Corktown Common

Where the Don Valley Trail and Corktown Common meet. Photo via @graphicmatt.

Where the Don Valley Trail and Corktown Common meet. Photo via @graphicmatt.

Things like softball (we lost, as usual) and kicking the weekend off right (drinks with co-workers!) got in the way of running until Saturday morning. A new park opened up right by my house for the summer (it’s closing in the fall to add more elements), Corktown Common, and I wanted to check it out. Matt and I walked through the park. It’s beautiful and reminds me a lot of the Brickworks, but with more grassy areas for kicking back. Good job, Toronto.

It was humid and sticky, so I took it easy, with no real distance in mind. I wanted to run between 40 and 60 minutes and not hurt my knee, so I did exactly that. Zig-zagged through the park, headed up the Don Valley to the Bloor Viaduct and back again. It wasn’t my best run ever, but it wasn’t my worst. It was unremarkable at best.

The park is great, though. You should check it out.



The run: 8k in 48:20
The route:

bAAArre Works

What: bAAAre
When: Tuesdays @ 6 p.m.
Where: Barreworks (625 Queen St. West, 3rd Floor)
Who: Gerry King

A very, very long time ago a little place called Barreworks opened shop on Queen St. West and hasn’t looked back since. I did visit Barreworks those many, many months ago (more like a year ago now) and really enjoyed what the studio had to offer. As the newest and coolest dance-infused work out, all of a sudden anyone could achieve the benefits of a dancer’s body without having to be a dancer! How great does that sound? No wonder their classes are full beyond capacity each and every day! Which was exactly the case Tuesday evening when I visited the studio for a second time.

Getting ready for some bAAArre action!

Getting ready for some bAAArre action!

Today, Barreworks offers more classes than ever before, has a second (but smaller) studio, and opened a second location on Yonge St. With all these grand expansions, they still carry the same pleasantness as the day I last visited. After figuring out a minor issue of me attending the class — I was not registered and the class was full. Yikes! But Jasmine took good care of me and made sure I got into the class I wanted to take. bAAArre. And yes that’s how it’s spelled. With capital AAA. Which stand for Arms, Abs, and Ass! And holy smokes, my arms, abs, and ass are killing me today.

Barreworks were kind enough to invite Erin and myself to this new class of theirs, but Erin didn’t come with me. Thankfully, my friend and Barreworks advocate, Tiffany Astle, came instead (hi, Tiffany!). She’s been raving about this bAAArre class every time I’d see her. It was time to see for myself what triple A torture this class would put me through.

After a studio walkabout with Jasmine, I was introduced to Gerry (our teacher for the class). Gerry was energetic and excited — I can totally relate! — and made me really excited for class. This class was busy and right away the beats were blaring and our bodies were bumping. The intensity was high, and as I scoped out the room there were ladies in the class who’ve clearly been there before, there were you amateur Barre-ers, and newbies just like me! But regardless of your fitness level, stamina, or physical strength bAAArre is accessible to everyone. ┬áDon’t be fooled by the dance theme of Barreworks, bAAArre did not involve dancing of any sort. Okay, maybe we dance around a little bit, but it was nothing even I couldn’t handle.

Barreworks even offers SpinBarre! That's spinning & barre. Clever!

Barreworks even offers SpinBarre! That’s spinning & barre.

Gerry kept everyone entertained, working hard, and he kicked all our butts at the same time. His energy was hilarious and amazing. The class had just the right amount of variety, we touched on all the major points in the body we needed to without going overboard. I left wanting more. Gerry, I would come back to your class in a heartbeat.

Barreworks only downer is the cost. It is expensive to join: a drop in class is $21 plus tax and packages range from $95 to $750 depending on how many classes you buy, but, this would be a workout worth committing to. The basic exercises do not require a lot of things (you could do this on your own) but the dynamic class energy would be extremely hard to mimic. The studio environment would make each visit a good experience even if you didn’t want to be there. I would think this specific workout would require at least a 3 times per week commitment to see optimal results, but who am I to say. Therefore, I am saying, investing in an unlimited month membership would be you’re best bet. At least for a month and see for yourself.

