Saturday 18 February 2017

30km ATB Training Plan so far

Well, we are about 2/3 of the way through the training plan for arguably the greatest bucket list race, Around the Bay 30km in Hamilton, Ontario.
Longer than a half-marathon, but not as long as a marathon it's a great next step for someone like myself who has run multiple half-marathons, met a goal PB and now, looking for a new challenge.

I'm writing this reflection post now (though I have been thinking on it for a few weeks) as we've just passed a new threshold. I keep saying "we" as I am running most of my runs with my sole sister whom I will be running the race with, Lisa.
16km in my neck of the woods

A very cold, windy 22km- still smiling

gorgeous, sunny, 24km1

Our long run training runs have now gotten into the distances that give us automatic PRs, farther than we've ever gone before. Before this training schedule our furthest distances were half-marathons. Last weekend we ran 22km- longer than a half, but not by much. This weekend (yesterday) we ran 24km. Wow. It's truly incredible what the body is capable of.

I'd like to share the lessons I've learned, and better understood, as a result of this training plan so far.

1. There's no such thing as bad weather, only soft people. 

A runner's favourite compliment is, "you're crazy". I've been called crazy multiple times when I gleefully tell people the distance I plan on running, especially when combined with the time of day (as it's either early on a Saturday, or Friday evening after a looooong week of work). But now, I've added a new level of crazy, winter running.
I've never done any formal training for a race in the winter before. Usually my winter running is maintenance miles and mostly treadmill miles. I knew the saying, I accepted that I must be a "soft person" then because I hate being cold, and the wind and the snow, no thanks! BUT, I continue to find no matter how cold or miserable I've been outside during the day (hello yard duty, bleh) once I get all dressed for a run and head out I find the weather become irrelevant and not such a big hurdle as I had thought.
Sure, weather adds a new challenge and certainly can increase the difficulty, but that just leaves me with a greater feeling of accomplishment, strength and preparedness because hey! race day can't be THAT bad, right?

2. If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go with a friend.

I have cherished the time together with my training partner Lisa. She's an extremely busy woman who gives of herself tirelessly. She's a principal, french teacher, kindergarten teacher, mother, sister, daughter, wife etc. Whenever we spend time together she's busy doing multiple things at once. Except when we run. Sure, she will pick up the phone if a family member calls, but for the most part there are no distractions, just the two of us and the road.
I have mixed feelings each week as we plan out of long run. Part of me dreads it. I know the time and physical toll it's going to take on my body. I know it's winter, its cold, we usually run Friday night after work which often means more of our run is in the dark than in the daylight. But I know as soon as I am done I will grab her in a great embrace, we will waddle into the house, put our legs up the wall and giggle as we are filled with pride and the feeling of accomplishment.
We've been through quite the conditions, cold, wind, driving snow, thick snow covered roads, oncoming traffic, slushy wet roads, you name it, we've had it. We've both had runs where our tummies don't agree with us, and runs where our entire body says "i'm tired. this week had taken it's toll on me". We walk when we need to, we take pit stops when we need to, and we slather voltaren before bed like it's going out of style. We love texting each other the next day over our different muscles who have decided to protest.
When you choose to walk it can feel like defeat on your own, but when you choose to walk with a friend you feel like you're putting that person first, knowing they are pushing through not to let you down, afraid to admit the need to allow the body a reprieve. It's always easier to take care of a friend before acknowledging our own needs.
Both our respective mothers have expressed their displeasure with us running this far, in this weather, at night in the dark but have admitted that the only thing giving them peace of mind is that we've done it together.
I could not have done this alone.

I've actually fallen in love with winter running. There's a beautiful simplicity in the preparation. It's a bit of an oxymoron as packing my gym back for an after school long run means ramming a whole bunch of items in, but it completely takes the thought out of capris vs shorts vs pants and tshirt vs tank vs long sleeve vs sweater etc. If it's winter, it's cold. I'm packing thermal tights, my overpants, long sleeve shirt, sweater, jacket, mitts, hat and 2 buffs. I don't have to think about it, I just have to put on "everything I own" (so the expression goes, of course it's not true, I've got running gear for days) and go.

Monday 2 January 2017

I'm back, and ready for you 2017! seems life has gotten in the way and this blog has been pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Thanks to this beautiful time of year of reflection and goal setting I've re-prioritized blogging and more so, running.

It has seemed over the past few months that I've fallen out of love with running. No, that can't be true. I've always loved running, it just became a love of familiarity, a love taken for granted. "You'll always be there for me, running, so I don't really need to put any effort into this relationship". We all know that those relationships eventually fizzle out and die. But, the beauty in running is that you get out of it what you put into it.

Other loves, passions and creative endeavours had taken precedence. I like lists, so here you go:

Reasons I haven't been running (as much):

1. The gym:

In June I got a gym membership for the first time in my life and really fell in love with cross training. I love taking pride in my strengths (my legs) and laughing at my weaknesses (anything arms/core) while pushing myself to improve those areas. Progress is a drug.
Run then power class at the YMCA

2. My relationship:

In October my best friend asked me to be his wife, that excitement and wedding planning has consumed me as well. We are also in a long distance relationship right now and only see each other on weekends (prime running time) so running gets pushed aside for quality time with the love of my life.
First run with my ring

3. My career:

Teaching is very time consuming. Much like running, you do indeed get out what you put in and I will easily give everything I have for those kids, to watch them succeed and grow and fall in love with learning.

These all sound like excuses because they are. The truth is my relationship with running had just grown stagnant. I was running the same races, the same distances, and though running still brought me joy, it was fleeting joy. It almost began to feel more like a chore. "Oh jeeze, I haven't run since Thursday, I should really get a run in soon".

Enter: New years.

Step 1: Reflect:

2016 was a good year for me running-wise. Here's another list:

2016 Running accomplishments:

1. A new half marathon PB

I finally broke 1:50 at my spring half marathon, the Goodlife Fitness Marathon series in Toronto. It was also my first half my parents weren't at. I only had my then boyfriend, Mark, with me. It was a big step emotionally.
Finally that sub 1:50

2. I ran a race with my sister-in-law 

It was so nice to spend that quality time together. At that point in time we weren't officially sister-in-laws yet as they married in September and the race was in May, but none-the-less it was a special moment crossing that finish line together. I also grew a whole heck of respect for her as her regular running routes are ridiculously hilly.
Though we finished at the same time, my name comes first alphabetically. So I got the medal.

3. Canada Day 8km

It's a local race between two small towns that has been going for almost 50 years. Very simplistic, free, no bibs, no chip timers, no roads closed. You just run from the old school to the community centre one town away. But I got to run it with my running bestie and the best part was after the fact, looking through pictures where we have identical strides. She is my sole sister in so many ways.

4. Ran my first triathlon

I signed up as part of the hospital's charity team and raised money. I only completed the run portion. It was summer, it was mid-day. It was death. I gained new respect for triathletes and promptly decided that was something I'd (likely) never do.

5. Completed a challenging half marathon

One of my favourite run series that always falls on my birthday is the Run Blue Mountains run in Thornbury. First place age category finishers win a pie. I've ran the 5km and the 10km twice, so it was finally time to run the half. Though I love small town races, I do not love small town half marathons. For longer races I need the motivation of crowds and runners around me. I ran a small town half a few years ago and went km's without seeing anyone else. That can really wear on your motivation and pacing. BUT, I decided I needed to complete the trifecta so I ran the half. It turned out to be windy, rainy and ridiculously hilly. Including one of the biggest hills I've ever seen in my life, let alone run. I actually walked it. I still ended up getting a 1st in my age category.

I had told myself my relationship with running had matured. I'd fallen into a state of consistency. I was no longer pushing for new goals of time or distance and that was okay. I was running for the love of running. What I didn't realize (until now) is that that love dissipated. My love of running is based largely on goal setting, training plans and pushing myself.

Step 2: Set goals

2017 running and fitness goals

1. Run Around the Bay 30km

It's always been on my bucket list since I started running. The oldest race on this continent, older than Boston, it's steeped in history. The race circles the bay in Hamilton. It's known for being hilly and often windy. It's a long distance to run. Held the last weekend in March, it means you need to train during the winter. It's chocked full of challenges, which makes it more exciting. I wanted to run it before I turned 30 and though I'm 28 now, with my wedding coming up this August I'm not sure where our marriage will take us and how that will effect my training so there's no time like the present. Speaking of present, I gifted a race registration to my sole sister, Lisa. Having a partner in crime makes these challenges seem so much more attainable. Plus, as a new distance challenge there's absolutely no time restraint. So we can just run and chat and run and chat. I can't wait.

