Scotiabank-Waterfront-Toronto-Marathon

Recently, I had the opportunity to contribute to Run Guides, a website listing local races and running info for Toronto and other major cities in Canada and the US. Myself, along with two other running experts picked our favourite races and talked about why we love them.

My race pick? The Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon. This is the race where I completed my first half marathon and first full marathon so it has a special place in my heart. To find out more, check out the full article here.

I was also asked to provide a couple sentence about myself. Turns out, this was harder than the race recommendation! After much thought and consideration, I came up with this:

Social Media Director by day, runner by night, wine enthusiast always. If you can’t find me running the streets of Toronto or sipping a crisp Chardonnay, try Twitter.

I think that pretty much sums me up!

If you want more race recommendations from local experts, subscribe to Run Guides. You’ll get local race information delivered right to your inbox! And don’t forget to read the full Run Guides article here.

 

Time to create a plan and hit the road!

Time to create a plan and hit the road!

In work or life, having a plan is generally a smart idea. Fitness is no exception. Last week, I suddenly realized that the Scotiabank Half Marathon is about a month away and I didn’t have anything resembling a plan. In a moment of panic, I thought about bailing on the whole thing. With a vacation coming up next week, there’s no way I’ll have time for any long runs anyway. I was ready to pull the chute on the whole idea.

But then my very helpful husband created a training plan. I printed it out and put it on the fridge and suddenly realized that what was seemingly impossible was actually pretty attainable. Isn’t that always the way? When you look at a big task in its entirety, it can seem overwhelming and insurmountable. But when you break it down into smaller, realistic goals, it all comes into focus. You might run into a snag in your training schedule (like that time I was training for the marathon and had to run 32K on a treadmill), but if you make it a priority and you remain flexible, everything will work out just fine.

My training plan is by no means aggressive. It includes one speed or hill workout a week and one long run every weekend up until race day, with some cross-training thrown in here and there. If you’re new to running, or way behind on your training, a great way to psych yourself out is to take a look at any online training program. Most of these programs have you running 4 and sometimes 5 times a week! Don’t despair!

Having run three half marathons, I can say with confidence that this is not necessary if your goal is simply to finish. If you’re gunning for something more remarkable (like a really epic PB or some sort of elite status), you might want to kick it up a notch. But if you just want to finish the distance, give yourself a break. A few workouts a week plus a weekly long run is totally sufficient. My longest run before any half marathon has been 18K.

I have a tendency to overreact and this is no exception. What looked totally impossible last week now seems like it will be OK. My new training plan coupled with a decent 12K on Sunday has lifted my spirits and renewed my motivation. My only goal for this race is to enjoy it. With that easy goal and only three long runs to go, I’m pretty confident I’ll be ready for race day.

Are you running any fall races? What’s your training plan?

Bang & Olufsen 5K Yorkville runI haven’t run a race in a while. Since May actually. Unfortunately, a busy summer schedule has stopped me from registering. But being the creative and resourceful runner that I am, I decided that my lack of racing shouldn’t preclude my dear readers from hearing about the latest road races in and around Toronto. So what is one to do if they want to write a race recap, but didn’t actually run the race? You ask someone else to write about it!

This past weekend, my father-in-law (Ian) participated in the Bang & Olufsen Yorkville 5K. I’ve always wanted to do this one, so I was anxious to hear about it. Some people say 5K races are a waste of time. You spend more time getting ready than you do actually running. But there’s lots to love about the short race, and this one sounds like a winner.

Dubbed a “premier, boutique 5K race,” the Yorkville Run includes high-end race kits, oversized medals and fancy post-run hors d’oevres. Forget the stale bagels and bananas. This post-race feast includes treats from local Yorkville restaurants served by white-gloved waiters! What’s more, since the race began in 2010, it has raised more than $200,000 for YWCA Toronto’s women’s shelters.

Following the event on Sunday, I caught up with Ian and asked about his race-day experience. Here’s what he had to say:

Name three highlights from the Bang & Olufsen Yorkville Run. 

My favourite memory is that every volunteer who organized the run and subsequent festivities – from those at New Balance Toronto who supplied the race kits, and those who lined the route, to those who carried around the edible goodies on trays for the runners after the finish line – were very cheerful and had broad smiles.

My next favourite memory was the generous and valuable goodies that came with the entry fee including an elegant T-shirt.

Finally, the food after the run – delicious and much classier than what I’ve got at every other race. Oh, I forgot how well organized the whole event was – very smooth.

Would you recommend this race for others? 

Yes, for the above 4 reasons. The race stood apart from pretty well all other organized runs I’ve done, but to be honest I’ve probably only been in about 40 of those over my 40 years of adult life.

How long have you been running for? 

