Race Report: Chilly Half Marathon

Excited to be racing in my TOC singlet.

Last Sunday was the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington.  I have run and raced this several times and had planned to race it this year, aiming for a sub 1:37.  This winter has been great for runners; my mileage was good and I was getting the speedwork done.  As luck would have it, though, I was diagnosed with a sinus infection the week before the race.  The extra effort that I seemed to be putting into my running suddenly made sense; I couldn’t breathe – simple.  So I quickly accepted the meds that I was prescribed, took one day off training, and kept moving forward.  By the race weekend, I was confident that I would be able to run the Chilly Half; racing it was still questionnable.

The morning of the race, I was up at 5:30 to drive my oldest son to the GO station so that he could catch a bus to Toronto and it was cold.  By the time I got home to run my shake-out, the sun was coming up but there was a face-biting cold wind.  At 8:30, when I arrived in Burlington for the race, it was much warmer and I was glad to have a 10:00 start, but the wind was still noticeable.

I went out with 2 plans.  I wanted to run a 4:40/km pace, which would have me finishing around 1:38.   My back-up was to go out slightly faster than marathon pace, which is 5:00/km.  I realized very quickly that the getting over a sinus infection/wind off the lake combination was not a good one and, by 5 km, accepted that I was not going to run 4:40 that day.  I was totally okay with that, though, as the last thing I wanted to do was blow Boston because of what should be an easy prep race.

So this race became a chance for me to practise.  Not worrying about speed meant that I could relax a little bit and try to enjoy the course.  The Chilly is known for it’s pancake flat terrain, but it was cold and very windy.  I was really looking forward to turning around at 14K and getting out of the wind, but I swear the wind changed direction at the very moment that I did.  Except for the 200 metres at the end, I felt like I was running into the wind the entire time. 

I am particularly proud of my porta-potty pb at the Chilly.  I felt my gut start to tighten up around 16/17K and decided to duck into a porta-potty shortly after.  It was a false alarm – only gas – and I was in and out in just over a minute.  With winter layers to contend with, I was pretty pleased with that time.  You know you’re a runner when you claim a personal porta-potty best!

So what is the nitty-gritty?  I finished in 1:42, 5th in my age group (50-54).  This was also a Provincial Championship race for the 21.1k distance and I earned my age group’s silver medal for that, which makes me happy.  So while I didn’t leave with the time that I wanted, I walked away with a reminder that you need to be in top condition to race well.  And even though I wasn’t in peak condition, I still ran well.

In the past ten days, I can feel myself being stronger and healthier.  Around the Bay is next and that will be a strong indicator of my fitness for Boston.  I can not wait!

 

 

Transition time

Sunday’s Long Run done.

Boston is just 5 weeks away and I have reached the moment of a 1000 questions: How much more mileage can I push myself into?  Why am I so slow today?   Is this a real ache or is it a figment of my imagination?  Is this cold really gone?  How much longer?   The list is truly endless.

If there is one item that is more important in my training than any other, it’s the long run.  Now this may not be true for everyone, but for me it is.  I need the psychological confidence that I can handle long distance week after week.  Two weeks ago, when I found myself on meds for a sinus infection that I seemed to have been fighting for weeks, I refused to skip my long run.  Instead, I took one day off while waiting for meds to kick in, then plowed through 15 miles after work the next day.  Last week, I worked 2-3 miles around the Chilly Half-marathon.  Week by week, like all marathon trainees, I keep adding a bit more to my long run.

Despite this, I found the thought of running 16 miles yesterday overwhelming.  For whatever reason, the first milestone past 15 miles was becoming a mental obstacle.  I was also completely on my own, again, and the temperatures dropped a lot in the past week.  But I knew that I had to, absolutely had to, get it done.

Transitioning into New Balance 1080’s, my marathon shoe.

So I headed out at 8:00 a.m. in my New Balance 1080’s.  Four miles later, I stopped by the house, as planned, and changed into my new 1080’s, my marathon shoes which I am just breaking in.  Six miles later, I decided to continue to run further away from home before turning around so that I wouldn’t have to run past my house to reach the 16 miles that I was aiming for.

And it worked.  By the time I got home, I logged 16.2 miles.  The best part of this was my last four miles were 15 seconds/mile faster – planned – and I wasn’t feeling exhausted.  Even this morning, 24 hours later, I found the dreaded recovery run fairly easy to do.

