Onward and upward. The first steps to marathon #3.

This is the only post-race photo I took. So you have to see it again.

This is the only post-race photo I took. So you have to see it again.

It has been exactly a week since I ran the Ottawa Marathon. I can walk normally again. Toronto now feels like summer. I went to the island Friday night, caught a late ferry back. The skyline was sparkling and I was ready. Ready for summer. Ready to do this marathon training thing for the second time in a year. (I am delusional and crazy. It’s the only way to get through this.)

I sent an email to Andie, my running coach, about New York, this morning. I need to put fun in my runs again. The email itself was long and rambly, but this was the gist of it:

1. I want to run a strong, consistent race.

I am a positive split master. So this time out, my goal is around a 4:15 marathon with 2:07/2:07 splits. I’ll get my sub 4:00. But NYC isn’t the place to do it.

2. I want to have fun.

The Ottawa Marathon training cycle was hard, and it wasn’t fun. Part of the reason I have 4:15 in mind is that I want to enjoy the experience. I don’t want to get so caught up in a goal that I miss running the NYC Marathon. I actually tried to write a km by km recap of Ottawa and I couldn’t. I barely remember Gatineau or running by the prime minister’s house. Sometimes, that’s okay. But for one of the biggest marathons in the world, it won’t be.

3. I want to get stronger.

I was doing really well on the strength training aspect of my training until I got sick in April. I want to get back on track with that again. I think training in the summer and fall will help with that a lot. It will be light outside and warm and waking up at 6 a.m. to workout won’t be the death sentence it is in February.

4. I want to run with people more often.

I used to go to a running group at Lulu Lemon semi-regularly. Then, after Blue Nose, I stopped. I appreciate the solo time running gives me, but I did find when I ran with people, I pushed myself harder. I need to do that again.

5. I want to run a sub-50:00 10k.

My 10k split at the STWM half last fall was 52:28, so I think this is a good goal that gives me a reason to do speedwork and focus on getting faster without it bogging down my marathon goals.

6. I want my training to start on July 20.

I want a few weeks to run for fun, enjoy the summer, let my body heal from the marathon. My friend Natalie (hi, Natalie!) is getting married in NS this summer and we are going, so I thought that returning from that trip would be a good time to start training. It’ll mean my training program would be 15 weeks long. Since I am just coming off a training cycle, I think it will be ok.

We’ll see what the coach says.

Oh, Ottawa. Marathon #2 is done.

photo (9)
Well, that wasn’t fun.

The good: The first 18k and last 400 metres.

The bad: Everything in between.

A combination of factors came together to make this race the toughest one I’ve ever run. First, it got hot in the second half. It was cooler than forecasts called for, but hot enough I could feel it. Second, my lungs felt full – but not full of air. I had bronchitis in December, which resulted in a hacking cough after every long run. I got sick again in April and I haven’t fully recovered from it. I’ve been in denial about this, but it was evident today. And, finally, knee pain decided to show up and not go away. In order to manage the pain, I had to slow my pace and walk a lot in the second half. It was so frustrating because I felt like I could run faster, that my muscles could do more. And they probably could. But I got frustrated. And that made me run slower and walk more.

I think if it had been two out of the three, I wouldn’t have let myself get so defeated. I still PBed – by one entire minute – but this was a wholly different marathon experience than my first one. I crossed the finish line of the Blue Nose knowing I left everything out on that course. I crossed the finish line in Ottawa knowing I can do better. That was held me back today is manageable. That I beat myself today. The amount of energy I had during the last 400 metres proved it.

I probably learned more about myself and about running today than if I had had an amazing race. I need to get mentally tougher. I need to foam roll my IT bands more. I need to push harder in training. Important lessons.

I can only get better from here.



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.

Race recap: Semi Marathon de Paris

Ahhh!! I’ve been so bad! Sorry people for the lack of posts and things from me! It’s been a busy and internet-less two months in Chislehurst, but still. It’s been way too long depriving you all from my traveling updates and training on the road and I apologize.

