Monday, April 25, 2011

Week 15: Let the taper begin!

Woohoo! I completed the second 32k of the training program yesterday. The taper begins today!

Because last week's long slow distance went fairly well with my pre-run dinner of Gordon Ramsay's Pancetta Spaghetti with a side pep talk by hubby, I asked him to make it for me again this Saturday. I followed last week's menu of no dairy and one small glass of wine, then headed to bed early. And...miracle of miracles, I actually managed to get a good 6-7 hours of sleep!

Since this was Easter Sunday, I knew most of my running buddies wouldn't be at Run Club this week. I had the option of putting my 32k run off till Monday or just getting 'er done on Sunday. And since Steve had put in the effort of making me my pasta meal the night before, I knew that once again there was no putting it off. So after sleeping in a wee bit and making sure my Garmin and iPod were charged, I headed out at around 9:30.

Although the Weather Network had called for an 80% chance of rain, by the time I headed out, all that remained was a light fog.

I'd spent a lot of time reading other runners' inspirational blogs and soaking in the post-Boston excitement last week. Among them was runner Erin Poirier's blog post -- Boston with Love -- where she recounted her Boston highs and lows -- from running with a demon to running like an awesome runner.

As I headed along the gravel trail near the Armdale Yacht Club, the sun beginning to poke through the fog and glint off the water, I thought about Erin's experience and I decided to try running like I was awesome. And as I climbed the steep slope near the boat dock, the air smeling like seaweed, I smiled to myself for the first time in many a long run. The rain had held off, I had the support of my husband and running friends who believed in me...and all I had to do was three repeats of 10k, plus a 2k to finish it off. Easy peasy. And my legs were feeling good!

The day before, I'd set out for an easy 6k run, but with the sun shining and the tunes cranked on my iPod, I once again reverted to my usual pattern of giving 'er for the first 2k, building up the lactic acid in my legs till they were cramping, and then having to slow down for part of the run. As I realized what I was doing, I kind of chuckled to myself. Will I never learn? Yet although I held back on the pace for the rest of the run, I still managed to maintain a 5:40ish or better pace for the remainder -- almost a tempo pace, and I wasn't even trying!

Which was another reason for the confidence I had as I continued on Sunday's long run, past the Northwest Arm, the fog cloaking the horizon in a romantic kind of way. By the time I made it up to Oxford, I was only 3k away from my first 10k. After that, I'd only have two more 10ks left plus a 2k. Easy!

I continued, turning onto Inglis to Tower, then into Point Pleasant Park. What a treat to run on cedar chips and soil...a nice break on the knees. I almost felt playful as I ran through the forest, chickadees chirping in the trees and dog walkers enjoying the trail.

At the halfway point, somewhere near the Seaport Market, I let out a silent cheer -- 16k down, only 16k left to go, and I was feeling strong! Nothing like the pain and agony of a few weeks ago, when I'd been doubting my abilities to do this. What a difference a good night's sleep, the right nutrition and confidence makes!

At around 20k, the sun finally came out. Although I started to tire and I was getting a little warm, I didn't worry. I'd just run all the way up Devonshire Rd -- a long, gradual incline -- and knew part of my tiredness was due to that hill. Meanwhile, the GoodLife Marathon in Toronto will be mainly downhill for most of the way.

Running along Windsor and turning left onto Joe Howe, I did feel awesome. I'd just run 24k, and I was only 6k from 30. At this point it was all about running down each 10 minutes until a walk break, and while I was tired, I wasn't disheartened. What a beautiful day for a run, I thought to myself as I ran along the Rails to Trails, past families, friends and couples out for a walk.

Eventually, after three hours and 39 minutes, I made it home. Walking along the trail behind our house, I really did let out a cheer. Because now, the taper begins!

Looking over my Garmin records from the last four months, I thought back on all of the hours of training I'd put in, and I felt proud. No matter what happens on race day, I know I've put in the effort and I'm ready. And more than any time goal, that's something to be proud of!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Week 14 complete & 15 begins: the sun, the rain, the lows, the highs...the inspiration!

Where the heck is the sunny weather that graced us just last week? My fingers are still cold from tonight's speed training at the SMU track and a run home in rain and zero degree weather! But I felt pretty strong as I made my way around the track for two sets of four laps, averaging around 5:09-5:14/km, which isn't bad for a four-hour time goal, I'm told.

