Track Hack-athon

When I joined UofT Masters Track in 2011, I had no track experience. I had just run my first marathon and want to do something other than road racing. To this end I contacted a coach at a local running store to see if there were any clubs around town that did more than road workouts. And that’s how I was directed to UTTC Masters and started my weekly routine of running around in circles.

At my first track meet, I ran the 1500m. It was a foreign distance and I had no idea how to pace or what kind of pain I was in for (ie. a lot of pain). I think I wrote down my seed time as 5:30 and Coach Paul suggested I try to stick behind a 60 year-old man, who was known to run pretty even splits. Let’s just say, that day someone had her ass handed to her by a 60 year-old man. It was awful and awfully painful. I vowed never to run another track race again.

Fast-forward to 2017, and I was back at the track. It was all due to some big talk about a 4x800m record-breaking relay team with some friends, which started back in the summer and had led to several messages of doubt, uncertainty, and eventual acceptance that we were indeed going to form a 4x800m team. Throughout the exchange it became clear that no one really wanted to sign up for this race and it just became a matter of no one wanting to be the one who backed out. Our stubborn pride saw that we would sign up for the meet (in order to participate in the relay, each runner has to sign up for an additional event at the meet).

I decided to race the solo 800m prior to the relay, since I really didn’t want to do the 3000m (15 laps around the track –holy crap and no thank you I’m not crazy), and the mile was right before the relay. My other relay-mates took part in such eccentric events as the high jump, the make-shift indoor steeplechase, and the 400m starting in blocks. By the time we finished all of our strange and solo efforts and the relays rolled around, we realised that we would be the only team racing. It seems that no other club or athlete wanted to participate in the 4x800m race, which was very odd to us since that was the sole reason we were there.

So, off we went. Team Top Shelf in their solo-relay-world-record-breaking attempt at the 4x800m. And, to be honest, we weren’t there to break any records; we only told our fourth runner that lie in order to coerce him to join our team and also because we are kind of assholes.

It was a successful relay in that we did not drop the baton and that we finished under 10:00.

After that meet, I was happy that I had returned to the track following my earlier vow never to race track again (let it be known that I had broken this vow several times since 2011 and I should never be held accountable to such vows around racing). It was a fun day, amongst great friends, and I seemed to have come out of it with any injury-related pain. It was then that I vowed (again) not to run another track race, at least for a few months.

One week later, I was back at the same track. It turns out, the following week was the Provincial Championships and this meet counted for club points. There was a championship title on the line as well as a big-ass trophy. So, in the name of points and of upholding our club’s reputation, I decided to break my one-week vow and sign up yet again for another track meet.

Because my participation in this meet was point-motivated, I mulled over how many points I could possibly get without risking too much injury and decided that I would do three events: 1500m, 3000m, 800m. The timing of these events, along with the fact that I would be the only one in my age group for all three events (which meant the maximum amount of points by default) made me think that it was a really really great idea. Really great. One of my best. However, as the day approached and I woke up early on race morning to down some carbs, caffeine, beet juice, and all the other pre-race slurry, I was filled with an intense feeling of regret and the strong urge to crawl back into the safety of my bed.

I think what I was dreading the most was the 3000m race (again, 15 laps is a lot). In previous attempts, I had not been that successful; I think my PB was around 11:30  which is 3:50/km pace, and although that is not by any means a fast pace, it always felt like such an excruciating experience, one that I hated and one that made me hate myself.

So, before the meet when I asked my coach how I should approach my triple-race day, he suggested that I feel “comfortable” in the 1500, attack the 3000m, and run the 800m on tired legs. Attack the 3000m. Attack the 3000m. I could keep repeating it and deep down, I knew it made sense, but I am pretty sure I still scowled openly at my coach. I think he just figured I was experiencing some GI-distress.

Part One:

1500m – 5:17

I’m not sure if “comfortable” would be the word to describe my experience of this race. It certainly felt better than the first time I raced it back in 2011 and ate some shit. There were three ladies ahead of me and I thought about booking it and tucking in right behind them; however, I knew theirs was a pace that would certainly feel uncomfortable, which would leave me in a compromising position for the rest of the meet (at least I think it would have. Maybe I would’ve felt fine? Who knows. Maybe you know.). It was fine. I did a few laps of recovery and rested a bit before the 3000m.