Doggie kisses: proof that, even in sub-zero temperatures, I am a human salt-stick.

I wasn’t confident when I left my house, but I got back feeling great – mentally and physically strong.  Yesterday told me that I am where I need to be with my training and I will be ready for Boston 2017.

Introducing Zeda

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

This summer, after being dogless for almost five years, my family decided we were ready to adopt another. We hemmed and hawed over the gender, the breed, the age…but the one thing we all agreed on was we wanted a rescue dog, an active dog and one who could keep me company running. On Thanksgiving Monday, we brought home Zeda.

Zeda is a year and a half and a ball of energy.  I walk her in the morning, she gets at least an hour of play with her new doggie friends every afternoon, my son walks her at night and, on days when she still doesn’t seem to get enough exercise, I will run 5K with her.

An excited dog as we head out for a rainy run.

This is the first dog that I have had to run with.  I honestly knew nothing about training a dog to run with its owner so it has been weeks of trial and error.  I quickly learned that morning runs are slower, only because she likes to spend more time sniffing the ground presumably covered in morning-fresh dog pee, and that I need to constantly be on the lookout for squirrels or any other four-legged creature worth chasing.

Since early November, we’ve been running together once or twice a week for 5k to 8k.  Zeda’s 5K time is anywhere between 26 and 29 minutes, with only two or three breaks to relieve herself.   Since my only goal when running with her is to tire her out while adding some easy miles to my log, that pace is great.  And Zeda gets what she wants: a chance to run.

I am so happy to have a new running partner.  Rain, snow, warm or cold, Zeda is always keen to leash up and keep me company.  And who knows?   Maybe I’ll be able to get her to toe (or claw) a line.

The Power of Change

Last night, I was reminded by a close friend that I have been spending the past several months stepping out of my comfort zone in my running world.   Somehow running stagnated for me.  I was still running and enjoying it, but I wasn’t getting anywhere.  With the exception of a few close friends, I was running alone and my times were becoming stale.  I was racing relatively well, but I wanted to do better – and I needed to push myself more.  I needed to get out of my comfort zone.

With Olympian, Nate Brannen, at the B&O Yorkville 5K Canadian Championships.

The first real change I made was race the Canadian 5K Championships in the fall.  This is an elite event with many Canada’s fastest distance runners.  Toeing that line scared me and, as much as I wanted to be a part of that event,  I was afraid to enter.  As a masters runner, I just didn’t think I was good enough to be a part of it.  After eyeing the race for a few years, I finally swallowed my fear and applied for a bib, gulped when I was accepted and nervously pulled myself to the start line in September.  After finishing, I was so glad that I made that effort as I realized that it was one of the most prestigious races that I would ever do as I got the chance to race with 200 of Canada’s best runners.

Next, I did something that frightened me; I entered the Boston Marathon.  Five years ago, in 2012, my family and I drove to Boston, the year that temperatures were insanely hot.  Between the heat, worrying about being able to finish feeling well enough to drive back to Ontario to work the next day, and being pushed so hard by another runner that I ended up on all fours with gravel stuck in my palms, I decided to dnf – never an easy decision and especially at Boston.   Over the past five years, this race has became a bit of a monkey on my back and I had to get rid of it; I have to finish that race.  In September, I applied to run Boston 2017 and was accepted.  In eleven weeks, I will be back, ready for anything that can be thrown my way.

Third, I decided to try something new: this blog.  Many know that I have been blogging for years but, like my running, my blog was stagnating.  To put things in perspective, I lost the time that I use to be able to put into blogging as my boys are now older (and busier) and my teaching assignment has changed (also resulting in busier days).  But writing about running is something that I really enjoy and, if someone is reading about it, then writing becomes even better.  Somehow, I needed to make time to record my thoughts and I needed a fresh start.  So I bought my own domain and am still working at rebuilding my blog, but I am slowing finding more time to write and am loving it.

And, suddenly, I am excited about running again – truly excited and, like a junkie who just can’t get enough, I needed more.  I wanted one more change to light another spark.  So last week, I returned to my former club, Toronto Olympic Club, to train under its guidance.  I think it takes real courage to go back to something that you once walked away from and my return to TOC is no exception.  I left the club two years ago, on good terms, because it was simply too difficult for me to get to practices when I lived in a different city.  That distance still exists but I realize how important it is for me to have the coaching and encouragement to physically challenge myself.  For now, my coaching is primarily remote, but my heart still skips a beat every time I open my training log to double check my plan for the day, when I lace up, and when I sit down to record my run.  And, on Sunday, I was thrilled when I got to wear the club colours at the Robbie Burns race.