Take this class if: You want the results of a tough workout without having to do any thinking.

Run a marathon. Now it’s my turn!

So everyone (yes everyone!) knows about Erin and her journey to run the Blue Nose Marathon, which was just over a month ago how crazy is that?! This will forever be a super accomplishment! Anyone dedicated enough to put their body through that much work, pain, social separation, deserves all the praise possible. Yay, Erin, you did it! For all these reasons and more, I must run a marathon. If you followed the original “Let’s run a marathon together” story more closely, you may recall the plan was intended for Erin and I to train together and run the race. Together. That was until my Moksha Teacher Training got in the way and messed up my running plans completely. Oh well. You can’t do it all and I would not have it happen any other way. Erin ran a marathon first and I’m now a yoga teacher. It’s all good. With that aside, it’s officially my turn to run a full marathon this fall. And I just signed up for a summer marathon training clinic which means it’s really happening. For reals!

What have I done?!!

What have I done?!!

I love reminiscing about my summer of running and fundraising with Team In Training – it was pretty much a year to the day my half marathon training all began. But instead of doing the whole TNT thing all over again (once was more than enough, trust me) I conveniently discovered my teacher/mentor/hero Alice Toyonaga (aka. ChatterRunGirl) is hosting a marathon clinic with the Running Room this very summer. That means it was now or never. And knowing full well that I would not be able to take on the art of training and running on my own. No way! Who has the time or the interest? Not me that’s for sure. But put me in a setting were all of a sudden I’m accountable and people expect me to run, then by all means I will not disappoint. So I did it. I signed up for Alice’s Running Room Clinic — now I have to take this seriously — I just paid money for this. It was the only way. Either that or convince Cecilley to run a full marathon with me?… I picked the clinic.

The other fantastic plan I’ve devised is to make my marathon training one of my Moksha Teacher Distance Learning Projects. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do! How? I’m not entirely sure at the moment, but on top of my training and running and all of my other things, I’ve recently bought Brendan Brazier’s The Thrive Diet. I picked up a copy back in LA post training (thanks, Morgan!) and could not put it down. My project will combine my training with eating the Thrive Diet.

Here's hoping that Brendan and Vega will save me!

Here’s hoping that Brendan and Vega will save me!

But before I tackle the details of my next project, the very next step is to pick a race! Any suggestions for late September or early October marathon I could run? Tell me! Please.

yoga at lunch

Unrelated cat photo.

Unrelated cat photo.

After the race, I decided to take a few days off. This was because I wanted to protect my knee, but also because Toronto is now a rainforest, where it alternated between being insanely humid and insanely rainy. WHAT IS HAPPENING? And while I don’t mind working out in the rain, I hate working out in the humidity.

This is probably why I’ll never run a fall marathon. Running in humidity: Yuck yuck yuck.

However, this rest-up-be-happy plan backfired when on Tuesday morning, I was very, very grumpy. (Side note: my mom’s Brownie leader name was Grumpy Owl. Hilarious!) This probably had as much to do with the weather as it did with my lack of working out, so I decided to be a grown-up and deal with it. I went to lunch time yoga. It helped, for a while. But by the end of the day, I was grumpy, grumpy, grumpy again. Ugh. I think it’s my “month of fun” as much as it is the weather. I need purpose. I thrive on purpose. So once I got home, I went for a run, the purpose being seeing how messed up my knee is.

It was okay. Everything was sore and creaky, but nothing was scary. Then I got home and everything was better.

Exercise can be magical.



The run: 4.9k in 28:54
The route:


Race Recap: Port Union 10k

Post-race, pre-swim glow.

Post-race, pre-swim glow.

Way back when, when JK told me she was going to do a 10k in the spring, I told her I’d do it with her. I want all my friends to be runners (so I look less crazy, ha!) and want to support them, the way awesome other runner friends have supported me. And I like racing. Win-win. She picked the race, the Lions Port Union Waterfront 10k, and it looked great: small, cheap, by the water, and far enough past my marathon that I should be fully recovered.

