Groove is in the heart: Chicago Marathon Training, Week 2, Day 2

After a rocky return from Alberta, I’m in a groove.

Gym on Mondays.

Track on Tuesdays.

Run on Wednesdays.

Bootcamp on Thursdays.

Rest on Fridays.

Long run on Saturdays.

Cross-training on Sundays.

There’s a few other gym sessions in there and a few more runs, but those are my anchors.

Sometimes my runs are easy, sometimes they are hard. but for the most part, I’m hitting my paces. I’m not missing any workouts. It’s coming together. It always feels like I could be doing more, going harder, running faster, but it’s a long process. And I need to trust the process.

My secret squad

“Oh my god, I need to sit down.”

We were on the subway wafter the New York City marathon. I was wrapped in my marathon poncho and was nearly crying tears of gratitude when there was an empty subway seat next to a girl wearing a marathon medal.

She slid over to make room for my as I collapsed.

“Thank you.”

“How’d you do?”

“I’m happy. What a race, eh?”

“Yeah! Um… would you mind if he took a picture of me? I didn’t get a good one with my medal.”

“Of course!”

My boyfriend was on the subway, standing next to us. He took her picture. We chatted about the route and the weather and marathon training until it was our stop.

“Congratulations!” I called as a limped out of the car.

Once we were outside, my boyfriend turned to me.

“How did you know her?”

I didn’t. I had never seen her before in my life. I’ll never see her again, and if I do, I’m not going to remember she was the girl who made room for me on the subway after my race.

But that doesn’t matter. Because we are in the same squad.

We run. And that’s enough.

This secret squad, of strangers connected over putting one foot in front of the other for hours on end, has been the biggest surprise and the best source of strength, since becoming a runner.

The random high five from a woman on a hot, sticky run in New Orleans.

The wave from a ace runner in the Don Valley when it freakishly hailed, but there was no way in hell we were cutting our long runs short.

The guy who, at 6:30am on a Sunday morning in downtown Manhattan, saw my running gear and wished me luck, as I headed to the subway on NYC marathon morning.

The nod from two elite runners – clearly in town for the PanAm games – who were out on a casual morning jog while I ran track repeats in Riverdale Park.

The volunteer who ran alongside me up the last major hill at 36k of the Halifax marathon, when I was pretty sure I was dying and questioning why I ever thought a marathon was a thing worth doing.

The runners who bought us a round in a random bar after the Chicago marathon because it was Canadian thanksgiving and they were shocked – and pleased – we’d run their hometown marathon instead of eating turkey in Canada.

This is my squad.

I didn’t start running for the social reasons. And even now, I mostly run alone. But those moments of connection – so random, from so many different kinds of people – are what make running bigger than a way to get fit. It turns strangers, even for an instant, into friends. Fellow runners.

There’s nothing like it. And they show up when you need them most. When you’re exhausted or nervous or completely dead or questioning why you ever started running in the first place or elated and want to share the moment with someone.

That’s what a squad is for.


Good times in the Maritimes

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It’s been a long winter. Here’s what I’ve been up to, fitness-wise, since my last post.

1. I sprained my ankle – badly

This has been the biggest factor in my fitness (or lack of it) since FEBRUARY. I rolled my ankle during a 3-on-3 basketball tournament. It’s May and it’s still sore. This means I haven’t been working out as much as I would like (I basically did nothing other than basketball in February and March), but it’s stable now. April was about getting back into a groove. May is about amping up – because I’m running the Chicago marathon!

2. I got into the Chicago Marathon

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It feels like every Canadian who signed up got in! I decided I’d only do a marathon in 2016 if it was a big city marathon – NYC again or Chicago. Not surprisingly, I didn’t get into NYC, but here I come Chicago! Jill got in too. October 11. I’m going to start a 16-week training program in June. I still haven’t settled on how to approach this training cycle because I want to: 1) run 4 times a week; 2) leave space on the weekend for summer adventures, long runs AND recover; 3) play softball and basketball; 4) fit in more cross-training this time around and 4) have at least one rest day. I can schedule this out on my own, but want someone/something to keep me accountable. I’ve toyed with paying for a Runner’s World program through Training Peaks – has anyone tried that before?

