Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tips for hot weather running

It's been a crazy busy week, what with getting ready for a week-long canoe trip next week as part of the Nature Conservancy of Canada's Time for Nature initiative, as well as other domestic commitments. Instead of running four times this week, I only managed two -  last Sunday's 13k long slow distance and a hot and humid 10k tempo run on Wednesday. As we're only entering week four of training, I didn't stress out too much that I'd missed a few runs, knowing that I'll catch up next time.

But this morning, I knew that I had to go back on track - especially since I'll be in the middle of a wilderness area all week next week. I headed to the Spring Garden Road Running Room to meet up with the rest of our running clinic for our 13, 16 or 19km long slow distance (Coach Wendy is doing a fantastic job of providing options for folks depending on their race dates -- so thoughtful!). It was great to see so many runners wearing red and white for Canada Day (I was wearing pink and white, because I don't own any red running gear that's cool enough for this heat, is just another shade of red, right?).

Since I'm planning to run the Valley Harvest Marathon this fall, the schedule called for a 16km run. I was a little worried, because already at 8:30 it was promising to be another hot run. And since I'm normally a warm runner anyways (it might be my small stature but I find I warm up really quickly and stay hot...), I was a little trepidatious about what the run would bring.

In the end, I peeled off at just a little over 12km, choosing to practice caution rather than risk heat exhaustion or worse, injury (at about an hour in, I hadn't had the stomach to absorb a GU in the heat, and I knew my glycogen reserves would likely be draining pretty soon).

The dog days of summer are upon us, runner friends. So with that in mind, I thought I would share with you some of my tips for hot weather running:

1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!!!!
Whether it's by bringing a water belt, carrying a bottle or even a camel pack, depending on the distance, make sure that for those long runs (anything up to and over an hour), you carry water with you. Take small sips of water every 10 minutes or at lights, to absorb slowly rather than guzzling it all in and risking hyper-hydration (or overhydration).

2. Protect yourself from the sun
There are three key elements to protecting yourself from the sun: sunscreen, hats and shade. Let's face it - if you're training for a half or a full marathon, you could be there for two, three or up to four hours on your training runs, so a hat and sunscreen will at least help shade and shelter your face while you're out there. You may want to plan your route so that it keeps you in a residential area where there are more trees, or on the shady part of the street.

3. Listen to your body
As with cold weather running, it's important to be aware of how you're feeling, to ensure that your body doesn't endure any extreme temperatures for an extended period of time, to the point where your core body temperature becomes too elevated and you may experience heat exhaustion. Make mental checks of your body as your run progresses, and ask yourself, "How do I feel?" Headaches, dizziness and cramping may all be indicators of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Try taking in some fluids if you do notice a headache, and you may want to opt for a walk break in a shaded area until you feel cooler.

4. Time your runs to avoid peak heat
When the days are above 20 degrees, there's really no reason why you should be running in the middle of the day when the sun is at its peak. Early morning or evening runs will give you a break from the hottest hours.

5. Give yourself a break
Remember - unless you're an elite athlete training for the Olympics, there is no  shame in deciding on a given day that today may not be the day for your long run, if the weather isn't cooperating. You may opt to take the day off, or to run inside on the "dreadmill." Either way - skipping a day or two of running is not going to make or break your training cycle. In the end, you'll avoid injury or illness, and come out stronger for it.

For more hot weather running tips, check out this article from Runner's World >

Until next time, keep healthy, keep hydrated and happy running!


Friday, June 22, 2012

HRG Runner Profile: Meet Allison!

Allison Keeping (aka @allirond) is another runner who I've never met, but we've encouraged each other along the way on Twitter. She graciously agreed to participate in my HRG Runner Profile series. Perhaps one day I'll actually get to meet all of my Twitter running friends - who's game?

In the meantime, let me introduce you to Allison, today's HRG Runner Profile!

HRG: How long have you been running?

AK: Started running casually late  in the summer of 2008! Its always been a part of my life since both of my parents are long distance runners.

HRG: How and why did you start?

AK: Started casually running in the summer to lose some university weight (30+ pounds) that I had gained in the two years previous. When I got back to university I kept it up, running around 30 minutes 2-3 times a week on the treadmill at the gym. The first time I ran 45 minutes I realized that I was actually starting to like it! So I started "training" for my first half marathon :)

HRG: Favourite part of running?

AK: There are a million things about running that I love: the satisfaction of completing a run, the thrill of feeling strong and fast during a run, the amazing feeling that you get when you finish a long run (the exhuastion combined with the happiness). Being able to set and work towards running goals. The motivation you feel when you sign up for a race. Being able to share it with others.

HRG: Least favourite part of running?

AK: The injuries that come along with it. There is nothing more frustrating than wanting to go out for a run and not being able to.

HRG:  Favourite time of year/weather to run in?

AK: September/October. I definitely like running in warmer weather compared to cooler. Anywhere between 10-20 degrees, sunny and not windy! I dont mind running in the winter/cold but the season just lasts so damn long.

