10 years in Toronto

I moved to Toronto in September 2007.

I did so reluctantly. As someone from the East Coast, I was taught to hate Toronto. Toronto was stuck up. Toronto believed it was the centre of the universe. Toronto was rich and privileged. Toronto was big and busy. Toronto was concrete and glass and highways and assholes.

I came to Toronto because I decided to pursue a career in book publishing. And Toronto may not be the centre of everything, but it’s the centre of book publishing in Canada. I enrolled in a year-long book publishing program here with a plan. Get my diploma and a few years of experience under my belt, then, somehow, someway, make my way somewhere else.

Life never goes according to plan.

I got the diploma. I got a job. I quit that job. Then I floundered. Then I freelanced. Then I got THE job. The job I went to school for. The job I dreamed about once I decided book publishing was a thing I wanted to do.

It’s hard to leave a place when you love your job.

But the job wasn’t everything. With that job came a community. A community of people love who loved books and culture. A community of people I’d see two, three, four times a week as I went from event to event, networking. Building my career but also building a home. Some of my closest friends are from that early career grasp-at-anything-because-god-I-need-a-job-and-to-be-good-at-that-job-and-also-friends-are-nice-too moments.

With the job came a need for hobbies.

I decided to say fuck it to my fear of biking in the city and just do it. The first time I ever got on a bike in Toronto I repeated “I’m going to die, I’m going to die, I’m going to die” over and over in my head until I got to my destination. Spoiler: I did not die.

Biking opened up the city for me – it seemed smaller and more manageable. I could get places on my own time, on my own terms. I could buy more groceries. I did not have to crowd on to a TTC subway car during rush hour. Deciding to become a cyclist is one of the greatest choices I ever made when it came to embracing living in Toronto.

The other was becoming a runner.

I decided to start running because I wanted to take control of my health. I wanted a physical activity that fit into my busy, scheduled life and had some sort of competitive element.I was always fit, so a half-marathon seemed like an achievable thing to do. I hated it. But I kept going. From there, I ran another half, and another, and another and – finally – a full marathon. But what that did for me was open up the city. I’ve run to Mimico. To Port Credit. To the Junction. To Scarborough Bluffs. Through Open Streets. Through a Labour Day Parade. To Kringlewood. To Drake’s House. Around Toronto Island. To Evergreen Brickworks. Through the Belt Line. Running showed me that Toronto isn’t that big. You can literally run a marathon through the city without ever hitting a city street. Toronto is a patchwork of communities, each with a unique identity. I’ve heard that, but I didn’t believe it until I ran through so many of them.

Community. I have my book people. My running people. But what really did it? The little street I live on.

We bought a house in 2010. I recognize now how fucking fortunate we are we were able to purchase property at a reasonable price in the downtown core. But at the time, I was 25, had a partner who was keen to buy and had 5% down. I didn’t really think about it. I figured if it all went to hell, we could just sell. I realize now, my 25-year-old self was a stupid as she was lucky. But we moved into a neighborhood where people knocked on our door to say hello when we moved in. A neighbourhood where we learned our neighbours’ cats names. A neighbourhood where people tell me they heard me on the radio or they liked my partner’s most recent column when I see them. A neighbourhood where we gossip about the neighbours who moved or the neighbour who fell ill. A neighborhood where we all know the homeless man who collects our cans and I can’t go outside without running into someone who knows me and knows my business.

Which is as about small-town East Coast as you can get.

Sure, the scale is different. My hometown has 3,000 people in it. Toronto has three million. But, at the end of the day, Toronto became home because I live in a neighbourhood I care about, hang out with people I care about, do things I care about and have a job I care about. And that is bigger than any place you can call home.

The more things change, the more the stay the same

Six years ago, I wrote this:

I have been a “runner” (I still have trouble with this word, but every book and article I read on the subject says anyone who ever runs, at any pace, for whatever reason, is a runner, so I’ll go for it) for about eight months now. While I still have extremely conflicted and complicated feelings about the actual act of running, after two 10k races and a half-marathon, I can say that I enjoy racing. I enjoy the night-before ritual of laying out the racing gear and putting together a pre-race meal, wondering if I should stick with the tried-and-true classics, or mix it up and go for a fancy carb-heavy Runner’s World-approved entree. I enjoy waking up at a ridiculous hour and heading to the race, coffee in hand, while the rest city is sleeping soundly.

It takes me back to the many, many years of playing basketball, where camaraderie was found in the craziness of skipping the late-night parties, the grueling workouts and the early morning wake-up calls, all to push your body to the limit for no other reason than you love the game.

Six marathons later, it’s still true.

I just ran, I ran all night and day

Photo: J

It’s been a while.

