Movember – No Mustaches Here!

Mo-vember has become a very popular tradition in the month of November. It’s a very fun way to help raise awareness for an important cause but Mo-vember has never really been a big thing in my household. This is the first year we’re even participating in the event. Well, I am not participating, technically, as I lack the special ability to grow face hair (thankfully).

I’ve seen a lot of marketing of ‘alternative to Mo-vember’ options for women out there. NoBra-vember was particularly amusing. I decided to do my own thing, maybe it will catch on, maybe it won’t, but to me, it was a great motivator in a month when motivation is at its lowest and chocolate treats abound.

Enter “Move-mber”! For the month of November, I’ve committed to get up, get out, and get moving, in some way, every day. Those of you who follow Rapunzel’s Adventures on Facebook have probably seen the updates as the month progresses. Hopefully, this sheds some light on those daily (seemingly random) updates.

I’d love for others to join me in my Move-mber initiative, it’s open to anyone and everyone. There’s no need to go to the gym, specifically, or feel obligated to run through a snow storm. The goal is just to find ways, within your physical limits, to increase your activity each day. On rest days, even, I make an effort to walk every hour or to use my work breaks to take the stairs when I wouldn’t otherwise. Anything that’s more than what you usually do is perfect. It’s all about staying motivated and not letting the grayness of November keep you on the couch.

Come and join me in Move-mber!

[Infographic] 10 Exercise/Health Myths

Exercise Myths

A lot of these myths are things I encounter when talking about fitness with people, especially the cardio and scale points. While I have trouble adhering to some of these things (marathon training kind of flies in the face of limiting oneself to 20 minutes of cardio), I know the reasoning behind it.

How many of these facts are new to you? Would they change how you approach your own workouts?

September 15 – Metabolic Legs

I had a couple of exercise goals this weekend to get back into my workout routine as well as trying to break through my plateau. Plateaus are just depressing and they can really kill any motivation if you let them.

In the hopes of bringing something new and challenging to the table, I opted to try a metabolic workout this weekend. I’m new to metabolic training as a whole, only having done a couple of metabolic workouts before, but the general goal is to do short but strong whole body cardio movements (burpees, weight squats, rowing, sprinting, box/sled pushes, etc.) so that the whole body is engaged. With metabolic workouts, you’re trying to keep a high intensity in your routine, so you should be sweaty with a high heart rate well before the end of a set. If you aren’t, you’re not pushing hard enough.

That’s part of the reason I tend to balk at metabolic workouts. I don’t mind getting sweaty, but when my heart rate increases rapidly or through movements where my arms are engaged (holding weights up during cardio, burpees, etc.), I have a very difficult time breathing. I suffer from a case of exercise-induced asthma which pretty much stops me in my tracks after not too long. I’ll save that discussion for another time, but suffice to say, metabolic workouts are the bane of my asthma where weight or resistance training is not. It took a lot more mentally to push through this workout than it does most just in light of my fear of suffocation or passing out. Yes, you do push yourself as hard as you can, but no one really benefits from passing out, do they? I decided I wouldn’t let my fear of collapsing stop me from trying my hardest.

For breaks, I took 5-10 minutes (usually around 5-8 minutes) between sets for recovery. That’s a long time, but the reality is, recovery is key so that you’re able to complete the next set. With resistance training, 1-2 minutes at most is what you’re looking for between sets, but with a metabolic workout, you would not be in good shape to complete the following set if you did that short a break.

Also, I always made two slow-paced laps around the workout room before stopping for water or sitting down to stretch. It helped to bring my heart rate down, allowing me to breathe consistently again, as well as kept the blood flowing in my legs. If I had sat or laid down right away for a period of time, my legs would have seized up (more than they were already doing) and that would have made any further sets even harder. As much as it feels like you just want to lay down for 5-10 minutes, you have to try to walk it off for the first bit. It really does make a difference.

