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Milton, Ontario, Canada

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Road 2 Hope, Hamilton Half Marathon Race Goals

I'm not going to wax poetic with this one.

My goal is to get the 1:45 finish.

My secondary goal is to have Sam PB (sub 1:46:16)

I guess my tertiary goal is to PB (sub 1:49:31)

Final goal never changes: Not to crap my pants

See you all after the race!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon Race Report!



It was a day of learning and I was the student.

I hope I pass the test on November 3rd.

Pre Race and Expo

Sam and I had been berating suggesting to Kenny that he should likely pace us through our attempt at the 1:45 half marathon. After all, there was no official continuous 1:45 pacer and Kenny is an old pro. I felt really bold for asking him but he's pretty much a SUPER nice guy and I wasn't that surprised when I saw his comment on my blog that he was ready to help us. 

Then I got kinda scared:


Sam drove downtown on Friday, picked me up at work, we got our kits, schmoozed with THE John Stanton (nicest millionaire I've ever met more then once!) and Saturday I did the usual Saturday things. Plus the RV show, plus this:

Meat buffet text photo to Sam results in this wisdom:
"You better not have the meat shits tomorrow!"
My BFF (it was her birthday), won $150 on penny slots in her last spin!
I got home by 10:30, set two alarms (teased Sam about setting her alarm via facebook) and went to bed. 


I had a really bad sleep which was likely because I had enjoyed a REALLY good hour nap during the day between the RV show and Niagara Falls. Plus my cough was back in full force (aside - went to the doctor's today and I have a lung infection!). Anyway, I got up at 0520, showered, dressed and got on my way, stopping at Tim Horton's for a plain bagel with butter and cheddar, an apple juice and a coffee. I got Sam and we were on our way.

We were nervous. 

I had planned to park at the Eaton Centre, then thought it was closed, so we did an extra lap around the block before heading into the parking lot via Shuter. Neither of us even bothered to look at where we parked which resulted in us kinda living this post race, minus the air conditioner or goldfish. 


We made our way to the bathrooms, then to the DailyMile meeting spot. We were inside. Sam noticed Emma outside, so away we went. I didn't recognize anyone at first except for Emma and made some jokes about my awesome throw away gear (um really, maternity track pants and your husbands old, stained sweatshirt are ALWAYS in style) and we mentioned that we had to check our post race bags. Sam asked the nice man at the meet up if he had checked his and no, he needed to as well.


That's Kenny!

"We're going with you. We are not losing you now." So off we went with a wave to Patty who was joining the meet up. Once in our red corral, we used the portapotty's again which was awesome because I ran into my RR coach, Chris who was pacing the 3:35 group and got to wish him luck in his 29th marathon!

Bladders empty and it was time to line up. Kenny kept us at a good spot in the corral, and I sang O Canada while others looked at me like I was crazy patriotic. That's it. Time to go!

The First Half, KM 1-10

Here we go. Start steady and seemingly slow. "Pacers always go out too fast," says Kenny. "We are going to keep the even pace." Yes, yes. I hook on, just behind Kenny's left should, point myself forward and glaze over with the focus which is know to over-take me when I'm racing hard and for myself. I didn't put my earphones in though. I wanted to save them for when I started to struggle.

Up University and things are okay-ish. Then Kenny tells us that we're over the slight up-hill and things will be flat (duh! We're running north, of course its uphill!). It did feel better and before I know it, we're on Bloor (Sam, we did pass the ROM and the Chin Crystal that's depicted on the medal) and its party time from the spectators. This is good. I'm feeling good. Kenny's telling us our paces, exclaiming in glee when we're right on pace and I'm just sticking to his left shoulder. I actually made it easy for myself to not look at my watch  - I only displayed distance.

Turn down Bathurst and this is all good stuff. A shady looking fellow tries to get a fist-bump from Kenny who nearly runs me over in his rush to GET AWAY from the potential contact and we have a good laugh. There are lots of people cheering and I'm actually liking running with the streetcar tracks because it makes me focus on staying in my lane and avoiding them. Kenny's on my right, Sam's right behind me. Things are good. 

