Monday, June 30, 2008

Another week bites the dust

Yesterday was my long run and it went very well. I anticipated a difficult run, being my highest week for mileage EVER and my 5th day in a row running. Surprisingly, I didn't have any trouble. The first 5K or so seemed to drag (felt like I had sooo much further to go!) but then I got into my groove and enjoyed the run. I took a new route and ran straight down one street the entire way (I love straight runs) to my parents' house in Oak Ridges. They weren't expecting me, so their faces were priceless when I walked in the door asking for breakfast. ;) So I clocked 18K at a pace slightly under 6:00, which I am pleased with.

Today I took a much-needed rest day and I'm looking forward to another long-ish run tomorrow. Taking advantage of having the day off.

Schedule for this week (# 9!):

Mon: Rest
Tue: 13K
Wed: 7K with 5x400m intervals at 4:43 pace
Thu: Softball
Fri: Rest
Sat: Rebecca Run 5K race
Sun: 20K

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Playing catch up

I was slated to run 41K this week as follows:

Mon: Rest
Tue: 10K, 4x400 intervals @ 4:43
Wed: 6K recovery
Thu: Softball
Fri: 7K w/ 4K @ 5:11-5:20
Sat: Rest
Sun: 18K

I was still far too tired and sore from the City Chase to run on Tuesday, so I took another rest day. Having taken Tuesday off, I knew it would be difficult to fulfil my 41K week, but I seem to be all caught up. I've run the past 4 days straight and plan to complete my 18K tomorrow. Running 5 days in a row is not ideal and I knew I would have to slow it down a bit to prevent burn-out. It's been a hot week and I ran Wednesday, Thursday & Friday in the middle of the day, which certainly made it easier to slow down. As such, I decided to skip the interval and tempo runs for this week and will pick them up next week.

Here's how it went:

Wed: 5.5K at 6:05 pace
Thu: 5.5K at 5:18 pace (thanks to Patricia for kicking my ass) + TWO softball games
Fri: 7.5K @ 5:56 pace
Sat: 4K @ 5:58 pace
Sun: 18K

This will be my highest weekly mileage ever, so I'll be pretty happy if I survive tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mud Shots are in!

The photos are finally up from the Mud Run earlier this month.



Sunday, June 22, 2008

Blister Sisters Tear Up Toronto (Race Report)

The Mitsubishi City Chase took Toronto by storm on June 21, 2008 and proved to be a race like no other. It was by far the most grueling, physically AND mentally challenging event I have ever participated in, but also the most fun.

The event kicked off at Metro Hall at 10:00AM sharp and 5 minutes before take off, we still had no idea what we were doing. It wasn't until the countdown struck 0:00:00 that the City Guru informed us that we could find our Official Clue Sheets at one of two locations: the base of the CN Tower or the entrance to Union Station. The catch was, each location did not have enough sheets for everyone. It was pure chaos as 500 teams of two barreled through the streets of Toronto trying to get our hands on one of the vital red sheets. Remarkably, we did, and we didn't even have to pull anyone's hair.

We took one look at the two-sided list of clues and for just a moment felt like we might have been in over our heads. For two people relatively unfamiliar with the city, it was going to be anything but easy. We took a deep breath, poured over the clues, took out the GPS and street maps, called our husbands for guidance and took off for our first destination.

The clue read ”Grid Iron - Find this ChasePoint at a football field at U of T, just off Tower Road is where you want to be. You'll go through the ringer with the Varsity Blues, serious players who don't like to lose." We ran to the nearest subway stop and hopped on the TTC to Queen's Park, then ran until we finally spotted the yellow shirts of Chase Volunteers. We were going to play football at the University of Toronto!

We piled on the gear and headed on to the field where we carried the football through a slalom of pylons, plowed through five line-backers (getting tackled by each of them!), completed a pass and finally kicked a field goal. ChasePoint #1: Accomplished!

There was another clue at the University: "Wheeling Around - For the physically challenged this is wheely fun, located at U of T Field House on Court #1." We asked a couple of students were graciously pointed us in the direction of the Athletic Centre where we played some wheelchair basketball!

It was harder than we expected to wheel our chairs around the court, carrying and passing a basketball all the while. We had to make two consecutive baskets to finish the task (it took about 5 attempts to do so). ChasePoint #2: Accomplished!

