My Way to Saint James

One of our last sunsets in Montesquieu. Has nothing to do with my pilgrimage, it's just stunning!

One of our last sunsets in Montesquieu. Has nothing to do with my pilgrimage, it’s just stunning!

Now that a week has past since the marathon Cecilley and I have had a few days to unwind and think. More sight seeing in Paris lead to perfect evenings picnicking in a park, dinning over lunch in the coolest of places, then leaving the beautiful city to do the se time in our next favourite city Bordeaux. We’re now approaching our 6 month travelling anniversary – I know I can’t believe it either! – I’ve been mentally and physically all over the place looking back at the time that’s past. Bali was a huge wake up call, Tokyo made me cry it was so cool, London took my breath away, and Paris stole my heart. With each new stamp on my passport comes stories and experiences I’ll take with me to my grave. But each place also came with its own struggles, personal hurdles, and time to reflect. Which is exactly what I want and need at this half way point. I need a new challenge one of personal gratitude and self reflection. I need to find my way.

What else am I to do? What does one do now, now that her marathon is over, perhaps needs to shed some access weight because of her new French lifestyle, and then realizes how close Spain actually is to France? The answer came to me one night in the tiny village of Montique after a movie night at Little French Retreat. After watching the 2010 Emilio Estevez film The Way. She decides to take on the voyage many pilgrims before her have done. She walks. She walks El camino de Santiago.

The last supper in Bordeaux. Things I will miss on the trail!

The last supper in Bordeaux. Things I will miss on the trail!

April 12, 2014 will forever be the day Cecilley and I started our own historic pilgrimage. Trekking the scenic coast of Spain all the way to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela we will stand before the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great himself. This grand journey should take us about month and a half. If all goes according to plan. Only time will tell, it’s a long road ahead. But one we’re both ready for!

And so, I bid you all adieu as it’s hard to say when I will have internet access again. I will give updates along my way when I can. But I will promise another full story in the end (another to add to the list!). It’s time to turn off distractions and dive into the world around me. Feet first and one step at a time.

Bon voyage!!

Race recap: Marathon de Paris

Ah, the Eiffel Tower. Taking it all in once again!

Ah, the Eiffel Tower. Taking it all in once again!

I am officially a two time marathoner! Whooo it feels good to finally say that! But this accomplishment did not come as easily as I would have liked. Hell, this marathon actually sucked in comparison to my last. Like everyone has said to me “marathons are supposed to be hard”. And they are right. Otherwise everyone would do it. We’ll just go with it and take pride in the fact it’s over and I did it.

Of course I’m going to explain all the reasons why it wasn’t so great, but before I jump in to a huge rant, I have to say this under taking did come with many, many benefits I should be (and am!) hugely grateful for. One being I ran a marathon in Paris for goodness sakes. The most beautiful city in the world. I was there and did it! Enough said. Now for the rant, or what I am referring to as The 7 Unlucky Lessons I Learned About Running a Marathon. As I mentioned earlier the whole experience wasn’t All bad. I will get to the good stuff later. Like seeing the beauty pictured above for the third time (and still counting).

I realized after the race was over I made a lot of mistakes this time around. 2013-2014 has seemed to take on a common pattern, one I am not a fan of, the “Jill’s running slower season”. You can see already why I am not totally impressed with my marathon finishing time. After you run one marathon aren’t you supposed to get faster?! I was over 15 minutes slower finishing at 4:35:16. This is not a good track record if I want a sub 4 time by marathon number three. Third times a charm is what I’m living by. Good thing marathon number three has been decided and already booked (eh, Juile?!).

The day before my race was a bit of a scatter-ball kind of day. Cecilley and I just finished our workaway gig in the South of France (don’t worry you will hear the whole story in a post of its own) and landed in the beautiful city of Bordeaux. We stayed with a lovely lady Jane (hi, Jane!) we met through our workaway host, Tamsin, but having missed a day because of packing delays, we stayed two nights which scheduled us to arrive in Paris the day before my marathon. Yikes! We got into Paris rather late in the day on Saturday, which didn’t help my feels of overwhelming anxiousness, nervousness, and a weird sense of depression. Needless to say I was a basket case. I was mentally drained, agitated from the three and a half hour train ride from Bordeaux to Paris, and without a solid plan for the day ahead. I was a disaster. Which leads me to my 7 unlucky mistakes.

