Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Stevenson Olympics [a.k.a. Boozing Day 10-miler]

First question: who races on Boozing Day? Really? After all - at least where I come from – Boxing Day is supposed to be a day of sloth and lazy self-indulgence. Perhaps because, as a child, my mother insisted on planting herself on the couch the entire day, getting through all of her Christmas reading in one go, and my father, bitter over the absence of leftovers (since my aunt and uncle host Christmas dinner), would cook another turkey dinner for the four of us. This progressed into us going up to our cottage to celebrate Boxing Day, where the opportunity to do any kind of physical activity was further impeded. Of course, Boxing Day is also a big night for house parties and club-goers, and is thus usually capped off with keggers and shots. Not exactly a day of detox.

This year, I stayed in the T. for Christmas. Nic was obviously extremely excited that I would be training with her over the holidays, and e-mailed me a good two months ago telling me about a ‘huge’ road race on Boxing Day, perhaps, she admitted, more famously known as the Stevenson Olympics. Justifiably, she has run it about 10 times and has been declared champion no less than 8 of those. This, compounded by the fact that it’s on her home turf (I think we even run by the McDonald’s she used to work at? Awesome.). In all honesty though, I thought it would be a great way to shake off the Christmas-time laziness. Of course it was, although on Boxing Day morning I was convinced it was the worst decision I had ever made in my life.

This brings me to my next question: who doesn’t drink on Christmas? Really? In my family I normally play the role of bartender (surprise, surprise), so the thought of a dry Christmas actually made me cry a bit inside. This of course being because I normally don’t drink before races (surprise again? I don’t know). On Christmas morning I thought I might be able to get through the day with water, but by 11AM I was offered several vodka-OJs by my father-in-law. Wow. I managed to decline his offer, but again, a few hours later there were more offerings and my discipline wavered. I began to rationalize my decision, figuring if I drank early enough I could be sober by 8PM, get a good night’s sleep and be ready to rock in the morning. Uh-huh.

So my next question is: who races after being sick with the flu for a week? Though I only had one day of extreme nausea, my body felt weak, I was stuffed up and my head pounded for most of the week. Still, it was the Stevenson Olympics! How could I miss it?!

So Nic picked me up in the morning and we drove down to the Hammer with AZ. I must have seemed especially lethargic, as Nic wasn’t sure if I was awake yet and AZ kept asking how hungover I was. In reality, it wasn’t really the hangover but more the -15 degree weather and hilly course description that left my motivation waning. Once we got to the course, however, I started to get a little more excited. This is most likely attributed to the fact that we got some awesome race gear, including two long-sleeved shirts decorated with white snowmen and some sweet snowman mitts on top of it. They were so exciting we couldn’t restrain our jazz hands from waving.

Jazz hands

We got in a solid three mile warm-up and my legs felt pretty good, though I was warned not to go out too hard since the second half of the course is very hilly. I think Megan said something like ‘If you are hurting at all at 5 miles, you are done. OVER.’ Alrighty then! The gun went off and I trotted along pleasantly, going through 1 mile in just under 6:30. Hmmmmm...was I being too conservative? I picked it up for the next few miles, but it was a constant battle against gusting winds and windy turns along the bike path route. At 3 miles I let it be known that I wasn’t having fun and let out some sort of loud groan that heralded some snickers from those around me. At this point all kinds of negative thoughts were going through my head; I thought about tempo-ing the race, dropping out of the race, jogging the race, pretty much anything but trying my hardest. I reached the 5-mile mark in 31:38 and suddenly realized that I was feeling pretty good. I was approaching the first hill, and to my surprise it looked much less daunting than I had anticipated. I powered up it and started to pick up the pace. At the top I knew I had a mile or two before the second, more challenging hill, so I used this time and my relatively ‘fresh’ legs to gain some ground on those ahead of me. I saw a woman about 200m ahead who had passed me at 2 miles and decided to try and catch her by the second hill. I thought if I could stay close to her up the hill, I’d have a good chance of passing her on the recovery afterwards. I gradually reeled her in and by the base of the hill I was right on her heels. She didn’t like this much and put in a surge up the initial incline. I followed. I stayed close to her all the way to the very steep peak of the hill, where I think everyone including me was hardly moving forward. Next question: what kind of race has a hill like that? It seemed needlessly torturous, but I thought of the inspirational Saint Ralph and how valiantly some little kid fought up this very same hill. If he could do it there’s no way I couldn’t! At that point I heard someone yell ‘Go Rebecca! You got her!’ and I realized I was probably behind Rebecca Stallwood, who I knew was in the race. My resolve to pass her became even stronger. At the same time, a small old man at the top of the hill announced that we had just completed the last hill of the course, which flooded me with happiness and joy and renewed aggression. I wanted to bear-hug him and chase Stallwood simultaneously, but alas, I couldn’t do both, so I chose to bear-hunt Stallwood down instead. Again when I tried to pass her she surged forward, this time looking less comfortable and breathing heavily. I thought to myself, just sprint by her! You can afford a surge yourself at this surge I did – and that was the end of her. I hammered on the downhill and someone from the sidelines yelled ‘4th place woman!’, at which point I saw another ponytail in the distance. We were approaching mile 9, so I knew I had to act quickly to lock in a 3rd place; thankfully I was already gaining on her. As I got closer I put in another surge and passed her, all the while wondering how fast our last mile would be if she were to resist it as Stallwood had. However, she didn’t respond and I continued along maintaining my pace and building a lead on her. The finish came up surprisingly quickly and I crossed the line in 3rd place in a time of 1:03:10. Not a time to write home about, but I was happy with how I raced it and having negative split the course with a hilly second half. Not to mention that I was able to snatch 3rd place and win myself some more Christmas loot!

Post-race and HAPPY

Megan won in an awesome time of 57:22 and Nic was 2nd in 1:01:26 all the while battling tummy troubles. So does this mean I can say I have an Olympic Bronze, Nic?

Olympic Medallists

Camps a Champ in 3rd!

So much for lazy Boozing Day. Though I can’t say I didn’t finish off the day in proper form in this respect!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Getting JANED

Those people who have had the pleasure of running with me know that it comes at a risk – and oftentimes – a price. You see, I hate stopping at traffic lights and avoid it at all costs, even if it means risking my life. Being the BC native that I am, I have become accustomed to darting across streets, bridges and even highways without consequence. In fact, cars often slow down to let pedestrians cross even if the driver has the right-of-way. Why, you might ask? Because BC’ers are relaxed, happy, kind, patient and attentive, of course! In Halifax, where my brother lives, kindness from strangers takes on a whole new level. Drivers will literally hit the brakes if they see anyone within 100m out for a jog and will proceed to roll down their windows, wave excitedly and yell “Hello! How are you?!” The first time this happened to me I was so utterly confused that I looked down to make sure I was fully dressed, since I thought that this unsolicited attention might have risen by some accident like forgetting to put on clothes, or my shorts falling off. Fortunately this was not the case, and I continued through Point Pleasant Park receiving a cheerful hello from every jogger and walker that passed by.

So here I am in Toronto, land of busy streets and angry, impatient drivers, and what do I change about my street crossing tendencies? Nothing, obviously. Does it matter that it’s pitch black and that I am in my ninja attire, in all black with the only bright spots being the whites of my eyes? Or that it’s rush hour? Or that it’s blizzarding and slizzarding? Or that perhaps I DON’T have the right-of-way? Naw. Admittedly, I am prone to being ‘almost hit’ by cars, HOWEVER, I have never actually BEEN hit. This is a critical distinction, and I take it as a sign that I am cautiously risky. This is FAR different than being a reckless, ignorant, aggressive street-crosser. I am acutely aware of my surroundings (unlike the IPOD shufflers that litter the streets and can’t make out a fire truck from a dog barking) and take measured risks, calculating in milliseconds the likelihood of myself quickly making it across the street unscathed. I would go so far as to describe my feline-like agility and prophetic intuition as somewhat of a talent, or perhaps like a mysterious sixth sense. The problem is when the feline reflexes of my running partners isn’t quite as poised and ready to pounce at the switch of a light, or passing of a car, as mine are; and as a result I am pretty sure anyone that’s run with me has almost been hit by oncoming traffic. For that I am truly sorry (but not completely at fault).

Although I haven’t been hit, I have had some bad experiences. Take last winter, for example, when I went out for a run in the midst of a snowstorm at about 7 at night (smart). I ran around Queen’s Park for 45 minutes, as I was unsure of when I might suddenly want to bail from the run and go home. Well, when I had my fill of the QP, bail I did. As per usual I darted across the street perpendicular to oncoming traffic, though I trust I would have made it across with plenty of time to spare, had I not slipped on the road (blizzard’s fault) and gone crashing down on my side. All I remember is shooting pain and blinding lights coming at me from what seemed to be way too close to my head. I dragged myself to the curb just as a car whizzed by, barely missing my foot. I was in complete shock, but of course sprung up immediately, started my watch (which I had stopped mid-fall, like any normal person would do) and began running home. Apparently the fall and near-death experience did take the G.I. Jane out of me, however, as a mere ten seconds later I began bawling like a two-year-old, crying for my mommy. When I got home I called Jeff, who thought that my whole family had died in a plane crash. “No, I fell! I have a bruise!” I stammered while sobbing uncontrollably. I think the nickname ‘Baby J’ crossed his mind at this point, but when he got home and saw the massive welts on my hip, knee and elbow, I think he reconsidered.