Not regularly enough (in the opinion of my family and my personal trainer), but always for a few weeks before adventurous trekking vacations and before the occasional half-marathon over the past 40 years.

What do you listen to while you run? Music or the sounds of the crowd? 

The crowd, my breathing and the delicate thud of my feet.

Will you be back next year? 

For sure, bringing my family with me (including the author of this blog).

*****************

Hmm… looks like I’m being recruited for next year! But, don’t worry.  I won’t need a lot of persuading. I like the 5K distance, and with classy post-race treats and an elegant t-shirt, you can count me in! This sounds like my kind of run.

Did you run on Sunday? How was your race?

Bang & Olufsen race kit

Check out this fancy race kit! Treats from Vega, David’s Tea and Bang & Olufsen!

In an effort to find out why my recent runs have been totally terrible, I turned to Google. I typed in “Why do I suck at…” and was presented with a variety of un-helpful options such as…

Why do I suck...

I was looking for reasons why I suck at running recently. This time last year, I was at my peak. This year I can barely run 5K without suffering terribly. Usually, I would chalk this up to a bad day. Not all runs are great. Sometimes even 3 or 4 kilometres is a struggle. But this has been a month-long trend and I am starting to get concerned that this half marathon is less than 50 days away and this training is not the happy, easy ramp up I imagined.

After some research and thoughtful analysis of what I’ve been up to lately, I landed on these five possible reasons that I am running like a wounded animal instead of the badass marathon runner I know I am.

Running without warming up

Guilty. I usually say that my first 1-2 kilometres are my warm up and try to run them slowly before I get into my desired pace. While that can be an OK strategy, research confirms that there is no replacement for a proper warm-up. Some leg swings, dynamic lunches and high-knee running before you set out can make a big difference. Just 5-10 minutes. I can do that.

This sounds like me....

This sounds like me….

Using running as license to eat anything you want

Eek. This is a big one. I love eating and I often use exercise as my free pass to eat anything and everything. But the reality is, if I’m fuelling my body with junk, how can I expect it to perform well when I’m running? Bad logic. I must eat better. Luckily, Runner’s World featured these awesome post-run pastas in their September issue recently so I’m inspired to try some.

 

Heat

We’ve had a pretty mild summer this year, so I never really got used to running in the heat. The last couple outdoor runs I’ve had have been terrible, but it’s also been a bright sunny day, with temperatures close to 30C. The reality is, heat slows you down and makes running harder. It elevates your heart rate and makes you prone to dehydration. This is a good thing to keep in mind since the half marathon is mid-October, the weather is bound to be a little cooler.

Stress

This is a big one. Stress can have a big impact on your body including headaches, difficulty sleeping, and elevated heart rate, to name a few. With a challenging career and the perpetual feeling that I never have enough time in a day, stress is something I’m pretty used to. With the summer months behind us now, my schedule should free up a bit which will help.

running mantraAttitude

The last couple of times I’ve headed out for a run, I’ve left thinking, “Ugh. I don’t want to do this. It’s going to suck.” And guess what? It sucked. So much of running is mental, including your pre-run attitude. Typically, my form of internal motivation borders on heckling. I must revise this strategy. Clearly, it is not working. Before I head out the door next time, I am going to give myself a little pep talk.

Have you ever gotten into a running slump? What strategies did you use to get back at it?

Running on Manitoulin Island near Fred's CampLast week, my family made their annual pilgrimage to Manitoulin Island, the largest fresh water island in the world. For the past 14 years, we have spent a week in the summer in a rustic cabin at a place on Lake Kagawong called Fred’s Camp. Usually the week is filled with a lot of swimming, lounging, boating and eating. This year was pretty much the same, except the weather really let us down. Instead of the lovely 25 degree sunshine we’re used to, we had some pretty cool, fall-like days.

So what’s a girl to do when you can’t lounge lake-side sipping a frosty cocktail? Run, of course! And with a half marathon on the calendar, this was the perfect opportunity to get in some mileage.

Last year, I got very used to long runs on city streets in the sweltering heat, so the cool air and the quiet country roads of Manitoulin Island were a welcome change. Over the course of the week, we ran three times, racking up a total mileage of 18K. Nothing too crazy. We were on vacation after all.

Running on the island is exactly what you might think. Lots of lovely country roads along the waterfront, varied terrain, very little traffic, and even fewer runners. I never encountered another one in all my 18 kilometres. This was a pretty drastic contrast from my recent run in NYC! And despite the fact that Manitoulin Island is really off the beaten path, I was still able to get a GPS signal with my Nike+ watch so I could track my (pathetic) pace and distance.