I’ve been running. A lot. In fact, I ran at least 5k every day between May 31 and July 1. While running this, I:

  • Did the 50k Ride for the Heart bike ride and ran 5k after
  • Ran the 10k leg of the Ekiden relay for Tribe Fitness
  • Ran Toronto’s first Diva half-marathon
  • Ran the Waterfront Toronto 10k
  • Ran the Pride 5k

It was exhausting. I was tired all the time. By the end of the month, I felt totally burnt out and had no desire to run. But it was also a valuable experience and I hope I can take these lessons forward into my next training cycle.

It taught me to prioritize running. “You have to run today. You have no choice.” I ran at 6am to yoga. I ran at 9pm on Friday night in the pouring rain. I ran to work. I ran from work. I had great runs and I had shitty runs. But every day, I ran. I couldn’t move a run or tell myself I could do it tomorrow. I had to do it. That day. Or else.

It also taught me something has to give. I can’t have a clean home, a fridge full of groceries, a demanding job, friends, train for a triathlon and run every single day. I needed to pick what matters in each moment – whether it’s a day, a week, a month, a year – and then forgive myself when I drop the ball on other things. (Like blogging, hahaha).

It reminded me you can’t do hard shit alone. You need a support crew. I’ve tried to runstreak before and failed, but it was because I did it alone. J, my running buddy, did the streak with me. Knowing she was out there running and texting her daily about my accomplishments and sufferfests held me accountable. Accountabilibuddies are real. Get one. We also ran with Tribe a lot, and they were a supportive, generous crew as we became increasingly whiny about the whole thing.

It also taught me that you can find strength when you dig deep. On day 16 of this run streak, I ran 10k in 50:02. On day 18, I ran 10k in 50:39. Neither was a PR, but both were solid performances on tired legs (and the second one was on a really hot day) and I felt like I could have done better, in a properly tapered and rested circumstance. I’m still chasing a sub 48:00 10k but I know I’m so much closer than I was even a few months ago.

So you want to do a runstreak? Find a friend. Focus on distance. Forget about pace. Forgive yourself. And foam roll (or do yoga) like a motherfucker.

Photo: Tribe Fitness

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone

So, what’s next?

The Mississauga half-marathon was my goal race for the spring. I didn’t train like that was the plan, but, hey, it was. Now I have a ton of races coming up in May and June and need a new plan.

May and June are about having fun, and getting into a great routine for marathon training. I have the Pride 5k and the Toronto Waterfront 10k in June and I hope to PR in both, but am not training specifically for that. Just going to trust the gains I’ve made as a runner and running my heart out gets me there.

Then, at the end of June, I start marathon training.

For the first time ever. I’m planning to do the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

Right now, I am thinking 3:45.

I have a three-step BQ plan: break 4:00, break 3:45, BQ. If all goes according to plan, I’ll run my BQ in the fall of 2018.

But I’m all about the fast track. So I’m going to go for sub 3:45 this year and see where I fall. What holds me back? My attitude? My commitment? My health? My actual ability? Let’s find out. And if I break 3:45 at STWM, well, then, let’s BQ in the spring of 2018. Why not?

There are a few changes I need to make. Prioritize running even more. Stop procrastinating when it comes to runs and workouts. Run fearlessly. But I know I can do this if I put the work in.

Dream big, people.

But also work hard.

It’s gonna be may

May. A new month. A new chance to get things right.

I spent most of April stressed, sad and tired, but had no real reason to pinpoint why – unless you consider that it was probably my body saying “fuck, March was hard.” Which, let’s face it, is probably true. I’m just in denial about the damn thing.

I need to be kinder to myself. And also not give up so easily on myself.

I had a good month. Work was all right. I ran an 8k (a hilly AF 41:20) and a 5k (23:44 where I positive split HARD) and realized my fitness wasn’t where I wanted it to be. Then I ran A LOT in the two weeks after these races in an effort to correct this.

The Mississauga half-marathon is this weekend. It will be a good test of my fitness. I want to run sub 1:50, but I don’t think that’s achievable. I just don’t think I’ve been running enough kms and doing enough speedwork to be there at the moment.

What I should do is just go for it. Run like hell, see how the race goes and accept whatever time is on the clock. I haven’t crossed a finish line totally elated with my effort and performance in a really long time – because I’m too hard on myself. (I don’t count Disney, because, well, when you run in a fairy costume, you’re going to have a good time.) Don’t hold back, but don’t beat myself up when the result isn’t what I want.

That’s the real goal. 1:50 is just a number.

 

She said, I think I’m going to Boston, I think I’ll start a new life

When I first started running – and even when I first started running marathons – I told myself that running Boston wasn’t something I was interested in. I wasn’t that kind of runner.

I was protecting myself. From disappointment, hard work and unachievable dreams.

Now, six years and six marathons later, fuck that.

I want Boston.

It’s going to be really hard. And it’s going to be a lot of work. But the only thing standing in my way is me.

I’m going to re-assess my fitness plans. Prioritize running. Find a high mileage program. Make a plan.