Metabolic Workout – 4 sets (timed) with 5-10 minute walking breaks between each

Bench Jumps: 20 reps – you want to land as softly as possible on the bench, avoiding a loud ‘slam!’ sound on landing. I often have mental challenges with these due to a fear of tripping or falling off the bench. Putting them at the start really helps to prevent it from psyching me out through the rest of the work out. As always, remember to contract the core (abs) when jumping.
Jumping Lunges: 20 reps – even though you’re doing these in fast succession, remember to get into a full lunge position and land on both feet at the same time. I’m prone to landing one and then the other which can not only put too much weight on one leg and knee, it can throw off your balance. Be sure to avoid leaning forward by keeping a pelvic tilt and a straight back in your lunge position.
Burpees: 20 reps – you have to contract the abs while doing these and that is something with which I still struggle. Unlike the video, I add a jump when coming up each time, for extra leg engagement and cardio. I find the key for getting through these is to pace myself. While I am doing this routine for time, by not going as fast as possible in the start, I have enough energy to get through the full 20 reps. If I went all out at the start, I would maybe get 5 done before I had to stop and catch my breath.
Squats: 20 reps – form is key with squats. Avoid leaning forward or shifting your weight to the front part of your foot. You want your chest to be up and facing forward with your butt back (as if you’re about to sit on a chair). If you’ve done deadlifts before, it’s similar to the form in terms of keeping your butt out behind you with your back up. The goal is to get to at least 90 degrees on your squats every time.
Jumping Squats: 10 reps – form is just as important but you will be coming onto the fore-foot a bit in order to push-off for the jumps. You want to get as close to 90 degrees as possible, still, and don’t let your upper body tilt forward (facing towards the ground).
Box Push: 2 passes @ 45 pounds – a pass is along one whole side of the gym, for me, so the distance can vary if you have a smaller space. When pushing the box or sled, you want to remember to keep the hips down (you don’t want your but high in the air or your back to be curved inward). Remember to push from the glutes and to sprint as hard as you can for both pushes.

When I did these for time, I had negative splits which really encouraged me but I found I almost became too focussed on the time as each set passed. If you have someone who can time you, it may be best to have them record it without telling you so you don’t feel pressured to keep up or beat your previous time. Some might like that pressure, but I found it distracting in the last few sets.

My splits:
Set 1: 5:32.74
Set 2: 5:28.79
Set 3: 5:26.30
Set 4: 5:22.54

Bia Sports Watch – More than your Garmin will ever be!

I’m working on a great recipe review that should be out sometime today, but to tide you guys over till then, I wanted to give a shout-out to a great product that needs your help!

Some of the various activities for which the Bia Sportwatch is great. (c) Bia Sport

Bia Sport is preparing to release a really innovative sportswatch that blows the competition away. I’ll highlight my thoughts on it below but please take a minute right now to look at their promo video on kickstarter to see why this technology really fills the niche that current watches don’t for all athletes out there.

Done checking it out? Okay, so here are my thoughts on it.

  1. Safety alert for peace of mind on solo workouts” If you run outside alone (at night or not), or you work out alone at the gym or on the field, what is your current mode of communicating distress if something were to happen to you? I wear a RoadID at the gym and while running and I got one for my father to wear at the gym as well. My thought is, I know who I am, but if I can’t speak, who really knows how to get me the help I need and who to contact if I have to go to the hospital? This watch will transmit your location to a designated emergancy contact FOR FREE as well as to 911 dispatchers for a subscription price. It also will sound a loud alarm to alert anyone nearby that you need assistance. The peace of mind that comes with knowing I can hit a button and my boyfriend knows where I am and that I need help is amazing. I ran last weekend in the scorching heat and he ended up driving my route a couple times to check on me. This watch would have saved him the gas and the worry.
  2. Quick-connect GPS; no more time wasted “finding satellites”“My current watch doesn’t have GPS. I wanted it but I can’t afford it. I also wanted a heart rate monitor. I’d be looking at 300+ minimum for something like that. Backing this now, I can get the watch (which includes heart rate monitoring as a standard feature) and the GPS function for 129$. The fact that I can get it in different colours with nice sleek design at a fraction of the size of the other watches out there (like Garmin, seen here), that’s amazing! Plus, friends and family can follow me on race day online! That’s really handy for my out of town races.

    A Garmin versus the Bia Sportwatch. (c) Bia Sport

  3. Data to your online training log; no more time wasted “sync’ing”” I enter my stuff manually into dailymile. I’m very diligent about it. This would be a great feature to have.
  4. iPod-like ease of use; just one button and a touchscreen” I fiddle with my watch a lot when it comes to pausing the clock or the timers. I like that this will be an easy-to-use interface while in the midst of doing a sprint interval. I can’t always hit the right buttons (or think coherently) after pushing the limits on my cardio training.
  5. Unlimited intervals Run as long as you want without worrying you’ll hit a cap or have to reset it. How annoying would that be?
  6. Battery It runs on an easy to replace, long lasting watch battery. I have the same one in my current watch, which I use for running and every day use. Lasted a long time and cost about 6$ to replace. Think about how much fun it is to charge your Garmin and find out mid-race it died on you.
  7. Colour/DesignIt looks nice. That might not mean much to some, but I like to plan what I wear when I run races, and the idea that this watch can have interchangeable bands and the watch itself is sleek and stunning is a big plus to me.