We are now into week 15 and race day is 24 days away! Little butterflies are starting to hatch from their cocoons and flutter in my belly when I think about running down Yonge Street along with thousands of runners...Eep!

Anyways, last week kinda went down like this:

In an effort to get some last-minute leg strength training in, I decided to do leg exercises at the gym prior to an hour-long Body Pump class. I felt ok, except that...

...On Tuesday I set out for my tempo run late after chatting with Wendy and Carol at the Running Room. Most of the group had already almost completed their 6k tempo as I started around the Commons, and I noticed my pace slowing and my legs struggling to keep up with a pace almost a minute slower than the previous week's tempo. I definitely wasn't coasting along like a running goddess. In fact, I was struggling at even 4k. So after my second lap around, I decided to head back to the Running Room -- a little deflated and worried, I will admit, especially after the difficult time I'd had with Sunday's long run.

Feeling a little stressed about how tough I'd been finding the runs, I emailed Bruce, our clinic leader (and manager of the Running Room on Spring Garden Road), and asked him for any advice. He was amazing and answered within a couple hours, saying that often times, difficulties in performance can be linked to iron deficiencies, especially in women. Which makes sense for me, as I've been diagnosed as being slightly anemic.

Bruce also suggested that I might be overdoing it -- that often we feel like we have to do all kinds of cross-training in order to be strong, but that with only four weeks away, I might want to cut back on the lower body strength training and just focus on having a strong core and upper body. His was advice was to take it easy for a couple days and put my legs up.

So I did.

After work, we got together with some fellow runners to see our friends Wendy and Greg off for their Boston Marathon. We were so excited for them! We promised to watch their progress on Monday and send them all kinds of positive energy so they'd coast through the course. I love being part of a strong running community -- there is so much inspiration and support to draw on!

Bruce was there among us and I really appreciated him making a point of coming by and checking in with how I was feeling. He also made me feel a little better by admitting that he hadn't finished his hills the previous day, since he'd been feeling a little under the weather. "You're just going through a rough patch," he said. And I believed him.

Coming home that night, I told my husband I'd love to qualify for Boston one day. "I don't know which of you to believe," he joked -- referring to the fact that only a few days ago I'd been ready to quit running, and now I wanted to qualify for one of the largest marathons in North America!

"My heart wants to run, but sometimes my body doesn't listen," I said by way of explanation. I've never hidden that running is such a love/hate thing for me!

I opted for Zumba instead of a long run. I love Zumba -- one of my favourite cross-training cardio activities!

In the morning, I stopped in at the Running Room and pick up some gels for Sunday's long run. I'd been debating hopping on the bike for half an hour or so, just to keep the impact off my legs, but then I decided to head out and see how I'd feel on a 6k run. My Garmin had died, but I didn't worry because I'd read Jon's blog only the day before about how he'd forced himself to run without a watch for a few runs and just enjoy the run instead of focusing on getting the last few 100 metres in or stay on pace. It was kind of refreshing, I must say.

The run itself was ok...Not great but not horrible. My left achilles tendon was a little tight, and when I stopped I had some weird throbbing ache in my right hamstring, but I worked that out with an hour and a half of Ashtanga yoga with Andrea and her sister Diana, and I felt so much better afterwards!

Another great thing that happened on Saturday -- I found out that my friend Jen was inspired by my blog to start running again! I'm so proud of her for starting again, because I myself know how intimidating starting to run again can feel, if you've been away from it for even a few months. And I'm so glad I've been able to inspire someone as others have inspired me.

Saturday night, my husband cooked me my favourite pre-race/long run meal: Gordon Ramsay's Pancetta Spaghetti. He gave me a great pep talk, encouraged me to get a good night's sleep and just get 'er done in the morning, even though the Weather Network was calling for rain. I felt encouraged by his support, and went to bed to try and get a few hours of shut-eye.

Morning broke windy but not raining, although it was grey. I hadn't slept overly well, but I slept more than I usually do. Part of me really just wanted to stay in bed, but I knew that after Steve spending an hour and a bit cooking me my pre-run meal (after he'd had a long day at work) and giving me my pep talk, there was no backing out of this 29k run.

