Fitness Swellness: Reaching Volt Level on Nike Run Club app

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I never knew attending the media launch of NikePlus in Toronto in the spring of 2007 would turn me into a runner who just last month logged 15,000 kilometres on the NRC app to reach Volt Level.

I couldn’t have predicted it. I hated running in gym class in school. I remember walking with a stitch in my side as I walked the perimetre of the schoolyard and hating my life at that moment.

I got to learn a little bit about running just before the NikePlus system launched here; my sister had gotten into running, and at the time I just didn’t understand the sport at all. I didn’t know a marathon was by definition 42.2k (I thought any run was a marathon and would call a 10k race a marathon, hahaha), and when I went to cheer her at her races, I didn’t understand how she’d been running for several hours, nor how we were able to predict where to find her along the route.

But I went to the NikePlus launch in 2007 and given I’d just started covering health for Flare magazine, I soon after registered for a Learn to Run clinic at the Running Room so I could put this system to use (back then the system involved putting the little sensor into the sole of your shoe, remember?!).

From there, I went onto the 5k clinic, 10k clinic and half-marathon. I stuck to the half distance for a little while since my time was quite slow, and I found myself struggling. Then I discovered I had a Graves Disease (that is, an overactive thyroid autoimmune disorder), which was why I would get so tired running (I’ll never forget my endocrinologist’s look of shock when I asked about running halfs and his direct order to not run long distances since it causes your muscles to tire quickly meant that I had to take a break for longer distances for a bit). A difficult breakup caused me to take another break, and then finally with my thyroid issues sorted out, and a halfhearted desire to get my life back on track, I joined a clinic again with a friend. It helped pull me out of depression, and I went on to register for marathon clinic, and I ran my first marathon in 2012, and finished with a time I was thrilled about for my first marathon.

Over the following eight years til now, I ran several other marathons (including Chicago for my third time in this race which I ran with a horrible cold) and halfs (my most recent and most memorable being the Dead Sea Half-Marathon), and a few 30ks (namely Around the Bay, which I last ran in 2014). Which brings us to 2020…

I’ve never been a runner who does a high volume, but with the pandemic, and no races in the calendar thanks to the pandemic, I decided to make simply logging distance a goal, so for April, I aimed to run 200k. Done and done.

And then at the end of April, when I needed another goal to keep me going, I came across the Great Virtual Run Across Tennessee 1000k and realized that if I registered, I would reach Volt Level and cross the GVRAT finish line at the same time. And if I could run 200k, certainly I could do 250k for the next four months, right?

I quickly realized my finish lines for Volt and GVRAT would not coincide since the virtual race is based on Lazarus Lake miles (and because the actual distance across Tennessee is actually 1021.68k) but no biggie, they’d just be a day or two apart. I registered for GVRAT…and within a week became intent on finishing the race as quickly as my body would allow without getting injured. Full breakdown of my GVRAT obsession in this post here!

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And less than two months into this virtual race, on a very hot and humid Sunday morning, June 28th, I reached Volt Level on NRC! 15,000 kilometres run. Given the number of runs not counted on NRC for a variety of reasons, I know IRL I reached this distance a little while go but I try not to focus on that missing data (but anyone who tracks their runs and for whom it’s a big motivating factor knows how it can make the run not seem like it even happened, hahaha). It took 13 years, and an intense 1021.68k race during a pandemic to get me to reach this level now (without GVRAT, I would’ve reached Volt sometime later this year).

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In terms of the NRC app, I have to say reaching Volt status was a little underwhelming in terms of the app. I expected something celebatory on the app. But the only difference is the screen now is the signature Volt yellow. It doesn’t even appear under the Achievements tab. But that’s OK, I have my own run celebration in store for this (hello, burger picnic with my running pal who’s also doing the GVRAT!). Oh, and I’ll happily be returning to using the NRC app on my Apple Watch rather than my phone (I had to switch for a few months as I didn’t have an iPhone to sync with my watch).

Although I find much of the personal motivation from the numbers (my pace, the kilometres I’ve completed, etc., etc.), the sport is about so much more than just the numbers, though. Running has brought so much to my life and changed me as a person. I’ve made good friends though the sport, had the opportunity to run in some incredible places around the world (Istanbul! The Dead Sea! Philly! Vancouver! To name just few.), and it’s pulled me out of low times in my lif, which I wrote about for Flare in 2012. The lessons in strength and resilience it’s taught me are immeasurable. On the days I dread having to run (because, believe it or not, I don’t consider myself someone who loves running, it’s very obvious to me when I talk to runners who are truly passionate about the actual act of running), I remind myself of all of the things running does do to enrich my life in incredible ways to get me to slog through sweaty, endless runs.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank you to Nike Canada for all of the support and gear and running opportunities through these 13 years, and the gear and events from other brands as well such as Apple, Reebok, Saucony, New Balance, Gatorade, Saucony and iRun magazine. (My apologies for brands I’ve overlooked, I think I’m still weary from my 1000k race!).