HRG: Favourite distance to run?

AK: 16km is my favourite long run distance to run. Long enough to feel satisfied but not too long that you are physicially exhausted and have to stay in bed all day.

HRG: Favourite route (training or race) to run?

AK: Favourite Route: Spring Garden, Commons, Quinpool, Oxford, Almon, Young, Agricola, back Gottigen and around the Citadel and home!

HRG: How do you keep motivated?

AK: What keeps me motivated is my love of running. I've been off serious training for the past 4 months due to injury so I'm grateful for every run Im able to accomplish. I've really developed a new sense of appreciation for it since I've had to stop. What I know for sure: If I'm physically able to run, I run. If I don't run, I'm wasting a gift.

HRG: Best pre-race meal?

AK: Pretty standard: usually toast and peanut butter with a banana and a big glass of water. Sometimes I have coffee but usually I just stick with water.

HRG: Best post-race meal?

AK: Coffee...right away. Then depending on the time of day, I think a nice hearty brunch is the best way to refuel: eggs benedict, homefries, fruit cup, toast and peanut butter....maybe a milkshake gets involved at some point. If it's a bit later: beer and nachos...super healthy food obviously.

HRG: Tips or words of wisdom for new runners?

AK: Take it slow and keep with it. Its not going to feel great your first few times out there but it is worth it for that first really good run. And sign up for a race for instant motivation! Its the best way to stay committed to something (especially if you have to pay to sign up!).

HRG: Thanks, Allison!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What to expect from a marathon training program

Dear running friends,

It's been awhile since my last blog post, I know! Bad Halifax Runner Girl!

Although I haven't blogged much, that doesn't mean I haven't been running. Since running the Hypothermic Half Marathon last February, I've kept up my training and ran the Bluenose Half in May. Not my best time (in fact, my worst), but I'll blog about that at some other point and share some of the lessons learned during that race.

In the meantime, I'm kicking things off again as I begin training for my third marathon this fall. And since I've been told that it takes at least five full marathons under your belt before you really get a sense of this distance, I've decided to sign up for my third Running Room marathon clinic. And this time, it's being coached by my friend and running mentor, Wendy, and the 4:15 pace group is being led by Andrea!

As this will be my third marathon clinic and my sixth Running Room clinic overall, I thought I would share some of the reasons why I think clinics are so invaluable if you're trying a new distance for the first time, or trying to improve your time.

There may be days when you don't feel like running, and other days where the run feels super easy. Days when your legs feel like lead, and others where you're feeling super confident. But here are five things you can expect from a marathon training program, based on my experience.

5 things you can expect from a running training program:
1. A training schedule that works

If you look at the training schedule for your running class or clinic for the first time, it may seem a little overwhelming - all these numbers in columns, and things like "tempo," "Fartlek" (I know, what the heck is a Fartlek, right?), "speed" and the dreaded, "hills."

But most training schedules - whether Running Room or otherwise - are designed to make sure that if you stick to them, you cros that finish line upright and smiling. Over the course of weeks, they'll build a solid base of strength and endurance, through the mix of various tempo, speed, hill or long runs.

As your instructor will explain to you, you can probably afford to swap out one run a week with cross-training. But otherwise, trust the training - these folks know what they're talking about.

2. A running mentor...or two...or three...

Of course, there may be the occasional clinic that happens to be led by some poor soul who's agreed to do it because no one else stepped up to the plate. But of all the classes  I've taken, most of them were led by an experienced runner who could provide his/her experience and insight, whether on the course, or off. And while they were great leaders during the clinic, I've also found that I've maintained contact with a few of them even after the program finished and they've continued to be available to answer my questions or provide encouragement if I happen to run into them at a race.

In addition, most of the clinic leaders I've had have also been down-to-earth, genuine people who shared their struggles and experiences even from when they started as beginner runners. But some of my running mentors have also been fellow clinic members, many of whom have run several races but just like the feeling of fellowship that comes with a clinic.

3. A solid knowledge base

These days, there is no shortage of information about running to be found on the internet, if you're willing and/or able to do the research. But every clinic I've signed up for has also brought in a variety of experts on a range of subjects, such as cross-training, nutrition, sports psychology, stretching and more.

Sure, there have been the occasional overlaps between sessions where I felt I'd already heard something before, but for the most part, a lot of the knowledge and understanding I have about my own running has been from sitting in clinic sessions in the evenings and listening to these experts explain the way our bodies work when they are put under the stresses of running long distances. And somehow, some of that knowledge has stuck so that now I understand my own body better and can apply some of the lessons learned to my runs.

