These are not my legs, or legs of anyone I know. But if I had a festive race on the horizon, I would wear these.

These are not my legs, or legs of anyone I know. But if I had a festive race on the horizon, I would wear these.

I had planned to write a blog post about my last race of 2014… until I realized it already happened. In October.

Due to the general madness that is my life, I kept procrastinating, cancelling or bailing on signing up for winter races, and now it’s December 11, and the 2014 racing season is done. There was the Tannenbaum 10K in 2012 and the Holly Jolly Fun Run in 2013. And this year… nothing.

I didn’t really realize on October 19 that the Scotiabank Half Marathon would be my final race of 2014. I wonder if I would have treated it a little differently if I had recognized that fact.

Admittedly, I’m finding it hard to run at all right now. I have a general lack of motivation and even when I do manage to get out there, it’s awful. Hard, slow. Disappointing. (Insert that’s-what-she-said-joke here). For now, I’m finding motivation in gym classes focused on cardio or strength.

I’m hoping that a change of scenery will help inspire me again.

What was/is your last race of 2014?

Christmas gifts for runners

What’s on your holiday wishlist?

Before you call me on it, I’m going to admit that I’m totally writing this post for SEO purposes. And also as a subtle hint for any of those people in my life seeking a festive present for me this year.

As an avid runner, I read all sorts of running websites and magazines and throughout the year, I accumulate a pretty extensive wish list. When it comes to the holidays, I’m probably pretty easy to buy for. Here’s a list of some of my favourite running-themed gift ideas.

Shirts from ilovetorun.org

This site has a pretty cool selection of running-themed shirts, hoodies and accessories. I’m a particular fan of the Run Hard, Drink Wine tank. I’m thrilled to see that my love of wine and running is not so unusual afterall. Apparently there are enough fans of these total opposites to create a shirt. There’s also a related Run Hard, Eat Cupcakes tank. A fine gift for a runner who doesn’t take the sport too seriously.

The Bibfolio

Over the years I’ve accumulated a lot of race bibs. Some people throw them out, but many runners collect them. Rather than store them in a box or desk drawer somewhere, Goneforarun.com has created this cool Bibfolio to store all your race bibs. Like a photo album, it has vinyl insert sheets, perfectly sized for race bibs. I’m a particular fan of the engraved bamboo bibfiolo. You can even personalize your bibfolio with your name, special phrase or race stats.

The quintessential Christmas themed running shirt

This beautiful shirt from Ink n’ Burn is the only holiday themed running shirt I can find. In fact, I actually received it as a gift two years ago, and I was so thrilled with it, I wrote an entire blog post about it. For any runner that loves a so-bad-it’s-good Christmas sweater, this is the perfect gift. Also, check out the rest of their site. They have some pretty rad looking running gear. In addition to my Christmas shirt, I also have two tanks from Ink n’ Burn and every time I wear them, I get lots of compliments. Fact: wearing cool running gear makes you run faster.

The Runner’s World 2015 Calendar

It’s tradition. You absolutely must get a new calendar as a Christmas present. What better calendar for the runner in your life than the Runner’s World 2015 calendar? Available in desk or wall variety, this lovely calendar is full of beautiful and inspiring landscapes. In addition to the great photography, the calendar also features tips on training, nutrition and injury prevention. The perfect gift for a whole year of running motivation.

Gift cards to The Running Room or Nike store

Say what you want about gift cards, but I think they are awesome. Typically shunned from consideration due to the (completely false) assumption they are impersonal and thoughtless, I think gift cards offer a perfect solution for the hard-to-buy-for runner in your life. Every runner likes new gear. And runners can be picky about style, fit and brand. Not sure what they love? Get a gift card. Great gift, no stress. Bingo.

Rundies by Oiselle

We all know Christmas is a time to get new socks and underwear. Why not marry practicality and holiday mirth with a fabulous set of running themed undies?  Uncomfortable underwear sucks. Especially when you’re running. Oiselle offers this awesome set of 7 underwear, each with a running inspired print.

