NYC Marathon Training Week #10

Marathon training. It’s happening. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m having a hard time being motivated, which was the same problem I had during Ottawa training. I do so much of my running solo, I think I need a training group to take me to the next level.

My week was fine, if uneventful. I got my workouts in: four runs, two Nike sessions, one swim. I’m not as fast as I should be, but have a hard time finding reasons to care. (I’ll care on race day.) I miss yoga. My stomach was a jerk all week. The revelation these past two weeks, however, has been basketball.

I love it. An obscene amount. More than I ever thought I would. My relationship with basketball is a weird one, and one I’ve overthought too much over the past 10 years. The university I chose to go to I chose for three reasons: the first-year program looked amazing, the school was in Halifax, and I could play university basketball. I played for two years. It was a huge part of my life. Then it stopped, and I wasn’t ready for it to be over. The first time I played – after it dominating my life from the ages of 13 to 19 – I was out of shape. I signed up for a rec league in grad school and it kicked my ass so hard. I hated it, and became convinced that playing basketball wasn’t a thing I was supposed to do anymore.

I’m in shape now. I’m 10 years removed from university bball. I’m 7 years removed from my last rec league. I knew I needed to get over these weird feelings. I chose the easiest, least intense league I could find. But what it has done is reminded me why I chose an education partially formed by a need to play a sport. Why I skipped so many pivotal university experiences because I had practice or a game or needed to get in weight training. Why I wrote essays on buses. Sports are fun. Basketball is fun. Fitness is fun.

This is a feeling I’ve never had with running.

I like racing, don’t get me wrong. And I think running will always be part of my fitness life. But what this league has reminded me is that I need to find fitness activities that are fun, that I enjoy, that are more about the calories burned or the miles ran, in order to truly embrace living a fit life.

Or maybe I’m just high on being one of the better players on my team. That hasn’t happened since I was 17.

Basketball is the best.



Halifax OKC Kettlebell Sport Certification

Our awesome group of kettlebellers. I learned so much from all of them!

Our awesome group of kettlebellers. I learned so much from all of them! Photo credit Master Tim Bell

My weekend in Halifax was truly one busy, action packed weekend. Not only did I run, I also became a certified kettlebell instructor. Crazy I know, perhaps a bit odd. But totally true.

Since my summer at the Y began I’ve been flooded with an abundance of fitness information outside my running and yoga bubble. Everything from instructional courses, orientations, muscle focused isometric movements, to simple basic workouts that’ll kick your butt. The new fall schedule is now in full swing and I’m pumped to learn how to swim, train to become a better runner, and up the anti with my cycle fit classes. I want to pump these classes with a lot more energy and perhaps some dance moves. But we’ll see about that one. With all this new information coming my way I decided it was time to do something with it and the timing could not have been better. Amanda (one of my bosses at the Y, hi Amanda!) sent myself and the staff an invitation to a kettlebell certification course in Halifax. According to Amanda the price was comparable to other courses (a little steep in my opinion but this is considering I pretty much spent all my pennies abroad) Regardless I was into the idea but only considered it in passing.

But I kept thinking about it. And kept thinking about it. Honestly, I didn’t really look into it beyond the dates and location. Knowing the course fell on the weekend I was planing to be in Halifax already kept me thinking about it from afar. Because what did I know about kettlebells anyway? Nothing really. That’s what.

When the course was only weeks away I had begun my race weekend planning. One last look at Amanda’s email – and my trip to Toronto for Erin’s birthday – convinced me to do it. But I had one small problem on my hands, the possibility of “running” (excuse the pun) late Saturday morning. I’d have to run my 10k, jump in the car and drive from Eastern Passage to Bayer’s Lake (not the longest of drives, but in crunch time it’d feel extremely long) all before 10am. This was not going to happen. When I emailed my concern to the organizers I received a very nice response from Master Tim Bell who kindly assured me it wouldn’t be a problem. Hooray! I was in.