So I ate my oatmeal and half an apple, pulled on my gear, and headed out the door to drive downtown to the Running Room. Carol was there and had volunteered to be our pace group leader, since Wendy was in Boston enjoying a buffet with all of the Canadian runners before Marathon Monday!

We headed out, and actually had to pull back on our pace a bit since we were keeping pace with the four-hour group as we ran down Quinpool and turned right onto Connaught. I was a little worried that I hadn't dressed warmly enough, but since it hadn't started raining yet, I felt ok after about 10 minutes or so.

It's amazing what a difference running with friends makes when you're on a long run. Pretty soon we'd reached the start of Rails to Trails, and as we made our way along (with me trying to identify the songbirds in the bushes -- I spotted an American Goldfinch singing his heart out at the top of a trees and heard a few chickadees warbling away), we started picking up the pace. And then we were in Bayers Lake and at the Coke plant at kilometre 11.5. The wind was pushing us up the gradual incline, but didn't feel too strong on our backs. I was looking forward to running back downhill for the next 5k or so.

Or so I thought. Just as we turned around and started heading back into the city, the wind started driving rain into our faces. Cold. Wet. Drizzle. In fact it was so cold I started worrying I might have to flag down a cab at Bayers Lake before we headed back onto the trail. But I carrried on, knowing that if I stopped, I wouldn't want to start that run again.
Instead, I picked up the pace. I just wanted to get out of that weather, so I just put my head down and started pumping my legs a little more. The pasta dinner from the night before seemed to be doing its job, because I felt pretty strong.

Soon enough, Barry neared me and we started keeping pace with each other. We barely spoke until we reached the end of the trail -- we both just wanted to get it over with (he was wearing shorts and his legs were fairly cold -- nobody had expected this weather). Remembering that I'd once mentioned having Raynaud's syndrome, Barry kindly lent me his gloves, saying he didn't need them. Thank goodness -- he was a life saver!

As we got off the trail and could feel ourselves getting nearer the store, we started chatting again about vacation plans, work, whatever -- just shooting the breeze and making the time pass more easily by having someone to talk at.

When we reached the store, I decided to do the last 6k of my run on the treadmill. I just couldn't imagine going back outside for another 30 to 40 minutes. And after I finished those last kms, I still felt pretty good! Yay!

Marathon Monday! Woo! Andrea, Carol and I spent much of the day glued to our computers, watching Wendy and Greg's progress on the athlete tracker for the Boston Marathon. I also watched the #bostonmarathon feed, and was fascinated. In fact I'd have to say this was the first time I'd ever been so fully engaged in a sporting event in my life! Watching the play by play of the men's and women's races was just so exciting, and inspiring!

As we watched our friends' progress, we could see from their paces that they were just out there to have a good time and enjoy the experience. And what an experience it must have been! The Twitterverse was just buzzing with #bostonmarathon fever (at least among the runners)! I stand by what I said last week -- I'd love to be able to qualify for Boston one day. But now that the BQ has been made more aggressive, I'm not sure if that's achievable. Who knows!

Watching the buzz around Boston, I learned two things:
1) that even the pros have bad days. Kim Smith's interview after she had to bow out of the race when she had led it for almost half the course was especially heart-wrenching, but also reassuring;

2) that there is a difference between "racing" and "running" a marathon. And if you do the latter, you're more likely to have a fantastic time! Wendy and Greg's experience has inspired me to try and just run the GoodLife Marathon -- enjoy the course (dowhill most of the way, baby!) and the crowds, and soak in the experience. Here's hoping my type A personality will let me do it!

Finished the day with Body Pump but no leg weight training, hoping I wouldn't overdo it like last week. But...

...As it was another grey rainy day, and I'd had enough rain and cold with Sunday's run, I opted for Zumba. I did ok up until 45 mins in, then started to feel really really weak...I could tell my core and abductors/adductors just weren't recovered from Sunday's run yet (I just couldn't shimmy my hips like I usually can :P ). Maybe I should have eaten more before the run (I was hungry most of the day) or maybe I should have actually taken a rest day after a 29k run! I'm planning to just take it easy next Monday after Sunday's 32k.

But whereas a few weeks ago I might have beaten myself up for feeling tired after a workout, I opted to just see it as "a day" and move on to the next day. Just a day.