What’s on your wishlist? Are you hoping to find any running-inspired gifts under the tree this year?

running in london

As of January, my husband and I are relocating to London, England! Despite the fact that we have 400 things to do to wrap up life in Toronto and set up life in London, I can’t help but start searching for interesting running routes or cool races to run in our new city. I’ve run pretty much every major race in every available distance in Toronto. 5K, 10K, 21.1K, 30K, 42.2K. I’ve even run a relay and a random 11K race in Prince Edward County earlier this year. It’s not say I wouldn’t do these races again, but the idea of having a whole new race agenda in another country is pretty badass.

Clearly, we aren’t moving to England so I can run. (Though that would be pretty awesome!) My husband got a great job there, and my company graciously offered to transfer me to our London office. I’m so thankful and excited that we can both go on this cool journey together.

I hope that my Toronto/Canadian followers will continue to read this blog, despite the changing focus to European races. I’ve only ever run one – The British 10K – and it was a terrific jaunt through all the most historic parts of London. Perhaps I’ll sign up again this year!

I found this website called The Runner’s Guide to London and was literally filled with glee. The Shakespeare Run?! As an English major and runner, this kind of makes me want to get up and dance. This website also has routes already planned for you with a map, total distance, terrain and info. My excitement level is off the charts.

We have a long list of things on our to-do list before we get to London, and I need to focus on the important stuff (like getting a visa). However, I can’t seem to stop myself from reviewing and planning a racing agenda. I also need to figure out important things like the closest running route to our new flat and whether I can transfer my Runner’s World subscription to the UK version or not. Clearly, my priorities are somewhat off.

I’m looking forward to sharing my running adventures in London with you. If you’ve ever run a great race there, leave me a comment. I’m open to all suggestions.

Cheerio! (or whatever they say in London)

It doesn't have to be the DREAD-mill.

It doesn’t have to be the DREAD-mill.

The first snowfall always sucks. Even though we know it’s inevitable, it seems to sneak up every year. And each time it happens, my motivation to run outdoors pretty much disappears. Despite a dresser full of excellent winter running gear, I can’t seem to force myself out the door. The sidewalks are icy. I’m klutzy. The cold hurts my ears and face. The wind makes my eyes water. With no race on the horizon, it seems to be pretty unlikely that I’ll get out there any time soon.

That said, I’ve really been embracing my old friend: the treadmill. Even with the monotony, the treadmill doesn’t seem so bad, when faced with the chilly darkness of the great outdoors.

To make these runs a little more bearable, I’ve discovered a few interesting workouts that are actually kind of fun. Next time, you’re hopping on the treadmill, give one of these a try.

The Multitasker

On this run, I like to pick a show (either half hour or hour) and watch it while running. I run at a long, slow distance pace throughout the show so I can watch it and concentrate. As soon as a commercial comes on, I sprint. I run as fast as I can maintain for the entire commercial break, slowing back to the long, slow distance pace once the show resumes. I love this workout because I get to watch a cool show, the commercial breaks fly and the time seems to go by in a flash. Depending on the pace, I can run anywhere from 5-10K on a run like this.

The Freight Train

This run is all about gaining momentum. I set the treadmill at very casual pace. Every kilometre, I increase it slightly. I do this till I can run no more. Then I go home and eat. It’s fun and challenging. I usually only make it about 6K.

The Yo-Yo

Similar to the Multitasker, this is a fun workout that tests your stamina and speed. I warm up for about 5 minutes, then set the treadmill to race pace. I run this pace for 1K. Then I ramp up the speed and run fast for another kilometre. The goal is to be completely breathless by the end of that 1K. I drop back down to race pace and continue this pattern until I’m bored or tired. Good times.

Do you have any treadmill workouts that you like? How do you avoid boredom on the dread-mill?

*Disclaimer: I totally made these workouts up. I have no idea if they are good from a cardio or fat burning perspective. I just think they are fun and they keep me entertained while running indoors. Try at your own risk. Results definitely not guaranteed!

Kayaking, snorkelling, hiking and biking. All fine forms of cross training. And even better when you can do them in the Galapagos Islands!