You’ll be happy to know I made it to France! I am in Paris, the city of love, and I am in LOVE. I am so excited to live and stay here for the last month of my training before my big race, the Paris Marathon. After running the half on Sunday I have some major work to do, especially if I’m going for a PB. Or even better yet a sub 4 hour race.

I just ran a race in Paris!

I just ran a race in Paris!

January was all about training and finding my way around London, trying to meet new people, and find a yoga studio to adopt me. While February was all about the Olympics, working, and of course training. I did find an amazing studio, Breeze Yoga, I was regularly attending, I kept up with my running mates at the Reebok FitHub meeting twice a week for our +10k runs. All of a sudden living in Chislehurst was staring to feel like home. One thing, however, which was not going according to plan was me beginning to lag behind in the long run department. I knew this was no good for my half marathon coming up, but getting in 40-50k a week felt like I was getting the job done at least. After Sunday I realize this was not true. I kept hearing Alice’s voice in my head telling me how important the long runs are and it’s not so much about the overall mileage. See Alice, I’m still thinking of you! And I miss you too!

Semi Marathon de Paris wasn’t my goal race so instead of going out and givin’er I decided not to be too hard on myself for feeling under prepared and run the race for fun. Enjoy the sights of Paris and just have a good go at it. Of course I would want to run another sub 2 hour half, but it wasn’t a proirty to do so. But when I saw my time of 2:04 I wish I had made it a priority after all. Oh well, I guess you can’t win them all. If anything when I finished the race I definitely had more gas in the tank – which was a bit of a surprise and a tad frustrating. I learned my lesson and now I know for next time that extra push is worth it in the end. It is better to go for it (but being smart about it) than not. All the things to learn as a runner.

So what was good about this race? Well for starters, it was in Paris! And the route was just lovely. Starting and ending in Parc Floral de Paris we looped through the east part of the city, ran along the water for a little ways, ran along busy, beautiful streets then back to the park. I loved it. The crowd support was also amazing the entire time. Running along stretches of cafés and bistros people were everywhere, out enjoying their cigarettes, baguettes and coffees while cheering. It was so French and so great! The route was also pretty flat. Another bonus. Cecilley and I, along with the 40,000 other runners, lucked out completely because we had the absolute best weather. A run is always better with crisp air and sunshine. The day was gorgeous, I couldn’t help but be happy with my race overall. I felt good the entire time and I wasn’t sore afterward. There wasn’t a period of time where I wanted to stop, or felt like I needed to, I was well feed (Cecilley took great care of us in that department) and well hydrated. I had a positive feeling going in and I was excited to run. All of which prepared me for a good day. For the run that almost didn’t happen, I deserved a good day.

Cecilley and I in pretty Paris! It's time to celebrate my birthday and the fact we ran our race!

Cecilley and I in pretty Paris! It’s time to celebrate my birthday and the fact we ran our race!

Yup. You heard me right… For the run that almost didn’t happen. Let me explain.

With every race there are going to be a few not so great things about it. I have accumulated a few complaints through the course of the day, but only a few. Here’s where the trouble began for Cecilley and I apparently if you’re running any race in France you require a medical certificate from a doctor giving you consent to run. I did not know this. Maybe all European races require a medical certificate I don’t know, but learn from my mistake and make sure you have this prior to to picking up your race kit. Lucky for me my cousin is a doctor (thank you, Eric!) and sent an email indicating I am physically capable to run the race, but before his note came through Cecilley and I were freaking out. What was supposed to be a casual shake out run, the day before, to the expo turned out to be a few hours of hectic running amuck trying to track down a doctor to sign our papers. Given it was Saturday, we were having terrible luck. Once my home support came through Cecilley and I zipped back to the expo before closing to claim our bib numbers and race packs. They ran out of race packs. I was not impressed. So after all that we didn’t even get a shirt or a few samples.

Not only did the race not have enough shirts apparently they were in short supply of food and medals too. This isn’t a good sign when you know how many participants you have running beforehand.