Last night, my friend helped me to see that these changes are not just helping me come out of my comfort zone, but they are helping me to believe in myself.  The two go hand and hand, and as one gets stronger, so will the other.   It’s 2017 and I am strong, I am focused and I believe in myself.  It’s going to be an amazing year.

 

 

 

Plank 90×2

A few weeks ago, I read an article in Runner’s World about planking twice a day at work.  The author, Leah Wynalek, made the effort to do just that for 90 seconds each time.  Within a month, she said, she noticed the benefits.

Testing out my plank strength at home – just to make sure I could do this.

I was hooked.  Finding 90 seconds in my work day is totally doable.  What I wasn’t sure about was whether I could actually hold a plank for more than a minute.  I could last year, but I’ve been slacking off in the core department all fall.  I felt I could probably hold a plank for 60 seconds; 90 seconds would be a challenge, and that is exactly what I needed: a challenge.

To hold myself more accountable, I enlisted the help of some FB friends.  “Who wants to join me?” I asked.  Surprisingly, I have many who did, and many of those friends work at my school.  Two of them are Amanda, who works two doors down the hall, and Christina who teaches in the classroom next to mine.

We’re all at different levels in our planking, but we are all committed to the challenge.  Christina planked for the first time ever last Monday morning and, while she isn’t holding one for 90 seconds, each plank is a little longer than the one before.  Amanda is focussed on her health in general so the Plank90x2 Challenge is just one more way for her to improve her overall fitness.  Me, I’m hoping to keep up with this until June when school lets out for the summer, and I have challenged myself to do a 5 minute plank by then.   So every day, we try to connect for a few minutes so that we can plank together or time each other.  And if we end up being alone, we seek and find someone else who can watch and time us so that we can say “I did it” and not feel guilty for missing out at the end of the day.

Throughout the week, I have had other friends post their plank pictures on IG, message me that they are happily planking and send me plank-related articles and posters.   If you want to join the fun, use #plank90x2 so that we can find you.

Surprisingly, I am already feeling a difference.  My abs feel tight – or maybe they’re just sore – from the planking I did last week.  Whatever it is, though, it’s good and it has me dropping back down into a plank for more.

 

 

Cold Winters; Warm Feet

A Saturday morning surprise – lots of snow to plow through on a long run.

One of the things I love about living in Canada is being able to truly experience all four seasons – until we get into the coldest days of the winter.  Then, life as a runner isn’t all that great.   Some days it means sliding, not running, along sloppy snow/slush-covered roads; others entail running straight into a biting wind that hurts your face;  and, then, there are the days that it is so cold that you don’t just see your breath, but your lungs can also feel the thickness of the air while you run.   Fortunately, we haven’t had too many of these days but, when we do, everyone complains.

Over the years, I’ve learned how to layer for the different types of winter weather that we can get; what we can’t double or triple, though, are our socks.  It is so important to wear the perfect pair.  Like summer socks, I want something that is comfortable, blister-free and, if possible, a more anatomical fit.  In the winter, I want all of the above and warmth.  This season, I finally found the perfect sock.

During the break, I went to the Running Room to replace what has been my go-to winter sock: double-layered and blister-free.  I pulled them off the rack, only to put them back.   They didn’t feel right.  The quality wasn’t there any more.  Clearly, it was time to make a change.

I scanned the walls and noticed Feetures brand, a product that I have seen quite a bit in sporting goods stores. I hadn’t heard anything about their socks, but I was pulled towards the packaging.  “No blisters” and “merino” on the winter running socks had my immediate attention; “lifetime guarantee” kept it.  These weren’t cheap, though.  In fact, they were about $10 over my budget.  But these socks wooed me.  They were a soft wool, had a L/R foot anatomical fit, and made promises that most long distance runners would succumb to.   These seemed to be the right socks.  Lured by their cushioning, warmth and promise to keep me blister-free, I bought them.   All I needed was another cold snap so that I could try them out.