I'm on memory lane in this stretch as well. The Bloor Street Theatre where I spent many of Friday nights in High School watching the audience participation Rocky Horror Picture ShowHonest Ed's, the house my old boyfriend lived in on Bathurst, Dad's High School, Central Tech, The Randolph Academy. Past 6k, past Front street and I put in one earphone. Sam ask's Kenny if he's even sweating yet and I peel down my arm warmers. Kenny's not sweating.

We head down Lakeshore and Lose Yourself by Eminem comes on and I say to Kenny, "If Eminem can get out of 8 Mile, I can run a damn 1:45 half marathon." It was my only light moment in the whole race. Too bad Kenny didn't get the real me. Good thing he got to see the awesome pre-race throwaways.

We hit a headwind, but it's good. I'm good. I feel fine. I'm good. Yup. Gonna put in that other earphone. Run straight ahead. Look at the elites coming back. I'm good. Yup. Feeling good. I see Kenny taking a gel. Right. Gel. I'm going to do that. Maybe I'm feeling a bit tired. Gel. That's good. Like me.

So I dig into my skirt (yes, I RAN IN A SKIRT!) gel pocket and get the gel out and take it with no problems. I have my handheld so I don't need to wait for a water station which is good. 

Like me.


And then I'm not.

At all.

I fight it for a probably a minute while. But I decide to let Kenny and Sam go. 

"Go," I tell them. And that's all I have to say about that.

4:53-5:03-4:49-4:54-4:55-4:53-4:53-4:58-5:03-5:26, I went over the mat with a time of 50:22, so let's just say the Garmin was off.

The Middle Bit; The Lesson. KM 11-17

I walked. I have no idea what was what. My breathing felt fine. I coughed a bit but it wasn't that bad. I was feeling fine. Legs? Check. Stomach? Check. Mind? 



I don't even know what to say, even today. I had no fight at all in my head. While I had written on both my hands ("Yes You Can" and "4:30 AM!"), neither worked. I didn't get angry, I didn't get determined. I was just.


So I kept running along. I looked ahead for Sam and Kenny, but... do you know how many damn people wear hot pink in a massive race? LOTS! I couldn't find them at all. So I ran by feel and looked around at other runners. I had no thoughts. It was so freaking odd! I mean my thoughts were: Oh, there's a guy with a shirt that says Mexico. He must be from Mexico. I bet Sam would love those hot pink tights. Water station. Squeeze the cup. Oh, look my 11k split is 4:59. That's good. La, la, la. Run, run, run. Meh, Meh, MEH!!!!

God, it pisses me off right now to think about it!

12k and we turn around. And thank God. We have a back wind now which is nice. Richard comes up to me with his usual delight and any other day I'd jump at the chance to run with him, but I basically tell him I'm having a bad day and he should move on. He does and I feel all... Meh.

I remember that my friend Dave is going to be on course to bike along to support his cousin who was running her first marathon so I look for him. I try to look at my watch which was auto lapping from time to time to see my splits but I keep missing them. Oh well. I see Dave before he see's me and its a HUGE boost! Finally I get a smile on my face to return his! Hey man... I'm running! Remember how I like this?

Okay. This is getting a bit better now. I stop walking the water stations and fill up my handheld on the run (I gots mad skillz, yo!). I am still fighting the Meh but its getting better. I take an unheard of second gel. MMMM Mandarin Orange! After ignoring photographers for the past while, I make sure this guy gets me:
People do expect the happy photos!
I move the display on my watch to the second screen to give me a sense of total time and average pace. HEY! 5:04/km!!! That's good! GOOD! I run a bit more and look again. Hmmm, I can see the 17k marker but my watch says 16.39. Somehow I've stopped the damn thing. So I start it and hit lap with the marker. Screw it all anyway, time to run.

