Fitness Swellness: GVRAT Back Across Tennessee race recap

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108 days into the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee, I made it BACK ACROSS TENNESSEE!

That’s a total distance of 2,043.36 kilometres. If you recall, at the beginning of May I wasn’t sure how difficult it’d be to complete the Race Across Tennessee (RAT) distance in the four months for the race, so to have completed double the distance with just under two weeks to spare, I’m shocked, and proud.

It’s 107 days if you’re looking at “chip time” as I only registered for the race on May 2nd, but the race goes by gun time. This race most definitely tapped into my competitiveness. Once I finished RAT, I knew I could complete 1,000 miles. Especially since for the BAT race, I was including walking miles.

I completed 1,000 miles in 91 days, ahead of the “end of July” goal I’d set for myself. And on August 5th, I thought “It’d be a nice even date to complete the BAT distance by August 15th.” For no other reason than it being the halfway mark of August. Out came my calculator and it called for doing just over 30 kilometres a day for 10 days straight. And even I knew that was unrealistic; my schedule is a lot busier now and I was struggling on the days I managed to log 21k. It included often sacrificing sleep to get at least 6k done in the early morning, and then walking at least 3k late at night (sometimes as late as 1 a.m.).

But I’d become a bit nervous about those late night walks and runs. I realized I was going through some dark and pretty deserted areas, which wasn’t the safest idea, then to add to it, there have been a slew of harassment incidents in the area so as I closed in on the last 200 or so kilometres of the race, I didn’t think it was wise to do the late walks and so I lost some precious time chipping away at the distance.

I realized on Friday, August 14th, that I had that day and the entire weekend I could devote to logging distance for BAT. And with 120 kilometres left, if I did 40k each day, I’d be done by Sunday, August 16th (just one day more than the goal I’d chosen as an ideal end date). So, I went for it. I already knew I had to run 21.1k on the weekend for the Lululemon Virtual SeaWheeze Half Marathon, so it meant “only” walking another 21k that same day as well, so that covered off one day. For my final 35k on Sunday, I took a very long (and rather boring) 12k walk across the city with my dog, visited the beach, stopped for pizza and then made the 12k walk back across the city and finished off the BAT race with a 3k run at night.

I walked much more of the BAT than I expected to. I think the RAT’s very intense 1,021.68k, for which I decided to only count running miles, was really hard on my body. My pace is terrible and I now even walk slowly, just out of pure exhaustion.

My BAT by the numbers

  • 766.86 walking
  • 267.3 running
  • zero 0 days (meaning I logged distance every single day)
  • a negative split of 10 days (I completed RAT in 59 days and BAT in 49 days)

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Billie Jean and her GVRAT and BAT journey?

She completed 76 percent (or 1,554k) of the 2,043.36 RAT + BAT with me:

  • 1,071.3k running
  • 483.32 walking

And I’d have registered her as a dog completing the race but I knew the city’s heat and humidity would make it dangerous for her to complete every run with me, so I didn’t commit to making it race official for her, but to me she completed the race and I’m so proud of her.

And in the final standings, when I checked on Monday to confirm I’d officially completed the BAT, I finished 276th out of 11,063 women in this global virtual race, and in 622nd place (out of 19,612 participants).

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So many firsts for me with this race, including my very first buckle! Now just need a belt to sport this huge, gaudy piece of bling on, haha!

This race has helped so many of us around the world cope in this crazy time. It became a huge thing to fixate on, distracting me from the stresses of  living through quarantine, which would’ve otherwise swallowed me whole. And the Facebook group for the GVRAT was a joy to be a part of (other than people asking every single day what the actual distance of the race is… people, get your act together, it’s clearly stated in the race FAQ). From the gorgeous photos from around the world, to so many shots of snakes (I’m so glad that’s not something I encounter on my runs!), along with Lazarus Lake’s often hilarious posts, plus all of the personal stories; there have been pregnancy announcements, breakups, deaths, pets, so many injuries, and with it, just the whole gamut of human emotions; the camaraderie that developed as we all pushed through living under lockdown and making it through this continuing pandemic–I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed being part of a Facebook group more. We are all in this together: the pandemic, this crazy race, interpreting “Laz miles”, all of it.

