Monthly Archives: January 2014

When Handed Lemons…

…do your best to make lemonade.

Basically that needs to be the mantra of many runners this winter.  Throughout North America many places are experiencing some challenging weather thanks to Old Man Winter.  Certainly here in Ottawa we have been having some pretty cold days and somehow, each time the thermometer creeps up a little we get hit with crazy winds.  As hard as it may be though, I suggest you still get out there and run.  Sure you might be a little envious of people in warmer climates.  But then ask yourself, do they get to run in gale force winds, in -20 or -30C temperatures, wearing several pounds of clothing, while running on snow swept streets where the snow causes your feet to slip with every step?  O.K. that is not a really pretty picture I have painted, but it is the reality this year so why not go with it?  Yesterday I ran in those conditions and threw in some small hill work to boot,  I am not ashamed to say I worked my butt off to maintain a 6:30 min/km pace.  In my head, I decided it was simply speed work in disguise and that one fine day in spring, when the layers came off and the roads were clear I would find myself to be a faster runner.

It ends up I didn’t have to wait until spring to feel a difference in my pace.  Today I headed out on clear roads with slightly less wind – and hey, it even warmed up a little – and found myself running my fastest 5k in months.  Still not as fast as I would like, but faster than even a couple of weeks ago.  If you give it a chance, winter running offers some great training opportunities, even when you feel like it is slowing you down.

A Lesson in Buying Shoes

Back in the fall I bought my favourite shoes ever:

My happy shoes :)

My happy shoes 🙂

I loved the colour and more importantly I loved the fit of these Aisics.  i bought them on a Saturday and I ran 32km in them on the Sunday.  Knowing I had bought my dream shoes I figured I may as well pick up a second pair since the price had been lowered.  The next chance I had, I picked up another pair, different colour, but exactly the same shoes.

I spent the fall running in my first pair and they never failed me, including during my first marathon.  Once in a while I grabbed the second pair to use for a short run.  Somehow the left shoe never felt quite right but I just kept putting it down to it being a little stiff and needing to be broken in.  A week ago I did my first long run in the second pair and completely destroyed my big toenail.  Now, we all know black and missing toenails are a badge of honour in running.  While the rest of the world may think it is disgusting, for runners it almost a rite of passage.  But this one just pissed me off.  I knew it was because of the shoe and not because of any great running accomplishments that I had sustained this injury.  But for the life of me I could not figure out why I was having such a problem when my other pair was so perfect.

Finally I thought to compare my right shoe (which was fitting fine) and the left shoe that was causing the problem.  When I put them together for comparison I discovered that the left shoe, while labelled as the correct size, is in fact a half size smaller.  That half size combined with winter socks and going down hills, makes quite a difference in how a running shoe fits.  Needless to say, I am more than a little irritated.  I am long past the 30 day return policy, nor do I have a receipt.  Regardless, I have emailed the manager of the store and am hoping to hear back this week as to what to do next.  Right now all I know is I have learned a new lesson; don’t just check the size printed in the shoe, compare both shoes to make sure the sizes match.  Who knew???



A New Half Marathon in Ottawa

A few weeks back I was surprised to find out that a couple of runs in Somersault’s extensive race series had been cancelled.  One was their Day Before Mother’s Day Race, which had distances of 1k, 3k, 5k, 10k and half marathon.  I had planned on doing either the half or the 10 so was a little disappointed that the event would not be held.

I was happy to learn, however, that Somersault has now added a women’s half marathon to their very popular “Emilie’s Run 5k” in June.  The race is memory of Emilie Mondor, who was killed in a car accident in 2006.  Emilie was the first Canadian woman to run sub 15:00 for 5K and was also an Athens’ Olympian.  In past years this event had only the women’s 5k race and a kids’ 1k event.  I think it is a great idea to add the half marathon, a distance that the organizers note is the fastest growing distance of choice for female runners.  As far as I know this is the only “women only” half marathon in Ottawa.  I just might have to pencil  June 21 into my race calendar!

 File:Canada Ottawa Panorama.jpg

photo credit: Wikimedia

Can You Overdress for -30C?

