Running, Away

Last week I had the chance to take my Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon training on the road. For 8 days I travelled and camped through Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. While planning your runs on a regular weekly basis can sometimes be a task itself, with work and other commitments, it’s another challenge completely when your choices are ‘do I want to run’ or ‘do I want to sit on this patio, have a beer and watch the city move’.

The truth is you can do both of those things, one rewards the other. Sometimes it will require a bit of advance planning (ex. running around dirt roads near a campground) and sometimes you really just luck into it (ex. our Cape Cod campground backed out into a 22-mile Rail Trail, a former rail line converted into recreation path). Since I’m still fairly new at the travel-running, I’m slowly discovering that waking up early while on vacation is really a reward: time alone, in a new place, watching a new city wake up and go about the day. Unexpected parks. Other early risers. Places your ‘tourist route’ would never dream of taking you. If you’re like me and don’t usually carry a phone while running, try it out & take some shots of where you went.

Next time you pack for a trip, throw in your kit, run around another place. Change your perspective. After running the same routes at home it’s refreshing to get out and remind yourself to take a look around…

Charles Lines

Charles River – same water, different days…

Charles Bog
Cape Cod Rail Trail, at the beginning…

Cape Cod Rail Trail

Wild Turkey


Marconi Wireless Station site, Atlantic Ocean


Marconi Wireless Station site, poor s.p. edition


…and just because I was in Boston. A girl can dream, right?

Boston Marathon Finish


Last week I had the opportunity to write an entry for the Canada Running Series site. The original post appeared here – which is where you can also find stories from the rest of the STWM Digital Champions under ‘Recent Posts’. There’s a great variety of topics from the DCs – some humorous, some technique and experience related, and some inspirational.

I dug up some high school memories for this piece. You can read on for yourself, but what came to mind when I was writing this is an old Sloan lyric: ‘It’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans…’ – pretty much sums up how I felt about sports for a really, really long time…


“The STWM Digital Champions are a group of diverse, dedicated and enthusiastic athletes; each with a unique story and running history…”


I still have a difficult time thinking of myself as an athlete. I grew up playing outside just like every other kid in my neighbourhood. We invented games, we came home only to eat and go out again in the evening. We swam at the outdoor pools, played hide-and-seek, built forest forts. Sisters, brothers, neighbours, cousins. We worked it out together.

In elementary school, I joined every sport team: why not? It allowed me to leave class for a day, go to schools around the city and play baseball, soccer, indoor hockey. The city I grew up in is fairly small and extracurricular activities were no doubt high in demand (as well as price) at that time, but my mom always ensured we had an outlet for our energy. I played soccer for 5 years before joining Sea Cadets, where I swam competitively and won provincial medals. Sport wasn’t something I thought much about, it was just something I did.

Despite growing up with a life of active and encouraged play, I can pinpoint the exact moment I started to hate it: in high school, in an all-girl gym class.

In high school it was clear that you didn’t just join a sports team. You didn’t just show up to class and play. You needed to dress a certain way, you needed to hang around the right crowd. You’d be judged by your family income and you’d be judged by your hair. After all, judging is what teenage girls do best. All of a sudden, the fun was taken away from the game and I was left with my ratty sneakers, resentment, and the entire semester that remained of this dreaded class. For years after, I did what I thought was everything opposite of the jock crowd: I dyed my hair every colour, I wore thrift store clothing, and I went to all-ages shows with my friends. I skipped out on mandatory ‘school spirit’ basketball team home games and spent time in the darkroom developing photos. I despised anything that took place in a gym.

It never occurred to me that I could have it both ways. That I could keep doing what came natural & explore new hobbies as well.

Fast-forward so many years later: I don’t hold any hard feelings toward my classmates. In high school and adult life, there will always be someone there to try to discourage you. It has taken me this long to realize and acknowledge. Sometimes that person will be a colleague, a family member, a neighbour. But for many of us: it’s ourselves. It upsets me to think I lost so many good years due to teenage and, eventually, adult insecurities. Because almost 20 years after gym class, it’s only now that I’m learning to play all over again.

I started running two years ago after I signed up to walk a half-marathon. It was difficult, it was exhausting, and it burned. I wasn’t sure why I was even trying it out in the first place. I had only made a commitment to walk the distance. But at that moment, the childhood exhilaration came back: running to the park, to the pool, from my brother, to the store for popsicles. When claims were made by whoever could make it there fastest.

I don’t have the same friends to run around with now but I have many other reasons to keep it up: to meet new friends in the rabbit-hole of an online community or out on the trails, to raise money for charities I believe in, to encourage anyone who may be hesitant, to keep striving for new goals and to gain overall confidence, and yes… for popsicles. Our ability to run is the ultimate equalizer. It can be a common bond with someone you’ve just met. It’s exploring new places and seeing old ones differently. Many of us grew up doing it, regardless of income, of what we could afford to wear. It’s just that most of us have forgotten *how* to do it over time.