2. Get fit for the wedding.

You know, work on the whole package. Keep up the cross training at the gym, make sure I'm eating right. The whole package. So that I look good in my wedding dress :)

Suddenly the spark has set my love of running aflame again. I was giddy with excitement as I made a chart in a notebook and drafted up a training plan. I grabbed a journal and wrote out each date from January 1st to March 26th, race day.

I set out for my first run of my training schedule today. It said 5km tempo. I'm not used to training in the middle of winter, usually just maintenance miles. But today I got to run tempo, comfortably difficult. It felt so good to push my legs, feel my lungs burn and regret wearing 3 layers.

It's so great to acknowledge a starting point, to reflect and acknowledge the changes I'd like to make and look ahead to the progress that is sure to come. My body tells me it needs better fuel, and more water to run efficiently and I promise it that I will give it just that.

Stay tuned for more. So far, 2017 is off to a great start.

Sunday 7 August 2016

For Her

I’d like to start off by saying I love Body Glide. The product has honestly changed my life for the better. I learned about Body Glide when I first got into running 4 years ago from a runner friend but I wish I’d known about it long before then. There is nothing worse than chaffing. Seriously, nothing. Chub rub can happen to the best of us; I don’t care how thick or thin or you are. If you’ve never experienced that awful skin on skin friction then count yourself seriously blessed. The rest of us have been trying a number of solutions to manage including applying baby powder and deodorant to the areas where our skin rubs with limited success. For me, this is between my legs. I’ve never had a thigh gap, though I feel like few women do. I’m not upset about not having a thigh gap, even though I do think flamingos are pretty rad and they have thigh gaps. In fact, the other day my boyfriend squeezed my thigh and commented on my “little legs” to which I scoffed and said no way, those are not little quads! I work hard on these leg muscles and I’m proud of them. Bless his heart, he was just trying to be nice because the general rule of thumb for boys is to never use words like “big, large, fat, thick etc” in relation to a woman’s body. With all this being said, my life has truly been changed and not just when I run and my inner thighs rub one another but in my everyday life. If I am wearing a dress or skirt you can be certain I am also wearing Body Glide.

For those that aren’t aware of what Body Glide is, it’s a stick which looks similar to a deodorant that can be applied directly to the skin creating a non-greasy, non-sticky, non-gross barrier that protects the skin from chafing all day long. 

I live in a somewhat small town with 2 sport stores. Both sell Body Glide but usually just one option. About a year ago I noticed they started carrying a second product by Body Glide called, “For Her”. I am in fact a “her” so I purchased this one. Then I got to thinking, how different can this one be from the original Body Glide which is not called for him but makes me now imply that it must be for him if this new, smaller and of course pink version is called for her. Turns out this new product has vitamins and can rehydrate your skin which makes it ideal for dry or sensitive skin. So why is it called “For Her”? Are female bodies drier than male bodies? Do males not want the benefits of vitamins? Do males not have sensitive skin?

I know it’s marketing but it should be marketed differently. Call it Body Glide vitamins or Body Glide for sensitive skin or Body Glide moisturizer or I don’t know. I’m not in marketing. I get frustrated with these deeply ingrained gender stereotypes and gender norms and how they permeate our world.

From looking at the website Body Glide has a number of different products that come in a range of sizes. Interestingly only three of the seven products are listed as “unisex” (one of which is a t-shirt, oddly enough). So if the other products aren’t listed as unisex, which sex are they designed for? The “For Her” is obvious but the others are not.

I can’t say that I have a point to this post exactly other than a general frustration for the marketing to male and female bodies in an antiquated viewpoint. We’ve come so far in breaking down gender stereotypes, especially the hurtful ones. Yet, there seems to be so many more hiding in plain sight. I’m not saying boycott these products because Body Glide is a lifesaver. I’m saying use your brain and question these things. Don’t just look at the pink “For Her” and pick it up because you’re a girl or avoid it because you’re a boy. Read the packages, look at the product itself and what it has and make a decision that’s best for you, regardless of your gender.

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Chronicles of a Gym Newbie

Hello, my name is Amelia and I am a gym newbie.

I found running 3 years ago and fell in love. But sometimes just running can be detrimental to the body. So, I "joined" a ladies bootcamp class 2 years ago. It was held in a garage gym with a personal trainer and 3-8 ladies twice a week. I loved it; it taught me my strengths and weaknesses and ways to push through insecurities associated with inability and challenge those weaknesses to improve.