4. A source of inspiration

One of the most inspirational speakers I've ever heard speak about running wasn't a pro runner. In fact, he usually sticks to the back of the pack. But when James, a fellow runner from Halifax, was invited to speak about his experience training for his first half marathon in Colorado, I left the evening feeling inspired and energized. His emphasis was not about running your fastest time or being an elite athlete, but instead about enjoying the experience and celebrating your commitment to the training program. Throughout the years, I've met other inspirational runners through the clinics I've attended, and have often carried their stories with me on race day.

And inspiration doesn't only come from guest speakers - it also comes from sharing the trials and tribulations of an 18-week program with other fellow runners who are taking on the same challenge as you are. Each runner will have to face their own challenges - whether major or minor - at some point in those 18 weeks, and often it's those struggles and successes that become the source of even more inspiration.

Having trained for races on my own and in a clinic setting, I can also say that there's something about training with a group in a clinic format that also encourages me - inspires me - to push myself that much harder.

5. Friendships

Let's face it - commiting to a training program means that you're going to spend lots of time with the fellow runners in the class or clinic. And there's nothing better for distracting you from that long Sunday run than chatting away with fellow runners. Over the course of weeks, you soon find that you're learning more and more about the group. You're also sharing in each other's highs and lows, and soon become a strong support network for each other. Often times, the friends you make on the running course can understand the trials and tribulations of running much more than any non-runner ever can.

So, that's it from me for this week, running friends. But as the weeks progress and we count them down to race day, I plan to keep blogging about the highs, mediums, lows...and highs again...of my progress until I get to that starting line.

Until next time, may your feet be fleet, the wind in your hair and the hills flat.


Monday, March 19, 2012

HRG Runner Profile: Meet Kaitlyn!

Much like with Durwin, who I profiled last week, I've never met @Kaitlyn_S. However, she's become part of my running network on Twitter, and when I asked if she would be willing to be profiled on my blog, she willingly agreed to. I expect one day we'll run across each other at one of the local races, or perhaps our shoes have already crossed paths while running in and about Halifax.

In reading through Kaitlyn's answers to my questions, I've learned a lot about this busy and dedicated mother of two girls, run coach and aspiring Everest Base Camp climber! Who knew!

Without further ado, I give you Kaitlyn (@Kaitlyn_S, aka Sweaty Sneakers, this week's HRG Runner in Profile!

HRG: Tell us a bit about yourself .
Kaitlyn: Who I am: Mom of two girls (5 and 3), run coach with Team in Training Halifax, married for five years, "mature" student at SMU, two full marathons, seven half marathons, various 10k and 5k and one Sprint triathlon.

HRG: How long have you been running? 
Kaitlyn: I've been running for a total of eight years, but really consistently and with some distance for almost four years.

HRG: How and why did you start?
Kaitlyn: In 2003, a good friend of mine joined the marathon clinic at the local Running Room to train for the first Bluenose Marathon (May, 2004). Not to be outdone, I decided that I, too could run long distances so I joined the half marathon clinic.

The clinic night fit my schedule better. And by that I mean that the marathon clinic was on Thursdays and everyone knows that Thursdays are pub nights. Such were my priorities!!

So I ran the very first Bluenose half in 2004. I kept running off and on, a couple 10ks over the years until I had my second daughter in May 2008. When I was pregnant (the second in as many years), I was just so sick of feeling big and inactive, so I vowed that I would start running after the baby came and "get my body back."

I ran a 10k when she was four months old, a half when she was 7 months old and my first marathon when she was 15 months old. Eventually, running turned into a life journey where I was able to really meditate on my priorities and goals. Yes, I did get my body "back" after having kids, but I've also realized that you can never get something back, you can only move forward and grow from where you are now. 

Running has given me the clarity of mind to learn how to love myself (which is still a work and progress sometimes) and be a better person. Mother and wife, yes, but more loving and accepting of others. For most of my life, I thought that I was as average as a person could be, but in learning how to push myself beyond what I thought my physical limits were, I realized that not only am I pretty special, but so is everyone.

And so my goal when I coached at the Running Room and now at Team in Training is not only to help the participants complete their race, but to help them believe in their own strength so that they'll keep running after the season is over. I'm a long way from prioritizing my running schedule around my drinking schedule, but it's all been a part of it. Running helped me make priorities, and I am on my own list.

HRG: Favourite part of running? 
Kaitlyn: How it makes me feel, I guess. Running was the portal into a new and more loving relationship with myself. I don't always "like" going for a run, but I'm always happy I went. So aside from the happy glow I get for the rest of the day, running has helped me feel comfortable in my own skin. Also, things like a getting a perky butt are nice incentives ;)

HRG: Least favourite part of running? 
Kaitlyn: Getting out the door. That is consistently the most difficult thing. You'd think that by now, I'd be over it. But sometimes I'm just lazy and waste more time dreading the run than I actually spend running.

HRG: Favourite time of year/weather to run in? 
Kaitlyn: Fall! Cool and sunny days are perfect. Winter is probably my next favourite, followed by spring (I hate getting wet feet) and last is definitely summer. I overheat really easily.