After a few years of re-discovering, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon will be my ultimate gift to myself: my first marathon, to take back all of that lost time. To prove that we don’t ever have to stop playing. And if you’ve never started? Just try for yourself and see what happens. I promise not to judge you.

Secrets are hard…

Good afternoon once again!

So, since last we spoke, I’ve had a few weeks off training after running the half at Ottawa Race Weekend. I had a few casual runs, a few runs with the Bank St. Sports4 group, and… a lot of days off. It felt strange to not look at a training schedule, after having spent the winter getting ready for Around The Bay and then Ottawa Race Weekend six weeks after that. I went for runs and came back when I didn’t feel like running anymore. So simple, right? Once I got past the ‘routine’ aspect, it really made me realize: I don’t have to do this.

I *want* to do this.

I think it’s a common misconception people have when they see you running: you must be torturing yourself! You must hate every single second of this! Stop pretending – you really do hate this, don’t be smug, you smug jerk!

And that’s how I know these people have never ran for fun. Maybe they associate running with bad things. For example, running for the bus, and missing it. Or running from a wasp. Or those dreams where you run and you don’t get anywhere – those can be hell, too.

So while *I* was out enjoying myself, the end of May marked the end of submissions for the Digital Champion application. The DCs are a group of runners chosen to be ambassadors for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Since STWM will be my first marathon and I know the good work the DCs do at encouraging other runners, providing support and being overall awesome, friendly people – I jumped at the chance to be a part of this year’s team.
Being the keener that I am, I applied early. In February. And I didn’t tell anyone close to me about it.
So when I got the invitation email almost two weeks ago, and wasn’t allowed to tell anyone until the formal announcement last week, I thought ‘I’m cool.’. But I’m not cool. So it’s with great triumph that I can finally announce that I get to be part of this:

During the past week, we’ve had a chance to introduce ourselves (online – since most of the DCs are in the Toronto area). With my 18-week training plan starting this week, I have to admit I’d be hard-pressed to find a better group of people to get support from this summer while I undertake the daunting First Marathon experience! Not only do I get the extra support, but I also get to spread the good word myself and be a part of some great events leading up to race weekend.

So it’s on this good note that I say you may want to follow some of the other DCs this summer – you may just want to have a go at this yourself sometime…


Race Recap: TORW Half-Marathon & Volunteering!

Race Weekend – I’m still recovering.

Remember when I wrote a recap of Around the Bay 2 months after I ran it? While it’s fresh on my mind then, I’ll write a bit about what makes Ottawa Race Weekend not only a fun running event but just a great event to be involved with, period.
So as I mentioned a few times already, I signed up to run for a charity this year and my chosen charity was The Lung Association (here’s why). Since I made my goal by giving a shakedown kindly asking my friends, family and co-workers for donations, I told myself that I would give a bit more back by volunteering at the water station for Saturday’s races. Of course I dragged M along…
I picked up my kit on the Thursday since the Convention Centre is just a slight detour on my bike ride home, and I knew it would be a lot quieter on the first night before all the out-of-town runners came in for the weekend. I spotted Coach Glenn working at the Running Room area right by the t-shirt pick-up. Coach Glenn is this year’s ‘Team Coach’ for the ‘I Love Lungs’ team – and I like saying Coach Glenn because I’ve never had a coach and I’ll probably never be able to afford one. He was the go-to guy for anything related to our team in regards to prepping ourselves in training for our events – it was nice having someone to talk to and get some advice from, especially since he had run Around The Bay the previous year so he was able to give me some tips for that course as well. Bonus Coach!

This year, Ottawa Race Weekend added a tent with music and a new local brewery to the City Hall area – excellent, right? Not only because I love beer but because one of my favourite singer/songwriter/storytellers was lined up to play Friday night: Jim Bryson. But did I make it to the show? No, I did not. I ended up eating two plates of carbs at the wonderful Prescott and watching baseball – eating and baseball are also things I enjoy, but they make me really tired. Ok, the eating makes me tired. Fine. So I didn’t see Jim Bryson, and I didn’t sit at the beer tent. I went to bed HARD.
We got to City Hall at about 1:30 and met up with the rest of the Lung Association volunteers in a sweet trailer with snacks, pizza and water. Pre-race heaven! The race direction had assigned us the hydration area just past the finish line – which I knew right away was going to be the best area to be giving water. We got to work right away, setting up tables, filling cups and lining them up in stacked rows. This takes a lot longer than you would imagine – but finally we were ready and waiting for the first runners to arrive in the 2K race.