And race day is 24 days away! Woohoo!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My favourite pre-run/race supper: Gordon Ramsay's Pancetta Spaghetti, served with a side pep talk by hubby

It must be annoying at times for the partner of a runner to keep the enthusiasm up when night after night they have to hear about yet another run's high's and lows. After awhile, all we runners seem to speak about is running, running, and more running. Especially when we're training for a race. And if you're not a runner, it may be hard to understand our one-track minds and how much running seems to take over our lives. How many times can you say "Wow, that's great that you had a good run tonight," with the same amount of enthusiasm as the last 50 runs?

But this week, with four weeks left to go till race day, I asked my husband to step in again to be my running coach. When he's in coach mode, he's always so terriffic at encouraging me before and after a run, cooking me healthy meals, pushing me out the door when I don't want to go, running me a warm bath on cold winter nights...He also does things like research recipes for certain training periods.

And that's how he discovered my favourite pre-run/race dinner: Gordon Ramsay's Pancetta Spaghetti. It's clean, light and yummy, too! (Of course it helps that it was dreamt up by a marathon-running super chef with an attitude.)

So tonight, knowing that I have a 29k run in the morning,  hubby cooked up a plate of Pancetta Spaghetti for me, served with a side pep talk. "Don't worry about time tomorrow," he said as I savoured a flavourful mouthful of Proscioutto (he subbed it in for the Pancetta, and it's just as yummy). "Just do the run, and call me when you're done so I can run you a bath. And make sure to eat oatmeal and some fruit for breakfast."

God I love my husband!

So tomorrow as we're running in the rain (100% P.O.P., according to The Weather Network), I'll hear his voice in my head, offering one last bit of advice as I bit into my last mouthful: "Just get 'er done."

How lucky am I?


Friday, April 15, 2011

HRG Runner Profile: Colin Harris

A few months ago, I was speaking to a friend about my marathon training, after a particularly long Sunday run. I was feeling a little sore that day but mostly proud of having run the distance I had. To which my friend nonchalantly replied that he had a buddy who was training to run a marathon too -- only he'd be running three marathons a week, all the way...ACROSS CANADA.

Gulp. Wow. That made my marathon run seem like a manageable distance, all of a sudden.

But still, somehow it just didn't seem real that someone could -- or would -- want to put their body through something like that. Until a few weeks ago, when I had a chance to meet this mythical runner face to face.

After having run 1,300 kilometres from St. John's, Newfoundland to Halifax and burning through two pairs of sneakers, Colin agreed to meet with me at the Second Cup on Spring Garden Road one Saturday afternoon to talk to me about why the heck he is running across Canada.

As it turns out, although the actual run to me is infathomable, Colin's reason for doing it is quite near and dear to my heart. He's running as the spokesperson for a charity he set up, Take Me Outside. The charity's mandate is to spread the word about the importance of getting kids outside and leading healthy, active lives. Colin's background is in outdoor education. All of a sudden, I now understood why he might want to put his body through such torture.

Since meeting with Colin, I've been following his progress through the Take Me Outside website. I believe he's just entered Quebec and is running through the Gaspé. I'll continue watching his progress across the country, and hope to connect with him in Toronto for the Good Life Marathon.

And somehow with all that running, Colin still managed to answer my Runner Profile questions. So without further ado, I give you Colin Harris, my latest Runner Profile:

HRG: How long have you been running?
CH: I've been running for about 17 years. I ran cross country in junior high but hated it! So it wasn't until I was a bit older that I started running again and enjoying it.

HRG: How and why did you start?
CH: I guess like a lot of people I was an active person and played a lot of sports. But team sports can sometimes lead to a lot of competitiveness which can lea to a lot of heated moments. Although I enjoy team sports, that stuff has never interested me. But running was a way to still be competitive, but with myself.

HRG: Favorite part of running?
CH: Breathing in the fresh air, listening to my body as it works, taking in my surroundings and trying to be aware of the natural environment around me!

HRG: Least favorite part of running?
CH: Chafing! That or dogs who aren't on leashes who want to bite your ankles!

HRG: Favorite time of year/weather to run in?
CH: Definitely the winter. There is something about the cold air hitting my lungs that I love. I lived up in the NWT for a little bit and learned to love running in the cold. No bugs, no humidity... a good run in the winter makes me feel that much more alive, even if I can barely feel my fingers!