Unfortunately, my impatience is not restricted to running. The other week, I was walking with my friend Mauricio from work to Ryerson, which are about 4 blocks apart. In this time, we were almost hit no less than three times. I think he was impressed at my ability to come so close to getting hit with such prompt succession. On our way back, I started to cross the street when a thunderous crash sounded from my right and an elderly woman on a motorized wheelchair came flying out onto the street in front of me. I jumped back and looked around in bewilderment, trying to figure out what had just happened. ‘What was that?!’ I found it hard to believe a senior citizen had indeed just shot out from the sidewalk at 50km/h and nearly run me over. I looked back at Mauricio, who was bent over, practically on the ground laughing his face off. ‘Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god!’ was all he could muster out. ‘You almost got hit by a WHEELCHAIR!’ Could that be a sign?

After this minor incident, people began to talk. So much so, that last week at work I was told that someone almost got ‘Janed’ on the weekend. When I raised my eyebrows at this comment, Mauricio explained that they almost got killed crossing the street. Apparently now this is synonymous with pulling a ‘Jane’. Finally, I have been forced to acknowledge this tendency that has carried me close to death. Perhaps I am too eager to cross, but I vehemently argue that this eagerness is a well-measured, life-proof calculation to enable the most efficient means of street-crossing. If I end up getting hit by a car, of course, this whole argument will be void. We shall see.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I feel like I’m in Russia (and it’s not the vodka talking)

It is a truth universally acknowledged amongst runners (and likely even by Jane Austen) that the intelligent way to begin building up after a week off would be to go for a short, easy run. I will premise my subsequent sentences by stating that this truly was my intention as I headed down to the treadmill for my first run (yes, the treadmill. Within a week, as the weather turned south of zero and Santa Claus came to town, I became a wimp. What can I say, I became accustomed to the fuzzy warmth of vodka shots and indoor heating.) I looked outside at the heavy gusts of wind blowing trees over the streets, people in furry coats scurrying down the sidewalk and the snow falling wildly, thinking about how pleased I was not to be at the cemetery doing an interval workout. Instead, I began a slow jog on the treadmill of my bright, cheerful, and warm condo gym, armed with my IPOD shuffle. Surprisingly, after a week off my legs felt light and sharp, and in no less than two minutes in I began to increase my 7.5mph pace to something a little more challenging. I upped the pace by .2mph every five minutes or so, until I was fifty minutes into my run and found myself running at 9.0mph quite comfortably. Hmmmm...I thought to myself, is it so bad if I do my first run as a progression run? With Rihanna blasting in my ears ‘COMMON’ COMMON’ COMMON’’ I didn’t give it much of a second thought. Suddenly Usher piped in (pardon the pun) and began to ask for ‘MORE!’, instructing me to ‘LIGHT IT UP, TAKE IT UP HIGHER, PUSH IT TO THE LIMIT GIVE IT MORE!’ and as I am simply unable to say no to Usher, by 55minutes I had suddenly jumped up to 9.8mph (Usher has great powers). I held onto the pace for the next twenty minutes with the help of Ricky J, Tiao Cruz, Lady Gaga, more Usher and of course Far East Movement, which point I figured I had better stop or I’d risk not being able to get out of bed the next day. My run felt stupendous – I almost wished I had a race that weekend so I could put my pent up energy to some productive use (and run with real people) instead of wasting electricity in the gym (and running with my imaginary famous entourage). So my first run ended up being a total of 80 minutes and 12-ish miles, ending in a sub-19:00 5k. Not at all what I expected.
The next day I decided to brave the outdoors (ok fine, I was still a wimp but the gym closes from 8-9AM on weekends. Dammit!) and do the beltline 10 mile loop – it was frigid (TWSS, obvi) but I dressed decently for once so it was bearable. My legs felt a little tired but I wasn’t sore, and I did the loop in a best time of low-74mins, which I found hard to believe considering I was consciously trying not to go too fast. I am beginning to be convinced that time off is a good thing...yes, I am saying it out loud, even though it will come back to haunt me when coach forces further marathon tapers on me and sends me these very words to remind me. Oh, the love-hate! I retreated to the treadmill again on Monday, where my planned easy run turned into another ‘tempo’ of two 12 minute sections at 9 and 9.8mph, followed by 4min sections at 10-10.2mph. Yes, I definitely know how to phase my way into training. That being said, it didn’t feel too strenuous, so perhaps I can pass it off as some light tempo work before doing real intervals outside? Yes?

The rest of the week I stayed outdoors, in true G.I. Jane form. I even did a circuit workout on Tuesday night with Jay and Jacquie (Ja triple threat), though we have finally come to our senses and have stopped doing them outside on the wet and/or frosty grass of Churchill park. There is something completely pointless about doing static strength exercises in the cold and getting soaking wet when you could really be doing the exact same thing inside. Jay kindly invited us to his condo gym, where we went through Kap ‘N K’s torture plan in its entirety (almost), even doing jumps down the carpet of what seemed to be an elegant ballroom. I'm sure that was appreciated.

I can tell my week as a 'normal person' has ended because upon entering Starbucks after a -18 degree run this morning, the employees changed their comments from ‘beautiful’ to ‘OH MY GOD YOU LOOK LIKE A RACCOON!’ That’s a new one. We went from ‘hot and sweaty’, to ‘raccoon-like’. Seriously? I strained to remember if I had accidentally put makeup on at 5:30 in the morning before going out for my run, or perhaps had slept-walked and put mascara all over my face. I was pretty certain that my face was untouched, so I asked them what made me reminiscent of such an animal. ‘Your face is bright red except for around your eyes! It looks so funny!’ Well, they sure aren’t discrete, but at least they’re honest? I am convinced that they think I am some kind of scientific specimen whose phenotype they must observe and record on a daily basis: ‘The evolution of raccoon runner: 2010’. At least I seem to be providing them with a dynamic range of data and what seems to be a constant source of entertainment!

Back to the run - Thursday’s run was perhaps the most rude awakening to winter. Now Wednesday was cold – I met Nic in Forest Hill and prided myself in being able to withstand -8 degree temperatures for 80 minutes and actually getting hot at the end. Of course, Thursday we ran longer and it was a frigid -18 with wind chill. Seriously, what month is it? Isn’t this supposed to come in late January? My hands got frostbite for probably the tenth time now, and upon my return home I spent five minutes in the gym washroom shrieking while they oh-so-slowly and painfully thawed to room temperature (I wonder what the people in the next room were thinking?).
Perhaps I should just move to Russia, as it would be just as cold and I would have access to superfluous amounts of cheap vodka. And of course as the saying goes:

“In America, you can always find a party.
In Soviet Russia, the party always finds you.”

I like it. (Subject to your own interpretation, of course!)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I’m bored, so I will blog

It’s been four days since Nationals and I would say I’m pretty much recovered from the after-party. It was a rough couple of days there though. My legs were seizing, I was nauseous and I was massively dehydrated – worse than any other night out in recent years! Thankfully, I am on break now, which means no running for me for a week followed by a week of easy running. It also means I have a lot of extra time on my hands, but since my blog is (primarily, though I will admit not totally) about running, I can’t blog either! As a compromise, I will blog about not running and try to make it pertinent to running. Sound contradictory? Just wait and see!

Not running has its perks. First of all, it opens up a whole other world of time in my day – time to enjoy my coffee for an extra two hours, or sleep in a little, or go to work early (oh the joys!). I especially love it when I walk down to Starbucks – having spent an extra 5 minutes on my face in the morning – and having them exclaim: “Oh my! You look beautiful! You are normally so hot and sweaty!” Gee, that’s one way to flatter your loyal customers. At least I know what they think of me on a day-to-day basis (actually I already knew what they thought of me – the crazy runner who runs in any and every kind of weather, every day, in the wee hours of the morning. I by no means deny this. But at least now they now that I can blend in with the majority of the population if I try!).

The funny part is when I go to work before 8AM and the one person who is there exclaims ‘Oh, you must be sooooo tired! You got up so early today!’ and I have to explain to them that I actually slept in. Go figure. Another thing that I enjoy is the feeling of not having to eat healthfully. I get a strange neurosis when I am running a lot of mileage that I need all kinds of key nutrients in order to stay healthy on a daily basis. I sometimes convince myself that if I don’t eat veggies and a whackload of protein after a workout, that I will wake up injured. It’s completely illogical, but when running a lot of mileage and doing tough workouts day in and day out, it does have a cumulative effect. To this end, when I am not running I somehow think it’s fair game to eat absolutely nothing of nutritional value and as much junk food as I would like. Martinis become a daily staple. I’d have mimosas in the morning if I didn’t have to work (or more specifically, if I wasn’t responsible for the lives of small animals at work). Take last night, for example, when I polished off 2/3 of a container of Cool Whip, drowned in chocolate sauce, and two glasses of errr...something. It was a marvellous feeling. I also enjoy eating chocolate for breakfast. Anyway, all in all, I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended this week with several nutritional deficiencies and permanent liver damage.

Martini madness

I also become an insomniac, though heavy alcohol consumption can sometimes negate this effect. Even if I cross-train, though, I still get hyperactive and I am usually restless all night. Last night Jeff started snoring at 2AM and I burst out into hysterical laughter, which scared the crap out of him and made him jump off the bed. I also felt like jumping, though it was more like jumping up and dancing to ‘Like a G6’ around our apartment. Unfortunately, I eventually dozed off instead...

