Category Archives: Running

Garmin Fenix 5S; a Rave Review

Activity trackers. All the rage lately, right? Well, I've just recently jumped on the bandwagon, and with just over a week of wearing my Garmin, I think it's safe to say that I'm officially hooked.

In all my years of running (and I'm coming up on 25 years of distance running!), I have never worn a device to track my distance or my pace. I pre-plan my routes most times, and use MapMyRun.com to know how far I'm going. The odd time, I'll turn on an app on my phone to give me an end-of-run summary of what I've just done, but most times I run old-school; no timers, no heart rates, no step counts. All that changed on August 1st, when I put on my shiny new Garmin Fenix 5S, and now I've become a data junkie.

My sister-in-law works for Garmin, and has been in the wearables world for a long time. I've borrowed her watches for a run here and there when we meet up on vacation or when she comes to visit, and I've always been intrigued. So I've been saving my pennies for months and finally decided to see what all the fuss is about. And while this post isn't meant to be a plug or an advertisement for Garmin specifically, I can only speak from this one experience, so it very well may end up reading like a brochure. Bear with me. Runners, you're going to love this…..

The Fenix 5S tracks my heart rate all the time, giving me insight into my cardiovascular fitness, and showing me an overall picture of my workouts. In fact, resting heart rates have become a competition between my husband and I (I'm winning):

It gives me a guide for my VO2 max, albeit based on an activity algorithm. And while the actual numbers may not be perfectly accurate, I like that it can give me a rough guide on my fitness level at the present time:

It measures my runs. This is the main reason that I got a Garmin to begin with; I wanted something to tell me my pace, to guide my interval training, to support my long runs. Here's a glimpse into what I did this morning:

As you can see, I love this thing. I can see what all the fuss is about. Happy training!

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Then the Wheels Came Off

This post is being published on a Monday morning.  For the last five years I have published my blog post on Tuesdays, so a Monday post is new territory for me.  But I ran in a half marathon yesterday, and since I have so many incredibly supportive people in my life, I keep getting texts and emails asking how it went.  I thought I’d write a post to give you my summary of the race, and how I fell way short of my goal…..

I tried to write part of this post ahead of time, you know, before I had even run the race.  I had some time mid-week last week, and because writing time is such a rarity, I pounced on it.  But the words didn’t come easily.  I knew what I wanted to write about, I just couldn’t seem to make it happen.  What I wanted to write about was the half marathon that I had been focused on for months.  I wanted to set the scene for you.  I wanted to talk about my mindset, my training, and my race prep, but my headspace wasn’t right.  I had doubts about my performance, anxiety about the forecast heat, and superstition about pre-writing even part of a post before the end result was known.

And so I write it now, with emotions running high and fatigue pulsing through me.  It’s 9:00pm on Sunday night.  My feet are up on our coffee table, there is a mug of Rooibos tea steaming, the hockey game is on, my tablet is laid before me, and I have had time to process what happened this morning.

Sigh.

You see, I’m trying to qualify for the 2018 New York marathon, which is traditionally built around a lottery system for participants.  Last year, more than 98 000 people entered the lottery, and roughly 16 000 were accepted- that’s less than a 17% chance of getting in.  The other 34 000 runners (yes, there’s 50 000 runners that run this race) come through various other means- 9000 charity spots, paid tour company entrants, New York Road Runners members, and NYC race volunteer spots.  The tricky part of these logistics is that my dear friend and training partner, Michaela, has never run a full marathon and NYC is at the top of her list.  So the best sure-thing option for both of us to get into the race is to meet the tougher-than-Boston qualifying standard; for our age group, that means running sub-1:34 in a race sanctioned by Athletics Canada.IMG_6581

Now, Michaela is much faster and a much more natural runner than I, and in fact, she ran 1:27 at the Hamilton half marathon last Fall on only two days/week of training.  She’s a natural, and her effortless pace still astounds me, as I huff and puff beside her on our weekend long runs.  In that same race last Fall, I ran 1:37, and battled stomach issues and under-training.  I felt old and slow and defeated and the doubts creeped in.  Could I manage to shave three minutes off my time?  I have a 1:23 personal best and I’ve run under 1:34 dozens of times, but with an extra 13 years and 2 kids under my belt, my abilities have changed.

So for the last few months, I’ve been focused.  I’ve run early.  I’ve run late.  I’ve run through blinding rain more times than I can count and an early-morning thunderstorm on the NorthShore hills.  I’ve run with my daughter in the Chariot, with tired CrossFit legs, with to-do lists in my brain, with sunrises and skunks and solitude.  And I remembered why I love this sport so much- this sport that’s been a huge part of my life for twenty-five years- sometimes in foreground but always in the background, a common thread through my teenage angst, my insecure twenties, my schooling, my cross-country move, my marriage, my kids, my career, my life.

But 1:34 still seemed seemed impossibly far away, my goal unreachable…. and then my training came together.  Fitness is like that, at least for me; weeks of effort will come together in a single run, and all of a sudden it clicks.  It clicked for me last weekend, when I tested my speed at the Moon in June 10k and surprised myself with a 41:46 and a first-place finish; my 4:11/km pace felt tough but manageable, painful but attainable, gritty but realistic.  Perhaps 1:34 wasn’t a carrot on the end of a stick I couldn’t reach.  So when I toed the line at the race this morning I had the usual doubts mixed with a taste of confidence and a sprinkle of hope.