Within days, Mother Nature dropped the temperatures for us.  Since purchasing my Feetures, I have worn them three times and they have not disappointed my feet.  The fit is great and my toes have not felt cold at all, which is unusual for me.  Yesterday, I ran in them for 21K in a windchill that gave us -20C temperatures and the Feetures winter running socks did everything they claimed they would and more; they made me want another pair.

 

***These opinions are solely my own.  This blog post is not endorsed or sponsored by Feetures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Race Report: Boxing Day Ten Miler

Last Monday, Dave and I went to Hamilton so that I could race the Boxing Day Ten Miler.  While time and place are important to me, I was using the race mostly to see where I am at in terms of my own fitness.  Since the beginning of December, my running has consisted of, well, just running.  There has been no speed work, no tempos, and no hill practices.  My busy month of work and family activities and the icy streets have resulted in a slight drop in my weekly mileage so I had just one goal: to run as fast as I can and feel good.  I was really hoping that I could race in under 75 minutes.

Based on how my running had been going this fall, I felt that I could run that.  I was up for the challenge of racing the day after Christmas, on a course with gentle rolling hills and a noon start.  “If nothing else,” I told myself, “I’ll get in a good run and spend some time with Monica.”

Monica is one of my training partners.  We run together when we can, which usually only means once a week.  If I’m lucky, it ends up on a day when I am running long; when I am unlucky, it’s a day when she is doing intervals.  Monica was also going into the Ten Miler with a “casual” attitude; it was just a post-Christmas tempo run.  Unlike me, though, Monica has been doing all of the right things in her training and she was bound to have a strong race.

On the drive out to Hamilton, it poured.  Over Christmas weekend, temperatures rose to slightly above zero, so the precipitation was rain – heavy rain.  Most of it had passed by the time the race started but we still had some drizzle and a cold rain that leaves a chilled to the bone feeling. I actually didn’t mind it because the rain kept the temperatures a little more comfortable for racing.

There were, however, a few things that I didn’t like about the race.   There were several problems with the start, for example, as most of us had no idea of the direction we were to start in;  that’s an important detail in any race.  Secondly, all runners in the 4 mile run and 10 miler began at the same time, which is so unusual in today’s road racing scene.  I know that I am not alone in wishing that there were two starts, one for each group; even a 5 minute delay would have helped alleviate some of the congestion.   There was also a bit of chaos in how the actual start was managed.  The race director announced “Two Minutes!” Runners put on their race faces, and the race director said, “Go!”  without any extra warning, no horn, nothing – just “Go.”  People scrambled forward, surprised by the casual approach.

Finisher’s Medal with 95th year (should be 96th)

Hamilton is nicknamed “Steeltown” after the steel-making industry and, on Monday, the skies were as grey as its name.  We can’t control the weather but the course would have been a lot nicer on a sunny day.  Even when we ran along Bayfront, which is normally a scenic area, we had nothing but concrete, barren trees, grey water and grey skies.  The first 5K were downhill or flat.  I went out too fast for the first two kilometres, which is easy to do on a downhill start, and spent the next three dialing my pace back under control.  By the time I hit the 8K mark (around 36:50), I felt that I had my pace exactly where I wanted it to be.  Of course, every downhill is followed by a climb and we had a long one between 8K and 9/10K (it’s a bit of a blur right now).   Then we ran up and down the hilly roads/paths until we had a last gradual (and long) climb to the finish.  I ran 1:14:20 – mission accomplished.  We headed inside, changed into warm clothes and had some hot tomato soup.   Yum!

And I felt great.  Monica ran a speedy 64 minutes and complained about being sore the next day.  Not me!  My legs felt fresh and ready to go.  Obviously, I could have pushed myself more.

Second Place Age Group Award: Belt Buckles!

Both of us finished second in our age groups and that leaves me with my final criticism of the race: the awards.  First, the finisher’s medal had a “95th year” ribbon on it, but this was the 96th year.  I, as did several other runners, felt that we were given leftovers from 2015.  Similarly, we were given a bronze coloured buckle for our second place finish.  I questioned it – twice because it seemed so odd that ours was bronze but the 3rd place was more silver – but they insisted that we had the correct awards.  I still feel like there was an error, or we were given leftovers from previous races when runners did earn belt buckles for running within a certain time.  It’s not a big deal, but it irks my sometimes-ocd personality.

