Race Recap: Harry Spring Run-Off 8k


I signed up for the Harry Spring Run-Off way back in the fall, when I was still mapping out my marathon training. 8k seemed manageable for a race distance (especially after Around the Bay) and I’d heard good things about it. So, why not? It threw a bit of a wrench into our Easter weekend plans, but whatevs! I had a race to run! Free swag to claim! It was a lovely day for a race. I learned Jill is a running superstar (I need to find a new sport to dominate!). I ran steadily, but sorely and while I am disappointed I didn’t run sub-48 (my chip time was 49:37), I can’t complain too much. This wasn’t a goal race. I didn’t train with an 8k PB in mind. I was there to have fun.


Jill and I after our races!

The good:

1) It was a beautiful day

Can’t complain with sunny, single degree weather for a race!


2) I ran the whole damn thing

It’s only 8k, but still. Before Harry, I had only been out twice since ATB — one 10k and one 11k effort around the neighbourhood. It doesn’t take much for the swelling in the feet and the bruised toes to start aching. And when you’re trying to run 5:50 kilometres, it only gets worse. It’s a hilly, challenging course, so the fact I hung in there for the entire ride is something to be proud of. It’s the little victories.


3) Jill is a running superstar

This was the first race where my priority was someone else. It was a lot of fun to amp Jill up, calm her down and cheer her on. It took the focus off me and my race, which was good since it was supposed to be for FUN. REMEMBER? RUNNING IS FUN! It was great seeing Jill kill it for her first-ever race. I won’t spoil too much (her race recap is coming later), but I am proud of her. And jealous.

The bad:

1) I went out too fast

The first two kilometres were 5:35s. There are two problems with that: I can’t sustain 5:35s and the first part of the course is the easy part of the course. Eventually, I slowed down to 6:30ish over the rest of the course. (I can probably go faster, I just need to believe in myself. And do more speedwork.)


2) My hip and I are not friends

My left hip has been aching more than usual, and the not-so-nice guy showed up around the 3k mark. It wasn’t anything insurmountable, but it worried me. I think all it really means is that I need new running shoes (my current puppies have nearly 1000k on them), but anything that points to an injury FREAKS ME OUT. I need to learn to stop freaking out. And ice things.


3) The course was boring

I love running in High Park, but the 8k route is a tad repetitive. You loop through the crowds twice before heading out to the 5k route. If I ever run this race again, I’m sticking with the 5k.



The conclusion?

Not every race needs to be about accomplishments and goal setting. Sometimes you can run a race just for the hell of it.

Now I need to go buy new shoes!




The run: 8.0k in 49:37

The route:

My week in Costa Rica – Day 4

Today was free day! The day you could do what ever you like. Sadly, the planned excursion of white water rafting (which I totally would have done!) didn’t coordinate with our yoga schedule. Oh well, there is always next time, as my new future plan is to move to Costa Rica, invest in some real estate, and start up my very own coffee shop. I see no downside to this plan. The real challenge will be convincing my future investors this is a brilliant idea. Mom and Dad, just hear me out. A family business will be grand, I promise. Why wouldn’t you want to live in Costa Rica for part of the year and work? My mother is turning 60 this summer (now she’s going to kill me for letting that one slip), I see this as a new retirement move for her and my Dad.

The whole coffee shop plan didn’t just come to me in a dream (although a reoccurring one since then). I was inspired!

This particular day started off with a “regular” Jackie styled flow class, where we took into practice the method of Uddiyana Bandha. This deep belly breathing is invigorating and blasts bursts of energy into your practice when used correctly. There are different ways to use the bandha, but is most often used during a vinyasa sequence. Also, do not try this on a full stomach. Once you see, you’ll understand why.

Jackie told us to practice this at home and try coordinating it into our regular practice. Honestly, you’ll feel energized and fired up when you do. This is also a secret tacit used in shoulder stands — something else Jackie taught me. I’m so close now to my hand stand I can feel it. Catching the bandha is a way to lift yourself in to an inversion. Again, best attempted hours after eating.


Jackie instructing us to stand on our heads! I may have been the instigator of this.


My afternoon was spent by the pool, practicing inversions, then Jackie and Brendan took a few of us to town to their favourite hang out spot (before and after, they hiked to the beach and back). This was how they spent their first few days in Costa Rica before the students arrived. Other retreaters went to the national park for the afternoon, which Cecilley (my new work friend who I easily convinced to come on this retreat with me) and I decided to do later in the week. I really wanted to stand on my head, okay. And I really wanted to see this coffee shop Jackie, Brendan, Moira and Allison loved so much. I found out why. This dear place was too cute for words and all began when two people from the US met on the beach in Quepos and decided to move to there and start up a coffee shop together. End of story! Okay, so there is more to the story then that, but it happened and it can happen for me. My own Cafe Milagro still flutters in my mind.