Thus far, I have absolutely no desire to run, though I will likely start again by the weekend. There always comes a point for me in the season where I want some downtime and I don’t want to worry about workouts: in the fall, December is a great month to do this. It’s a jolly month full of parties, gifts and time off from work, where you may not need the extra endorphins from running (...though, your body might need the workout!). I think I was also mentally spent after AOs, as I had a difficult work month in November and I was getting tired trying to work long days and train hard. Furthermore, with another marathon build-up beginning in the New Year, now is the perfect time to rest and re-boot. I am really looking forward to begin my second build-up with all the fitness I’ve gained over the past year. There is no better way to start marathon training than with a fresh mind and fresher legs.

Wintertime must: SKISHOTS!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gettin SLIZZARD by the blizzard

Nationals was a learning experience. You would think that, at the mature age of 25, having run in 3 National and 4 CIS Championship XC races and having the responsibility of coach put on your shoulders for the day, that Nationals would no longer be a learning experience. However, I definitely proved that theory wrong. It started in the morning, when I couldn’t find my arm warmers. I was suddenly overcome with what I perceived to be a BRILLIANT idea – to cut the toes off my old compression socks and wear them on my arms. They were in fact the perfect length, though they were surprisingly tight around my bulging biceps. I couldn’t quite figure out how they were able to hug my calves comfortably yet cut off the circulation from my arms, but I attributed it to the large number of push-ups I’ve been doing recently. Nevertheless, I stuck with my plan and began to coordinate the rest of my attire. Now, the weather forecast called for snow and -2 degrees, with the 40km/h winds bringing it down to a chilly -10, with gusts up to 60km/h. Naturally I stuck to my plan of shorts, a singlet, gloves and my makeshift arm warmers. I had never been cold wearing this outfit and had run in plenty of winter-time cross-country races, so I didn’t give it much of a second thought. I would say that’s a piece of extremely brilliant reasoning.

On our drive to Guelph the skies went from blue and sunny, to cloudy, to dreary and dark, to a violent, wild blizzard. Seeing as it was my job to get the girls psyched up and ready to run hard, I began to complain like a five-year-old about the weather. I then pulled out several flasks from my bag and started a rap about getting slizzard after the blizzard. I have no doubt my words were inspirational and provided the girls with profound insight on why they should run hard that day. If that wasn’t damage enough, I proceeded to hand out the post-race goodie bags I had made for all the racers before they even began to run. What was the point of running hard now?

When we got to the course, we had trouble finding our tent (important piece of advice here: carry head coach’s cellphone number with you when you go to a National Championship. Just a thought.) We ended up starting our warm-up ten minutes later than planned; fortunately, however, the sun came out and it started to warm up considerably. At this point my arms were throbbing from my piercingly tight arm warmers, which I suffered through through the warm-up since they were practically glued to my skin and impossible to tear off. We ran the course forwards and backwards (the secret of CHAMPIONS) and headed to the start line. I was able to peel the compression armor from my poor biceps, which had turned blue and nearly started bruising at this point. Of course it began to cloud over once again and the winds came out to cheer us on, leaving me in shorts and a singlet sans arm coverage trying not to get blown off the startline. I was frozen. Unfortunately, once the gun went off the situation did not improve. I was frigid for the entire event (that’s-what-she-said) and all I could think about was how cold I was. I didn’t get the good start I had hoped for and again spent the whole race playing a game of catch-me-if-you-can. I did pick people off the whole time but wished I could have made up more ground than I did. I felt frantic and could never relax or get warm, all culminating in a sub-par performance. I finished in 32nd place in a time of 26:30. On the bright side, I ran 20s faster than last year in worse conditions, so that’s something to be mildly happy about.

Freezing in the background

Sadly I seem to have an influence on the other girls, as they also sported summer outfits for the race and were equally frozen throughout. Nice work G.I. Jane! To make matters worse, I forced Meghan to borrow spikes for the race, resulting in her limping off the finish line with an injured achilles. So just to summarize my impressive coaching accomplishments, I pretty much enforced a) a lack of focus, b) unhealthy eating and drinking habits, c) a negative attitude, d) improper attire and e) injuries on the girls on the day of their first National Championship. I would say this is quite a great list of feats, accomplished in a mere few hours.

After the race was another test of endurance that I had been preparing for just as intensely, perhaps moreso. I would have much rather blogged about the occurrences of the post-race party, but alas it is likely slightly inappropriate. Though I will say that Rob Kitz had a gold medal performance that day, even after pouring (not spilling. Pouring.) his drink all over me and nearly puking on me as well. I’m not sure what I did to him in the past that made me his target that night. Nevertheless, him and many others provided for great entertainment and so I must thank them. This includes a couple JCs who somehow managed to get kicked out of a RESTAURANT (not the bar. Restaurant. Though obviously they also got kicked out of the bar. Actually I stand corrected, since only one of them actually made it in – the other pulled a formidable COOLIS 2008.) Well, I think I have succeeded in being a sufficiently horrible role model for the weekend so I will stop here, but will leave you with my creative rap.


Poppin spikes on the ice, in the blizzard
When we run we run it right getting slizzard
Feelin’ sizzurp in my stride, sub-26
Now I’m runnin so fly like a G6
Like a G6, Like a G6
Now I’m runnin so fly like a G6

Gimme that fl-flask
Gimme that Gre-Grey Goose
Crowds love my style, runnin hard gettin wild
Get them shots poppin, we get that kick and then drop
Lose the competition, take 2 more, i won’t stop

(3:20) Hell Yeaaaa
Sprint it up, sprint-sprint it up
When sober crowds around me, they be actin like they drunk
They be actin like they drunk, actin-actin like they drunk
When sober crowds around me actin-actin like they drunk

Poppin spikes on the ice, in the blizzard
When we run we run it right getting slizzard
Feelin’ sizzurp in my stride, sub-26
Now I’m runnin so fly like a G6
Like a G6, Like a G6
Now I’m runnin so fly like a G6

Runnin on, sippin on sizz, Ima ma-make ya fizz
Peeps i keep it gangsta, poppin’ shots up the hill
This is how we run, every single day
Take that flask to the face, and let me see you fly

(3:20) Hell Yeaa
Run it up, run-run it up
When sober crowds around me, they be actin like they drunk
They be actin like they drunk, actin-actin like they drunk
When sober crowds around me actin-actin like they drunk

Poppin spikes on the ice, in the blizzard
When we run we run it right getting slizzard
Feelin’ sizzurp in my stride, sub-26
Now I’m runnin so fly like a G6
Like a G6, Like a G6
Now I’m runnin so fly like a G6

It’s that finish line bump, make you put yo kick up
Make you put yo kick up, put yo, put yo kick up
(You can’t catch me)
It’s that finish line bump, make you put yo kick up
Make you put yo kick up, put yo, put yo kick up
(You can’t catch me)
Hell Yeaaaa, Make you put yo kick up, put yo put yo kick up
Hell Yeaaaa, Make you put yo kick up, put yo put yo kick up

Poppin spikes on the ice, in the blizzard
When we run we run it right getting slizzard
Feelin’ sizzurp in my stride, sub-26
Now I’m runnin so fly like a G6
Like a G6, Like a G6
Now I’m runnin so fly like a G6

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oh Lord, AO: Overdeity of the Forgotten Realms

Loviatar: Goddess of pain, hurt, agony, torment, suffering and torture.

Every year I go back to the grit, grass, mud and evilness that is cross-country. After five years of forced cross-country racing, I swore I would never return to this brutal, painful place; yet every year I go back. In snow or sunshine, rain or wind, fit or unfit, I go back. Every year, the gun goes off and I am quickly swallowed in a sea of bodies. No matter how hard I feel I’m pushing I am not getting to where I want to go fast enough. My legs get beaten down, inch by inch, by unrelenting hills and the sinking ground, until I’ve lost all motivation to try and go any faster. Instead, I try to cling on to what strength I still possess, but feel it being usurped from my being with each step (from the Greater Powers no doubt), until I am no longer hunting but am being preyed upon by the wild, hungry, lathanders behind me. It ends in more pain that I can remember, emulated in a disillusioned, wobbly sprint to the finish, at which point all I want is to collapse to the ground, unnoticed. Instead, I walk down the chute lined with spectators, struggling to regain my composure, yet weaving from side to side. Once I have a moment to think a clear thought I immediately exclaim: Why did I want to do that? WHY?! WHY??????


My friends, the answer is the same reason women will have more than one child: PAIN IS FORGOTTEN. Somehow, the intense pain of cross-country gets buried in your brain, likely stored with all the other bits of critical information that if you could only just remember clearly, would really help you make some better decisions in life (like the effects of drinking eight shots of vodka in 12 minutes, or eating an entire carton of ice cream in one sitting - not that I have ever done EITHER of those two things). Instead, we remember the endorphin rush (or sugar rush, or dopamine rush), the fun afterwards (or during), the team camaraderie and support (or the illusion of popularity under the influence), and the satisfaction that comes from suffering through a truly gruelling race (or test of other sorts). Fair enough. But now that I’ve started this blog, I promise to come back and read this post before I run a cross-country race next year, to remind myself of the torture that awaits.