HRG: Favourite distance to run? 
Kaitlyn: Somewhere between 10 and 12k. Long enough to give you a solid buzz, long enough that if you do it consistently, you can really change your body, not so long that you are in pain or need a nap afterwards.

HRG: Favourite route (training or race) to run? 
Kaitlyn: I really like running downtown Halifax because the scenery keeps me distracted. But I also really, really like doing long training runs on the deserted country trail close to my house. After a couple of hours running alone surrounded by nature, I feel more centered and focused and optimistic about my life.

HRG: How do you keep motivated? 
Kaitlyn: By making goals. Sometimes that goal is distance, sometimes that goal is speed, but if I don't have a race penciled in on my calendar sometime in the next four to six months, I find it really hard to get out and run. That said, I'm coasting between training programs right now, but I've been coaching Team in Training Halifax half and full marathoners on Saturday mornings. So in order to keep up with their distances and not injure myself, I've been maintaining my weekly runs.

HRG: Best pre-race meal? 
Kaitlyn: Eat pasta run fasta! Seriously, the night before a race I eat a big bowl of spaghetti around five or six o'clock. And if the race is a half or full, I eat something like toast with peanut butter and a sliced apple around eight. For breakfast I am all about oatmeal. Good energy but not too heavy on my stomach.

HRG: Best post-race meal? 
Kaitlyn: Peanut butter and jam sandwich (or two depending on the distance) and chocolate milk.

HRG: Upcoming race goal? 
Kaitlyn: Montreal Rock and Roll in September 2012, but in the meantime, I'm training to hike to Everest Base Camp in April which is a three week trek carrying a 30-40lbs backpack.

HRG: Tips or words of wisdom for new runners? 
Kaitlyn: Stick with it. Don't let crappy runs get you down. Get a support network by joining a clinic or a run group. Don't expect miracles, changes to your body and fitness level take time and consistency. Eat right so that you can fuel your body.

If you hate your run every time, try something else, like a new route or some new music or a new pair of running pants that look cute on you. Have faith in yourself and your body that you can form new habits and become strong.

Read books like John Stanton's Running: Start to Finish. Don't let self-consciousness make you afraid to try. Make realistic goals. Ignore the haters and nay-sayers. Don't let being "slow" get you down.

But most of all? You aren't going to become a better runner by wishing you were a good runner. You are going to become a better runner by running. So even when it sucks, even when you don't want to, even when the weather isn't what you want, just go run. Make the commitment to do it, and then do it.

HRG: Thanks, Kaitlyn! And good luck on Everest! :)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Is there such a thing as a perfect runner?

On March 16, 2012, The Nature of Things aired a documentary called "The Perfect Runner." I happened upon it quite by chance through a post on a friend's page, but once I found out about it I figured there was no way I could miss it.

The basic premise of the documentary is that in prehistoric times, humans evolved physiological traits to become efficient runners in order to escape predators while hunting them better through persistence hunting.

It was an interesting documentary, and I'm glad I watched it, albeit with some skepticism. I would however caution that anyone who  is a new runner watch it with a grain of salt, especially when they arrive at the part about barefoot running (I would say at the very least, get your gait assessed before you try any barefoot running slippers) and ultra marathoning (what they left out in the documentary is that the host, Niobe Thompson, trained upwards of 100 kilometres per week before attempting the 125-kilometre Canadian Death Race -- he didn't just up and attempt it, like they made it seem).

This morning after my run, I happened to bump into a fellow Halifax runner, Jon Kirk, who trained for and attempted an ultra marathon last year at Leadville, Colorado. I asked him for his thoughts on "The Perfect Runner." As the co-manager of the Spring Garden Road Running Room, he also knows a lot about shoes, and gait.

"Well, it left out a lot of things, like that barefoot running isn't for everyone," he admitted, pointing out that the researchers who were interviewed have the luxury of having all kinds of high tech equipment at their disposal in order to understand gait, impact and so on when someone runs barefoot.

Jon and I both agreed, however, with the documentary's sentiment that our sedentary lives, which have become the norm, are abnormal. While most of my non-running friends tell me that they are impressed with how far I run, centuries ago this used to be the norm, and the only way to survive. Somehow, we've forgotten this along the way.

Those are my thoughts, in a nutshell. If you missed it, it's well worth watching. Or, you can read through my live-tweet of the episode, here:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

HRG Runner Profile: Meet Durwin!

It's amazing how much support and inspiration you can find from other runners online - whether through blogs, Facebook, or Twitter! Following my last race - the Hypothermic Half Marathon - I had lots of fun chatting about the experience with runners who I'd never met, but who had also had the same experience and run the same course as me on the same day.

So, since it's been awhile since my last HRG Runner Profile, I decided to reach out to some of the running buddies who I've made online.

Without further ado, I give you Durwin (aka @Durwin)!

HRG: How long have you been running?
Durwin: I'm coming up to 2 years now.