Let me say here – and I will because it’s my blog – the 2K race was one of the highlights of my weekend. It made me so happy to see all these wee kids coming running in full force with their families. There were having So. Much. Fun. Since it was so bloody hot out a lot of the water we had poured was being used to throw at everyone else around (not by us – I mean, by the kids). When the crowds thinned out again we stacked the water once more for the 5K runners. Despite how busy this race was we managed to find both friends who were running, B & V. The afternoon went by so quickly, with the tens of thousands of people we were trying to assist I think everything went without a hitch. Good on Melanie & the Lung Association crew!
Since there were a few hours between the 5K & 10K races, we filled our cups again and took a pizza break. I had planned to only do these two races and head home to rest up for my run the next morning, but as a thank you, Melanie gave us two passes for the VIP finish line tent. There was another volunteer who wanted to go so I went with him while Mike biked home and ran some errands.


Since the 10K ran had just started at this point, we were able to watch on the tvs set up inside the tents. Pretty boss, in fact. There were plates of hors d’oeuvres going around, as well as a bar with free wine and beer that I DIDN’T EVEN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF. Race face, guys (I did have my lucky pre-race single beer at home later that night). As the elites neared the finish line, we turned and leaned out of the tents cheering, clapping, yelling with all the other VIPs and family members. What a buzz – Mary Keitany was the overall winner, was killing it near the finish line and I barely got this photo before she sped past. It’s one thing to see the elites on tv but in person I just had such a difficult time believing how fast they really are. Badass!


We watched for another 10 minutes or so, then returned our passes so another group of volunteers could go watch. I biked home, ate a lot of food, had a beer and another litre of water and went right to bed. What an exhausting day…

The next morning I was up early and just kind of stuck to my work routine. I ate breakfast early, had a coffee, double-checked I had everything on me. I don’t use bag-check since I have a Mike to meet me to bring snacks & supplies post-race :)
I pinned my bike lock key to my shorts and headed to the start line, just 2K away. A nice loosen-up kind of ride. I love how convenient the downtown start lines are: I can bike right up to the library, park my bike as the racks are all empty early morning, and walk right into my corral.
Though I was supposed to be in the yellow corral I jumped into the orange and planted myself close to the 1:55 pace bunny at about 8:30. It started to fill up quite quickly, and before I knew it I was jammed right in there, already sweating with the sun beating down hard. Telling sign for the morning to come.

I crossed the start just a few minutes past 9 a.m. The group I was tight packed into just shot right out which was awesome – I’m usually underestimating how I’m going to finish, and end up in a corral trapped amongst slower runners. This time I just planted myself where I really thought I had a chance of ending up – worked out well. Once we started to spread out a bit I was able to cool down in the breeze. I just tried to focus on my target pace of 5:30 and forget about the heat. By the time I made it to Hintonburg I was really starting to get hot though, and that was about the time I saw my first runner drop. There would be many more throughout the race. The guy was just ahead of me, so the pace bunny stopped us and kind of made a barrier around the fallen runner. I slowed down but there wasn’t really much I could do, there were already a few people by his side. I started running again and heard a woman behind me saying ‘he’s up!’ so we all knew he was ok. Yow. This is what made me realize I really had to be careful out there – I’m not a heat person on the best of days, let alone when I’m running tucked into a group of other really hot people! I waved to some friends of mine on their balcony and that perked me up.

Until this point I had only seen M once on his bike just a few KM from the start, I keep my mind occupied by looking out for him popping up along the course. About halfway through I saw him again, when we were almost at the War Museum. By this point I had eaten all of my Honey Stingers because I had a really light-headed moment – just devoured them! When we were heading across the bridge into Gatineau I got some nice breeze – though I find the Gatineau side of the course really uneventful, because we run around the government buildings which are of course dead on a Sunday morning. It’s not a really residential area so there aren’t that many people out to cheer you on. We did, however, pass really close to my favourite little pub district in Gatineau, close to Le Gainsbourg, which made me think of delicious beer, which made me really happy – seriously guys, it doesn’t take much. Once we get to the foot of the Alexandra Bridge is where they dish out sponges so I took my water, dumped it over my head, and sponged my salty face and arms. I was drinking at every water station after the 2nd one, which I don’t normally do, but I figured I could use the hydration. My fingers were starting to swell. After dousing myself with the sponge I felt so much better, but my shirt and shorts were now completely soaked so I suppose I was carrying some extra weight. The bonus was that I could wipe my face with my wet shirt and instantly get refreshed – I know, running is super sexy…

