Tag 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 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: Toronto 10 Miler 5K

Standing in front of the Start/Finish Toronto 10 Miler
Standing in front of the Start/Finish Toronto 10 Miler

I often try to coerce my friends into running races with me. It’s just so much more fun to wait at the starting point of a race with a friend. You’re both nervous, you’re both excited and it’s definitely a bonding experience for me. And yet, I’m not usually all that successful in getting people to go to races with me!

Myself and Zoe before the race
Myself and Zoe before the race

So imagine my surprise when Zoe of Writing Whimsy not only planned to come out to Toronto for IMATS, but *also* agreed to run a 5K with me the next day. I’d suggested it as a joke – I didn’t actually think she’d take me up on it! But we managed to hype it up to each other and somehow we found ourselves signed up for the Toronto 10 Miler 5K race!

Such a beautiful day at Cherry Beach
Such a beautiful day at Cherry Beach

These were the absolute best race conditions I have ever experienced. The race was around 9 am and the temperature was cool but not cold. There was no wind and the skies were clear. The race started and finished at Cherry Beach in Toronto and it was just gorgeous down there. The sun was rising and reflecting beautifully off the lake. And there were only about 200 people signed up for the 5K making it a relatively small group.

Photo finish!
Photo finish!

It was a 5K so I don’t have a ton to say about the race since it really only lasts about thirty minutes or so. It was easily the flattest course I have ever run (I’ll definitely be back next year!). There were a few bumps in the pavement, but absolutely NO HILLS which was such a blessing.

I’m in the midst of training distances for the Scotiabank Waterfront Half Marathon so I haven’t been focusing on speed runs. And, as I’ve been lamenting THIS ENTIRE YEAR,  I’m still an infuriating ten pounds heavier than I was last year, so it’s not like I was expecting to be spontaneously fast.

I did push it for this run though! My first kilometer came in under a 5 minute per k pace but, as per usual, I couldn’t keep that up and my pace slowed over the next few kilometers. I ended up completing the race with a 26:32 finish time, which will make this the third race this year where I finished between 26:29 and 26:32 which is just crazy! I felt good at the end though. I was spent, but I didn’t feel like I was going to fall over and I didn’t get that awful lightheadedness I’ve experienced with some races before. The only thing I did differently this race was carry water with me. I stopped at one water station to drink, but at the other I just ran on through and drank from my tiny bottle at random intervals.

Zoe finishing the 5K!
Zoe finishing the 5K!

Zoe came in a little bit after me and I was able to capture her finishing with my phone! What a champ, she wanted under 35 minutes and she easily cleared that with a 31 minute finish! I was so insanely proud of her since this was her first race. And I’m fairly confident that she’s been bitten by the racing bug because she’s already talking about doing 7 and 8k races. 😀

This is my last 5K race for the year, and I definitely came nowhere near achieving a 5K in under 25 minutes like I had planned to do at the start of the year. I’m sad I wasn’t able to get there, but I am happy that I at least stayed consistent. I had a pretty awesome 26:10 personal best time during the Achilles St. Patrick’s Day race back in March and after that I stayed solid around the 26:30 mark. It’s not an improvement, but it’s not a horrific decline either! Yay for being stagnant? Haha! 😉

Race Summary

  • Finish Time: 26:32
  • Pace: 5:18 per kilometer
  • Overall placement: 41/208
  • Gender placement (F): 18/146
  • Category placement (F30-39): 7/40