HRG: How and why did you start?
Durwin: Medical reason. I started getting crazy symptoms, burning up, tired all the time. So I got some blood work done and my doctor said I was one step away from being a diabetic. You need to change the way you eat and get some exercise.

The first week after march break 2010, one day I went for a walk. A couple of days later, another walk. Eventually I was walking every day. By the middle of April I started adding a jog to my walk. Then I found an iPhone app called Couch to 5k and started doing that. My running took off from there.

HRG: Favourite part of running?
Durwin: Telling people how far I go and their jaw drops every time. Sackville to Joseph Howe superstore and back. Running home from work, downtown HFX to Sackville. Sullivan's pond to Forrest hills extension and back.

HRG: Least favourite part of running?Durwin: Marathons are grouped together every spring and fall, which limits me to how many I can do. I miss out on a lot of races.

HRG: Favourite time of year/weather to run in?
Durwin: Summer and fall. Nothing better than a 6am run in the park as the sun is coming up and it's not too hot out. I also like running in a warm rain. Feels great.

Here's a little thing I do. Sunday mornings I start my run at Banook Lake and do my run through Shubie Park, then go for a swim in the lake. 8am, 10 min swim feels great after a long run. I just jump in with my running clothes on.

HRG: Favourite distance to run?
Durwin: I don't know why but 24k is one of my most popular distances. Aside from 5k and 21k, I
usually run even numbers only; 12k, 18k, 32k, 36k.

HRG: Favourite route (training or race) to run?
Durwin: On the weekends during the summer my runs are at Shubie Park. Most people don't know that the trails go all the way out to Forrest Hill turnoff. During the winter I run along the Bedford Highway. There's a bike lane or sidewalk to use and the roads are clear. During the week I run around the city.

HRG: How do you keep motivated?
Durwin: If I get slack on my exercising, I start feeling like crap and tired all the time. I don't like that so I keep running and exercising. Plus it doesn't hurt to have a set of running goals for the year. Me and my wife plan a trip every year to a marathon, so we would be very disappointed if we spent all that money and had a bad run.

HRG: Best pre-race meal?
Durwin: Oatmeal, one serving. 1 small banana and half a glass of OJ 1 1/2 to 2 hrs before the race.

HRG: Best post-race meal?
Durwin: Bacon cheese burger, Fries and a milkshake.

HRG: Upcoming race goal?
2012 - Blue Nose Full, Johnny miles Half, Maritime Race Full, PEI Full, Valley Harvest Half, Moncton Half, lucky seven relay, Las Vegas Rock N Roll Marathon Full.

HRG: Tips or words of wisdom for new runners?
I always tell runners, no matter what, how tired, sore or what pain your in, run across the finish line.

HRG: Thanks, Durwin!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Six tips for making your winter race more enjoyable

It's been a busy few weeks so I haven't had time to sit and type for awhile about the race I ran a few weeks ago - the Halifax Hypothermic Half Marathon, until today. Since then, I've talked to my friends and family about how much fun I had (despite it being my slowest half marathon to date), and the answer is inevitably:

"You did what??? You're crazy. I'd never do that!"

Yes, it was a -15 degree day. Yes, it was 21.1 kilometres in that weather. But I also had the most fun of any race I've run yet, and after about five minutes I was sweating and didn't feel the cold one bit. And by the time I reached the finish line, I was determined to run another Hypo Half next year.

Here are a few of the reasons why, if you'd been standing on the road in Cow Bay on February 5, 2012, you'd have seen not only me but close to 360 runners out for the race, and having a blast. Believe me, we're not crazy. We've just learned the secrets of running outside in winter weather!

Six tips for making your winter race more enjoyable:

1. Layer, layer, layer

After four winters of running outside, I've now figured out what to wear when, depending on how cold or warm it is. It's usually something I need to relearn each season, but I know that it's much better to start a run shivering than over-dressing and end up sweating, then freezing.

For race day, which was a -15 degree day, I opted to wear a base layer wicking turtleneck with a T-shirt and windbreaker on my top layer (I tend to prefer a jacket with zippable arms so I can remove them if I get too warm). I wore a pair of tights (I cut the heel and toes so it fit like a stirrup), socks and my regular running tights, along with gloves, mitts and a hat. I was a little worried, because I was shivering at the start line, but that was likely due to pre-race jitters. By kilometre 2 I was sweating and toasty warm, and actually had to take off my wool mittens.

That's the nice thing about layering: if you get too warm, you can always take off an extra pair of mitts and undo your jacket. Also remember though that you'll need to carry any extra gear or stow it away in a pocket. You can always pull it back on if you find you're cooling down later.

2. Run with friends

This year's Hypo Half was the first race I've ever run with friends. We set out at an easy pace, with no expectations other than that we'd treat it as a training run. If one of us wanted to peel off and pick up the pace later, we did. Running with friends is a great way to keep yourself distracted and encourage each other on the race course. It's also a good way to watch out for each other - just in case hypothermia or frostbite sets in.