Cyric: God of murder, lies, intrigue, strife, deception, illusion

So this weekend, back I went, blissfully ignorant, stupidly happy about running AOs. Little did I know I was entering the Forgotten Realm of HURT. That being said, the course was significantly better than the course last year, in which I actually caught myself laughing out loud partway through because of how ridiculous the hills were. (It had to be a joke. Who could possibly run up 80 degree inclines and sprint down the other side, over, over and over? I think they confused cross-country with mountain running? I was terrified for my life running down those hills!). It seems someone must have vehemently complained about this, because the course this year wavered on the opposite extreme and was as flat as a pancake. Perhaps this is a slight exaggeration, since there were several of what I would call legitimate ‘slopes’ or rather ‘slanting terrain.’ Still, it rivaled the Notre Dame Invitational in its pancake perfection, an American ‘cross-country’ race that should actually be placed in category of Outdoor-Cross-Track. But as per usual, I digress.

Blissfully ignorant with coach

The race was 6k in 1k, 2k and 3k loops. My strategy was to not go out too hard, but to stay within striking distance of the lead pack. Then at 3k, try to pick people off as much as I could. When the gun went off, I found myself smack in the middle of the pack; however, I felt like I was going at full tilt. This is not an unusual feeling for me in a cross-country race, or short race at that, and I figured I would be able to maintain my pace for longer than those around me so I just tried to stay even. It wasn’t until the middle of the second loop, however, that girls started to fall back and I could really start to pick more off. Van Buskirk, Marchant and Sexton had already gapped the field by a considerable amount, but the second pack was within reach so I tried to focus on catching them. I did start to pass those who were falling off the pack, but was unable to get any closer to 4th-8th place by the end of the second loop (3k). This is when I began to tire and my goal to catch them was starting to seem less and less attainable. When I did catch two girls, another girl passed me, and this went on a few times until before I knew it I was in the last 1000m and in 11th place. I knew Sarah Nagy was in front of me and that I was gaining on her, but when it came down to the final sprint I just couldn’t snagy her (I’m sorry I couldn’t resist). I wasn’t terribly happy with how the race played out and how I placed, but I know that I raced my hardest on the day and that’s all I can really ask from myself.

Post-race! [Endorphins have set in]

On the bright side, our team placed 2nd to Speed River, which is an incredible accomplishment seeing as most of us haven’t raced cross-country all year, in the last 15 years or at all (congrats to Mama K and Meghan on their first cross-country races!). I find that so impressive! Next up we will be making the trip back to Guelph for Nationals in two-weeks for another test from the Circle of Greater Powers. This time, I hope I feel more like the fluid Akadi - goddess of movement, speed, and air - or Ilmater - god of perseverance, endurance and martyrdom - rather than Loviatar.

A video of the race:

God Ilmater Jane - the new G.I. Jane [next time - just practicing]

Saturday, November 6, 2010

On the Road2Hope (quest for 17:30)

The thought of reducing mileage and focusing on speedwork for the next month was somewhat unattractive to me a few weeks ago. I was absorbed in 80+ mile weeks and addicted to the euphoria of double days, long runs and the strength I was deriving from them. The mileage only became easier and easier to sustain, so the thought of scaling back made no sense to me. But alas, with three races (one of which is a National Championship) in one month and with coach pushing shorter, more intense workouts on us, the logical part of my brain (which seems to oscillate in and out of range) kicked in and I realized that I would be better off taking advantage of the speedwork, reducing the mileage a little and sharpening up for the end of the fall season.

With this in mind, back I went to try and nail a sub-18:00 for 5k ‘officially’ – on the roads at that. I figured going down to the Hammer would be an appropriate place to drive this nail in the board, so to speak. I was joined by fellow angels Kathryn and AZ.

Now AZ is normally quite a high-energy individual. On the ride down to Hamilton, however, she seemed particularly rambunctious. I think ‘OH MY GOD I’M SO NERVOUS!’ were the first words she uttered upon entering the car. ‘5k! It’s so INTENSE! What am I supposed to eat? How long do we warm up? How fast should I go? Oh my god I feel sick. Ooooh my stomach. Oh god I have to go to the washroom.’ I looked back to make sure she was breathing in between her unremitting words, and was relieved to see that she had not fallen into sweaty convulsions. ‘AZ, relax!’ I said, ‘It’s only 5k! You’ve run an ironman! What could be more nerve-wracking than 10 hours of racing?!’ ‘Ummm...a 5k...or maybe a 3k? My stomach hurts...’ She continued on with her nervous chatter. I couldn’t figure out why she was so nervous, since there was virtually no pressure on her – hell, Nic wasn’t even in the car to instill REAL LIFE fear in her! When I asked her what her 5k PB was, her voice became shrill again ‘PB? PB?! I have no PB! I’ve never run a 5k!’ Aaaaaaah it finally all started to make sense to me! The long distance runner’s fear of running anything shorter than a marathon. I can understand that. Luckily, the calm Kathryn was there to appease AZ’s nerves by telling her they’d run together, and that Kathryn was going for a sub-19:10, or 3:50/km. ‘Ok so I’ll just follow you then? We can do 3:50? Ooohhh that sounds intense!.....’ AZ continued..

When we arrived in Hamilton winter was upon us. It was freezing cold, windy and we shivered in the registration tent wearing full-on skiing gear. Of course when AZ asked me SPECIFICALLY what I intended on wearing (the logical part of my brain again slipping away) I stood by my weather-network outdated decision of a singlet and half-tights. ‘YOU ARE CRAZY G.I. JANE!’ She yelled. ‘What is wrong with you? You are a freak!’ I thanked her for the compliment and defended myself by saying I would sport some trendy arm-warmers and gloves as well (but really they were just to make me look more hardcore). By the time we warmed up, however, it had gotten a few degrees warmer and I was legitimately HOT. I rolled up my half-tights.

My goal for this race was to go out anywhere from 3:25-3:30 and hang on, really focusing on staying strong in the last 2k. My ‘A’ goal was to run 17:30; ‘B’ was to run 17:45 and ‘C’ was to PB (sub-18:00). I felt pretty relaxed through 1k, which I went through in 3:26 or so. I was pleased to see at 2k I had apparently picked it up to 3:25. I began to think I’d have no problem going 17:30. I started to increase the intensity in the next km, only to pass through in 3:41. WTF?! How is that possible? I realized that the km markers were likely off and that I should shift my focus to my cadence and effort and not on splits. I tried to push harder from 3-4k but only managed a 3:38, which I ended up maintaining to the finish, where I crossed through in 17:48. I was initially a little disappointed, seeing as I was on such a road2hope to a 17:30 early on, but eventually began to appreciate that I still ran a 37s 5k road PB and was 11s faster than my 5000m on the track earlier this summer. Can’t really complain. I am still dissatisfied with my ability to push harder in the last km of my races, however, since the guy I was with until 4k managed to squeak under 17:30 in 17:28 or so. Argh!

Kathryn was close to cracking 19:00 with her 19:04, which we have justifiably blamed on the horrible hairpin turn at 3.8k, where not only did she (and everyone else) lose momentum, but also ran around the marshall standing 2 feet away from the cone instead of directly around it. Next time will be a sub-19:00 fo sheeze. As is the bliss of one’s first try at a distance, AZ set an awesome PB of 19:34. Way to eliminate the 20:00 barrier by blowing by it on your first try! Of course, the whole way back AZ exclaimed how much she LOVED 5k’s and promptly began planning her attack on a sub-19:00, which I have no doubt she will attain by next Spring. I suppose pre-race nerves are a good thing in some cases!

After the race I felt strangely perky and energetic. My legs felt great on the cooldown and my energy was high all day, leading me to suspect I could have dug a little deeper. I wish I had another chance to run a 5k this season, but it doesn't look like this will be a possibility with two cross-country races on the horizon. That is, unless I raced every weekend and squeezed in another 5k in the third week of November, but I'm not sure that's a good idea. Nevertheless, I am chipping away at my 5k time season by season without ever really focusing on it, so I am hoping that it will continue to get incrementally faster with each try!

I will also have ample opportunity to be forced out of my comfort zone in the coming weeks, as I prepare for the AO Championships and AGSI Nationals Cross-Country, both being held in Guelph. Looking forward to it!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Don't send a man to do a woman's job!

Nicole's Angels!

Last weekend was the Toronto Women’s Only 5k and 5 miler at Sunnybrook park. I was really looking forward to this event, since I have never run a women’s-only road race. Of course, water stations lined with buff firemen and aid tables filled with chocolate may have also had a (very small) impact on my excitement. I had been meaning to participate in this series for the past year (and have been dreaming of firemen and chocolate), but found the races always conflicted with another major race or life event (like my wedding - I know, no excuse) and I was never able to participate. So despite having raced the half-marathon the weekend before, race again six days later I did (for the firemen. Okay I think I need to stop now).

I’m not gonna lie, my legs were pretty beat up after the half-marathon. Not wanting to acknowledge the possibility that I am not a superwoman and have some trace of mortal in me, I searched for external reasons to explain this fact. ‘Oh, it was the up and (moreso) downhill of the course that really took a beating on my legs.’ Or, ‘I’ve run 20 races on my racing flats, including 7 half-marathons and a marathon, so I was basically running barefoot’ was my next justification. Of course the fact that I actually just ran very hard and also doubled on race day, putting my total mileage for the day at 24 miles, did not enter to my genius equations. Nevertheless, I woke up on Monday in a world of soreness. I managed to get out for an easy run and felt mildly better, only to wake up Tuesday morning in the full throttle of post-race DOMS. Every muscle in my legs ached, so intensely so that I thought I might tear my calve should I attempt to take a single stride. After I got through Tuesday (sans ripped calf muscle – hooray!), however, the legs started to feel much better.

By Saturday I was feeling peppier, though when I started running my legs were overcome with heaviness and lethargy. I did not think good thoughts before this race. Instead I convinced myself that it would be a tempo and that I didn’t care about winning (a lie obviously). I even debated sitting down after the warm-up and eating chocolate(and gazing at firemen) instead of going over to the start line. Coach would not have been proud to know these thoughts (though I guess she knows them now...damn this blog!). I eventually made it to the start line and luckily after doing a few strides, my legs started to feel much better. When we lined up I saw two girls on my left with TOC singlets on. This is when I realized there could be more company during the race than I had previously anticipated. My intensity increased, since when you are a UTTC member, ‘TOC’ reads ‘DEVIL’. There was no question I had to beat them.

G.I. Jane's game face next to her competition

TOC giving me some evil eye (bring it!)

The gun went off and so did we, at what felt like a brisk but not crazy pace. The two girls stayed with me for the first few hundred meters, at which point one dropped off while the other stayed right on my heels. We went through 1k in 3:28. Hmmm definitely quick. I thought for sure she would start to fall back and that I’d soon be able to relax the pace. However, that was not so. I also noticed some dude that kept cheering for me and appearing each km marker. I wondered who he was and how he knew my name, as he was awfully loud. Regardless, I initially thought it was nice that he was cheering for me with such gusto. I went through 2k in 6:59 and still I could feel 2nd place not too far behind me. I began to question my complacency in this race. When I went through 3k in 10:32, I began to wonder who this TOC girl was (whose footsteps I could still hear) and if she was going to run a sub-29:00 5 miler. Thankfully, by 5k (which I got to in 18:15 – at that point I had already started to bring down the pace) she dropped back and I was able to develop a bigger lead on her. Let me tell you I was very relieved, since I was definitely starting to feel the burn.

This is when the random dude became more apparent to me. He started to run alongside me in the final three kilometers, telling me he was going to race me to the finish and encouraging me to pick up the pace. ‘Two wins in a row! You can do it! Common’ don’t slow down!’ At this point I was tired, obviously irritable, and the last thing I wanted was a stranger NOT in the race racing me a race in which I did not care about my finishing time. When he refused to let up with his heckling, I turned to him and said: ‘Relax dude! I don’t need you here!’ Perhaps I was a bit harsh, as he quickly apologized and retreated into the woods. I immediately felt guilty and wondered whether that was the best thing to do, but my thoughts were cut short by a couple of women running in the 5k coming in the opposite direction, who had clearly heard me and chuckled ‘You tell him, woman!’ And hey, it was a woman’s race! As Charlie’s (and therefore Nic’s) Angels would say, ‘Don’t send a man to do a woman’s job!’

The course was not an easy one. It included bridges, hills, sharp turns and even mud, somewhat reminiscent of a cross-country race. I enjoyed running through the park, however, as it offered a pleasant distraction, especially in the painful last kilometers of the race. I began to suffer considerably at 6k and wondered whether I’d make it back to the finish in sub-4:00 kilometers. I felt like slowing to a jog since there was no one around, but knew that I still risked giving up the win, so I tried (pitifully) to push onwards. I gave it everything, but at that point ‘everything’ meant 3:55/km. Ouch.

Approaching the finish line!

I was relieved and happy to cross the finish line 1st overall, dipping under the minute mark this time in 29:58. I must have looked rather unhappy, tired and hungry, since a volunteer ushered me to the refreshment tables and ordered me to nourish myself, literally telling me to “GO SEEK SOME NOURISHMENT!” I couldn’t help but laugh, as did Jeff, but the perplexed expression on her face indicated that she was in fact quite serious with her command. To avoid any further confrontation I proceeded toward the Gatorade, only to be stopped by a Global TV cameraman. ‘Could I ask you a few questions?’ He asked pleasantly. ‘Of course!’ I responded, excited at the prospect of being on National television. My mind raced at the thought of breaking news updates and top news stories featuring: G.I. Jane, winner of the Women’s Only 5-miler! Ah, the fame that would soon be mine! After learning to pronounce my name ‘C-U-LLIS instead of C-O-OLIS’ (perhaps I should just change it to Coolis officially?) he asked me what I thought of the course. This is where things started to go awry (yes, apparently I can only get so far as to correctly pronounce my last name) . I blabbered something like ‘Oh, it was nice. I like running in the park. There’s nice scenery.’ I immediately realized how stupid I sounded, but could not for the life of me draw a single intelligent comment from my glucose-depleted brain. All I thought was ‘the lady was right, I need nourishment! I can’t think!’ But of course the questioning went on, enabling me to dig an ever deeper hole for myself when I exclaimed that running through Sunnybrook was nicer than ‘running down Yonge street like last weekend.’ Just in case embarrassing myself was not enough, I also had to offend the Goodlife organizers whose course I actually did enjoy! I don’t remember the rest of the interview (for the best, I am sure) but have seen no trace of it on the internet or on TV, leading me to conclude that (a) they trashed it as soon as they saw what horrible TV material I made or (b) no there is no (b) they definitely just threw it out. I am hoping I can brush up on my post-race interview skills so that IF there is a next time (and reporters have not been warned against asking me even the simplest of questions) I will be a little more coherent.

The finish!

Overall, however, the day was a success: Mama K placed 4th overall in the 5-miler and the rest of the Angels tore it up in the 5k, placing 1-2-3-4-6-10. Unbelievable. The day was an incredible one for the Angels, as we definitely made our mark on women’s running in Toronto. I am already anxious for the next women’s only race, however, since in my runner’s brain- glucose-depleted state I somehow missed seeing the firemen and only got my hands on one bar of chocolate (a 100 calorie one at that!) at the end of the race. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to spectate at the next one?!

Nicole's Running Angels

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Goodlife

Skip to the race recap below if you've had enough of my long ramblings and only want to hear the important half :) (no pun intended)


Sunday was one of those days that makes every hard training run, every painful recovery run and every race disappointment worthwhile. One of those days when all the stars align and allow you to perform to your true ability. One of those days when racing feels GOOD and you enjoy every moment of it. Finishing a race like this takes on a dreamy reality; I crossed the finish line at the Toronto Goodlife half-marathon in an exertion-induced daze, in which I found it hard to put into words how I felt, since I couldn’t really grasp what I had done at the time. All I knew is that I had had a big PB (runners brain at its finest: simple words, half-thoughts), so I should be happy. So happy I was!

On the surface, anyone would agree I had a good race because I ran a 2min46s PB over 21.1k. I also won the half marathon and was in the top 20 overall. However, the race meant much more to me than that. Breaking 1:20:00 for the half-marathon has been a huge goal for me since 2006. Yes, 2006. That being said, I admit I didn’t quite understand what running a 1:20:00 meant at this point in time ...I knew it was a big barrier and I was very fit at the time but I don’t think I gave quite enough credit to the distance. I gave my first go at it in Ottawa of ‘06, but instead of breaking 1:20:00 I broke my foot and couldn’t finish the race. Not a good first effort by any means!

Smiling with a broken foot :(
(Failed sub-1:20:00 attempt #1)

So the next summer I tried again. I was at about the same fitness level as the previous summer and decided to run the Scotiabank Vancouver Half-Marathon, a point-to-point course containing a good-sized downhill. Unfortunately, it was a horrible, cold, windy and rainy day, and though I was on pace for 7k or so I was battling every natural force possible and went on to clock my now second best time of 1:21:46.

G.I. Jane battles wind and rain for 21.1k
(Failed sub-1:20:00 attempt #2)

At the end of 2009 I started to gear up for my first marathon in the spring of 2010. Suzanne Zelazo (Dr. Z) and Jenn Eberman were my training partners as we all shared similar goals and ran comparable times. Dr. Z ran the Goodlife half-marathon last year and won in 1:20:42. After that race, we promised each other that a sub-1:20:00 would soon be ours and that together we’d make it happen.

So obviously a considerable amount of time has gone by and still the 1:20:00 barrier remained. Though I am usually quite a positive person, I have to say that I have never been sure of whether I would achieve this goal: the more time that has passed the more daunting and insurmountable this obstacle has become. Needless to say, after the last few months of big mileage and strong workouts, I felt closer than I have ever been to being able to achieve it and knew that now was a better chance than any. So, with Dr. Z's previous win in my mind, Toronto Goodlife it was. And thank god, it was.

The race

I had a down week last week and scaled back the mileage considerably: shorter runs, no double days, two days off. I felt like I didn’t run at all and it was very difficult for me. By Friday, my legs felt like springs from which I could jump or run any distance. Even my abdominal work got stronger because my legs could help withstand the dreaded plank position for any amount of time (Kap ‘N K would have been proud!). My sleep quality decreased, since for those of you that don’t know I become an insomniac when I don’t run or exercise. I knew I was ready to run fast.

I woke up at 5AM for coffee and nutella (yes, plain nutella out of the jar. Nothin’ better). I was surprisingly relaxed, as I somehow knew I would have fun out there. The net downhill course and perfect weather forecast may have had something to do with that! My legs felt familiarly jumpy, so much so that I did running As down my hallway several times as I was waiting for the elevator. I think I would have started doing 20m dashes had the elevator taken a second longer. When I got to the start line, Nic was there with my bib number and some pre-race words of encouragement. When I asked whether she knew of any women in the race, she blurted “I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter because YOU ARE FITTER THAN ALL OF THEM!” I accepted this somewhat nonsensical answer and decided that my primary goal was just to run 1:20:00 no matter what the competition was like. 3:47s, here I come.
The gun went off and I went through 1k in 3:52-3 or so. I felt relaxed, but thought I was being a bit too relaxed, so I started to pick up the intensity. I wasn’t intending on playing it safe by any means. All I thought was ‘get on pace, and hold it.’ By 3k I was at 11:23, inching closer to 3:47 pace. At that point I knew I was picking it up slightly with each km so I just stopped looking at my watch. I just got into a rhythm and went with it, knowing it was quick but placing faith in my fitness and strength and trusting that I could keep it going as long as I wanted (that’s what I told myself, anyway!). I did check again at 10k and saw 37:2-something, so at that point I was under pace, and I started to get excited.

The crowds were so great. There really is no better feeling than running down Yonge street on a crisp, sunny morning with a personal escort, strangers yelling ‘you go girl!’ every 10s, the most amazing varsity cheering squad stationed at halfway screaming ‘G.I. Jane!’ (just in case I forgot how hardcore I am supposed to be, this was a good reminder to step it up!), your coach on her wheels yelling words of encouragement and your husband running behind you in the last three kilometres keeping you honest. From 10k on I just kept cruising along, enjoying the sunshine and trying to distract myself from the km markers. Occasionally the lead cyclist would get just a little too far ahead of me, which I actually enjoyed because I would automatically try and chase him down, as if it were my job to keep up with him. It was a nice way to make the time pass and motivation to keep up the pace.

Chasing the lead cyclist?

17k into the race I went through the natural thought of ‘when is this going to be over,’ but actually cut myself off to acknowledge that I was having a great race, and that I shouldn’t wish it to be over but rather enjoy the moment while it lasted. So instead, over the last 4k I let the cheers of the crowds sink in, I felt the relaxed effort in my stride and focused not on how much pain I was in but how much more I could be in if I was any less fit. I thought of Dr. Z and our goal setting together and how much this victory meant . This did make me happier, though perhaps not any faster...and of course now I am kicking myself since I crossed the line in 1:19:00.00! How could I be so complacent in my last 2k?! I should know by now that getting too comfortable will only come back to haunt you!

Regardless, breaking that Goodlife tape was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. Not only because I could finally stop running, but because I exceeded my own expectations and proved to myself that I can attain some of the lofty (and questionable) goals I set for myself. This race has made me realize that you should never lose faith in your dreams because oftentimes you can achieve more than you and others might expect. I can’t say what the exact formula is but dedication, hard work and a great coach are an absolutely crucial part. I could not have done this without Nicole and rest of the group pushing me, supporting me and always believing in me. This PB was for the angels, and most of all for Dr. Z, who I have no doubt is the next to break the tape in under 1:20:00.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Meghan's musings

Ladies and gentlemen! I am posting this purely for entertainment purposes, as I’m sure you will all imminently realize this story is a fictitious (but creative!) account of last Monday’s incident. Though Meghan wanted to entitle this - her rendition of the night’s events - ‘The True Story,’ I much prefer the title of ‘Lynch’s Lies’ or ‘Meghan’s Musings.’

Monday!!! A random smattering of intervals and hills makes this day my favourite run of the week. Since moving to Toronto my running has changed dramatically in that I have yet to a) stop during a run to stare at ducks, b) buy and chug peach juice from Tim Horton’s half way through a run and subsequently walk home, or c) break out random dance moves instead of doing drills. The future may hold a time when I use terms like “fartlek” without snickering and possibly, should another person implore everyone to name the runner whose picture she happened to have with her - during what I thought was her birthday dinner - my mind may not feverishly race to think of ANY famous runners (My grand total for that day was “Terry Fox” ...“Usain Bolt” ... “Tom Longboat.”)

I digress.

This Monday was as much fun as any other (seriously, I really like Mondays). After trying desperately to be anywhere near speedster Jane throughout the entire practice (A la “Chasing Stevenson” perhaps?), Jane, Kerry and I trotted home. I fancied it would be an ideal time to gently inform Jane that her sharp elbows were treading a tad too close to my delicate, cherub-like face.

“Is that so?” she dismissed my concern, while clearly feeling her elbows for the appropriate thumb-tack placement. “Ummm, it’s ok... it’s ok, though, Jane” I stuttered, “If it will help you to get faster, please feel free to bash my cheekbone in.” (It’s worth mentioning here that I’ve already broken this bone once, not that THAT matters).

As I contemplated how I could further aid Jane’s running career, and am a half-breath away from suggesting I stop sleeping so as to research, test, and prepare her only the most perfectly balanced recovery meals, in the blink of an eye, Jane tripped (cause it still undetermined). Due to what I can now assuredly self-diagnose as post-traumatic-stress disorder I am not quite clear on the exact events, but I know I reached and tried to stop Jane from hitting the ground – completely disregarding my own safety - though, in retrospect, there was probably a better chance of me dislocating her shoulder, but let’s remember IT’S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS, RIGHT? Fortunately, in true GI Jane form, she bounced up immediately, and showed no signs of slowing down....

However, the air, the air, took on an icy chill.

As we continued along, I cowered fearfully behind Jane with the always-delightful Kerry, and tried to occasionally call out to assess her injury. This proved a challenge, as even when injured, Jane still runs at a cheetah-like pace. Coming to a stoplight, Jane garbled something about blaming me (perhaps she hit her head, too?) and pointed to her leg, where a trickle of blood was streaming down from her knee, similar to the tears streaming down my innocent, “Precious Moments” figurine-esque expression. I apologized exceedingly and asked if she had ice at home (because if she did not I was prepared to spend my meagre student budget on top of the line ice. Like, it would be organic, free-range ice from Whole Foods).

Once home, I am overwhelmed with fear that I, have injured someone who I basically consider to be a professional runner and spend the night tossing and turning, weighing the costs/benefits of dropping out of school to build a time machine. The next morning, Jane’s knee ever-present on my mind, is spent picking out the perfect apology e-card, (not because I was not willing to hire a chamber ensemble to play soothing, injury-healing Mozart selections for her all day, but because these are just the technologically-driven times we live in). I hear no response from GI Jane, and am a moment shy of throwing away all my pyjamas and watch, and head outside to bid farewell to the running group only to see Jane, and learn her training has not missed a beat, and her running is looking as effortless as usual.

For now, that is.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Monday, bloody Monday!

Bloody Monday

What better segway to this post than my last entry, dated only three days ago. You may have noted that this was Monday, a day that has been established as my scariest day of the week. Of course, this means practice at Churchill for HILLS, DRILLS and INTERVALS. It was another rainy day, though the rain miraculously cleared for my jog up to the park. I was also sufficiently behind schedule so as to miss the DRILLS portion of the workout, and make it just in time for strides. Could this be a turning point in my dreary and difficult Monday streak? I could only hope.

We gathered around coach, nervously awaiting the torture plan she had in store for us. She surveyed us slowly, as if trying to determine just how evil she would have to be to maintain her threatening presence. I secretly hoped our faces looked terrified enough that she would take *some* pity on us.
“Can anybody guess the workout?” She toyed.
Of course everyone was silent, since we have learned that trying to guess is futile. After a few seconds she stated that it would start with 4x800m at ‘hard-tempo’ or ‘hardish but not hard’ effort, with 90s rest. We got started and went through the first repeat in 2:40, which I hoped was at this ‘hardish but not hard’ effort she was so eloquently asking for. The next three repeats were bang on consistent 2:40s, so I assumed I ran them at an appropriate pace. I tried to make Meghan take the lead on the last one but she shyed away, even though she had been on my heels for every repeat. Instead she ran close behind me, apparently making me almost elbow her in the face (oops). Meghan is our newest club member, but is so special that she already has more nicknames than everyone else (no pun intended). They include ‘PJ’ – for infamously wearing her pyjamas to two morning practices – as well as ‘Everyone else,’ (don’t ask) and a new one we came up with on Monday - ‘Energizer Bunny’ - since she never seems to tire. Her balance of speed and endurance is impressive, and starkly contrasts the laid-back, aloof attitude that she brings to workouts. I am convinced that this facade is a tool she uses to trick her competition into thinking she is not a threat, so that when the gun goes off she can creep up on them and crush them unexpectedly...

Much like last week, after the 800s we were ushered down the steps for what we assumed were some good ‘ol hills! Once again, this is where Ms. Stevenson began to go loopy on us.
“Everyone! Pick a number between 1 and 5” She demanded.
“1” “4” “5” “3” “2” Were the chorus of yells that came back at her.
“Hmmmm....1 plus 4 plus 2 plus 1 plus 5 plus guys want to do 16 repeats?”
Again, silence befell the group when we truly had no idea where she was going with this.
“Huh?” I muttered to myself. She then dismissed the number calling game and told us to sprint up pregnant lady AS FAST AS WE COULD, emphasizing that she wanted us to practically die at the top or we weren’t going hard enough.
Meghan was the first to retreat in fear at coach’s menacing words.
“Meghan: ARRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHH! GO MEGHAN, GO! HARRRRRRRD! GOOOOOOOOOOOOO” Nic screamed at her. Meghan took off (perhaps only to escape Nic, but as a convenient consequence ran up the designated hill) and we each followed single file, booking it up pregnant lady. We repeated this four times, all the while Nic growling and yelling at us to go harder and faster. To our surprise, after these repeats most of the girls were done – except for G.I. Jane, the Energizer Bunny and Kap ‘N K, of course. What was shocking was the fact that I was able to guess the next repeat – something I have never been able to do – as the 1500m hill loop. We powered through the repeat in 5:40 and voila, the workout was DONE. I smiled at the fact that I had gotten through it and that it hadn’t been nearly as bad as the week previous. I should not have celebrated so soon.