Part Two:

3000m – 11:17

A PB. It was a surprising PB. I was chatting with a friend of mine recently about trying to feel relaxed during a race in order to maximise efficiency and I mentioned that in all of my PB races, I went in without feeling too much pressure or having any high or specific expectations. I suppose the fact that I knew I’d get the max amount of points for our team helped alleviate some of that pressure, along with the fact that I knew I’d be racing three times in one day and would inevitably be slower than if I had been focusing on a single race. I was wrong. In my heat, there weren’t any runners close to my seed time (11:35) as I was in a group of mostly 60+ year old runners. Sure, I had been in a race before with a 60 year old runner and had barely lived to tell the tale, but you know what they say: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Or something like that. Based on all of the seed times, I knew I’d be running alone.

I did indeed run alone for all of the race. My first kilometer split was 3:47. I checked in to how I felt: I felt okay. So I continued along at around the same pace. The second split was 3:46. Pretty steady, and again I felt okay. With five laps remaining, I decided that I was getting a bit bored of running and wanted the race to be done and over with; however, with five laps remaining, I knew that I still had to run five laps. Make sense? Based on how I felt, I that that I could push it just a little bit harder, and I was right as I finished my last split in 3:44. A small difference but I was happy with the finish and the race as a whole. It was the first time that I felt so comfortable in a 3000m and was able to stay calm mentally and just tick off the laps, five at a time.

Part Three:

800m – 2:32 high

At this point in the meet, I was tired, hungry, suffering from the morning’s beet juice, etc. slurries and wanting to be done with it. I usually can’t eat much during these meets because I’m nervous and also because I hate the feeling of food sloshing around in my paunch. Instead of food, I opted for a vending machine lunch of Starbursts and some old coffee that I had brought in a thermos. Before the race, I was unsure whether or not I’d wear spikes at all during the meet since I had a bit of pain in my left foot, but because it seemed to feel okay after the 3000m and I wanted to get the meet done and over with, I felt that racing in spikes would expedite the completion of the day. I tucked in behind another lady, and just trailed behind her the whole way. It was with 150m to go that she started to pull ahead, and all I could do was go with her; sadly, I was unable to unleash a monstrous and crowd-pleasing kick to push past her, but I crossed the line and I was done.

It was an exhausting and surprising day. Some of the best moments at track meets include cheering on teammates doing silly things such as steeplechase, high jump, and shot put. And then the other great moments are when your teammates cheer you on when you’re doing silly things like the 1500m, 3000m, and the 800m.

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Polegate

First Race of 2017

What: MEC Toronto Race One

Where: Martin Goodman Trail

When: January 22, 2017 at 9:10am

Cost: $15 (awesome)

Leading up this race, I was, of course, feeling non-committal, wanting to see what kind of shape I (thought I) was in the few days prior to the weekend. My attendance at the track workouts had been pretty spotty since we had moved it indoors, partly because of a nasty cold in December, an on-going GI issue since September, laziness, and fear of injury from those tight indoor turns. In January, my weeks usually had at least one track workout, a bunch of filler miles, and the occasional tempo-ish/long interval workout on the weekend.

The Monday before the race, I did a 3x1600m workout indoors and wanted to see if I could hold 3:45/km (6:00/1600m) pace for the entire workout, which called for an active 3:30 recovery between the intervals. I was able to hold 3:45/km pace for the workout –but man alive, it felt very hard. Both lungs and legs were screaming by the end and I crawled home from the track at my standard 6:00+/km recovery pace. Despite the struggle of that workout, I still wanted to take out the race in 3:45/km pace and see if I could hold on. Aggressive, yes, especially since my PB is 19:07 (just under 3:50/km pace) and I felt nowhere near PB shape, but the worst that could happen (I thought) would be a bit of a blow-up at the end. And at least, this would be a good exercise in mental strength.

To this end, I enlisted the help of a friend, Nate, who said he’d be happy to pace me for the 5k and would also incorporate it into his tempo run for the weekend. Great! I was very pleased and grateful to have his help since the race course would most likely be windy down by the lake and also because it would save me the time and energy of checking my pace during the race.