My marathon organized mess!

Mistake number one:
I did not properly hydrated the day before.

For all the reasons I mentioned above and more. When we got on the train I bought some water which was fine, but I was stupid about the whole thing. I didn’t drink enough when I woke up, before we left, or even when I got to my place of rest. Big, big mistake! You need to be hydrating throughout the day, and this goes for the few days before as well.

Mistake number two:
I did not hydrate properly before the race.

Another big, big mistake. Water is your friend make sure to drink enough to keep you comfortable, not too much to the point of cramping, but more in good timing, is better than not enough. I did not have nearly enough as I should have.

Mistake number three:
I ate too late in the evening and didn’t eat frequently enough the day before.

Because Cecilley and I had a train to catch Saturday afternoon I was more worried about getting my bib number and getting to the expo before closing time than anything else. it was proven later we did have plenty of time, so all the while I wasted precious time on hostility and worry when I should have been focusing on proper nutrition and taking care of myself. I ate an excellent breakfast in the late morning, but nothing else until arriving in Paris other than a few snacks on the train. Food is just as important as hydrating. But it’s not only the meal the night before, but the few days leading up. My month long French diet of wine, cheese, and bread probably didn’t aid in the situation, so really I can’t blame it all on the night before. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve put on 10 pounds since my arrival in France – which would obviously have slowed me down! France is another dangerous Eat.Pray.Love kind of country and that’s exactly what has happened to me. Bottom line to this mistake is pay attention to what you’re eating and maintain a healthy balance of good food. Which also means no wine. Bummer!

Mistake number four:
I went to bed late the night before.

This was also another factor from the days events, but in addition to my stress level, my full tummy late in the evening, settling into a place that’s not my own, feeling like I’ve dumped my whole life along with my baggage (both literally and figuratively) on poor Shawn Oliver from Digby. I wasn’t able to settle down at a reasonable time. There was to much happening and too much to think about.

Mistake number five:
I did not run enough long runs during my training.

This became evident when I hit 30k. I always knew I had it in me to finish the race, but I took that fact for serious granted. I have to say traveling and training together have not been easy. Yes, there were times (like in London) when running was fun and social and I was running frequently. But the real problem turned out to be that I wasn’t running far enough. I dreaded those Sundays when I had to run 29+ kilometers on my own in an unfamiliar place. I could have been better prepared and planned my routes in advance, but that felt like too much work and it was proven I’d get lost no matter what. So most runs I’d just wing it. I also didn’t have any commitments to run. I was my own boss, so if I wasn’t up for it I wouldn’t go or I’d plan to go later in the week. I took this freedom for granted too, especially in France. I lost a bit of my desire to run, I hated doing it on my own all the time. In the end it made me appreciate the Running Room and my runs with Julie even more. I may have gotten in a couple of 30ks, a few 25ers, and maybe a 32, but the majority of my long runs were 17-19k if anything else. This is not far enough if your running a marathon. The mileage really counts that last 10k to the finish.

Mistake number six:
My fastest 5k was the first 5k.

I didn’t think this was the case, but according to my official A.S.O. Challenges profile it was. I knew I needed to hold back in the first half, I worried myself several times I wouldn’t have enough gas in the tank to finish strong. Of course, I was right. Without much surprise my slowest 5k was 35-40k this was the leg of the race where I really struggled. I wasn’t hurting from physical pain, but I was beginning to slow down with every step. I decided then to lengthen my walk breaks by a minute just to keep myself from stopping completely. At this point walking was probably faster anyhow! All the signs of “the wall” struck me I wanted the whole thing to end. This stretch felt terribly long to the point I was experiencing physical dread to keep going. Something that hasn’t happened to me since I began running, but was bound to happen at one point of another. I was pretty set on a 6:30 pace running each 5k at around 30 minutes a piece. But I was slow and knew it straight away. I was loosing steam quickly and wanted to die during the last 10k. Mistake number five didn’t help me here either. Long runs are super important, you need stamina and endurance to propel you at the end. That and a determined mind.