HRG: Favorite distance to run?
CH: I'm not sure how to answer that. I just like running. It doesn't matter whether it's 5 k or 45 k. I have raced half marathons most out of any distance... but running marathons seem to becoming the norm these days!

HRG: Favorite route (training or race) to run?
CH: Again, not sure how to answer. I love running trails. I love running city streets and people watching as I run. But currently, I love the fact that for 8 months, I won't have a route that I repeat. Every day I see new terrain and new landscapes. Every day my route is different so for now, that's sort of my favourite!

HRG: How do you keep motivated?
CH: Running across Canada has been a dream for the past 17 years. So fulfilling that dream keeps me motivated. Going into schools across the country to chat with students about getting outside keeps me motivated. That part of it doesn't seem to be an issue these days. Training for this might be a whole different question though!
HRG: Best pre-race meal?
CH: Not so into racing these days, so not sure what to say. I'll eat pretty much anything and just try to find that balance of eating enough healthy stuff to offset the unhealthy stuff that I sometimes crave!

HRG: Best post-race meal?
Perhaps same answer as above!

HRG: Upcoming race goal?
CH: Well, my goal right now is to finish running across Canada. I'm not sure I see that as a race, but that is my goal.

HRG: Tips or words of wisdom for new runners?
CH: Run because you want to. Run to be healthy and to enjoy being outside. Don't get sucked into endless banter of splits and race times and the latest gear that will make you a better runner. If you want to be competitive, be so with yourself. Enjoy the community of running as well as the isolation it can offer.

HRG: Anything else you want to add?
CH: We all have different reasons for running and that is a good thing. But in my opinion, just being outside is where it's at! Halifax has so many trails and beautiful areas to run or walk or hike. It has a running community that is surging and that is amazing. For me, the core of running entails being outside. And as we think about our students, our kids, our future generations, getting them outside is the key challenge.

Thanks Colin!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Week 14: Running 23k, in pictures

Sometimes, a picture tells it better than words. To read the captions, click on the comment bubble next to the little yellow icon on the left.



Shoe shopping! Why finding the right shoe is essential to avoiding injuries and enjoying running

Brand new Asics GT 2150, courtesy of my parents for my birthday. So crisp and white, they just scream "new shoes"! LOL...I'm almost paranoid that I need to get some dirt on that material so I don't look like I'm heading out for my first run ever! (Not that there's anything wrong with that).

I've been running in Asics 2150s since they were 2130s (just like razorblade companies, shoe companies aren't content to stay with just one model, and they're always pushing out the next best version). These are a great stability shoe for me, as I tend to pronate -- ie, land with my foot at an angle, which means that my foot ends up rolling inwards when it fully plants. Coupled with a pair of custom orthotics by Monique at Maritime Chiropractic & Bluenose Physiotherapy, these shoes have saved my knees/hips/joints.

I've known so many folks who say they don't run because it hurts their joints. I used to be one of them - I would get terrible shin splints running around the track at the YMCA, and even running a kilometre was unbearable.

Then I had my gait assessed by the team at the Running Room in North York. They analyze your gait (the way your foot lands -- whether it lands with your knee angled too much in one direction or the other) and make you run up and down the store a few times. This will help them assess whether you need shoes that give you added stability based on how your foot lands.

If you're thinking of starting running, I'd say just about the worst thing you can do is to head out in your old pair of everyday sneaks. You're more likely than not going to end up hurting yourself and then believing that there's something wrong with your joints and that running is painful for you. The best thing you can do is go to get your gait assessed by a professional, try out a few different pairs, and invest in a good pair of running shoes.

Once you do find the shoes that work for you, make sure you keep track of how many kilometres you put on them. I use the free tracking tool on the Running Room website (create your account and you can track distances as well as other training activities). Most shoes have an average lifespan of 600-800 kilometres. Anything over that, and the compacted cushioning in your shoe may lead to injuries.

Even seasoned runners who have switched to a new pair of shoes have ended up injuring themselves because the shoe didn't give them the right kind of support. Trust me. Your knees/hips/back will thank you for it!

It may sound like a scam for a shoe store to sell more shoes, but believe me -- I speak from experience. I love shoe shopping just as much as the next girl, but when it comes to running shoes, I'm not going to go experimenting with different types and styles and colours. Just give me the shoes that work for me, and I'm happy.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

HRG Runner Profile: Erin Poirier

I first heard about Erin Poirier on a long slow run through the streets of Halifax one Sunday morning while chatting with one of my running buddies. "She's running 430 kilometres across The Gambia to raise funds for HIV and malaria education. At least a half marathon for 17 days," said my friend Wendy, who I've profiled in a previous Runner in Profile spot. Wow, I thought! There's another person with dedication!