That morning we met briefly before the race and he checked in to see at what pace I’d like to start. My previous thoughts of 3:45/km seemed a bit daunting in that moment (following some unpleasant GI activity that morning), but Nate said: I came here to pace you to a PB, so that’s what we’re going to do. Just the kick in the ass I needed (I thought).

Okay, so I’m not sure if I’m doing a very good job of creating a sense of foreshadowing of some sort of impending disaster since my hand in narrative techniques is sorely out of practice, but –something bad is about to happen.

You know how these community races are: as you line up at the start, there are inevitably those runners who, how do I put this gently (realistically), probably should be lined up further back in the pack based on their ability. I was tucked in about the third row from the front, with Nate slightly behind me (he said after the unavoidable first 500m gong-show of over-eager sprinters, he would get in front of me and let the pacing begin), taking note of the other runners around me and who may or may not be going around my goal pace, as well as looking ahead to the slightly bottle-necking route and the notable hazards of both a pylon and a yellow concrete pole.

Not to be a total dick, but I saw a couple runners in front of me that I knew I wanted to get around quickly, so when the gun went off, I went out hard. Unfortunately, my need to get around said runners seems to have over-ridden my previous surveying of the hazards immediately ahead, and while I nearly missed tripping over the pylon that was placed 10m from the start, as a runner directly in front of me side-stepped the neighbouring yellow concrete pole, I, unfortunately, front-stepped into the concrete pole with my inner (very inner) thigh and with the force of my 3:45/km-hopeful body behind it.

The next thing I knew, I was down on the ground, the crowd streaming by me, and not completely comprehending what had just happened (Why am I on the ground?!).

I turned and heard Nate’s voice: “Is this race over?”

I still didn’t really understand what had happened, but what I did know at that moment was that I was wasting precious seconds (and my Garmin was continuing to record all of this down-time), that Nate had come all the way to the race to pace me, and that I had never pulled out of a race before and I was sure as hell not going to DNF on my ass.

“Let’s go,” I said. And off we went.

We hauled ass to get back on pace for the first kilometer, which clocked in at 3:47 (!!). I did not feel great. My leg was throbbing and I think my speed at that point was part adrenaline and part embarrassment. I ended up running a 19:19, which was 12 seconds off my PB, and included the crash and fall. My splits were: 3:47/3:52/3:53/3:54/3:52. I knew mid-race that I was slowing down and I tried to bring myself back under 3:50/km pace but I didn’t have the legs or the grit. Based on how hard it felt (especially compared to the PB back in September) and the few seconds of down-time, however, I feel that it was not a bad race.

Again, I am very grateful for my pacer and his encouragement, as well as for the company of a couple friends who also raced that day. I am also very grateful that I did not hit the pole a couple inches over, damaging some precious bits, and more likely to have led to a DNF.

 

Off-Season’s Greetings

‘Tis the season to be holly and jolly, for Festive Specials, and retrospectives.

And in the vein of looking back, ’tis the season also to remember that you once wrote semi-regularly in a running blog and neglected it for a few months even though there were both events to cover and time to write. Looking back on the most recent entries, I can see that the last one was written at the end of August and was entirely about the Chinese Hurdler and may seem not to fit into the narrative of my own training or fit any sequence of events. In fact, this entry was written as part of a job application for a “hip” start-up company, who insisted that part of the application contain a YouTube video of the applicant explaining why (s)he would be a good fit for the job. I’ve made one YouTube video in my life, and although it is partly because I am not completely on-board with all vehicles of technology and social media, it was more due to the fact that I do not like being on a screen, moving or still, for strangers to see that I created this clever work-around to the requirement of a YouTube video and simply copy and pasted my blog entry into the box in which other applicants posted a link to their YouTube videos.

I didn’t end up getting the job.

Prior to that Fail Blog, I had written about my race plan for my first 5000m race back in July. I’d prefer glossing over the two 5000m races I did but simply stating that I hated them both and that twelve-and-a-half laps around a track ranks up there with chronic bowel discomfort in terms of unpleasant experiences in life.

Looking back to those summer months, I can see that I was doing a lot of cross-training, between 2-3 times a week, and I was only averaging about 30k/week in the early summer. Yeesh. By September, it looks like I got up to 60-65k/week, which has been my steady weekly mileage for the last couple months. I’ve also stopped cross-training, which means I’m running six days a week and which also means I’m a lot happier. Sure, I can see how cross-training would have its benefits, especially for those who are injury-prone (ie. me), but if I can at all help it, I would prefer to avoid it, and running almost every day ranks up there with gut-wrenching laughter in terms of pleasant experiences in life.

After dabbling in my first outdoor track races as a Master, I remember feeling quite pooched. Neither of those races had gone well and prior to those my early-season road race results were like the last desperate fart of a dying corpse. Strangely, the most successful race I had was a (secret) 800m track race at the National Championships up at York University where I ran a 2:32:06. I say secret because I didn’t inform my coach that I’d be running and had done brief Google search on how to run an 800m as part of my training. I was pleased with this race (which, had I mentioned it to my coach prior to the meet, would not have happened, and which, of course, I realise would have been for my benefit) not only because it exceeded my uninformed expectation of simply wanting to run sub-2:40 but also because it was a heck of a lot more fun than the 5000m, and although there was a lot of pain and suffering, it lasted a sensible two laps. It gave me a taste for the kind of speed and punishment that was so foreign to me, almost like tasting an olive for the first time.

With this meet, the outdoor season ended and I had one more event on the horizon: the Canadian 5km Road Race Championships in Yorkville. I had raced this one in previous years, and although it isn’t really the fastest course, the convenience of location and the deep field it brings out were appealing factors. Of course as is the case for most races, I had registered for this one months in advance, not knowing what my physical and mental states would be at this time. I remember waking up the morning of the race, eating my oats and drinking my coffee, and thinking that I really REALLY didn’t want to race that day. The thought of not racing and going back to bed seemed like the best idea. I had even convinced myself that I could show up at the race to cheer on my teammates and then go for an easy long run and it would pretty much be the exact same thing.

(In addition to my complete lack of motivation and emotional interest in racing at this time, I had been diagnosed with an intestinal parasite and had had the (bad) poops for weeks, which would continue on and still continues on even now with no apparent end in sight. NEVER EAT HERE.)

Although the urge to crawl back into bed was as strong as my urge to evacuate, I hopped on my bike and rode to the start. I ran into a few of my teammates, who all seemed very focused, and met with my coach. We chatted briefly about a race plan (at this point, I guess I had to race): the first kilometer would be downhill and fast, so there I’d try to stick behind a couple runners I knew would be 19-low or so and stay with them as we took the first turn and then on to the uphill portion at the third and fourth kilometers. There would also be a bit of a headwind coming up the hill, so we talked about how important it would be to tuck in behind a group at that point. I did a slow jog for about five minutes, did some drills and strides, and then parked my butt at the start-line, at a modest distance from the front, seeing as it was a national championship race. I was feeling pretty relaxed and indifferent when the gun went off, so much so that I forgot to start my Garmin as I crossed the start-line.

As expected, the first kilometer was fast. I looked down at my watch only once during the whole race, and it was during those first few hundred meters when the pack started careening down Bay Street; some would maintain their pace, but from past experiences, I knew that most of these runners would fade and it would be painful, both physically and emotionally. I was running just under 3:45/km pace and before I could get it into my head that this was too fast and shut it down prematurely, I tucked in behind another runner, who I could trust to be strong and steady, and just followed her down for the first split. And then the next one. And the next one coming up the hill. And the next one coming around Queen’s Park and north of Bloor Street. And then coming around the last turn with about 400m to go, we were still together.

Some runners have finishing kicks and it is absolutely awe-some and so much fun to watch. Some runners have no finishing kick and it’s about as boring as multigrain toast with cold butter. I consider myself to be multigrain toast. Years of marathon training has led to a soupy, slow-twitch finish, with no bravado, no balls. So, when I turned that last corner and went wide to come up beside my race-long companion for the last stretch before the finish, I’m not entirely sure what happened that allowed me to somehow launch my little legs into a flurry of a finish. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this was a “kick”; perhaps it was more of a “long finishing stride”. Yeah?

At any rate, in a race I had to drag myself to, in the end, it was a PB race by about 40 seconds. Most of my teammates (really just this one Korean guy) say that I just haven’t been running hard enough and I should’ve been posting these times long ago. It’s possible. Anything is possible.

