November 2013 - Run for the Thrills


Pursuing Poutine and Pudge… :(

Posted by | Fit by Forty | 2 Comments

Since my last post I have not exactly been pursuing the thrill of running.

First I skipped a few runs. Mostly because I didn’t want to run so I didn’t.

Then I went to Ottawa to visit family and while there, I enjoyed Poutine-fest: a celebration of the greasiest, fattiest, heaviest food known to humankind, generously bestowed upon us by the Quebecois. I can’t believe that someone thought, let’s take this greasy, salty food—french fries—and add some greasy, salty topping—cheese curds—and some greasy, salty sauce—gravy. Mine even had an extra additional greasy, salty topping—bacon. (As an aside: one sometimes hears arguments about what constitutes REAL poutine as opposed to the “pale imitation” that some restaurants serve. Arguing over what makes REAL poutine is like arguing over what makes a REAL Big Mac. You might be right, but no one cares because you’re eating garbage.)

After that calorie-fest, I skipped a few more runs. Because I was “sick”. (I was indeed a bit under the weather, but I was still well enough to work.)

And now here I am, feeling grumpy and guilty and sad that I’ve taken steps backwards.

I wasn’t trying to pursue pudge, I swear, it just happened.

So anyway, now I’m back at it again. I ran again today for the first time in over a week. It felt terrible.


Oh Canada – Winter Running

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The shock of the cold weather hit me hard this weekend. I was not excited to face the  -8°C temperatures and the strong wind as I set out on my Sunday morning long run. It was especially shocking to me, after all the balmy fall weather we have had this year.  I had a great run, however, going for 23 km at a solid pace of 4:36 per km. I don’t believe winter needs to slow me down! Now is the time to keep going and acclimatize to the dropping temperatures, so that I can keep enjoying outdoor running throughout the entire winter. I have no choice but to adapt to these cold weather conditions, since I have several winter races lined up:  Robbie Burns 8km on January 26, Chilly Half Marathon on March 2nd and Around the Bay on March 30th. So join me in embracing winter running!

Winter Running Essentials


  • Warm up slowly.  Your muscles will be stiff in the cold when you first set out.  You can do a warm up inside first to get your body heated up, or simply start off very slowly and build gradually.  Take 10 – 15 min to warm up and then start focusing on your target pace.  You will be slower when you first set off in the cold.
  • Adjust for slippery, icy conditions. Do not do speed work on icy roads.  In the winter I take my speed workouts onto the treadmill.  Focus on your long, steady state runs, and tempo runs in the outdoor winter conditions. You can also get special gear for slippery roads (keep reading!).
  • Know your own body and what you need to be comfortable.  I know my hands get extremely cold, so I wear huge ski mitts in the winter.  I have friends who strip off their gloves once they are warmed up.  Know what you need and invest in good gear for your sensitive parts!
  • Run with buddies:  stay safe and have someone with you in the most severe conditions.  Being prepared for the unexpected will keep you safe.  If you have nobody to run with, make sure you let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be home.  They can come and rescue you, if needed!


  • Wear only fabrics that wick away sweat, without retaining moisture. Wear sports specific clothing that is made of polyester or wool.  Do not wear cotton, as it retains moisture and becomes very wet, clammy and heavy.
  • Wear Layers:  start with a thin base layer next to the skin, layer on thicker layers (fleece, etc) depending on your own personal tolerance to cold and the outdoor temperature.  If you begin to overheat, layers can be removed as you run.
  • Essential wind barrier layer on the outside.  Warm fleeces and base layers do little to protect against the wind, so ensure that you have an effective wind layer.  Running specific jackets will have vents built in to allow for perspiration to evaporate, while still providing wind protection.
  • Wear a hat.

Special Gear:

  • Yaktrax for Running:  These are great devices that simply slip over your regular running shoes to improve traction on ice and snow.  I have been able to run in horrible conditions with these slip on cleats and not slip.  Winter running on trails is incredible!YakTrax-Run

The treadmill is a great alternative on the -40°C days, but we all know that long runs are nearly impossible to complete on a treadmill.  They are certainly painfully boring when training for marathon distances.  Insert the odd treadmill run into your routine when necessary, but keep on enjoying the beautiful outdoors!


