Tag Archives: long-distance 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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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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The lessons of sport

This was a sporty weekend for me, just how I like ’em.  We picked up my daughter’s soccer team picture, my son had a touch football game, I went to the most exciting Jays game I’ve ever been to, and I ran a half marathon.  Well, actually I ran half of a half marathon.

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Months ago, when a May 29th half marathon seemed like a good carrot to chase through the Winter, myself and a couple of girlfriends registered for this women’s only event.  It took place in Sunnybrook Park, the scene of many, many training runs during my Chiropractic College days ten years ago.  It would be a run down memory lane I thought, and a great chance to build up my mileage again after a two-year distance racing hiatus.

I ran Burlington’s Chilly half marathon in early March, under-trained and suffering for 21.1km.  Sunday’s race was to be my redemption; a flat course, more training mileage under my belt, and a small field of runners to help me push the pace and run a race I was proud of.  To have a great trio of supportive friends on the race course with me and a post-race brunch to look forward to was the icing on my proverbial running cake.  Alas, Mother Nature had other plans for us.  With a Spring that’s been abnormally cold and wet, the weather had dramatically shifted to record-breaking heat and humidity.  Not only were we not acclimatized to the heat (I ran my last long run two weeks prior wearing a toque and gloves!), but with the humidity factored in, conditions were dangerous.

The race organizers sent out a warning email the day prior, alerting us that the half marathon distance could be shortened, in what was to be a raceday decision.  If I’m being honest, I was discouraged and annoyed, feeling like my pre-dawn Sunday long runsIMG_3568 and plodding through mid-week mileage with my favourite running buddy were all for naught.  IMG_3458Nevertheless, I carb-loaded at the Jays game, packing a bag full of baked sweet potatoes, Lara bars, and ice water, much to the amusement of my friend Jen.  Yes, I actually did that.  Yes, I’m crazy.

We arrived race morning to find out that the race had in fact been downgraded to 12km (although my friend’s GPS trackers said it ended up being closer to 13km), and organizers encouraged us to treat it as a “fun run” instead of a race.  They were even foregoing age group prizes to discourage racing under such extreme conditions.  It was the right call, despite the day prior’s disappointment factor.  The heat quickly became oppressive and I ran far slower and felt far worse than my perceived exertion would dictate.

Sport teaches us many lessons, and this weekend it taught me adaptability.  And perseverance.  And determination.  And tenacity.  And friendship.  And fun.

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