Areas the race could improve on is its overall organization. Make sure runners know what’s going on and what they can expect. The race began at 10am (not a bad time to start) but the fact they sent corals out in waves of gapped time (again not to our knowledge) meant that Cecilley and I didn’t start until and hour later. We were waiting around for what felt like a really long time. If that’s the case let people know their group start time in advance to better prepare and cut down on the number of people before and after. The water stations were also a bit of a miss having them spaced out at 5k intervals which caused way too much commotion. Stations were also set up on just one side of the street. Another recipe for a runners pile up. I avoided the water stations at all costs, not because I didn’t need water, but because I was afraid of getting trampled on! These runners were intense. I have to say of all the races I’ve participated in this one was by far the most pushy and aggressive. Even during the run I found it hard to settle into a groove and maneuver around people. It’s to be expected for obvious reasons, but for some reason it felt different.

No Paris recap is complete without a picture of the Eiffel Tower on the eve of my birthday!

No Paris recap is complete without a picture of the Eiffel Tower on the Eve of my birthday!

I don’t want to sound like a terrible complainer because the good parts of the race diffentately out way the bad, I personally feel with fewer participants this could have been a much smoother operation.

Next up for me is the Paris Marathon with just over a month to go. Now that I have a better idea of where I’m at – I felt good and on track for a good marathon time if I had to of run further on Sunday. The goal now is to find a new place to train from and live, possibly find myself some new running companions, and get my long runs in each week. This is very important from here on out. And of course learn some French along the way. Bonsoir! (Or bonjour wherever you happen to be!)

Wins and weak knees

Play ball! (Photo by @annebalser)

Play ball! (Photo by @annebalser)

It’s a busy week, so I wanted to start it off right. I got up early this morning and got a quick run in. My knees hurt the entire time. They felt old and sore and creaky. Uh oh.

This is a new sensation for me. I’m used to a sore hip and my left knee hates yoga so much, but I’ve never had knee pain while running. Is it the Newtons? The fact I haven’t foam rolled since my marathon? The marathon itself? Who knows! I will keep and eye and keep you updated.

For no real reason, I declared June a “month of fun.” No self-improvement projects. No goals. Just an attempt to enjoy life and enjoy Toronto. As a result of this declaration, I have discovered two fit-related things that are changing my life. (Okay, that’s an extreme exaggeration. But they are contributing to my fun.)

1. Maple Leafs baseball

Toronto_Maple_Leafs_BaseballDid you know Toronto had a semi-pro baseball team? And that they are called the Maple Leafs? And that their games are free?! I did not, until I mentioned to a co-worker I wanted to watch some cheap baseball. Since then, Anne and I have gone to both home games and are making plans to go to all the ones we can if we are both free. It’s a great way to pass a lazy Sunday afternoon. We destroyed Hamilton, 15-2, on Sunday. It was almost sad.



2. WNBA Live Access

175px-ChicagoSkyFor $14.99, I can stream all the WNBA games I want to my computer, iPhone or iPad. There are broadcast rules — as in, if a game is on TV in your area, you can’t stream the game online — but since NOT A SINGLE GAME is aired in Canada (why does Canada hate ladies’ basketball? It’s the same problem with the NCAA tourney!), I am in the clear. I have semi-arbitrarily decided Chicago Sky is my team (they have Swin Cash, a kick ass center, a point guard with something to prove and my favourite of the “Three to See” rookies — Elena Delle Donne — and the city itself is a lot like Toronto). Delle Donne played like a 10-year vet and hit two free throws with 1.8 seconds to take home the win for the Sky, 72-70. I watched this game outside on my iPad. I love technology. I bet my neighbours didn’t love my yelling.



I also talked to my run coach, Andie, about my fall race plans. For the summer, I’m planning to run 3x a week, do yoga 2x a week and not get injured. Let’s see how I do with that plan.


What sports teams do you follow?!



The run: 5.0k in 33:04
The route: