Fitness Swellness: 3 reasons I’m anxious about the 2018 Chicago Marathon

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I’m about nine weeks into training for the Chicago Marathon and why’s it taken so long to post about this? Well, in part because training takes up a lot of time (leaving little time to blog…) and because I’m pretty nervous about this race.

This time around marathon training snuck up on me. A few months ago I’d talked to Nike Canada (one of the race’s sponsors) to explore whether running this race again would be possible (I ran it last year and in 2014) . Before I knew it, the race was three months away and boom, I met with Nike Run Coach Brittany Moran, and I had a three-month training schedule and had to kick things into high gear immediately.

For my personalized training plan, Brittany chatted with me about how I’ve trained thus far for the 11 marathons I’ve done, and asked me about my goals for this race. My goals (A, B and C) are all to PB.

When Nike sent me a magnet detailing my three months of training, with my goals boldly printed on the top, I started hyperventilating. Seeing it in print, with an intense schedule of training, well, shit just got real. I texted a few friends “Goodbye, see after October 7!” since it appeared I’d be doing nothing but running for the next three months.

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When I had a chance to have a more careful read of the training plan, I realized it wasn’t that much more in terms of frequency than my training last year. Brittany’s training plan has me running mostly five days a week. She’s made some of the recovery runs longer than the ones I added in 2018. She also has my longest run, this week, at a distance of 34k (up from the usual 32k distance I’ve done in the past). In addition, she’s made some of them a little tougher (a few of the long runs, I’m to pick up the pace at the end, for example).

I’m very much a realist when it comes to most things. Perhaps that makes me approach things with less of a lofty, optimistic view, but that’s just how I think I’ve been wired. Is this a Capricorn thing?

In any case, my A-goal is to PB with a time that will guarantee I qualify and get into Boston. My B-goal is to meet the BQ standard. C-goal is to marathon PB (my marathon PB is from Chicago 2014).

And here’s the thing: right now, with three weeks to race day, I don’t feel like I can PB. There, I said it.

3 reasons why a PB feels out of reach to me:

  1. I’m basically going from couch to marathon. Typically, I maintain a certain level of running fitness year round, regardless if I have a goal race. But this winter and spring, I ran very sporadically. Then right when I was going to ramp it up and train consistently for the Lululemon 10k race in Toronto, I caught a cold and flu that knocked me out for three whole weeks. Then, finally well enough to run again having recovered from the flu, my eye doctor ordered me not to wear contact lenses for two whole weeks. I’m too nearsighted to run without lenses and running with my glasses would be very uncomfortable and awkward with my prescription so I took those two weeks off of running. Five weeks of no running meant I was a starting from zero. And I still haven’t gotten my strength and pace up again to what I used to run.
  2. My marathon training schedule is three months-long. I usually train using a four-month training plan. It wouldn’t normally be as much of an issue if I were in good shape to train over three months (…but see point #1 above regarding starting from scratch!).
  3. This summer’s brutal heat and humidity has drained me both physically and mentally. It’s been an incredibly hot and sticky summer. I know it affects everyone’s training, but if you’ve ever seen me exercise, I sweat a lot and am miserable when drenched in sweat. The conditions mean my runs are even slower and difficult than ever and I just spend a lot of the run thinking of how unhappy I am in that moment. What have summer weekends consisted of? First I spend a lot of time dreading the long run I have ahead of me and then the rest of the time I am feeling sorry for myself in a pool of my own sweat as I pound the pavement. I even cancelled plans to play tennis one weekend because I’m done with drowning in a pool of my own sweat all the time.

I know this isn’t the optimistic, I-can-do-it post that’s fun to read. But this is what the reality is for me right now. REAL TALK, that’s all the rage now, isn’t it? 

I swear this isn’t just pre-race jitters…I’ve thought this for weeks now, and runs that I think should feel effortless are still hard work.

On the bright side, I have learned a few things and can recognize the silver linings, too, with regards to training for Chicago 2018, and I’ll post about that in Part II of this blog post.

Are you running Chicago this year or another fall marathon? How’s your training going?