After our delicious coffees we hiked down the mountain to the beach where the waves were insane and the view was picturesque. We frolicked in the waves then realized what time it was. Yin with Brendan began at 5pm, but Brendan was with us! We sprinted to the bus, hopped on for dear life and made it back just in time for class. Thanks goodness for speedy Costa Rican transit.


On our way to the beach, before heading down the mountain!


Now to help you understand the bandha, a video:


How to stay fit on a cruise


Last week, Matt and I took a cruise. We went to the Caribbean on the Grand Princess, to be exact. Now, once you get over the fact that two twenty-somethings went cruising (and, weirdly, freakishly enjoyed it to the fact we’re probably going to do it again), the following questions will enter your head: But, Erin, aren’t cruises decadent? Aren’t the food options not very healthy and totally overwhelming? Aren’t you on a boat? How do you stay fit on a boat?


I was on a boat! This boat, to be exact.


The answers to those questions are, respectively: yes, yes, yes, and why let me tell you!


1) Take advantage of the fitness centre


The fitness centre! Not bad, eh?

Every cruise ship has a gym. The one on the Grand Princess has a weight room and a general assortment of exercise machines. Cruises are very much about routine, so if you get in one early (ie. tell yourself “I’ll go to the gym every morning at 9” then actually do it), fitting in fitness isn’t all that hard. Because I was “tapering” (aka being lazy), I didn’t hit up any of the machines. But lots of people did.

2) Sign up for classes

Our cruise had two kinds of classes: drop-in classes that cost $12 and free classes. The $12 classes included yoga, pilates and spinning. The free classes included stretching, Chillax (which is a code name for yoga), and ab work-outs. If you don’t want to pay the top-up for the special classes, don’t! I enjoyed the Chillax classes more than the paid yoga classes. They were 30 minutes long, offered on port days and — for some reason — no one goes to the free classes. I took Chillax three times and the largest class was five people.  One day, there was two of us in the class. Where else can you get an almost personal fitness session for, essentially, free?!  Mind you, the space for the classes was right next to the treadmills, so it felt like doing yoga in a Goodlife, and not in a proper yoga studio. But there was a snazzy view of the ocean.

The yoga classes were after the ab classes and before the pilates class. I didn’t do them, but I got to watch. Those classes could easily kick your ass.


3) Choose active excursions


Me, hiking! Thanks to my lovely fellow hikers for snapping this pic without my knowledge. I was learning things from our guide. Jon Angelo. Exercise can be educational.

Most excursions involve trolley tours or museum tours or boat tours. But some will involve diving or snorkeling or golfing or hiking. Choose those excursions. They are usually smaller (one of the benefits with cruising with a less mobile generation) as well as fun. In Aruba, I signed up for the Hiking/Swimming/Shopping excursion. We were bussed out to Arikok National Park and did a 5k loop through some scenic landscapes. I learned a lot about Aruba’s history and ecosystems and worked up a good sweat while doing so. (It was 37 degrees that day, which probably aided in the sweat production). It was just like Envirothon, but with more cacti. Then we went to the beach, where I did laps in the roped-off swimming area. Swimming in the ocean is awesome.


You can also climb trees at the beach. It totally counts.

4) Eat smart

This is probably the toughest thing to do. There is food everywhere! The secret is to be smart at the buffet. Take the smaller plates inside, not the giant plates they hand you at the entrance. Head straight for the salad bar. Do not linger at the stations where they cooked potatoes 87 different ways. You will end up eating only potatoes. Most mornings, I made a fruit salad. Most lunches, I made a regular salad. For example, on taco and burrito day, I made a taco salad with lettuce, corn, peppers, tomatoes, beans, salsa, guacamole and corn chips, even though it wasn’t technically on the menu. Easy! The vegetable offerings were plentiful, so I could make a different salad every day. When I wanted a snack, I popped by the buffet and grabbed a banana or an apple to munch on.

