October 2014 - Run for the Thrills


Running Race Goals

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I need goals – I love challenges and pushing myself.  I have many goals in life – parenting and family goals, work goals, character goals, spiritual goals. I need running goals to give my training focus. This fall I have been uncertain of my race goals, and I found this very unsettling. After having completed my first three triathlons this past summer, I found myself wondering what I will focus on now.  Will I have target running races again?

The marathon is calling to me again. I am relieved to finally have  running race goals – I have chosen my target races; there is direction to my  training once again! I am focusing on long distances again, with a few shorter races that will be dispersed throughout my training to work on speed building. My target races are in the spring.  After years of struggling through freezing cold winter races, I have finally decided that I will no long race longer than 5km in the dead of winter.  Last year I ran a half marathon on a -20 C day and it was miserable.  My feet were numb and my fingers immobile and white.  With the exception of a local favourite Valentine’s 5km race, hosted by the St. Catharine’s road runners, I am now a spring to fall racer!

Training Buddies - Karen, Dave, Janine

Happy with the 5km Race! – Karen, Dave, Janine


Around the Bay 30km race – A local favourite and a race which has the challenge of tough hills at the end.  This race is excellent preparation for the full marathon.  The race goes around the Hamilton Bay and runs through parts of Burlington where I grew up.  I love the local hype to the race and the fact that I often run into people from my childhood and teenage years, having grown up in Burlington.  Read my race review from last year,  and look forward to future articles describing training leading up to the 30km distance.  racelogo11

Mississauga Marathon 42.2km race – truly a favourite marathon of mine. I love the course, with the downhill coasters in the middle of the race and the scenic second half along the Lake, finishing at the Lakefront Promenade  Park.  This will be my fourth time running this marathon!  I won it once (2013) and ran it with my friend last year to get her qualified for Boston.  I think I will have to train for a PB marathon time on the course this year.  That will be a challenge.  Now that I am 40, I wonder if I can do it.  Read race reviews from last year and get ready to follow training tips leading up to the Marathon.  I hope to see many of you out there with me in the marathon this year!



Half Ironman: Last summer I completed my first half ironman in September in Muskoka.  It was a great highlight of my year, so I will train for another Half ironman (or two) with the goal of improving on my time.  The beauty of a first race is that it is always a PB (Personal Best).  Now the challenge will be to get quicker at all three sports.  My biggest disappointment in Muskoka was actually my run.  After the 94km bike, my legs simply would not respond as quickly as I expected them to (what a surprise, really, after swimming and biking!) so I will be working on improving my leg speed after cycling.  I will focus on combining the three sports and improving on my technique.

Races are essential for providing focus to one’s training and keeping most of us motivated.  Join me in setting some goals!


The Long Run

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Things work out in the Long Run!  True for life and true for training.  The LONG RUN is essential for all runners who set out to run distances from 5km to 42.2km (and beyond!).   This run is key to half marathon and marathon training.

The Long Run is where you increase your endurance.  This is the run that builds consistently over time; with a steady, systematic approach, the long run will build your endurance and strength.  Done well, you will not get injured and you will reap the benefits of increased stamina, for your overall fitness and for your target race, if you have one!

How To Get the Most out of the LONG RUN:

Choose a day that you will dedicate weekly to the Long Run.  For most of us, the long run should be approximately 30% of our weekly mileage.   If you run 20km per week for example, your long run will be approx. 6km.  If you run 50km in a week, your long run will be 15km.  This is your starting point today.

You should be increasing the length of your Long Run weekly as you build up to your race.  Use the 10% rule to increase your distance.  Build by 10% for three weeks, and maintain for the fourth week (no increase) to allow your body to adjust to the stress.  On week 5, build your distance once again.  For all distances, except for the marathon (and ultras), the long run should build up to slightly longer than your target race.  This will prepare you both physiologically and mentally.  Your body will already ‘know’ the distance, and on race day you will be able to go faster and harder over a distance that you are already very familiar with.  Mentally you will know that you can run the full race distance, since you’ve already done it.  Whether you are running your first 5km race or your first 30km race (Around the Bay!) you will be ready for that distance.