Saturday morning rolled around and everything went smoothly. I ran my 10k under an hour – all part of the plan – found my papa, got in the car and drove to the training venue. I arrived 20 minutes after 10. The group had just started warming up, I was golden. I even got props from Jason and John for running that morning. Even better!


This is how you really lift! Jason and John from OKC showing us how the sport of kettlebells is done! Master Tim Bell took this picture.

This is how you really lift! Jason and John our instructors from OKC. Thanks Master Tim for the picture.

John and Jason came all the way from California to offer the Orange Kettlebell Certification for the first time in Canada. And in Halifax of all places. I was fortunate to be a part of these fine Canadian instructors including the great bunch of ladies I met from the YMCA of Cape Breton (hi, gals!).

The 16 hour certification was broken down into two 8 hour days which covered the importance and fundamentals of the sport lifting. Given the size of the group we had lots of instructional one-on-one time and time practice and perfect our own technique. Right off the bat I was lost. I was surrounded by of group of non-beginners who’ve clearly taken to the sport of kettlebell beyond my years of any sport I have ever done. Yes, I felt that lost. But John and Jason were kind enough to discard this fact because I didn’t feel inferior to anyone for my lack of training and knowledge instead, as the great coaches they were, I absorbed the corrections they gave me and ate up every positive remark they provided. By the end of Day 1 I could swing, jerk, and clean like a pro, almost. Apparently I should have been lifting heavier weights. Maybe that’s how I perfected things so quickly? Or maybe that was my plan all along.

Day 2 would be the moment of truth to my ill-preparation. Day 2 was test day. “There’s a test! Shit.” Not just a written test but a physical test. “Great. I’m going to die. Or worse I’m going to fail.” But the CB ladies had my back. If I did fail I’d have a year to train and re-test via video proof I completed the physical exam. Thank goodness for a back up plan I was seriously convinced I wouldn’t pass the physical part of the course.

In the morning we covered snatches – according to John is going to be my event – this was the highlight of my morning thinking I’m actually good at something I just learned. Then we covered the style of long-cycle. Afterward was test time.

The written test was a 25 multiple choice exam which we were allowed to use the aid of our notebooks, if we had notes to look off of. Great. I did zero reading or note taking. If I was a good student I wouldn’t have had to use my lunch break to prepare, but that’s over with now. And yes I passed! Our physical exam however required skill, a strong will and tremendous support. Each student had 10 minutes to complete a determined set of repetitions of their chosen task. I did the long-cycle as most ladies did, but the minimum weight for ladies to lift was 12lbs and based on my weight I had to complete 60 reps. Oh god, I was practicing all weekend with 8 and 10s and god only knows how many reps I could do in a row! I was doomed.


Look at me I'm a certified kettlebell instructor!

Look at me I’m a certified kettlebell instructor!

Somehow I did it. I lifted and listen to John as he coached me and I listened to Lance (a fellow student from Ottawa) who was a natural and calming coach (thanks Lance I needed that!). Looking back at the course I was surprised at how much of the material was focused on the sport of lifting other than the instructional components of design a class or taking students through a kettlebell class. Although my expectations were far from what I got out of the actual course, what I got was much more than I could have ever asked for.

My weekend wasn’t over there. With time ticking away I needed to get back to Digby to teach a yoga class at VP Fitness in Digby (my new teaching gig for the fall). But I couldn’t leave the club. I needed to stay and cheer everyone on, just as they did for me.  Like I said the physical test took courage and determination and I’m so proud of the fact that everyone there (me and the CB ladies included) did it. It was one of those things you can’t really explain or prepare yourself for until you actually experience it. And I’m so glad I did.

And I did make it back to Digby in time in case you were wondering. What a weekend.

Here’s a video proving my work. Thanks again Master Tim (Halifax Kettlebell Sport Club)


NYC Training Week #9


What a week. It ended with another tough race.