A quick call to hubby who helped us find the address for another clue: Mind Over Matter - "At Kaplan on Bloor you can give your muscles a rest, as this ChasePoint is more of an intellectual test." We ran another KM or so from U of T to Kaplan Education Centre, which proved to be the most difficult task and the only one we failed. We each had to complete 10 logic questions from the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) and we had to achieve a combined score of 70%. At the best of times, these questions would have been tough, so it was nearly impossible sitting in that quiet, hot room dripping sweat all over the test paper. We gave it a shot, but didn't pass, and we certainly weren't the only ones leaving Kaplan without a ChasePoint.

Next we ran a couple KM's along Bloor to Yonge and took Yonge to Dundas where we found the Bell World Store. The clue: "Quick Learning Curve - At The Bell World Store just north of Y&D Sq., the staff have further details that they're waiting to share." From there we signed out a BlackBerry and had 30 minutes to complete five tasks:

1. Take a photo of 10 non-participants standing in order from tallest to shortest
2. Take a 15 second video of yourself performing Life is a Highway in front of at least 5 spectators
3. Take a before and after photo of yourself trading shirts with a non-participant
4. Take a 15 second video of yourself playing leap frog with a non-participant
5. Take a photo of a non-participant doing a handstand

It was definitely interesting convincing citizens of the City of Toronto to participate in these ridiculous tasks, but we met some wonderful people who were happy to oblige. Our favourite was a German tourist who didn't speak English (thankfully my partner speaks German and convinced him to put on my sweaty shirt!)

ChasePoint #3: Accomplished!

Next clue: "Pole Position - At Aradia Fitness watch the pros on the pole, then tighten your cheeks and mimic their role." We ran down Yonge to Queen Street West where we decided to take a street car several KM's west to the pole dancing studio! Sporting our red boas we had to learn a pole dancing routine and complete it correctly in three attempts. ChasePoint #4: Accomplished!

We had discovered that another challenge was further west on Bloor. This clue read "Slumber Party Gone Wrong - Test LANCER to 24680 for further instructions." We received instructions on the cell to head toward the Gladstone Hotel. By pure fluke, we noticed another challenge going on at Trinity Belwoods Park along the way: Spike Ball! We found two guys willing to play a volley-ball like game with us, which turned out to be much harder than it looked. ChasePoint #5: Accomplished!

We continued on our way to the Hotel, which was a longer run than expected. We got there just in time to line up for an HOUR AND A HALF. We lost a lot of time at this challenge, but decided to wait since we had traveled so far to get there. Everyone was getting sore, stiff and tired from standing around for so long and it was a relief when we were finally able to participate... with the Pillow Fight League! We had to complete five challenges, each of which for one minute straight:

1. Burpees while holding pillows
2. One partner curled up in a ball on the floor being pounded with a pillow by the other
3. One partner doing push-ups with the other held his or her legs
4. One partner doing sit-ups while the other pushed him or her back down with a pillow
5. Pillow-fighting one another

It was crazy in there - tiring but fun, and worth the wait. ChasePoint #6: Accomplished!

By this time, we had less than an hour and a half to get back to the finish line to finish the race. All participants who finished within 6 hours would qualify as "finishers", even without the 10 ChasePoints. We knew we would not have time to accomplish 3 more, so we decided to do one more for fun and planned to head to the finish. We wanted to do something by the waterfront and found a clue that read: "Up a creek - Navigate very carefully at Rees Street Slip, one bad move and you'll go in for a dip." We found Rees Street on the map, hopped back on the Queen street car to John, then ran all the way from Queen down to the water. We found the Chase Volunteers on one of the docks and learned that we would be kayaking in Lake Ontario...without paddles.

The challenge was fun and refreshing, just what we needed after 5 hours of running all over the city. It was definitely one of our favourites. ChasePoint #7: Accomplished!

As we headed back toward Metro Hall, I remembered that another Chaser had mentioned a challenge at the Steam Whistle brewery by the CN Tower, which we happened to pass. The clue read: "A Block From The Bottom - At Roundhouse Park your hands must be steady and calm, this is a game you played with Dad and Mom." It was giant Jenga!

Each block had a number written on it indicating a points value, and we had to accumulate 30 points without knocking over the tower. ChasePoint #8: Accomplished!

The run back to the finish line was tough. We were both completely and utterly exhausted, and it was all uphill. We finally arrived, only to discover that there was one more task we could accomplish to receive a 9th ChasePoint. My partner had to walk through a minefield of plastic balls blindfolded without touching them, with only my instructions to guide her.

There was a ton of noise and it was nearly impossible for her to hear me, but she made her way through and we were off to the finish line! ChasePoint #9: Accomplished!

We came in with 9 ChasePoints just under 5 hours and 30 minutes. The announcer called out that the Blister Sisters were finishing strong and it was a great moment. We looked at our Garmin to discover that we had run 21.5 KM in the process - longer than a half marathon! No wonder we were so tired. We are so proud of how well we did with the mental and physical challenge of completing such an event. I have never done anything like it before and can't wait to do it again!

UPDATE: A map showing our route from the Garmin! View details @ My MotionBased

(Click to view larger image.)

Official Results: 106th place with a time of 5:28:41.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Urban playground

This Saturday is the Mitsubishi Toronto City Chase. My partner and I got together last night and the "Blister Sisters" are geared up and raring to go. Hydration knapsack - check! Street map - check! Public transit map - check! Portable GPS - check! Cell phone (and family on standby with Google access) - check! Camera - check!

We have no idea what to expect, except that it's Part Scavenger Hunt, Part Obstacle Course.

The City Chase is a unique urban adventure that requires participants to exhibit teamwork, resourcefulness, determination and the ability to make decisions on the fly as they search for ChasePoints scattered in unknown locations throughout the city. ChasePoints are designed to test teams with a variety of physical, mental, and otherwise adventurous challenges.

To conquer this 4-6 hour urban event, 2-person teams will run, walk and use public transit to navigate their way throughout the city, while calling family and friends for help, accessing the Internet, and even employing assistance of total strangers.

I have a feeling this will be a race like no other; our very own Amazing Race.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Gonna Fly Now

Let me preface this by saying that I am a giant loser. Don't hold it against me. ;)

Several weeks ago I downloaded Gonna Fly Now (aka Theme From Rocky) for my Ipod. I figured it would be one of those songs that could make me run strong and fast, no matter how tired I was. Run after run, I hoped that the song would come on during my standard "shuffle" but it never did. Sure, I could have set it as my "Power Song" but I had a feeling it would come on at just the right time sooner or later.

Well last night, it finally did! I was running up a killer (loooong) hill toward the end of a hard 11K run. It washed over me like a wave of adrenaline and I burned it up that hill! I felt so empowered and had goosebumps all over. I probably had a big goofy grin on my face, and felt like pumping my fists in the air at the top of the hill. Amazing what a good song can do. (Mark - stop laughing at me as you read this!)

I'm not a fan of music during races because A) the Ipod usually annoys me, B) the less I have to carry, the better, and C) I prefer to be immersed in the atmosphere of the race, especially when it's a big city event. But it has me thinking, a song like this could probably do wonders toward the end of 42.2 kilometres.

For now, I think I'll save it as my new Power Song so I can get a little dose of Rocky whenever I need it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The marathon lifestyle

I'm quickly realizing that training for a marathon is a lifestyle. Summer is upon us and there are parties and barbecues to be had, softball games to be played, weekend outings to be planned and yard work to be done, among everything else that comes along with the season. And all of these activities must revolve around the training. I have to make sure I get enough sleep, eat properly, stretch often and, of course, find the time for the actual running. I've started planning out the week ahead every Sunday to ensure that each run is scheduled either after work, on my lunch hour or early in the morning (so far this is only on weekends...I can't get my butt out of bed at 5:30AM to run before work) depending on what else is going on that day. It definitely gets hectic and sometimes feels like there's not a lot of down-time, but this is what I want to do and the commitment is worth it. Hopefully I'll feel the same way when I'm running +50K for the week, 32K of which on Sundays. :)

Luckily for me, my hubby is also engaged in an intensive training program (for a speedy half marathon) so while our training is quite different, we still feel like we are doing this together and even run together on occasion.

I remember last summer when hubby and I were "training" (I use the term loosely) for our first half marathon. It involved running sporadically 2 or 3 times a week, an occasional "long" run (peaking at 13K) and a weekend in Montréal two weeks before. We were so unprepared, it's a miracle we even survived that race. My how things have changed. Will it pay off? We'll find out in about three months.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Week 7 Training

Week 6 went well, but I was 6K under my target for the week due to cutting Wednesday's run from 10 to 4. I was having an off day - no energy, brutal cramps (yes, those cramps) and didn't get a chance to make up for it. Went out with hubby this morning for 16K at Fairy Lake. We were up at 7am, running by 7:45 and it still felt too hot by the end of the run. We're going to have to be up earlier and earlier as summer progresses. It was an okay run. Had to stop for two washroom breaks which kind of sucked, but luckily there were port-o-potties along the way. I finished with an average pace of 5:50, which is right on target for my long runs (5:47-6:24).