Dinners were a bit tougher, but eventually Matt and I gave up on the sit-down dining experience to eat at the buffet every night (hint: of the four nights were did this, three had the exact same menu in the dining room and the buffet). The in-room dining options were not veg-friendly and the dining room options were often too heavy for my liking. By choosing the casual buffet, I got to sample what the kitchen was making without overloading, complement the meal with a salad of my choice and — bonus! — eat outside. All the traditional dining options on board are indoors. But the back pool? The deck emptied once it got dark out, and no one, except Matt and I, seemed to enjoy dining al fresco. It was win-win.

And stay away from the dessert buffet. It’s not worth it.


5) Drink smart

I drank A LOT on this cruise. But you’re supposed to, right? I  was on vacation, after all. Matt and I stuck to the classic “get drunk and stay awake” concoction of our choice: rum and cokes.  They were perfect in the Caribbean heat and — bonus! — are much lower in carbs and calories than our beloved beer. (If you want to be really smart, don’t drink at all. But that’s not my style.)


How do you stay fit on vacation? Share your tips with us!



The Toronto Yoga Show

On Sunday, April 1, Jill and I headed over to the Toronto Yoga Show. Thanks to her endless presence at Moksha Downtown and her eco-friendly job, she managed to score a few free passes, and chose to take me. Hooray!

Having never been to a yoga trade show, I was unsure of what to expect. Now, after completing just one, I can tell you: it’s exactly what you think it is. There’s lots of socially conscious and extremely expensive clothing, lots of people trying to convince you to get your posture checked and plenty of Toronto studios letting you know that they are the very best studio in the city.

The yoga community weirds me out a little bit, not going to lie. I’ve always struggled with middle class North America misappropriating and commercializing the non-exercise aspects of yoga. This presence was definitely felt at the show, but it wasn’t overwhelming. Plus, Jill and I got to do cool things, like a suspension yoga demonstation and a partner yoga workshop.

The partner yoga workshop was in the yoga garden at the centre of the show. We decided to come to the show about an hour before the workshop, walk the floor, take the class, then head home.

On the floor, Jill won a free class to Yoga Tree (jealous!), discovered Three Minute Egg Yoga Blocks (I want some) and generally moaned that our Lulu Lemon yoga bags are too small for all the crap we carry.


Spin the wheel, win a prize!


Then we finally caved and stopped at one of thos chiropractor booth. Thanks to all my running, my body is constantly in some state of pain. Thanks to a slightly pushy salesperson, I learned that my right shoulder is higher than my left, my left hip is higher than my right and I put 10% more weight on my left foot when I run, walk or event stand. So, all those times I’ve had knee problems in yoga or hip problems in running — I should blame my weight distribution. Jill had the same problem, but on the flip side (high left shoulder, high right hip). After the suggested we purchase their expensive consultation (which we declined), we decided to blame our mother for our less-than-perfect bodies. Genetics. You can always blame genetics.


We finally proved, once and for all, that I am taller.


Next, we headed over to a Suspension Yoga demonstation. A new studio, OmGym, opened up in Leslieville recently. I hopped in the swing and flipped upside down. The head rush you get is intennnnnse. You eventually get used to it, and it’s pretty fun being upside down. The instructor spoke of the health benefits (blood to your brain makes you smarter, being upside down helps you digest better, it helps circulation, blah blah blah), and after a few minutes I was ready to be right side up again.

I want to try a class (the whole thing is not upside down, thank goodness!), but it sounded pricey, so we will see.


Can you tell how dizzy I am?


Finally, we headed to the partner workshop. Sebastian Kowilak and Kaelyn Wong led us through an hour of a 8 Limbs, 2 Hearts Partner Yoga Flow class. The verdict? Partner yoga is fun! It takes you deeper into poses than you can go by yourself and it’s inherently  child-like, playful and silly. I’ve alywas been wary of partner work in my other classes, but since it was Jill (and, let’s face it, we did poses like this when we were 8 and 9 for kicks, not realizing it was yoga), any shyness or concern melted away.  I can’t wait to take a proper workshop with this team.


This is not the partner class. But you get the idea.


In conclusion? The Yoga Show was a decent way to spend an afternoon. I wouldn’t purchase a pass next year, but if you can score one for free, by all means check it out.




Monday Miles: Marathon Training Weeks #10, #11, #12

And I’ve been lazy on this recapping my marathon training. Again. Let’s catch up, shall we?


Week 10

Monday: rest

The Sunday before, I had a bit of a break down. I was tired and sore and wanted a break from running. So I took one.

Tuesday: 12.1k, Hot hour @ Kula

On Tuesday, I freaked out about my breakdown and how it might affect my mileage for the week. So I took the (very) long way to yoga. I need to do yoga after a run more often. It’s a great balance of winding yourself up, then winding yourself down.