 

Leave a Comment September 18, 2018

Travel Swellness: Camping with the GMC Acadia Denali

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Not that I’ve ever been the type to hate nature (although I do not like bugs…) but I’ve always considered myself a city girl. Over the past few years, though, I’ve been seeking out more time in forests, or by the water, but always with creature comforts (does having showers and flushing toilets count as a creature comfort?). I’ve gotten into camping (my first trip was last summer); just car camping (where you park on your campsite) — I have yet to do back-country camping (I don’t know if that’s something I’m ready to tackle quite yet).

For my most recent camping trip this summer at Grundy Lake Provincial Park, I had the opportunity to drive the GMC Acadia Denali. I was a bit nervous the vehicle would feel enormous like some of the recent cars I’ve driven (the Ford Explorer, the Cadillac Escalade), but to my relief, the Acadia Denali was not so over-sized for me that I felt nervous driving and parking it, and yet it had loads of room for me, two friends and two dogs and the piles of equipment you need for camping.

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Equipped with OnStar 4G LTE WIFI Hotspot, which is handy for road trips since you may drive through dead zones with no data service, the Acadia also featured OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation, which got us to Grundy Lake, to Burger’s Priest in Barrie (where we stopped for lunch on our drive back) and home with ease. I get very stressed out when lost as I have no sense of direction, so having a reliable and easy to follow navigation system is a must for me, and the OnStar was easy to use (the interface is clean and it’s all very intuitive).

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The WIFI also is handy when you’re in the car for a few hours, too. You know the two of us not driving would be looking up essential celebrity gossip and all of those other nonsense things you must google asap as we made our way north.

The Acadia is equipped with Apple Carplay, which we didn’t use much of during our camping trip, but it was useful when I had the car to myself and I had to make calls while driving. Safety first, after all, and I was able to call my friends to let them know I was soon arriving using Siri. Music-wise, for our road trip, we had fun checking out stations on Sirius (indie music for easy listening and old school hip hop for when we were needing something more hype).

Grundy Lake camping

The trunk area was spacious enough once we lowered down the last row of seats to make room for sleeping bags, coolers, the tent and food. When you’re car camping, you store all of your food in the car so as to avoid attracting bears, so you’re in and out of the car a lot, so it’s by no means a new feature but the button to close the trunk is a simple but most useful feature. The Acadia features the hands-free liftgate but I admit I always forget to use it. It’s funny how you can operate on autopilot, isn’t it? (For example, I still often forget I can turn right on red here when I drive, since I learned to drive in Montreal, and you can’t turn right on red there.)

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The interior of the car is the perfect blend of luxury and outdoors ruggedness. The leather seats were comfortable and easy to clean up after two dogs traveled in the vehicle (just a quick run through with my Dyson). And the exterior was Blue Steel Metallic, which is a very sexy colour; deep and mysterious and yet more special than just black. It’s a colour that makes you take a second look at the car.

At the end of my stint with this GMC Acadia Denali, I think it bridges the gap and suits both aspects of my lifestyle: life in the city (dinners out, errands, mini excursions to explore other nearby cities) and the outdoor adventures that I’m more and more drawn to (hikes with Billie Jean, camping). It is indeed “a luxury crossover vehicle,” smart marketing, haha. Granted it’s on the large size for just me and my dog for city stuff, but then again, you do need to bring a lot of people with you to eat the towers of lobster and crab at Fishman’s Lobster Clubhouse, so perhaps it’s just the right size.

Thank you GM Canada for GMC Acadia test drive! Next up, the GMC Terrain. I’m interested to see how this compares to my experience with the Acadia.

Billie Jean Grundy Lake

 

 

Leave a Comment September 12, 2018

Fitness Swellness: 2018 Ultra Night Run 10k race recap

I Like Beer

You guys, I’ve found the secret morale booster for when you’re having a really tough season of marathon training:

Run a fun run.