    The various colours of watches (more band patterns available than pictured). (c) Bia Sport

I know I sound like a saleswoman but really, it’s because I feel so passionate that women runners (and men too!) and atheletes in general have no real choices out there. And the options available are so not designed with the things in mind that I value.

I value security. That is one of my biggest concerns with running. I have always run inside until recently because of the lack of security when running alone. A girl was shot and killed in the apartment building next to mine and I live in what is considered to be a safe and family-friendly neighbourhood. Running outside is now a must-do for me and I want to feel like I’ve done everything I can to be safe and wise about my choices.

I also value functionality. This watch does everything I want: GPS, heart rate monitoring, speaking with my training site, etc. It also is easy to use when in motion and doesn’t weigh me down. I have seriously tiny wrists compared to the rest of me, and a Garmin looks like a monster on my wrist. The fact that the colourful bands are soft and comfortable, won’t pinch or catch, is a bonus.

Bia Sport’s kickstarter campaign has 7 days left and if they can’t reach their goal, the watch won’t be realised. I’m asking anyone and everyone with any interest to please help spread the word and ‘back’ this project. You can give as little as a dollar and pledging to buy a watch through this program (as opposed to when it finally goes to production) is a lot cheaper.

In case you want the link again, here’s their kickstarter page!

true blood workout

This is a great way to use up all that pent up energy from watching Eric and Alcide! I could really get into at-home work outs if they were all like this!

pumps & iron

In case there was anyone left out there who thought I was cool…here’s a True Blood workout. I know, I know, I need to get a life. But it’s Just. So. Good.

The new season of True Blood premiers this Sunday on HBO and, if you couldn’t infer by the post on my son/plant Lafayette, I’m beyond excited. I love this show. In preparation for an entire summer of watching the insanely attractive supernatural bodies on True Blood (I’m looking at you, Eric Northman), I’ve created this workout. And the best part about it is that you can do it right in your living room, no shoes or equipment required. Heck, you don’t even need to wear pants!

It’s like a drinking game, only healthy.  And, ok, less fun. As you watch each episode keep an eye out for the following things to occur. When they do, complete the…

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Protein Part One: Why and How Much?

I’ve been talking with a lot of fellow runners and fitness pursuers lately about food and diet changes. It has had me thinking more about the common misconceptions out there about ‘healthy’ eating. I was speaking with one friend about little changes in what she consumes and when I mentioned increasing protein, I could see her immediately react with nervousness and she said something that has stuck with me for a while: “I’m not going to be training to be a runner.”

It’s probably because I have been so immersed in learning about the various macronutrients out there that her comment struck me as bizarre. I didn’t realize, until then, that some people don’t really know what certain macronutrients do and how they work into the different fitness routines.

Protein is good for everyone. Period. It has more effect for those who actively do some sort of resistance/weight training, less so in terms of cardio. So let’s look at protein more closely. This will probably be broken into a few segments since there’s a lot of information.

Why Do We Need Protein?

Like with the various fat discussions, the basic answer to why protein is good for us comes down to the composition of protein. It is made of various amino acid chains. Amino acids are the foundation and bricks of muscle. You can’t build or maintain muscle without protein. Amino acids also regulate hormones, enzymes, and immune chemicals. Normally, we can make 12 of the various amino acids internally. The other 8, considered essential amino acids, we have to get from outside sources.

Healthy fats (like Omega-3), including, unfortunately, unhealthy fats, and protein encourage the body to feel full which in turn helps decrease cravings and overall caloric intake. As well, protein has the highest thermic effect of all macronutrients. What that means while we burn energy (ie. calories) to process what we eat, protein takes the most energy and therefore we burn more caloric fuel to process protein than we do carbohydrates or fats.

Carbohydrates can have strong effects on insulin and blood sugar, but when consumed with sufficient amounts of protein, the effect is significantly decreased.

How Much Protein Should We Have?

Currently, the daily recommendation for sedentary individuals, to maintain day-to-day functions, is around 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight or 0.5 grams per pound of body weight. The amount increases to 1.4-2 grams per kilogram of ‘desired’ body weight for active people going as high as 1 gram per pound of ‘desired’ body weight.

I would use caution when looking at ‘desired’ body weight, though. If all that matters is the number on the scale, the above works against you. For example, if I’m 160 pounds and my desired body weight is 130 pounds, by limiting my protein intake to only 130 grams of protein a day, I will drop weight, but that weight will come partially from my muscles. Your body will use muscle tissue as fuel, if need be, and by not feeding your muscles the ‘bricks’ it needs to keep itself building up, then they will become smaller. As muscle weighs more than fat, this effect will result in a lower scale weight.

A better rule to live by, for active individuals, is about 20-30 grams per meal for women and 30-40 grams per meal for men. Overall, 30% of your food on a given day should be protein. The normal maximum amount that can be absorbed at one time on average is about 30-40 grams. This varies based on the overall available muscle mass.

It’s better to have excess protein rather than excess carbohydrates. Carbohydrates convert into glycogen to fuel the muscles during any high intensity activity. If the glycogen is not used within a short time span, it is then stored for later use as fat.

As we know above, protein takes more calories/energy to process and this is partially because protein goes through many more phases before going to storage (if it goes there at all). Any extra protein in the system is first converted to glycogen as fuel for muscles. Any extra is then changed again and used to build up lean muscle mass to a finite amount (varying based on muscle size, so less so for women). After that, it is converted back into glycogen and stored in the muscle as fuel if it is not used right away. It is only after that point, that is could potentially be stored as fat. Keep in mind each step in this process requires converting the protein which in turn burns calories.

In comparing protein to carbohyrdates in terms of processing, it’s easy to see that overloading on carbs can quickly lead to fat store build up. There is 1 step in the conversion process. With protein, there is 4-5 steps that it goes through before it could potentially enter the fat stores of the body. Protein, in addition to going to the muscles first and staying longer, takes 4-5 times more energy to process so it burns way more calories on the way which in turn creates more places for the protein fuel to go before becoming fat.

Is it possible to have too much of protein? Yes, probably it is. It’s possible to have too much of anything, really. The key thing here though is that the limit of ‘too much’ in terms of protein is extremely high and much harder to reach than the limit of carbohydrates or fats. The average person would be very hard pressed to hit that limit without intense over-supplementation. Hitting the carbohydrate limit is easy and the majority of us do it ever day, especially when we fail to combine carbohydrate consumption with high intensity interval training of some kind (not steady-state cardio).

In part two, I’ll tackle the various sources of protein, the traps of ‘high protein’ labels, and ways to increase protein in your daily meals.

Also, keep an eye out this weekend for the start-up of my (protein) shake series!

[Re-Blog] 5 Reasons Why Running is NOT the answer to fat loss

I’ve had this almost exact discussion with many friends, family members, and fellow runners over the past few years. It was one of the first things I had a challenge with when I started training for my races. My trainer and I work on solely muscle/resistance training when I’m amping up the running distances which also helps when my body might turn to muscle as a fuel for running instead of fat (since it wants to store it as explained in the post). Great advice and thoughts on better ways to focus on your body fat levels!



“It’s so frustrating!! I run every day, but I just can’t burn the fat off!”
This came from a new client of mine last week; someone who had struggled with bodyfat levels for some time. (and before I go on, I do have her permission to write this)
So this good spirited, fairly motivated lady had devised a weight loss routine based around lots of running, and not a lot thought. She’d put so much mental and physical energy into these daily runs, and whilst she had a good level of endurance, she was still struggling with the weight.

She continued to explain her thinking behind it: “well, I figured, the more I ran, the more fat I’d burn.”
I replied by saying “this sounds logical enough, but the body doesn’t quite work like this. In fact, while you might be working really hard in running, you could be doing…

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Race Report – Inaugural Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon, June 3, 2012

2012 Inaugural Niagara Falls Women's Half Marathon Medal

I just got back into town after running the Inaugural Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon this morning. Before I get to the race report though, I had share the overall punchline from my experiences both here and at the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Half Marathon last month.

The Toronto race has been around for 30 or so years. The race I ran this morning was the first time for this one. As most racers will tell you, inaugural races can have kinks, hiccups, and issues that need to get worked out and often have changes after the first time through. What would I change? Nothing. Nothing that the race organizers can control would have made this race better for me. This race was run so smoothly, you’d have never known it was inaugural. Goodlife last month was so mismanaged and poorly thought out it could have been the first time it was run (and, in my opinion, should be the last time the organizers are allowed to organize anything). Night and day, these two races were at opposite ends of the spectrum of experience and this one out-shone in every category. Now, having cleared my brain, here is my full race report:

Race Report – Inaugural Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon June 3, 2012

Niagara Falls

Canada’s side of Niagara Falls

Pre-Race: Packet pick-up was at the Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, Ontario on Friday and Saturday. We arrived around 3:00 pm on Saturday, 3 hours before the pick-up was to close. The parking was free and the building was easy to locate. We had no trouble finding it from out of town and finding a spot. A greeter at the door of the resort asked us if we were here for the race, even though I had nothing on identifying me as a racer. She was very helpful in telling us where to go. Very well-informed!