And  – most importantly – do the work.

I’ll be 35 for Boston 2020.

And I plan to be there.

Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes

So the first 3.5 months of 2017 have been a roller coaster, training wise. I do not feel as if I am in race shape and my ambitious time goals for the first half of the year feel out of reach.

I’m trying to shift my perspective.

Instead of seeing this as a failure, I’m shifting to a big single goal for 2017: a sub 3:45 marathon at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 22, 2017. We’ll be six months out from this in a few weeks. So now, instead of getting faster and viewing Mississauga as my goal race, I’m seeing this time as a base-building opportunity so I can hit the ground running in June when my 16-week marathon training program starts.

This feels a bit like a failure. But I’m trying to see it as a learning opportunity.

I can’t commit to a difficult work season and a difficult training season and hope the weather is on my side.

I can’t burn myself out in the first six months of the year.

I’ve made a lot of progress in my running, but I need to set achievable goals with do-able action plans.

I need to prioritize my training over other leisure activities and other fitness. I once had a basketball coach that said my priorities should be “Family. School. Basketball. Everything else.” Today, it should be “Family. Work. Running. Everything else.” if I want to achieve my goals. And if those priorities don’t work for me, well then I should change my goals.

Right now, I’m thinking about what my life would look like if I truly prioritized things that way. I think I’m into it, but it seems like a lot.

But is that fear of failure talking?

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start

Week one of my 10-week Mississauga Half-Marathon training program is in the books.

It didn’t go great.

Two things threw me off: a very long day at work and a little cold. I could have powered through one or the other, but the one-two punch basically knocked me out Wednesday (I left work early because I felt terrible and went to bed at 4pm), Thursday and Friday. I am freaked out because the training program is so short, but I am also trying to temper myself. I missed two runs. That’s not the end of the world.

I am also struggling with how to access the next level of my running. During my NYC training plan, I had access to a Running Room marathon clinic run by a very fast, aggressive instructor.  He ran with me and he kicked my ass and he made me a much better runner. This time around, the clinic is much more chill and celebratory. So I need to figure out – and fast – if I have what it takes to push myself to the next level or if I need an external source pushing me there.

We will see.

 

6 things I learned from my 6 marathons

Marathon #5. 

In my first marathon, I learned about strength. I was stronger than I thought I was. I felt like death the last 10k, I wanted to quit. I wanted to die. But I finished. And there’s no feeling like finishing your first marathon.

In my second marathon, I learned about humility. It doesn’t get easier. You get tougher, but you need to put in the work. My second marathon was terrible and painful and I questioned why I was doing this again. It seemed so stupid. But I finished and I’m proud that I powered through.

In my third marathon, I learned to believe in magic. Marathons are magical. There’s nothing like thousands of strangers coming together to complete a hard thing – and thousands more cheering them on. This race is still one of the greatest days of my life.

In my fourth marathon, I learned about community. Marathons are better when you run with a friend. I ran the first half of the race with my sister and having her by my side made this race so much more than it would have been had I done it alone.

In my fifth marathon, I learned about acceptance. You can’t go back, only forward. You can’t re-create, only accept new moments. I ran NYC for the second time and wanted o badly to have the same life-changing day I had when I ran NYC the first time. I didn’t. I was originally disappointed by that. But I’ve accepted it and have come to appreciate this race for what it was and how far I’ve come in my running.

In my sixth marathon, I learned that fun is more important than fast. Together is better than alone. And there aren’t a lot of options to wear a tutu and fairy wings as an adult – so take the ones you get. This was my slowest marathon by almost two hours, but I had a smile on my face the entire time. I loved every step. I need to find that feeling in every run. In every day.

My 2017 fitness plan

I’m making bunch of fitness goals for 2017, because that’s what I do.  But my 2017 is about two things: getting stronger and getting faster and, with this in mind, I am structuring my year around 3 goal races:

May 7: Mississauga Half-Marahon, MAYBE Full

The distance depends on how I feel coming out of Dopey. If I commit to the half, I want to run sub 1:45. If I commit to the full, I want to run sub 4:00. I plan to chill after Dopey, then commit to a very tough 12-week training program beginning Feb. 28. I did a 16-week plan for NYC and it felt like too much. I was burned out by the end. So I’m going to cut the length, up the intensity and see how I respond.

July 10: Toronto Triathlon Festival Olympic Distance Tri

I’ve done four sprint tris now and it’s time to upgrade. So let’s double the distance and see how hard it is. I’ll take two weeks off after Mississauga, then put together an 8-week training plan.

October 22: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

This is my A+ goal race. I’m going to run as fast as I fucking can. I have the idea of BQ dancing in the back of my head, but will set a more realistic goal closer to. I’ll take the rest of July off, then, depending on how I respond to Mississauga training, commit to a 16-week or a 12-week plan.

Bring it on, 2017.