3. I ran the Blue Nose Half Marathon

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A few weeks ago, I made a spur of the moment decision to head to Halifax for the long weekend and run the half. My mom was doing the 5k and Jill was doing the half. I was really nervous about this race – I’ve only run 15k once this year – but it worked out fine. Jill and I ran together, with the goal of running under 2:10. This felt strong and not hard until the 19km mark, which is better than I expected. We finished in 2:09:33. It was so much fun to have the race be a family affair and to revisit the place of my first full marathon.

4. I ran a trail race

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Photo: @ayoungvoice

I did the 5peaks Trail Series April race and it was a lot of run. I am a bit confused about trail running. I don’t know how people can appreciate being in nature when you’re spending the time focusing on roots and rocks and not falling on your face, but I guess that comes with practice. I’m going to do a few more and see if I can get a handle on this. It was fun doing something different.

5. I’m still playing basketball – and softball season has started

I am convinced basketball is the reason why the Blue Nose went well. I’m essentially doing speedwork for 50 minutes, twice a week. I signed up for two teams in the spring. It’s been a bit much, scheduling wise, but it’s been good have two set workouts a week no matter what happens. Softball season started last week too. I bought batting gloves. I’m getting hardcore.

6. I signed up for a two-week ClassPass trial.

Have you heard of ClassPass? $89 a month gives you access to hundreds of studios in Toronto – and you can go to up to three classes per studio a month. I am iffy on the prices point against the amount of times I would use it, but I am open to seeing if it fits. I have a two-week free trial. I’ve been to one class so far (a mediocre vinyasa restorative class) and have signed up for 4 more. With my gym membership expired, it could be a better option for cross-training than my yoga + swimming + Nike Training Club combo I did for NYC marathon training. So far, the interface and class options are fantastic. But I think I’d need to go to 2-3 classes a week to make the price point worth it. (Plus it would give me content for this blog, right? The blog I never update?)

I think that’s it. I have so much fitness coming up in the next few weeks.

Marathon art

After running the New York Marathon, I wanted something to commemorate it. I had my bib and my medal and my running shirt and I bought a finisher’s shirt, but I got caught up in the idea of having a poster or print or something to hang. So I bought this:


It’s by New Jersey artist Ricardo Roig, and it cost way more money than I ever intended on spending on running art. But it makes me happy and Ricardo was so delightful to purchase from that it made it worth it.

Startin’ something

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So as soon as I said good-bye, I started to regret it. I still think this blog needs a re-vamp and re-focus, but I see value in having a outlet for my fitness inspirations and frustrations. The boyfriend can’t absorb it all.

Especially since this season, for the first time since spring of 2013, I’m running without a coach. It wasn’t planned. Her life got busy, my goals weren’t clear and suddenly I was 12 weeks away from a race I signed up for without a plan. So I made a plan.

It’s based on what I’ve learned from 2 years with a coach, and what I’ve learned about myself since I started running. The basic structure is as follows:

Monday – basketball + strength
Tuesday – tempo run
Wednesday – easy run
Thursday – speed work + strength
Friday – cross-train
Saturday – optional run and/or yoga
Sunday – long run

In a real world. I’ll end up dropping one strength session and either the Wednesday or Saturday runs, which still leaves me with a solid base for training.

I’m nervous. I’m nervous about motivation, about results, about dedication, about everything. I like accountability. I’d recommend getting a coach to anyone who is serious about running. But I’ve been in a funk for almost three months now and I need to get out of it. I’m hoping this training cycle will allow me to do that, and will let me learn new things about myself along the way.




New York, New York


On November 2, I ran the New York City Marathon. It was overwhelming and celebratory and exceeded every expectation I could have ever placed on a race. Everyone should run this race, to experience 4 hours of a city coming together, of thousands of people accomplishing a goal, of seeing an iconic place in such an unusual and glorious way, of getting cheered on and high fived by complete strangers over and over and over and over. It was a perfect, magical day and it’ll hold a special place in my heart for a long, long time.