Yep, apparently you can.  According to Environment Canada, when I headed out for a run today it was -22C ( -7F ), with a wind chill of -30C ( -22F ).  That polar vortex thing was at work again.  Though can I just say that it seems to me “polar vortex” is just a fancy media term for a typical January cold spell?  It is not like it is unusual for Ottawa to have these temperatures, or colder, at this time of year.  I think we just banish the memory from our minds while we enjoy the warmer months and then suddenly find ourselves surprised yet again that yes, it gets pretty damn cold in this city!

Today I fell for all the hype and layered up more than any other day so far this winter.  Out I went with two hats (one with a face mask), ear muffs, two long sleeve layers, a running coat, a running shell, long johns, winter running pants, winter socks and two pairs of mitts.  Within the first 5 minutes I knew it was too much.  In fact, I had to slow down my pace to avoid completely overheating.  The irony of the fact that I was having the same problem as I do in the summer when the temperatures are 50 degrees higher was not lost on me.  The only real issue I had with the cold was the fact that I had to make an effort not to blink too slowly in order to keep my eyelashes from sticking together.

Because of all the warnings, I planned on only running 2k.  Instead I kept going for 7, stopping only because I was out of time (and hot!).  The best thing about running on a ridiculously cold day?  You can’t help but feel awesome at the end of it all.  And I admit it, I love the look of awe on people’s faces when they realize you have run in sub -20 degree temperatures.  When I complete my weekday runs I have to return to my workplace which is a school.  The parents are outside shivering waiting for their kids to come out.  They often just shake their heads at me.  I like to imagine that they think I am amazing.  I admit, however, that it is more likely they are just questioning my sanity, possibly even wondering if this crazy winter runner should be teaching their children.  But it doesn’t matter because either way winter runs – even polar vortex runs – are awesome and worthy of some bragging rights!!!


Yep, 43.7km completed this past week.  I knew it had been a long time since I put that mileage in, and I was more than a little shocked when I looked back in my running logs to find out just how long it has been.  Let’s just say the last time I did that was a long time before the snow fell and if memory serves correctly, the snow started falling early this winter.  A few other numbers; I ran 6 of the last 7 days, 10 of the last 14 days.  While none of the runs felt fantastic, I definitely feel better for the outdoor time and exercise.

A driving force in my increased mileage is the fact that I am starting to run with others.  While I have done a few Running Room clinics in the past two years, I have for the most part remained a solitary runner.  Even in a couple of the clinics I ended up running alone, my pace somehow putting me between all of the fast runners at the front and the slower runners who stuck to the back.  I do like running by myself though, I love the down time and I have so many great songs on my playlist that I never get tired of any of them.  But I went into this year feeling the need to run with others and enjoy the social aspect as well as the little push you automatically get when surrounded by other runners.

Since running in a group was one of my goals, I had a choice; either sign up for a “local” clinic (any clinics near me are at least a half hour drive) or start my own group.  It occurred to me that I knew enough people with whom I talk about running that I might actually be able to get a group going.  So a Saturday morning run club has been started.  With about 10 people interested – all with busy schedules and most with kids – the goal is to at least have a small group out each week.

Yesterday four of us hit the road on a perfect winter morning and had a fantastic run.  Each one of us was at a completely different stage in our running but it all worked and great things happened.  One runner got her first run done in three months, one did her first ever 10k and the most experienced in our bunch got me past the 10k mark, in fact all the way to 14 and then after a long walk while she continued on, another run back for a finish of 15.7k.  For whatever reason this was just not something I was managing on my own.  When by myself I was just giving up too easily.  At 5k I would tell myself, hey I got a run in, it’s ok if I finish now.  But when running with a group, I barely looked at my watch and just enjoyed the run and the company.  I will still look forward to my solitary runs, but I am definitely looking forward to future group runs on Saturday mornings!

I have decided to start posting my weekly mileage in the hopes a little accountability will keep me going and perhaps I will be somewhat prepared for Around the Bay in 10 weeks.  As can be seen below, I have a long way to go…

  • Sunday: 5k race
  • Monday: 9.5k
  • Tuesday: 3.5k
  • Wednesday: rest
  • Thursday: 4k
  • Friday: 6k
  • Saturday: 15.7k


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Richmond Road Race Review

I have to say, it feels good to have my first race in my 14 in ’14 challenge completed.  Trying a new race was also fun, especially a race that has been around for 32 years.  The Richmond Road Race is a relatively small race (I think numbers are kept to around a total 500 for the two distances) but one that clearly has a loyal following.  From what I could tell, most of the runners there were not first timers like me.  There was even one participant who had been at every race since year one.