The lesson? I need to fight in a race. When its hard, I need to have my head on straight which for me means getting angry and getting in control. The Meh Mind should never be in control. It is not like me to give into it (anyone who knows me will say I'm passionate to a fault). Mostly though? I think the true thing I learned is that I can't be afraid. If I need to push, I've got to try a little harder. I can't give up. I've got to fight. I've got to ROAR

I'm a survivor (what), I'm not going to give up (what), I'm not going to stop (what)....

Sorry...  little digression there.

4:59-5:16-5:04-5:19-5:22-5:21-2:44  for 0.53k at 17 (5:20 pace). Whatever! Next time I run in Toronto I'm wearing a damn stopwatch.

The end. The Joy. KM 18-21.1

Right at this time, I hear talking. Lots and lots of chatting. More talking. God, this guy loves his own voice. Geeze, he sounds like someone I know. Blah, blah, blah! I glance back and I should have known! Its Chris the marathon leader from my RR (and someone I consider a coach and mentor). "Hey Chris!" "Nicole! How's it going?!?!" "Not good," I almost start to cry, "I don't know what's wrong today! Its all in my head!!! I'm like 5 minutes off!!!" Oh My God. The look he gives me (as we continue to run along at his group's pace, which is a 5:06/km, no problem - TALKING!). That look conveys more sympathy and more understanding than I can explain. I'm slowing down and Chris has to leave me, but he reaches out and gives me a kinda one armed hug and I breath in the love there. He heads on and I stick with his pace group for a while, but he eventually pulls ahead.

I'm at the hill at 18k now. I know this hill. I walked over it last year when I was cheering at this race. This hill is fine. I'm fine. I'm okay. I'm so. Freaking. Tired. I walked a bit. I couldn't help it. Then I ran again. 

Remember this? This is running. 


Then I'm at 19k and OMG there's Paul! WooHoo! I had no idea he would be there and he's got his "Smile, it will make you run faster" sign and its so good! Hey man. This is good! I start anticipating the 20k sign. Woo! I'm going to hit that 20k sign for this, my tenth half marathon and I'm not looking back. Time to bring it home!

Turns out, bringing it home going up Bay Street through the construction is a bit of work, but whatever! I slow down (I figure I don't have the sub 1:50 anyway) and push though. Not walking again! I get myself over to the 20k sign and manage to hit the bottom edge. Some calls out that they LOVE my socks. A man beside me comments on it and I tell him this is my 10th half marathon.

And I'm smiling. 

And I've found my joy.

My god, my gams look great in that skirt!
5:14-5:43-5:47-5:26-3:30. I don't know, man. Garmin + Toronto buildings = fail.

I cross the finish line and I'm happy. I collect all the stuff, find Richard (who got a PB) and take the official photo.

This photo says it all. I have no idea what my time is and I'm fairly certain I'm about 1:50:XX but I'm happy to be done and proud to have completed #10.

I find Sam and Kenny at bag check and the first thing I ask is what happened! Sam did AWESOME! a 1 minute, 1 second PB at 1:46:16. Kenny's too busy with his phone. All of a sudden: 

"You got a 1:49:31"

Well well. PBs all around. I'm happy! But mostly I'm happy with the lesson learned. Fight, Nicole. Be who you are and it will serve you well. But mostly - when it goes south? Find the joy to focus on. Its a whole lot better then running for meh.

Chip: 1:49:31
Place: 2120/10,094
F35-39: 89/775
F: 565/5371

Next up? Road 2 Hope Half Marathon on November 3rd. 

Sam and I will go for the 1:45 again. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon Goals!

Well, the time has come to lay out the goals for the A race of the fall, The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon. After my amazing experience during the Mississauga Marathon this past May, I originally wanted to run the marathon at STWM, however my husband asked me to put family first and to "just run a normal half marathon."

So I agreed and I dedicated myself to getting the majority of my runs in without interfering with family time. This meant a LOT of 0430 wake ups and runs done before 0600!

For this 18 week training plan, I decided to follow the Jack Daniels Running Formula approach which involves two effinghard "quality" runs per week, with one of those being during the long run. The entire approach, including paces, was designed to enable me to toe the line on Sunday with the training behind me to meet my "A" goal. Speedy Sam agreed to join me in this craziness and even put in a 26k run (as I was also training for the Midsummer 30k) and so I had company (because misery loves company). We #embracedthesuck together.

But you're here to read about goals. Well, I'm still going to put my "A" goal out there. I'm not entirely sure I will be able to get it, but I'm going to keep the mind strong and go for it. What will help is that Kenny may run with Sam and I as our personal pacer (skirt and socks not required!)!

A Goal


Yes, if I get in, even at 1:45:59, I'm counting it! That's about a 5:00/km or 8:00/mi pace.

B Goal


About a 5:05/km or 8:11/mi pace. This will give Sam a 2 second PB!

C Goal

Sub 1:50:00

This will get me into the corral at Around the Bay and be a PB.

D Goal (Say it with me)

Not to crap my pants.

Good luck to everyone running - there are SOOOO many of you. I'll be bib #11791 and wearing an orange skirt with my new rainbow socks! Look for the gal chasing Speedy Sam, who will likely be in pink!

See you all on the other side. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

County Half Marathon Race Report


That time I raced in the pouring rain and did so with a crazy grin.

This past weekend, on October 6th, 2013 I ran in my first County Half Marathon. It will  not be my last. I loved everything about this race! It was set up so well, it was an awesome course and I got to spend some time with great friends before, during and after!

I had loads of fun with the gals for the retreat on Friday night and Irina joined us for a drink and some food as well. On Saturday I was up drinking awesome coffee and eating amazing bacon (cooked by a vegetarian no less!) before heading to the Spa for an amazing hydro + RMT massage where the RMT focused on my calves, trying to work out some of the PF pain I've been having. I then picked up my race kit and scored some sweet new compression socks:

Back to the cabins and I was ready for lunch and a 1.5 hour nap. Ahh. Retreat!

Up the next morning at 6am, eat, pack the car and pick up Irina and Zindine (who were also staying at the resort). While I woke up to rain falling on the cabin, by the time I started packing my car, it had stopped. YAY!

We stopped at Tim Hortons, I made use of the washroom thanks to the coffee Zin bought for me and then we headed to the finish line of the race in order to get the buses to the start. The half marathon race started at the half way point of the marathon and so we had to be bused out by 0830 for a 1000 start as roads were closed after for the full marathoners. It was cold, but I was prepared:

I ran into my friend Julie and Irina and Zin caught up with their friend James who was the catalyst for all of us running this race in the first place. We visited the loos and tried to keep warm in the tents. Not appreciated was being told by a lady in line, "Oh, the rain is going to hammer us. It's going to start just after we do." Julie (who spent summer's in the area) also told me that we'd have the wind the whole race.


Nothing more to do, then pose for a final photo like a fool:
No rain on these graves.

And we're off. KM1-7

Before we knew it, the time to start had come. I tossed my space blanket right at the gun and lost the ear bud from my yurbud. Irina and I stopped to look for it, but it was gone. Oh well. So much for starting around our pace people. We were going to run together for 3k as I warmed up and then I'd take off for my 12k of speedwork. Irina wanted to run the race in about 2 hours and she did! In the first 3k, we kept the pace, kept the conversation and passed, passed, passed. I knew right away this was going to be a fun race. There were loads of people about and the scenery was awesome. 

When we were running under a canopy of trees, I noticed that it seemed like it was raining, but I figured it was just the wind shaking the wet from the leaves. Surely that woman's environment Canada app was all wrong? No time to worry about that, 3k was done and it was time to pick it up. I said goodbye to Irina, told her to keep to the centre of the road (which was fully closed for the entire route) and that I'd see her again at the end.

I breezed through the first few KMs of race pace work (target 4:58). The rain and wind had really picked up, but it wasn't really bothering me too much. I was starting to feel hungry and decided I'd break after 6k of pace work, eat a gel, take an easy 10th KM and start again.