Sadly, that era came to an end when my trainer let us know she would no longer be holding evening classes as family comes first. She did let us know we could still train with her at a local crossfit gym. I hummed, I hawed, I considered, but like goldilocks, crossfit just didn't seem to be right for me. (This is all just assumption based on cost and impressions of what crossfit entails, I'm glad some people really love it!).

So I decided to join my local YMCA. I hadn't been in since I was a child and attended swimming lessons and held birthday parties there. It certainly has changed, I was impressed. After saying I'd sign up I went in one week ago today, Tuesday May 31st in the evening to get a tour, look at class schedules and register myself.

The lady who I spoke to at the desk was super friendly and personable. She (and the others I've come in contact with) are a great first impression of the YMCA. I was very pleased to learn that membership is only 40 dollars and change monthly as I am a "young adult" (under 30) and that you can put your membership "on hold" for up to 6 months without penalty.

Affordable and accommodating!

So I studied the schedule and saw each morning was a different 6am class. Though I'm not a morning person I decided to give it a try Wednesday morning. I set my alarm for 5:30 but ended up waking up at 5 (I'm not sure how). Got myself dressed and drove the 7 minutes in to the gym. It was quiet but peaceful that time of morning. I received a friendly hello from the desk, scanned my pass and carried on to the studio room where the 6:00-6:45am group cycle class was to be held.

At first I got nervous and scared as everyone in the room looked like they knew what they were doing. I peeked at the exercise bike (spin cycle?) and saw the pedals had the shoe clip-ins and I thought "oh no! do I need special shoes for this class?!" I walked to the change room to compose myself as I thought "maybe I should just go exercise on the treadmill or with the weights, I'm not cut out for these classes". But I said to myself, "don't be silly! you can do this" and I put my sweater and keys in a locker.

SIDE NOTE: During this time I somehow misplaced my pass. Luckily this allowed me subject matter to talk with fellow gym goers and make some friends. The lady at the desk was super nice and let me know she'd keep an eye out for it and said if I didn't find it by the next morning she'd replace it for me. Usually it's a 3 dollar charge but she said my first one was on the house. She could tell I was flustered likely. When she asked if I'd be back the next morning it also made me accountable to return. Well done lady at the desk, well done. If I ever win a fitness award I'll be sure to thank the lady at the desk.

I brought myself back into the spin class, sat on the bike and realized the other side of the pedals were for running shoes. Whew. Crisis averted.

The instructor was really kind. He looked around and asked if anyone needed any help adjusting their bike. I was too chicken to say anything so I just watched others and learned how to adjust the resistance with a little toggle on the front of the bike, and how to read the monitor, as well as an appropriate place to put my water bottle (in the holder, not hanging from the handles...).

As we were warming up the instructor looked around and said, "looks like a room of familiar faces here today" which calmed my nerves that I didn't in fact stick out like a sore thumb. He did look familiar to me and as my mother later informed me, was an employee of the local car dealership where all our vehicles have been purchased, as well as a close friend of my uncle's. That's small town for you!

I left the gym feeling happy, uplifted, energized and powerful (kinda a good way).

The week went as follows:
Tuesday: register in the evening
Wednesday: 6-6:45am group cycle
Thursday: 6:00-7:00am bootcamp
Friday: 6:00-6:25am body pump followed by 6:30-7:15 yoga
Saturday: with a friend ran 3km to the other somewhat local YMCA, 9-10am group power class, ran 3km back to her house.
Sunday: rest
Monday: 5:45-6:45pm core, 7:00-8:00pm yoga with my best friend.
Tuesday: 6-7am group power

After the cycle nervousness I reflected on what I would have done differently and decided if I was giving a gym newbie advice I'd say introduce yourself to the instructor, tell them you are new and ask for suggestions. This especially applies for a class that has equipment involved.  So I did just that on Thursday morning for bootcamp. The instructor helped me decide which equipment I'd need and was able to keep an eye on me during the class.

I did not like Friday morning's yoga. In fact, I don't like yoga. I wish I did, I know it's important as I have zero flexibility and minimal core strength. I didn't like the instructor and being that the class went later than all others I felt stressed about getting home to shower and off to work in time. So not the point.

I love that with a YMCA membership you can attend any YMCA. Though I'm a member at the Collingwood YMCA 7 minutes from my house, I can also use and attend classes at the Wasaga Beach YMCA which is 5 minutes from my work, friends and boyfriend's place, when the opportunity arises.

