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The Pursuit of the 5 Minute Km

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Race Experience

Some people travel just for the sake of going to a place, but what usually dictates my personal travel is visiting family or for an event, like a race.

Back in August when I was going through a couple of tough weeks a friend of mine suggested I plan a trip to Las Vegas with her and some other runners I know from the East Coast. I looked up the Rock N Roll Last Vegas Race and was immediately in.

Las Vegas was never a spot that was on my ‘must go to’ places, but this race looked like a ton of fun, plus how could I go wrong in traveling with friends from the East Coast, doing a half marathon in such a cool environment. The Last Vegas Rock N Roll Race Series is only one of two events of the year that the strip gets closed down for. The other event is New Year’s Eve.

We arrived on Thursday and gave ourselves a few days before race day in Vegas. First off, let’s talk about Vegas itself. I was wrong to not have it on my list of places to visit, just being in Las Vegas is such a unique and fun experience. The energy, atmosphere, laughter, and ‘anything goes in Vegas’ attitude immediately sweeps you away and puts you in vacation mode. Here’re just a few of the Las Vegas sites:

 

It also helped that from the moment of arriving at the hotel you could easily spot other fellow runners, which upped the level of excitement and intrigue. Seeing the running shirts and jackets from races all over the world was intriguing and motivating for me. We were far from the only runners that traveled more than halfway across North America to push ourselves to our physical limit.

Let’s fast forward to Friday, where we start our day off with heading to the Health and  Fitness expo to pick up our race kits. I was pretty tired from lack of sleep and jet lag but being around all these other excited runners gave me an immediate boost. As there were 35,000 runners expected to participate, I was mentally prepared to stand in long lines and be delayed in picking up my bib and race kit, but I was pleasantly surprised. This event was so well organized and setup that it went quickly and smoothly.  I had all of my race gear in under 10 minutes so I want to give a shout out to all the organizers and volunteers for doing an extremely great job at the expo.

Then you get to the fun part of the expo – the runners shopping heaven. I felt like a kid in a toy store. There was running gear galore from brands such as Brooks, Under Armour, onemoremile.net, the rock n’roll race series itself, Garmin, Glukos and many many many others. Here are a few of the items I picked up at the expo:

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There were two days of racing that you had the option of participating in. On Saturday there was a 5km race and Sunday was the 10km, Half-Marathon, and the Full Marathon. I ran in the half-marathon.

The girls and I took it easy Saturday night and did a bit of carb loading at a buffet the night before the race and slept in on Sunday morning so we could catch up on some sleep and rest up for race day. The race didn’t start until 4:30pm on Sunday so we had some time to kill during race day. We went to this amazing restaurant in the Paris Casino called Mon Amis Gabi and I filled up on some amazing French Toast. (Side Note: If you are ever in Vegas, do yourself a favour and make sure you have breakfast there at least one. The French Toast was out of this world.) Afterward, I went back to the hotel to rest my legs and relax before heading out to the race.

We were staying right by the finish line so we had to leave early to take the monorail to the start line area. I could hardly wait to get there. I felt like a child on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa. I was excited to run the strip and take advantage of the amazing energy there. Although initially, I was a little concerned about the heat (it was about 26 degree Celsius / 78.8 Fahrenheit), navigating through the huge crowd of runners, and of how my injured foot and calf would feel, I went to the race only thinking positive thoughts. I was determined to leave it all on the race course and cross the finish line using every ounce of my endurance and strength. We started to get ready to leave the hotel around 2:00 and went down to the monorail around 2:30pm.

 

It was hard not to get hyped and totally energized for the race once you got to the start line area. Snoop Dogg was the opening act and greeted all the runners with great beats on a huge stage. The sights here were amazing. There were bride and grooms running in wedding attire and getting ready to tie the knot. There were countless numbers of Elvis costumes among many other creative outfits. Unfortunately, I didn’t get too many shots of these as my battery life was wearing down.

 

Then it was finally time to make my way to the start line. I was itching to get going by this point. Each runner selected an estimated finishing time when they registered and this dictated what Corral you started in. I estimated I would finish around the 1 hour and 55 min mark so I ended up in Corral 9. They started each corral off in waves, which further added to the anticipation and excitement.

 

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Corral Number 9 runners were getting ready for our countdown and start time.

 

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Finally, we were off! The first couple kilometers of the race was a little tough as there was a large number of runners that ended up in this corral that was not running a pace for this time goal so I was often getting stuck in packs of people going slower than I wanted my pace to be. So after A LOT Of dodging and weaving past walkers and runners, by kilometer 4 I felt like I was in a good running groove.

There were speakers and bands set up along the course for entertainment. I turned my music off numerous times to soak in all of the sounds of the race and the cheers of people who were lined up throughout the course. The cheers, high fives, and signs from the huge crowds of people were amazing. Even towards the end of the race, there were moments I forgot how tired my legs were getting because I was so mesmerized and motivated by the cheers and support.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll race organizers did an amazing job with the setup on the course as well. It was well-marked, had signs at every mile and frequent water stops so you were never left dehydrated. I was extremely impressed with the attention to detail and the amount of water and Gatorade stops they had.

I was starting to get pretty fatigued close to the 17km mark and was actually overly hydrated and my bladder felt like it was about to burst. I know other runners have felt this pain before, but I got so desperate, I sprinted into a diner that was along the route and asked the hostess if I could use their bathroom and she was so startled she just looked at me wide-eyed and nodded yes. By the time I came out she was out of her shock and smiled at me and wished me luck in the rest of the race. I wish I remembered the name of the diner so I could send them a thank you note. I was soooo grateful and able to finish the race in relative comfort. This might be TMI for some but most long distance runners I know have no shame in talking about bathroom emergencies during long runs and races 🙂 I consider it a right of passage for long distance runners! I’ve heard so many comical stories so I know I’m not alone in this one.