I’d like to say the runs were glorious and fast and that I felt great. The truth is, I felt sluggish and slow. It was actually pretty frustrating considering this time last year, I was averaging a half marathon or more weekly in terms of my long runs. I just couldn’t get into that zone. You know the one. That state where you find a great average pace and feel like you could run forever. Every step was tough. I felt like my breathing was laboured and I was running out of steam so quickly. If you can’t have a great run in a place like Manitoulin Island, running a road in Toronto is going to be a tough go.

I blame it on all the fresh air. I’m not used to spending the majority of my day in natural lighting! It can be very exhausting apparently.  I’m sure my daily spicy Caesar and the 4L box of Pinot Grigio I drank over the course of the week didn’t help.

I’m now back in Toronto and ready to tackle my half marathon training with enthusiasm. I’m hitting the road tomorrow and I’m hopeful that I’ll have a more inspiring run. I’ll miss the quiet streets of Manitoulin, but hopefully, I’ll find my groove again. Otherwise, the next couple of weeks are going to be rough.

Running on Manitoulin Island near Fred's Camp

Some pictures taken while out on our various runs.

Running in NYC during summer streets on Park AvenueI only had one agenda item while in New York City: run in Central Park. I’ve been to New York several times for work or special events, but I never manage to run in Central Park which made be very sad. So when we planned this long weekend trip with a very loose itinerary, I made a run in the park the top of my to-do list.

When we arrived, we hopped in a taxi to meet up with friends for dinner. Our taxi had a little TV running local news and my ears perked up when I heard about something called NYC Summer Streets. For three consecutive Saturdays in August, more than seven miles of NYCs streets are closed for people to play, run, walk or bike. I was thrilled! What a wonderful coincidence!

During the event, a stretch of Park Avenue from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park was closed for the whole morning! It was like a road race where we picked the start time and the distance! August 2 was the first Saturday of this annual event and I couldn’t wait to hit the road! New York City’s streets are not the most runner friendly place so this was the perfect opportunity to run in the city AND hit up Central Park as planned.

My husband and I met up with our friend Mary around Grand Central Station and we ran along Park Avenue until we got to Central Park. The run along Park Avenue was great. There were people walking and roller blading, biking and running and there was lots to look at – including a trumpet player on every corner playing one single note. I kept expecting them to break into song but they remained steady on one single note. We asked a police officer if she knew what they were doing but she seemed just as perplexed as we were. It was a bit strange… but one comes to expect strange things in a city like New York.

We made it to Central Park around 1:00 pm. I can see why the park is so necessary in NYC. Amidst the traffic, congestion and general busyness, there is this beautiful oasis right in the middle of the city. With miles of perfect running paths, it is easy to understand why runners flock here. With a variety of terrain and beautiful scenery, it really is a runner’s dream. No wonder the final miles of the New York City marathon take place here. There’s also a lot to look at! If you like people watching, this is your ideal place to jog. There’s also plenty of perfect places to stop along the way for rest breaks, pit stops and water.

We capped off our run by watching some kids on a carousel – some joyous, some terrified, both amusing. Afterward, we cooled down and hit up Whole Foods for some healthy post-run snacks and ate them in the park near the row boats. As I nibbled my falafel, we placed bets on which couples might be getting engaged, but were disappointed not to witness someone’s big moment. We wandered around the Park for most of the afternoon and then headed back to our hotels to freshen up and continue eating and drinking our way through New York City.

If you’re planning a trip to New York in the coming weeks, I highly recommend you hit up Summer Streets and Central Park. Definitely a treat to run in this picturesque urban oasis.

Have you ever run in Central Park?

Running in new york city Central Park

Running in new york city Central Park

I can tell its Friday before a long weekend. My office was quiet and closed at noon, emails are slow and the drive to work was half the time it normally is! No wonder so many people were sharing funny articles today.

First, my mom sent me this link to a Buzzfeed article entitled 25 Things Only People Who Fail At Exercise Will Understand. While I exercise regularly, I can absolutely appreciate every item  in here. I’ve used most of them at some point. Especially using exercise as an excuse to continually snack.

George Constanza snacking

nomnomnom

Another funny thing I came across today was this amusing article from Runner’s World showcasing the worst stock photos of women running. They are so perfectly terrible. Especially this one:

fake runner

Ooph. Running is tough.

Anyone who has worked with me professionally knows about my dislike for stock imagery. It’s completely fake-looking and unoriginal. However, I work at a PR agency as a social media Director and sometimes, using stock imagery is unavoidable.

Be this a lesson to you. If you absolutely MUST use stock imagery, please please please pick something that actually looks a little real. I’m sure the woman in the picture is a nice person, but she is clearly not running. Not even my worst race photo has looked that ridiculous. Also, anyone actually running isn’t smiling. Unless they are crossing the finish line. If you need pictures of women running, ask me. I have lots of REAL women ACTUALLY running. Just saying.

Happy long weekend runners!