I know exactly where I lost to the first place winner, who finished less than a minute ahead of me.  At the second last aid station, I stopped to make sure that I was getting Gatorade into me as I felt my sugar levels were dropping a bit; that’s where she passed me there.  But rather than push myself to chase her, I simply started running again.  Had I known that she was in my age group, I definitely would have given myself a good kick in the butt.  Just before we climbed the last hill, I saw that the gap between us had narrowed, but I still didn’t feel the need to chase her down.  After the awards, I wish that I had.  Next time.

After the Boxing Day Ten Miler. And it stopped raining!

I got what I wanted out of the Boxing Day Ten Miler: a decent race, a baseline to build on in 2017, time with a friend.  What I didn’t quite expect, though, was a boost in my confidence again – the realization that I am stronger than I think.  Bring on 2017!

 

 

Welcome 2017

I’m not usually one for setting resolutions when the year changes, but I do set goals.  Then I revisit them, revise them, and chase new dreams.  In 2016, my goal was to become physically stronger as a runner.  While my race times weren’t stellar, they were good enough to earn age group awards and earn a spot to compete in the Canadian 5K Championship race.   It was a year of running based on raw talent – running without tempos, speedwork, or hill training.

Road2Hope Half Marathon, Hamilton
After the Boxing Day Ten Miler

In the past few weeks, while laying out my training plan for Boston, I’ve realized two things.  First, I am a fairly decent runner, but I’m nearing the end of my age group (50-54) so I have to do something different if I want to stay competitive.   Secondly, I am stronger than I think.  In my past two races, I really just wanted to see how I would run, hoping to finish the Road2Hope Half-Marathon (November) in under 1:40 and the Boxing Day Ten Miler (December) in less than 75 minutes.  I ran 1:37 and 74 minutes, respectively, and I felt good.  Obviously, my base is solid; it is time to change my training.

So my 2017 goal is to bump up my training and cross-training in terms of distance, intensity and frequency.  This month, my plan is to add speedwork and/hills into my running but I am absolutely terrified of doing either in the dark, especially when it’s icy.  And let’s be frank; I don’t like either of them anyway.  I’d rather just run.  But like so many other things that are good for me, speedwork and hills must be run if I am going to be in shape for Boston.  By running right after work, on the streets that surround my school, I should be able to get in a decent workout before daylight is lost.

Just hanging out at Climbers Rock.

During my marathon prep, I am also going to increase my cycling (windtrainer miles) so that I can strengthen my quads and be ready for the Boston hills.  My core is another area for me to focus on, which can easily be strengthened with consistency at the yoga studio and indoor climbing gym.

These goals are not part of a new year; they simply coincide with it as part of my plan for Boston.   They are in place to help me become better than I am and the runner that I aspire to be.

Chasing my dreams….

 

 

 

 

My Profile

I am a 50+ mother of two boys, a wife, a dog owner, and teacher.  In between my family and occupational roles, I train  competitively as a Masters Distance Runner in the Ontario racing scene.  Cyn’s Space is my story – the good, the bad and anything else that comes to mind.

WordPress Resources at SiteGround

WordPress is an award-winning web software, used by millions of webmasters worldwide for building their website or blog. SiteGround is proud to host this particular WordPress installation and provide users with multiple resources to facilitate the management of their WP websites:

Expert WordPress Hosting

SiteGround provides superior WordPress hosting focused on speed, security and customer service. We take care of WordPress sites security with unique server-level customizations, WP auto-updates, and daily backups. We make them faster by regularly upgrading our hardware, offering free CDN with Railgun and developing our SuperCacher that speeds sites up to 100 times! And last but not least, we provide real WordPress help 24/7! Learn more about SiteGround WordPress hosting

WordPress tutorial and knowledgebase articles

WordPress is considered an easy to work with software. Yet, if you are a beginner you might need some help, or you might be looking for tweaks that do not come naturally even to more advanced users. SiteGround WordPress tutorial includes installation and theme change instructions, management of WordPress plugins, manual upgrade and backup creation, and more. If you are looking for a more rare setup or modification, you may visit SiteGround Knowledgebase.

Free WordPress themes

SiteGround experts not only develop various solutions for WordPress sites, but also create unique designs that you could download for free. SiteGround WordPress themes are easy to customize for the particular use of the webmaster.