH of training. Half the issue is that although the race isn’t until September 17th – which would lead you to believe I’ve got more time that I’ve indicated – the reality is that we leave for Bali on September 7th and there’s NO WAY I can run in Indonesia because the night time temperature is 27 degrees!

I’m mostly putting this out there so that I don’t give up. I WANT to run a half marathon in Sydney – I love that feeling of being in a different country and doing something strenuous because I get this intense feeling of catharsis caused by such a long run. But man am I nervous. I also feel like something ALWAYS happens when I train for a race – like why can’t things ever go smoothly??

So that’s where I’m at. Fingers crossed I can still walk after this half and enjoy the rest of my vacation!

Fitness Friday: 2017 Pride and Remembrance Run

2017 Pride and Remembrance Run - starting zone
2017 Pride and Remembrance Run – starting zone

Hoooo boyyyy! I was WAITING for one of these races to finally happen in my racing “career”. The race where you’re sick for the day of the race and don’t want to even cross the finish line because you’re so ashamed of your finish time.

Heck, even before the race started, my friend and I did not look super keen on it!
Heck, even before the race started, my friend and I did not look super keen on it!

Frankly, it was a long overdue for me – the 2017 Pride and Remembrance Run marks my fourth running anniversary and it’s slightly astonishing that I had never been physically ill for a race prior to now. But there we have it – I was coughing and phlegming like a beast going into this race and it’s almost a week later that I’m writing this post and I still sound deathly ill.

The girl beside me looks so happy! And I just wanted to die. LOL
The girl beside me looks so happy! And I just wanted to die. LOL

The race got off to a really bad start to begin with – there’s supposed to be a sub 25 minute corral (which is not me – I’m a solid 26 minute 5K runner), and everyone else was supposed to go five minutes after that corral took off. That’s not how it ended up working. The air horn went off and EVERYONE took off. I was so unprepared to start that I didn’t have my music ready to go or my Nike Plus tracker set up to go on my phone (Garmin was good to go though). I spent the first thirty seconds of the race fumbling around with my phone trying to get the music going while bouncing up and down. What a mess.

Nearing the finish!
Nearing the finish!

I had this hope that despite my sickness, my body would somehow overcome that and bust through with a decent time. I was pretty hopeful at first – my first kilometer clocked in at 5:18, but then I hit a wall and my speed just started to slow down incrementally per kilometer (2nd kilometer was 5:47, then 6:15, then 6:17, etc.). I had zero drive to push harder and I really just wanted it to be over with.

Thankfully getting very close to the finish line
Thankfully getting very close to the finish line

I had a few moments where I was determined to just drop out of the race and/or start walking. It was at that point that I started bargaining with myself: was it more shameful  to finish a race slowly, or at least complete it without walking? In the end I decided that I would just not walk any part of it, but still push on and finish.

Chugging along to the finish line
Chugging along to the finish line

The whole race I felt like I was very close to coughing up a lung and/or throwing up because I just felt so wretched. I was so out of it I didn’t see my husband in the end zone taking pictures (like the one above), nor did I realize I’d worn the wrong SHOES to the race! I didn’t even catch on till we got home, I took my shoes off and then later on was like “wait, why are THOSE shoes out and not my new running ones?” (Not that it would’ve made a difference, but the shoes I did end up wearing have clocked over 900 kilometers on them and are quite worn down on the soles.)

Soooooo in short? Worst race of my life! I finished with a chip time of 30:15 which is far and beyond my worst 5K to date. So now I have a new personal worst! To give you an idea of how slow that is for me – I usually run a half marathon (21.1 kilometers) around a 6:05 per kilometer pace. This race was done at 6:02 per k. So suffice to say… I was pretty annoyed.

2017 Pride and Remembrance Run Course and Details
2017 Pride and Remembrance Run Course and Details

On the flip side? I completed it even though I felt atrocious. I bargained with myself and was happy that I managed to talk myself into NOT walking the race. Yes, my personal pride is injured by this race time, but I was also sick and I *know* I can do better next time. Of all the places and races to be sick for, I’m glad it was in a run I feel extremely comfortable with and in my own neighbourhood.

An enormous thank you to all of the volunteers corralling people and handing out water, and to the people cheering us on at the finish line. You guys really, REALLY help us out!

Race Results

  • Finish Time: 30:15
  • Pace: 6:02 per kilometer
  • Overall placement: 695/1165
  • Age group placement (Female 30-39 years): 81/202
  • Gender placement (F): 218/589

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