I know alot of people do not like winter races due to the weather.  But one thing I love about these cold weather events is they usually provide an big indoor space for pre-race and post-race events.  Combine that with the fact that they are usually small races and you have a race where there is no need to stand shivering forever at the start line.  Better yet, that start line is often located steps away from that lovely, warm indoor space.  This race provided all of the above plus a heck of alot of food.  Nice combination 🙂

This is a fairly simple race; no timing chips, no medals.  There was a cute long sleeve shirt (though not in the tech material I was hoping for) and great backpacks as prizes for age category winners.  This is my first race where in my kit I received information about the possibility of a train crossing our path during the race.  Apparently VIA Rail will not confirm when a train will pass at a specific crossing, so the race organizers tracked when the train came through the last few Sundays and felt pretty confident it would go through before the race.  They were right (and I am sure relieved) as I heard the train whistle as I pulled into the parking, long before the start time.  This is not the first race I have heard of having train problems.  Around the Bay in Hamilton has apparently changed their course this year since runners had to stop for a train last year.  That would have to be more than a little frustrating in the middle of a 30km course.

All in all, the Richmond Road Race seems like a very organized event, I’m guessing after 32 years they know what they are doing.  I have to give kudos for the food.  At the end of your run you went back into the warm high school cafeteria to pick up your bowl of hot soup and a plate loaded with a bun, a muffin, cubes of cheese, a banana, a juice box and a yogurt.  There had to be a good team of volunteers to organize and put out this amount of food.  Since I am avoiding large amounts of gluten, it was the soup that I really enjoyed.  Evan enjoyed everything on his plate plus all of the food I didn’t eat.  Having an almost 11 year old growing boy comes in handy when you have extra food around.

Neither Evan nor I are in race shape.  This was meant to be a training run for us so we set three goals.  We decided we would be happy with finishing the 5k under 31 minutes, and would be really happy if it was under 30 minutes.  Anything that started with 28 would be awesome.  We started out fast, too fast, so had to remind ourselves to slow down.  When we started to hit slippery pavement, and then icy areas on a gravel road we were careful not to push too much.  Evan seemed tired so I said to him we could take a break if he wanted.  His answer: “No, I don’t want to walk, actually I do really want to walk, but I don’t want to, you know what I mean?”  I think most of us can relate.  So we kept going and actually picked up the pace a bit on the way back.  As we got near the end I told him to sprint if he wanted and off he went.  I had zero interest in running any faster so I just coasted to the finish line where volunteers recorded your time.  Evan was thrilled with his 28:58 and I can live with my 29:08, though it is 3 minutes slower than my best.  These times put both of us in third place for our age groups so we came home with some pretty nice backpacks:

We match!

We match!

Running with Evan is always fun.  Except for one thing.  He talks… ALOT!  And half of what he says is in the form of a question, so he expects an answer.  Usually I have to answer at least three times because between his heavy breathing and the hat over his ears, he can never hear me.  I finally had to tell him to stop talking to conserve his energy.  The reality was I couldn’t talk anymore and maintain my breathing.  Maybe I will be able to talk and run again in a couple of months but not now as I try desperately to get back to running under a 6 min/km pace.  I was more than a little surprised actually that my 5:50 pace put me in 3rd place for the 40-49 group.  I admit I assumed there must have only been a handful in this age group, so I was even more surprised when I found out there were actually 23 of us.  I guess I am not the only one trying to slowly chip away at my pace.

The winners were anything but slow.  The top 4 runners in the 10k were in the 37 minute range, while the top 3 runners in the 5k were in the 17 minute range.  These are their times in the middle of winter on a slightly slippery course!

What I will remember the most though from this race is the number of “senior” runners.  I don’t even feel right using the word senior, these people were amazing.  In the 10k there were 2 men in the 80+ category (yes you read that right) who finished with times of 67 and 68 minutes!!!  In the 5k there was an 82 year old women who looked like she was still ready to run after the race was completed.  There was no shortage of participants in the 60-69 and 70-79 year old category either, and many of their times were simply amazing.  It made me think how as runners we spend a huge amount of time setting “number”goals.  We are always asking ourselves if we can reach a certain time, a certain distance, a certain number of races.  Perhaps an even better goal would be to strive to be running and feeling healthy in our seventies and even our eighties.  I can only hope!