Tag Archives: long-distance running

Predatory.

We had an intense Saturday and Sunday at the clinic this past weekend.  It was our second and final weekend of baseline concussion testing, and this meant two extra-long days at work.  My role as a clinician was to conduct station #1, medical history and memory testing; this meant I sat at a computer all day, asking question after question, a new athlete coming through every four to five minutes.

I asked those same questions 111 times over the two days, and to stay sharp and keep my restless legs at bay, I knew I needed to find time for fitness.  With early starts and late finishes, I got up early to put in some miles and bring some welcomed fatigue to my muscles.  I know myself, and I know that I function best if I’ve incorporated some sweat into my day, so out into the 6:00am pre-Autumn blackness I went on Saturday morning.

That’s where my story begins:

I was planning on a 10km run, 5km out-and-back, along my favourite North Shore stretch.  I figured I could catch the sunrise along the Lake Ontario shoreline on my way back home, throw some hills into the mix, and aim for a negative split to satisfy the competitor in me. The streets were quiet as I left my driveway, most of the city still asleep, just how I like it. Early morning is my favourite time of day, like a little portal into peacefulness that can only be accessed through the conviction of an alarm clock.  It’s my reward for getting up, my compensation for lost sleep, my high to start the day.  I ran down the middle of my road, reflective hat on, earbuds in, my only concern being neighbourhood skunks still foraging on sidewalk boulevards.

I ran along the lakefront promenade, the pitch black waters illuminated by the pier and the streetlights, one or two people out, getting an early start on their dog walks.  I felt safe.  In fact, I almost always feel safe running in Burlington; perhaps it’s naïveté, perhaps it’s luck, perhaps it’s because Halton consistently ranks as one of Canada’s safest municipalities.  But I’m not reckless or inattentive and I’m always aware of my surroundings.  I’m not naive enough to believe that dangers are not present for solo female runners, even nestled inside my little community cocoon.

So as I made the turn onto the deserted, shadowy North Shore Boulevard, my senses were heightened and I was aware of my vulnerability. I moved off the sidewalk and back into the middle of the road, away from the darkness and obscurity of front yard shrubbery and blackened driveways. I removed my earbuds so that my hearing wasn’t compromised, and I continued into the deserted dimness of my route. I saw a man ahead, probably 200m from me, staggering along the sidewalk on the South side of the road. He was a big guy, about as tall as my 6’2″ husband, and every few metres he’d jump into the air and swat at overhanging branches before stumbling onward. I pegged him as a University kid, wandering home in a drunken stupor, but my spidey senses tingled. I crossed the expanse of the road completely, running tucked along the wide curb on the North side of the street. He must’ve heard my footfalls, because he stopped, crouched, and pulled the hood of his black jacket tight over his face, tugging at the drawstrings so that only his eyes were visible. He watched intently as I ran by, from that crouched, hunter-like position, and I picked up my pace. I ran fast until I got several hundred metres down the road, frequently turning my head to check behind me, and as I wound along the familiar twists, turns, and hills, my heartrate settled and my pace began to slow.

At 5km I turned around, making my way back home along the road I’d just run, aware that this guy was likely still stumbling Westward. By now, the first taste of the sunrise was peaking through, and a few cars were beginning to pass by. I chose to head back the way I’d come, not feeling directly threatened, but slightly wary nonetheless.

This is the point of my story that many of you are probably wondering why I didn’t change my route and head home another way.  

Perhaps I should have. In fact, my husband later asked me that very question. But the truth is, I stayed my course, because I knew that this guy wasn’t actually harmful, at least not physically. He was trying to intimidate me, yes. He was being creepy and disturbing, trying to frighten me, trying to show his dominance in a tough-drunk-guy way. But I could see that he was wobbly and the road was wide, and I knew I’d win in a foot-race if it came to that. I also knew that this pathetic wannabe predator would be too scared to cause me any harm as daylight came upon us and people began to stir.

And yes, the same thing happened on my way back home. The same crouch, the same jacket hood pulled low, the same intense, fear-provoking stare. Predatory. That’s what my husband called it when I recounted the story to him at home, and he’s right. This jerk wasn’t trying to hurt me, but he was trying to scare me.  And if I’m being honest, he did.

The feminist in me is angry at the gender roles involved in this scenario- him, the larger, stronger male, and me, the smaller, weaker female.  Meanwhile, the runner in me is angry that he took my power, made me feel vulnerable, and made me question something that I love so much.  As a seventeen-year-old, I moved from a small town to a city to attend University, and I can remember my dad giving me a can of pepper spray.  It’s not until now, two decades later, that I wished I still had it….

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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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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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