Since that race, I’ve been maintaining a weekly mileage of about 60k, doing one medium-long run a week, one track workout when I feel like it, and filling in the rest with easy running. It’s been great to run without attention to a particular schedule or with any specific goals and to just enjoy the company of my teammates or the quiet and calm of my solo runs.

(Oh, I recently joined Strava. And I’m not entirely sure why. It’s a secret account, so shhh.)

The Chinese Hurdler

Why I Am The Chinese Hurdler:

  • Resilient – the ability to recover from difficult situations and over-come barriers
  • Willingness to learn to things – it can be assumed that this athlete received some training for this event, and no doubt, following this performance, this athlete would be open to receiving supplemental coaching to improve performance
  • Strength – both physical and mental strength portrayed by his ability to destroy all items in his path and also the determination to finish the task
  • Creativity – hurdler to self: “How will I finish the race without having to hurdle over a barrier?”
  • Sense of humour – in order to execute this game plan and face the consequences, the hurdler would have to have a strong sense of self, a lack of ego, and an excellent sense of humour; some things are serious –nothing is too serious

Why I Am Not The Chinese Hurdler

  • I am not Chinese

 

On A Break

Following another so-so performance at the MEC Half Marathon, in which I was passed by four (FOUR!) runners in the last mile (MILE!) of the race, I was done. Mentally and physically pooped. Figuratively and metaphorically pooped. The one positive aspect I could take from this race was that I executed the race as I had planned: to go out at 4:10 pace and hold it for as long as I could. Unfortunately “as long as I could” was not “as long as the race” and I ended up averaging around 4:35 after the 12k mark.

Sure, there were some external factors involved in the blow-up. It was a hot day, on a completely unshaded course, without many runners around my pace to work off of, but the fact remained clear (to me) that I was just not in great shape for that distance. It was about a month after I had raced in Brooklyn and I was hoping for a better result based on the few weeks more of training and with a more aggressive race plan. Not so much.

With my nagging leg injury, I hadn’t been able to increase mileage without discomfort, niggling pain that would get in my head and on the bike, instead of on the roads and the track, busting out workouts and gaining fitness. After the MEC race, it became ever more apparent that I wasn’t getting better.

So, I started doing the math.

The original plan for this summer was to build a base, which would lead up to a fall marathon. Possible races included Scotiabank in October, Hamilton in November, and Philly, also in November. I had done both Scotiabank and Philly before; my preference was for Scotiabank, since it would be on home soil and the cheaper option. Initially when I was planning for the fall with my coach, we agreed that Scotiabank would be a hair too early for the kind of mileage I had been putting in so far. It made sense. I was barely doing 60k weeks and in constant yet manageable pain. Hamilton, which was a few weeks later, would also be a good option, since it would be cheap and since I’d been told the course is fast.

I started getting excited about training for a marathon and also getting excited to have a nice, neat little training schedule, well-organised and leading up to a specific race.

However.

After a few more workouts and maintaining the same kind of volume I had been doing leading up to both halfs, my leg still hurt. Not to the point where it had been earlier this winter and not to the point where I was limping around, but it still did not feel “right”. What I had to decide now was whether or not I wanted to start the marathon training program, get through the workouts, and likely end up racing a sub-par result. The other option would be to scrap the plan for a fall marathon altogether and train for some shorter races so I wouldn’t have the pressure of increasing my mileage and being okay with taking off-days when my leg would need them.

With recent sub-par results, my decision was to flip the marathon the big ol’ bird (for now). It’s not particularly enjoyable to run poorer than  you know you can when you’re in great shape. At this point, I don’t want to run a marathon simply to finish it; I want to run a marathon with the assurance that I’m in freakin’ fantastic shape and I’m going to crush the balls out of it. The training season is far too long for a marathon to put your half-assed eggs into one basket.

Make sense?

