2014 STWM Half

STWM MarathonPhoto

Around the 15 or 16km mark during the STWM Half

I can’t believe race season ended almost two weeks ago. I have been in denial.  2014 was my busiest race season ever and I have loved every second of it, even those painful races where I didn’t perform how I wanted to. After each race I learned something about myself as an athlete, and I am super excited to take what I learned and make 2015 an amazing year.

My 2014 race season was made up with:

5 x half marathons
1 x 8K
1 x 10K
1 x 5K

As each race ended I went right into training for the next one with little downtime, but I have been on downtime – running wise at least, since I finished STWM half (Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon). I have also been on a high because finishing my race season strong and in my backyard was simply amazing! My goal for this race was to get a sub 1:40 half, I have been going after that goal for so long that to be honest I was beginning to think that it would just not happen for me. In my corral at the start I realized that I was the calmest I had ever been at a start line….ever. I was just really excited to get going.

The night before the run I made a race plan: take it easy for the first couple of Km’s, once I start going down Bathurst, #makemylegsgofast, enjoy Lakeshore, once I have turned back and get past Ontario Place make my legs go even faster to get me into that pain cave, then spend the last 2km making my legs go super fast. I crossed the finish line fists pumping and chest heaving. It was the best! I knew I did very well, but I didn’t know my chip time because as usual, I got excited and forgot to turn off my Garmin. It wasn’t until I got a text message from my coach that I knew my time was 1:38:06 and I was literally jumping up and down in shock and happiness. What made STWM extra special for me was having my brother and sister in law at the finish line. They live in NYC and they have never been to any of my races, but I keep them up-to-date with post-race recap emails and photos, so it was great to have them there in person :)

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In the pain cave at 19km during STWM and at the finish line super excited for the sub 1:40

It was a difficult decision to switch from the full STWM to the half.  I was worried that I would have regrets, but as I crossed that finish line I knew I had made the right choice. All season long I was using my races/training runs as an indication on how the marathon would go; “If I got tired and sore at this point in a half, how can I race the full?” I never realized just how much of an impact the negative talk was having on my performances. I was setting myself up to fail each and every time, there was no way I could get that sub 1:40 if I had any doubts about my abilities. Once I officially made the switch, a weight lifted, my training runs felt easier and lighter, and race morning was calm (believe me, that never happens).

I haven’t run since October 19th but will lace up for my first run back – a 10k this weekend. My focus for this off season is on getting stronger and faster. I have been in the gym almost every day since last week. I am sticking with my coach and I can’t wait to crush that 1:38:06 half marathon time. You want to know why? Because I know I CAN!!!

I, of course, have to thank my husband for being so supportive, whether it was being on the race course as photographer/sherpa, spending a night in Niagara Falls, travelling with me to Vancouver to run the SeaWheeze and most importantly for believing in me when I needed it most.

Since I know you are all dying to know what I am racing, below is my race schedule for 2015:

April 4th:  Harry’s Spring Run off 8Km
April 19th:  Toronto Yonge Street 10km
May 3rd: GoodLife Half
June 7th: Niagara Falls Women’s Half
August 15th: SeaWheeze Half
September 12th: Oasis Zoo Run 5Km
September 20th: Island Girl half
October 18th: STWM Half

P.S A huge shout out to my runner friends (specifically the STWM digital champions and The Tribe) for always inspiring me with every tweet, facebook and Instagram post!  You are all amazing!

Below are some more race photos from my season, Enjoy!

2014 MEDALS

My medals from my 2014 racing season!

Seawheeze 2014

Before running the SeaWheeze, it was such an amazing weekend and I can’t wait to do it again in 2015!

Oakville 2014

At the end of the Oakville half. I used this run as a training run and still finished in the top 10 in my category! It was pouring down with rain the entire race, which I didn’t mind because of how humid it was.

Zoo 2014

On my way to a 6th female finish and a PB at the 5K Oasis Zoo run. Thanks for the pic Tribe Fitness!

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Niagara Falls Womens Half. It was super hot that day and I went out too fast too soon. I learned this day not to wear sunglasses. Sunglasses and the mist of the falls don’t mix. I have since purchased visors.

 

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The 19km mark of the Goodlife Half, AKA the day my shorts chafed my legs so bad that I had blood coming down my thighs causing me to be scarred! LESSON LEARNED!!

TYS10k 2014 finish

Sprinting to the finish during TYS10K! I got a PB that day :) Going for even faster in 2015

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Harry’s Spring run off 8Km getting to the finish!