I haven’t written about it, though, for two reasons. The first is that the week before the NYC marathon, something happened in my life that was emotionally and physically exhausting. In the week before the race, instead of resting and focusing, I was drinking and crying and having night terrors. It completely re-framed my goals for that day and will forever be tied to that experience. I wasn’t sure how to write about the race and not write about that, so I just chose not to write. It’s been three months and I still don’t know how to write about the race without writing about that. I don’t know if I ever will.

The second reason is that I am not entirely sure about this blog anymore: what purpose it serves, what I get from it, if I have it in me to make it a great, important, positive thing again. I’m not sure. Jill’s not in Toronto anymore. (I hope she comes back, but more importantly, I hope she’s happy, wherever she ends up.) Neither of us are blogging much. I have other creative outlets I’ve developed since this blog started three years ago. I’ve been spending time (too much time) thinking about it and I still don’t know the answer.

I may be back. I may not. But I am at peace with not knowing. Because here is what I do know:

1. If you think for even a second that maybe running a marathon might be a thing you want to do, do it. I’ve learned more about myself and what I need to be healthy and happy since running insane distances.

2. I need to run insane distances. I will never be a happy, peppy runner who wakes up at 5am and bounds out of bed to the track, but I thrive on having goals, and having a fitness outlet other people think is insane. Perhaps it’s the braggart in me, perhaps it’s the overachiever. But since the NYC marathon, I haven’t really run and I’ve been and directionless and felt terrible and also felt not very happy. Running – no, training – calibrates me. A small part of me hates that I’ve learned this about myself, but a bigger part is relieved I can latch on to something to get me through trying times – and to keep me from getting fat.

3. Wear a singlet with your name or country on it when you run big races – you will feel like a rock star. I wore a Canada singlet and every Canadian I came across went crazy.

4. I don’t need people to run with to run, but I need people to run with to run fast.

5. Fitness for fun is a good, important thing to have in my life. I ignored that for too long.

6. Races are more fun when they are shared experiences.

7. When everything is crumbling around me, I can run. Even if it doesn’t make it better, it makes me feel better. Or at least makes me breathe better. And, hey, running is better than drinking when it all goes to hell.

8. NYC is magical. Everything about that day – from being wished good luck by a guy walking his dog at 6:30am in Lower Manhattan as I headed to the subway, to freezing on the Staten Island Ferry, to Central Park being so loud I couldn’t hear the music in my headphones – was completely surreal. If you ever get a chance to run NYC, do it. You won’t regret it.




Race Recap: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon

Julie and Jill, it's race time!

Julie and Jill, it’s race time!


We did it, Julie!!

Julie and I were victorious in our half marathon together. Not only did we finish with huge smiles on our faces, we ran in excellent time despite all the factors convincing us we weren’t going to make it. But the best (and bit surprising) part was that we ran the entire race together! Oh, and I should add we may have talked the entire time. I kid you not. But for those I’ve had the pleasure of running with before should see this as no surprise. I’m now convinced this was the reason we didn’t go sub 2 hours, as Julie optimistically gave us the benefit of the doubt when we originally signed up. For Julie this was before Berlin, all the beers and chocolate, and for me I was living in France training and dreaming about Paris. If we zipped our lips sub 2 was ours I know it. But that wasn’t our goal going in, although it would have been awesome. Before I even set foot on a plane to Toronto Julie and I made a pack to run the half together. We both had our doubts about the race, but we stuck to the plan and agreed not take it seriously. And knowing STWM was a training run for Surf City took the pressure off to preform well. I wouldn’t of had it any other way because this race was a whole lot of fun from start to finish. And I have Julie to thank for that.

This wasn’t my first race running with someone. Erin and I ran together during my first 10k and 30k races, and we tried for my first 15k too but that didn’t go quite as planned. Running with someone else gives you a completely different perspective of running. First off, it makes running fun! Like really fun! Like I said Julie and I talked the entire time, we didn’t care about all the technical things like pacing and distance, and hydrating on schedule we just ran. Instead of thinking about it we talked about these things. When you stop thinking about the race that’s when you enjoy the race.