Triathlon Training Checklist

Posted by | Triathlon Training | One Comment

Time to check in; How am I doing with my triathlon goal?

I have been slowly adding new components to my regular running routine, but it is time now to get into a higher gear and fully commit to this new goal. Time for a Triathlon Training Checklist. I work well with lists. There is clear direction and order, as well as a sense of accomplishment as the check marks start to accumulate. Time for a checklist of what equipment I need and what training I must to do on a weekly basis to prepare for the half ironman.


  • Swim two times per week with Master’s swim group at the Kiwanis Aquatics Centre
  • Open water swimming – started for the first time this past summer. Will need to wait now until the weather improves again.
  • Wet suit for open water swimming – thanks to the generosity of a friend who cruises ebay, we found one!
  • Focus on stroke improvement – do one or two swim sessions dedicated to stroke correction


  • Ride twice per week during winter months
  • Add third ride after Boston Marathon (April 21, 2014)
  • Purchase a road bike – I found a great deal on a Trek road bike this summer; great fit
  • Set up road bike on indoor trainer for the winter months – need to get a different back tire for the bike to set up on the trainer
  • Set up my hybrid bike for winter riding – tires with aggressive treads to keep from slipping in winter conditions
  • Long Outdoor rides on Saturdays – training with the Aktiv Racing Team
  • Learn cycling technique from experience cyclists – Aktiv Racing Team and St. Catharines cycling club


  • Run four times per week – current mileage at 60km
  • Increase mileage to 80km to prepare for Boston Marathon (and then reduce again, after April, adding more cycling and swimming)
  • Long runs on Sundays
  • Speed work once per week – Mondays or Wednesdays


  • Do Brick workouts – the combining of two disciplines, without a break, to teaching the body to transition from one type of exercise to another. The body needs to learn how to divert blood from one set of working muscles to the next efficiently and to recover quickly from the previous activity. This is essential to fulfill sport specificity of training.
  • Practice transitions – practice how to change gear quickly and efficiently, so as not to lose time during the different sports.

There are many components to learn for the triathlon. I am excited for the challenge and adventure set out in front of me. I am encouraged that many elements are already underway and I know what I need to do to train.

Triathlon training is certainly exciting… Welland Half Ironman (June 2014) and Muskoka Half Ironman (September 2014) are in my sights….


Hill Running for Life

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Hill Running will make you strong; hill running will make you tough.  Hills are about both physical and mental strength.  Learn to love hills and you will go further and faster, in both your running and in your life in general, as challenges come in many forms.

What do Hills do for you

Hills are like a weight workout, specific for running.  Just like a weight lifter adds more weight to his bench press to get stronger, a hill forces your legs to exert more force: “Running up hills forces the knees to lift higher, one of the most desirable developments for any runner, because this governs stride speed and length,” according to  Lydiard in his book Running With Lydiard.

Uphill Running

Hill Workout #1 :  Short, Fast Repetitions Uphill:  Pick a hill that is 250m long and do repetitions up the hill at close to your maximum speed.  This is at your repetition pace and the goal is to push to exhaustion.  It is a short, fast spurt of running.  Take a long recovery down the hill, jogging slowly down.  (2- 2:30 min recovery)    This workout will improve your running economy and strength.  It will activate your fast twitch muscle fibers (type IIa and IIb).  If you are new to hills, start with 6 x 250m hill.  Add one or two hills per week, working up to 12 hills.

Hill Workout #2 :  Long Steady Hills:  Find a hilly route with long hills.  In the Niagara region, the country roads in Jordan, Fonthill and Pelham are great.  Do a steady state run, with many hills, focusing on strong steady running up the hills.  This will be like a fartlek workout, with the uphill runs being your hard sections and your downhills as recovery.  However, do not take walk breaks, just alter pace to allow for recovery.  Focus on finishing strong all the way up the hill.  This workout will activate more of your slow twitch muscle fibers and improve your strength and endurance.  This workout is key for BOSTON MARATHON TRAINING.