I didn’t anticipate coming down with an epic case of runner’s knee. So instead of being excited about the race, I was really, really nervous.

Race morning, I got up and got my bike. I stowed my Newtons in my bag, just in case. But as I rounded the back laneway, I made a last-second decision to ditch the regular shoes and go with the Newtons. This knee wasn’t going to get better on it’s own. I tossed my regular runners over my fence (where the would eventually get drenched sitting in my garden) and headed to Union Station, where I met JK.

This race is a 5 minute walk from the Rouge Hill GO station. Win. The morning was overcast and not too warm. Win. We got there early, registered and chilled by the beach until game time. Win. JK’s been pretty fast with her training runs, so my plan was to stick close to her until the knee gave out. It wasn’t a goal race for me, so I wasn’t worried about saying “uncle” if I needed to.

Who am I kidding? This was the last thing I wanted to do. But running has taught me patience and humility. Or at least I hope it has. This was the race to put it to the test.

photo 1

The race was small and informal. It had official chip timing, but it actually began when the race director yelled “3-2-1-GO!” JK and I stuck together, but the narrow path meant the first kilometre was all about dodging runners. To my surprise, my knee didn’t hurt. It didn’t feel right, but it didn’t hurt. Immense relief.

After a km, we made a turn and headed into the woods, along the river. JK and I had settled into a fast pace, with me running about 5 metres ahead of her. After the 2.5k turnaround point for the 5k runners, the path thinned out a lot, which I was happy about. And it started to rain. Nothing serious, just enough to feel refreshed.

We trucked along, banking minutes for the sub-1:00 goal we had briefly discussed but hadn’t set in stone. I felt good, until about the 4km mark. I began to believe it was only a matter of time before I heard a snap. But things held off, and the course got fun, with mud and hills and twists and turns. I grabbed a water at the 5k turnaround (which we hit in 27:11) and gave myself a little walking break, until JK yelled “Let’s go, Balser!” as she passed me. Jerk. So I picked it up.

photo 2

Kilometres 5-8 were good. My legs felt strong and we were pushing the pace. The course was cool and shady, so I wasn’t worried about overheating. We again settled into me running just ahead of JK (notice a pattern?!). Around 8, though, my calves lit up. A running friend and minimalist devotee warned me this would happen as my legs adjust to the new running form. Since it didn’t feel like a “bad” pain, just a growing one, I eased up a teeny bit, but concentrated on powering through.

That last kilometre, though, was death. The sun came out just long enough for us to have a sunny last sprint. JK still had gas in the tank (HOW?!) so we picked up the pace. I was exhausted and my calves were sore, but once JK waved off my “go for it!” I didn’t want to let her down and we paced each other in. Once we had 100 metres left, we booked it to the finish, ending with 52:33 on the clock.

That’s a 2 minute PB for me and a lightning fast first 10k for JK.

We think the course was about 500 metres short, but this doesn’t bother me. We didn’t come for accuracy, we came for a great day. With that in mind, after we ate our bagels and bananas and water, we jumped in the lake as the rain dumped down, hard.

It was glorious.

Everything came together for this race. It was easy to get to, low-key and beautiful. And my knee didn’t crap out and I got to swim. For $25, I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Except more dry clothes.

Thanks, JK, for running this race with me and kicking ass.



The run: 10k in 52:33
The route:

Run club

Run club! Photo via @andiethefitgeek.

Run club! Photo via @andiethefitgeek.

I had Thursday evening free and wanted to get at least one more hard run in before the weekend race with JK, so I decided to go to run club and wear the Newtons. It was all regulars, so Andie decided we should head down to the waterfront. We did pretty much the exact same route I did solo the day before and we faced the same problems: construction, tourists and tall ships. But it was gorgeous weather-wise, and being by the water makes life better.