Kayaking, snorkelling, hiking and biking. All fine forms of cross training. And even better when you can do them in the Galapagos Islands!

Back in September, I went on a pretty epic vacation to the Galapagos Islands. Just weeks away from the Scotiabank half marathon, I was a little concerned about how the vacation would affect my training. Luckily, we picked an awesome trip through a cool company called BikeHike Adventures so there was no shortage of activity. Every day we did something active. As you might assume we biked and hiked, but we also snorkelled and kayaked. In fact, that trip also marked my longest and most intense bike ride of my life: a 32K mountain bike up to the largest pit crater on Santa Cruz Island.

The vacation came and went. I came home and completed training and finished the half marathon without issue. Turns out all that non-running activity didn’t derail from my training after all. In fact, it might have actually even been good for it!

For runners, cross training is actually the best thing ever. Here’s a few reasons why every runner should add some cross-training to their weekly routine.

Injury Prevention

The most common and widely recognized benefit of cross training is injury prevention. When you do one activity over and over, you work the same muscles all the time. That overuse that is so common in runners is one of the main causes of injury. Mixing it up is a great way to prevent injuries. By doing things like bike riding, weight lifting or swimming, you build up strength and endurance in your running muscles, without beating up those super vulnerable joints like your ankles, knees and lower back.

More Power

While not a guarantee, there is a widely held belief that all runners are able to run faster and more efficiently by doing some cross-training vs. training by running alone. Other sports help improve your overall fitness which in turn, makes you a better runner.

Avoid Boredom

If all you do is run, chances are, you’re going to get bored after a while. Adding in a variety of different exercises like bike riding, hiking or weight lifting can help increase your motivation to get out there. If the thought of running seems arduous but the idea of going to a spinning class seems more enjoyable, DO IT! There’s plenty of times where I don’t feel like running and would rather go jump around in a class at the gym. At the end of the day, you’ll end up in a much better place than a runner who doesn’t cross train.

Rehab

Being sidelined with a running injury sucks. I suffered from some IT band related injuries post marathon last year and it was devastating. There is nothing more frustrating to a runner than not being able run. Doctors generally recommend that runners who suffer from running injuries take a break from running. However, there are some activities (like swimming) that injured runners can do while they heal. This can be key maintaining fitness and dealing with the frustration and disappointment that comes with running injuries.

I recognize that cross training in the Galapagos Islands is a much more appealing opportunity than going to a spinning class at your local gym, but the bottom line is, cross training is awesome and makes you a better runner. No more details needed. Now go out there and ride a bike.

Wondering what sorts of activities are good cross training activities for runners? About.com has a great list here, along with their associated benefits.

If you want to know more about the trip I went on, you can check out the itinerary here. Also, I highly recommend this trip if anyone is planning a visit to the Galapagos. It was absolutely one of the best trips of my life.

Emergency-signI don’t normally tackle serious issues on this blog, but something happened during last week’s Scotiabank Half Marathon that really affected me. I wasn’t going to write about it, but I’m still thinking about it… so here it is.

Around the 15K mark in Sunday’s race, a man in front of me collapsed. He hit his face on the ground with such force that he split his head open. As I approached, I could see he was laying on his back, unconscious with blood all over his face and eyes. Someone started chest compressions, presumably because he was not breathing. Another person ran off in the other direction to find first aid. Someone else was on the phone and another was yelling at the person doing compressions to do them harder.

I didn’t know what to do. I quickly surveyed the scene to see if there were any obvious ways I could assist but it appeared that everything I could think of was already being done. I stopped. Then started. Then stopped again. How could I just pass by this emergency without doing anything? How could I just turn my music back on and finish my race as if nothing had happened?

All I could do was carry on and say “F*ck” about a hundred times in a row. I ran along slowly, glancing back again and again until he was out of sight. A person beside me, visibly shaken, admitted that this was his first race, and he was scared. I told him it would be OK and that the person I left lying on the ground would be fine, even though I really wasn’t sure.

As I ran along, I kept replaying the situation in my mind. Was there something I could have done? It looked like those people had it under control, but did they? Would that man actually be OK?

Eventually, I reassured myself that there was nothing I could have added to the situation. Standing there worrying certainly wasn’t helpful, but it seemed so uncaring to just continue running. The whole race suddenly seemed pointless.

As soon as I finished the race, I looked up breaking news on my phone. No news. I checked again when we got home. Still nothing. When no news surfaced the following day, I was reassured that this man lived and I was relieved.

But it also got me thinking about how to react in an actual race emergency. What if I was the only one around? Would I have known what to do? After consulting numerous articles on race-day emergencies, I found several tips on what to do. Please read them. In case you ever encounter a situation like this, we should all know how to respond. It could save someone’s life.

If a runner collapses near you and is not responding, here is what you should do:

  • Ask for help from other runners and spectators.
  • Determine if the person is conscious by shouting “Are you OK?”
  • If there is no response, assign roles to people around you. Get someone to dial 911 from the nearest phone. Assign another to find or contact a race official. Get another to  look to see if there is an automatic defibrillator nearby.
  • If you are trained, start CPR. If you’re not, find someone who is and start chest compressions until trained medical professionals arrive.

Based on my research, this appears to be the most consistent way to deal with a race day emergency. However, if any medical professionals have different or additional advice, please leave me a comment and I will update my blog post accordingly.

Stay safe out there runners!

Nothing says "I just finished a half marathon" like bananas and space blankets!

Nothing says “I just finished a half marathon” like bananas and space blankets!

Up until Saturday night, I hadn’t really thought too much about the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon. This was my fourth time running in this race and my third time running the half marathon distance. I wasn’t out to prove anything and a PB was certainly out of the question. In fact, based on my long runs leading up to Sunday’s race, I was on track to run my slowest half marathon ever. The bar was set nice and low.

I’m pleased to report that it was not in fact my worst time. I did exactly what I set out to do: I ran perfect 6 minute kilometres and finished the run in 2:06:51.

I didn’t check my pace or total time through the whole race. I just ran at a pace that felt good and maintained it throughout. I bopped along to some new music and watched the herd of 25,000 runners jog along. I saw the same people over and over. One girl in grey who’s watch must have been perfectly synced with mine because we stopped at the exact same time every ten minutes for our walk breaks.

Around 8K, I found myself next to the 2 hour pace bunny. I was thrilled! I actually had a moment where I thought I might be able to break my personal best of 1:59. It’s funny how the adrenaline of race day can make you semi-delusional. It was not to be. I kept pace with them till 15K, but fell back. It was too hard and like I said, I wasn’t out to prove anything. Why kill myself to shave off a few minutes? I decided I would just enjoy the run.

My husband Graham crossed the finish line about 5 minutes ahead of me, just missing his personal best by about 60 seconds. Originally we planned to run together but parted ways right before the start. He was going to try for a PB. I was not feeling as ambitious.

Afterward, we chatted about our race strategy. He told me he needs the pace bunny, and followed diligently behind the 2 hour pacer for the majority of the race. He focuses totally and completely on running as hard as he can, pushing himself the entire way. I employ the total opposite strategy. I try hard to focus on anything but running. I focus on my music. I read the race signs and high five volunteers. I scan the crowd in search of a race outfit I like. I find a runner who looks like they’re struggling and offer some words of encouragement.

As I jogged along, I also thought about running that same race three years ago. It was my first half marathon. In fact, I realized at the start line that I was wearing the same tights and long sleeve shirt that I wore in that race! (Kudos to Nike for making running gear that lasts!)

I also thought a lot about last year when I ran the full marathon distance in that race. At the point where the marathon runners go right and the half marathon runners go left, I was pretty happy to be almost done instead of halfway there!

My parents were our only in-person supporters and they took several pictures of my ugly race face as I crossed the finish line. It’s always nice to have some cheerleaders in the crowd.

Overall, it was another fine race. Shout-out to Canada Running Series for a fabulous event. I’ll be back again next year.

The last 100 metres are always the toughest. Check out my ugly race face and weird scissor hands!

The last 100 metres are always the toughest. Check out my ugly race face and weird scissor hands!