3. Hydrate at the water stations

Because it's cold, you may feel like you aren't sweating as much as on a hot-weather run. But the reality is, you're probably losing just as much water as you would be on a warmer day. It's important to remember to hydrate just as often, particularly on race day. The problem is, your water may become frozen, especially if it's -15 degrees!

Case in point: I chose to run the Hypo Half with my water belt and run through water stations. But because my water was frozen, I ended up fighting with my water bottles and wasting time trying to even open them. Once they were open, I then had little to no water to drink.

4. Keep fuel warm

In fact, I spent so much time fighting with my water bottles that I didn't leave myself much time to take in fuels. And when I did, they were frozen into a gloopy mess. So, if you're taking in GU or gels rather than Shot Bloks or jelly beans, make sure to keep them in your mitt to warm them up at least 10 minutes before you plan to take them. You won't be stuck with a mouthful of cold goop when it comes time to fuel. But definitely fuel - you'll find your legs don't tire as easy and you have that extra push you need to keep going when your glycogen reserves run out.

5. Enjoy the day

Anyone who hasn't run a winter race probably thinks winter runners are nuts. The fact is, running a race in the middle of winter with almost 400 other runners is fun -- there was a sense of fellowship and excitement among all of us at the start line that wintry morning two weeks ago, while we waited for the starting gun to go off. It's a great way to celebrate being active and enjoying the outdoors while other folks are huddled up inside.

The race course for the Halifax Hypo Half was littered with onlookers and folks cheering on the runners - from a group of women dressed up in Mexican sombreros and dancing next to a fake palm tree, to another woman standing by the side of the road at kilometre 10 with a box of Kleenex for us runny-nosed runners, to another group of women in a van who kept driving ahead of the runners, then getting out, opening the doors and windows while they blared music and did a crazy dance. I made a point to thank all the volunteers and high-fived some of them, because their energy gave me an extra boost and made the event memorable.

6. Consider treating a winter race as a training run

Many runners I spoke to who ran the Hypo Half also said they treated the race as a training run for spring races. Because race day conditions can be unpredictable, it's best to go out there and just enjoy the day and celebrate your fitness, because you'll likely not be able to achieve a PB under winter conditions. This is of course a personal decision, but if you set out with no expectations, you're likely to enjoy the day and might even surprise yourself with your result, too!

Those are my tips based on my experiences, but for more suggestions, check out Runner's World 10 Tips For Running in the Cold.

Do you have any tips for running in the cold, or have a winter race story you'd like to share? I'd love to read your comments!

Happy running!


Sunday, February 19, 2012

I've been tagged!

Thanks to for tagging me in this meme. It's time for 11 random facts about me! Here are the rules ...

11 random things about me:
  1. I like dancing and singing in the rain while wearing rubber boots.
  2. I come from a line of strong, independent-minded women: my grandmother on my father's side was one of the first competitive rhythmic gymnasts in England, and one of the first cohorts of Girl Guides. My grandmother on my mother's side was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse, which she heated by stoking an old flume stove. My mother left her small northern Quebec village at the age of 16 so she could make a better life for herself instead of becoming a nun.
  3. I spent a year in Holland with my family at the age of 7, where I learned to speak Dutch, jumped rope wearing wooden clogs and brought the neighbour our stale bread for his sheep, in return for candy.
  4. At most points in my life I have been trilingual - although never with the same third language, which has included Old English, Japanese, Spanish and Dutch. The other two languages have always been English and French (believe it or not, my maternal language was actually French).
  5. If I could, I`d do yoga every day.
  6. Growing up, I dreamt of becoming a ballerina or modern dancer. My other dream was to become a writer for National Geographic or at the very least write about nature. I`d say my current job comes pretty close to accomplishing that goal. As for the first one, I still love dancing any time I can, even if it isn`t on the big stage (see #1.).
  7. One of my favourite foods is fondue - can`t beat melted cheese! Then again, I love pretty much any cheese, which is why I could never be a vegan.
  8. My favourite books as a little girl were Anne of Green Gables, The Little Princess, The Wind in the Willows and any of the Nancy Drew series.
  9. I have often broken into laughing hysterics for minutes at a time - the belly-aching, tear-jerking, gasping kind of laugh - simply because of something silly.
  10. I love my husband because he brings out the child in me, gives me pep talks before a big race, makes me laugh like no one else can, believes in me and has a big, warm, loving heart.
  11. I have a love-hate relationship with running, but I love to run fast to good songs - the kind of run where you feel like you`re floating on air.
Losetheshoes` questions for me:

1) What is your favorite color?
Not fair - there are too many! I love earthy colours - burgundy, red, green, purple, brown...

2) Would you rather run up a hill or down a hill?
Downhill, skipping all the way and whirling my arms. But there`s no question that running up a hill during a race and knowing that your hill training has paid off is also a great feeling.