A day pass is also a very affordable option. I thought it was 10 dollars a day but learned for a "young adult" it's $5.50! My best friend Sam joined me for yoga Monday night and I ended up having a lot more fun than I did Friday morning. We also had a different instructor and I am a big believer that a good teacher can make learning fun no matter what subject. Things are also way more fun with your best friend, naturally.

The YMCA feels familiar; It feels like home. I look around these classes and see some familiar faces as I've grown up in this community. I see people of all ages and fitness abilities. They aren't all young and super buff but they are strong and they are putting a priority on their health and well-being. Though it has only been a week I've already fallen in love with the gym life, especially taking classes and feeling new muscles being challenged. I can't wait to see how this will translate into my running as well!

Stay tuned for more as I continue to grow into a gym rat...or gym unicorn.

Friday 3 June 2016

Race Recap: True North Academy Fun Run

Saturday May 28th, 2016 marked the 2nd annual True North Academy Fun Run. The run has a kids 1km and a 5km run/walk that starts at Beach Area 5 at the Wasaga Beach Provincial Park and runs the trails and beach as an out and back course. The race benefits a private Christian school in Wasaga Beach that keeps tuition costs low to be affordable and accessible for local families.

I should also mention that this race is near and dear to my heart as my colleague Lisa and I are the race directors. This run was a dream of ours as we are both so passionate about teaching and running and wanted to bring the two together. Our inaugural event was so much more successful than we could have ever imagined and we were so excited for the second year, going in with more experience and understanding of what we were doing.
My partner in crime 

Friday was packet pick up from 4-6 at the school. We had bib pick up, swag bags and shirt pick up. We had great tech t-shirts that were lime green and on the back the school logo with the script "10 years still running strong" as this year the school celebrated its' 10th anniversary.
packet pick up
Race day!
7:45-8:45am was same-day registration and packet pick up. It was set to be a hot day nearing 30 degrees with humidity. We started promptly at 9am with opening announcements, O Canada, a prayer and a warm up by local Chiropractor, Dr. Sarah. Sarah also puts on a running clinic each spring and fall that both Lisa and I have been a part of.
Councillor Sylvia Bray and Dr. Sarah

The excitement was growing

warm up

Warm up

From there, local councillor and owner of everyone's favourite ice cream shop Grandma's Beach Treats, Sylvia Bray did the countdown to send off the kids 1km racers. There was great music from the DJ keeping the energy and excitement up.

After all the kids were finished and received their custom made finishers medal the 5km runners and walkers lined up and waited for Sylvia to announce the official start.
The start of the 5km

The course ran from gravel trail, to packed beach front, to paved trail back to beach front to the turn around (which had water, thank goodness!) and back again. There were lots of course marshals with arrows and km markers along the course.

Mark and I running on the beach

The course turning up onto the trail

Friendly course marshals

The paved trail on the way back

I got to run the race with Mark, our second race together, and loved every moment of it. Many of my students ran the race so it was fun on the out and back course to see so many friends and family and to cheer them all on with such beautiful surroundings. The weather and the course provided a challenge as it was so hot and the ground uneven at parts on the sand but was still manageable.
Sharing in my passion 
It was so nice to have photographer Jessica Lindsay (and close friend of mine) there to capture all the special moments.
friend and photographer extraordinare

sweaty hugs with this sweet friend

My dad and mom, top male and female walkers

Giving out medals to my dad

A special moment for Mark and his mom!

After the race participants were able to sign up for a free 15 minute massage from a local MRT.

Participants had water, coffee, tea, gatorade, timbits, watermelon, apples, chips and more to choose from for post-race nourishment.

Once everyone had finished we announced all our thank-you's and gave out age category prizes (custom coasters) to the top 3 in each age category for the run (male and female in under 19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50+) and top 3 males and females in the walk category. We had a podium made last year and were able to have each winner stand on the podium for photos.

After that we drew names from our bib raffle (all participants received an entry!). The first choice from the prize table went to our top fundraisers. There were some fantastic prizes including 2 new bikes, blue jays hats and shirts, gift baskets, gift cards and gift certificates and so much more.

Overall it was a great day and taking on the role of race director gives me new respect and appreciation for all race directors as it is no easy feat to put on such an event;
but it is so rewarding to watch the kids run and learn healthy lifestyles and a love for the outdoors. Also, to know that all this effort translates to a Christian education in small classrooms to benefit these kids make it all more than worth it.