Monday: Rest.

Tuesday: 6 hill repeats, followed by a 30 minute bootcamp.

Wednesday: Was my first basketball game. It appears basketball was a good life choice. Everyone on my team is a similar skill level and has a similar background: high-level high school/low-level college bball 10 years ago, wanted a fitness outlet but the 5-on-5 officiated league seemed too intense. We were well matched against the other team too, and I think the only reason we won was because we had more subs. It also kicked my ass: running constantly at different speeds is exhausting!

Thursday: 3×1000 splits. I did these on the way to work:


I did 15 minute Nike Boot camp at the park near my office. I need to get up earlier if I plan to double up in the morning, but damn it’s hard when it’s pitch black out.

Friday: Rest.

Saturday: Easy 30 minutes. I didn’t take my watch. It was probably closer to 20. Then I went to the mall and bought new bball sneakers and new swimming goggles.

Sunday: This was the Oakville half marathon. It POURED, and after a while it felt like I was running through a puddle. However, the biggest problem was that my stomach cramped up around 8k and got progressively worse throughout the run. We stay at my boyfriend’s house the night before and the dinner we ate wasn’t my normal pre-run meal and then in the morning, there were no bananas so I had jam with my toast and peanut butter. That’s the only thing I can think of. On the bright side, even though my pace slowed down an obscene amount, I only walked during the water stations the whole race, which was my plan all along. Silver linings.

My splits were:

1 -5:34
2- 5:34
3- 5:34
4- 5:54 – water station
5- 5:36
6- 5:33
7- 5:56 – water station
8- 5:55
9- 6:13 – water station
10- 6:06
11- 5:48
12- 6:05 – water station
13- 6:00
14- 6:09
15- 7:01 – water station
16- 6:44
17- 6:47
18- 7:27 – water station
19- 6:34
20- 6:56
21- 5:54


I’m due for a good race. I need my confidence back.

Race Recap: Maritime Race Weekend

He and my hardware!

Me and my hardware!

After a busy month or two… okay let’s face it I’ve been neglecting the blog big time and there is no way around it. But this past weekend (marking the middle of September, almost 3 months since my return home) was indeed a busy one. I ran two races! Yup, two. And I took a Kettlebell Certification course in Halifax. Another yup. I’m now certified to instruct kettlebell swings, jerks, and snatches believe it or not. I’ll break that part of my weekend down in another post.

The Maritime Race Weekend has to be hands down one of the best races I’ve ever signed up for. I’m still blown away by the amazing organization – minus the one day race kit pick up having me stressing out days before the race – the cleanliness was superb (believe it or not even the port-a-potties were clean, as far as port-a-potty standards go). But the energy and costumes set the tone of the weekend the moment Dad and I arrived. I had my very own cheer squad consisting of my Papa, my good pal Katie Conrad and her husband Bryan. Katie even made me a sign! She’s the best (hi, Katie and Bryan!).

The Friday evening Sunset 5k was a lovely little out and back along the Eastern Passage shore in Dartmouth. It was a truly picturesque, a true east coast beauty of an evening. Everything about the night (and day) felt right. We drove up from Digby that morning, I met Katie to collect my awesome race kit, I had a great breakfast, and lunch, I was well hydrated and felt ready to run. We arrived quite early at the starting point, worried about the parking situation, but this gave us plenty of time to find a spot, tour around, and plan our attack for tomorrow morning – knowing I had to run then high-tail it out of there for my training meant we needed a solid game plan. We walked the ferry docks, scoped out the pirates and bought some treats along Fisherman’s Wharf. This gem of a spot is far enough out of the way making it an excellent place to run, but not too far that you’re in the middle of nowhere. But seeing the view it wouldn’t have mattered how far you’d have to go to get there. Nova Scotia is quite pretty when you stop to look at it, or run past it! The entire event was smooth sailing from Friday evening to Saturday morning one excellent reason why I’d go back faster than you can say Arrrr!


5k down, 10k tomorrow!

5k down, 10k tomorrow!

I loved the 5k. The last time I ran one was ages ago, my first race ever! I ran a PB which is totally the reason why, but I loved the feeling of running fast! It’s a feeling you don’t often get in long distance running. That goes for me at least. Where the speed came from I have no idea (I like to think it was the training I’ve been doing with my run club- learning to run a 5k) but it was there and I took full advantage of it from the moment that musket blew till I crossed the finish. Yes, a musket was our starting sound. See, this race was great. My mentality towards the 5k distance shifted this day when I realized 5k isn’t as far as it seems (of course that’s when you only have 5k to run). Knowing when I’d reach the turn around point I’d be halfway done wasn’t a feeling of “Ugh, I still have half way to go”, but more “I’m half way there!” I was flying without even realizing it. I came sprinting towards Fisherman’s Wharf – the smell of fried clams and french fries earlier in the night was so yummy now made me want to vomit – which probably helped with my sprint to the end. I finished at 25:17.

Katie and Bryn stayed with me for the firework show (yup, there were also fireworks and a giant inflatable pirate at the end) I collected my first medal walked along the runners stations collecting food and water – again taking full notice of the lack of garbage around. This made be so happy. We called it a night shortly after and packed it in, as early as I could, to get up and do it all over again.

My 10k also went very well- given I hadn’t been running farther than 5-8k over the past 2 months. But earlier in the week I made myself run 13k just to make sure I could still make it to 10k. Lucky for me I could. I felt really strong throughout the race, having only one mental bump along the way just before reaching that halfway point. The weather was perfect, the group of pirates were much more plentiful this morning than the evening prior. But you wouldn’t have known once you got out on the course. With 4 races to choose from the field was a mix of 5kers, 10kers, half marathoners and full marathoners. Some who would have ran with me Friday night, others perhaps a little more serious about their Saturday run. I enjoyed the 10k too, but I have to admit I had a moment of disappointment when I discovered my finishing time wasn’t another PB. 54:01 although was good enough to claim 5th place in my age group wasn’t a sub 50. But really, what was I thinking? I got greedy that’s what.


Second sprint to the finish. Day number 2 also done!

My second sprint to the finish. Day number 2 done!

Collecting all my treasures moving through the runners finishing spot I walked away with a three medals in total for completing the Tartan Twosome, lots of fuel to get me through my next challenge of the day, and one hell of a weekend of running. Like I said before, this is one race I’d run again for sure there matey.

NYC Marathon Training Week #8: Monday-Saturday

I haven’t done my long run yet, but so far it’s been a good week.

I tried something new this week and doubled-up on my boot camps and my runs. I was lucky enough to have time in the evening to do this, as with the darkness at 6:30am these days, getting up in time to do a double workout is just asking too much. This does two things: creates more flexibility in my schedule and frees up time to do other activities. My coach wants me to prioritize the boot camps, and with good reason, but I don’t want to give up swimming and biking and yoga. I’m hoping that by doubling up, I’ll get 3 cross-training sessions in and potentially have a second rest day each week, if I need it.

Monday: This was the day after the Island 10k so I did a whole lot of nothing.

Tuesday: I had my evening free, so I did a 6k pick-up run, followed by a 30-minute bootcamp. I struggled this whole run, but by the end of it I felt a lot better than I had at the beginning.

My splits were:


Wednesday: I went to the Regent Park Aquatic Centre (it’s FREE!) to do laps. I have never, ever, ever been in a pool that was that busy. It was disorienting, but I eventually got into a groove following the lap/rest and wait/lap routine everyone in my lane had established. I’m in a bit of a weird zone in that in the “fast” lane I get my ass kicked and feel like a nuisance, but in the “medium” lane, I’m the jerk who either passes you or switches to breaststroke mid-lane, making you feel slow either way. I need to up my endurance to swim with the big kids full-time.