3) Would you rather make millions doing something you disliked or struggle at something yoou love?
The latter, for sure! I took a 15% pay cut from my last job for that very reason. I love my job, even if I know I`ll never make millions at it!

4) Would you rather workout with Jillian Michaels or Bob Harper?
Good question - they`re both really tough on their teams. To be honest, I`d love to have a chance to work out with either of them for even just an hour, to learn some of their tricks and tips and to mix up my workout regimen.

5) If you could be in one place in the world right now, where would it be?
In my house with my husband in Halifax, sharing a bottle of Blomidon Winery`s Seyval Blanc with some Foxhill Cheese House cumin gouda and a freshly baked baguette.

6) Would you rather downhill ski or water Ski?
Downhill ski - I`ve only ever waterskied first. Although if it was summer, I`d rather water ski.

7) If you could be drawn into one cartoon which one would it be?
The Simpsons, without a doubt - my husband constantly tells me how much I remind him of Lisa Simpson.

8) what child would you be off Willa Wonka and the Chocolate factory?
I have no idea!

9) Would you rather a dream truck or a Dream car?
Dream car (a silver convertible Porsche 911) - this is a generalization but I find that truck drivers (at least in Halifax) tend to be really aggressive and bad drivers.

10) If you could stay in shape without working out would you enjoy that?
No - working out is part of my life, and I love the feeling of accomplishment I get after a good workout. Gotta love those endorphins!

11) Would you rather be President of the biggest company in the world or start your own within its shadow?
The second. I have no delusions of grandeur and am happy living my life on my terms.

The rules for this meme

1. Post these rules.
2. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
3. Answer the questions set for you in your tagger's post.
4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
5. Go to their blogs and tell them you’ve tagged them
6. No stuff in the tagging section about "you are tagged if you are reading this." You legitimately have to tag 11 people!

My tags:

  1. Forever in Running Shoes
  2. Forty 4 Change
  3. I`m an adrenaline junkie
  4. Live Run Love Yoga
  5. Runner`s Rambles
  6. Runnergirl Training
  7. How to climb a volcano (and other fitness exploits)
  8. Mr. Durwin
  9. What Lies Within
  10. A life-changing journey
  11. With Bite
My questions for my taggees:
  1. What is your favourite colour?
  2. Would you rather run a short distance fast, or a long distance slow?
  3. Would you rather make millions doing something you disliked or struggle at something you love?
  4. Would you rather work out with Jillian Michaels or Bob Harper?
  5. If you could be in one place in the world right now, where would it be?
  6. Would you rather dance in the rain or run in the snow?
  7. If you could be drawn into one cartoon, which one would it be?
  8. What are your favourite books of all time?
  9. Beer, or wine?
  10. What are your favourite running shoes?
  11. Cat, or dog?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day Six of the Yoga Journal 21-day challenge!

I can't believe it. We're already into Day Six of the Yoga Journal 21-Day Challenge -- almost a third of the way there! And while that seems like a relatively short period of time, I'm amazed by how much I'm learning and challenging myself, as well as how difficult it has proven to actually get the practices and meditation in each day. I'm also starting to feel some physical changes in my body, particularly in my spine.

This week has been a remarkably busy one, so it's been tough finding the time to practice (and sometimes, the energy). A couple of days ago on Day 3, I ended up doing the practice in my home office late at night, after a long day at work, and I was glad to have done it - it was a nice way to round out the day, although my mind perhaps wasn't in it as much as I'd have liked to.

Then on Day 4, I only got to do about half of the practice first thing in the morning before having to get ready to go to work. But I figured I'd made the space in my day to at least try and get to it, which was a good thing.

And yesterday, although I missed yoga practice (another hectic day that left me burnt out at the end), I did have an amazing meditation session. I decided to simply meditate on my own rather than use the recommended recording, because I find when Beryl Bender says "thinking" in the middle of nowhere and when she talks about bringing my mind to stillness, it just jars me and makes me start thinking how much I wish she would just not say "thinking." Then, I start wondering whether I'll ever get to a point where I can meditate in the middle of someone's conversation, and my mind is lost.

So yesterday, I turned off the recording. I started out with a mind that was jumbled from sleep and swimming in all directions, but I focused on my breathing and let my thoughts bubble to the surface, including some of my dreams. I tried not to judge the fact that my mind was distracted, but instead, to watch the thoughts float by like leaves on a stream (as Beryl suggests). And it kind of worked.

Then, I focused on my breath - on the inhalation and exhalation. And while Beryl suggests not forcing it, I adopted more of an Ujai breath and the sound of my breath. I soon focused on a spot of bright light in my third eye, and imagined my inhalations filling me with light, and my exalations sending out the darkness. Soon, the light began to grow, and I could feel it filling my entire body.

And then I sat there, conscious but not thinking, aware of my surroundings but not engaging with them or my thoughts. I felt like I was on some kind of tightwire, balancing gently between consciousness and meditation. I almost felt like I was sitting watching myself in this moment, and it was truly amazing...No other word for it.