Mistake number seven:
I hydrated too much too soon.

It took me a long time to really tune into what was going on. I wasn’t paying proper attention to my body and made decisions based on what happened last time I ran a marathon. This wasn’t a smart way to think out on the course. Again, all your runs are going to be different so why think you’ll need the same things at the same times as the last time you ran a marathon? I don’t know what I was thinking either. Plus, the conditions of my last marathon were, really, too good to be true. I should have known right away I would need to pay serious attention This time. But I didn’t. I fueled with gels, drank electrolytes, then water, chewed on a shot block at one point, and took a salt tab hoping to avoid the feeling of needing it later and to help with he fact I knowingly didn’t drink enough water before the race. This wasn’t smart because as a result I cramped and my stomach felt hard. No wonder under my circumstances I took all these things before I crossed the half way mark. All I could really handle during the second half was small amounts of water and that was it.

My bib, medal, and bag!

My bib, medal, and bag!

Looking at the bigger picture my training was better equipped for a half marathon, which is why my recommendation, if you know you’ll be traveling before your goal race, is to go for a half instead of a full. Save your marathon for a time when you can really commit to running and give yourself all the things you need like friends, routes you know and like, and a schedule where you know what place you’ll be in one day from the next. Not that what I did and how I trained was bad, being in Toronto with a home and all the other things made running easier and gave me fewer excuses to miss a run. Also training at a time when you’re okay with indulging instead of running is important. I’m convinced France made me slow. But it was worth it! Which makes for an excellent time to explain all the great this about the day.

The Paris Marathon great things:
This weekend would not have been possible if it wasn’t for Shawn. When your traveling it’s amazing to reconnect with people from your hometown. I have my mom to thank for that. Shawn was there to meet me at the train station, guided me to the race expo when I didn’t look up how to get there, had a portable internet device so I do download my race convocation and medical certificate when I didn’t do it before leaving Bordeaux. Shawn made me dinner, offered me food for breakfast, and best of all he let me sleep in his bed instead of the mattress on the floor. For both the night of my race and the night after! There are not enough Shawn’s out there in the world which is why this marathon will forever be a very, very special event in my life. I can never thank him enough for everything he did for me (thanks, Shawn, you completely made my weekend in the best possible way!). And he was there to see me at the end. Oh! And he bought me the most delicious, “life changing”, almond croissant and a chocolate almond croissant which we shared to celebrate afterwards. Oh my goodness, what did I do to deserve such an amazing friend?!

The crowd support was also amazing. There were bands and dancers and people yelling at you in French. That alone was great.

The overall organization of the race was fluid and easy super going. The organizers sent out each corral start time so there wasn’t much waiting around at the beginning and at the end. For running a marathon this was key. The Paris marathon restored my faith in Paris races.

The route. It was beautiful. I ran past all the iconic things to see in Paris it was great. But I have to say one of the best turning points for me was around the 26k mark where we ran through an underground tunnel. There was a dance party happening with a Dj and a full on light show and the sounds of Night Fever was blaring. This made me so happy.

The weather. It was sunny, warm and crisp, a perfect Paris-in-the-spring kind of day.

Paris Marathon Finisher! I even have a headlight now to prove it.

Paris Marathon Finisher! I even have a headlight now to prove it.

To wrap up this entire experience, you really can’t win them all. That was the important lesson I learned. You’re not always going to be fast and it’s not always going to be enjoyable. But when you do decide to run a marathon abroad the most important part to keep in mind is to enjoy it. Seriously. Make sure you give yourself time to take it all in. And be proud that you did it no matter what. Just live and learn. Because you can always make the same mistake and sign up again next year, but this time willingly and not by surprise.