With less than 4km to go my legs were feeling very tired and heavy and my nagging injury was paining quite a bit so at this point it became a mental battle as much as a physical one. Like I said above, the lights and action around me certainly helped, but the last few km’s was a lot of self-talk and telling myself I was almost there and to keep pushing because otherwise I’d be disappointed if I left anything out on the course.

I crossed the finish line and looked at my running app and I came in under 1hr 55 mins. I was aiming for 1 hour and 55 mins so I was thrilled. I checked my time to make sure it hadn’t stopped while I was in the diner and despite the pee break came in just under my time goal. This was a new personal best for me. I am slowly but surely making my way to my ultimate goal and chasing down that 5 min per km pace.

There was an error in my bib time so I had to request a change but regardless of the time I also knew I pushed past a few mental hurdles during the run, I didn’t let myself give up no matter how sore or tired I was towards the end. That’s where the mental aspect of long runs and speed runs throughout training really help during a race. When you are out there pushing yourself to new distances and speeds you really appreciate those runs where you are all by yourself and continued to challenge yourself even when you wanted to stop in a moment of exhaustion. These are the races where you also see how speed work and long distance training runs come together on race day.

This was an unforgettable experience and I certainly hope I am fortunate enough to get back to this race next November and even try out some of the other races in the Rock ‘n’ Roll series. This is one more for the books and has definitely given me another motivational boost to keep pushing for my ultimate time and full marathon goal.

Thanks to all my friends, family and running coach who have been so supportive throughout this ongoing journey. Much love to you all!

 

 

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What Are We Running To?

I had a friend recently ask me ‘What are you running from?’. My response was ‘Wrong question. You should be asking me what I am running to?’.

We run to the finish line even after many runners already reached it first, we run to prove to ourselves (and perhaps others) that we are capable of more, we run to lose weight, we run to clear our heads, we run to find inner peace, we run to reach our own personal time and distance goals, and we run to whatever purpose that got us out the door in the first place.

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For me, I am constantly running to see what personal boundaries I can push next and I run to find my quiet place. Running is the only way that I’ve been able to tune the rest of the world out and get into a meditative state. When I run with music but cease to hear it I know I’m in the zone and truly have my ‘me time’.

When I first started doing races, I thought, ‘Oh I’ll only do 10km races, I could never imagine doing a half marathon’. Then after I drew a 20km leg in a relay and pretty much did a half-marathon I thought, ‘I could do this again’ and ended up running a half marathon less than a month later. Of course, I said ‘But I’d DEFINITELY never run a full marathon, who wants to run 42km?’. Well now I do. And I don’t just want to finish a marathon, I want to run fast and get a Boston Qualifying time.

I never would have thought this would be a goal I’d be literally and figuratively chasing down, but if you approach life with an open mind you never know where it will take you.

So, I’m running ‘to’ many personal best times and to push myself to a physical and mental limit I wouldn’t have thought possible even two years ago. When I started talking to my running coach Rob Gomez, at Eastern Shore Training we set out milestones along the way to reaching my ultimate goal of qualifying for and running in the Boston Marathon.

  • 5km at 4:30 min per km pace
  • 10km at 4:40 min per km pace
  • 21.1 km at 4:50 min per km pace
  • 42.2 km at 5:00 min per km pace

When I started this blog I hadn’t hit the 5 min per km mark for any of these distances. As of now my fastest 5km is 24 mins 02 secs, which converts to a 4:48 min per km pace. My fastest 10km is 48 mins 59 seconds, which is a 4:53 min per km pace. My personal best is 1hr 55 mins and 56 secs in a half marathon, which is a 5:29 min per km pace. My fastest ‘long distance’ race was a 15km leg of a relay, where I ran a 5:12 min per km pace, which I was thrilled about.

There’s been definite progress as I’ve hit that time goal for 2 race distances but there’s still lots of work to do and I am excited for it. I’m happy with some of my results but disappointed I haven’t gotten to the 5 min/km pace in a half yet, but I am not giving up.

I’ve been knocked down by a few injuries, getting sick prior to races, and fell off track with training a couple of times when life got ‘too busy’ but NO excuses. Life always has set backs, it’s not about that, it’s about how badly you want something and also learning along the way. Some of the reasons I have not been successful are completely within my control, and that’s a good thing, because that means I can make changes and elements of reaching my goal are within my control. I’m not a victim of circumstances in life. Things such as not doing enough cross training, not stretching long enough after runs, and over-training are things I have complete control  over. Turns out my body doesn’t like running 5 times a week and 4 times a week is that max it likes to run. That’s great I’ve learned that, it’s an easy adjustment. (I’ve talked about injury prevention and cross-training in previous posts, as I wanted to share my experiences so people could learn what I have, without having to go through the setbacks as well, if you haven’t read my lessons yet take a look at those posts).

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In my previous post I talked about remembering why you started running in the first place. When setbacks happen, remember what you started running to and what motivated you in the beginning. That reason is likely still lingering there or has even evolved into something bigger.

My last half-marathon was a disaster through sheer bad luck. A girl tripped, fell into me and I aggravated an old injury in the process. My time was a little over 2 hours 12 mins. I haven’t ran a pace that slow since my FIRST  half marathon more than 6 years ago. And I am not saying this is slow overall for any runner, I am saying that this is slow for me at this point in my racing career. I crossed the finish line in tears, mostly from pain, but also from a little frustration.

I had to nurse the injury for a couple of weeks and get back on the bike for cross-training, but I get another kick at the can next weekend. I’m heading to Las Vegas to run in the Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon and I can’t wait. I’m not sure exactly what to expect with the heat at the beginning of the race and fast falling temperatures after dark and racing in the evening, however I am going to embrace whatever comes my way with open arms and push for a personal best time. It’s a week from today so I’m starting my taper week. As Rob would say, ‘the hay is already in the barn’ so the best and really only thing for me to do at this point is get a lot of rest and do the lighter training to keep my legs fired up but also giving them a break to recover before the big day.

