Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Just a quick reminder to enter your links & readers to the new site at http://marleneontherun.com/

See you there! :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Please come find me at http://marleneontherun.com

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


It's time for another round of....

Thanks, Jenn, for hosting!

breakfast # 1 before a morning run - there's no need for plates at 4:30AM

hot tea when I got to work - yes I show up to the office in this hat!

breakfast # 2 - greek yogurt & granola

morning snack... mmmm clementine season!!

mixed veggie & chickpea salad w/ feta for lunching

not just any apple: HONEYCRISP! my fave

grapes & HB eggs for more snackage

chickpea pot pie for dinner - prepared on the weekend
Here's the recipe: Chickpea Pot Pie and I used this crust instead of puff pastry: Whole Grain Crust. (Found both from Susan @ The Great Balancing Act). HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
three cheers for leftovers!

I tend to eat the same snacks every.single.day. Got any ideas for me??

Happy Hump Day! If all goes well, this should be my last post on Blogger!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Miscellaneous Monday

Is it really Monday already??
  • I'm still working away on the switch to Wordpress. It's a bit of a long and tedious process, but it will be worth it in the end. Many thanks to those on WP who have been answering my endless questions! And for those who asked, yes I would be happy to write up a how-to post from my own [limited!] experience once all is said and done. I hope to go live this week and will be looking for some feedback!
  • My off-season "training" has been going really well. I'm enjoying the freedom of not having a schedule and have been generally running 5 days (6 runs), swimming twice and cycling twice. I even managed to get outside for a bike ride over the weekend on a brisk but sunny November day. 
  • I made a new friend! Let's call her LW. Geodee 'introduced' us when she moved to my area recently and joined my swim group. After trying to connect for weeks, we finally met on Friday and hit it off. She came out to run on Sunday too. I'm super excited to have a new training buddy to swim, bike and run with! I hope Geodee is not too jealous that I'm totally stealing his "swim wife."

  • I made a super yummy Chickpea Potpie over the weekend that I found on The Great Balancing Act. Healthy comfort food - yes please! You will likely see it featured as leftovers on WIAW
  • Speaking of which... it seems I've been posting a lot of vegetarian meals lately and a few people have asked if I've gone meatless. In fact, I have not. I am definitely a meat-eater, but I don't love preparing meat - vegetarian meals are often easier and cheaper, which is why I've been eating more of them lately. 
  • My partner in crime Kevin and I have been chatting about our clinic starting in January - time to start putting together a great training plan and discussion topics/guest speakers to get us through our winter training. We're fortunate that Coach Don has spent years building a program that clearly works and we are certainly not looking to re-invent the wheel - however, it never hurts to shake things up a bit and bring some new things to the mix. 
  • I recently surpassed 2000 miles for the year without even noticing. Oops! Some of you may remember that I ran exactly 2010 miles in 2010 and so far I am at 2069 (3330 KM) for 2011. Since there are no obvious milestones to work towards now as we finish out the year, I guess I will just keep on running. :)
I guess that's it for now. Have a great day!

Friday, November 11, 2011

TGIF & Another [replacement] Winner!

I had to select another Chickbands winner since I didn't hear from christinec1234 (and have no contact info for her).

Congratulations to: Cynthia! Please email me at sykes (dot) marlene (at) yahoo (dot) ca. 

Have a great weekend!!! 


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ode to a Great Coach and Stepping Up to the Plate

I often refer to my training group, marathon clinic and "coach" and have raved about them a few times (here, here and here) although I don't think I have ever explained what it's all about. I train out of our local Running Room store, where I first took a half marathon clinic back in 2007. I went on to train for my first marathon in 2008 solo, while Juliana (whom I had met through the half clinic) was always telling me about the great group & coach she had been training with through the marathon clinic. J invited me to join them for a couple of long runs, but remained a lone wolf for the majority of my training. 

The following season (winter 2009), however, I decided to join this marathon clinic to train with a group for my next marathon. I recognized many familiar faces from my previous stint with the Running Room, and immediately made several new friends as well. Being formally introduced to Coach Don for the first time, it became clear very quickly that he had a lot to offer with his decades of marathoning, coaching and teaching experience. Most of all, though, it was obvious that this was his passion and he truly cared about all of us and our success.