You actually notice things. And people notice you. Julie and I had so many shout outs I lost count. One guy in particular called me out “Come on! Jill’s making it look easy!” If I new who this guy was I would find a way to thank him. I was able to look at the crowds cheering and the nicer parts of the route – like running through my old neighbourhood! Oh Bloor and Bathurst how I’ve missed you.


Official race photo at SWTM. The look on my face says it all- having a scary amount of fun Julie seems to agree!

Official race photo from SWTM. The look on my face says it all- having a scary amount of fun. Julie seems to agree!

While STWM was my first half since Semi Marathon de Paris it was also my first major race in Toronto. Erin has ran Scotia and Goodlife having a good time both times, but for some reason while I was living there I didn’t see the excitement behind running a full or a half in my home city. Running all ends, both east and west, I’ve covered a lot of ground in Toronto. How wrong I was. Although spending so much time away SWTM felt like a huge welcome back party. Originally it was going to be the mark of my grand return, but life has a funny way of doing things we don’t plan for. I’m still living at home, with a new job, and teaching lots of yoga so it’s all good. But I’ll be back Toronto, I promise!

The only bummer is that the race had to end. Erin also arranged the mega Cheer Station for Julie and I in Corktown, which sadly we didn’t even run past during the half. How sad is that? But for all the marathoners I hope they got an ear full of cheers on our behalf.

Next up for Julie and I is our full in Cali then after that we’re open to suggestions. Perhaps another Toronto race is in order? After Scotiabank, I’d be down. But first I must survive winter training in Nova Scotia!


Race Recap: Valley Harvest 10k

Getting ready to run! Here I am in the crowd of 10kers.

Getting ready to run! Here I am in the 10k crowd!

Thanksgiving weekend in Nova Scotia was one for the record books. I don’t know what the weather was like in Toronto, but I’m going to do all kinds of bragging because this particular holiday weekend, here at home, was incredible. And the best part of the weekend, besides my Mommy making me a Thanksgiving/pre-race dinner, I went running.

Knowing I had the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon to run the following weekend I figured running another 10k would be excellent preparation (and motivation) to train a little harder and get my legs in better shape for the 21.1k in store. Luck was on my side this day, as I ran fast I felt strong and enjoyed the day immensely. Other than the fact I was sweating buckets! I wasn’t prepared for the weather, as odd as that sounds.

Dad, as my new personal running aid, happily took on his second job when I took him to Wolfville. He also came to Halifax with me for the Maritime Race Weekend where he counted pirates and took lots of pictures of me! (another fantastic weekend) Dad and I however have our differences, and one particular difference is around time. We hit the road way before the sun came up – even before the chickens were awake – my race started at 9 so we had time to drive to the home of Acadia University (and the starting point of my race) that morning. I dressed in layers with the thought that I would change once we arrived, if needed. Now, I forgive my dad because he’s new at this running thing, but there is no need to panic around timing with races. We were able to find a parking spot no problem and traffic wasn’t bad at all. This isn’t New York, Dad. I also had to pick up my race kit, so again, Dad you’re forgiven for the level of stress you were exerting on me. I collected my race kit, went to the ladies room, and even had time to watch the marathoners and half marathoners start their race. That’s how much time we had. All this stress and snapping at each other, I realized while we waited for my start time I didn’t have my music. I didn’t change my clothes, I didn’t have an extra hair elastic. It was then I felt really unprepared  Dad in his charming and apologetic way offered to go and get the things I needed, but my response was “it’s only a 10k, I’ll be fine”. I don’t know if that’s terrible of me or awesome I can say that. But that’s how I felt that morning. I was feeling pretty good.

Erin mentioned she’d like to run the Valley Harvest Marathon one year where it falls on Thanksgiving weekend it would be an excellent reason to come home. I agreed. It would be a lovely time to be home and an excellent reason to run. When I met my friend Katie and her husband Bryan in Halifax (who was going to run the marathon this weekend, but decided against it due to injury) I thought about running too, after Katie told me to. I didn’t think about it before, but my pre-half jitters made me do it, so a week before I signed up  for the 10k. Running anything more made no sense.

Making my move!

Making my move!