Wednesday: 24.2k

Because Matt and I were going on vacation on the weekend and taking off on Friday, I wanted to get my weekly long run in before we left. We were headed on a cruise (I know, we are 85 years old), and the thought of doing a long run in the Florida heat or on a boat did not seem appealing. I did the same route as my last long run, which got a bit scary in the dark. I was all alone! I couldn’t see a thing! But I survived! (I’m glad summer is coming so it won’t get dark at 7pm anymore.)

Thursday: rest

I ran 24.2km the day before. Why, yes, I’ll take a day off.

Friday: 10.1k

I took Friday off work to do a few errands and get a longer run in before Matt and I headed to the airport. I ran along the Martin Goodman Trail to Cheery Beach, a route that I don’t run in the winter because it gets dark and scary. It was a good run, but my legs felt tired. So tired.

Saturday: 4.2k

When we landed in Fort Lauderdale, we realized our hotel (which we scored on HotWire) was in the middle of nowhere. It did, however, have a track that ran along the nearby highway that was about a a kilometre in length, out and back. I ran that 3 times, then did a slow loop around the GIGANTIC parking lot before giving up. It was only 4.2k, but it wasn’t pretty.

Sunday: 30 minutes of Chillax

On Sunday, we got on the boat! I’ll write about how to stay fit on a cruise in more detail in a future post, but on the first day, I did their free mini-yoga class and it was grand.


Week 11

This was the week on the boat. Hurrah!

Monday: 45 minutes of yoga

The boat offered two kinds of yoga: free 30 minute classes and for-fee 45 minute classes. I decided to sign up for the paid classes on the at sea days. They were very slow classes, as they are designed for a cruises primary clientele: senior citizens. It was awesome.

(I also got a massage on this day and my body was so tense that the masseuse nearly cried. Apparently, I am a very tense person. I am not surprised.)

Tuesday: 5k hike, 30 minutes of Chillax

Tuesday was our first port day, so I signed up for a hike through Aruba’s National Park. (Again, I’ll write this up in more detail soon!) It was fun. When I got back on the boat, I did my new favourite thing: chillaxing.

Wednesday: 30 minutes of Chillax

I think you’re getting to know the drill by now.

Thursday: 45 minutes of yoga

This class was weirdly hard. The poses weren’t difficult, and the pace was slow to extremely slow, but my muscles just were not having it today.

Friday: rest

Ha! Because I so needed it! We spent all day on a beach in the Bahamas. I expect you to be jealous.

Saturday: rest

This was the day we got off the boat and flew from Fort Lauderdale to Toronto. So if you count fidgeting in aiports as excercise, then, why yes, I worked out today.

Sunday: Around the Bay 30k

So, one would think that taking a cruise immediately before a race would be a terrible idea. If you think that, you would be wrong! It was the best thing ever. (This may not be true for people who follow training plans correctly. But it was true for me. I’m trying to convince Matt we need to take a cruise before all my big races. So far, he refuses. But one day…) I recapped the race here, if you want to read about the whole thing! I know you do.

Week 12

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday: rest

This week was bananas at work. Other than Monday, a day during which I could barely move, I had a work event or social event every single night. I didn’t unpack. I didn’t relax. I didn’t run. I partied, partied, partied.

I’m also freaking out about my toenails. Two of them are turning black. I can barely wear shoes right now. I’m pretty sure running this week would have been painful and caused them to fall off. Considering I’m supposed to be training for a marathon right now, I’m not sure what to do. I’ve never lost a toenail before.

EXPERIENCED RUNNERS: Is my freaking out rational? Is considering abandoning my marathon because my toes are black rational? Help me out here!

Saturday: 90 minutes flow @ Kula

I joined my good pal JK for my first post-ATB workout. The yoga class was HARD, and not just because I was still sore and my right foot was betraying me. It was hard because the teacher decreed it so. But it felt good to move again.

Sunday: 60 minute partner yoga workshop

Jill and I went to the Toronto Yoga Show (full recap to come!) and checked out a partner yoga workshop. Partner work has freaked me out in yoga classes before, but this was actually fun! (Probably because it was with someone I know, not the random person who just so happened to put their mat next to mine).



This week, I need to get back into running. Even though the break before and after ATB were both much-needed, I need to step up my game.

Now, in honour of my cruise, here is the song I sang constantly to Matt before, during and after enjoying the tranquil waters of the Caribbean: