New Shoes, New Lessons Learned

Today was a hell of a day. After a couple of days of not feeling great and skipping training runs, I finally pushed myself to go out for my first 10k on a trail. The incentive? On the way to the trail, I would stop off at the store to finally pick up my first pair of trail runners. My Saucony Guides have been getting pretty beaten up doing double duty and I need them to last until my half marathon in September, so I’ve been on the hunt for a pair of trail runners that offer similar support and width to the Guides so they can work side by side with them through the next few months of training. After a few visits to Running Free to get fittings and advice, I finally decided on a pair of Brooks Cascadia 10 men’s runners today – free, thanks to the sweet sponsorship of Brooks and Team Running Free!

I immediatelIMG_20150702_171708y headed to the trail, a little nervous about doing 10k in a brand new pair of shoes but knowing I could always switch out to my Sauconys mid-run if I needed to since they were in the car. There was no need. The Cascadias were super comfortable and the tread on them was incredibly helpful on those uphills… so many uphills! (I’m beginning to hate uphills.)

Though the run was a beast to get through – I really struggled to find any enjoyment or motivation today – I ultimately did manage to crank it out and finally arrived back at my car after almost 11k of ups and downs only to discover that my car key was gone from my pocket. Somewhere in that maze of forest trails, my little black key had fallen out. After a few minutes of searching, I realized it was a hopeless endeavour and accepted that it was gone.

Thus ensued a series of phone calls to roadside assistance and a new friend to make arrangements to first be able to get my house key out of the car, then be driven to my house to get my spare car key, and finally driven back to the forest to get my car.

So today I have learned three important lessons:

1) Don’t store your car key in your pocket while you’re running, no matter how secure you think it is or how many times you’ve done it before. Sooner or later, it will fall out.

2) Always make sure your phone is fully charged before you go out for a run, because you just don’t know how much you might need to use it before you’ll get a chance to charge it up again.

3) No matter how miserable the hills feel, you will get through them. And I think we all know quitting feels more miserable than hills anyway, every time.

Notice that not one of those lessons was don’t run too long in a brand new pair of shoes. My body feels no worse than it would have after a trail run in the Sauconys and I think the hills actually felt marginally easier thanks to the wicked treads on the Cascadias.

So despite the car key foibles, I think today was actually a pretty successful day. And I’m happy to welcome Brooks into my running shoe family – I get the feeling we’re in for a hell of a ride.

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The Day I Lost My Mind (or…)

I either lost my mind today, or today is the day I dared myself to be greater than I ever thought I could be.

You see, I’ve been struggling with running motivation this Spring. A month ago I finally picked a half marathon for July, set out a training plan and then promptly strayed from it just 3 weeks in. July quickly began to feel like an unrealistic goal so I decided to give myself more runway and started looking at Fall races.

I had two possible goals in mind for this year: one was to run another half marathon, and the other was to consider running a 25k. Every year I hope to push myself just a little bit more with my running and I figured 25k would be a safe little jump. What I didn’t realize was that 25k races are rare, and almost exclusively trail races (as opposed to road races).

I’ve never been a trail runner. I experimented with a trail run a few weeks ago, and have done two since then and that is the full extent of my trail running history. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, trail running requires a lot more strength than road running, burns 10% more calories and is quite a bit harder because there’s no room for error. You can’t sloppily trudge your feet forward when you’re tired or mentally check out to help the time go by because you’re too busy dodging roots, adjusting to changes in terrain, and dealing with hills… so many hills. My poor quads.

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However, there are many things I love about the idea of trail running – being in nature breathing fresh air, lots of shade on those hot muggy days, staying mentally engaged figuring out where the next footfall will go, and the fact that it’s less about time and more about completing the distance. I also love that it will turn me into a super strong, kickass athlete. I am in love with the idea of trail running.

So, this Fall this crazy girl with only one half marathon under her belt will be running a 25k trail race just two weeks after completing her second half marathon. I’m not sure why I like to terrify myself by setting overly ambitious goals, but maybe that’s what it takes to keep me moving.

Now I’m in the process of creating a blended training plan that focuses primarily on getting ready for the 25k but still builds in enough road running so that I’ll be able to (hopefully) get through the half marathon without any injury. I think the key to success will be lots of strength training and lots of hill training; it looks like squats, planks, and lunges will be my new best HardisGreatfriend. Just to be clear, nothing about that sounds fun to me, but I’m so drawn to the idea of discovering inner greatness that I can’t resist the temptation to try.

So here I go. Hopefully I’ll have some pretty wicked race reports coming this way in the Fall and some rock hard quads to show off.

Wish me luck!


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I’m a sponsored athlete!

Life is just full of surprises. After running my first half marathon last Fall, I was searching for ways to get more involved in the running community when I stumbled across an application form for a sponsorship program. It claimed to be “for all levels and abilities”, with a tagline: “You don’t have to be elite, just motivated and passionate about running, triathlon or cycling.” Intriguing! I decided to call their bluff and sent in an application.

A couple of months passed by. I amused myself wondering if I would ever hear back, and almost fell out of my chair when the email popped up in my inbox one quiet afternoon at work. The squeal was heard by many! I ran out of my office jumping up and down, “I made it! I was accepted for Team Running Free!”

I decided not to write a post that day because it just would’ve had a lot of “eeeeeeee!” and “yaaaaaaay!” in it, but now that I’ve settled down I really have to say I am so honoured to be representing Running Free in 2015. They are a small chain of stores that is aligned not only with my athletic passion but with my personal values. From their Re-Use Shoe Program that collects and distributes used shoes to local homeless people and overseas, to Mission Haiti that turns used shoes into a viable microloan program for Haitians, to their support of Run and Read, an after school program focused on children living in some of the most impoverished communities in Canada — they are doing really cool things in the world!

I am so grateful for this sponsorship program that gives amateur athletes like me a chance to step up and get involved in the running community in new and exciting ways. I will wear my uniform with pride, and to my fellow team members, I can’t wait to meet you out on the road!

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2014: Year in Review

As I happily leap into 2015, I’d like to take a moment to look back on the last year, because what a year it was! This year has been pretty incredible and, because of some big steps taken, I am so looking forward to the adventure that lies ahead in the coming year. I already have some exciting things in store, but I’ll introduce those as the times draw nearer. For now, here are my highlights of 2014:

1) I finally took out the trash! After years of gingerly trying to make everyone around me happy, I finally decided it was time to make me happy and the first step was to stop tolerating toxic relationships. So, I started this year by dumping a soulless manipulative abuser who had been wreaking havoc in my life for years, and slowly re-evaluated and rme and sandraefined my social circle to include only those who truly have my best interests at heart, who nourish my soul and who value me as I am (like my bestie in the photo). The result is that my life is now filled with people I respect and admire, and my days are filled with peace. Three cheers for decluttering!

2) Climbing the career ladder. In the Spring, I was offered a promotion to Business Manager. I turned it down. I wasn’t 100% sure that was the best decision because promotions are hard to come by at my work, but it just didn’t feel like the right direction for me. Not long after, the management team approached me with a promotion tailor-made for me and I became a member of the management team on my own terms. I got to keep doing what I love with a title that will help me transition to even greater opportunities in the future. It never ceases to amaze me how life works out when you trust your gut!

me in utah3) I got giddy in Utah. Truth be told, at first I felt a bit nauseous at the thought of going on a trip alone, but taking a solo trip was on my bucket list so I figured I may as well muster up my courage and get to it. I’m so glad I did! The excitement started to hit me at the airport, and I don’t think it ever went away. I spent every day feeling absolutely giddy, hiking beautiful trails breathing in clean crisp air, looking out over unbelievably breathtaking landscapes, and meeting people from all walks of life. I discovered that I really enjoy my own company, and I never tired of that moment when someone learned that I was a girl travelling alone and said, “Wow, you’re amazing, I could never do that.”  I used to be the person who said that to others, but I like it much better being the person it’s said about! Utah will always have a special place in my heart because Utah is where I finally fell in love with myself.