5:43-5:33-5:29-4:53-4:54-4:56-5:09 (water station). Total: 36:37

Well, that's enough of that. KM 8-14

So, I glug down my GU gel and water and start up strong again on KM 11. Except things weren't feeling as easy anymore. The wind was crazy and the rain was pretty much like this:

I decided, screw it. I would never, never run a training run in this kind of weather. No sense trying to hold on here. From this moment on it was about fun with a F.U.N. 

Though I admit to a moment where I wanted to do this:

Okay, enough with the gif, but bonus points if you name the movies.

So, at this point I was all about FUN! I started to engage all of the volunteers and police officers and thank them for #makingtheretreatepic being out there in the rain. I'd look at spectators who were quiet and scream:
"Och! Tis a fine Scots day for a run! No but a wee mist, ken?" which got some laughs. And I fell into pace with the race director from Peterborough (whom I met at the start with Irina, Zin and James) and we chatted about getting a BQ race and running and running plans in general. 

5:01-5:11-5:47 (GU)-5:03-5:14-4:58-5:10. Split: 36:24, total 1:13:01


After chatting for a bit with the race director (I can't remember his name at all!), I told him that I needed a quick break so walked for a bit to sort out my shorts. I was starting to chafe on my inner right thigh due to the rain and I had to pull my shorts down a bit to compensate. Our first hill came at 16k and it wasn't bad, but I haven't trained hills at all during this cycle. Still, I got up it motivated by a lady parked along the side of the road, cheering with a cowbell and a sign: "Its a hill. Get over it." At the top of the hill, I stopped dead. Because there was a piper! I decided to do a jig and she played me along the road. I was starting to pick up and pass marathoners at this time and I made a massive point to tell them how amazing they were doing. The relay buses would pass us and I'd make a fool out of myself to get some cheers and motivation from the runners inside.

I also started to concentrate on chasing people down. This is something I need to work on and here was my chance. In front of me was a runner all in hot pink and it was like a sign (Sam always runs in pink). I chased her down and saw she was a marathoner. I stick with her a bit, over the 18k hill and into Main Street Picton, giving her encouragement, telling her things like I loved her socks or that she was right on time! Once we hit Main Street, Picton she pulled ahead and I surged a bit too. I had the worlds biggest grin on my face and I told all the spectators, "I love this! I LOVE TO RUN! Half marathon number nine, in the books. Send this one to the presses!"

I can  not accurately express the joy I had in those last two kilometers. Sure, I could have run a lot faster and pulled in a better time, but I just wanted to enjoy the reward of the run. I hit the 20k sign, slowed down and bit and headed for the end, raising my hands in victory at the line and savoring the best thing this sport brings me. Not a PB or even a training run completed to perfection, but joy. The joy that keeps me running.

5:30-5:30-6:04 (jig!)-5:22-5:12-5:18-5:21, split 38:17, 260m - 1:16, total: 1:52:34

Time: 1:53:45 (first half: 56:43, second half: 55:50)
Chip: 1:52:32
Place: 117/520
Women: 41/330
AG, W30-39: 16/102


I got inside the Crystal Palace and found Zin and James. Zin CRUSHED his first official half marathon in 1:36:58 and James came in very nicely at 1:41:41. We were watching the finish on the TVs but somehow missed Irina and her rainbow socks because next thing we know, she's with us, celebrating hitting her goal as well! These awesome people paid the $4 fee to get my huge-ass 10th anniversary medal engraved with time and date on the spot and we got changed and came back for more food and refreshment before heading back to the cabin and then home:
I would run this race again in a heartbeat. In fact, I'd run this marathon and I'm sure I will at one point in my life. I loved everything about this day, even the rain. This race brought back a lot of the pure joy that has been missing from my running this summer as I've put in the work toward the Scotia Half Goal. I think the reminder of this joy has come at the exact right time.