When I got to the packet pick-up, it was a rather small set-up compared to a lot of races I’ve been to, but it wasn’t supposed to be an expo, so that was fine with me. The layout was perfect. As you progressed through the room, first there was a list with names and bib numbers. They weren’t sent out beforehand so everyone would need that information. Then came the bib distribution lines, which were organized by number and they had arranged safety pins in sets of 4. They looked like they had tons of extras, as well. A great sign given how close to the end of the pick-up we were. Then came tag activation and the goody bags. The team seemed to have many shirts available still, as well, so I was able to get a shirt in my size without any hassle. The bottle of wine was last and representatives from Chateau du Charmes explained a little about the product. I also got a time band from the Running Room representatives.

The goody bag contained flyers for other races as well as:

  • 1 bottle of Chateau du Charmes wine and 2-for-1 voucher for Chateau due Charmes wine-tasting.
  • 1 regular-sized bottle of 2-in-1 Finesse shampoo/conditioner
  • 24 press-on toenails (to cover your black runner’s toenails)
  • 2 bamboo make-up compacts
  • nail clippers
  • pack of teeth cleaners/flossers
  • 2-for-1 admission to Clifton Hill attractions
  • 40$ gift certificate for the Skylon Tower rotating restaurant
  • 10$ off a Shock Absorber bra from the Running Room
  • package of Werther’s Original
  • package of Campino candies
  • gift certificates for activities at Great Wolf Lodge, like mini golf
  • personalized tracker bib
  • pink, reusable bag with race logo
  • Brooks athletic t-shirt with race logo (really comfy!)

    Niagara Falls Women's Half Marathon Swag Bag

    The contents of the awesome goody/swag bag for the race.

As a racer would exit, a gentleman was at the door with maps of Niagara Falls, which highlighted points of interest in the city. He would ask each racer where she was staying, and proceed to draw on the map the best directions from their specific hotel to the parking/race start line. He also advised us on which roads would be closed for the race. This is something I didn’t need, as I had looked into it already, but it was great of the organizers to think of out-of-towners!

Race Day: Since I wasn’t relying on a shuttle that may or may not have room for me, I was able to set my alarms/wake up calls for a much later, 6:00 am wake-up time. It was heaven! I had followed the weather reports closely to see that it was still set to rain this morning, up to a 50% chance of precipitation, so I put away my sunscreen and got out the running pants in place of my normal skirt. Since I had planned time into my prep for sunscreen, I was able to snuggle back under my covers for a bit to warm up before going out.

I drove to the parking lot for the race, which was a first for me. Usually, I rely on race shuttles for fear of nerves making me a terrible driver. Although I had registered for this race back in January, I hadn’t really decided to run it until yesterday due to many issues, mostly my knee injury, so the nerves hadn’t had a chance to set in. The drive and parking were both a breeze. The hotel valet brought the car up at 7:10 and I was parked at the race by 7:30. I stayed in the car for a bit, sorting out how I would carry all I wanted to carry without my handy running skirt pocket.

The race MC

Francis, the MC/bride, and her new husband.

The start area was still pretty bare just before 8:00 (start time) but I had fun listening to the MC, Francis, talk about her wedding. She had been married just last night and she was announcing the event in her wedding dress while her groom, in his tux, was on stage with her.

Start Wine

The Start “Wine” of the race.

We shuffled into the Start “Wine” area about 10 minutes before 8:00 am. Then something else happened that I had hoped for (but was disappointed) at the Toronto Half Marathon, they preformed our national anthem. A young lady from British Columbia sang it beautifully and a spectator’s husky near me was howling along. It made me proud to be there. They don’t play it in the U.S. races I do, obviously, so I was disappointed that my first Canadian race had failed to do it.