Thank you to Lazarus Lake and the entire GVRAT team for putting up with so many of the same questions and continually working on improving the virtual race experience for all of us and creating this crazy race that none of us will ever forget.

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Leave a Comment August 18, 2020

Fitness Swellness: Lululemon SeaWheeze Virtual Half Marathon 2020 recap

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And for my 19th half-marathon race, I did my first virtual half, the SeaWheeze Virtual Half Marathon!

I was invited by Lululemon to take part and I figured I need to log distance for my Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee (which I completed the race distance of 1021.68k in late June, but I added on doing Back Across Tennessee, that is, running back to where I started the race on May 2nd) so I registered to run this virtual 21.1k, which had to be completed anytime from August 15 to 23rd.

I didn’t plan to race it. My legs are very, very tired from the GVRAT, and my pace is slow thanks to the 2,043 kilometres I’m almost done with for that race. Normally you should rest your legs before a race. I’ve had no rest days since about mid-April (I’ve had days of solely walking miles but no zero days as we have been calling them in the Tennessee race). So my plan was to approach SeaWheeze (SW20) as a long, slow run. Since I’ve been focusing on short runs for GVRAT (sometimes multiple times a day, although my BAT portion of the race I’ve replaced much of the distance with walking to give my body a break) I knew I had to incorporate some longer runs leading up to SW20. So I completed approximately one longer run a week in the month leading up to SeaWheeze. The longest distance I ran was 18k and last week, I was simply exhausted (my schedule has been very busy) and I couldn’t muster the energy to run another long run the only time I could find in my schedule, usually at 10 pm so I skipped it. I also skipped that one longer run as I am reluctant to run anything longer than 10k at night out of safety concerns.

As SeaWheeze start date approached, and with no long run completed last week (I did muster the energy to complete a 14k run, though), I decided I wouldn’t run the SeaWheeze distance until the latter end of the 8 days allotted for the virtual race, closer to August 23rd than August 15th.

And then I realized I’d be finishing the GVRAT well  before August 23rd, and there would be no way I’d be motivated to run 21.1k after finishing this monster of a virtual race (Lazarus Lake doesn’t create easy races, does he!). And I promise you that I am planning on some full R&R after I finish my Back Across Tennessee distance!

So coincidentally with this weekend off of work (from Friday to Sunday), I decided to run the 21.1k for SeaWheeze on the first day of the race period, last night, Saturday, August 15th. The weather was hot and humid, 30 Celsius when I started the race at 7:30, which was another factor making me even slower.

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I ran a usual route I do on the west side of the city for 16 kilometres, then picked up Billie Jean for the last 5k. She could complete the whole half marathon distance but with the heat, I didn’t think it was safe for her. Instead, I listened to the Reply All podcast as I took my time logging the distance. The weather cooled as it got later in the evening; my route included stop lights, and at the tail end of the race, I ran along the closed-to-traffic Lake Shore Blvd (closed as part of #activeTO, the program the city has run all summer that closes off traffic on certain streets so as to allow people to enjoy the outdoors biking, running or walking while social distancing) so it sort of felt like a real race since I was running on a barricaded street.

While this portion was closed to traffic like a race, there were no spectators or water stations of course. So I ran with bottle of Gatorade and refilled it with Nuun when I picked up Billie Jean, since any of the water fountains in the city aren’t running due to the pandemic. Although there were no spectators (my friend Aylin said she’d come cheer, I didn’t take her up on the offer), a girl did stop me on Lake Shore Blvd. to talk to me when I was at about the 19k mark; she wanted to talk how cute Billie Jean is (and I’ll gladly talk about my amazing pup anytime!).

For me, a virtual race of this type is much more difficult to get motivated for but it was very freeing to not be stressing myself out about running the distance as quickly as I could. (As an aside, for me, the GVRAT is in a different type of virtual race category as I’ve found it very motivating to try to log distance each day and watch my position improve daily; it has become an obsession). My NRC app (on which I reached Volt Level in June) on my Apple Watch and Strava differed by about half a kilometre (and I don’t think Strava pauses when I’m not moving so my times differ on the two apps—I’m fairly new to using Strava and haven’t fully learned the ins and outs of using it) but my Strava logs my SW time as 2:17:37.