Down Hill Running

Downhill Coasters:  Run quickly down the hill -either doing repeats downhill, or focusing on running fast down the hills during your steady state runs.  The key is to practice relaxing your body. Do not brake.  Many runners will automatically tense up and put the brakes on.  Focus on allowing the legs to turnover quickly (increase leg turnover/cadence) and letting gravity pull you down.  If you master this technique, you can catch people running down hills and allow yourself to recover slightly before pushing up the next hill.  The downhill is as important as the uphill, so practice both aspects of the hill.  Read more about downhill running in this Running Times article.

Do hill workouts once per week, in order to allow your body to fully recover between workouts.  Incorporate hills into your regular training and soon you will find yourself noticing all the great hills in your nearby vicinity that you just cannot wait to tackle.  Learn to love hills and nothing will stop you!



night run

Pursuing the Thrill of Running

Posted by | Fit by Forty | 2 Comments

When you try to run when you’re out of shape, it’s a tough slog.

You drive past real runners out on their morning run: slim, lithe, light on their feet, they skim on the surface of the road, like water-bugs on a pond. They practically skitter. They look good in their running clothes. So you think, I’ll run when I get home.

You pull in the driveway, head inside, pull on your running clothes (why does this shirt have to be so snug around my middle?), and immediately you feel like a fish out of water. The clothes don’t feel right on you. But you brush your discomfort away and head out the door. You jiggle in more places than seems normal. You spit and sweat and huff and puff like you’re really angry at something. And your feet feel like you have concrete shoes on: not just that, but you’re wading in thick clay, and you feel like you’re just about ready for a walking break but then you notice you’ve only been running for 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

So you keep at it. You’ve decided that this time, for real this time, you’re going to start a pattern of fitness that you’ll stick to. You’re not going to give up at the two-week mark, like you’ve been known to do. No, this time is for real. You want to get Fit by Forty, and you only have 728 days to do it.

Plus, you hear that some people actually like running. Not you, of course. Running is just a means to and end; a necessary evil; the painful payment required to have a healthier body. But you’ve heard a legend that, when some people run, they feel God’s pleasure. They actually run because they find a certain thrill in it.

You shake this thought from your head. Sweat and spittle fly with the head shake. You’re just a bit dizzy. Your legs hurt now, and your feet hurt, and your chest hurts. You’re breathing hard. You’re nearing the halfway mark, where you usually take a walking break.

Then, for one fleeting moment, it happens.

For a second, it does actually feel good. You feel like you don’t need a break—that you could keep going, and going, and going. You feel the breeze in your face. Your body hurts, but at the same time it feels good. You feel strong. For a moment a memory comes back to you: You’re a teenager, downhill skiing. You’ve been at it all day and now it’s night. The ski hill’s lights shine bright in rows like streetlights. You feel the freedom of the night air on blowing on the ski hill, cold on your face. You’re sweaty under your ski jacket, and you feel simultaneously warm and cold, and you feel alive. You’re flying down the hill, like you could just keep skiing all night. There’s a girl with you: she came to ski with you. She’s a the first girl you kissed, and you kissed her nervously on the ski lift just a second ago. You’re fourteen.

The cool air blows on your face, crackling with the first hints of winter, blows through your sweaty hair and you realize with a start that the memory is 24 years old, that it’s laid dormant in your brain for more than half of your life now, but it came back like it had happened yesterday. The thrill of the run fades again, and you hurt all over, and you want to stop, and you don’t feel strong, rather, you feel old and fat and tired. But you smile a bit.

As you run home through the night, through the sleeping neighbourhood to your sleeping runner wife, you smile, because you felt that thrill for a moment. And it actually really did feel good.

Hike in Short Hills

5 Ways to Add Some Kick to Your Run – How to Run Faster and Increase the Fun Factor

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Fall is a beautiful time to run, with the colours and the crisp, cool air.  It’s a perfect time to get into a steady training routine.  Start good habits now, to carry you through the cold winter months ahead.  Here are several great ways to further invigorate your runs and keep them interesting, adventurous and get you fitter and running faster.