Thursday: We had dinner plans at 7:30, so I hit the gym in between work and dinner. I wanted to do my speedwork (4x800s) and a 30-minute bootcamp, but only a 15-minute one happened, otherwise I would have been late. I picked the hardest ab-focused one available and almost died.

I did my 800s on a treadmill (there was no track in a convenient location between work and dinner), but played with the speed settings to make each split progressively harder.

My splits were:


Friday: Rest. After 3 quality days of working out, I was wiped. And I had two epic runs planned for the weekend and didn’t want to compromise them.

Saturday: Ran 10.08k in 1:05:38 with my friend Kendal. It was a good solid run, with some rain. Kendal’s faster than me, but we settled into a pace that wasn’t ass-kicking and left me with enough that I’m confident I can tackle my long run tomorrow without any trouble.

Okay, three hour long run Sunday morning. Let’s do this.

NYC Marathon Training Week #7 – Longboat Island 10k

This race didn’t go as I hoped, but it went as I expected. 54:05. I’ve run faster 10ks, but I’ve run slower 10ks. And the race, while lovely, wasn’t designed for someone who cared about time.

It started at 11:15am on a hot day.

The trails were open to other pedestrians and cyclists. This is a problem when the race begins at 11:15am on a hot day.

We ran 1.5k on grass and another 1.5k on the boardwalk.

I started out running the pace I was supposed to be running. The plan was to start right around 5:00 per km pace and pick it up halfway through


Solid start. Then the heat and effort caught up to me. I was zonked by the 3rd kilometre and got a stitch in my side.

5:53 (water station walk break)
6:03 (water station walk break)
5:55 (hated the world walk break)

Then I picked it up. I decided that a PR wasn’t happening today, but if I could finish strong, with a pace around 5:30, it would be a good day. It was beautiful out. Toronto Island is the best.

4:48 (My Garmin says the course was 100 metres short. This split proves it.)

This race was a good reminder about a bunch of things: you can have a good day without a PR, not all races need to be about PRing, I need to work hard if I want to run well (the week before this race was a battle). And if races don’t go as planned it’s not the end of the world.

I’m ready to up my training game, though. My A race needs to be an A+ experience. I paid enough for it, haha.



NYC Marathon Training Week #7 – Tuesday-Saturday

It was a busy week in Balser-land. And a hard one. I battled a sore throat most of the week as well as frustration. Running fast is hard work, y’all. That is all.

On Tuesday, I did a 45 minute Nike bootcamp in the morning. I really like these workouts, but I am wondering if I am not pushing myself as hard as I could with them. But how can I test that? I’m contemplating, actually, finding a trainer. Or a fitness group of some sort. I work out harder when someone is yelling at me. Fact.

On Wednesday, I needed to double up to get back on track after doing my long run on long weekend Monday instead of Sunday. The morning meant another 45 minute bootcamp. (The pool I swim at is undergoing renovations for three weeks, which means that’s not an option for a little while. Boot camps it is!)

On the way home from work, I had to do a fartlek-style run and run under 5:00 pace for 8 minutes, 6 minutes, 4 minutes, 4 minutes, 6 minutes, 8 minutes, with 60 seconds in between. This workout kicked my ass. I couldn’t find it in me to consistently run sub-5:00 and, towards the end, I almost quit. I don’t know if it was the doubling up, or residual fatigue from my long run or lack of motivation of what.

Here’s how that run went down:

8 minutes: 1.65k, 4:59 pace
6 minutes: 1.17k, 5:10 pace
4 minutes: 0.75k, 5:18 pace
4 minutes: 0.79k, 5:04 pace
6 minutes: 1.03k, 5:50 pace (I just bonked. I even walked for a bit to regroup.)
8 minutes: 1.5k, 5:20 pace

On Thursday, I had 3×1000 repeats in the morning. I cheated a bit and didn’t run these on a track: I ran them on the Waterfront Trail and hit a few red lights. I know this is cheating, but after the tough Wednesday workout, I think I would have cried some point in this run if I didn’t get stoplight breaks.