On wards & Upwards :)

On October 20th, 2013, I ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM), which was my second marathon. Things were going great for the first 28-30 km, until I experienced pain in my hip so bad that it pretty much halted me and I slowed my pace from about a 4:35/km to about 6:30/km. The best way I can describe it is that I felt like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz and I needed some oil big time. I finished the marathon that day in 4:11, not the 3:45 I was hoping for (and on pace for until the pain hit.)

Fast forward to 2014. My race season began back in April and I have run an 8k, 10k and three half marathons. I have a 5k and another half marathon next week and in my running calendar was the STWM full again. I had been going back and forth for quite some time over whether or not I would run another full marathon after what happened last year. I often thought about sticking with the half marathon as the longest distance I would run and just work on getting faster and stronger with that. After talking with my coach, my husband and going through every scenario in my mind, I decided to give the full one more go and then this would be it…I swear! I’ve been keeping up with my training, however as I have been doing my long, slow runs every Saturday and the mileage has increased, I began to have more than just the regular doubts creeping up. I noticed that on my longer runs…really anything longer than 24km, I would start to feel that hip pain again. The pain I would feel is more than “I am tired, my legs are throbbing and I want to stop” kind of pain, this was the pain that had me hobbling for weeks after the marathon last year.

After a painful and frustrating long run last weekend I came home and collapsed on the floor. I then announced that I was not going to run the full and instead run the half and really go for it. I didn’t get the response I was hoping for, instead my husband told me “no way! This is your year to get a BQ”. Yes, he is right that a BQ has long been a goal of mine, but I thought that maybe now is not the time to go for it. I could go and run the marathon and hope that my hip pain won’t have me wanting to curl up in the fetal position at the 37km mark and call for a pick up (which I was super close to doing last year), but something in my gut was telling me that I had to switch to the half. It was that same feeling that I had been pushing aside since February, yet I was constantly being reminded of my goal of qualifying for Boston. I decided that my goal of wanting to race strong and healthy far outweighed my goal to get the BQ. I went back to my coach again and this time he fully supported my decision to make the switch. He knows what I am capable of in that distance so he said go for it! For whatever reason my body is good with 21km, and I will “run” with that ;)

So here we are today. I have made the switch with CRS, I have switched gears in training and I feel like a weight has been lifted. On Saturday I had a long, slow run of 15km, I felt light, I felt happy and I remembered why I love running. Running the Boston Marathon is not in the cards right now. I am not going to say that it will be that way forever, but for now my focus is half marathon training. Next weekend is a big weekend for me, I have the 5K Zoo Run on Saturday and then the Oakville half on Sunday. I have never had a “race weekend” and I am a little nervous, but I am excited for it as well. I am extremely excited to run the STWM half in October as it is a route that I run on a regular basis and what better way to celebrate my new goal then at home. :)

To everyone I know running the full 42.2km, I know that you will all be amazing and I will see you at the finish line on October 19th , but I will already be showered!

Now if you will excuse me, I have to hit the track for some speed work :)

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Yoga Playlists

I have had quite a few requests lately to share my playlists with everyone, so I figured the best place to do this would be on my blog! I think it is great that my students are enjoying my playlists so much :) I will continue to post them every few months.

Enjoy!

Power Vinyasa
Absence of Fear – Bliss
Rock on Hanuman (Omstrumental) – MA Yogi
The Leaving Song – Chris Garneau
I’m in Here (Acoustic) – Sia
How will I know (Whitney Houston cover) – Sam Smith
Jubel – Klingande
You Need – Bengsons
You & Me (feat Eliza Doolittle) [Flume Remix] – Disclosure
Moonsoon Malabar – Bombay Dub Orchestra
Indusufi – Buddha Bar
Waiting For – Kolombo
The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack – LIARS
Disappear (Demo Version) – Mikky Ekko
Doesn’t Mean Goodbye – Jon McLaughlin
Chandelier (Live at Howard Stern) – Sia
River Flows in You – Yiruma

Yoga Barre 
Rock on Hanuman (Omstrumental) – MC Yogi
Jubel – Klingande
All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor
Jump – Flo – Rida (feat Nelly Furtado)
I’m a Freak (feat Pitbull) – Enrique
I am the Best – 2NE1
Break Free (feat Zedd) – Ariana Grande
Hot-n-Fun (feat Nelly Furtado) – N.E.R.D
Don’t – Ed Sheeran
Last Chance – Kaskade & Project 46
Hideaway – Kieza
Youth (Disco Fries Remix) – Foxes
Without You – Max Schneider
May Be – Yiruma

 

Coming back from defeat

BQ. Boston Qualifier. It doesn’t matter if it is abbreviated or not, when runners speak these words or initials something happens. A longing, desire, drive, whatever you want to call it, we get hungry. People have it in their ‘about me’ sections on social media. You know: runner, #STWM digital champion, Boston Qualifier. To get that qualifying time puts you in a different running class and to get in to the marathon and run it? Well don’t even get me started on the prestige! The jackets, the hype! And in Boston….a city that I LOVE!