Kap ‘N K, Meghan and I began our cooldown jog back downtown in good spirits. We discussed our upcoming races and realized that Meghan and I would be going head-to-head in the Toronto Women’s Only 5 miler in three weeks. Meghan then jokingly (?) commented on how my elbow seems to align perfectly with her face (she’s a petite girl), as she was running close behind me for the second time that night. I think I sensed some anger in her voice now that I think about it. The next thing I knew, my feet were caught underneath me, causing me to fly forwards down the steep incline of Russel Hill Road. I staggered and struggled to catch my balance, but instead slammed down hard on my hands and knees on the muddy, cold and wet pavement. I immediately felt my right knee begin to throb.
“Are you okay?!” Kap ‘N K shrieked worriedly ( I think I saw Meghan giggling from the corner of my eye).
“Ummm...yes...I think I’m fine!” I stuttered back.
“Oh gosh that was so scary!” Kap ‘N K continued. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Oh, my! Did I trip you?” Meghan finally asked with feigned innocence.
“Um, YA. I THINK SO.” I said bluntly.
“Oh dear, you are going to need a bubble around you from now until your race to make sure you don’t get injured!” Meghan exclaimed.
‘Is that a threat?’ I thought to myself in a mix of fear and anxiousness, ‘Does Meghan want to kill me? Does she want to beat me THAT badly?’ My mind raced.
Once we got to the stop lights I looked down at my knee, only to see blood gushing down my leg from the muddy mess that was once my kneecap.

The Carnage

“Look what you’ve done Meghan!” I screamed. “I had better not be injured or coach will be after you!” I continued. Meghan displayed little sympathy, carrying on her conversation with Kap ‘N K while I ran five steps in front, avoiding Meghan at all costs and trying to ignore the incessant throbbing of my kneecap.

It is now three days later, and my knee is swollen, bruised and scarred. It hurts even more than it did initially, though the pain is worse when I sit and walk than when I run (few would be thankful for this fact other than me). Although Meghan was unsuccessful in her attempt at sabotaging my race (thus far), she did ensure that Mondays remain the most cursed day of the week. At least I know who my enemies are, and that their demise is only an elbow swing away!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Peak-a-boo! It's October.

First of all I'd like to apologize for the awful title. Nothing to add there...

This week was the peak – so to speak – of my training before the Goodlife Toronto Half-Marathon. I have to say it was a success and that I was very pleased with how my workouts went, especially since it was within one of my highest mileage weeks yet (85 miles).

The group after Saturday's workout

Part I - Boooooo Mondays
(I kid, I kid - mondays are fabulous, Nic ;)

Monday night practices are in some ways like Halloween: mysterious, frightening, always full of scary surprises, and you are often tricked (but only sometimes treated). It is the only workout of the week that is not laid out in advance, and instead follows a broad structure of: ‘HILLS. DRILLS. REPEATS.’ Now, this description has the potential for being a very straightforward combination of hill repeats and intervals around Churchill. However, when your coach is as instinctive and dynamic as Ms. Stevenson, it is not so simple. In fact, it is virtually impossible for us to guess what the workout will be. I have tried many times to read a pattern in what we do, but unless it follows some kind of abstract calculus equation that I am unable to catch onto, it is in fact completely random (and is a complete waste of time to try and decipher). So now on Mondays I go to practice ready for anything, and I mean ANYTHING, spanning from straight hills – 30s or a whopping 5min per repeat – to crazy loops, to straight intervals, to people running in all different directions with staggered starts, with the entire workout ranging from 2k to 7k in length.

I went to this Monday’s workout just like any other: prepared for anything, bracing myself for the worst, and hoping for the best. It was cold, rainy and I had had a long day at work. All I thought of was having a bath and eating a warm meal afterwards. Little did I know that this indulgence would be delayed until after 8PM, when I would return home a wet, muddy, crabby, exhausted mess. (I am convinced this is how wild animals feel after they have hunted their prey for hours unsuccessfully, returning to their nest ravenous, drained and empty-handed.) The workout started out with 3x800m around Churchill at medium/hard/medium effort. Beth was back for five days from Ann Arbor, which was great because it gave me someone to chase (not because I actually like her). I was pleased to see that my first 800m at medium effort was 2:44, on par with some harder efforts I had previously put in on this loop. However, I was even more elated with my hard effort – a new PB on the loop – of 2:35, and a subsequent second-best time of 2:40 for the third repeat. After this set we were ordered down the stairs for some hills. This is where Nic’s sanity began to come into question:
“ up pregnant lady. Then down zig-zag. Then up the steep hill to finish on pregnant lady, down pregnant lady, up zig-zag, and down pregnant lady.” I imagined an unassuming passerbyer wondering what the hell Nic was saying. First off, because she had named a hill ‘pregnant lady,’ simply because one day a pregnant woman was walking up it (you’d think it’d be a better story, but unfortunately not). Never in my life had I thought I’d utter the words ‘we’re going up pregnant lady,’ or ‘we’re doing intervals on pregnant lady,’ or ‘I HATE PREGNANT LADY!’ but alas, here I was cursing this poor woman. After Nic gave us such a poignant description of the loop, confusion broke out as to the order of each hill to go up and down. Shortly thereafter Nic admitted she had completely forgotten her own directions:
“What the hell did I just say?”
I repeated the sequence of hills to her and to the group, and was met with a blank stare. “Huh?!” Nic responded. “That doesn’t make sense...”
“Well yes I would agree with that...” I confessed. After a few seconds we decided to ignore her and just start the repeat, following whoever was in front. Unfortunately that was me, and though I tried to follow the right order by the end I really had no idea where I should be going. It ended up an almost 5min long hilly interval, after which we did 3 steep, grassy hill repeats, followed by another long, windy hill all the way back up to Churchill. At this point we all gasped for air and thought the workout was over.
“Okay. Now you are going to do: 800m/2x400m/2x200m.” Nic stated. My heart fell. My legs were wobbly and my lungs burned. I couldn’t believe how much more we had to do. I think the others felt the same since her orders were met with a chorus of groans. The first repeat was 2:42. Not bad on extremely tired legs, I thought. Once we delved into the short-distance 400s and 200s, the rest of the ladies were on fire and all I could do was sprint my hardest to try and keep up with them, running 79s/77s/36s/36s. Finally, it was over. The rain poured, the darkness set in, and Kerry, Meghan and I jogged home slowly and quietly, feeling a combination of fatigue and fearful anticipation of the circuit workout we’d be back for in a mere ten hours – again, in the dark. October is definitely upon us.


(High knees are my specialty)

The oh-so-appropriate Stevenson Tomb at MPC

Part II - Cemetery Execution

I rested up on Wednesday, going for a very easy 11-miler and taking the afternoon off, as Thursday we planned to do my half-marathon ‘execution run’ in the cemetery (somewhat appropriately). The workout was supposed to be 1 loop (6.5k) at 4:00/km, 1 loop at 3:47/km (1:20:00 half-marathon pace) and 2k hard. It seemed to be an ambitious workout to say the least, and on Wednesday night I suddenly became nervous about it, starting to question whether I am really in 1:20:00 shape and wondering if I could do it with all the miles in my legs. I jogged up to the cemetery at 6:40AM, where Nic would do one loop with me and Beth would join in for the 2nd loop and the 2k hard. We set off and immediately the pace felt uncomfortable. 500m in Nic looked at me and said ‘uh-oh’ – I immediately felt relief, as I figured we were going too fast.
“No! TOO SLOW!!!” she exclaimed. This was not a good sign. We went through 1k in 4:08, at which point I tried to pick it up. 2k was 4:03. I began to worry that it would be a struggle for me to even get down to four minute kilometres.
“Just relax, feel tempo effort for this loop and try not to worry about the time,” Nic advised. I was happy to follow her direction, and soon the pace started to feel easier. We picked it up considerably between 2-3k and went through 3k in 12:01, putting us back on 4:00 pace. The next 2k were 3:55s and we ended up finishing the first loop in 25:25 for a 3:58/km average. Beth hopped in at this point and I felt the intensity increase immediately. I tried to be polite and ask Beth how she was, but one sentence into our conversation I realized I had better shut up or I wouldn’t be able to maintain any kind of pace increase. When we passed through 1k in 3:40 I understood why I felt this way, but was relieved that the execution was actually going to plan. We pressed on and saw the k’s click by in 3:47, 3:43, 3:42 and 3:40, hitting 5k in 18:33. The next 1500m was hillier and more challenging, but we maintained sub-3:50s and finished the second loop in 23:56. Nic had told us to do at least 500m hard at the end, but we made it to 1k in 3:39, at which point Beth and I agreed to stop. I couldn't believe how relieved I was that the execution was over. I SURVIVED. Seeing as the first two kilometers felt so uncomfortable, I was shocked at how well it ended up going - and when I updated Nic on the second loop I think she was pretty surprised too (I think her reaction was something like 'HOLY COW! MOLY WOWY SHEESUS You are fit!').
I actually didn’t feel too tired afterwards, and my legs felt surprisingly good on the cooldown and on my run later that evening. Of course, at work I walked around like an old lady, being careful not to exert myself and trying to allow my legs to recover. I know I make people wonder how on earth I am a runner when I insist on taking the elevator up one floor and when I randomly exclaim that I wish I owned a wheelchair. I don’t bother explaining (more wasted energy).