For the marathon distance, most experts suggest a maximum of approximately 36km or 2.5 hours of training.  Most runners do not go over the marathon distance in training.  It is simply too taxing on the body, and most runners reserve that full 42.2km distance solely for race day.  If you feel you must do the full distance for your mental strength, do it slowly and several weeks before the marathon to allow your body to fully recover.

Determining Your Long Run Pace:

The long run is done at an easy pace.  Once you have built up your stamina, some long runs can have marathon pace and tempo paces added in.  (This will be covered in a later article)  To start, however, focus on running longer and keeping the pace EASY.  If you have a recent race time, use this in the VDOT calculator and it will determine your ideal training paces – Easy Pace, Tempo Pace, Interval Pace times for different distances. For the long run, stick with your easy pace. At the start of your run, it may feel too easy, but by the end of your long run you will be thankful you started slow, and (this is the key) you will have maintained a steady pace. The goal is to not slow down, but to maintain the same pace throughout the whole run. If you are feeling great near the end of your long run, you can always pick up the pace for the last few kilometers.

Use this calculator below. Enter the distance of your race in the first column and then your final time.  Press calculate and you will be given your ideal training times for different types of training.  For Long Runs use the EASY PACE:

Practice Refueling

As your runs progress over an hour in length, it becomes essential to start refueling during your run.  Water can be taken during all runs and it is essential for runs in the heat and of longer duration.  Along with water, simple sugars in easily accessible forms are necessary as you run for longer distances.  Sports drinks, gels, chew candies are great for long runs, and need to be practiced in training, to determine what your body can handle.  Most gels are approx. 100 cal.  Take one approx. every 30 min once your runs are up to an hour, along with water.  With practice you will determine whether you prefer sports drinks and fewer gels, or if you prefer to stick with water and take more frequent gels or chews.  Experiment with different combinations and figure out what works best for you and what your taste buds prefer!

Have Fun on the Long Run

The long run is ideally run with a group.  Conversation is easy and the company keeps you going.  The long run can be a great time of socializing along with your fitness training.  Run new routes and explore your city.

The long run just may become a highlight of your week!

base training feature

Base Training Phase

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Back to the basics with Base Training

This fall, I am enjoying building up my endurance and stamina.  Taking a season to train without the pressure of looming races is actually very enjoyable, now that I am over the strange feeling of not gearing up for a specific race.  I have my sights set on races in the spring and summer.  My goal is to see improvements in my racing, after taking this time to increase my mileage and build my strength.

Base Training Focus

1. Increase Volume:  I am making slow and steady increases in my mileage.  Over the summer my mileage dropped as I increased my cycling and swimming in preparation for the Half Ironman.  It is important to stick with the 10% increase rule:  do not increase mileage more than 10% per week to prevent overuse injuries.  Every fourth week, level off your mileage – no increase for a week (or even pull back in distance a bit during that fourth week) to allow the body to fully recover and rebuild, before increasing again the following week.

I have been steadily increasing my weekly distance from a low of 35km (the week after my target race) back up to 75km.  This week my goal is 8o km.  I am feeling great and glad to be getting more runs in again.

2. Weight Training:  Base Training is a great time to focus on improving strength;  this results in increased power for running and reduces the risk of injury.  Focusing on core strength is huge for injury prevention.  My staple exercises are planks, squats, lunges and  abdominal exercises.  I am also gaining upper-body strength from swimming.

3. Strides:  Strides are speed pickups of short distances – usually 150m to 200m (max.).  The idea is to teach your legs to turn over quickly and get ready to do later speed work.  Simply adding 8 – 10 strides in the middle or the end of an easy run is a great way to prepare your body to run quickly.