Running is a journey and a destination and although my goals haven’t all come as quickly for me as I had hoped, there’s no way I’m giving up at this point and I’ve even grateful for all the lessons I’ve learned along the away. Not just the physical ones, like on cross-training, but the life lessons I’ve learned on perseverance and the mental toughness running has given me. I hope my literal stumbles, setbacks and journey towards my goals gives my readers some encouragement when needed. It happens to most of us, just keep reminding yourself what you started running to in the first place.

Stay tuned for my next blog posts on benefits of working with a running coach and my interview with Rob Gomez and about my experience at the Rock N’ Roll race in Las Vegas.

Happy Running 🙂

7 Ways to Get Back Into Your Running Routine

Over the last few months I’ve struggled to fit it all in. I’ve had some major personal and professional changes and although I followed my running program throughout most of the summer, there were a couple of weeks where I let life get in the way of my overall training program. I also completely dropped off in writing for this blog. I’ve really missed writing and having it as part of my regular weekly routine and I’ve also had some regular visitors to my blog ask me if I am going to start back up. So with some encouragement from some running friends and colleagues, as well as things finally calming down in my life, I am settling into a good routine  and I’m getting back in the habit of carving out some time for myself and writing.

I figured what better way to (re)start the blog than with a post on getting back into your running routine. Although, I am writing about these tips in a running context, I think these tips work for a lot more than just running and I’ve applied many of these for jumping back into this blog.

Prioritizing and Not Leaving Your Running and Fitness to Whatever Time is Left Over.

Although this is an obvious one, this step isn’t taken seriously enough. It’s often not enough to say, ok I am going to start tomorrow and just leave it as a mental note. Be proactive and make a plan. For example, at the end of every week, look ahead to your next week and block time off in your work and personal calendar for your fitness and running schedule. Often, what tends to happen is that fitness plans are fit in around everything else in life, such as work, social plans, netflix, events, personal errands and all the other things that piles up. If you make running a priority and build it in first you won’t find yourself in the position of trying to find spare time, which often doesn’t end up existing and the next thing you know another week has gone by and your running goal has been accomplished. Simply saying ‘I’m going to make time for running this week’ is not good enough. Write or type it out. It’s also helpful to pull out your running clothes and sneakers and put them in a spot you are guaranteed to see them so you have a visual cue, reminder and motivation.

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Know it’s ok to use the word ‘no’.

A trap I’ve fallen into in the past is feeling guilty about saying no to making plans because I have a run or workout scheduled. I’d actually feel a bit guilty for putting my own schedule ahead of social time, but I’ve learned not to let this get in my way. It’s ok to have your own personal time and make your goals a priority, and when it comes down to it, the people that truly matter and care will understand and be supportive. If at times you say no to a drink, going to the movies, or whatever the offer is, because you have an early morning workout or run planned, there’s nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with planning your availability around your fitness schedule and what matters. I’m not saying to create an unhealthy balance that doesn’t make time for people important to you and to not be social, but know that it’s ok to say no sometimes and to create a schedule that works for you. And if anyone does have the nerve to make you feel guilty then that’s their problem, NOT yours. Nobody’s got time for that extra stress and guilt in their lives. That’s not healthy either.

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Start off small.

Depending on how long it’s been since you got out of your routine, start small to get yourself back in the routine and mental head space. One of the biggest hurdles in starting back out is getting out the door, but we all know that when we push ourselves to do it we very rarely ever regret it. So when you start planning your running schedule, it’s ok to start with something small like a 20 or 30 minute run. People often wait for motivation to hit them before they do something, but human beings rarely work like that. It’s like putting the cart before the horse. Far more often than not, we do not become motivated until after we spur ourselves into action, and if you start small it won’t seem like a daunting task. I bet you will surprise yourself with how good you feel afterwards.

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Catch your Zzzzz’s.

We all know how important sleep is, yet so many weeks go by where we do not make it as much of a priority. When you decide to get back on the saddle, also schedule your full nights sleep in. It’s even harder to get back into it when your eyelids are heavy and you can’t wait to crawl back into bed. Start practicing sleep hygiene, by doing things like, having no phone or computer screen time an hour before you go to sleep, dimming your lights, not snacking, reduce sound levels, and making sure your room is dark and cool enough for an ideal sleep. Setting an alarm an hour before you go to bed is a helpful queue for many to start their bedtime routine.

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Register for a race.

This is extremely effective. When you have a race day planned out and paid for it helps to stop you from continually saying ‘I’ll start back up tomorrow or next week’. Your goal is no longer a moving target because you have a fixed date in your future. Races are also great for kicking your motivation into high gear. If you’ve done a race before you know that crossing the finish line brings along a feeling like no other and gets you jazzed for the next race, if you have never done one, do yourself the favour and allow yourself this experience. You won’t regret it.

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Remember why you started in the first place.

Think back to your past achievements, milestones, and the moments of runner’s high that made you feel like you could take on the world. I have a box of race medals and bibs that I store in my TV stand as a reminder of how far I’ve come and it helps to have that constant reminder, especially on days that I might need an extra push to do my training for that day.

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Talk to other runners.

The vast majority of runners have been through a rut, whether it’s seasoned marathoners or runners who are aiming for that first 5km, most of us have been there. Talking to other runners helps with the guilt that can come sometimes come from falling off your plan and fitness routine. You not only realize that it happens to everyone, but that it also helps to hear the positive stories that people have about their ‘come backs’. Having a supportive running community helps in the best and worst of times, so find some like minded people and chat with them about their experiences and share your own.