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4) 21.1 km of WOW. Another bucket list item checked off, this year I ran my first half marathon, something I never would have imagined I’d be able to do when I first started running two years ago. moab raceThe secret for me was choosing a beautiful destination that would inspire me to want to run for two hours, and I sure did choose well! Moab, Utah had me running with a big grin on my face which, I must admit, became tear-soaked a couple of times when I was overcome by the sheer beauty and privilege of it all. In fact, it was such an amazing experience, I’m going to do it again. Next destination has already been chosen – stay tuned!

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first 40 years5) Welcome 40! I am THRILLED to have turned 40 last week. My thirties were a difficult decade – a really really really long emotional growth spurt – but I feel this year I’ve finally started coming into my own; I have a way better sense of who I am, and I really like me! It feels like a graduation of sorts, and a fun girls’ trip to Cuba with my best friends was my graduation party. Now I get to embark on my future knowing that I have a solid foundation within me, and I can hardly wait to see what every new day has in store and what exciting adventures I will dream up for myself! What better way to start not just a new year, but a new decade? I’m on top of the world. 🙂

The Power of Perseverance: My First Half Marathon

This month, I ran my first half marathon and, let me tell you, The Other Half was the perfect race to take my half marathon virginity! Not only was it extremely well organized, but at so many times throughout the race I found myself in absolute awe of my surroundings, thinking what a gift it was to be there on that glorious sunny day, surrounded by tall red cliffs and breathing in that clean Utah air while miles flew by under my feet.

Getting to that point had been a struggle, though. I had expected the physical training to be a challenge but to my great surprise it was the mental training that almost broke me. Just two weeks before race day I wasn’t sure I’d even be able to participate. To be perfectly honest, by then I didn’t even know if I cared anymore. Here’s what happened.

Despite the fact that I’d set out a nice long training period to avoid injury, two months before race day (when I’d hit 18k on long runs) I started to burn out and ultimately ended up with an achilles tendon injury. For a month and a half, I couldn’t run, I was relegated to using the elliptical for all cardio. As I’m sure you can imagine, the elliptical does nothing to increase one’s confidence as a runner! As each runless week went by, I became increasingly frustrated.

A running friend asked me, “What’s the psychological cost to you if you can’t do the race?”

I replied, “Very high. That’s not an option.”

But over time I could feel myself starting to give up. My tendon wasn’t getting better, I could feel all that hard work slipping away, and the thought of causing myself further injury by running a race without adequate training was too disheartening to consider. Psychologically, I started letting go, and every day became a mental battle to try to ‘stay in the game.’

Finally, two weeks before the race, I gave myself an ultimatum: try one more outdoor run and if there’s any pain, then you pull out of the race. That’s it. So, I strapped on my shoes, headed out, and finally had my first pain-free run in months! I tried again a few days later, with a slightly longer run, and again no pain! However, when I tried a longer run , not only did the tendon start to act up again, but my knees weren’t too happy either.

So, when I showed up on race day I did so with much trepidation and a set of revised expectations. Instead of hoping for a sub-2:00:00 finish time, I just hoped to finish – period. I didn’t want to get pulled out with an injury, and I didn’t want to get pulled off by a sweeper car. I just wanted to make it to the finish line within the allotted time, limbs intact.

I started off nervous. After a couple of miles, I started to let myself feel comfortable and settled into a rhythm. It wasn’t until mile 9 that I began to believe that I was actually going to make it. I wanted to laugh, I wanted to cry. I was so overcome with gratitude and joy that after that long training roller coaster, everything had actually come together to allow me to fully experience and enjoy this moment.

I crossed the finish line grinning from ear to ear, and with great pride in my heart I leaned forward to have the medal placed around my neck.

Because of everything it took for me to get to that point, that medal now symbolizes so much more than physical ability. To me, that medal symbolizes the power of perseverance. As Winston Churchill said, “This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never.” I’m so glad I didn’t. Though the journey to my first half marathon was hard and full of missteps, it just made the reward that much sweeter.

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