Anyways, a bit of a bummer to let go of that fall marathon plan but in the meantime I’ve decided to focus on the 5k. Or the 5000m. Or twelve and a half laps. Since I’ve pretty much thrown out any plan of increasing my mileage, I’ve also noticed that my leg has been feeling better, which is great, and yeah, so obvious to most people, and which softens the sting of missing the high mileage (which I did and I do). My first race is this weekend at the OMA Championships in Toronto and as I haven’t raced on an outdoor track since I was a thirteen-year-old dork in glasses, I am feeling pret-ty nervous. I’ve spoken with several people about a possible race strategy and pacing based on recent workouts, and this is my plan for the race:

1k @ 3:56-3:58

1mile @ 6:16

2k @ 7:50

3k @ 11:45

2miles @ 12:32

4k@ 15:38-15:40

And then the last kilometer, I’ll try to go as hard as I can.

For the remainder of the summer and fall, I’ll continue to work on my 5k speed and try to build strength through cross-country. I’m not saying goodbye to the marathon forever –at least, that is not my intention. I just needed a break from it, get some space, and start to feel good about running again.

I’ll start with twelve and a half laps and go from there.

Baby Steps to the Finish Line

This coming weekend, about one month after I ran the half in Brooklyn, I’ll be racing in another half marathon on home soil, which will be a nice change, logistically and financially. I did have a fun weekend in Brooklyn, staying with friends, and the race wasn’t too bad, but there is something of ease about crawling out of your own bed and racing along familiar roads.

Going back one month: Brooklyn. As I said, the race wasn’t too bad. Because I didn’t have the months of training and mileage behind me, going in, I wasn’t feeling too confident about my fitness level. Based on the course description, I thought I’d take out the first 10k conservatively and try to finish strong in the last half. We jogged to the start in Prospect Park, which was very conveniently about 2k away from my friend’s place and did our usual pre-race washroom rituals before heading into our corrals. I can’t remember what I had put down as my seed time, but (and not to be a jerk) I felt as though I were in the wrong corral. Minutes before the race, most people around me seemed all too pre-occupied with taking duck-faced selfies and fixing their headphones; I felt unimpressed, judgmental, and confused.

The gun went off and it was a very slow and congested start to the race, which began with a downhill and a slight climb. In all of the previews of the course, I had read that there was to be expected a significant hill at around the 7-8k mark of the course; I went to Prospect Park the day before the race for my shake-out and to see if I could find this “monster hill” but didn’t encounter it. To be honest, I’m not sure I would’ve known where that hill had been had it not been for the signs of encouragement and warning about the hill.

Despite the first half being easier than I had expected, looking back, I think I took it out too slowly. My first 5k split was 21:23 and 5-10k was 21:43, which made for a 10k split of 43:06 and an average pace of 4:19. Yikes. In my race plan, I was hoping to hold around 4:12 in the park and then drop it down to 4:10 for the last half. 4:19 was just tard-y.

So, coming out of the park, I decided to get on a slightly faster train and dialed down the next 5k split to 21:00. At this point, the course was flat and would continue straight out before a short turn onto the boardwalk and to the finish. Looking at the remaining splits for the race, it seems that I waivered around 4:10, with a few faster and slower kilometers. It was also at this point where I felt the lack of mileage and training catch up to me; I was not comfortable at this pace and really wanted to stop at several points. I was glad to have my SO riding alongside on his bike, yelling out encouragement; his presence provided both the support to continue and fear of embarrassment had I actually stopped.

My last 5k split was the fastest, at 20:47, making the second 10k of the race split at 41:47 –a big negative split and maybe also just a big negative.

I spoke to my coach and he seemed very pleased about the result and the execution. Of course I realise that not all races can be PBs, especially when coming back from an injury-laden early season, but I did feel that the number just sounded slow in relation to how painful it was.

Back to one month later and this upcoming half; it’s not necessarily a “revenge” race since I had no expectation of glory in Brooklyn, but more of a re-evaluation race. In the weeks that have followed Brooklyn, I am happy that my training has resumed without any jarring aches and pains and it has been fairly consistent so far. I had a nice run in Collingwood along my favourite rail trail where the lilacs were in full bloom; there was that 3x2400m + 4x200m track workout that I thought would never end; last weekend, I ran a tempo in the cemetery with 5k warm-up, 8k at goal half marathon pace, and 5k cool down, and despite starting early(ish), it was already brutally hot and I lost so much weight in sweat during the tempo portion that my shorts started falling down. Science. I think.

I know it hasn’t been that long between races, so it will be interesting to see how much fitness I have gained. There’s probably some more science in there, but I, unfortunately, don’t know enough to feel secure in the facts and the brass tacks. In this case, it is nice to have a coach who has ensured me that starting out a bit more aggressively this time, along with my gains in fitness, will lead to a stronger result. I trust him and his experience, so based on his candid evaluation, it seems that along with continuing consistent workouts, I need to work on my mental strength, both leading up to and during a race.

It is not uncommon for people to repeat mantras during particularly difficult times during a race. It is a distraction and meant to be positive reinforcement, which can be particularly helpful when you are running alone. As I am not one who is very spiritual or touchy-feely, I have had difficulty in finding personally meaningful mantras and harnessing this technique of self-cheerleading. But last weekend while running on empty in the cemetery, I remembered a phrase that helped get me through that tempo:

I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful.”

Does it sound familiar? Do you love that movie?

What About Bob? was one of my favourite movies as a child and having watched it in my adulthood, I am happy to report that it still holds up. For me. And because of the plot of the film (no spoilers), this movie is rife with encouraging mantras, including:

Baby steps…”

I’m sailing. I’m a sailor. I sail.”

Take a vacation –from my problems.”

And my personal favourite:

Mmm mmm mmm mmm mmm!”

What a great movie. This is really just the tip of the iceberg. My goal for this race is to draw from this glacier some mental strength during those toughest of miles and to flex-it-out until the finish.

Kale Bowl Construction

For this month’s Athletics Ontario Brand Ambassador Challenge, I have created a video of myself cooking one of my favourite meals: a customised kale bowl. For this meal, I have provided the basic instructions and possible components one might use, but it’s really up to the individual to pick and choose what he or she finds the most delicious (or what’s on sale at the store).

Here are the ingredients I used to make my kale bowl:

  • kale
  • red pepper
  • avocado
  • baby carrots
  • pumpkin seeds
  • broccoli
  • coconut oil
  • avocado
  • extra firm tofu
  • curry powder
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar

The first step is to wash and chop the kale and then add the dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, seasoning with salt and pepper. Then use your hands to massage the dressing into the kale leaves in order to soften them. The act of massaging the kale and letting it sit while you prepare the rest of your vegetables and protein helps to break down the toughness of the kale.

Then add your vegetables. Choose whatever you find delicious. It’s pretty simple.

Then add your protein. For this recipe, I fried up some extra firm tofu, seasoned with curry powder, but I’ve also used salmon, chicken, canned tuna, and canned beans. Usually I season my protein with curry powder because I find it delicious. Simple.

On a harder workout day, I’ll add more elements of carbohydrates, such as a sweet potato, or a cup of quinoa, brown rice, couscous, etc.

And that’s it. Nothing too complicated and doesn’t require any measuring or fine details but packs a punch of nutrients, colour, and deliciousness. Find below the video, which shows the easy-to-follow instructions and a photo of the final dish.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVPSD1rFVug

Kale Bowl

 

 

 

I’ll Believe in Anything

I meant to get to this entry a couple days ago but was too busy cataloguing the new (!) Wolf Parade EP, EP 4, and the re-issue of Apologies to the Queen Mary: Deluxe Edition, which includes not only a re-master of the original album but two self-titled EPs from 2003 and 2004. For those who aren’t Wolf Parade fans, that’s really boring, but for those who are, this is really exciting news! They haven’t released anything new in 6 years and the tracks on EP 4 are a great listen.

At this point in my training, or return to running, I’ve come back to the (outdoor) track, which has been great fun. I’m still being cautious, and despite the bigger track, I still feel a bit of tweaking on that inside leg where I had my initial injury, especially around the turns. The overall mileage has been low, with some rest and cross-training on the side. Last weekend I had an MRI, so I guess I’ll see what is actually going on in there when I visit my doctor.

In preparation for Brooklyn Half (this Saturday), I did a pretty standard kilometer repeat workout on Monday evening. I love those kinds of workouts, old faithfuls, like kilometer and mile repeats, 400s, 800s; maybe a bit boring to some, but I like how steady they are and the laying of a benchmark. Also, I can’t remember workouts that are too complicated when I arrive to the track and in the middle of a workout. Wasted energy, I think.