My splits were:


On Friday, my sore throat was a full-fledged fire in my mouth. Since I have a race on Sunday, I opted not to power through it (which, I admit, I felt guilty about all day.)

On Saturday, my guilt for abandoning my Friday workout meant I upped my shake-out run from 30 minutes to 45 minutes. My throat is better, I think it’ll be fine for race day. But the goal is sub-50:00 tomorrow. I don’t think I can do it: this week’s speed work wasn’t strong or consistent and I have a hard time maintaining 4:XX for any length of time that isn’t lapping around a track. But I’m going to go out there and do the best I can and not let the mental game beat me. That’s really what got me down this week, I think. I talked myself out of pushing hard, talked myself into quitting. I need to work on this.

Heh, work. The theme of the month. I can’t escape it.



NYC Marathon Training Week #7- Monday

Midway through this week, I will be halfway through my training. Crazy. Monday was the first day of September. I love September. I am excited for work to get busy again and have launches and events and awards and festivals and do so much that by the end of November, I want to fall over and die and wonder why I keep doing this. This is my work life cycle. My year has an arc and, after 4 years in the same job, I’ve come to thrive on it.

I am not looking forward to the mornings getting dark earlier, just as I’ve become (mostly) a master of the morning workout. I need to have faith. And confidence.

Each year, I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a word of the year. But a year is such a long time, so much can change, Priorities can shift. Earlier this year, I thought about doing a word of the month instead. I haven’t committed to it yet, but I think September is the time to try it out. So this morning I wrote a word on a post-it note and stuck it to my computer.


This applies to so many things. September is when my job picks up like crazy. My job is also at a pivotal moment, for my department, my company and myself. This would be a good year to work hard, focus, and figure out, exactly, what my job means to me and what I want out of it, bigger-picture-wise.

It also applies to fitness. I’m exactly halfway through my training and I’ve had a hard time staying motivated. I’ve also struggled with getting quality cross-training in these past few weeks. Now is the time to buckle down and put the work I need to do in to have a great race.

It’s also a good reminder for everything else. Summer is a time for delightful slacking, and I’m thankful for that. But things need to get done. Time to work on that.

On Monday, I did my long run. 22.1k in 2:35:30. As far as long runs go, it was of medium quality. It wasn’t as great as my long run in Halifax the week before. It could have been faster, more consistent. I could have been more focused.

It’s time to work on that.

NYC Marathon Training – the rest of week #6

Let’s catch up.

Wednesday was my birthday. No workouts as a present to meee! (I had actually planned to go to morning yoga, but when the alarm went off at 6am, I was like ‘screw this, it’s my birthday.’)

The next day, I thought I was on the ball. I brought extra clothes to work so I could run home Thursday and run to work again on Friday.

Then my Garmin went dead. And my computer didn’t have enough juice to charge it. So I ran home Thursday sans Garmin, guesstimating my pace based on effort. Then I ran to work on Friday, again based on effort. Both these runs felt okay. My legs are tired. But that seems par for the course for marathon training.

On Saturday, I did a 45 minute Nike app bootcamp. I’ve unlocked some fancy celebrity workouts, so I did 3 of those in a row (Paula Radcliffe, some surfer and some yogi).

On Sunday, I was supposed to run long. But it was so hot and so humid that I bailed. I went to the mall, bought a basketball, did a 60 minute solo shoot around and then signed up for a 4-on-4 ladies rec league. I haven’t played basketball in 10 years. I’m terrified. Come play with me so I am less terrified.

(I’m mostly terrified of being terrible. I had the same problem when I signed up for softball. I don’t like doing things I am not great at. And I used to be relatively great at basketball, if I exaggerate my past bball success. I need to get over this.)