I love this part of the race – crossing the Alexandra Bridge, coming back into Ottawa, you get a nice view of the Parliament Buildings and the breeze from the river. Once back in Ontario, the crowds pack the street all the way now until the finish line. This is also the area where a lot of the marathoners merge with the half-marathon runners. I saw M near the art gallery & according to him afterward I looked like death – so it’s nice to know that how I looked was fairly consistent with how I felt? I honestly cannot emphasize how much I detest the heat. I just can’t ever cool myself down. I was coming down to the 18K mark, so close to the finish, long since losing my pace bunny, I heard a really angry French man behind me. Luckily I speak French so as he was yelling at his running mate to pick up the pace and stop whining, I was taking his words in and grabbing on to his motivation. ‘There are only 3K left, this is no time to start walking!’ Real boot camp stuff. It actually made me laugh a bit because I have no idea who he was yelling at back there. For all I know he could have been just yelling at himself. Seems legit.
Out of nowhere behind me came another 1:55 pace bunny – what? I followed him in. The clock read 2h and I was sure I had well missed my goal – but I was so happy to have completed on two feet. I had the friendly faces of the Lung Association team at the finish line water station – they had basically given up on giving cups of water and were instead pouring pitchers of water on the runners lining up at the tables. How good did the water feel? The only thing better would have been to turn around, run back a few K and jump into the river. But f*ck running :)

Once I got my medal, food and stretched out for a bit (soaking wet – like, everything: socks, shoes, unds) I felt incredible. I was amazed at how I didn’t feel like my body itself was tired of running, I was frankly just tired of the heat. After cooling down I walked over to find M and we watched the other runners come in for about another hour and a half. I had forgotten my twitter was linked up with Sportstats so when M gave me back my phone I had so many great messages of support from my final tweet: my time was 1:56:24. A new personal best.

I never once regretted being on my feet for the day before the race, handing out water. I loved volunteering and I would do it all over again. It added another aspect of what a big event the whole race weekend itself really is, not just for runners and family members but for charities, the public who participate in the live music and cheering, and for all of the volunteers – from high school kids to people who are directly affected by the charity they are volunteering for. There was a woman on the Lung Association volunteer water team who had a double lung transplant, and there were a few others who had never run but just come on their own free time to lend a hand and their time to the organizations that have changed their lives. I got to many a lot of great people over the weekend, each one just as enthusiastic as the next. Such a positive event.

If I didn’t mention enough about just how hot it was, the next day, I took my shoes off the balcony as they had finally dried. They had thick salt stains…



Big Love and Lungs

The countdown is on for Ottawa Race Weekend Half-Marathon: taper mode has set in, I’m a drinking and eating machine. How is it that I’m running less but feeling more hungry? All this spare time now to… eat.

This was a strange lead-up to the Ottawa Race Weekend as I didn’t exactly set out with a training schedule just for this event. I came off the Around the Bay 30K at the end of March, leaving me with April and most of May to keep up the kilometers. My ‘plan’ was just to keep running roughly the same distances I was running for my last 6 weeks of Around The Bay training. I know, not very technical, but I figured it would leave me in an overall good position to keep in shape/run-commute. It was during this time I added in a few ‘speed’ sessions over my lunch hour: change, run 5K, shower, get dressed, and arrive back at my desk 1 hour later. Turns out these are actually pretty fun – I get in a run while at work so I don’t have to wake up extra early or take a longer time getting home. Neat.

It was also during one of these sessions where I was trying to bust out sub-5-min kilometers (success!) and I think I may have pulled a muscle in my upper leg. It was also during this time that I started adding bike-commuting back into my regular routine. I went the entire winter without cycling – I thought when I got my gym membership I would use the cycles and it turns out I didn’t set foot anywhere but on the treadmill. After almost five months away, the first few weeks on the bike have been killer – my runs the past two weeks have been done, but less than pleasant. As I’m writing this I haven’t ran in – gasp – three days. I’ve been feeling the pull and I want nothing more than to run strong on race day, so I’m easing up on the running and taking leisurely bike rides.

There are big goals that have been made and surpassed for this race as well. In January, I registered with the Lung Association to run as part of the ‘I Love Lungs’ team. Initially, each member had to raise a minimum of $300. Before I knew it, I raised my goal to $500. Then $600. Finally, I capped it at $750 and met it this week. The Lung Association began by setting their target at $5000 – they are currently sitting at just under $20 000. Our team has 33 members, running in all races from the 5K to attempting a BQ in the marathon. Pretty amazing!

So, since I have met my goal, I’ve committed to doing something else I’ve always wanted to do at a race weekend: volunteer! If you’ve read my previous link about why I’m running for the Lung Association, then you’ll know who I’m running it for. I figured he should at least commit to volunteering with me, to get a sense of the energy that wraps us all up on a big race day. And with that, M and I will be pouring water and Gatorade at the ‘I Love Lungs’ water station for the 5K race on Saturday. Our station is located metres from the finish line, so we’ll be the first stop for all runners completing their first or fiftieth 5K.

For many runners the 5K is a first race, a first chance, a first goal, a first accomplishment – I’ll be so happy to share that with them as part of an organization that helps so many who may not have the chance to run, who struggle simply to breathe.

And on Sunday, I’ll wear my ‘I Love Lungs’ t-shirt and set out for my own half-marathon goal, my own personal best.

So big love and thank you to all who have donated to my campaign. If you haven’t had a chance to yet, feel free to visit my fundraising page:

See you at the finish line, 5K or otherwise…



ATB30K (ever-so-late) Recap!

First off: I’m so, so sorry. I’ve been a terrible blogger. What makes a terrible blogger, you ask? Being so very late to the game. How late? Well, considering this is an Around The Bay recap and the race was held in March, I’m very late.

But if you can forgive me for a few moments to read, I promise it’ll be worth it. Because I have nothing but good things to say from here on in. If you’re thinking of running this race next year: do it. Just sign up.


First up: starting line!

So last fall and thru the winter I was briefly keeping you up to date on my training for Around The Bay. In short, it was a long, brutal winter that may or may not be over yet (it’s dipping down to freezing again overnight this week) and we all ran and we all complained and we all gave everything we had so that we could arrive prepared at the start line in Hamilton. And you know what? After training through all that ice, snow, and freezing rain, it turned out to be an incredibly gorgeous and sunny race day.


M and I took the train (1st class – we used our Air Miles to splurge so I could have extra leg room and eat all the free carbs) from Ottawa to Toronto in the morning, arriving in Toronto early afternoon. We then hopped on a Go Bus Hamilton-bound and arrived just over an hour later to:

BEAUTIFUL DOWNTOWN HAMILTON! (I’ll be spending seven days and two sensuous nights at the beautiful Hamilton Motor Inn, overlooking absolutely nothing).

After wandering around a city I’ve never been carrying a backpack with two weeks worth of vacation items (the race was our trip kick-off), we found the convention centre, picked up kit, elbowed our way out swiftly and hopped on a bus toward the Visitor’s Inn hotel.

*Props to Hamilton here: when I asked the check-in clerk if it was wise to pre-book a taxi to get to the start line the next morning, he suggested I walk outside the front door and take the bus. What? What kind of convenience is this? Coming from Ottawa, I’m just not used to having the luxury of buses that run on a regular basis on a Sunday. Let alone buses that run every 10 minutes to places you actually need them to go. Novel! Cheap!

That night we wandered around the Westdale Village area, had a great dinner at the Bean Bar, and headed back to the hotel where I did all the usual compulsive pre-race things like set my alarm, set it for a minute from now to make sure it worked, set it properly again for the next morning, looked at my clothes, watched some TV, looked at my clothes again, lined up my morning food, drank a litre of water, changed my clothing line-up again, checked my alarm again to make sure it was set for a.m. not p.m, and finally…went to bed.

The next morning we headed to the hotel restaurant area and found a table amongst all the other runners. Since M was my solid support and wasn’t running, he put up with me talking over and over about changing my race outfit because of the forecast. And from what I could overhear at other tables, this was pretty much the topic of conversation all around. Coming from Ottawa where we still had over a foot of snow on the ground, it was a shock just to arrive in Hamilton and see bare pavement!

In the end I decided on too many layers: 2 layers on top, 2 layers on the bottom. I considered a just throwaway shirt on top of a long sleeve but after standing outside for a few minutes after breakfast I decided the wind was a bit much. So I went with a light, long sleeve base and light fleece sweater – pretty much my uniform for all conditions over the winter. Socks, Sauconys and a few snacks in my pocket and I was set! I don’t run with music anymore, but I decided to carry my phone with me so I could message M when I got to the finish. Since we weren’t very familiar with Hamilton we didn’t really pre-set a place to meet, save for a section of the arena.

Ready To Go!

After breakfast, we took the bus to the start line area and just took some time to look around & use the washrooms. M’s plan was just to walk around town and explore for a few hours until I was finished – what a patient guy! So after we parted I made my way to the corral and did some sprints, stretches and just warmed up to kill the time. Soon enough, people started to fill in the gaps and so I took one last photo before putting my phone away for the duration of the race. As much as I’d like to show what I saw along the way, I’m not one of those runners who can shoot/run at the same time. Also, I had a goal I wanted to make and I hate breaking up pace.