Part III - Capping it off

My last workout of the week was a meat-and-potatoes effort, where I just aimed to get in the volume but not push the intensity too much, given the hard effort on Thursday. I ended up doing it on my own since I was the only long distance gal at practice. It was 3k/1k/2k/1k, in 11:09/3:27/7:11/3:26. I felt really strong and in control, and was happy to see that I could still put forward decent times at the end of an 85 mile week and off of two other difficult workouts.I made sure to celebrate this week with several shots of vodka on Saturday - an excellent recovery tool - which reminds me of a fantastic quote I found somewhere:

"I love the feelings associated with a hard training run. I love feeling empty, dirty, worn out, starving, and sweat-purged. I love the ache in my muscles and fatigue in my legs. I love and relish the heaviness, lethargy and tiredness of my body. But most of all I love how hard a martini hits me afterwards.”

Meghan kicking ass in her last 500m repeat

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Reduce, re-boot and cycle

In line with how we should take care of our earth, is how we should listen and take care of our bodies (or it will come back and bite us in the a**). This week I scaled back the intensity but maintained volume and I think my body is already thanking me for this. I feel 200% better than last Sunday. I ended up skipping workout last Monday because I felt some residual fatigue from Saturday’s 18k tempo run and had mild pain in my quad. Instead, I did a less-intense, solo workout Tuesday morning after our circuit session.

I didn’t think twice about the prospective difficulty doing a workout after circuits. After months of doing a similar weekly routine, I no longer get sore or very fatigued after circuits. Of course, this week our leader Kerry Kuluski, a.k.a. Kap ‘N Krunch, coincidentally decided to change up the routine and put us through an army-like bootcamp. After our usual sets of 5min rotating plank, As, Bs, Cs, push-ups, bounding and running A’s we were partnered up and forced to do 3 sets of: 10 burpees, 10 push-ups and about a 50-stair sprint - as our partner did a wall sit for the entire time it took us to finish – and then switching up with our partners. Originally KK(K?) stated we would do sets of 10, 11, 12, etc. etc. until we reached 15, for 6 total sets. What the???? Once she saw our arms quivering after 2 push-ups, our pathetic attempts at full burpees and the overall pedestrian pace at which we completed the first set, she quickly re-adjusted her command to 3 sets of 10. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough to save me from feeling rather tired for the 4x1500m hill repeats I was to do directly afterwards. That being said, I did them at a ‘comfortably-hard’ pace (a term I am still struggling to understand and execute properly – I still don’t quite get how something hard can really be comfortable!). I tried to achieve this by going relatively easy on the flat bits and working on the steep hills. I did it fartlek-style, slowing to a jog when I reached the phone booth (our very official finish line) and picking it up again when I reached the lamp post at the bottom of the stairs. I completed each repeat in 5:55-6:00, with the rest rounding out to about 2:00-2:05. Once I did a cool-down and got back home I had been working out for over two hours, was ravenous and had a very sore IT band. Not the best way to re-set myself after a fatiguing previous week!

Of course, seeing as I was sore and tired - but am after all G.I. Jane Coolis (or Crazy Coolis?) - I did NOT forego my afternoon 6-miler. I was pleased to find out that my sore IT didn’t hurt when I ran, but only became sore after I stopped and sat down. I figured it was caused by the compounding effect of stair sprints, hills and overall fatigue and that it would dissipate within a few days – and thankfully I was right. By Thursday’s interval workout at the cemetery I no longer felt any pain and could get in some quality effort. The workout went well (3k w/2k at Kat’s marathon pace [4:10], last k changing gears to 3:35, 1k hard, 1k relaxed, 1k hard), with the 2 quality km’s in 3:22 and relaxed-effort km’s in 3:36. I am happy to see that I can consistently run 3:22s now in my harder interval sets, since my 1k ‘PB’ on the cemetery loop is 3:21. I do, however, need to re-set that PB ASAP!

Saturday we decided to skip the tempo run and do a straight long run instead. I ran with Meghan, who has now become famous for wearing her pyjamas as running attire. Apparently getting up at 6AM requires her to forego the extra (energetic) step of changing into a regular t-shirt, and she therefore sports her polka-dot baby pink and green long-sleeve, coupled with her cute, frazzled pigtails to any early practice. There is something quite humbling about running 12 miles beside someone in their pyjamas, bouncing along and chatting comfortably!

On Sunday I ran with Jeff down to the waterfront to watch the Scotiabank half-marathon and marathon races. It was a lot of fun and very exciting to see Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gilis run huge PBs, with Coolsaet making the Olympic standard of 2:11:29 by a mere 6 seconds. They looked so smooth out there. The international women ran exceptionally fast, with the top seven running under the previous course record of 2:28 and the top two demolishing it with a scintillatingly fast 2:22:43 and 2:22:44! Wowza. Nic and Jen Drynan represented the angels well in the half-marathon, coming 1st and 3rd, respectively. I can’t wait to get out there in three weeks and do the same!

When we were on the course, we witnessed the new ‘ElliptiGo’ machines pictured below. They are an outdoor elliptical machine that you can ride similar to a bicycle. Jeff could not help but comment on how ridiculous they look...I have to agree, though I could imagine they would be useful as a low-impact cross-training tool while injured. For someone who is not a big fan of the bike, I could actually see myself trying one of these one day. After having spent months on end cooped up in the gym on this boring machine a few years back, fighting with those who take pleasure in kicking people off after 30 minutes, the freedom and mobility of the outdoor ElliptiGo is quite attractive!

The ElliptiGo

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chasing Stevenson

I have several goals for the fall season. Goal number one is to avoid injury. You might wonder why I would list this as a goal, since it doesn’t explicitly involve my running performance. However, achieving this ‘goal’ is a requirement in order to attain any others – and if I want to ramp up my training, I must be smart and deliberate about it to minimize the risk for injury (or burnout) and stay running throughout. So I would say it’s an important goal.

Goal number two is to get very fit. This is obviously a pretty broad goal, but ultimately it means that I want to bring my training to the next level and as a (hopeful) consequence, bring my running to the next level as well. Thankfully, I am in the perfect environment to do this.

We have a great group of girls that train together. There is a big mix in terms of specialties, mileage, speed and talent, as well as ‘purebreds’ versus triathletes (and pentathletes for that matter). Nonetheless, we are all happily united under the same coach, the one-and-only Nicole Stevenson. I started running with her about two years ago, and since then our group as grown and flourished into a fabulous women’s training group that comprises some of the great and promising talent in Toronto. Of course, at all of our workouts Ms. Stevenson, the self-professed ‘retiree,’ kicks all of our asses in any repeat from 200m to 30k. For many of us, this has served as great motivation and inspiration that we could one day keep up with her (even if for only 1k!). Recently, another huge talent, Beth Wightman, has been getting her groove back and has – much to Nic’s joy and excitement – been challenging coach in workouts. Unfortunately, Beth has recently moved away to Ann Arbor for the next two years, leaving coach lonely and desperate for company in the hundreds of lonely meters that gap us in each interval.

I have been chasing Nic and Beth for months, but have never imagined actually running a hard repeat with them. It just doesn’t happen. If we do 1k hard, I’ll go 3:19 and they’ll go 3:10. 3k hard I’m closer, but it’s still 10:30 versus 10:14. So one of my goals this fall is to simply try and close that gap and try to become a better training partner for Nicole. If I could be on par with her for even one repeat, no matter what it is, it would be a step forward. If I could even chase her closely enough that she becomes afraid that I just might go stride-for-stride with her over the finish line, that would be enough (for a little while, of course). Just so that she isn’t totally alone (because really, I’m just looking out for her).

This is where the goal to get fit and ramp up my training comes in. I had 5 years of solid competitive running behind me before I was on/off injured for about a year. Since then and for the past 1.5 years, I have been fit, strong and consistent. I have chosen this time to increase my mileage from what it’s been for the past few years, where I comfortably covered 60-70 miles/week, except for the summer where I deliberately held low mileage (50 miles) to focus on speedwork. I have now increased to 80 miles a week, with the biggest difference in my training being the addition of double runs. This does have me a little nervous about compromising my number one goal of staying healthy, since doubling up on runs can also double the chances of injury.

I do realize that bringing my running to the 'next level' doesn't necessarily mean I have to train twice as hard: consistency is key. But I have raced quite a bit in the last year and wanted to take this season to build a bigger base while sacrificing a bit of the sharpening. This is hard to do in my current workout environment (I can't get too caught up chasing Stevenson *just yet*!), so I'm trying to make sure I take down days and weeks when I need them. But so far, I am feeling good and the aches and pains are minimal.

So, three times a week I am given the opportunity to measure how far I am coming in my second goal as I stare at the back of Nic’s t-shirt during each workout. It’s definitely coming closer to me, to the point where I can read the large print writing. I'm working on the small print...

Recap of this week’s training? It was a big one...

Total mileage: 84 miles
Workouts: 3
Double days: 2

1 – 3k tempo in a 24s PB (on our Russel Hill loop) of 10:31-2 (eeeek), followed by 4 hill sprints, then 4x400m w/ a walk-to-the-start short rest in 77-78s

2 – 2k tempo in a 5s PB of 7:05 on the long-ish MPC loop, then 3x1k in 3:24-3:29, 500 fartlek and 500 hard that I was so tired for I ‘forgot’ to time...

3 – 18k pace run, relaxed effort, first 6k in 4:02 average, 2nd 6k in 3:56 average, last 6k in 3:55 average...pretty tired at the end of that big one though...