Reflections on my Early 20’s: why I’m Running a Marathon on my Birthday

Running down Queen St at 6am few Saturdays ago, I passed broken beer bottles, half-eaten boxes of poutine, puddles of vomit, from someone’s Friday night and a few people just finishing up their Friday night. At that moment, I fully realized how much my life has changed since I last lived in Toronto just over 4-years ago.

At that time, the roles would have been reversed (though I would never waste poutine). My Friday night’s were certainly not spent eating nutrition dense meals and going to bed early in preparation for a big Saturday run. For as long as I can remember, I have felt torn between focusing on fitness or focusing on “having fun”, albeit someone else’s idea of fun. Sure drinking can be enjoyable, I enjoy beer immensly, but staying up late and drinking something you don’t like with the goal of getting drunk is not fun. Especially, when that voice in the back of your head says, “you’re going to feel like shit tomorrow and not want to do anything”. I knew that lifestyle wasn’t for me, but I wasn’t ready to move on, and hear all the accompanying “you’re so lame” comments that would have followed.

Staying up late and getting up early to exercise may not be ideal for successful training, staying up late, drinking excessively and getting up early makes training almost impossible. I used to try to do both. I still worked out 6-days a week then, but it was a lot different than it is now. It was pretty normal to show up to a spin class smelling like vodka from the night before, and somehow still get through the class. I guess that’s what is now referred to as a weekend warrior. I ran then too, but typically just a couple 10k runs a week to burn off the “drunk food”.

At that time, the idea of running a marathon was impossible. It simply did not make sense to me how someone could run that far; I was certain I never would. I was right, it was impossible, because running a marathon with that lifestyle would NOT have worked.     About 8 months before I moved to BC, things began to change, I had run 4 half’s at that time, including a best of 1:45, which I was happy with, and had achieved with little training. The day I got that PB was significant for a few reasons, and I used it as inspiration to run more and prioritize health. I lifted weights, I ran 4 times a week, sometimes up to 16km on an indoor track to avoid the snow and ice. In the month before I moved to BC, I began running everyday. I set a goal to run 100 miles that month and I did. I remember feeling so happy about that.

Moving to BC in June 2014 was a massive change, I knew no one there, and had no sense of obligation to participate in anything I didn’t want to. I was working in a craft beer bar, which was awesome, and surrounded by people who were living my old lifestyle, but it no longer mattered. I went out sometimes, but mostly I wanted to prioritize running and that was that. In January 2015, I began training with a coach and met other like-minded people. My intention at that time was to prepare to run a marathon. My coach wanted me to build a strong base first and knock a few more minutes off my half-marathon time before committing to a full. I put in the work, and my times continued to improve. In October 2016, I lined up at the start-line of my very first marathon in Victoria, BC.

Almost 2-years later, I am preparing for marathon #5, The Erie Marathon on Sunday September 9, also my 29th birthday. I have spent the summer training hard, running 6-days a week. I feel stronger than I ever have, and happy with the training I have put in. This is how I chose to spend my summer, and I have never regretted it. I can’t think of a better way to say goodbye to my 20’s than to run a marathon on my birthday, and set the tone for the next decade – where I will continue to do things my way. I have grown a lot since 2014, my priorities have changed, my goals keep getting bigger, and I plan to keep chasing them.

Training Recap March 26-April 1, 2018

This week marked the beginning of the taper for Boston. I had two days off running instead of the regular Monday off. My mileage will continue to decrease over the next two weeks. This Friday I am flying to Toronto to hang out for a week before heading to Boston the following Friday. I am looking forward to enjoying my taper and not working, but what will I do with all that free time!?

Monday: OFF. I did strength training.

Tuesday: 50′ easy, ran an out and back to the bog with my running buddy.

Wednesday: Group WO, ran 5km easy to the WO location and then, 3 sets of: 2x 3’@tempo, 1′ fast, then 5km home. I also did core.

Thursday: 45′ easy, did an out and back to the bog the other way with my running buddy. I also did core.

Friday: OFF. Nothing at all!

Saturday: Group WO, 20′ easy, 2×2′ tempo, 4x1km (4:04, 3:57, 4:02, 3:59), 20′ easy. Going into this and even during the 1km repeats I felt slow, but I was not! I was targeting 5km pace, but those are all faster than my actual 5km pace. I would love to race a 5km right now to see how it would be! I also did core.