May 2011
Coach Don is a true gem in our running community. He devotes a great deal of his time and energy to helping others succeed, always putting everyone else's goals and needs before his own. He offers every one of us from the back of the pack to Boston qualifiers the care and attention we need to be successful, whatever that may mean for us at any given time. Don goes above and beyond the call of duty as "Running Room Clinic Instructor", offering one-on-one coaching and support to the entire group (70+ people at times!) on a constant basis throughout our training and all the way to the finish line.And he does it with heart.

Coach Don makes every one of us believe that we can achieve big goals and gives us the tools to do so. He has coached many of us through setbacks and injuries, offered a shoulder to lean on and helped us pick up the pieces when things go awry, and celebrated every victory as if it's his own. He always says that he doesn't want or need gifts of thanks because he gets all the compensation he needs simply by living vicariously through all of us.

I have taken six consecutive clinics (two per year) since my first one back in 2009 and there is not a doubt in my mind that Don's coaching and the support of this group have played a tremendous role in my own success. In particular, he helped me when I needed it most and told me exactly what I needed to hear to get through my best marathons both last year and this year. Don has given me some advice over the years that will stay with me always. When I'm having a tough run or race, I often remember what he has said to me in the past to help me hang in there: "It all comes down to how badly you want it." ...  "You didn't come this far to give it up now." ... "What does tired have to do with it?"

May 2010
It's going to be very difficult for many of us to let him go next year. That's right, Don is taking a much -deserved year off (and hopefully coming back in 2013!) so somebody else needed to take over. After some discussion and a lot of thinking, I made the decision to take it on and co-coach with my buddy Kevin for the next clinic starting in January.

We have big shoes to fill - although as Don's lovely wife said to me last night at his sort-of-retirement party: "You have your own shoes." It will be a team effort and we're up for the challenge.  I'm slightly nervous about the task ahead, but have already received a lot of positive feedback from my training mates. Don, of course, has been nothing but supportive and will still be involved in a lesser capacity. If I can have even a fraction of the positive influence over someone that Don has had over me, it will be a fulfilling and very worthwhile experience.

Any advice for a first-time coach? 
Have you coached or been coached in the past?
What am I getting myself into? :)

P.S. I am working away on moving over to Wordpress and it's taking up a lot of my "free"time. I'm trying to keep up with reading/commenting on other blogs, but it just may not happen as regularly right now. Thanks for bearing with me! I hope to have the new site up soon!

P.P.S. One of the Chickbands winners has not contacted me (and I have no contact info) - last chance for christinec1234 or I will be selecting a new winner tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

What I Ate Wednesday


It's time for Jenn's weekly party: What I ate Wednesday Tuesday. These eats are almost identical to the last time I shared, so I'm sorry for the repetition. I'm such a creature of habit, but I'll try to make it more interesting next time. ;) I actually started to record a day on the weekend when I tend to mix it up more, but kept forgetting to take pictures. Anyway, here goes...

first things first: tea to warm up

instant... again

apples & yogurt for a morning snack

big lunch salad w/ chickpeas, olives, almonds + 2 small oranges

handful of grapes for an afternoon snack

4pm treat, plus h2o all day long

veggie burger with the fixin's, avocado and roasted brussels on the side

What did you eat?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

My First Pace Bunny Gig! [Race Report]

On Sunday I took on the role of official 2:00 half marathon pacer at the Hamilton Half Marathon. After confessing last week that I was slightly nervous, I woke up on race day feeling excited and ready to go.

It was freezing cold when we left the house at dark o'clock to pick up some friends, but it turned out to be an absolutely beautiful day - and I absolutely overdressed in tights and long sleeves, plus my tutu.

We made the hour drive and parked at the finish line area, then took a shuttle school bus to the start where we were able to keep warm inside the school. We managed to meet up with most of the training posse to chat and exchange good lucks.

I struggled to secure my bunny ears on my head with a very ill-fitted plastic headband; I wasn't concerned about comfort (although they hurt like a b*tch) since this race wasn't about me, but I was really worried that they weren't going to stay on.

Lots of runners started approaching me to ask questions and/or let me know they were going to be sticking with me. Nicole managed to spot me and keep me in her sights til the start, which was no small feat - we weren't given pace signs to hold so it was pretty tough to spot the bunnies among the throngs of runners.

We headed outside moments before the marathon start (they were scheduled to go off 15 minutes before us, but started late) for one last potty stop. Laura saw me in the line-up and we finally got to meet officially and chat briefly after being at many of the same races for years!

As soon as the marathoners had cleared out, I wriggled my way through the crowd and tried to position myself correctly. They didn't have marked corrals so I managed to spot a few other pace bunnies and placed myself accordingly. I had a nice little crowd following me and immediately picked up a few others. Time to have some fun!

I knew it was going to be a pretty congested start and wasn't going to bother weaving around people - I told the runners around me that I was just going to relax until it opened up. We could make up those seconds later, and this would make it a lot easier to stay together.

I was getting lots of compliments on my colourful outfit and many people said I would be easy to spot (that was the plan!) Unfortunately I was right, and my ears started falling off right away. I tried everything I could think of to hold them in place - under my headband, over my headband, under my hair, etc. Nothing worked until I finally placed the plastic "ends" in front of my ears (my actual ears, not my bunny ears - LOL) instead of behind. It didn't feel great and probably looked weird, but at least they stayed put for a while.

post-race dramatization
 As anticipated, it cleared out enough to find some space after the first kilometre. I chatted with people around me and kept a close eye on my Garmin to ensure that I wasn't getting sucked in to a quicker pace. I enjoyed listening to the conversations around me, scoping out the sights and just running comfortably. I got warm very quickly and certainly wasn't the only one who had over-dressed. People were shedding layers all over the place.  

Target pace was 5:40/KM
KM 1-5: 5:47, 5:30, 5:41, 5:40, 5:38

At about 5K we hit the highway for a long downhill stretch. Nicole went on ahead here as planned (I won't giveaway the ending but check out her race report!) while I did my best to reel in the pace. I had a few "regulars" with me now and we were getting to know each other. I did pick up the pace slightly, but not enough to be detrimental to anyone's race - especially going downhill. I kept everyone around me posted on our splits and overall time and checked in on how they were doing regularly. Many people told me they had done this race in the past and gone too fast on the downhill, only to bonk once it flattened out again. This year they were holding back and trusting me to lead the way - no pressure or anything! :)

KM 6-10: 5:32, 5:34, 5:33, 5:41, 5:33

We had a short hill up the ramp off the highway and a water station positioned right on the hill, hence the slower split for KM 11. Now we were running along some commercial and residential streets as we made our way to the waterfront trail. Some people dropped off along the way and I picked up others. Often a runner would come up to me out of the blue to ask if I was on pace. I tried to be as encouraging as possible, especially when I could tell someone was struggling.  

A couple of times I would catch myself deep in a conversation with someone and realized they were pulling me along slightly too fast (like the 5:26 split below - oops!) ... sometimes it was very difficult to keep that pace in check.

KM 11-15: 5:50, 5:35, 5:26, 5:32, 5:30

At 16K/10mi we turned onto the waterfront trail and we were now heading directly for the finish with just 5K to go. I pointed this out to those around me to stir up some energy and excitement. Most people seemed to be in great spirits and I managed to rally up some new recruits as well. It was a gorgeous day to be out running along the lake - there was a nice breeze (which I admit, probably would have felt more like "hellish wind" for anyone who was pushing it at this point) and the sun was shining.

The best water/support station of the day was along this stretch where there were dozens of students all decked out, cheering like crazy and pumping music. It was a great boost for many and I whooped it up all the way through that section.

KM 16-20: 5:40, 5:43, 5:42, 5:40, 5:33

I continued counting down kilometres with those around me and trying to be as encouraging as possible. We were almost there, but I know it doesn't feel that way when you're hurting.

KM 21: 5:39, 0.1 at 5:05/KM

During the last kilometre, I heard some spectators cheering for a group of ladies to "catch that bunny". I looked back and they weren't too far behind so I waved for them to catch up. Nobody was immediately with me at this point and I had a bit of wiggle room on the clock, so I slowed just enough for them to close the gap a bit. I made it my mission to get these girls into the finish with me. Soon we could see the finish on the opposite path and we just had one final bend to make. I cheered them on every step of the way, and one of them was even able to sprint ahead.

The announcer called out that the 2:00 bunny was coming in right on schedule and the crowd was cheering. I took off my ears and waved them in the air as we ran in for the finish. It was a really fun moment!