When I ran my first marathon back in 2008, I knew of the hard to get BQ, but I just wanted to run a marathon and didn’t think anything of it. In the back of my mind I thought maybe one day, but focusing on finishing my first marathon was a priority.  Fast forward to my second marathon (STWM) in 2013 and let’s just say my view changed slightly……ok a lot, I wanted it bad! I did my training, I did my yoga, and I was feeling good. October 20th 2013 I woke up and was anxious to get going. I felt amazing until about 32k when I felt pain so intense it slowed me down to a pace that I knew would not get me that BQ.

I didn’t get it that day. I crossed the finish line and I was in tears, and not the happy emotional kind, the I am devastated and absolutely crushed kind. Never mind that I had just crossed the finish line of a marathon, an amazing accomplishment on its own (and in 4:11, no less about an hour faster than my first), there was no amount of support to make me feel better. I swore I would never again run a full marathon.

I saw my chiropractor, I got massages. Even today, my piriformis on the left side is still painful and has limited my flexibility, which as a yoga teacher is a real pain in the butt (no pun intended). In addition to the piriformis pain, I found out I have weak glutes and hips which was shocking to say the least. At least I had found out why I was slowed to a halt and why my TFL (tensor fascia latae) felt like it was going to explode for the last 10k of my marathon.

More than the physical pain, I spent a long time feeling completely defeated and broken emotionally. I wanted that BQ so bad I could taste it. I was being told from some people that maybe I just shouldn’t be running the full, that maybe my “body just can’t handle it”, which just upset me more. Soooo, you’re saying I’m weak? There are people older than me running Boston every year, so I didn’t want to hear the “You know you are closer to 40” excuse anymore either, I wanted everyone to just. Stop. Talking.

In November, I joined a gym where I started doing strength training 2- 3 days a week, and with the nasty winter we had I did a lot of running on the treadmill. I ran outside as much as I could despite the cold, slush, snow, ice….I don’t think I need to go on, you were there and lived through it. The spring came and I was happy to be back as a digital champion ambassador for the TYS10K.  I ran it and shaved a minute off from the previous year and I started to feel like a runner again (slightly), not at all how I felt in the fall after STWM 2013.

With talk of STWM 2014 buzzing on social media, I was being asked by many of my running friends if I was going to run it again. I honestly didn’t know, I would sigh and say “I think so”. The truth is I was constantly going back and forth in my mind. I knew I could finish a marathon, but finishing is no longer good enough.  I started training with a coach (who is perfect for me!) in May, and I have started to really see what I am capable of as a runner.

Despite all these very positive changes, I was still doubting myself. It got to the point where one day I had my mind made up that I was no longer running marathons, I was going to specialize in half marathons and just keep getting faster and stronger. Then I would wake up the next morning and I would see someone had posted the “There’s a hero in all of us” STWM video from last year, and I would cry and know in my gut I wasn’t finished with it yet. This literally went on for weeks. Day to day I would be changing my mind, sometimes I would change my mind multiple times throughout the day. I finally spoke with my coach (isn’t that what coaches are for?). He said that this year was going to be different, he was going to be there helping every step of the way. To be honest I was hoping he was going to tell me flat out, “yes you should stick to half marathons”. I was still so confused. Could I really go back to run it? After what happened last year, do I have the guts and the strength to get me through it and do it with a faster time? I decided to leave it to fate. I said if CRS wants me back as a digital champion ambassador for STWM, then it is a sign that I need to run it again this year. The next day I received an email from them. It was just what I needed and just the right time. When I told my coach I was going for the full he said “I was hoping you were going to say that”.

So here we are, four months from another full marathon. Am I anxious? Yes, of course. But here’s the thing – I love running, I really do and I am proud that I am now a full-fledged #runnerd. I am getting stronger every day and I am even cross training in the pool (which I love as I used to swim 50 laps a day and I missed it). I am taking it one day at a time, one workout at a time. Want to know what my goal is this year? I’m sure you do, but this year I am keeping it under wraps ;) I promise I will let you all know what happens on October 20th 2014.