I checked out Erin's blog,, and I became even more impressed -- not only does she have this amazing goal on the horizon, she's done volunteer work in The Gambia before, she's a nurse and a coach, along with being a great blogger with a good sense of humour and one of the city's top female runners. So much to be inspired by! I'm always amazed by all of the amazing people and athletes who live in our small city.

I contacted Erin, and she was generous enough to agree to answer my HRG Runner Profile questions, even though she's busy training for the Boston Marathon and raising funds for her charity through the Blue Nose Marathon in May.

Without further ado, I give you Erin Poirier, today's HRG Runner Profile. I hope to continue following her progress after Boston, the Blue Nose and as she sets off on her journey across The Gambia.

Thanks, Erin!

HRG: How long have you been running?EP: I’ve been running since high school. My first race was the 2005 Blue Nose Half Marathon -- the crazy weather year where the full marathon had to be re-routed.

HRG: How and why did you start running?
EP: I played high school basketball and my coach was serious about us showing up in shape at the beginning of the season. I used to run in the off-season for fitness. Looking back, I enjoyed running and had more  talent for it than I did basketball. I’ve been running since.

HRG: Least favorite part of running?EP: I wouldn’t actually call any part of running my “least favorite” part but when you’re training for a marathon or a big event like my Gambian running expedition, some runs are more work than others. When I talk to people about my running, I think that some falsely believe that I love every single run that I do. That definitely isn’t true. This cycle, I’ve been training 6 days per week and I certainly don’t love all 6 days. Some days my body feels poorly. Some days I simply don’t want to. I run alone 1 or 2 days out of 6 and these days are usually the most difficult. But I have race goals and a bigger Gambian goal and running 6 days is what I do. So I get out and do it, even when I don’t want to and even when it feels bad. A difficult run is always better when it is over.

HRG: Favorite distance to run?
EP: Either the half or full marathon, I can’t decide which. This fall, I focused solely on the half-marathon and really enjoyed the shorter race distance, especially the specific speed training that I did with my coach. Least favorite distance is definitely the 10km! I find 10km harder than a full marathon -- it’s a long distance to run fast for.

HRG: How do you keep motivated?
EP: I love to run. It’s what I do. The last turn, that left hand turn onto Boylston Street, in the Boston Marathon feels pretty unbelievable. High fiving kids, soldiers, drunk college students and grandmothers along the Boston route is pretty awesome, too. I love my time alone on the roads during training. I love the
camaraderie of my training  partners. I love the thought of the money raised by my 430 km Love4Gambia run and how it will make a real difference for youth and communities in The Gambia; how it will keep kids alive through HIV and malaria education. All of this is wrapped up in my motivation. Especially during early
raining mornings.

HRG: Upcoming race goal?
EP: Set a big PB at Boston Marathon. This will be my third consecutive Boston and I’m really happy with this training cycle so am in good shape to do this.

HRG: Tips or words of wisdom for new runners?
EP: My first tip is about training plans. If you have a training plan, even if it was made by the most respected runner you know, remember that it’s just a piece of paper. It doesn’t have to rule your life. Let your body and your enjoyment of running rule your life. My training plan was made by my coach, Cliff Matthews.
In my opinion, no ones knows more about distance running than Cliff. We make adjustments to my training plan all the time based on how I am feeling and how my body is responding to hard work.

My other tip is for race day. When you toe the line at your goal race, make sure you smile and enjoy every (or at least most) kilometer(s) of your run. Remember that, when you show up, you’ve already done all of the hard work to prepare. Getting to run the race- that’s the reward for all of your hard work in training. It’s
the fun part. So go out there, listen to people cheer for you, have fun and enjoy.