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I am going to take my own advice and apply this to my overall fitness routine and setting aside my personal time for writing, since it’s something I love to do. Hope these tips help those who need a positive push.

Happy Running!

 

Cabot Trail Relay Race – A Race Like No Other

Last weekend was one of my favourite times of year. It’s right up there with Christmas and New Years. The Cabot Trail Relay Race is an event like no other and is hosted in my beautiful hometown of Baddeck, Nova Scotia. I love going home any time of year but there is something extra special about this weekend.

Part of that something is over 1000 runners, along with their families and support, coming to cheer each other on for a little over 24 hours along the stunning Cabot Trail. It’s hard to pin point just one thing that makes this event so special. It’s a 17 leg relay that starts at 7:00 am on the last Saturday in May and ends the following day around 10:30 am. There is a time limit for completing each leg. Each runner has to run a pace of 9min 30 secs per mile in order to make the coveted mat. Aside from my unwavering love for my hometown, what makes it so special could be the challenge of the mountains and hills on every leg. An ‘easy’ leg would be considered a challenging course in any other race.

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Start of Leg 9, North Mountain. It’s a 17.84 km leg which starts at sea level, climbs 385 km, which runners reach 6.2 km into their run. Then there is a steep downhill back to sea level.

It could also be meeting with old friends that have been encouraging those of us living away through regular Facebook posts and emails to keep up with training. As my team captain, Rae Germani says ‘Get ‘er done’.

The special atmosphere could also be the support complete strangers give each other. We cheer each other on like they are best friends from years ago. For the runners who do not make the mat there are always a group of people that create a finish line with a string, a tunnel of arms or a line of high fives. To finish any of these legs is an amazing accomplishment, regardless of making the mat or not, and everyone knows it and every runner is celebrated. There is a camaraderie that exists here unlike anything I’ve seen elsewhere.

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It might be the banging of the rocks on guard rails along one of the mountains, particularly Smokey Mountain. It’s one tough task climbing any one of these mountains. Teams and spectators line the road and give the runners some needed motivation to get over the mountain by banging rocks and cheering at the top of their lungs. While the runners may be too tired to thank the spectators it is very much appreciated to hear that support.

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The team spirit and costumes of lobsters, animals, cowboys and 80’s gear, just to name a few certainly add to the atmosphere.

Starting your leg after nightfall and running under the stars is another rush but also peaceful at the same time.

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There are runners of every caliber. Runners that break records and run 3:30 min per km paces (or less) and those that have a goal of finishing. Both are equally celebrated. The friendly rivalries add to the excitement as does the Maineiacs team that is now a dynasty, having won the relay the last 6 years and even broke the course record this year.

And perhaps it’s the main street of Baddeck being closed off to traffic and becoming a finish line for the final legs runners. Seeing the locals come out to not only cheer on their friends and family, but to celebrate all runners that came to this beautiful and friendly town certainly makes me proud. Baddeck is known for its hospitality, after all.

Then there is Leg 18 at the Yacht Club where many of the teams, organizers and locals celebrate the event. It’s by far my favourite party of the year.

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Last, but certainly not least, there is my team. I run on a team of amazing ladies. They are amazing for many reasons. The support each one gives the rest of the women on the team, the laughs we share, and the encouragement year in and year out. These ladies have come a long way since the team started out 7 or 8 years ago. The strength and determination is impressive and heart warming. Once you are on the ‘Can’t Touch this Team’ retired or still running, you are always part of the team.

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Personally speaking, when I did my first leg in 2011, I could never have imagined being the runner I am today. My team and all of the other runners with their determination have inspired me to get faster and stronger. However, for me the race isn’t against other runners. The race is against myself and my own time goals. I hope all runners out on the course with me make their respective time goals. I don’t see them as my competition, I see them as my peers. The inspiration of my team, other runners, and the help of my running Coach Robert Gomez (who also happened to break a record on leg 13 and is the captain of the winning team) have pushed me to a new level I never thought I was capable of. I also have to call out Carol Campbell for her wise words and tough love a few years ago ‘If you want to be faster you have to run faster’ and ‘Do you want the beer or do you want to run faster’. I could never thank you enough for your extra push. It has stuck with me ever since. Six years ago I never would have thought I’d be breaking a 5min 30 sec pace on any leg and crossing the mat with time to spare.

This weekend was a reminder to me to live life and how to be balanced and make time for things you love. I’ve been a bit too consumed by certain areas of life and not making time for things I love, like writing this blog. This was a wake up I needed. I was also pleasantly surprised to be asked by a few people if I would start writing again as they enjoyed my posts. So thanks to those who asked 🙂

The camaraderie, the sheer love of running, new friendships and old, world class scenery and hospitality make this one of the best running events in Canada and I am so proud to be part of it.

Thank you to everyone for another spectacular relay weekend. The organizers, the volunteers, the communities around the Cabot Trail, the people of Baddeck, other runners, my family and my team for all the support. I am already excited for Leg 4 and Smokey Mountain in 2017!

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Jesse, Jess, Rae and I

 

 

 

5 More Reasons Why You Know You Are Addicted to Running

In a previous post I talked about 9 reasons why you know you are addicted to running. Here’s a few more to add to the list.

1)  When you hear a new song with a great beat your first thought is ‘this has to go on my running playlist’.

Whether you are out, in your car, or at a party when you hear that song with an awesome running beat that gets you feeling pumped up, you immediately Shazam the song and add it to your running playlist.

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2) In fact, the only playlist you have is a running one.

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3) Dinner plans, outings, and errands are organized around your running schedule.

You have a favourite time of day to run, or maybe you like to plan it around the weather, but hey, that’s ok! Nothing to feel bad about. 

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4) Gel is not just for hair.