Clock Time: 1:59:54
Chip Time: 1:59:09

After the race, several runners approached me to say thank you. I actually got so distracted chatting with people that I walked right out of the finisher's area and forgot my medal! (I was able to go back later to get one.) I loved all the attention out on the course as a pace bunny, meeting so many new people and playing a small part in getting them to the finish line. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my racing career and I can't wait to do it again!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Monday Madness

After seeing the above message earlier this afternoon upon attempting to access my blog, followed by a message stating that my account had been "disabled" when I tried to login, I have spent the last few hours panicking and wanting to cry and/or puke and/or scream at the thought of losing all of my posts. There was absolutely no notice or explanation for any of this. Thankfully, after a nightmare of a process, everything has been restored, although I still have no idea what the issue was.

So now it's time to switch to Wordpress. I hope you'll follow me! Stay tuned.

P.S. Race report from my pace bunny gig to follow soon!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Chickbands Winners!

H A P P Y   F R I D A Y

The lucky winners of my Chickbands Giveaway are:

*Random.org actually generated #43 twice in a row, which I thought was pretty neat! So technically Mel won twice, but we'll be fair and select three different winners.

Congratulations!! Please email me at sykes (dot) marlene (at) yahoo (dot) ca so I can hook you up!

Thanks to Chickbands and everyone who entered!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Trying on my Pace Bunny Ears

This weekend I'm going to be pacing the 2:00 group at the Hamilton Half Marathon! This is something I've wanted to do for a while, and decided that the "off season" would be the best time to step up without conflicting with my own training and racing schedule.

I contacted the race organizers earlier this year and secured the position. Pacing the 2:00 group is most appropriate since I ran my very first sub-2:00 half marathon at this race back in 2008.

I'm excited about the opportunity to give back to the community and hopefully play a role in helping others achieve this milestone. I've tagged along with various pace groups over the years and although I've never stuck with one throughout an entire race, I can definitely say that they have helped me achieve my own goals along the way. While you should never rely on a pace bunny 100% (they are not robots, afterall!), they can be an excellent guideline for pacing and provide support along the way. I hope I can live up to the expectation!

A 2:00 half marathon is pretty close to my happy "run easy" pace. So in theory, this should be an easy task...  but of course we all know that anything can happen on race day! What if I can't find/hold the pace? What if I have to go to the bathroom? What if I'm still too tired from the marathon to run 21K? What if I just have a bad day for no apparent reason? I suppose those are all possibilities, but I'm ready to give it my best shot and I'm pretty confident that I will do just fine.

Over the weekend I headed out for my longest post-marathon run, a 10-miler with the goal of nailing the target 2:00 half marathon pace. I came within a few seconds on every kilometre and it felt great.

The most challenging part will be reeling in the pace along a significant downhill portion - there's a 142m (466 ft) drop from 5K to 10K. I'll be hitting the brakes and my legs are probably going to hate me. Sidenote: if you're looking for a fast course, this is it! Come visit! :)

If you're going to be at the race, look for me in my rainbow tutu and pink bunny ears. Let's have some fun! Good luck to everyone else racing!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


I love being in training mode - following a plan with prescribed workouts on most days (often more than one per day), target paces, race expectations and even the pressure that sometimes comes along with it. I enjoy counting down the weeks and days before an "A" race, pouring over weekly and monthly mileage totals, and even the challenge of fitting it all in.

That being said, I really enjoy the off-season.

I only had a few weeks "off" between my BQ race in May and starting training for my fall marathon. In hindsight, I probably should have shortened the cycle to allow a longer break in between, but my training group was gearing up again and I was set on another 18-week cycle. It all worked out in the end, but there were several times over the summer that I felt burnt out and run down from training. I was over it and wishing for the cycle to just end already so I could take a break. I ended up finding my mojo again, but I have definitely been looking forward to this post-marathon break.

With Boston being an early-season marathon, I've decided to cut my next training cycle by a few weeks in favour of more downtime before kicking it off. I will be taking the rest of the year off formal training so that I can kick off a new training plan in January fresh and raring to go - giving me a solid 15 weeks before Boston.

After that I'll be heading into some serious tri training, so it's important that I take advantage of this freedom now so that my mind and body are fresh for a big year ahead. 

Of course I will still be running (and swimming and cycling), but I get to do it when I want, if I want, how far I want, how fast I want, etc. I admittedly have a general idea of weekly mileage and long run distances that I would like to maintain in order to start training with a strong base, but these are very comfortable targets - just enough to keep me active and feeling good.

A sure sign of the "off-season" - finishing runs without rounding up to the next even distance. :)

How much time do you like to give yourself between training cycles?

How do you spend your "off-season"?