HRG: What are you most looking forward to as you run across The Gambia?
I’m really looking forward to the people who will join me along the way. I ran almost every day when I volunteered in The Gambia 3 summers ago. Where white girl from Canada runs, people usually follow! I’m looking forward to being joined by kids and youth. I’ve heard from several Gambian runners who wish to
join me for parts of the 430km road from the Senegalese border to the Atlantic Ocean. This is going to be really inspiring for me.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about how the money that we raise for the Nova Scotia-Gambia Association through my run will make a difference. When I am running those 430 kms, I know that I’ll consider that almost 1,000 kids under age 5 died of malaria in 2010. In a country with the population of Nova Scotia. And
when I look at the child or the big brother running next to me, I’ll know what the NSGA may be able to save that child or that guy’s little brother’s life.

I’ve already got my sights set on the Atlantic Ocean. It’ll take me 17 hot, humid, sweaty and hopefully-not-snake-filled days to reach it. Jumping into the ocean on the shore of Banjul is going to be pretty special.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Week 12 complete, and 13 begins: Marathons are also about the chocolate-banana smoothies and ice baths!

Well, last week was tough, there's no denying it. But as I was discussing with a fellow runner on Twitter, usually a tough run is followed by a great run. And that's what happened this week. After my awesome Body Attack class on Monday, which was supposed to have been a rest day, I didn't know quite how I'd be feeling on Tuesday. But after Bruce's quick chat on perceived effort vs heart rate monitoring, we headed out for our 6k tempo run. And it was a great run.

To keep things easy route-wise, Bruce made us do laps around the Commons. I thought I was going to stick with the 4:15 group, given the attacking that my body had done the previous day. As we came up Bell Road and along Ahern, turning left onto the sidewalk next to the Commons, I started to pick up the pace. We were supposed to be running at around a 5:50/5:55 pace, but pretty soon, I was catching up to the 4hr group. Looking down at my Garmin, I saw that I'd picked up to around 5:06 in order to catch up with them.

I let myself slow down to around 5:24 and drafted along behind the 4hr group, feeling pretty good. My breathing was a little heavier, but I was just enjoying the feeling of speed, and of the strength in my legs. At around 5k, my calves and shins were cramping a tiny bit so I held off a tad. I find that usually helps burn off the latic acid and lets my muscles recover and loosen up a bit.

Anyways, we were supposed to do threre laps around the Commons and head back, but by lap three, I saw Andrea and Bruce standing at the Five Corners. I guess I forgot how to count that day, because when Bruce told me we were supposed to do three laps and head back to the store, I got confused and thought I'd only done two. So back around the Commons I went.

By that time, I couldn't see the group ahead of me, and there was no one behind. Confused, I headed back to the store, only to see Wendy, Carol and Andrea stretching there, when I thought they had been behind me! In the end, I did 8k at around 5:30/km and it felt great.

Long story short, this run reminded me how much I love running short, fast (relative to me) distances. I don't mind not being able to breathe for a few kms (5-10) if I know the finish line is nearby!

On Wednesday and Thursday, my husband and I headed in to the Valley for an early birthday mini-vacation. We had a great time sampling local beers, wine and food and watching the local bald eagles (did I mention I'm such a Lisa Simpson?), and it was nice to relax with him in the countryside for a few days -- we don't often get two days off together due to our different work schedules.

Friday, the weather was a typical Halifax spring day -- wind, rain, snow, ice pellets...I'd been running in a tank top and shorts only a few weeks ago, now this? I opted for Zumba instead, but for some reason I didn't quite feel like I had my A-game. So Saturday, rather than repeating my mistake of the previous week of doing too much (10k + Ashtanga), I just did Ashtanga. At this point in the training schedule, skipping out on a few runs isn't going to make or break my race. And I knew that if I was feeling tired, sometimes it's just best to take it easy and give my body a break.

Today, we ran 32k. And I conquered the MacDonald Bridge once again! I've never been a fan of running it, but today it was pretty cool - there must have been 50 or more runners heading over to Dartmouth from the Running Room, and I felt surrounded by our positive energy. We headed past the Mic Mac Mall, then under the highway to Shubie, around the Mic Mac Lake and back over the bridge. I kept my pace consistent with Wendy's at around 6:45-7:00. My legs felt a little sluggish, but I knew that today was just about getting the distance in.

After crossing back to Halifax, Wendy peeled off at  23k to head back to the store, and we continued through the outside loop at Point Pleasant Park. For some reason my Garmin decided to conk out at around 24k (I'd charged it the night before! Jonathan at the Running Room suggested doing a master reset, so I tried that after our run. I'm going to *need* it to last longer than 2 hours for my race, that's for sure!).