The racers were then split alongside each side of the corral while a drumming group from the local school marched down the middle. The race official start was delayed by 15 minutes as organizers wanted to give the racers still trying to park a chance to get to the start. Two racers behind me (Sour Puss A & B as I called them) were complaining about having to wait and how they shouldn’t be punished for other people’s mistakes. They also were ranting about the race organization, the MC, and pretty much everything else. I’ve never heard any racer so negative over things that have little consequence. This wasn’t an elite competition and they were stacked well behind the 2:15 pace bunny, so I don’t think 15 minutes of standing was going to kill them. I, on the other hand, was very happy to see that the organizers were waiting. I thought that was very considerate of them and demonstrated that they cared about their racers, all of them, and not just the elite runners.

The race course was an out-and-back style of racing following only a couple of roads the whole way. It was a good and bad thing because on the way back, you knew the terrain as well as the distance, but the downside is you get to see all the runners ahead of you, including the pace bunny you had lofty hopes of following. It does allow you to cheer for runners ahead and behind you which I thoroughly enjoyed doing as I’m an avid shouter/cheerer.

Course map

The course map

After the runners pass the turn off for the start area, the course is almost entirely flat. There is 1 bridge, with a Tim Hortons, but otherwise, it felt and looked flat. The first 5 kilometres or so was not so much, but it was over fast enough and it had the scenic Niagara Falls to distract you.

Niagara Falls skyline

The Niagara Falls skyline.

Once on the flat part, I encountered the two issues I had with this specific race, unrelated to my form, energy, or health issues: strong, constant headwind and bugs. The entirety of the last 14 kilometres of the course runs alongside the water, right at the edge essentially. The flat open surface allowed to strong headwinds both directions making it harder to push through near the end. The moisture also encouraged bugs and there were plenty of those. I’m a huge scaredy-cat when it comes to bugs of any kind so this was definitely also working against me.

Physically, I ran into only some minor issues, and most of that related to my calf seizing up again (as it did in Toronto last month). I’ve narrowed it down to water, or lack thereof, being the main issue. I ran out, to be blunt, and while the water stations were available, my body can’t handle Niagara tap water, so I had to make do with what I had.

Luckily, I had something even more awesome than water to save me in the last kilometres of the race: TIMBITS! We passed them going out but they were a life-saver on the way back. I was watching the horizon for when we’d cross the bridge since I knew they were waiting there for me, calling out to me. That got me to around mark 18/19 when the light rain started up. Then the mantra became: “Rain won’t stop me, I’m running the Mickey!” That got me the rest of the way to the Finish “Wine”. It made me laugh more running to it than leaving it.

Finish Wine

The Finish Wine of the race.

Post-Race: The finish area was well laid out with the chute continuing for a bit through the medal area and then around in a U-turn to the recovery chute.

First came the Aquafina water bottles (not cups!) handed out to everyone who passed through. After that was the tent that normally has food items for racers. This is another spot where the organizers shone even compared to RunDisney!

All the food goodies (apple, orange, banana, and, packaged in their own bag, 2 Tim Horton’s chocolate chip chookies) were packed inside one easily carried take-out box the style of a timbits box. Inside, the goodies were arranged in pink tissue paper. At the end of the food goody tent, racers were given a small carton of chocolate milk.

Honestly, why can’t all races have a box for my items. I’m usually walking around carrying all this stuff in my arms while trying to get photos with my medal and friends or family. This made things so much easier that I’m surprised I haven’t seen it done before!

After-race food

The food and drink items given out at the Finish ‘Wine’.
Inlay: Contents of the food box pictured in the top left.

The parking was not the nightmare I thought it would be at the end of the race, either. I was done and on my way in minutes. The route to the parking was very simple from most hotels and even a blind out-of-towner like myself would have been hard pressed to get lost. Not relying on shuttles (or having your shuttle get stuck in traffic and leave you in the middle of an unfamiliar city, ala Goodlife Fitness Toronto Half Marathon) was a blessing. I was able to get back to the hotel and up to my room before I had even found my shuttle last time. This allowed me to shower and clean up before heading to IHOP for breakfast and then checking out. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed driving to the race and having access to a car for my ride back. No losing anything on a bus or having to wait in a long line with sore legs. I was in the shower and cleaned up before many of my fellow racers were even back to the hotel.

2012 Inaugural Niagara Falls Women's Half Marathon Medal

2012 Inaugural Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon Medal
Inlay: Close-up of medal detailing

Summary: Even though the weather was supposed to be bad, it held out and the climate was perfect for running. No sun to overheat us, wind to keep us refreshed, and lovely scenery made the course a dream even for a recovering, under-trained racer like me. I hit a personal best on this course, on top of it all too! My chip time was 2:20:30, just over 2 minutes and 30 seconds faster than my previous best, and over 8 minutes faster than the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Half Marathon. I would recommend this race to anyone. It was a great time and I loved it!