Sunday: “Long run”, 80′ minutes for a mix of trails and road, I had 4 bunnies join me for this Easter run. I also did core.

Total Weekly Mileage: 60.8 km

Training Recap Feb 19-25 2018

This week was a bigger one, but the upcoming week is even bigger! With only 7 weeks until Boston, that is to be expected. It has been cold on the island lately, which is fine. However, when the snow starts to come down and stay on the ground, it’s a different story. Fortunately, it is gone now, and fingers crossed that’s it for the year.

Here is what I did this week:

Monday: OFF. I did strength training and core.

Tuesday: 60′ easy, I did an out and back route along the ocean. I also did core.

Wednesday: Typically a group WO, but the snow started falling in the early afternoon and it didn’t stop. So no WO, but two of us ran 75′ easy instead.

Thursday: 75′ easy, ran big loop around the neighbourhood with my running buddy. It was great to try a new route. I also did strength-training.

Friday: 30′ easy, I did a little out and back on my lunch.

Saturday: Group WO, I was on my own for this one, but the others were doing some short faster stuff nearby. It was 40′ easy, 4km @marathon pace, 3km @marathon-half pace, 2km @half pace, 1km @10km pace, 10′ easy. During the 3km bit, there were some rolling hills (intentional) which made it challenging, but hopefully this will make me strong for Boston. I also did core.

Sunday: 2:20 easy for a 25km long-run. We ran out to Elk Lake, did a loop around the lake and then came back. This was a really enjoyable route offering a variety of trails and road, with some hills as well. I also did strength-training because it won’t fit into my day today.

Total Weekly Mileage: 88.8km

1st Half (marathon) Race Recap

This was my second time running the 1st Half in Vancouver. It would have been my third, but last year the race got cancelled due to inclement weather! Vancouver got a shocking amount of snow last year, normally not an issue. I kept my eye on the weather all week because this race is notorious for having crazy weather. The first time I did it, in 2016, it was a full-on monsoon. I remember a guy saying to me, “theres water in my shoes” around the 18km mark last time and thinking yeah man everyone’s in the same position.

In spite of all of this, we were very lucky with the weather this year. It was a crisp day for sure, but the sun was out, and the views were spectacular as ever. When it’s good it’s good. The race started at 8:30am, and our hotel was under 1km from the start, so we planned to run over at 8am. Breakfast was coffee, water and oats from Starbucks. The oats were very dry, so Jo and I poured an Endurance Tap on them, this made them so good!

Our warm-up was only 10 minutes, so we ran around Yaletown, ending up by the start to do our strides and then line-up in the corrals and take our pre-race gel. My focus was to stay on pace and in control to avoid burn-out later on in the race. The start of a race always feels amazing, especially when you have a full taper. The sun was shining, I was running alongside 1500 others in Vancouver and I never felt better. This was definitely reflected on my first 2 km, my pace was showing me running slow, I knew I wasn’t, but, I didn’t feel like I was going too fast.

The first 2km were 4:25 and 4:22, 10-13 seconds faster than my target pace. Km 3 and 4 were 4:50 and 4:30, there was an incline on km 3. Km 5 and 6 were both 4:38. My 5km split was 23:13 according to the race timing, a 4:38 average (this is 32 seconds faster than the sum of the 5km according to my watch). At some point early on the mileage on my watch stopped matching the km markers, and my current pace was never accurate for the duration of the race. I was essentially running on feel. Not what I wanted to do, but the only option. I knew there was a signal issue when I looked at my pace on the first km and it never got better.

Km 7 and 8 were both 4:45. I took my second gel at km 7. Km 9 and 10 were 4:43 and 4:29. My 10km split was 46:29, still a 4:38 pace. I was feeling great at this point. 11 and 12 were 4:40 and 4:32. 13 and 14 were 4:37 and 4:40 as per my Garmin. I knew the last few km of the race were hilly so I was mentally preparing for that.

At the 15km mark I was planning to take my final gel. That was around the time a wave of fatigue hit. I decided not to focus on it and power through. Having a wave of fatigue in a half with only 6km left is preferable to having it happen in a marathon because there is often double the distance left when the pain starts. Km 15 was 5:00! My 15km split was 1:09:56, average pace 4:39.