I was happy to have stuck it out with the group this week after a few weeks of runing the long runs on my own. I was reminded today that the thing I love about running with a group is that you get to meet some really interesting people. Today, I ended up running with Rachel, who is in our clinic. I had no idea, but she's running her marathon in the name of animal welfare, and raising funds for that cause. I hope to be able to profile her in a future Runner in Profile spot.

Since most of the group is running their race the week after me, they were doing 29k today but I was supposed to do 32. We stopped at South and South Park, and then I walked with them to the Running Room for a quick bathroom break and some water. Then I left everyone to their stretching while I finished my last 3k -- amazing how much better I was feeling after a little break, but at 32k, I'd had enough. But I was done! Next Sunday, I'll taper back to a nice comfortable 23k, followed by 29, 32, 16 and then...42!!!

After my run, I headed to Starbie's for a chocolate banana smoothie, praying they had bananas -- it's one of my favourite post-long run recovery drinks, and I can literally feel it working only minutes after drinking it. My legs were starting to cramp up. Then home, for an ice bath, followed by a soak with some Epsom salts. Phew!

I'm still not 100% sure about the benefits of an ice bath for recovery, but most serious runners swear by them. See this article published in Running Times Magazine a few years ago. Says @Love4GambiaErin, "Am 100% pro ice-bath.  Feels like relief.  Important tip: hoody, hat and latte required." I have to agree: when you're sitting in cold (or ice-cold) water up to your legs, a jacket and hat definitely helps dull the cold in the rest of your body!

I'm looking forward to profiling Erin soon in an upcoming Runner in Profile spot. Stay tuned!

Happy running, and healthy recovery,


Saturday, April 2, 2011

My favourite running accessory: Arm warmers

The weather lately has been weird. Last week was sunny and 6 degrees. Yesterday was rain and ice pellets. Today there's snow drifting. But hey -- that's spring in Nova Scotia!

One of the running accessories that I love for this time of year are my arm warmers -- they're perfect for starting a run with a little extra coverage, peeling down once you warm up, and easy to slip on and off if you get cold throughout the route.

I've owned a pair of LuluLemon's Brisk Run armwarmers for about three years now, and they've been great up until the last few wears. The pair I own has reflective birds on it, which are not only cute, they're handy when you're running at night. There are thumb holes and little pockets at the wrist that you can pull over your hands to act as mitts when your fingers get a little chilly.

The newer versions that I've seen have a slit in the wrist so you can wear your watch or Garmin under the sleeve and have the face poke through, which is handy because with the older version if you wear your watch over the sleeve, you're pretty much stuck with the sleeve on until you finish your run (unless you stop to remove the watch, remove the sleeve, put the watch back on, etc etc). The only thing is that a few friends of mine tested them in the store and the slit is not quite in the right spot. But hopefully that's something the designers will fix for their next version, which I'm told is coming out in the fall (why don't they release them in the spring too? It would be perfect for this time of year, especially out here!).

The newer versions also have a little pocket on one side for your iPod, and extra hemming in the elbow to give you room to bend your arm without stretching the material too much. Lat fall they had some funky patterns like striped grey and black, or bright neon yellow, which are a nice change to the usual black.

I really liked the second generation of these arm warmers, and was looking for a new pair -- my older pair has strangely stopped wicking, so if you sweat at all and then it gets chilly (like say for instance you end up running by the Arm or the harbour where the winds are colder), you end up with a pair of freezing sleeves on your arms for the rest of the run. Unfortunately, as I said, when I emailed them Lulu told me that they won't be releasing a new series of arm warmers until the fall.

So instead, I ended up going to Mountain Equipment Co-op and purchasing a pair of their nylon-esque arm warmers for $23 (I didn't want to invest the $80 or so for a pair of Saucony armwarmers at Aerobics First -- I can't imagine paying that much money for something that only covers a fraction of my body surface!).

The MEC versions are nothing special. They're lined, so they keep you warm, and so far they seem to wick well. There's only a small reflective logo on one arm, and no thumb holes or pockets to slip over your hands. But otherwise, they do what they're designed to do, and they were a good buy. I look forward to testing them on future runs, but I'll also keep my eyes open in case I find any at Lulu in the future.

Who knew you could write so much about arm warmers?