I knew two things about this course: pre-hills and post-hills. I devoured race recaps, watched videos over and over, and heard first-hand from someone who ran the race previously. In my mind the hills were mountains. The were the peaks I climbed in the Adirondacks. They would have me crawling. I kept this in mind as I set off. The crowd didn’t take too long to thin out and I found my pace right away. So until I ran the hills I tried to keep a steady pace and not push myself too hard. I knew I wanted to run under 3 hours. Since I’ve started running without headphones, I just tried to focus on settling in my mind for the 3 hours. I took in the surroundings and conversations around me. I ran past the small city storefronts, and past the gritty, industrial areas, over and under highways. I ran past other runners. I ran past bagpipes, ran past where the air changes near the lakeshore. Ran past people in lawn chairs on front yards, past parks, past beautiful waterfront houses slightly run down with time. Past Hamilton residents with pots & pans clanging. Entire families out to make noise. I ran up & down the rolling hills into Burlington, the great suburban houses and kids cheering from trees. Then, I ran up the biggest hill rumoured. And you know what? The crowd at the bottom cheered us up the hill and the crowd at the top cheered us home. It was over before I knew it. I ran up because I had been putting hill runs at the end of all of my long runs in the winter. You know what? That really, really sucked during the winter and it really, really benefitted during this race. And then I heard the words: it’s all downhill from here. And so I ran faster than I had all morning. I ran with my heart set on seeing the one thing on the entire route that would be familiar to me: the Grim Reaper. I had heard about the Grim Reaper at the cemetery gates. Every year he makes an appearance, and this year would be no different. Since I had no support on the course save for in the arena and I didn’t know the city, when I saw the Grim Reaper I made a mad dash for him and gave a high five. Then, I ran hard. As I closed in on FirstOntario Centre I could see the clock flip to 2:59 – I would just make it under the 3 hours gun time.

Finish Line

M just managed to grab this accidental shot of me coming into the finish, right under the banner – nice timing!

I ran the race and went over in my mind all of the miserable days it took to get to where I was. All of the cold, dark nights. And what was so incredible about race day was that the sun was shining and it was just the complete opposite of every training run I had leading up to that point – what luck we all had. I think there was just a moment when it felt like ‘ok – the hard part is over. This is the reward.’ And then, I was gliding.

After the race we went for patio pints and nachos in the sun at Lazy Flamingo, walked back to the hotel (hey, what’s another few KMs…) and after a quick changeover walked back downtown to find some fun. What we did find was the perfect little Winking Judge pub – craft beer & a live Celtic traditional band on a Sunday evening. Turns out one of the band members had actually walked the 30K race that morning himself!

Personally, I think the most nerve-wracking experience of the event was everything leading up to it: hoping my train arrives in Toronto in time, so I can get to Hamilton in time to pick up my kit. Finding my way around Hamilton. Getting to and from the hotel in a timely manner. Finding pre-race comfort food in a new city. Getting a good night’s sleep in a new place. Making it to the start line in time. Basically, all of the seemingly uncontrollable things that are, essentially, within your control to a degree. Except Via Rail – that’s roulette right there at times. Luckily, the city of Hamilton and Around The Bay staff and volunteers handled everything smoothly, in my opinion. It was a great event in a friendly city and I’d absolutely take part again.

Once I set foot on the start line I felt everything else wash away – I was in control and I new what I wanted the outcome to be. Also, the race really gave me the confidence I need to start training for my first marathon at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October.

All it took was for me to keep running. That I could do.

Gun Time: 2:59:26
Chip: 2:55:08


Patio pints post-race. Because: sun.

How to Make Run-Commuting Work For You! Really – You Can Do This…

Last November, I wrote a post about challenging myself to start a run-commute habit through the winter. In the summer I started a new job in the east end of the city and got through the first few months by cycling to work as a method of commuting. However, since my bike was just over a year old and our winters are a festival of salt and ice, I had to rethink how I was going to get to work.

Enter, the most logical method I could think of: on foot.

In December I began training for Around The Bay – by then we already had snow on the ground, so I can honestly tell you right now this winter has been, um, dragging. As I’m writing this, snow is swirling around outside. Still. Tonight will be my last run commute before I leave on a two-week holiday, starting with the Around The Bay 30K road race on Sunday.

Appropriately, since it is my last commute before the race, I thought I’d do a small recap to show how I made run commuting work for me this winter…

-Establish a routine. Don’t sporadically decide to skip a run on one morning depending on the weather. If you can stick to the routine despite the weather, then before you know it the running will just be ‘the thing you do’.

-In regards to routine, have a schedule laid out ahead of time and follow it weekly.

-If running both ways is too much of a distance, then run one way and bus the other!

-Since I was incorporating ATB training into my runs, some night runs were a lot longer than others. For example, instead of splitting up a 13K run over a morning run into work and afternoon run home, I would just do the 13K all at once right after work. I would take a longer, winding tour of the city to get home, making sure to fit in all of my scheduled 13K. Alternately, you can do the full distance in the morning before work – it was just my personal preference to do it after.

-Instead of carrying all of your shower supplies daily, keep a secondary stash of everything you’ll normally need at work. I’m fortunate to have a locker/shower area so this is possible for me!

-Use your rest days as load-in/load-out days! Mondays & Fridays were rest days for me this winter. On Mondays, I would bring a bigger backpack to work and carry in extra work/dress clothes that I knew I’d need later in the week. On Fridays, I would bring any extra clothes, lunch containers, or jackets home for the weekend. By Thursday, locker area usually looks like this (apologies for the poor quality camera phone):

-Always keep an extra pair of socks/underwear/bra at work. Always. Because when you forget to pack one of these items the first time, you’ll realize how horrid it feels to wear a sweaty sports bra at work all day…

-Speaking of extras: food! Clif bars. Everywhere. All the time.