Km 16 and 17 were 4:41. 18 and 19 were apparently 5:20 and 5:17. This is the hilly portion. Just before the last climb between 19-20km, and as we began to climb a guy yelled, “I’m so excited!” As he picked up the pace, another guy beside me said, “wow, he’s got some pep”. I responded with, “yeah, let’s catch him”. He said, “you go for it”, so I began chasing him. Km 20 was the last bit of hill and 5:23? The last km is flat and then turns into downhill. I zeroed I’m on the peppy guy and caught him just before the finish. Due to the watch error km 21 shows up as only 560m and 2:48. My average pace for the last 6.1km was 4:32, so not quite the splits my watch said!

My finish time was 1:37:45, average pace 4:37.8/km. I was the 85th woman out of 777, and 21/80 for my category. I was happy with how this went, but I know I have more to give, sub 1:35 I’m coming for you!

Training Recap January 22-28, 2018

This week started out well and was supposed to be a larger week. Unfortunately that didn’t happen because I ended up with a wicked cold that prevented me from doing my Saturday workout. That being said, I am happy I got this cold out of the way now before training really ramps up.

Monday: OFF. I did strength training and core.

Tuesday: 50′ easy, got up early to get this done before work, it was very dark and raining, but I had company so that made it better. I also did core work.

Wednesday: Group WO, 7 Sisters (7 hills), this is always a solid workout and I was happy to do it.

Thursday: I did my strength training in the morning before work. I ran 75′ easy, along the ocean after work before heading over to Frontrunners to help out with the Saucony Winter Warrior event.

Friday: 40′ easy, woke up with a sore throat and thought it was just dry, but as the day progressed it became evident that it was in fact a cold.

Saturday: OFF. Sick, so no running for me. Instead I ran a Netflix marathon.

Sunday: 20km easy

Total Weekly Mileage: 60.5 km

Training Recap Jan 15-21

This week was good, it involved a 10km race, my second race of the season. Aside from that my easy runs are trending faster than usual and I do not know why. It will be interesting to see what happens this week.

Here is what I did last week:

Monday: OFF. I did strength training and core.

Tuesday: 45′ easy, I ran home from work with a detour for an errand.

Wednesday: Group workout, 20′ easy, 5′ @ tempo, 200m, 2 sets of: 600m, 400m, 200m, 20′ easy. This was hard! I also did core.

Thursday: 70′ easy, I met up with a running buddy and we did mostly road with a bit of trail in the bog. I also did strength training and core.

Friday: OFF.

Saturday: 30′ easy + 5 x 10” strides, did this with a running buddy, and then did core.

Sunday: 20′ easy, Cobble Hill 10km, 40′ easy. I will do a race recap later this week.

Total Weekly Mileage: 58.5 km

This week is a larger week, only 3 weeks to go until 1st Half, which is the next race on my roster.

10 Signs You’re Training for a Marathon

In just 3 months, I will be toeing the start line of the Boston Marathon. I feel like even if you didn’t know I was training for a marathon, after quick look through my room (and my Strava) it would become pretty obvious. Here are 7 signs you’re training for a marathon:

1. You’re super stocked up on run fuel.

Can’t train for a long-distance event without fuel, so I have a bunch on hand for all the long runs I’ll be doing leading up to race day.

2. This is the view from your bed.

These are the medals I have received since living in BC, and my acceptance card for Boston 2018. #motivation

3. Your hydration game is on point.

Hydration is obviously very important in life as well as in endurance training and I like to replenish electrolytes by using Nuun.

4. Your training journal lives next to your bed.

Though my training schedule is kept on an excel doc, I also like to have it written in a training journal. I write down what the run is, any notes about how it went, what shoes I wore as well as when I do strength training.

5. The answer to have you seen…on Netflix is almost always YES! Recovery is a major part of training and admittedly, I spend a lot of my recovery time watching Netflix. Always accepting recommendations! Just started Black Mirror.

6. You have a stock-pile of running shoes ready to wear.

Saucony is my preferred brand of running shoes, especially Kinvara’s and the Freedom ISO’s. I have run in Saucony’s for all 3 of the marathons I have done and plan to run in them in Boston as well.

7. You have pre-scheduled your sports massages for the entire training cycle. What can I say, runners tend to like structure, routine and planning oh and massages, duh.

8. Reading for pleasure is mostly made up of running content.

Other reading I have done recently includes a 46 page power point presentation on nutrition for marathon running. I plan to print out some of the key slides and post them on the fridge.