Race Report – Goodlife Fitness Toronto Half Marathon, May 6, 2012

Race Report – Goodlife Fitness Toronto Half Marathon May 6, 2012


Pre-race: We got into town around 3:00-3:30 pm on Saturday and the expo was to close at 5:00. Unfortunately, the signage around the CNE was not very good and DBF ended up dropping me off on the other side of BMO Field and its parking lot from the building inside which the expo was to take place (since we didn’t want him to pay the 14$ parking fee for 10 minutes worth of parking). Having no clue where to go, I asked the parking attendant and proceeded to cross the huge parking lot to the Direct Energy Centre (where the expo was). Of course, it was in the last hall in the building.

The line-ups were pretty long for the bib pick up, and the only size shirts they had left were women’s XS and men’s M. I went with XS since I figured it’d be the closest to fitting of the two. I hadn’t planned to need the race shuttle to the start line when I registered and you weren’t able to order tickets after the fact. Instructions were to buy them for 8$ at the expo if you needed one. So I asked about the shuttle tickets, and was promptly told they were sold out.

Not taking that for an answer, I got into another long line for registration changes and solutions. I got to the front and asked again. I was told they were sold out. I was really tired and worked up by this point, and I was about to start crying because I was now in a city I didn’t know anything about being told to find my own way to a start line that ended up being over 30 minutes from the host hotel (which I had booked for the sole reason of using the shuttle). The lady at the registration desk looked like she didn’t want a hysterical girl on her hands and stuck her head in the back. She came back, asked me if I was with anyone, and when I said no, she took my bib, turned around and when I got it back, it had a sticker for the shuttle from my hotel on it. I almost cried again (I was really, really tired) out of happiness.

I activated my bib and signed up for the Midsummer Night’s Run 30K at the expo since they were giving out free hats. Keep in mind, DBF is circling the CNE waiting for me, so I rushed out, through the building, across the sea of parking lots and almost bowled over the Avengers. I guess they were going to the game at BMO Field but it was hilarious to see them in costume.

I found DBF and we left to check into our hotel. I got my late check-out time granted to 1:00 pm (only an hour but it proved vital!) and we were on the 28th floor with an amazing view of the CN tower.

In laying out my goody bag loot, I noticed there were no pins. I checked with Vicky (of menubyvicky), and sure enough, she hadn’t got any either. Sold out shuttle and no pins to attach my bib to me… 2-0 so far expo organizers!

I checked with a volunteer at the lobby about what time the buses start and was told 6:00 am. The race instructions I found later said 6:30 and another racer had been told 5:30, so I opted to get up at 5:00, aim for shortly after 5:30 and pray there wasn’t a line like there is a Disney.

 

Novotel’s Mascot

Race Day: 2 alarms, 1 snooze button, and a wake-up call later, I was up by 5:10, dressed and in the lobby by 5:35. There was no one there at all. Another racer joined me, commenting that there is usually a line up that extends two blocks around the hotel for the buses.

That wasn’t the case this year as my bus took off with 7-10 people on it at 5:45am (note: not 5:30 or 6:00, lol). We got dropped off at the start line around 6:30, so it was a decent distance from the hotel that I’m glad I didn’t have to cab. I was annoyed they were ‘sold out’ and yet buses were running not even half full.

The start area was well handled, even with the crowds.

We were allowed to wait inside the civic building so I made use of the wall heaters and passed the time until the 8:30 start. The race itself wasn’t too bad or too good. The first half was hard for me since there were some substantial hills, which I’m not used to. I’m also used to running in miles, so the kilometres were messing me up in terms of knowing where my pace was.

I took a couple pictures as we got near the last portion of it and entered the main part of the city. There was a lot of crowds and the city was much more fun to run through than Anaheim. This was the first time I’d listened to music while running but I was glad I had it. I had only 5 songs to choose from but that was better than nothing.

My calf seized up around KM 12 or so and I ran out of water around KM 14-15. I didn’t want to rely on city water since they were using the fire hydrants to get it and usually water from other places makes me not well (and this was no exception later on in the day). I managed to lose a GU on the way too, somehow but I had 4 extra so I was glad I over-prepared.

This was the closest the course got to the CN Tower.

The water stations were terribly executed where often they had run out at 1-2 of the first tables, regardless of whether it was water or gatorade. They couldn’t stock it fast enough it seems and the order kept switching even though all pre-race info said water would always be first at the stations.

