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...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You run like a girl

I’m not sure how often this mockery is made amongst men’s running groups, but I am pretty sure it is hardly ever meant in a literal sense. Until now.

Now, Joe Campanelli (JC #2, after the one-and-only JC McCoolis) is no pansy. In fact, anyone who knows him would argue that he is one of the most fearless, gruelling and dedicated runners out there. But for someone whose easy weeks are 100 miles + and whose idea of a regular interval workout is 12x1.9k w/30s rest starting at marathon pace and ending at 5k race pace, he has some remarkably soft and feminine qualities. This idea was confirmed as fact on Monday evening, when I saw him prance and dance through Churchill in a tiny (and I mean TINY), skin tight, leg bearing and blushingly sexy summer dress.

There have been indications that Joe is in touch with his feminine side. After his pitiful beer mile performance earlier this summer, where he nursed his beers and ran whimpily around the track four times, finishing in some ridiculously slow time that is too long for me to accurately remember, he was officially dubbed by Jose Carvalho (JC #3) to be a “girl.” Joe (henceforth known as ‘Josephine’) also once sported long, rapunzel-like golden locks, which along with his slight, girlish figure, did give him a feminine appearance (albeit a young one). Josephine may not have been comfortable with these soft qualities, thus his hair was quickly shed and his masculinity assured by his aggressive training regime and surprisingly high alcohol tolerance (when not combined with running). However, this facade was to be imminently compromised.

Josephine sipping on his beer

Pink Rapunzel

I have long been waiting for the day that Josephine womaned-up and wore a dress to practice. Not because I fancied him my new flamboyant boy-liking friend, but because this was all based on a bet between him and JC #3 that must have stemmed some two years ago. Though these two ‘men’ both competed for the U of T varsity squad together until 2007, Josephine continued with his 100-mile weeks post-collegiately, while JC #3 gave outdoor track one final go before packing in his competitive running career in 2008. Jose, being the 800m/1500m talent that he is, has always had speed in his legs, and has come back to the track multiple times to reclaim his crown as the beer miling champion of Toronto. He has even run in the low 2-minutes for the 800m AFTER chugging 4 beers in 6 minutes and off a training regime of little running, 80-hour work weeks and zero workouts. Josephine, being the slow-twitch (I am told even this is an understatement?) marathoner that he is, has a 1500m PB of 4:06 but hardly slows as the distance increases. So, the year is 2010. The race is a 1500m showdown. Who wins? Josephine, the slower-twitch – but incredibely fit and determined – distance queen? Or the retired, once-a-3:46-1500m-now-a-jogger-Jose Carvalho?

Over the past two years, the drinking game-induced banter and bar shot smack talk at social events between the two JCs has escalated to an unbearable tension. Finally, the heckling and challenging has materialized into a real-life 1500m race at the University of Toronto’s Varsity Stadium. And of all the things worth betting, these two thought that wearing a dress to the first Varsity practice of the fall would be the utmost motivation to win, and the most entertaining consequence to watch. Fair enough. May not have been my choice of prize for a 1500m race, but as a spectator I could not have wished for anything better.

Bar shot smack talk

Unfortunately I was not able to attend the race, but it developed as one might expect: Jose sat on Josephine for 1200m before drawing on his natural 800m speed and outkicking him (or perhaps just demolishing him over the entire last 300m), running 4:06, a good 8 seconds in front of Josephine. Unfortunate for those committed distance runners rooting for the fit and fast Josephine...but perhaps one of the greatest victories of Jose’s life, not only because he defended his 1500m reign over Josephine, but since he finally attained his dream of having a real-life girlfriend out of him (or her? I’m getting confused) for one evening. Jose WAS quoted as saying “Campanelli is going to look DAMN good in that dress,” a testament to his strong desire to witness such an event and to his faith that Josephine would look fantastic as a woman (girl?).

Josephine struggles

Jose went to the Salvation Army - to I would assume was the pre-teen girl’s section - to find a dress that would be perfect for the missus. He searched, brooded, visualized and searched some more before he would find the dress of his dreams. I have to say, it fit Josephine perfectly: it sat snugly on his small figure and showed off his toned runners legs (though I was worried I would see more of Josephine than I would like at some points while running behind him in the cooldown). It was a sleeveless, black-and-white, checkered summer dress – which initially surprised me, obviously seeing the opportunity for something far more embarrassing and flamboyant like a pink tutu. However, I gradually realized that this subtle, sophisticated outfit was a far sexier and more mature option that I’m sure brought joy to many of the varsity runners during their otherwise nerve-racking and stressful first practice.

Upon asking Josephine how he felt in his new running apparel, he admitted that he felt “free” and “quite comfortable.” The guys remarked that he had had a very strong workout, being far ahead of all them, prancing along gracefully in his feminine attire. That must have made the varsity men feel rather spectacular. After witnessing this spectacle, I am convinced that Josephine would be a great spokesperson – and model – for runningskirts, seeing as he looked so sexy, enjoyed and performed so well his first time in a dress (in public, of course). And judging from his calm and coy responses to all the compliments he received on Monday, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was receptive to such an offer!

DISCLAIMER: Photos of Josephine prancing through practice WILL be posted ASAP. I am waiting on JC#3, who is likely hoarding and admiring them for himself...

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Though I am sure my proud Torontarian disposition is convincing, I will now admit that I am in fact a purebred – and starkly opposite - west coast Coolis, born and raised in beautiful Vancouver, BC. I do not go back to Vancouver 1/365th as much as I would like to, so I am happy to report that I spent the last two weeks visiting (and running in) my hometown. BLISS.

Perhaps not surprisingly, my first week back in Vancouver was an 85.5 mile week. I spent my mornings (and several evenings) running along Jericho beach, through the University of British Columbia’s endowment lands, along the stunning seawall through False Creek and around Stanley Park. I was out the door almost every morning before 7AM, allowing me to indulge in beautiful, pristine sun rises framed by still water and majestic mountain chains. Considering the high proportion of obsessive exercisers in Vancouver, I was shocked to see that I was one of few runners who took to the beaches and trails in the early morning. This only increased my morning run bliss, however, as I escaped the usual belt-line bustle of Toronto and enjoyed my newfound peace and quiet along the shorelines. That being said, my evening runs were a different story, with joggers littering every main road and sidestreet from 5PM onwards, clearly indicating that Vancouverites are the after-work type of runner. Nevertheless, I enjoyed all of my runs in this beautiful city and left vowing to come back and run the Vancouver marathon in the next three years.

I did a few workouts at a tempo effort, one 6x5min w/1min rest, another random fartlek in which I basically ended the intervals whenever I pleased (I very much enjoyed doing this and I think it ended up being something like 2min/5min/3min/4min/2min/5min/3min/2min/1min)and a 45min long tempo from Jericho all the way up to South West Marine Drive and down to McDonald that ended up in a 13-14 mile total effort for the day. My second week was less agressive than the first, only because I had two days off: I maintained high volume runs and covered 62.5 miles in 5 days. On the Friday of that week, I ran a stunning 12 mile loop, starting from Jericho beach, connecting to Kits beach and Granville Island, around False Creek, over the Cambie Street bridge and back along the Seawall to Stanley Park. At some arbitrary point I turned around and went back over the Burrard Street bridge into Kitsilano and back home. I felt like I was floating along the pavement with virtually no effort and almost gasped in awe when I saw the sun rise behind the sparling ocean as I was running toward the bridge from False Creek. The view was absolutely breathtaking. I ended my run at Cuppa Joe’s for (you guessed it) an extra large cuppa, where I was greeted by a cheerful employee who immediately exclaimed what an especially beautiful day it was. I couldn’t resist telling them how right they were, since it also happened to be my wedding day.

As if my special day could not have begun in a more dream-like fashion, it continued on with a free coffee, two free cinnamon buns and a hot, soapy bath on my return home. I thought wedding days were supposed to be stressful and anxiety-ridden? Apparently not – and I began to think that this would be a nice way for the day to continue to unfold. I will not go into the details of the rest of the day and evening, but suffice to say that it maintained the same blissful tone, and that it was the most beautiful, joyous and memorable day of my life.

My husband and I (huh?) spent the weekend at a swanky hotel downtown and enjoyed the action on Robson street for the following two days. As perhaps a testament to the amount of fun I had at the wedding, I was a *little* sick on Saturday, hence came the second of my two days off running that week (unless you count the number of times I sprinted to the washroom as some kind of interval training?). In the late afternoon we wandered down Robson and found a funky store where you can make custom-made t-shirts: and thus the infamous MCCOOLIS t-shirt was born. Seeing as I decided not to change my name to McCabe, Jeff and I found this to be a suitable compromise in McCoolis, and in my hungover daze I was utterly convinced that getting a t-shirt to announce this fact was the BEST idea I had ever come up with. Twenty minutes later we walked out with McCoolis printed on my chest in hot pink block letters and a massive smile plastered on my face.

The next day I felt fifty times better and went for a 14 mile run around Stanley park, to Science World and back. It was one of the best runs I have ever had! I am unsure of whether the two runs surrounding the wedding were made better by my sheer endorphin rush or if in fact I am actually getting fit! I would like to believe that it is the latter...or I might have to arrange vow renewals around my races each month...

After my 14 mile gallavant around Vancouver, Jeff and I drove up to Cypress for a 2-hour hike. We debated going up to Grouse Mountain to do the Grouse Grind, but figured it would be ridiculously packed on the long weekend and were more in the mood for a secluded trek through the woods. After hearing that Jeff’s sisters had gone up for the day and had to stop for a couple of ‘sick breaks,’ I was somewhat relieved we decided against joining them! Cypress was a beautiful hike that at one point got surprisingly challenging, until we realized that we had gone off course and were actually hiking straight up the mountain side. Apart from this diversion, it was relatively easy and a nice, relaxing way to conclude our whirlwind trip to Vancouver.

A hike through Cypress!

Sneaking a peak at the view

Although it is nice to be back in Toronto, it feels strange that the wedding craze is all over and we are abruptly hit with the reality of work and school. However, I am looking forward to getting back into a routine and working out with the group again. My next focus is the Toronto Half-Marathon on October 17th, where I hope to run a PB (I won’t beat around the bush on that one). Other than that and the possibility of a few cross-country races, my main goals are to build a good base and get fit this fall, with the probability of another spring marathon buildup beginning in late December.

The best running shoes I have ever owned: Pink sequens?

Runaway bride [bachelorette party]