I couldn’t have asked for a better day, but the only thing I was a little disappointed by was the actual route. First, I have to say after all this I spent away from Nova Scotia I’ve grown to appreciate how beautiful our little towns really are. And Wolfville is no exception. It’s stunning, quaint and just plan pretty. I was hoping to get this during my run. The out and back we did was okay, but I wanted to see more of the town. I also liked the idea of starting and ending the race in the Acadia track (I felt like a superstar!) but this also made for an awkward start leaving the track and a more difficult end when approaching the university. It was hard to shift onto the sidewalk to allow oncoming traffic to pass. This is didn’t like, when I’m ready to make my move at the end I want room to do it without interfering with other around me. It was a tight squeeze in some spots and that sprint to the end was deceiving.

The Nova Scotia runs I’ve completed have proven their worth in my mind. Hey, I came second in my age group for the 10k! With a few minor things the important stuff was done right. The route was well marked, getting in and out driving wise was simple, more spectators would have been nice, but the volunteers were great. You can’t have it all. Next time I’ll consider the half or the full. Then I’ll see more of the town for sure.

STWM weekend is coming

Here we are, together again!

Here we are, together again!

Toronto, I am coming back! Sadly it’s only for another visit and not a permanent visit. I haven’t moved back (not yet anyway) But! I am making my comeback to run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon. Because why not?

When Julie and I decided long ago we’d head to California to run a marathon together (her fourth marathon and my third) we chose to run SWTM as our training run for Surf City. It made sense at the time, I thought I’d be back living in Toronto at this point and a year away from the city I love is a long time. But life has a funny way of not doing what you think it should. For instance the full time job I landed in Digby. That wasn’t planned for by any means but here I am locked into a 6 month contract living and working in Digby. Things could be a lot worse. Like my half marathon this Sunday.

This race will be interesting. Of all the years I’ve lived in Toronto I’ve never participated in either Scotia or Goodlife. Ever. Erin has and we cheered one year (little did I know that Julie was running) For some reason I thought a race in the city I run everyday wouldn’t be exciting, I know that’s not true, I guess I wasn’t interested. I’d rather travel somewhere to run a race! But the time has come for me to run Toronto. After my travels away running at home will be a nice welcome. It’ll be like a brand new city to me. I do like the half distance and there’s a cheer station dedicated to me and Julie, thanks to Erin and the great people of Corktown. And of course I’ll be running with Julie again! It’ll be great.

Other then the fact that Julie is still running off the beers, chocolate, and sausages from Berlin, and I have yet to run more than 15k, we’ve got this. But in terms of how the race will go, we’re not too concerned. We’re going to run the race together, shoot for a sub 2 hour time, and enjoy each others company. Words that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Come cheer for us! We’re going to need it.

NYC Marathon Training Weeks #11 & #12

I’ve been working a lot and running a lot and things seem under control these days. Busy, but the end is near. One more long run and I get to taper!

I fell on my leg in basketball and the bruising is ridiculous. This was what I was most afraid of when I signed up for bball – that I would get injured and it would ruin my marathon. Fortunately, it’s just along the outside of my leg and doesn’t affect any joints. I’ve run three since it happened and, while it feels weird, the running isn’t making it worse. I just have to tough it out.

I’m organizing one of the official cheer stations for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Please come out – we have a DJ and a band and coffee and free fitness. The details are here. Jill is running on behalf of our charity partner, 40 Oaks – support her here!

Corktown Cheer

My long run last week was great. 30k, a consistent, strong run. I thought I had marathon training cased after that.

My long run this week was a different story. I did it at the boyfriend’s cottage and that meant hills, hills, hills. At least it was on fall country roads on a perfect weather day. My Garmin also died halfway through, so I had to guess my effort and my walking breaks during the second half of the run.

(It was an out and back so just double this data.)

I bought new compression socks. I needed new compression socks – my old ones have worn thin and one had a hole in it. They are bright pink and awesome. My quads are so dead, though, – is it weird to really want full-on compression tights?

I bought a Canada race top from the running room. I thought it would be fun to wear a Canada top and see if I get any special crowd reactions when running NYC, haha. At the Blue Nose in 2013, my name was GIANT on my bib and my number was teeny. That really helped the spectators – I have never heard my name so many times in a race.