My muscles were pretty sore when I got home so I tried one of hubby's tactics: the ice bath. It was a very uncomfortable 10 minutes, but hopefully my legs will thank me for it later. Did some gardening abd yard work this afternoon and now I am about ready for a nap. But wait, we have a softball game this evening!

Anyway, on to week 7!

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 11K
Wednesday: 6K
Thursday: softball
Friday: 6K
Saturday: Toronto City Chase
Sunday: Rest

Friday, June 13, 2008

To stretch or not to stretch

I've had some tightness in my hamstring for over a month now. It doesn't bother me much and hasn't gotten any worse, but it's always in the background. The weird thing is, I occasionally get aches from the back of my leg all the way up to my tailbone (never when I run, usually when sitting). I went to physio on Tuesday to have it checked out and my PT suspects a weakened hamstring, which causes strain. The solution? Lots of quad stretching (opposite muscle) to relieve the hamstring, butt stretching (can't remember what muscle she said, but something in the tush area) and NO hamstring stretches.

(Is there any point in mentioning that it's my left side?)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On the run

Just a quick summary of the plan for this week:

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 6K (done @ 5:20 pace)
Wednesday: was supposed to be 10K but I wasn't in the mood - completed 4K @ 5:15 pace and will make up 6K on Saturday
Thursday: 6K
Friday: rest
Saturday: 6K
Sunday: 16K

Total: 38

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Race Report: Mud Run, June 8/08

The Mud Run is advertised as Canada's Dirtiest 10K, and they weren't kidding. That was the most insane thing I have ever done. Ever.

We woke up on Sunday morning to 30-degree temps - at 7:00AM! We knew it was going to be a hot one, but could not possibly have prepared ourselves sufficiently for this heat.

Here's the "Before"

We arrived at the Claireville Conservation Area at 9:00 AM. Unfortunately, there was no advance kit pick-up. Registration was due to close at 9:15 on race day, but people were still arriving well after that. As a result, the race times were all pushed back by about 30 minutes. So we had arrived at 9:00 expecting our race to start at 10:15, and it didn't start until 10:45. This wouldn't be such a big deal, but the sun was getting hotter by the minute and there was no shade to be found. By the time we were called to the start line, we were hot, sweaty and worn out from waiting around in the heat. Not the best way to start a race! Nonetheless, we were enthusiastic and excited to see what the course had in store for us.

The next 10 KM took us along dirt roads and narrow trails, across unkempt fields, over and under fallen trees, up several steep climbs and through (yes, through!) three rivers. There was one steep climb after a river-crossing that brought everyone to a stand-still. It had turned to a slippery mess from all the sopping wet runners and took several minutes to get moving again. About half of the route was in the woods offering much-needed relief from the pounding sun and making it easier to tear through the trails than trudge along open sections of the route.

There were two things that I had a lot of trouble with. First, not enough water. I had not brought my own and while there were four water stations on the course, they seemed few and far between. Second, not knowing our distance. We hadn't worn our Garmins and there were no kilometre markers on the route. We asked volunteers at various points and received contradictory answers, so we were on our own. Not knowing how much further we had to go made it feel like an eternity. I believe I could have had a much stronger finish had we known how close we were to the end.

The second half of the run was extremely difficult. I could barely breathe in the thick, humid air and I had chills and waves of nausea from dehydration. I had to will myself to take each step, concentrating all of my strength on NOT collapsing in a heap on the ground. I have never pushed myself as hard as I did during those last 20 to 30 minutes of the race.

I ran on a team with my hubby and a friend of ours. We managed to stick together the entire time and really kept each other moving when the going got tough. I don't believe I could have done that on my own. We finally reached the finish area and dove into the infamous mud pit. We crawled through the refreshingly disgusting mud and across the finish mat together. As it turns out, we finished in 6th place out of 21 teams for the "Buddy" (coed) category with a chip time of 1:21:28. (Chip Time Results - "The Nuckin Futs")

The "After"

There were only three showers so we trekked back to the woods and bathed in the river, then back to the finish area for some grub. A smoothie has never tasted so good!

Things we will do differently next year:

-eat breakfast later and bring fruit for before the race (oatmeal 4 hours earlier didn't cut it!)
-bring a disposable waterproof camera
-wear costumes, or at least team t-shirts

Monday, June 09, 2008

Let's get to know one another

Anners tagged me, so here goes.