Then the wheels came off.  I didn’t just miss my goal, I missed it by nearly six minutes, and I was the closest I’ve ever been to walking off a race course and calling it quits.  I went out way too fast, and ran my first 10k recklessly faster than I had planned.  But distance-running can be risky like that; it tricks you into thinking you’re feeling well and then it pulls the rug out from underneath you.  I hit the proverbial wall at 13km.  I stopped, I bent forward, my head between my knees.  I felt dizzy, my legs felt heavy, and I started to panic. I could feel my breath catching in my throat and tears came to my eyes.  But Michaela was there to talk me off the ledge.  “One foot in front of the other,” “you can do it,” “you’ve got this.”  I cried and ran and cried and walked for the next few kilometers, the heat becoming oppressive, and my mind jostling between pain and anger and frustration.  I wasn’t wearing a watch, I was running on feel only, and at the 17km mark Michaela looked at her Garmin and said “I know you won’t believe this, but we’re still on pace.  You banked enough time in the first half, you can still do this.”  Only four kilometers to go.  Four kilometers to reach a months-long goal and I just couldn’t do it.  I had nothing left in the tank, I couldn’t dig any deeper, I was running on empty.  I suspect we walked 2km of those last 4km and I hobbled across the finish line at 1:39FullSizeRender 16

But I hope this post inspires you.  I hope you don’t see failure, but rather perseverance.  I hope you see grit and determination and I hope you see that big goals achieved are that much sweeter when there’s been big struggle endured.  I hope my kids see that too- they saw me win last weekend and they saw me cry when I got home from the race this morning….. the ups and downs of sport and life.

I’m going to lick my wounds and nurse my ego for awhile and I’ll try again this Fall.  And if the wheels come off then too, well, I’ll try again.

 

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Are family.

It was Family Day in Ontario yesterday (and in Alberta, BC, and Saskatchewan).  This meant a long weekend and extra time with the most special people in my life.  Family Day is one of my favourite days of the year, and something that I was used to having, growing up in Alberta.  Moving to Ontario in 2002, I missed it for a few years, until this province first observed the mid-February Monday in 2008.

My long weekend started out bumpy.

I ran on Saturday morning, as I often do.  With one of my very best friends, as I often do.  But this time, instead of venturing out in the pre-dawn darkness, our schedules allowed us to leave slightly later, and we got to enjoy the sunrise along the shoreline of Lake Ontario.  Our plan was a 14km out-and-back along the rolling hills of North Shore Boulevard; our pace was quick and the conversation was easy.  Because that’s why I run now- I’ve tried to set aside race times and self-imposed pressures, and to focus on the changing role of running in my life.  Now it’s about fitness and health and mental clarity and friendships.  You see, I first met Michaela in 2002, when I began Chiropractic College and was training to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  Running has always been something I love deep-down-in-my-bones, it’s “in my blood” my husband says.  But until my move to Toronto fifteen years ago, I had never met someone with such raw talent for endurance running.  To say this girl is fast is a gross understatement, and she’s raced internationally with the maple leaf proudly on her back.  But she’s fast in an effortless sort of way, and has maintained that graceful stride and incredible talent through the last decade of motherhood and business-building.  And although competitive running has taken a backseat in her life too, her and I have recently rekindled our training partner days and managed to run together most weekends for the last several months.

Our friendship was initially built upon running, and we got to know each other on the sidewalks of Toronto and the trails of Sunnybrook Park.  As the years passed, our relationship grew and evolved, and we were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings, she’s the Godmother of my son, and we get our families together every couple of months.  A forty-five minute drive separates our front doors, but the fibers of running continue to weave themselves through our lives; pre-wedding 5k’s, post-baby Chilly half marathons, 20km long runs on deserted Milton side streets.  And all Winter long, she’s gotten in her car before the sun comes up to make the drive to me so we can run.  And talk.  And be together.  She doesn’t mind, she says, she listens to audiobooks, she says, she gets home in time to enjoy the day with her family, she says, this is a way to make it work, she says.  I say she’s amazing.  And this past Saturday morning, she reminded me why.

At the halfway point of our run, I began to hurt.  Not injury-hurt, more like the hurt that overexertion brings.  Usually I welcome fatigue on a run, but not until the end, and not until I feel like I’ve earned it.  This time it snuck up on me at the halfway point, 7km from home, with 7km of hills to go.  I had been sick for a few days earlier in the week, and the lingering effects of that illness were rearing their ugly head when I’d asked more of my body than it was willing to give.  I began to feel dizzy, my legs felt heavy, and I suffered quietly while she held up her end of the conversation.  A few kilometers from home, I asked her if we could walk.  “Of course,” she said, concerned for my well-being and not the training we were missing out on.  We walked a block, and I began to pick the pace back up.  As we neared the lake, I asked for another walk break.  “We can walk home if you need to,” she said, not aware of the guilt I felt for slowing her down and the failure I felt for stopping.  Us runners are strange breeds, and we always take a bad run as a personal affront that means we will spend eternity seeking a runner’s high and die slow and out-of-shape and alone (or perhaps that’s just me).

I rallied, we ran the 2km back to my place, and after some stretching and water, we went our separate ways.  I texted her that afternoon, thanking her for her patience, and this was her response:

“Running these days is not about how fast we go but just about being together and having my Ashley time.  I could have walked the whole way with you.  Love you!”

And there you have it.

To segue back to Family Day, she’s part of my family and I love her like the sister I never had.  Family is support and loyalty and appreciation, love and gratitude and friendship.  I’ve written about the importance of friendships before, and I’m lucky to have a handful of girlfriends that feel like family.  Are like family.  Are family.

So happy Family Day to them, and to you.  May we all feel at home with our family and with our friends.

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