For the first half of the run, my knee was okay. I was aware of it, but it didn’t feel 100%. This changed around 3k — for the worse. It hurt. A lot. I powered through because I am an idiot, and couldn’t walk for the most of the night. It was all about ice, ice, baby, until bedtime.

I’m getting scared.



The run: 5.4k in 29:34
The route:

Lunch run

It was a busy week and I was getting antsy, so on Wednesday, I headed out for a quick lunch time loop in the Newtons to see how they roll. It was perfect mid-day running weather: sunny, but not too hot.

I headed down to the waterfront, where they are setting up for the Tall Ships festival. This was a mistake. Between the construction and the tourists and the set-up, I was dodging and weaving the entire time. At least I was near the water! My legs felts heavy and I couldn’t find a rhythm. I don’t know if it was my knee or my constant thinking about my knee. I’ve decided this is enough of this wish washy stuff. I’m booking a physio appointment and after my race on Saturday, giving up running for at least a week to fix this thing. Know a good therapist?



The run: 4.8k in 29:11
The route:

Playing some ball

Not my team. Not my field. Same general concept.

Not my team. Not my field. Same general concept.

On Tuesday night, we had our second softball game. I learned something important.

I am terrible at softball.

Well, not really. But the plan was for me and another girl to trade off outfield and second base, but after I fumbled two grounders, I was permanently relegated to outfield for the rest of the game. Grrr. It was frustrating, because I am competitive and expect too much from myself.

I want to blame my lack of prescription sunglasses, but really it’s because it’s been way too long since I’ve played softball regularly. I just need to practice more.

Our team lost. Then I met up with Matt and watched the Jays win and all was well in the world.



Monday night run

Semi-related trail photo!

Semi-related trail photo!

I wanted to get one last long run in before the race this weekend. My week is jam-packed with softball and book launches, so Monday evening it was. For a few days beforehand, I was even toying with running 12k, maybe even 14k, that night. My knees thought otherwise.

On the weekend, we went to a family thing, and Matt’s mom seemed confident that my knee issues are related to overuse and lack of stretching. This makes sense to me: my yoga practice practically disappeared once I starting running over 30k on my long runs and I haven’t been going more than once a week since my marathon, despite my best intentions. Around 2k, the knees became overwhelming. It’s not that it’s too painful to run. Instead, I’m getting in my own head, worried they will get worse if I don’t stop. I stopped, stretched, turned around and made it through 6 more kms before I ended the run. Overall, it was tough, but uneventful.

And since that family party, I’ve been stretching and foam-rolling like crazy. We’ll see how it goes.



The run: 8.3k in 50:40
The route:

Running and biking

I need these chairs in my life.

I need these chairs in my life.

It was a busy week in Balser-land, so there wasn’t a lot of fitness going on. I went to lunch time yoga on Wednesday, partied like a poet on Thursday (dancing in giant shoes counts as working out, right?) and was a little worse for wear on Friday. I had epic Saturday plans: get up early, run to the Brickworks, then go home and island it up with Matt.

Then I slept in until almost 11, which is crazy late for me. So I modified my plans and pounded out a mid-day 10k run before we went to the island. The run was hot and my knees hurt like hell. This is starting to scare me, so I’m going to book a physio appointment soon, just to be safe.

The island was insanely busy (probably because we’ve had so few nice days), but Matt and I are evil geniuses who know how to avoid the line (buy pre-paid tickets). We biked and biked and biked and biked and when we were ready to eat, we had a problem: our go-to island venues were closed for weddings. Oops. So we headed back to the mainland, got some beer and watched the Jays win.

I am suddenly very into baseball this summer. I love it. I cannot explain it.

Sunday was double market day in Leslieville (farmers and flea) and I planned to run the short 3k there in the Newtons. But it was pouring. Kendal and I braved the weather anyway, and I felt like a bad-ass buying produce in a downpour.

And that was the week. I race in 6 days. I want to make it through the 10k without getting even more injured, then I’m going to back off and focus on getting pain-free. It’s the right time to do it, as I don’t have any plans, race-wise, until the fall.



The run: 9.7k in 1:01:34
The route: