Monday, October 31, 2011

October 2011

Total Run Mileage: 223.9 KM (139.1 mi)

Highest Weekly Run Mileage: 74.4 KM (46.2 mi)

# Runs: 21

# [Run] Doubles: 1

Cycling Mileage: 81.2 KM (50.5 mi)

 # Swims (Distance): 5 (8850m)

Races: Just one (but I made it count!): Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Favourite Run: See above!

Most Hardcore Run: 3 x 4000 MRP run at 4am on the coldest morning (at that point) so far this season

Book of the Month: currently reading and loving Born to Run

Song of the Month: It Will Rain by Bruno Mars (Breaking Dawn I soundtrack)

Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: watching season 1 of Glee while cycling indoors

Obsession of the Month: my Birthday is always the "obsession" for October 

Indulgence of the Month: there were many, but my favourite were these salted chocolate caramels. mmmmmm! Why have I not discovered these sooner??

Drink of the Month: we had some variety...

Current Wish-List: for these comfortable fall temperatures to stick around MUCH longer! I'm not ready for what comes next.

Current Need: shedding post-marathon excess bulge... amazing what kind of damage a week "off the wagon" can cause

Triumph of the Month: new PR/BQ and proving that a different kind of training cycle works too!

Current Bane of my Existence: Christmas decorations all over the malls/stores far too early (in my opinion) - I love Christmas, but could they have at least waited until after Halloween?

Current Blessings: my health and the ability to do what I love with the best support system a girl could ask for.

Current Excitement: shelling out to the cute little trick-or-treaters tonight!

Current Goal: to fulfill my role as 2:00 half marathon pacer next weekend with steady splits and having lots of fun in the process! 

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Shutterfly Winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered my Shutterfly Giveaway! The winners are:

Congratulations! Please email me at sykes (dot) marlene (at) yahoo (dot) ca to claim your prize!

Don't forget to enter my Chickbands Giveaway!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chickbands: Review + Giveaway

A little while ago, I was lucky enough to win Lil Runner's Chickband giveaway. I am a headband junkie and love adding to my collection with the latest styles. They are essential to my workout gear to keep my crazy hair under control - and let's face it, they are a staple in my everyday wardrobe too!

Chickband sent me two head bands of my choosing: the "CandyLand Thin" and "Cute as a Cupcake Thick".

There are a ton of styles and patterns to choose from, whether you are looking for something funky-fresh, stylish & chic or just plain silly! You will have no trouble finding just the right headband to finish off your look.

Most importantly, they are made to be cute, comfortable and durable! The elastic at the back allows for a flexible fit and the velvet strip underneath the decorative ribbon ensures that it will stay put. Seriously, these headbands do not budge.

I put my cupcake band to the ultimate test by wearing it for my recent marathon. It held steady and kept my hair off my face for the entire 3 hours, 34 minutes and 54 seconds. :)


Chickbands is generously offering up a headband of your choice to 3 lucky readers!

To enter (please leave a separate comment for each):

MANDATORY: Like Chickbands on Facebook and leave a message on the wall to let them know I sent you.
+1 bonus entry: Visit Chickbands Etsy shop and let me know which headband you would choose.
+1 bonus entry: Follow this blog.
+1 bonus entry: Follow me on Twitter
+1 bonus entry: Tweet with a link to this giveaway.

Winner will be selected and announced on Friday, November 4th.

Pssstt! There's still time to enter my Shutterfly Giveaway for 25 holiday cards! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What I Ate Wednesday

In the spirit of getting back on track, I thought this would be a good time to share another daily eats post. I happened to stumble upon "What I Ate Wednesday" hosted by Peas and Crayons and decided it would be fun to get in on the party!

Yesterday's eats....

oatmeal for brekkie - this is the instant variety; sometimes convenience wins

AM snack

big honkin' lunch salad of spring mix, cukes, carrots, tomatoes, roasted chickpeas, olives, hard boiled eggs with vinaigrette

crunchy green apple for another snack

4pm habit...
the rules of WIAW state "no guilt" so no guilt. ;)

 dark chocolate peanut butter roll-up pre-workout

roasted veggies with quinoa and baked salsa chicken for dinner

Mmmmmmmm! What are you eating?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday Shout-Outs

1. Joanna is celebrating her 300th post by giving away a hand-made and personalized running sign. You can pick your own city or state abbreviation, 13.1/26.2 or a few characters of your choice. How cool is that? As of right now, the odds of winning are looking good - so check it out here. Joanna graciously offered to make a sign for me in exchange for spreading the word about this giveaway, so let her know I sent you!

2. A great big congratulations to our very own Redhead and Spike who got engaged in a truly "Schmoopy" fashion over the weekend. Since these lovebirds met through blogging and invited us to follow along on their whirlwind romance, I think many of us feel like we're a part of the story - key players in the love story of the century! Or is that just me? Read all about their "Unforgettable Quest" here.I hope they rent a very large venue for the big day! ;)

3. If you're living under a rock, you may not know about the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge. Amanda is starting it up again (and currently rallying up some fantastic incentive prizes, I'm sure!) so sign up and get ready to bust those booties starting on November 19th!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pass the carrots.

A week after the big race and it has been a fully lazy relaxing and indulgent seven days. It was nice to sleep in, spend evenings on the couch and enjoy the most sinful treats without any guilt. I watched my favourite shows in real-time, stayed up too late slightly later than my usual granny bedtime, slept in, ate out with friends and family - all without worrying about accommodating my training schedule.

I did get out for two short runs (8K on Thursday and 10K on Sunday) with my training group, for purely social reasons. It was refreshing to run just because I felt like it, although my legs were feeling pretty heavy and stiff.

As of today I'm ready to get back on track with some sort of training regimen - still no expectations or pressure, just doing what I love because it makes me feel good. I am also ready to clean up the diet and start eating and hydrating properly again.

First time bringing a packed lunch to work in a week!  

Ready for success all stocked up on fresh produce:

Do you catch yourself falling off the healthy wagon after a big race? 
What is the best thing about getting back on track?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

'Tis the season for a Shutterfly Giveaway!

Over the past few years, we have been receiving more and more photo cards at Christmas. I think they're a fun twist on your typical holiday cards and I often leave those ones on display long after the others have been packed away. They seem to be more popular for families with children, but wouldn't you love to receive something like this in your mailbox?

Okay, maybe something like this would be more appropriate...

There are thousands of fully-customizable design possibilities available on Shutterfly with countless layouts and options. There is sure to be something for everyone, whether you're looking for holiday cards, greeting cards or even photo gifts. The site is easy to use and lots of fun to play around with.

How's this for a great stocking stuffer?

Are you a blogger? Want a chance at 25 free cards this holiday season? Register here:


  • To enter: Be a follower and leave a comment!
  • Winners will be selected and announced on October 30th.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Toronto Waterfront Marathon Race Report

This was my fifth consecutive year running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half or Full Marathon, the first time being my first race ever - the half marathon in 2007, followed by my first full marathon one year later. This year the race moved to mid-October (from late-September), in the hopes of promising cooler temperatures. They also pushed back the start time from 7:30 to 9:00 AM - this made me nervous, but turned out not to be an issue since we had a cool day, and also afforded the opportunity to sleep in to a reasonable time.

We were treated to a comfortable 10C/50F at the start (rising only a few degrees by the finish) and a mostly overcast sky but heavy winds. I managed similar winds at Mississauga so I figured I could handle it and rejoiced that it wasn't going to be hot.

I hacked up an old fleece top to create a shrug-style zip-off throwaway that I could wear before the race and remove easily.

I'm all about fashion...

We were out the door at about 6:15 to pick up some friends and head into the city, arriving a good 90 minutes early. This race has grown a lot in recent years (almost 20,000 runners) and we didn't want to take any chances.

We parked at our usual spot and wandered over to scope out the starting area before heading to Starbucks for a place to sit and keep warm.

With about 45 minutes to go, we decided to head out and discovered that it was getting crowded fast. I had used the washrooms at Starbucks but hoped to use a port-o-potty one last time - unfortunately the lines were nuts and I didn't want to risk not making it into my corral; I hoped I wouldn't regret that later. Got a hug and kiss from hubs, wished my friends good luck and followed the coloured balloons to my yellow corral.

I managed to run into my pace group who were waiting near the 3:30 pacer. I was planning to hang back for my 3:35 goal, but it was great having some company and exchanging last-minute good lucks in those final minutes. We shed our warm-ups and before long, the gun went off. Even in the second corral, it took more than a minute and a half to hit the start mats. Here we go...

The course was crowded and chaotic right off the bat, and I struggled to keep my cool. I knew I didn't want to waste energy weaving around, but it was hard to be patient. My Garmin signal also went wonky immediately with the sky-scrapers and running under highway overpasses, so I had no choice but to take a deep breath and relax. I felt like I was going so slowly, but I turned out to be right on pace so I'm glad I didn't perform any theatrics in those initial kilometres. I settled in and let my legs find their rhythm as it slowly opened up a bit.

*some splits are not completely accurate due to afore-mentioned Garmin issues, but it all evens out in the end...

KM 1-5: 5:01 - 4:57 - 5:02 - 4:57 - 5:05

I know this course very well and found comfort in the familiarity as we made our way along the Lakeshore for a long out and back. We were into the wind, but it wasn't bothering me too much at this point. I felt good and found the pace easy - cruising along and taking it all in.

KM 6-10: 5:00 - 5:06 - 5:04 (gu) - 5:08 - 5:02 (salt)
10KM split - 50:57

I always look forward to seeing the leaders on their way back and kept my eyes peeled for the escort vehicles. I caught sight of the lead pack just before the road split and noticed that our front-running Canadian Reid Coolsaet was hanging tight with the Kenyans. It was super exciting to see them and gave me goosebumps as usual.

At 12K we hit the first turn-around; there are always incredible crowds and entertainment here, and this year did not disappoint.

I had broken the race down into smaller 'chunks' in my head, and now the first leg was complete. The next leg would take me back along Lakeshore to the half/full split at 18K, which is one of my favourite parts. The rush I get from veering right and running under the marathon arch will never get old. It took me back to my first full marathon back in 2008 when I found myself heading into unknown territory, clueless to the challenges that lie ahead. This year I would consider myself an experienced marathoner, and also experienced on this course - I knew what was coming, I knew I could handle it and I was pretty excited about it!  

KM11-15: 5:00 - 5:04 - 4:57 - 4:56 - 4:58

I took a quick inventory of how I was feeling and had no complaints. I felt strong, smooth, relaxed and right on pace. I started to think my A+ goal might be a good possibility, but I also knew there was a lot of race left. I saw lots friends from my training group in a few difference spots along this stretch and got tons of support. I was so grateful to everyone who had come out to cheer us on.

KM16-20: 5:06 (gu) - 4:59 - 4:55 - 4:48 - 4:51 (salt)

I hit the half way mark a little ahead of schedule and feeling great. Each time I crossed timing mats I thought of everyone tracking at home (who would also be texting updates to hubs waiting at the finish) and remembered all of their support and encouragement - so many people believed I could do this and I wanted to prove them right and make them proud. This is the best motivation there is to keep going.

KM21-25: 4:59 - 5:01 - 4:59 - 5:03 (gu) - 5:02
Half split - 1:46:31 

water refill around half way

I was prepared for the next section of the course to be somewhat boring - not much to look out, less spectator support and a couple of short out-and-backs. Typically this portion of a marathon is a bit of a mental "dead zone" where you've already put a lot into it, but you aren't anywhere close to finishing.

Thankfully I felt good and had no issues keeping my head in the game and focusing on keeping the pace. I actually enjoyed the out-and-backs because they allowed me to see fellow runners from my group who were ahead and behind me, so we could exchange high fives and whoops of encouragement.

Our coach rolled up beside me on his bike at one point and I told him I was starting to get a bit tired (to which he replied "you're supposed to get tired!" - true), but feeling pretty good overall and on pace for 3:35. I realized I had a PR by a few minutes at the 30K mark - woohoo!

KM26-30: 4:58 - 4:59 - 4:59 - 4:56 - 5:00 (salt)
30KM split - 2:31:22 (PR!)

Now I just had a few K until Nik would be meeting me. I had been telling myself that all I had to do was hold the pace until then, and then she could take over. I was definitely ready to have some company. I spotted some more friends out cheering who assured me that she was waiting just ahead.

I plugged along and was now running through the bustling "Beaches" area, which was packed with people. There were a couple of inclines here - otherwise this course is pretty much pancake flat, so I definitely noticed them.

Nik checked in with me at 32K and told me she would be waiting on the other side on my way back. I was well on my way to the final turn-around and feeling pretty decent with 10K to go. I was doing it! Just keep plugging along...

At 33.5K, I made the final turn-around and hit the wind. It got tough immediately and my pace slowed as I struggled to keep moving forward. I was definitely tired by this point as well, but reminded myself that I was now headed back into the City and literally moving towards the finish. I just had to hang in there.

KM31-35: 4:57 - 4:57 (gu) - 5:09 - 5:10 - 5:12
35KM split - 2:56:51 

Nik was waiting right where she promised and hopped in with me. I complained briefly about the wind, but she helped take my mind off it by chatting away. I don't think I responded much, but I appreciated the company and distraction. I told her I was on track and just had to "keep moving." She was saying all the right things to keep me going - I was fading but she helped me hang in there.

We had one final hill up and over a highway overpass. On any normal day it wouldn't be a big deal at all, but it killed me to get up it. I felt like I was crawling. (see my slowest split below)

I certainly wasn't the only one feeling that way - I just had a chance to read Eric Gillis' race report from Sunday - he made the Canadian Olympic Standard for London 2012 with ONE SECOND to spare!

"...Remember thinking, well now the race is REALLY on, and it ain't going to be pretty! Yep, the following 6.2k was tough, very very tough! Energy was there to fight but with that head wind it felt like a losing battle every step shortening to a point going up the DVP overpass I felt like I could technically be race walking?!?! Seeing the 40k split gave me some life that I hadn't totally lost it the last few k. With some rudimentary math figured standard was still within reach but it might be close, bit of foreshadowing there, eh?" 

Erin & Reid - Olympic Qualifiers for London 2012!

I knew more friends would be waiting shortly after the hill and focused on getting to that point. Sure enough, they were there and cheering like crazy. They gave me the strength to get moving again. I had given up my buffer and I was going to be cutting it close for 3:35.

KM36-40: 5:11 - 5:15 (half gu) -5:19 - 5:19 - 5:32 
40KM split - 3:23:42

The next thing I knew, Coach rolled up beside me on his bike. I was pretty much non-responsive at this point, but he asked for my mantra and I said something along the lines of "just get this sh*t done." He asked for my time and assured me I still had a shot. Then he said exactly what I needed to hear in that moment: "You didn't come this far to give it up now."

Somehow I found the strength and will to pick it back up. The crowds were really picking up now and both Nik and Coach had to send me on my way.

KM41-42: 5:12 - 5:05

At last I made the final turn on to Bay Street and the finish line was in sight with 500, 400, 300, 200, 100 metres-to-go signs along the way. Out of nowhere, Alex from my pace group showed up beside me and urged me on. I heard hubs call my name and spotted him on the sidelines. I had to make it, but it was going to be soooo close!

I must have been looking down at my Garmin every 10 seconds as I watched it tick closer and closer to 3:35:00. One final push and I crossed the mats with 3:34:59 showing on my screen. Whoa.

Chip Time - 3:34:54
Average Pace - 5:06/KM (8:12/mi)
F25-29 - 20/231
Females - 97/1397
Overall - 728/3951

I wasn't emotional crossing the finish line this time - no whooping and arms in the air like my first BQ, partly because I wasn't 100% sure I had made it. I was shocked and relieved, maybe a bit numb. I stumbled along until I had cleared the finish line enough to stop and collect myself. Wobbled toward some friends who had finished just minutes before/after me and exchanged big hugs and brief war stories.

Hubs managed to find me quickly even among the throngs of runners and spectators, and I begged him desperately to check my official results to ensure that sub-3:35 was legit. E confirmed for us via text:  PHEW! We managed to find my friends L & G who had come out to cheer - they saw me finish, although I missed them in my tunnel vision run towards the clock. L immediately started crying and in turn, so did I. It started to sink in. I had done it!

BQ # 2!