-Don’t hesitate to spend a bit more money on a good quality backpack. You’ll be getting good use out of it, every day. It’s has to not bounce around on you, it has to be light, and it has to be adjustable across your chest, shoulders and hips. I use an Osprey Daylite pack, not specifically designed for running but at 13 litre capacity it’s enough to hold clothes, lunch containers, and a thermos of coffee for the day. It also has a pouch in the back to slide in a water bladder for summer (I also use it for hiking):

-An obvious tip would be to dress warm & make yourself visible. Leaving work in the dark means turning on any lights on your pack and wearing reflective straps around your arms/legs. Always, always let someone know your routine ‘route’ and how long you’ll be gone and when you are expected home. Even with all these precautions, I had a few incidents this winter where vehicles just didn’t see me until the last minute. Slow down your pace, make eye contact with drivers & if possible stick to well-lit paths and sidewalks that are regularly cleared.

I’m not going to lie to you and say that if you pull out all these stops everything is going to go your way – but what may feel like a lot of work will definitely reward you in the end. There’s nothing like pulling yourself out of bed in the dark and running into the sunrise, or getting geared up after work and actually ‘running away’ from the office. No traffic, no cost. Now that training/winter is winding down I’m looking forward to cycling again, though I may still use some days as back-and-forth 5-6K runs into work and home. I’d like to keep up my distances until Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon training starts this summer – but at this point I think it’s fair to say run-commuting in the summer heat will bring about a whole new set of challenges…

And shower beers. Sweet, sweet shower beers.

Happy running (away from work, as fast as possible)!




A Season of Running

It doesn’t feel like it, but in two days it’ll be Spring.

In less than two weeks, I’ll be running Around The Bay 30K.

You see, these two events fit together for this reason: back in December, just before the official start of the winter season, I began training for Around The Bay. I set up a 16-week schedule; I wanted to get a jump on the holiday season, setting in motion a training routine that would keep me active to go along with my active holiday eating.

In two days, Spring season starts in Ottawa with a high of 3C, before jutting back into the negatives for the next few days after. That will mark the point where I can say that I trained outside, in Ottawa, for an entire winter season.

You know what? We had a cold winter. I can admit that even as a winter-friendly person. If memory serves me correctly as I write this, the coldest run-commute I had this winter was a 5.5K direct route to work in -29C with a -40C windchill. For my American readers, that’s -20F to -40F windchill.
Bloody hell.
If it sounds like I’m slightly bragging, yes… I am. As would anyone else who ran any distance outside this winter.
Although this was my second winter as a runner, last year I didn’t have the inspiration to take it outside more than once a week. Though I signed up for a Half-Marathon at Ottawa Race Weekend in May, I didn’t take the training time seriously. I skipped several runs per week. I capped some off early, I slacked. I took a vacation in April & completed a few scenic runs. I settled.

Last fall when I signed up for Around The Bay, I told myself that I would run no matter what the winter decided to throw at our city. I’ll run in the cold rain. I’ll run in the snow, as it falls, pelting my face. I’ll run the dark nights after work, lit up like a traffic beacon, whizzing by. I’ll wake up Saturday mornings and run more, when I could be sleeping in late, warm in my bed with visions of a hot breakfast and endless cups of coffee doused with a generous tippling of Irish cream.

The things is, the hot breakfasts will still be there when you finish. And they’ll taste so much better. They’ll taste better because you’ve just been splashed with slush from a speeding taxi, again, or finished a rainy run with two soakers, again, or got honked at/nearly hit by a driver not paying attention, again, or you just ran a half-marathon or over distance at -20C, again.

The most inspiring part of winter training is: you’re not alone. Every time I went out for a run this winter, I would pass at least another few bionic runners, ninjas, full balaclava and ski goggles. Sometimes you wave or nod. You can’t see their eyes, but you know that because they are out there on the same paths as you, they’ve set their own goals.

In less than two weeks, I’ll be able to see what all the work is leading up to. I’ll be standing on the ‘start’ line of a sold-out race, along with about 9000 other people who’ve hard a long, hard winter of training. I’ll be in a city I’ve never visited, running new routes instead of my limited selection of paths that are cleared in the winter. Evenings are stretching the sunshine, but with the way our Spring is beginning, it may still feel like winter on race day itself.

Which is why I smartly booked a two-week vacation to the southern US states starting the next day.

To everyone else training for Around The Bay through this long, cold, dark time: I’ve spent all these hours running alone this winter, without a training partner.

You will all be a very welcome sight.