You associate gel with hope and help, not hair. Hope that the energy gel will give you an energy boost when you feel like your legs might crumble during those 2 hour (or longer) runs. It helps keep a little spring in your step, although it can’t help you be as cute as these little furry fellows. 

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5) You have a routine for making sure you ‘go’ before a long run or race.

Yes, I went there.

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Can you relate to these? How did you know the running bug bit you and you were addicted?

8 Tips on Coming Back From an Injury

You’re finally being told the words you are longing to hear, ‘You can start to run again.’. If you are anything like me, you first feel relief and then the urge to high five and hug everyone, and yell an inappropriate ‘F@ck yeah!’ in public.

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After the euphoria subsides and the next thought is ok, now what? Where do I start with training?

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As excited as I was when I was given the green light to start running again I also felt a little apprehensive about re-injuring myself. I was also a little worried that I would discover that I hadn’t cross-trained hard enough and that my cardio would have taken a big step backwards. When I went for my first run a few weeks ago I was both excited and nervous. I did not want to re-live the pains and daunting rehab of this injury again.

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Often one of the pieces of advice I’ve often heard when I’ve started to run again is ‘just don’t do too much too soon.’. Ok that’s great advice but also subjective and leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

This time around I had a lot more guidance from my physiotherapist and running coach. Here are some great guidelines to follow when easing back into a training program.

1) Start off slow

Depending on your injury you may even want to start off with a brisk walk on a treadmill or even surface. Once you start running again start off with a slow pace. I realize that saying to start off slow is also relative, but the guideline I use is to run at a pace at which I could comfortably talk while running. I go as slow, or maybe even slower than what my slow easy pace was before injury and no faster. If you were running a 6:30 min per km pace (10:28 min per mile) before your injury then stick to that pace or even slower if you are finding you are fatiguing quickly. Was a slow easy run for you a 5:45 pace (9:15 per mile)? Then perhaps start with a 6:00 min km pace (9:39 min per mile pace).

2) Do walk/run intervals

My physiotherapist told me to ease back into running with intervals of five minutes of running and one minute of walking. As hard as it may be to do that starting out if you were used to running 10km or a half marathon without stopping pre-injury, this is a piece of advice I urge you to follow. Gradually increase the intervals week over week, provided you feel healthy and aren’t experiencing pain. On week two, I increased it to a 7:1, eventually to a 10:1 interval.

The purpose of the first few runs is to get your body used to running again and to slowly test out the injured area. Don’t be surprised if you are pretty sore the next day. Although my cardio ended up feeling pretty good when I started back I was shocked at how sore my legs were the day after. Even though I was cross-training my muscles needed to get used to running form again. Don’t get discouraged if this happens with you as well.

3) Run for time not for distance

One of the best pieces of advice I was given this time around, that I actually had never heard before, was run with a goal of time on feet, not for distance or pace. When I asked my coach Rob, what pace or distance I should aim for after he sent me my rehab/rebuild schedule he said don’t worry about that right now. Instead of breaking my schedule down by distance he broke it down by hours of cardio and time I should spend running. For example, one week I had a 30 minute run and a few days later a 45 minute run with no reference to distance or pace. The important thing starting out is getting your legs and feet used to spending that much time running again. It helps to mitigate the risk of re-injury.

4) Stop running if you have pain in the injured area

Don’t try and push through the pain. You’ll risk ending up back where you started or maybe even worse off. Just stop running and go back to treatment, rest and cross-training.

5) Find an even and flat surface

Look for terrain that is flat and even under foot for your first few runs. It’s probably best to stay away from rocky paths or trails and find an area that has a smooth flat surface. If that’s not possible where you are, then a treadmill or track may be the best thing for you starting out. Remember, when you start back running it’s still rehab for the first few weeks at least. I’d recommend asking a physiotherapist how long you should stick to even and flat terrain because it could vary depending on your injury.

6) Do not run on consecutive days

Even if you feel great and are not experiencing pain, do not run on back to back days until you’ve built a strong base again.

7) Build a strong base before going back to your regular intensity

To build a strong base focus on total running time to start and slowly add in frequency and intensity. Don’t increase all of these elements of your training schedule at one. For example, my schedule started out with running two days a week with easy runs with walk/run intervals, and then my time running increased from 30 mins to 45, then to an hour once a week. The next progression was to slowly add in a little bit of speed work with a few intervals. And this week I am increasing from running two days a week to three days. My first run is an easy 30 mins, second is an easy 60 mins and my last run of the week is one hour of running with 6 x 1km at a 5 min/km pace with a 2 min rest between each interval. I’ve been back running for over a month now and I am just getting back to this point. It’s a slow ramp but worth it in the long run.

8) Cross-train

In a previous post I talked about the benefits of cross-training. Ensure you are adding in days of biking, aqua jogging or some other form of low impact cardio during your rehab and recovery program.

Cross-training throughout my recovery and rehab has been very effective. I’ve never had as pleasant of a time getting back into running after an injury than I have this time around. Yes, I really do mean pleasant. Cardio wise I wasn’t easily fatigued on my first few runs as I had been in the past. When I did my first hill repeat run last week I was pleasantly surprised at how strong I felt on hill. Now that I am slowly introducing speed work back in I’m able to do the same interval speed as I had been before the half-marathon in October. I can’t do as many intervals as I was at that point, however the few that I am starting out with are still on my target pace. I’ll that that as a win. It’s encouraging to see how the cross-training has helped to give me the endurance and strength to ramp up from the 6:00 min per km pace that I started out at on my first few runs last month.

I know it’s hard starting off with a much slower pace and shorter distance but the patience is worth it. You’ll be much further ahead in the long run (pun intended) if you hold steady to a gradual rehab and recovery plan. Consider working with a running coach or running group if you have a race or pace goal you are aiming for. You’ll benefit from their knowledge and they’ll help get you there safely.