4.  Stretching:  I want to develop a steady stretching routine for injury prevention!  Yoga is the most enjoyable way for me to stretch, and ideally I would love to do a class per week. This has not been happening this fall yet.  Goal:  work on stretching in the coming weeks. I need more ideas to fit stretching into my life:  stretch while watching a show; stretch while watching kids at swim practice… when else could I stretch?

A solid base of steady running is essential for marathon training, and a spring marathon is calling to me! It might be time to do that distance again.  I had thought maybe my marathon days were over, but I am getting the urge to run another one!


Facing First Races

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First Races are something wonderful to behold.  It is all new; a learning experience that only makes one better and stronger.  In the first race, there is the guarantee of a person best!

I was able to cheer on my son, Caleb as he experienced his first swim meet this weekend.  It was truly a wonderful sight. He loved the whole experience and he performed very well.  I was extremely proud of him; he faced the new challenge with a positive attitude, put his best effort forward and had fun doing it!

Dealing with Pre-Race Jitters

Pre-race jitters are inevitable.  The best strategy is to accept that it is normal to be nervous and to realize that a bit of nervousness enhances performance.  Being anxious gets the adrenaline flowing and sharpens one’s intensity to perform one’s best.

Caleb was nervous, however he dealt with it very well.  He focused on being organized;  making sure he had all his gear and nutrition ready for the race ahead of time.  I helped him figure out when to eat and to focus on the things he could control before the race.  His coaches, Christine and Sasha from West Park Aquatics, had Caleb and his team-mates do a pre-race warm up and they were physically prepared.


Learning from the First Race

Caleb had no previous race times to place him in a heat, which meant that he and all the other newbie competitors were the very swimmers to compete in each event. Caleb was in the first heat of the first event, the 50 meter Free.  Without having watched any other swimmers race, Caleb and the other competitors, awkwardly climbed up onto the blocks hoping to be ready for this, their first race.

“Ready” and the horn sounded!

All the swimmers stood on the blocks, looked at each other shocked that the starting horn had already gone off and then decided that it was time to start their race.  They had not anticipated such a quick start and they lost what felt like seconds on the starting blocks.  But then they were off….

Caleb swam well and finished first in his heat with a time of 30:98.  Sure, he lost time, as he is only learning what to do in a race; still a PB and a great race!

The next event Caleb competed in, the 200 meter Free; he was quick off the block, with no delay!  The learning curve is quick and their is no other way to learn, but to jump into a race.  Trial by fire.  Caleb’s 200m Free was completed in a time of 1:21:80 and he looked confident racing that second event.

Caleb’s final event of the day, the 50 meter Back,  was another learning experience.  Caleb is just learning how to do the backstroke start and wall turns; he gave it his best shot and realized he has improvements to make.  He did well for a beginner, with a time of 36:00 and looked very strong as he swam.  He will only improve with practicing his starts and walls.

Striving for More

The first swim meet made Caleb more excited for swimming.  He left the swim competition so happy and excited and begging for more opportunities to race.  I know this experience will make Caleb swim harder in future practices and focus on all those little details that are easy to ignore, such as perfecting the entry dive and executing better flip turns.  Races approached well, with the perspective of using it as a learning and growth experience will only improve future training and competing.  Caleb’s coaches do an excellent job of preparing him to race hard and have fun while doing it.

It was a pleasure to watch my son at his first swim meet.  I was excited all week leading up to this event, and rightfully so, as it was incredible to watch Caleb give his best effort and have the time of his life swimming his heart out!


pumpkin spice smoothie

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

Posted by | Fit Food | No Comments

Fall is here, which means the Pumpkin Spice Lattes have appeared again at Starbucks.

If you like your pumpkin spice but want a (slightly) healthier version, look no further! Here is a great breakfast smoothie for fall.

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie Recipe

Note: Making a smoothie is not like baking a cake. Measurements of ingredients is very rough and should be adjusted depending on your taste- just add as much as you like and blend it up!