My longest training run, through Ottawa and into Gatineau, Quebec: you realize how small your city feels when you can see how far three hours of running will take you…

Skipping It


I’ll come right out and say it: I skipped my long run this weekend. I don’t know why it feels so bad to admit that. I know I won’t make a habit of it, and it’s never happened before. I know two months of hard training is not going out the window over one day’s work skipped. Still, I’ve established the routine of waking up every Saturday for the past few months this winter and heading out for my long run. I don’t set a timed routine from bed-to-door: I sit and eat a small, hot breakfast with fruit, have a cup of coffee (without Baileys – come on guys, I’m not an animal), a cup of water, and take a bit of time to get my backpack sorted. I carry a water bottle, since our fountains close up for the winter months here. I hate carrying water, but if I’m going for 2+ hours it’s not an option. I carry a Clif bar, and some Honey Stingers. I carry my phone, but I don’t use it to update my twitter on how my run is going, or to check messages – I go without distraction and I like to have it as an emergency precaution. I dress in warm layers, a Garmin on one wrist, and RoadID on the other. A bit of cash in case I get injured and need to hop into a taxi, or just want to stop for an emergency chocolate milk on the route home. Nothing like a quenched chocolate milk emergency. My health card is in my pocket at all times. It’s just as important as my RoadID.

No headphones, because, no music. Just running around for hours.

And I missed it on Saturday. With just five weeks left until Around The Bay, I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog front because I felt I had nothing new to report. I’ve been diligently completing every training run, and I’ll admit, in the past few weeks it’s taken a lot out of me. I’m running longer distances than I’ve ever ran, and I’m adding up more kilometers per week than I ever thought I could do. It’s taking up a lot of time. When it gets dark out and I’m just coming home from a run *after* an 8.5 hr day at work, I just want to eat everything within arm’s reach, drink some kind of delicious stout, and go to sleep. This winter has been unrelentless, right? And this is coming from a winter person. What I didn’t factor in at the beginning of winter was all of the extra time I would be spending outside.

But this is the difficult part. I knew it would all be difficult. And in five weeks time, I’ll be running through the streets of a city I’ve never set foot in, kicking off Spring as a reward to all of the dark nights running in winter slush, freezing rain, and negative temperatures. Everything I put in now will be a reward for later. Keep going. We’re getting so close now.

So the reason I missed my run was not just because I chose to skip it, but because I was in New Hampshire. We stayed in a cabin by the woods with a nearby highway. I admire and understand that a lot of people don’t have safe paths to run on – I’m quite lucky that I do in Ottawa. So you know what? You can take your narrow mountain highway for running. I’ll stick to the paths I have.

The weather was sunny and cool, not a touch of wind. Perfect day for a long run…

Covered Bridge


Running on team ‘I Love Lungs’!

Please don’t think I’m going to use this entire blog post as a shakedown. I just want to bring something to your attention…

In January, I registered to be part of The Lung Association’s ‘I Love Lungs’ team at the Ottawa Race Weekend in May. Yes, I have run a half marathon before so it’s not like I’m going to accomplish something I’ve not yet achieved – but right there, that itself, is something anyway, isn’t it? I mean, two years ago I hadn’t started running. I hadn’t even thought about running. I never thought it was possible. I thought people who ran were people who had always been running, in high school, in university, throughout their lives. What kind of person would just pick up a new hobby one day out of the blue and fall so deep into it? But the fact that me or almost anyone else is able to do just that makes us very lucky.

Last year, I thought about fundraising when I first signed up for the Ottawa Race Weekend, but then changed my mind. What if my finishing time was so abysmal I embarrassed the organization I set out to represent? What if I dropped out due to injury or illness? What if I *didn’t* finish the race?

I did finish the race, and I promised myself that I would give back and get more involved next time around. Once again I signed up for the half marathon. Then, I signed up to support the Lung Association of Ontario. The Lung Association not only provides programs on asthma care & prevention, but air quality and smoking prevention and cessation as well – something I feel quite strongly about.

I also have another reason for running. Someone I love dearly is affected daily by asthma, and so I see firsthand the problems it can cause for him as well as others who suffer from the disease.

Kind of a long link, but this will bring you to my fundraising page:

My minimum personal goal is just $300. What I’d like to aim for though, if you’ll help me out, is $500. As an extra incentive to you, I hope to run faster than I’ve ever ran before and finish the half marathon in under 1h 57m. This would beat my Canada Army Run personal record, thus inciting high-fives all around & giving me a big boost before I start training for my first marathon just a few weeks after.

If that doesn’t sound like enough incentive to you, fussy, then how about this: if you donate $20.00 or more during the month of February, The Lung Association will enter your name to win a $150.00 gift certificate to Vittoria Trattoria here in Ottawa. To be used as a feast of carbs before race day, or post-race celebration – your call. But that’s a serious feast.

So sign up, help me, and help others breathe a bit easier. And come race day, remind me to just breathe…

The Bean

Me and Him, Cloud Gate, Chicago