Any other tips for getting back into training? Any questions? Just remember, when it comes to coming back from an injury:

Slow and steady wins the race.jpeg

 

 

 

 

 

14 Rules for Winter Running Survival

I love winter running. Yep. You read that right and no this is not a typo. One of the best feelings, in my humble opinion, is going for a run on a sunny yet crisp winter day. I love the cool air hitting my face and the general feeling of coolness that surrounds my body as I run. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts I absolutely hate running in the summer heat, and while I love some things about the summer season, when running is concerned, I welcome the cooler days of fall and winter running. However like many things in life, if you aren’t prepared for certain situations and conditions winter running can be a disaster.

I know some seasoned runners who have avoided running outside in the winter but generally speaking I’ve found once people have dressed properly and for conditions they discover winter running isn’t so bad.

Winter and the white stuff doesn’t necessarily mean you are relegated to the dreadmill, so if you are interested in how to make the seemingly painful and awful experience of running outside in the winter into **gasp** an enjoyable one read on. If you are a sceptic I dare you to continue with this post with an open mind. I’m also always up for a good debate if I can’t convince you on the first pass 😉

 

Rule #1 

Layering

Depending on how much the Mercury has dipped you will need multiple layers and each serves a purpose. A thin base layer made of a wicking fabric will help keep the sweat off your body, which is vital in keeping you warm. If it’s below 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) you will likely need a mid layer as well, this should be a little thicker and perhaps even fleece lined. Finally, you will want an outer layer that will protect you from the elements that is rain/snow and wind resistant. If you are looking for some guidance on finding the proper kind of layering, here is a handy guide to point you in the right direction.

 

Rule #2 

Don’t Be A Wimp 

Apologies if I sound harsh or rude but I think we are all tougher than we give ourselves credit for, so I’ll give some tough love and say don’t don’t be a wimp! Just do it!

 

Rule #3

Don’t Wear Rotten Cotton

For the love of all things good and sensible do not wear cotton. I promise you this one mistake alone will make you miserable. It absorbs sweat but does not pull sweat away from your body, like a good wicking fabric does, and the result is a shroud of cold wet fabric sticking to your body. It also feels heavy and unless you are a glutton for punishment who wants unnecessary added weight on your run?

 

Rule #4

Don’t Give Up

 

Rule #5

Proper Pants

Not all pants are created equal when it comes to winter running. For a cool day that is hovering around 7 Celsius (45 Fahrenheit) and without a cold wind, a regular fall running tight should do the trick; however once it starts creeping below the freezing mark you will want a thicker tight that is lightly lined (with something like fleece) to keep your legs from getting chilled. Another sure way to ruin a winter run is to wear a pant that is too thin that makes your thighs ache from the cold. The ache you get from those hills is a good pain but the ache from the cold just plain sucks.

 

On those days where it’s particularly frigid, as in minus 10 or below you want a thick pant that is lined and designed to take on rain, snow and wind. You want those suckers to be able to take the hit and repel the wet stuff while keeping your legs as snug as a bug in a rug.

 

I may sound like a broken record at this point, but because I can’t stress the importance of it enough, make sure they are a wicking fabric and not cotton. Sweat pants need not apply for this job.

 

Rule #6 

Suck It Up 

 

Rule #7

Be Mindful of those Fingers, Toes and Your Nose

I keep my toes toasty warm with smart wool running socks. Not only do they feel like you are walking on clouds when you first put them on, but they are wonderful wickers too. I find my hands are the trickiest part to deal with. On a day that’s around 0 Celsius (32 F) I find my Lululemon running gloves do the trick and sometimes I even take them off after a few kilometres. However when it’s -10 C (14 F) or below I often need mitts over my running groves at least to start out with. You can always ditch them afterwards in the pockets of your running jacket while you warm up.

 

Balaclava can be your best friend on really cold winter days. It’s got to be pretty darn cold to need one of these but it can make a big difference in getting through a run in (relative) comfort. A long neck warmer can do the trick as well as you can tuck it into your hat when you need your mouth and nose covered or you can pull it down if it’s just the neck area you need protected. I like the versatility of a neck warmer because often what I need at the beginning of the long run is different than what I need 5km in. At that point, more often than not I am starting to remove some layers.

 

Rule #8

You are capable of more and stronger than you think you are. Get out there. 

 

Rule #9

Hats and headbands 

Below 7 Celsius (45 F)  wear a hat made of the good ‘ol wicking fabric. Between 5 and 10 degrees get a headband on and cover those ears. Those little suckers really do pierce when the cold air gets to them and can also ruin what would have been a freaking awesome run. You can always pull the headband down to your neck or stuff it in your pocket if you don’t need it part way through your run. The fabric of these things are so light and well made you won’t even notice it tucked away.

 

Rule #10 

Your couch will be there when you get back and you will enjoy it even more after you get outside. 

Your treadmill won’t be offended either. As they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder.

Rule #11

Go Glow and Reflect 

With winter comes early darkness so make yourself visible to traffic and others around you. Whenever I run in the dark I wear reflective arm bands. I got these nifty ones from MEC that have three settings. They have built in LED lights that either flash with a red light, emits a steady red light or if you don’t turn it on at all still offers safety with a reflective strip just like a safety vest. I wear one on both arms and usually choose the flashing light option. You can also get arm bands with just the reflective strip, wear a safety vest, or head lamp. Also try and look for clothes that have built in reflective strips and logos for additional visibility.

 

Rule #12

Beware of the Windchill

Don’t just look at the temperature, look at the windchill and what the temperature FEELS like when you are considering what your running attire should be.

 

Rule #13

Be Safe

Sometimes the treadmill IS ok. Be sensible and not a hero. If it’s freezing rain and you are safer on skates than on sneakers stick to the track or treadmill. I’m really nervous of ice just when I am walking so I do tend to be mindful on the conditions of sidewalks and roadways. I know some people who will put ice grips over the running sneakers but I’ve honestly not tried it. I’ve worried about what that would do to my running gait and if it would increase my risk of injury, and lord knows I don’t need more of a risk of that.

 

Be sure to exercise caution on extremely cold days that give you a risk of frostbite (think -25 C or -20 F). Know that sometimes it is sensible to find a track or stick to the treadmill. Being safe does not make you a wimp.

 

Rule #14 

Be Adventurous and Have Some Fun

Go find a new trail to check out, join a running group that runs all year round, or enjoy the peace of being by yourself.

 

So go ahead and take on Old Man Winter. Don’t wait for the spring, don’t stick to the dreadmill, pass go and go directly outside. My bets on you in winning the battle so long as you stay away from rotten cotton and follow these tips, which I can’t even claim as my own as they have been passed on to me from wise runners.

 

Am I missing any winter running rules? Feel free to share any of your own!

 

 

Injury Prevention

**Disclaimer – I am not a healthcare professional and I am writing this post on my perspective as an injured runner. Please consult a healthcare professional**

“You can’t run for at least the next four weeks”

horrified giphy

These are words no runner wants to here. Odds are that if you run for a prolonged period of time (as in years) you will hear these words at least once. Other runners, like myself, might hear this once every other year or even once a year.

The good news is there are ways to mitigate the risks. Even though I have been doing long distance running for about six years now I am still learning about my body and from mistakes. My hope is that I can help others learn from my experiences as well as keep myself accountable by practicing what I preach.

There are four reasons that seem to be common causes of injury that are actually under the control of the runner. Although some people are more injury prone than others, such as myself, with my out of the norm body alignment issues, there are things we can all do to reduce the odds of injury and things we neglect that greatly increase our risk.

Wearing the wrong sneaker

In a previous post I wrote about the importance of wearing the proper sneaker for your foot and stride. This is so critical. The right sneakers will help to correct your stride, which in turn, helps to prevent injury. For example if you roll your feet in when you run a stability sneaker will help correct that to a more neutral stride putting less strain on your feet and legs. The correct running sneakers for your foot strike can help prevent shin splints, plantar fasciitis, knee injuries, IT band issues, and a long list of other ailments.

Not stretching enough or properly 

Do not under-estimate the importance of stretching. When you plan your schedule and time that it will take you to run, also include time for stretching. I rarely ever skip stretching after a run but I now realize I wasn’t doing enough stretches or stretching for long enough. In particular, I wasn’t paying enough attention to stretching my calves. 

When you don’t stretch it causes tendons and muscles to tighten and the eventual result will be tendonitis, IT band syndrome, hamstring pulls and tears, and the list goes on. 

For my current injury I caused a perfect storm. My calves were extremely tight with many knots and painful areas. The tendon that runs the length of my calf to my heel was too tight, which caused sensitivities and lack of support to my already injury prone foot. The result, as those who have read my past few posts know, was plantar fasciitis.

Some of these injuries don’t just hurt when you run, sometimes it’s even walking is painful. Moral of the story. Don’t. Skip. The. Stretch. 

Not Cross-training and building overall strength

In my last post I talked about the benefits of cross-training, which include but is not limited to, improved strength, flexibility, speed, and of course, it helps to prevent injuries. 

Ramping your distant and speed too quickly

Ever hear of the golden 10% rule? Many runners follow a formula of increasing their distance by 10% each week. It is not a good idea to increase the stress on your body in huge leaps and bounds from one week to the next. It’s best to do a gradual increase so it can get used to the fatigue, strength and endurance of new distances. 

There are some who disagree with the 10% rule saying it’s too rigid.I’ve had weeks where my increase has gone past 10% to an increase of 12 or 13% so I consider it a guideline, but I think it’s a good guideline to keep in mind. Many runners will follow a program of increasing mileage gradually for 3-5 weeks and then having a taper week where you decrease your mileage to what it was 3-5 weeks previously. I think using both of these as a guideline are  smart ideas so you don’t over train or take too big of a jump in mileage that your body isn’t ready for. 

If you are a beginner runner you likely want to increase far less than 10% until your body gets used to it. If you have been running consistently for a year or more or are a veteran runner you may be able to have increases of a bit more than 10% if your body is used to it.

I thought this article was well written and offered a great perspective on the 10% rule. 

Listen to your body on this one, seek advice from a running coach and go to a physiotherapist or massage therapist to treat aches, pains, tightness and injury.

There is not one cure all for erasing injury completely from running and just one of these tips above isn’t the golden ticket either. However, if you incorporate all of these you’ll be running longer and more happily than ever before. I know I’ll never take stretching for granted again. 

7 Reasons All Runners Should Cross-train

This is a topic I know a lot more about these days after being sidelined from injury. I haven’t ran in over a month and that’s part of the reason I’ve been a little slack in the last could of weeks with posting. Between not running, having had an insanely busy November, and then getting sick I’ve had a bit of writers block along with being short on time. However, given the fact that I am going through physiotherapy and rehabilitating my foot and calves I thought a post on cross-training and a post on what I’ve learned on injury prevention would be helpful to my readers (stay tuned for my post on injury prevention, which I will post in a few days).

A habit of some runners is to become locked into a running regimen and, as a result, we end up neglecting strength training and cross training. We love running and even tend to even crave it at times; however cross training and well rounded programs that also focus on strength, flexibility and core stability are helpful in improving performance, overall strength, weight loss and even aid in injury prevention. Or when you are injured, like I am right now, it can help you keep most (or even all of) the endurance and stamina you had built up before your injury.

I’ve been sidelined from running for about a month now with plantar fasciitis. I haven’t ran since my last race. At first, I was in denial and thought ‘well I can still run if I just stretch a lot and do physio right!?’. I was sensible enough to know the right answer to that though.