I ended up running the last bit just to offset the excess walking I did in the first part over the hills and I pulled into the finish in 2:28:12 (chip). Then came the even more disorganized finish area.

 

A racer who ran as Thor. I paced off him during the first half of the race.

Post-Race:The medal holders had one hand for full and one hand for half finishers and there was a crowd around them as the physio tent was right behind them with a line going out the door. It was a chaotic mess in a cramped space.

Post-race water and gatorade was only available in cups (as you would get it on the race course), not in bottles, and on tables so that they were obscured by the crowd around them. They were also in the middle of the area, so people had to move around the crowd to get anywhere else.

There was a pen for family with 1 five foot wide opening but no info on what it was so a lot of racers went in there thinking it was the exit, myself included, only to have to try and squeeze your way back out. It took me almost 15 minutes to find anyone who even knew where the shuttles were and all they knew was the general direction.

No one seemed to know where the engraving plaques we had to prepay for were to be found, either, so I saw a few other runners also meandering around looking for the plaque pick up. Chaos doesn’t begin to describe it. Bag check was stupid, in my opinion, but since I didn’t use it, I can’t really comment on it.

Off I marched across another parking lot, up a hill, over the bridge I was sent to, only to find no signs, no volunteers, and no shuttles. I was back in the parking lot I got lost in trying to get to the expo. I wandered around there until I teamed up with a few others looking for the shuttles and we followed the road hoping for buses. When we found them, they weren’t labelled and so we went from bus to bus until we found one going to our hotel.

We had to wait about 20 minutes for it to ‘fill up’ (15 people is not filling!) and we were on our way. We were on the bus about 20 minutes when we encountered a road closure and were detoured. 2 blocks into the detour, the road was closed again and our bus was told to make a U-turn (back towards the first detour). I finished the race around 11:00 am. By 12:20, I was back at the intersection of the first detour where three lanes were trying to merge into 1 and my bus driver trying to get instructions on where to go to get us to the hotel. Keep in mind, my original check out time was 12:00 and I have 40 minutes to check out with my ‘late’ check out.

My other racing souvenir.

I hopped out of the bus in the middle of the road with pretty much everyone else and decided to hoof it the 3-4 blocks to the hotel. This only added to what turned out to be a very brutal set of sunburns. I made it to the hotel room by 12:35 with just enough time for a quick cool shower and to pack. Checked out by 1:06 and was on the road.

 

The hardwon medal from this event.

Summary: In the end, the race was less than great for me. I wouldn’t run it again, I don’t think. It was like this was the first time it was ever run, and I expected a lot more than the result. Too many things were mishandled, and I think they forgot that people from outside Toronto would be running it too as support/signage was minimal at the best of times and non-existent everywhere else.

I ran the race to hang out with my team mates, mostly, but circumstances sunk that, unfortunately. I think that’s the only thing that could have saved this race from being a complete bust. I hope my other upcoming non-Disney races restore my faith, otherwise I might have to stick to just Disney in the future.

May 2 – Abs & Interval Cardio

I have a half marathon on Saturday. It’s my second of the year and unfortunately due to my recent illness, I had to cut back on my durance training the last couple weeks to allow myself to recover. Today was my first attempt at running since becoming sick, so I made it a half day of resistance and half day of interval cardio, taking it easier on the cardio. The goal was to get some miles on the feet, not attempt a long distance.

Group 1 – Repeat 4 times
Dragonflies: 15 reps – note: note: you want to have control the whole time, keeping your back straight as you reach the lower parts of the movement. Go as low as you can before your back arches, using your contracted abs to keep everything stable. Do not swing or bend your legs to get up and don’t go past the chest. You want a straight motion.
Scissor Leg Lowers: 20 reps (10 each leg change) – note: unlike in the video, I do a 2 second pause between switching legs. Like in the dragonflies above, focus on the core and keeping the lower back flat. You can rest your head on the ground if neck discomfort is an issue.
Heel Touches: 20 reps per side – note: try to raise your chest high enough so your shoulder blades are off the ground. If you have neck/throat/chest discomfort doing this, you can rest the head back down on the ground. It is best if you start with a pelvic tilt before raising your head/shoulders. Contract it down into the ground to form a strong core first.

Cardio
Distance: 2.37 miles
Time: 24:58
Interval running: 6.5 mph (2 minutes), 6.0 mph (2 minutes), 3.5 mph (1 minute)
Incline: 1.0 (15 minutes), 0.5 (5 minutes), 0.0 (5 minutes)