Erin’s much-needed update

So I took a blogging break. I did for a whole bunch of reasons — running wasn’t inspiring me, work was overloaded and I was unsure what blogging about my workouts was doing for me. I even stopped updating DailyMile in an effort to think about what online tools were really working for me — and which ones I didn’t care about. Running is getting better and work is slowing down. So it’s that third one I still need to think about some more. I’ve also come to the realization that the best running blogs, blogs I like, have a ridiculous amount of photos and selfies. This is something I am terrible at and do not like doing. So I need to think about that element of this whole blogging thing for a little while.

Meanwhile, stuff has happened. Let’s put it out there.

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1. I ran Around the Bay in 2:59:15.

I really wanted to break 3 hours, and I did. I was convinced it wouldn’t happen, because my training hasn’t been as diligent as it was last winter. But I am a better runner than I was a year ago and I am doing a lot more speedwork, so it looked like it paid off. The course was different this year, with the first 10k being hillier and more boring than last year’s. I like it less, but what can you do? The weather was perfect and my pacing wasn’t bad. This is a PR by 8:30 on a course that’s arguably more difficult. Can’t complain about that. I had to book it for the final kilometre to reach my goal, but I did! Hooray for that!


2. I ran Around the Bay in borrowed gear.

Matt and I went on vacation the week before ATB. The plan was to go straight to his parents’ house from the airport, because they live closer to Hamilton than we do, and his mom and uncle were running ATB too. Wins all around! Except….the airline lost our luggage. In it was all my running gear, except my shoes and Garmin (which were in my carry-on). I was wearing a sports bra and Lulu leggings, which could be used for the race. I had to borrow the following:

  • hat
  • water bottle
  • short sleeve top
  • long sleeve top
  • socks
  • fuel
  • ipod
  • gloves

It all worked out, since Matt’s mom is a hard-core runner. I was most worried about the socks, but I finished blister-free. Hooray for that! Oh, and we got our luggage back 3 days later.


3. March Madness was AMAZING this year.

5 games in the first round went into overtime. Almost every game I watched was decided in 5 points or less. NCAA March Madness is the most perfect tournament. I only wish someone would broadcast the women’s games in Canada. Even just the Final Four.


4. I am learning to not hate the treadmill.

I don’t love it. But I can use it. I find it’s especially useful for speedwork or tempo runs — you can set the pace to exactly what is expected of you. And it’s enabled me to get these workouts done in the morning, at the gym, instead of building a trip to Monarch stadium in the evening into my day, which is a huge bonus.


5. The Raptors are the best.

This was the first year I followed the Raptors closely. I picked the right year to do so! They are a tough, gritty, imperfect team that is a bright light in Toronto’s professional sports. (It looks like Toronto FC is going to be the other one this year! Finally!) I am also understanding sport fandom culture in a new, weird way: it’s so much fun to debrief about the games with my co-workers who are also Raptors followers. (Now, when will Toronto get a WNBA team? I think we could support one.)


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6. I got into the NYC Marathon.

I signed up on a whim after I read on a blog that lottery registration was open. I knew it was ridiculously hard to be accepted this way, and figured I’d just sign up every year and I’d get in sometime in the next decade. I did NOT expect to get in on my very first try.

So on November 2, 2014, I will run the largest marathon in the world. It’s going to be insane.

I have decided my only plan for this race is to be fit enough to enjoy the whole thing. I don’t want a time goal to detract from this experience.

With that in mind, I need to get my ass in gear for Ottawa, because it’ll be a hell of a lot easier to not care about my time in NYC if I get a great time in Ottawa. I feel like sub 4:00 is an aggressive, but doable, goal.

So that’s what’s been going on in my life, running-wise and sport-wise. The yoga has taken a huge step back, priority wise. But now that work is slowing down, it is spring and the vacation is out of the way, I can re-prioritize accordingly. Yoga, blogging, gardening, sunshine.

It’s going to be a good spring.