9. You use running as a means of transportation. I am a big fan of the run commute. Instead of spending the time and money to get home and then run, I run home instead. It allows me to run while there’s still daylight, and saves time. No brainer. I also “ran” an errand the other day during my run commute home.

10. When people ask what you’re doing this weekend, you send them this meme:

Or this one:

10.

Training Recap Jan 15-21

This week, I like thousands of others finished my Lululemon x Strava challenge. Congrats to everyone who completed it, it is great to see so many people getting out there and crushing winter miles. This week I decided to commit to doing strength training twice a week in addition to core, because I want to feel strong on the hills of Boston.

Here is what I did last week:

Monday: OFF. I did a strength training workout and some core.

Tuesday: 45′ easy,

Wednesday: I did a core workout before work (very unusual for me), and then our group workout was a series of 7 hills we typically do in the winter called the 7 sisters.

Thursday: 60′ easy, I ran home from work. I also did strength training.

Friday: 40′ easy, I ran to work. Really made the most of those run commutes this week.

Saturday: Group WO, 15′ easy, 3 sets of 11′ as 5’@4:30, 1’@4:20, 5’@4:30, 20′ easy. This was a bigger one, but it went well. I also did core.

Sunday: 120′ easy, headed out with 2 team-mates along Lochside, ended up passing through a race course (we stepped aside to let them go) and then continued on. We haven’t had a long run on Lochside in a while and made it all the way to the pigs, which is a landmark on long runs.

Total Weekly Mileage: 72.2 km

This week the mileage will increase and the second race of the year is next Sunday, not taper since it is not a goal race.

Training Recap January 1-7

So I haven’t done a training recap in 3 weeks, but rather than writing the most boring post ever with 3 weeks worth of runs, I’ll talk about last week and summarize the other 2.

I went to Toronto for Christmas from December 21-28. It was very cold, and very snowy. I ran anyway. It was definitely challenging trying to do a workout in the snow, it was hard to get good footing and I didn’t hit my paces, but the effort was there. My long run was challenging too, I feel like running in the snow takes more energy than usual. I did my final track workout while I was in  Toronto at the Monarch Park stadium, there is a 370m indoor track which I was happy to use. That workout went very well and it felt good to go fast instead of trudging through the snow.

I am back to running 6 days a week unless it is a race week, I haven’t done that since the fall when I was preparing for STWM, but since Boston is coming up in 3-months, it’s time to get serious again.

Here is what I did last week.

Monday: OFF

Tuesday: 45′ easy, I did a little out and back on Lochside, day one of the Lululemon x Strava challenge. I am going for 80km. I also did a core workout.

Wednesday: Group Wo, a bit of a lighter one in preparation for race day. 20′ easy, 1km @4:08, 4×90” @5km, 1km@4:03, 20′ easy. I also did an upper-body workout.

Thursday: 50′ easy, headed out on Lochside with my running buddy Binder.

Friday: OFF.

Saturday: 30′ easy and strides, the shortest Saturday run ever. I also went for a nice long walk on the beach with my friend and her dog, it was sunny and warm, about 8C!

Sunday: Race Day! 20′ easy, Pioneer 8km race, 30′ easy. Check out my Race Recap: Pioneer 8km 

Total Weekly Mileage: 49.4 km

Taper Recap Oct 16-22

This taper was more relaxed than I remember other ones being. I didn’t feel like I was over-caffeinated and buzzing the entire time in spite of not having extra coffee (this has been the case in the past). I didn’t feel like I was going crazy from the mileage decrease, in fact, I didn’t even register I was running a marathon until really the morning of.

Here is what my week consisted of leading up to race day:

Monday: OFF. I did the NTC core strength workout, but that was it for the week. When the mileage comes down, so does the cross training.

Tuesday: 50′ easy in Raincouver, did my second Ghost Race in a monsoon, but I love running the Seawall regardless of the weather.

Wednesday: Solo WO, 10′ easy, 3km@MP, 1km@10km, 20′ easy.

Thursday: 30′ easy, little jaunt around the neighbourhood before work, so dark in the morning now, I wore a headlamp!

Friday: OFF, travel day.

Saturday: 20′ easy, went to the beach for my shake-out run.

Sunday: 5′ easy, Toronto Waterfront Marathon, recap coming later this week.

Total Weekly Mileage: 69.9km