I am going to enjoy my training, enjoy the entire process and have fun. I will run STWM with thousands of other runners and when I cross the finish line this year, if there are tears they will be tears of happiness. No matter what. I’m back!

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Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon Recap

On Sunday, June 1st I ran the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon. To give you a better idea of how I ended up registering for this race, I need to back up to October 2013. That was when I had more than one person tell me that I should consider running this particular race. As a new race on the scene, it was smaller, therefore the odds of placing well were on my side. So, of course, I signed up right away.

Now here we are on race day. I was with my husband, our little man had a sleepover with Grandma & Grandpa while Mommy & Daddy had a “getaway” in Niagara Falls. My husband drove me close to the start and then I was on my own. This would be the first time since 2008 that I was on my own at a start line. I started to get a little emotional and shed a few tears. I felt alone even though there were a couple thousand people around me. Everyone else had a friend or a group of friends they were with. I recognized a twitter and instagram friend (@lacesandlattes) at the start, so I introduced myself and we chatted until the start of the race. This actually calmed my usual pre race nerves and was very thankful for it!

This was the first time I felt like an elite runner. I was actually one of the women toeing the start line, with one hand on my Garmin ready to hit the button. Then the race started and boy did it start with a bang! I quickly realized that I was not the only one who decided to run this race to place well, the women this year came to win. For the first km or so I was up there pushing my legs at a 3:15/km pace. I very soon realized that I would not be able to keep that up for longer than 5km, let alone 21km, so I pulled back and settled into a comfortable, yet speedy pace. Since I am not familiar with the Niagara Falls area –other than the Falls themselves– studying the map the night before didn’t really help me during the race. Since I got out to a speedy start, I only had a few women around me and we were well spaced out. It was an experience I have never had in a race and I started to feel like I was just out for a training run. That is, until we started the out and back part of the route when I would see all the other women cheering for those of us up front, and I am not going to lie – that felt amazing!

NFWHM

Action shot

It was a hot morning and with little shade I used the water stations to take micro sips and then poured the rest on my head to cool down.  I have always had an issue with fueling during longer races, mostly because I can’t handle the taste of gels, in fact I gag when I try to use them. I am not a big fan of things like gummies or jelly beans either. My usual pre race food is bread with almond butter & a banana and while enroute to the race, I enjoy half a power bar. This routine has served me well…until this race. I don’t know if it’s because I stepped up my game and was pushing my body faster for longer than it usually goes, but when I got to about 15 or 16km my body literally started to shake because I was more than hungry, I was starving! In non-race situations, when I get hungry like this I get real hangry (hungry + angry = hangry) and everything gets put on hold until I get something to eat (my husband can attest to this). Obviously while racing this is not an option, so I had to dig deep, but I felt myself slowing down even as I fought to keep my speed up. I felt my form go to hell and I knew that if my coach could see me, he would not be impressed! I don’t know if any of you have ever tried to race while shaking with hunger, but I can tell you that I was not in a good place. I didn’t stop though. No way was I going to stop! I thought of my little guy and how I needed to set an example of never giving up.  Then, around 19km I saw another runner friend who was there to support his wife, (Thanks Andrew Chak for the cheering!) and it was the boost I needed for the last 2 km’s. I crossed the finish line a little slower than my 1:40 PB, I crossed just drained and exhausted. The first person I saw was Kathrine Switzer who was there with a hug and congratulations, then a fireman who gave me my medal. Side note, the whole fireman thing doesn’t get me excited (I’m more into accountants…for those that don’t know, my husband is one), so this was certainly not the highlight for me! I enjoyed the cold wet washcloth they handed out, downed a bottle of water and a carton of chocolate milk. I saw my husband and fell into his arms. He was smiling and was so proud of me, but I was too upset at the time to be proud of myself. We found a place for me to inhale a couple of cookies, and checked out my stats. I came 27/1998 overall and 7/372 in my age category. With a few days behind me, I can now appreciate that these were great results, but I wanted that top 10 so bad. The competition was stiff this year and I tip my hat to those women and I thank them at the same time for making me put all my training with my coach to the test. My  husband and I checked out of the hotel and headed straight to the closest Five Guys Burger! A greasy cheeseburger has never tasted so good!