  1. Go On a Trail Run – Find new trails in your area or if you have the time, drive to a nearby trail and go exploring.  The uneven terrain, and undulating hills of a trail will target more muscles and force you to work on your balance.  The scenery will keep you interested and going for longer runs; you will be amazed at how long you can run on a beautiful trail.  Make sure to wear shoes with good treads (trail runners are ideal) and be careful to have solid footing over roots and leaves.   Some Great trail runs in the Niagara Region – Short Hills Provincial Park; Bruce trail around Brock University, Glenridge Quarry Naturalization Site (St. Davids Road, near Brock U. and connecting into the Bruce Trail), Waterfront Trail, Port Weller – Trail to Lighthouse (Start at Lock 1)
  2. Add Strides into your Run – Strides are short pickups of speed – usually around 100m long.  Many runners do them before a race or a track workout.  They are a great idea to start getting your body used to going quickly, recruiting your fast twitch muscle fibers.  They are short enough that they will not exhaust you, and a fun way to work on your speed.  Do strides half way through your run or at the end of your run.  Pick a landmark and run hard till you reach it.  Then jog until you feel fully recovered and repeat.  Aim to do 6 to 12 strides.  You will get faster by doing these.
  3. Invite Someone New Along on Your Run – A running partner will make the run more interesting and keep you running longer.  New stories are a welcome addition to a run!  Find someone who is quicker than you and who will push you to get quicker.  Enjoy the company and share stories.  A great time to debrief about life, work…whatever…fellow runners are a great support.  Remember the rule: “What is said on a run stays on a run”.
  4. Do a Fartlek Run:  Once you have warmed up go for a Fartlek Run – Fartlek means “speed play” in Swedish.  It is a continuous run, with speed segments integrated into the run.  You can set your watch to beep at certain intervals, such that throughout your run, you alternate on timed intervals between slow/moderate running and then faster intervals (i.e. 1min easy, 1min fast).  You can also pick landmarks, running hard to the next mailbox, for example, then running slowly for a section and repeating with a pick-up to the next landmark.  If you are running with someone, take turns picking how long the next fast interval will be.  This makes the run interesting and varied, as well as working on your speed.
  5. Run a Race this Weekend:  Be spontaneous; find a local race and go for it.  Do the race for fun and see how you do.  No pressure – you haven ‘t been preparing specifically for this event, so no expectations.  See what you have got in you and learn from the experience.  Have fun and meet other runners.  You may fall in love with racing and find a whole new passion, if racing hasn’t been a part of your running training.

Keep life interesting by experimenting with new running routes and adding in some of these new challenges.  Please share your ideas to this article.  Keep running….


Amazing Amanda

Posted by | Runner Profiles, Triathlon Training | One Comment

Amanda in the centre with her training buddies, waiting to start the Ironman

Nothing can stop Amanda Hoar once she puts her mind to accomplishing something. That is the conclusion I must come to when I hear her stories of her amazing athletic feats.  Few people can say they have completed a full Ironman, never mind transforming from a non-swimmer to a competent triathlete in one year’s time.  Amanda successfully completed the Mont-Tremblant Ironman this past summer – August 18, 2013 in 13.5 hrs.

Amanda was a bit naive perhaps, when her friends convinced her in the summer of 2012 to sign up for the Mont-Tremblant Ironman  for the following August, before she had even started training.  She knew the distances involved in the event. Still, who can fully understand the commitment and energy that is required in training for a 3.8km swim, 180km bike, and a full marathon (42.2km) run? Amanda was about to get immersed into the triathlon world and learn all the little tricks of the triathlon trade. I was shocked as I listened to her describe it all!