In the end, the race helped me log more than 43 kilometres in my GVRAT race for the day, and I am proud of the fact that I can complete the 21.1k distance without training for a half per se, and on very weary legs.

I’d love to run the actual SeaWheeze in Vancouver IRL some day, I’ve heard it’s a fun one and Vancouver is so pretty. If you’re keen to run this year’s virtual half or 10k this week, you can still register btw! Thank you to Lululemon for the invitation to take part and for the running gear (this cap is so comfortable for running and I like the subtle camo print, and the cut of both the sports bra and Muscle Love Crop Tank Top is very flattering).

Now, excuse me as I get back to completing this Back Across Tennessee race. I reached 1,000 miles before the end of July, and the finish line for BAT is in sight!

Leave a Comment August 16, 2020

Pet Swellness: 5 essentials for safe summertime fun with your dog

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If there’s anyone who’s happy about living under lockdown this summer, I think it’s the dogs of the world. After all, their humans are home way more often, and most of us have had more time to spend with our pups. I’ve taken my dog Billie Jean on way more runs and walks this summer than ever and made sure to have a good supply of essentials for her. My summertime toolkit for safe and fun playtime includes these must-haves, all available at Canadian family-owned discount chain Giant Tiger (so it was all well within my limited pandemic budget!):

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1. Portable water bottle

I think the person who made the initial design of this type of water bottle for dogs is a genius. Compact and so practical. Although we do pass a few public water fountains on our walks and runs, Billie Jean often doesn’t want to drink from them. Also, many of the fountains have not had water running through the pandemic, so I bring this water bottle for her regularly to make sure she’s always well hydrated. (By the way, this whole outfit–the sports bra, bike shorts and runners? All from Giant Tiger. Have you checked it out yet? Here are my tips on how to shop their ACX Active collection.).

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2. LED-collar 

We are often running and walking after dark, and hopefully we will get to go camping sometime this summer, too. So this LED-collar ensures she is well seen by cars, cyclists, and pedestrians. And it’s helpful for me to spot her too when I let her off-leash after dark. It’s been attracting a lot of attention too from everyone during our outings. Guess it makes her look a little like she’s gone to a rave, haha. This collar is adjustable, and it also comes with a separate LED-light tag if you want something more discreet. Best of all, no batteries required; this product recharges via USB.

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3. Bright, secure leash

A neon bright leash helps to make sure your dog is visible at day and night. Bonus: I’ve always been a fan of neon yellow. This style of leash has a handle with the poop bag dispenser integrated into it and it’s comfortable to hold. It’s not as comfortable to loop onto your wrist if you have to hold something in your hand, thoughI’d say that is its only downfall.

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4. Nutritious treats

I like to always have treats on me for her as a training tool and also in case she needs a snack; after all, if I’m bringing snacks for me during a hike, I figure she could use a snack too for a little fuel when we are out for a couple of hours. But just like humans, you have to make sure that your dog doesn’t snack too often and that you take those into account when considering how much she is consuming over the entire day.

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The range of dog treats at Giant Tiger is impressive; there are a lot of the well known brands you know and love, but there are also a slew of products from smaller companies. I look at the ingredient list to make sure the treats are not loaded with fillers; an all-natural favourite I discovered at Giant Tiger is from a local company, Caledon Farms (Billie Jean is obsessed with the Sweet Potato Chews, but devours their Beef Tendersticks as well). Plus, I also stocked up at Giant Tiger on Greenies Dental Treats for her dental care (my vet gave me a list of vet-approved products to manage Billie Jean’s plaque and this is one of them so I always keep a supply of them on hand), and to entertain her while at home, bully sticks are always a safe go-to option since she can be a decently strong chewer (plush toys last about one minute in our house!). 

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5. Outside toys

Billie Jean isn’t the greatest at fetch or catching things, but we’re working on it! It’s important to me that she leads a healthy, active lifestyle, so this lightweight frisbee is perfect for our park outings (even though she often retrieves it, drops it elsewhere and I’m the one fetching! But I guess that’s keeping us both active, right?). Having toys for your dog and making sure they’re getting the exercise they need can often help alleviate behavioural issues.

Here’s to making this the best summer yet for you and your pup! Summer isn’t cancelled!

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1 Comment August 11, 2020

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