When I opened my eyes, I'd meditated for 15 minutes by myself. It felt like quite the accomplishment. I tried explaining it to my husband but truly there is no way to explain this to someone unless they have tried it.

Sadly, before long the craziness of a hectic work day made that moment feel like eons ago, but in my mind I believed that I'll be able to return there again.

As for practice, I missed yesterday's session but did Day 5 (side stretches - amazing - so often in yoga we stretch forward and back but I've never done an entire session of side stretching. It felt great) and Day 6 (backbends - not my fave because I have scoliosis, but I can feel my spine begin to loosen up, so I persevered).

I'm also starting to realize that there is a big difference between practising at home and in a studio (other than not having props available - so I used a ribbon as my strap and my Oxford Companion to English Literature as my block). There's less of a sense of performance, and there is also much more of a sense of opening yourself up to the experience of a new teacher, a new practice every day, and new experiences. With Ashtanga or even with Baptiste yoga, I feel as though I can almost always anticipate the next move. But with this challenge, every day seems to be different and to focus on a different theme, so I never know what to expect, even if the basics are always the same.

The challenge also encourages people to try and eat at least one vegetarian meal a day and eat healthier. I've been averaging 1-2 a day. The other change this week is that my husband is on a new healthy eating kick, and we've both been focusing on cooking healthier and more nutritious foods. It just so happens it started at the same time as the challenge, which is great!
As for running - do I think doing yoga and meditation almost every day will help my running? Well, it's too early to tell, and quite honestly this week has been so nuts that beyond a 12k on Monday and a 5k on Wednesday in the middle of a snowstorm (an entirely different experience), I haven't had much time to get out there and test out my new yogi legs. But I plan to perhaps go for a short run tonight and see how that goes. And there's always tomorrow's 18k LSD (I think, finally, I'm back on the proper Hypo Half schedule!). I imagine that I'll find I'm stronger in my core and more flexible, which is always a good thing.

No matter: it's said often by many people, and I believe it to be true: yoga makes everything better!


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I'm taking the Yoga Journal 21-day chalenge!

We are into the final stretches of training for the Halifax Hypothermic Marathon. Things have been going fairly well, despite me getting a little confused with the schedule over the holidays and doing my 18ks two weeks early. But I'm finding that now that I've done these distances more than once, the learning curve isn't as steep.

What I have learned, however, is that training with a group is way, way more motivating that running alone.

Take my last two 18ks, for instance: two weeks ago, I ran it on my own in 2:06. I knew that was slow, for me -- my average pace was way slower than I'd run it in the past (a good argument for tracking your runs -- I use the Running Room's tool, but there are others out there).

Then, a week later, after a particuarly festive New Year's Eve and a day to recover, I ran the same distance with my friend Carol. We shaved 14 minutes off that time! Crazy! I could definitely feel the difference in my legs - with that run, I felt I was working, but it was manageable. With the previous run, it just felt like I was plodding along. Of course, it helped that we were chatting the entire time, thus keeping my mind off the run.

So one of my intentions (I don't make resolutions- they're too easy to break) for the New Year is to try and get back into group running. That run with Carol made me feel vindicated as a runner and helped me gain back my trust in my legs. I haven't gotten slow - I've just been running alone!

We'll see how the Hypo Half goes in a few weeks' time, but my goal ultimately will be to run it and have fun, as a prep for a spring half or full.

Another of my intentions since the New Year has been to sign up for the Yoga Journal 21-day challenge. Why? Because healthy minds + a healthy body = a healthy runner! I also love yoga - perhaps even more than running (though the rush you feel while running a good tempo or race is nothing like the calm you feel when you're in the zone in the middle of a good yoga class).

The challenge for this week is to do one yoga practice each day, plus one 15-minute meditation and eat one vegetarian meal. And yesterday, I did all three: a practice in the morning, followed by a vegetarian brekkie and meditation at lunch. It was nice waking up and starting the day with a nice stretch, and taking some time during a hectic day to close my eyes and simply focus on my breath.

Today was day two of the challenge. Things I learned today:

- this takes time, and effort. I had a busy day, so I didn't get to the challenge until the end of the day, after work and Zumba. I haven't even had a chance to meditate yet;
- each day in the challenge seems to be a different instructor, and a different series of poses. You kind of have to trust the process and learn to give yourself up to it, because you don't know what's coming up next. For someone who is used to practising a regular series, this can be a little frustrating at first, but also a learning experience; and
- practising yoga at home is also different from going out to a studio. You need to find the physical space to do it, as well as the equipment. I practised on my carpet the last two days, which eliminates the need for a mat but also works different muscles than normal. I also improvised a strap by using a ribbon I had in my sewing kit, and figure I could use a dictionary as a block if need be.

Trusting the process, and looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings. I also look forward to seeing if this makes any difference in my running!