Tag Archives: Run

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 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!