15,000k complete, and so many kilometres to go. There is no finish line.

Leave a Comment July 13, 2020

Fitness Swellness: Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee race recap

Leave a Comment July 2, 2020

Fitness Swellness: Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee month 1 recap

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Running 1,021.68 kilometres sounded like it’d take FOREVER. Now, four weeks into the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee, these are some of the key things I’ve realized this month:

Breaking up my runs into several short runs is easier for my mental strength.

When I started this race, I was running once a day. In the latter half of May, I realized I could likely log more mileage and more easily wrap my head around tackling more mileage by doing a few runs a day. Although I’ve become used to running 15k straight, some days it’s just easier for me to tackle it in two runs. And on days I plan to run 21k, which is a distance I will typically dread having to complete, breaking it into two or even three runs simplifies it for me. There’s also the added bonus for being able to bring my dog Billie Jean when I break longer runs into shorter runs; with the heat wave we have already had, I’m reluctant to take her on any run that’s too long (even though she is happy to run for long distances, I worry about heat stroke and the hot pavement). Billie Jean, by the way, has run all except 46 kilometres of May’s 450k, she’s a great runner!

Podcasts are good to listen to if you’re just trying to rack up distance.

I’ve tried listening to podcasts while I run in the past, but I’ve never found them motivating enough for my workout. But now, since my only goal is logging distance and I’m running at whatever pace feels good, podcasts are proving to be a good listen. I’ve run most of this month without listening to anything (mostly because I’m having earphone issues–I think the jack on my phone is a bit broken, and my phone won’t connect to my bluetooth earbuds), but when I am able to get my earphones to work, I’ve listened to Fake Doctors Real Friends (a new podcast from Zach Braff and Donald Faison from the tv show Scrubs), Spilled Milk and Hottest Take.

Logging mileage is easier than running a marathon.

I of course knew this in theory, but I still entered this virtual race nervous about being able to complete the 1,021.68 kilometres, but it dawned on me early on in the race that I don’t have to concern myself about pace. So I run each run at a comfortable pace (which changes from day to day; if I take it very easy and run a shorter distance one day, I notice I can run a faster pace comfortably the next day) and although my legs do feel tired some days, and that I often feel like I’m always at about the 30k mark of a marathon (which is to say I’m starting to feel fatigued but I’m not quite yet cursing my chosen sport), it’s never close to feeling like how I do in the last few kilometres of a marathon. I’ve adapted to logging mileage and run streaking so well, in fact, that I changed my goal for this race and the month of May a few times.

Where do I stand one month into the race?

And how much easier is it? I’ve somehow managed to complete 450 kilometres in the month of May. That’s nearly double the most mileage I’ve ever run in a month. I ran week 1 moderately, but quickly became obsessive about the race, and all the days off I said I’d take? Well, I haven’t taken a day off yet. I used to say I would work in rest days…and then I see myself fall in the standings when I run only 10k, and I go right back to a minimum of 15 or 16k per day. It didn’t help matters that I believe Laz posted that the first 3,000 finishers get a special type of prize or recognition; I started gunning for top 3,000 and I’ve managed to work my way into the top 3,000 as of the past week.

What I am scared about…

I can’t deny that I am scared of getting injured just from sheer overuse. The repetitive action can’t be that great on my body and I’ve been researching stress fractures. I feel great so far, but I have deliberately pulled back my pace so that I’m always running at a long slow distance pace or a recovery pace. I’m paying close attention to how my body feels, and have even done a few stretches (halfheartedly, but any stretches at all is still significant, given my aversion to stretching!). I’m also trying to get more sleep by getting into bed right after my nighttime runs (which will always translate into me falling asleep several hours earlier than if I’d parked myself on the couch with some Netflix).

Month #2, let’s do this!

I’m 450 kilometres in, with 571,68k to go! This race may not take me all summer after all…What will I do the rest of the season now that it doesn’t seem like fall marathons will be held?!

Leave a Comment June 1, 2020

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