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