Pureed Pumpkin – canned (1/2 cup)
Oats (1/2 cup)
Cream Cheese (2 tbsp)
Milk (1 cup)
Pumpkin Pie Spice (2 tsp)
Brown Sugar (2 tbsp)

1. Blend the pumpkin, oats and cream cheese with the milk. Adjust the amount of milk based on how thick you like your smoothie.
2. Add Pumpkin Pie Spice. If, like me, you’re sure you bought pumpkin pie spice but you can’t seem to find it in the cupboard even though you took everything out, you can substitute: 1 tsp cinnamon, pinch nutmeg, pinch cloves, big pinch ginger.
3. Add sugar and taste. If you like it sweeter, add a bit more sugar.
4. Let it sit for a good 5 minutes. This helps soften the oats.

Serves 1.

The Smoothie Solution

Janine used to be cranky, tired, thirsty, and hungry when she first came home, but instead of sitting down, resting, and eating or drinking, she would bustle around the house, cleaning up after the kids (and me). Then she’d be desperate for dinner, which I usually hadn’t even started cooking yet (since I had also just finished my work day).

One day I realized the solution: I would hand her a tasty smoothie when she came in the door from work, it might help keep her happy until dinner. Thus, the Smoothie Solution was born.

Hike in Short Hills

Why do I Run? Embracing the Off-season from Racing

Posted by | Balanced Runner, Training, Why I Run | 12 Comments

In the off-season from racing, remember to ask yourself, “WHY DO I RUN?”

Back to the Basics:  I am running for the pure fun and thrill of it.  It has been a couple of years since I have had a true off season from racing.  Here I am, taking a break from competing for a couple of months and remembering “Why I run, and swim and bike!”  In the absences of a race, I get back to the basics of simply enjoying this physical activity and benefiting from the peace and joy it brings into my life.  In the hype of a big race, I can get very caught up in time targets and in achieving a certain goal.  It is imperative to return to the place of running and exercising for the simple pleasure of it.  I am enjoying long runs with friends and enjoying pushing myself in tempo and interval runs on my own.   I am slowly increasing my running mileage again.  I am out running five days a week once again and slowly building the distance of my runs.

I am starting to look forward to racing again.  My next races will be fun trail races along the Bruce Trail, part of the Aktiv Trail Run Series put on by Trysport Niagara.  Trail running at this time of year is glorious and it is a great way to build strength, as one must navigate the uneven and undulating terrain of the trails.

aktiv trail races

I am contemplating my goals for the next year. I want to train smart and know what my keys races will be.  I have appreciated the input of friends and coaches, who have offered me excellent suggestions.  They have confirmed what I had thought (but was second guessing), that I want to get faster at the shorter distances in triathlon, before one day attempting a full Ironman.

Why Do I Run?

  • For the pure joy of the physical activity of running; Using my body to do what it was made to do.
  • To push my own limits and challenge myself
  • To enjoy nature.  There are so many beautiful trails in Niagara, along the lake and along the escarpment
  • To set a good example for my children of living a healthy lifestyle.
  • To participate in the community, running with friends and being part of training groups
  • To spend time with God
  • To stay healthy, both physically and mentally
  • To unwind from stress  and clear my mind

Why Do You Run (bike, swim)?

Add your reasons below (you need to scroll down a bit); I really want to hear from you!  Everyone who comments on this article will be entered into a draw for a prize.

See you out on the trails!


James posted a link to this article on reddit, and the responses were great! We wanted to share them here as well:

koffeekev: i run because i can. having CP, a lot of people say i shouldn’t. yeah, i’ve hurt myself, so what? i can’t move forward without failing a few times.

megagreg: What else am I going to do, watch TV all night?

bah77: Its like a pyramid scheme i have already put 1000’s of km in to, and if i stop i will lose that investment.

goodsam1: I run because cardio/running frequently come into life and I got tired of sucking at it. Also I think I am hooked now, I think I have hit runner’s high at a mile.

abelcc: I’m preparing myself for when my life depends on running a long distance fast. When a meteor suddenly falls and the roads are collapsed I’ll run to safety.

dropdeaddaisy: This morning it was to see the fall colours and feel the breeze in my hair!