'Just Keep Running A lot ecard'

When my Physiotherapist said I would be off of running for at least a month I cringed, and maybe even pouted … Ok I definitely pouted …

I want to run now baby

Next emotion was worry. Then fear. I was scared I’d lose the endurance, speed and strength that I’ve worked so hard at building. Plus I have a marathon to do in the spring! I can’t start from scratch again in January. I worried and over analyzed, as I tend to do sometimes, but after one quick convo with my running coach I was enthused and feeling optimistic that I’d be able to maintain my conditioning if I stayed dedicated to a cross-training program.

There’s a lot of different cross training exercises to incorporate into your running program or to do when injured. Rob went with a biking and aqua jogging combo for me. The cross training program consists of five days of biking and one day of aqua jogging. It also includes two days of leg, core and upper body strength training. All of this is spread over six days and I get one rest day. It’s physically demanding but it is do-able. The biggest challenge is fitting it around work travel and my generally busy life but it’s all a matter of priority. The biking/spin schedule consists of a range of easy spin for a minimum of one hour, to days that includes intervals, and one long spin of 2 hours. Aqua jogging is an hour once a week with a mix of easy laps and hard sprints in the pool.

It is hard to make a claim on the direct impact this is having on my running performance until I am actually able to run again, but I do know that mentally it has eased my mind from worrying about getting out of shape. Based on my fatigue level and heart rate I can say with confidence that I am working out just as hard as I ever did so I am very optimistic this is going to keep me on track.

Still need some convincing as to why you should cross-train? Here’s my top 7 reasons.

7 Benefits of Cross-Training

1- Makes you a better (and possibly) faster runner.

Running locks your body into one position, and as a result, it only develops and strengthens a few areas of your body. By adding in some cross-training you develop stabilizer muscles, flexibility and overall strength. Cross-training can help you develop a greater stride, strengthen hips and core, and improve efficiency.

2 – Injury prevention.

Cross-training helps guard against injuries that are caused by over use and repetition. Unfortunately, as much as we love it, running can be an example of too much of a good thing. Muscular imbalances and too much wear and tear of the same muscles and joints cause injuries. A well balanced program that strengthens your body and provides greater flexibility will help prevent injuries such as plantar fasciitis (like I have right now), sore knees or tight hamstrings, just to name a few. Running injuries are often caused by overuse, so replacing some recovery runs with non impact cross-training can greatly reduce the risk of injury.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include stretching as a important component of ALL types of training and injury prevention. Whatever you do, do not underestimate the importance of stretching. 

3 – Makes you a more balanced runner.

Strength training and incorporating exercises that strengthen your hip flexors and core can make your body run more efficiently. You will be sidelined by injury less often, get leaner and faster. Your body will be strong which will help you to feel healthier in general, not just with running. 

4 – It helps with boredom.

If you are mixing up your workouts and cardio routine you are less likely to get into a rut and feel bored. As much as I love running, I do like variety and by having a mixture of cardio and strength training activities in my schedule it helps prevent me from getting in a boredom slump. In fact, it makes me even more excited for the days I DO get to run.

5 – Get leaner and burn more calories.

Incorporating a variety of activities in your weekly routine will help burn more calories as compared to sticking to the same sport or activity every day. HIIT training is known for its calorie burn that extends hours past the workout. Also, by building strength and muscle throughout your whole body you will naturally burn more calories with the increase in muscle mass at a rest. Another benefit is that you can still kick up the intensity level without over training, or alternatively, use your cross-training day as a recovery day by giving your body a good stretch with something like yoga (depending on the intensity level). Keep in mind, I consider a recovery day different than a rest day. Recovery day is still active but at a lower intensity level. Rest is a day off from any sort of workout or cardio.

6 – Personally, I like the ability to multi-task while I’m on the bike.

In fact, I’m typing this now on my phone during one of my one hour bike sessions. I’ve got a pretty hectic schedule and there is never a shortage of things on my ‘to-do’ list or places to go and people to see. Usually this is a good thing but every now and then my schedule gets a bit too out of hand so multi-tasking has become my best friend. When I run I let myself tune out the rest of the world, but when I am on the bike I take advantage and either write blog posts, send work emails or get caught up with friends.

7 – Keeps up strength and cardio when you are injured.

I’ve been sidelined for over a month now with plantar fasciitis, as mentioned above. Cross-training on the bike and in the pool is helping me keep my cardio level up, while allowing my body to heal. I also incorporate strength training to ensure I don’t lose any strength or power I’ve gained throughout my last training cycle.

As it turns out, I am predisposed (more than the average runner) to injuries due to a lot of body alignment issues. I also recently found out I need orthotics. So it’s likely I will have flare ups from time to time or will need to pre-emptively take periods of time off from running, but I am not going to worry about it nearly as much now that I have really awesome cross-training programs at my disposal.

There are tons of options out there for cross-training. Types of  effective cross-training to consider include (but is certainly not limited to):

  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Aqua classes
  • Elliptical
  • Rowing
  • Skiing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Circuit or HIIT Training
  • Weight lifting/strength training
  • Yoga
  • Pilates

Over the last six weeks I’ve learned a lot about imbalances in my body and realized I often did not have a well rounded program on a consistent enough basis (up until the last six months that is). Perhaps if I had of paid attention to my entire body and its overall needs I would not have been injured quite so often and may have avoided this most recent injury. Thankfully, I have a great coach, physiotherapist and massage therapist giving me some great advice and treatment and training methods to help keep me on track.

I hope this gives you some motivation to cross-train, if you aren’t already, or provides some ideas on new things to try if you are looking to mix your routine up.

What’s your favourite type of cross-training? What makes you a better runner or just generally improves your health and fitness? Don’t cross-train? Well give it a try and let me know what other activity you’ve added to the addiction list.

 

 

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