The workout on Monday went well. I was supposed to take them out in 10k race pace, which at this point I figured would be just over 4:00/km pace (10km are my least favourite distance to race and the last time I “raced” a 10km was in Iksan, South Korea back in 2006, which upon writing that I now realise was TEN years ago?!). I meant to take them out in 4:00-4:05 (48-49s/200m), but felt really sluggish/bored/impatient at that pace. I know that every workout has a purpose, and the purpose of this one was not to kill it, but my legs really did feel uncomfortable going that pace. I did 5x1000m at 3:56/3:56/3:50/3:52/3:45. The last three, and especially the last one were perhaps too quick. I ran them alone, so when I rounded the track and saw someone up ahead to chase, I took the bait and chased (they weren’t even doing the same workout). I know I know, not the purpose of this workout, and coming back from injury, I should really be more mindful of sticking to the prescribed paces.

At the end of the workout, I felt a mix of emotions, including being pleased at the strong finish, relieved that my track speed hadn’t diminished too greatly since being injured, anxious about having taken them out too hard, concerned that I would re-injure my leg, and panicking that I haven’t done enough training to run a decent time at the half this weekend. Also, at the end of the workout, dark, ominous clouds quickly rolled in and hovered above the track, threatening to dump its load at any second; it was at this point as I trotted back to my backpack that I realised my tights were nowhere to be seen. I am guessing that someone took them by mistake since they were very generic-looking black tights or perhaps they blew away in the wind. In any case, the downpour began, becoming aggressive, and it seemed as though I would have to ride my bike home in the storm in my short-shorts, when my track mom (everyone needs one), the lovely Rita, offered to lend me her pants since she would be driving home.

Track moms are the best.

Saturday will be interesting.

Snack Attack: Just Add PB

Not being one for fandangled, complicated recipes, when preparing a snack for either before or after a workout, I tend to go for something quick, simple, and versatile, and more often than not, involving peanut butter.

PB

Not only does PB (and other nut butters) lend itself to speedy snacking, it is also delicious and nutritious. Creamy, crunchy, natural, almond, cashew, coconut-almond –each variety can be smeared and spread, dolloped and dipped into sweet and savoury combinations. Some of my favourite pairings include:

-apples

-rice cakes

-in protein shakes

-oatmeal

-bananas

-pretzels

And, of course, for the most time-strapped, grocery-poor, and purist of PB-lovers, it is also great simply as a spoon-to-mouth snack.

 

On the Mend

Usually during any phase of an injury, I tend to go into hiding. Depending on the injury, I may continue to run, but I’ll choose to run alone; I don’t have the discipline to be on the track with other runners and not grind it out. It’s best if I just stay away.

Unfortunately, with this latest blip that started back in the winter, I continued to do hard workouts, which eventually led to a complete halt of running for two weeks. Because this didn’t feel like a stress fracture (at first), I chose to run through it (or try to); the pre-stress fracture feeling, for those who have not had one, is a pretty distinct sensation. If it had felt anything like that specific pain, I would’ve (more likely) stopped immediately.

In hindsight, it would’ve been beneficial to lay-off weeks ago, despite not feeling stress fracture-y, as is the case for most injuries; the pain and discomfort were certainly not improving, an obvious red-flag (to most). After having taken two weeks off and spending some quality time with Betty in Spain, climbing and descending in equal parts fear and fun, I was able to run down the stairs as I realised while running for a subway and to do a single leg calf raise, both without pain. Glorious!

This time, instead of charging back with track workouts and tempo runs and everything fun and fast, I’ve decided to come back on the run/walk protocol aka very slowly. Tonight I’ll give 20 minutes run/2 minutes walk/10 minutes run a go. I’ve never been so excited about running 20 minutes (in a row!).

In the meantime, I’m also excited and honoured to have been named one of Athletics Ontario’s Brand Ambassadors for 2016. It’s a great program that brings together athletes, volunteers, and coaches to promote athletics and the AO specific programs and events. Throughout the year, the ambassadors are involved with these events and highlight aspects of their own athletic endeavours.

Since it is unlikely that anyone will want to hear about my latest pool-running workouts, it’s time to be patient and get healthy.