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Chugging water at the end

Now for the Pros and Cons breakdown:

Pros:
-Gorgeous route going past the falls twice, pretty cool and that mist felt amazing…even if it fogged up my Sunskis
-Swag bag: wine, make up, lip balm and more?! Awesome
-All women: while there were some men, it was nice to not worry about all that testosterone
Cons:
-8am start, already it was too hot at the start with that blazing hot sun, a 7:30 or a 7:00am start would be amazing!
-Packet pick up was too long of a wait. I have never waited longer than 5 mins to pick up my kit, but it took me 60 min! A huge part of that was having Kathrine Switzer at the end of the line for pictures and autographs, which while amazing I think should have been separate from the actual pick up.

Will I be back next year? Quite possibly, and I will be back even stronger and faster!

Have you ever run an all women race? What was it like?

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By the falls on the walk back to the hotel

Opening Race Weekend

Harry’s  Spring Run Off, organized by Canada Running Series is a run that supports Prostate Cancer and takes place each year in early April – hence the Spring Run Off (get it?) in High Park. I ran this race for the first time in 2013 and was incredibly naïve about the amount the hills, especially the infamous Spring Road hill. I finished in 37 minutes and felt dreadful. I signed up to run the race again which took place yesterday (April 5th), and about a week ago while thinking about really gearing up for the big day I decided to think about my goals for the day. Usually I have one goal, PB. That’s it. But since I am looking to become a faster, stronger overall runner I really wanted to evaluate things. So I decided on the following:

  1. Maintain the same pace throughout the 8k
  2. Improve my posture while running – be strong and long!
  3. Successfully complete each hill – meaning I want to be the person passing people instead of being the one being passed and feeling like I’m on the down escalator. I am not good friends with hills, and I want to improve our relationship.
  4. Make Spring Road hill my b#^&*!
  5. Finish in the top 10 of my category

How did I do? I finished a minute slower than last year, BUT, I did really well with maintaining my pace. It did slow down a tad while on the hills, but I was successful on being the passer not the passee (is that word? If not, it is now). My posture was the strongest ever!  It felt great during the race and the photos confirmed it.

Spring Road hill? Totally my b$%#&! I finished strong; I crossed the finish line and felt great…too great actually. I still had plenty of gas in the tank and I know that I could have really gone for it, still felt great and been successful in getting a faster time than I did last year.

Final stats:  9/146 in my category, 55/1003 out of all females, 295/2114

Overall I am happy with my results and know that I will take everything from this race and keep growing, getting stronger and getting faster race after race. I am even more excited about my race season now.

Thank you CRS for yet another amazing organized race. Thank you to the volunteers for all you did to help make the day run smoothly and for your wonderful energy throughout the race.

Next week, Yonge Street shall be my b#@%^! Bring on #TYS10k

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Me attacking Spring Road hill

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HSROT medal 2014

To run or not to run, that is the question

As a runner, I am devastated when I am sidelined by an injury or a sickness, so you can imagine what I go through when faced with a difficult decision to pull myself from a race. That is what I went through for weeks concerning the Around the Bay 30k. I signed up for it months ago and was very excited to run this event for the first time. I have heard such amazing things about it and I decided that if there was going to be a race to change my ‘no training in the dead of winter’ rule, it would be this one. Training started great.  No matter how cold it was, I was bundled up and out there doing what I could, even though it was hard on the ego to slow down. Then I got sick, just a cold I thought. It would go away, and then come back and so on and so on. Then I started to sound like Kathleen Turner and I knew it was time to see the doctor because no matter how much over the counter stuff I was popping, it was not going away. Within minutes I was diagnosed with a sinus infection. Awesome. Four weeks after that first sniffle I find out that I need antibiotics to get me back to training, and then after five days after that I was finally feeling better.

I was in knots over the condition I would be in come March 30th. I knew that I could probably just run it -yeah no biggie, it’s only 30k – which is awesome to say and makes me proud of how my running has strengthened over the past few years, but who knew how I would feel afterwards?  With a couple of spring races coming up in the following weeks, I wanted to be at my best. It was a very difficult decision, but when I finally decided to sell my race bib I felt like a weight had been lifted and I knew that it was the smartest decision to make. I sold my entry not long after that and turned my focus back to training smarter for the rest of my race season.

I won’t be lining up with my runner friends on the 30th, but I will be sending them speedy thoughts! I am looking forward to rest of my season being healthy and strong.

Have you ever had to make the difficult decision not to run a race? How did you deal with it?