By that I mean a short distance race where the focus is more social; there’s usually a theme (in this case, it’s the #liveultra life) or there may be some costumes involved, for example, or rainbow colours (as in the Color Run). I’m not talking about the often larger in scale races (in Toronto, that’d be the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon or the Sporting Life 10k, as two examples). See, those more conventional races draw the elite runners and serious running folk. Fun runs? You’ll get a small group of dedicated runners, but you’ll mostly get a lot of weekend warriors. Not to diminish less frequent runners who are more drawn to a race by the social aspects; I fully support that, too!

In fact, that’s why being an ambassador for this race was the perfect fit for me, if I may say so myself. I am typically quite committed to my training, but I also don’t have my entire life centred around running. My friends and enjoying good times with them is just as important to me as running marathons. I have a fairly relaxed approach when compared to other marathon runners.

Disclosure: while I am a Michelob Ultra Ambassador for this summer’s race, this post isn’t part of my partnership. I’m posting because, well, I like recapping my races. It helps me to track my training and learn from my races…however…

Let’s get real. The main reason for this recap: so I can not-so-humble brag: I finished 1st in my division, and 8th woman out of 332!

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How did I finish so well in this race? The elite runner types don’t do these fun-run type races, so more moderate runners (like me!) can place high in the race standings. There’s no chance I’d ever finish FIRST in my division in a more serious race.

The race vibe:

As for how Saturday night played out, kudos to Michelob for putting on a great and fun-filled event! There were glow  in the dark bracelets, Brooks had lights to attach to your shoes, and mandatory high-quality headlamps (which I’ll now use for camping!) Along the route, there were a few DJs and a live band or two, along with a few fun displays, like a section lit up in red in the shape of the Michelob ribbon.

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And last but not least, there was the Michelob beer garden at the finish, where my friends and I had a cold beer and hot dogs and bananas (a strange post-race fuel combo!) and a  live band playing (the first song I heard them play? Backstreet Boys “Everybody”! That was the best and funniest thing to happen after the race — I LOVE BSB, in case you’re unaware).

How my 10k race played out:

The temperature had dropped overnight so it was, in my opinion, the perfect running temperature, maybe about 14 degrees (I heat up a lot, and quickly, so I opted to run in a sports bra and shorts, however most people were dressed more warmly). The route through Sunnybrook Park was quite dark,  making it seem a bit dangerous (the path was narrow and there were some fairly sharp turns). This was new running experience to me, I’ve only run one other night race before.

I started in the corral practically right at the start line (the closest I’ve ever been to it ever; my gun time and chip time only differ by four seconds) and I planned to run it as a tempo. My legs were tired going into the race; I’m currently training for the Chicago Marathon, so I’d run all week, including 32k on Thursday night, and 6k on Friday morning. These were not rested legs, whatsoever. I wasn’t expecting or trying to PB, but just ran it comfortably hard. I suppose I could’ve run it “easy” and actually as a “fun run,” but as I explained to my friends Aylin and Anna Lee as we waited for the race to start, I don’t function like that. I put pressure on myself in most scenarios… (I’m type A, what can I say.)

Ultra Night Run with Aylin

I could tell from the start that I was one of the few women in the front of the pack, so that was a bit of motivation to keep my pace going strong.  With everyone’s headlights on, it made for a bit of a blinding glare when you had runners coming towards you so I tried to keep my head down but I inevitably found my eyes drawn to the lights.

I hustled at about an intensity of 7 or 8 out of 10 and completed my race in 49:30, which is a far cry from my 10k PB, but a decent time given my marathon training-weary legs and mind. I finished in 52nd place out of 605 runners, 8th out of 332 women, and 1st out of 93 in my division. As for what I’d have done differently? I’d have brought my earphones for some entertainment as I ran (there were some stretches of the route without entertainment and I like as much of a distraction from the sweaty task at hand as I can have!).

Would I run this race again? Most definitely yes. It’s renewed my optimism for my upcoming races and my enjoyment for running in general. Post-race beer garden hangs with friends and goofy things like flashing lights on your shoes are a refreshing departure from my usual stressed out status when it comes to doing a race, and, well, it’s kinda great to finish in the top 10.

Cheers! See you at the next race! And I’ll post soon about my marathon training!)

pre Ultra Night Run

 

 

 

Leave a Comment September 11, 2018

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