Next up: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon. The A-race of the fall and the reason I've pushed so hard all summer. While I'm going to go for it in a way I've never pushed myself before, I know this: The true reward is the fun that the run brings to you. This is what I shall strive towards above all else.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The County Half Marathon Race Goals!

I'm two days away from my ninth half marathon! I can't believe it! This will also be my very first destination race as The County Marathon takes place in Prince Edward County.

How did I get here you ask?

Its pretty simple in a long story kind of way.

Every year, I help to organize a group (27 this year!) of ladies (mainly) from Ottawa and the GTA (this year we have two coming from Halifax and one from Calgary) for an annual retreat! This will be our sixth year! Very amazing because we all met on an online chat board, but we've become more than that, much more! We originally decided on PEC because it is about halfway between Ottawa and Toronto so it was the perfect place to meet in the middle. Then we discovered how beautiful the area is (with winery's and spa's and Hot Hot-Dog slinging men) and discovered our home for the past two years and things really took off. The group seems to expand by a few ladies every year and there is always loads of fun:

The first retreat. There were 12 of us.
This year, the winning weekend coincided with the race. I knew this, but decided early not to run it because, well.... I tend to have quite a bit of... drinks fun on the Saturday night:

No idea what I'm singing.
But! When Irina (ironically, someone I also met online, due to blogging) mentioned on Facebook that she was signing up for this half marathon, my arm turned to rubber and I decided to go for it! After all, I have 18k on the plan with 12k at race pace this weekend, so why not do it at a half marathon and get some more race experience and some bling bling?

So, the goals!

3k warm up, 12k at race pace (4:58/km) and the last 6.1k easy.

Now, if, just if my easy pace ends up around 5:30/km, I may just run the last few km harder so that I can squeeze out a sub 1:50 and get into a corral for Around the Bay. But that depends on many things. The goal of this race is to do the training run, NOT to get a PB.

Oh and not to crap my pants... 

See you on the flip side!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

September Recap!

September has been all about getting to the end goal which will arrive in 18 days! I needed to get my head on straight and gain some confidence about getting as close as possible to that end goal which I set back in early June.

I'm finally getting there, this week.

# of Runs: 20. I'll go with it, seems to be a trend!

# of runs started before 5am: 12! I'm kinda rocking this morning running thing

Races: 1- Milton Half Marathon! I'm not sure how I feel about this race now. I feel like I could have pushed harder and done better. Hindsight has me wondering if I let my bad stomach take over my head and if it was really as bad as all that. I wondered if I put to much pressure on myself. I also took some great learning away - never take anything other than water at a drinks station unless you know 100% what it is. Always run with more gels than you need - because you may want more. And finally, having someone to pace with can be key. My best races have involved pacers. Good pacers.

I wasn't feeling the greatest,
but I could still celebrate the finish!
Highlight Run of the Month: The last 5k of the Oakville Half Marathon. I decided that I'd meet Sam at the 16k point of the Oakville half as she had no one to run with (this was the weekend after Milton). I figured I could push her in the last 5k the way John the pacer pushed me. When she ran by, she was with our DailyMile friend Richard (they ran the entire race together), but it was still fun and the fact that Sam had a massive PB and a 1:47:17 finish made it even better. I even broke out a skirt in her honour:

Race Bandit!
Say, "Jack Daniel's Running Formula"
With a victorious Sam after her awesome race.
I had some awesome Jack Daniel's workouts and managed to hit a milestone of my longest pre-work run at 16k (10mi). That was a great day and I did it so that I could join Sam during her race above.

Total KM Run: 221.49 (137.63 miles) We are 75% through the year and I'm at 80% of my goal of 2,400km (1,491.3mi) for this year!

Total Time Spent Running: 20h34m15s

Average Pace per KM: 0:05:34 (0:08:58/mi)

This is it. 

18 days to put it all together before toeing the line on the goal race. I'm feeling good. I just need to hold on to that feeling for the next 2.5 weeks.

I hope you also had a great September.