Amanda’s first swim workout would have probably defeated most of us, and made us question the likelihood of ever completing an Ironman. Wolf, her coach, told her to do one lap. “FYI, a lap means swim there and back.”  This is how little Amanda knew.  Decked out in her “Stongman” Swim cap that she had borrowed from Wolf with a huge #1 on the side (“I felt #1 on the inside”), Amanda set off with full confidence.  After swallowing a bucketful of water she finally made it to the far end of the pool and was confronted by a lifeguard yelling for her to “Get OUT” while holding a life preserver.  Amanda insisted that she needed to go back to the other end, as her friends were waiting for her.  The lifeguard, not impressed, insisted on walking alongside her, as she made the treacherous journey back.  Amanda may have overestimated her initial swimming abilities.  Her arms weren’t even making it out of the water and she was half drowning. That first swim workout was quickly adjusted from doing lengths, to having Amanda hang on to the edge of the pool while learning how to do one arm strokes and how to breathe while swimming.

I assure you Amanda has learned how to swim since that first workout, and she now completes 3km swim workouts with ease.  Impressive!

Cycling was also a new sport for Amanda.  Her experience in this department consisted of a recreational bike without gears and rear pedal brakes. But, she thought, how hard can cycling be? Amanda of course needed to learn how to change gears without falling off the bike; brake with hand brakes; clip and unclip her feet from the pedals (without falling off), and eat and drink while on the bike (without falling off).  After practicing some of these elements with experienced cyclist Wolf Sr., Amanda headed out for the first time – for a 50k ride!  Amanda was “tagging along with the Big Kids”, as she describes her experienced triathlete buddies.  Her goal that first day was “to not fall!”  Fortunately, her mission was accomplished!amanda cycling

There are many other tricks of the trade when it comes to cycling.  Amanda was so excited the first time she managed to eat at the same time as cycling, and not fall!  Her training friend, Bernard, says he has never seen someone so excited.  She does not lack energy or drive!  Amanda filled me in on several other skills long distance cyclists need to have – like “peeing while riding”.  What??  Did I hear that correctly?  My peeing in the woods on a long run is nothing compared to this!  Yes, I had heard correctly.  Amanda elaborated:  “You know those two water bottles on the bike?  Well, one is for drinking and one is for rinsing.”  She also gave me two tips: it is easier to pee when riding downhill; and it’s easiest when it is raining (I could have figured that one out).  Other cycling tips she shared were: to wear padded cycling shorts (I still need to invest in a pair of these); and use specific cycling ointment to protect your special parts.  This is all new to me…

Running was definitely the easiest sport to pick up.  Amanda has an athletic background, having rowed for a couple of years.  Now she just had to channel that energy into running forwards and learn how to pace herself for a long event.  Amanda’s first race was the “Around the Bay” race in Hamilton (March 2013) – a 30km, hilly race.  She had a pace partner who ran with her and had to slow her down at the outset in order to get her through the 30k effectively.  Another mission successfully completed.amanda runnin2

A typical week for 28 year old Amanda means juggling multiple workouts of three sports around her full-time work schedule in the school board, as a communicative disorders assistant. Amanda swims Tues, Thurs. Friday mornings (5:30), cycles Tues, Thurs. evenings and long rides on Saturdays.  Run workouts are Wednesday evenings, Thursday runs off the bike and long runs on Sundays.  Amanda states: “The best part of training for the Ironman was sharing this experience with my friends.  Having them teach me about what they are so passionate about.  Barb always stayed after practice with me if I needed extra work.  She is very supportive!”

Once Amanda has an idea stuck in her head, she is going to go for it.  She has a drive to do her best and she admits that she is very competitive.  Amanda achieved her goal. She completed the Ironman in 13:30:13.  Many people doubted; some even called her a “freak”  when they first heard of her ambitions.  (“Don’t you know that many people who have done triathlons haven’t even done an Ironman?! And you haven’t even done a triathlon!”)  Amanda proves to us that when you set your mind to something and give it your all, you can do it!amandaswim

I had the joy of riding with Amanda and the Trysport racing team on Saturday.  I set off on what I thought was going to be a 90 min ride and returned home 4 hours later.  Another helpful piece of advice from Amanda: “Always bring along more fuel than you think you’ll need; workouts tend to be longer than expected!”  It was a great ride and I understand Amanda’s passion and drive.  Amanda plans to keep training and get quicker.  She is pulling back her distance to do the half Ironman so she can focus on speed.  I look forward to training with her and seeing what new and exciting feats are in her future.