1. How would you describe your running 10 years ago?

Ha! It wasn't happening. I started running in January 2007.

2. What is your best and worst run/race experience?

I have limited race experience so this is tough. I would have to say my best race experience was my first race ever, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon in September 2007. The weather was perfect, the race was fun and well-executed. I ran with my husband and we had a very positive and memorable experience... even though I literally had to will myself to take each step during the last 4 KM's.

My worst race experience was the Santa Shuffle 5K in December 2007. I was at my heaviest weight (25 lbs heavier than now) and hadn't been running much. It was bitter cold, the roads were icey and the run was all-around miserable.

3. Why do you run?

For physical and emotional health and for the satisfaction of challenging myself and achieving goals.

4. What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?

Best: Rest days are as important as run days.
Worst: The first shoes that were recommended to me by the Running Room were completely wrong for my feet and nearly destroyed my IT Band.

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.

I once weighed over 200 lbs.

I'm tagging Tiger, Christy & Sarah on this one.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Week in review

Wednesday night I was able to get out for a 10K in the evening and it went much better that Monday's run. I suppose the bad runs just make us appreciate the good ones even more.

This weekend summer is here in full force. The last two days have been well into the 'uncomfortable' temps at over 30C, which I wouldn't mind if we had air conditioning! Thankfully, that will be rectified this week. Installation on Friday! We toyed with the idea of saving some dough and holding off for this summer, but we can barely handle it already and it's only the beginning of June. Not to mention the thought of coming home from a 3+ hour run in the middle of July to a scorching hot house. Noooo thank you! So comfort will be restored very soon. Phew!

Speaking of hot and uncomfortable, I met a couple friends to run this trail this morning. 9:30 quickly became 10:30 by the time we were out the door and it was already about 32C by that point. The sun was scorching, the air was thick; I guess this is what we have in store for the coming months. I'm going to have to start waking up earlier for weekend runs! We managed to run 8.5K and walked the last 1.5 back to the car. Not bad...

Mud Run is tomorrow. I'm not sure what to expect, except that we should "Wear grungy clothes and old runners - because more than likely they won't be going home with you.". It should be a great time, but it is also going to be HOT. Between the weather and the various obstacles along the course, we are certainly not looking for a PR.

I better go figure out what I'm going to wear and get my butt to bed!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Ugly run

I had a rest day scheduled for today; I should have stuck to the schedule.

Silly me decided to pack my gym bag on a whim this morning for a run at lunch. When I went to the ladies room to change and discovered I had forgotten my sports bra (again!) I should have gone right back to my desk. But no, I decided to grin and bear it. I'll spare you the details, but it was highly uncomfortable.

Other reasons this was an ugly run:

1. It's HOT today. It was high noon, not a cloud in the sky and felt like almost 30 degrees C (it was probably closer to 26). It's going to take some time adjusting to summer temps again.

2. I didn't have water. In this weather, I need water for even a dinky little run.

3. After 9 consecutive days off, today was my 3rd day running in a row, on top of softball last night. My legs are extremely tired and a little sore.

4. I didn't eat any carbs after lunch yesterday, unless you count a Swiss Chalet roll. Definitely contributed to the lack of energy.

So I trudged through 4KM (miraculously coming in <6:00/KM) and the moral of the story is: I should have just taken a damn rest today! I'm not moving any more than necessary tomorrow!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Back on program

After nine excrutiating days off resulting from a fluke softball injury, I am happy to report that I am running again. It took me a few days to get my walking gait back to normal after limping for so long, but things were feeling good yesterday. Hubby was going for an easy 5K, so I tagged along and it felt pretty good. I definitely felt a little out of shape from not exercising at all for a week and a half, but my ankle was fine and I was thrilled!

I got up early this morning and planned to run 10-12K depending on how I felt. As it turns out, I misjudged the route and was nowhere near home by 10K. I ended up running 13.5K at 5:33 pace (felt better than I expected). My legs started getting heavy around 11K but I blamed it on not eating sufficiently yesterday (barely ate a bite after 4PM because I was helping out at a 50th Birthday party...I didn't even touch the cake!). The last couple KM's were tough, but I pulled through. My program called for 14K today, so it appears that I am right back on track and this whole ankle debacle is nothing but a blip on the radar. WOOHOO!

Plan for this week is:

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 8K
Wednesday: 5K
Thursday: softball
Friday: 5K
Saturday: 6K
Sunday: 10K Mud Run + softball
Total: 34K