My First Ever Gran Fondo

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My first Gran Fondo – The Epic tour Halton Gran Fondo 140km

On my list of things to do this summer was to try my hand at my first Gran Fondo.

After racing the 5peaks trail race the day before I wasn’t sure how the 140km on my saddle was going to go. The point of the day was to have fun, and try something new. I accomplished both with some surprising bonuses.

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The line of riders went on for miles. Almost 4000 riders for the entire event.

Gran fondo means long distance or great endurance (it does not mean“big ride”–there are running and cross country ski gran fondos too). Some cyclists ride for the satisfaction and pride of just making it to the finish line.

I was there by myself without a group to do the ride with. Many thought this was not usual. I got asked to join groups for the entire ride, but decided I would just do my own thing.

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Riding Solo for Team Rumble!

The Epic Halton Milton Gran Fondo is well organized, and I think my favourite part was the coffee stop on the way to the start line! Note for next year; bring a full cup into the start corral. You are there for a more than a few minutes.

Once the ride started the groups got pretty split up. I thought this would be more of a group ride and was looking forward to riding with others. I spent the first 1.5 hour catching a group. Once I got one, I wasn’t happy with the pace. Once I refilled my water and had some food at the aid station, I met up with another solo rider and we rode the rest of the course side by side.

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Got to ride most of the second half with Blair from Morning Glory CC – Good company!

The course was challenging. Hills forever. I can definitely say that the time I have spent with the guys on the donut ride made the Gran Fondo last weekend, a total success. Not only did the tips that all the guys shared with me come into play for the entire 140km, but the rides themselves prepared me for what I was up against in Milton.

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This is not a flat course!

I decided to do what a lot of the guys do on the donut ride for the first half. I rode the small ring and my plan was to move up to the big ring after 30km. Once I got a feel for how this course was going to be, I decided to just stay put. As a runner who is using cycling to stay super fit, this approach helps keep my leg muscles lean as I don’t want to carry around the extra leg muscle weight that cyclist tend to get. This is also good to prevent any knee or hip pain that can result from being in too hard a gear for a long period of time.

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My Strava awards for the Gran Fondo ride!

I had a very successful day. I rode 140km in 4:30 spinning out an average of 31km an hour. Not bad for a solo mission over a challenging course.

I never once bonked or felt tired and I’m thankful to all my sponsors who help me stay bonk-free during these endurance adventures.

What I ate for the ride:
For breakfast I had Stokedoats. I used Honeymaxx before and during the ride. At the one aid station stop, I ate a ton of watermelon, half a bagel and oranges. As an added boost I broke down and had one GU caffeinated Gel. Once I finished I drank a rumble recovery drink.

TIP: Eat and hydrate properly for all your endurance activities. The next day I was fresh enough to run and mountain bike. Eating right for any endurance exercise is key to ensuring you recovery fast for your next workout!

What’s next on the saddle? I’m going to ride the Centurion ride this weekend in Collingwood. Come join me, I could use the company. Go to http://www.centurioncycling.com/ to sign up.

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The very best part of the ride was the last 20m. I spent it with this guy – Carlo who works at MEC toronto. He was in good spirits and we laughed all the way to the end.

5Peaks Race #5

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It’s September and we are at 5Peaks!

My favourite month of the year is finally here and with it brings lots of racing! This past weekend was Race #5 of the 5Peaks trail running series.

As always the race went amazing, Erin Dasher Ontario’s fabulous race director provides such a great experience for everyone. The draw prize table seems to get better and better as the season goes on! If that’s not an incentive to come out I don’t know what else to tell you!

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The Kortright Course

As always I never check route maps, and rely on my friends to tell me what the terrain is like. They told me it was flat except for maybe one hill. As always, I trust them. As always, 2km into the race I’m questioning whether my friends know what the word flat means. For my friends Webster’s dictionary says:
flat
adjective
smooth and even; without marked lumps or indentations.

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My face going into Lap 2. What Im saying is “this is not flat!”

Kortright is a gorgeous course. It’s scenic and I can’t wait to go back and do some training run there, but it’s not what I would call flat. Since I had two races this weekend, I knew I had to really take it easy. During this race, my ego was locked tightly away, and I ran a brilliant race. I started slower than I have in the past. I walked every single hill and before the end of the first loop, I was picking runners off for the rest of the race. My goal to race easy was still in place, but by lap two my legs woke up and my quads decided to come join the rest of the my muscles. I felt this strong sense of endurance. I had no idea what placing I was in and I wasn’t totally concerned with it. I just wanted to have a great training race to prep for the bigger goal in December.

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Our before race group shot. Usually its a selfie, but the crew is getting to big for selfies now!

I spent much of the race trying to explain to a girl ahead of me that she would be better off walking the hills, that she would not lose any time, but rather be stronger for walking. She wouldn’t listen. Every time I started running, I would catch her and we would go through the conversation all over again for the next hill. The result was I finished strong and she cooked her legs. She told me after the race, she should’ve listened, but like all of us, we must learn things on our own. I have a good feeling the next one she will take my advice.

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Another podium finish for me! 2nd place overall

Many of my friends came out to run the course as a training run for their upcoming marathon. This is such a good idea because 1. Trail running is softer and you heal faster afterwards. 2. The uneven terrain engages and activates muscles you don’t use when running on the road, making you stronger for you next workout.

We get to do one more race before the season ends for the year. September 20th will be held at Hardwood Hills. I’m really looking forward to it and will be once again easy racing this one, as I have a ½ marathon race the next day. If you want to sign up – go to – 5peaks.com and use MICHELLE for a discount.

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We clean up well for a bunch of trail runners!

Run your AGE

Warning this post is definitely not going to be an opinion everyone agrees on. I’m speaking strictly from my own experience as a lifetime runner having been coached by many great people. 

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I turned 40 this summer. For some the big 4-0 is scary, but I was excited. As a runner moving up into this age category is something I’ve been looking forward to for the last 5 years. To some people’s surprise, it’s extremely competitive and the training is so much different.

I’ve heard the phrase; “Age is just a number”, a lot these days. For the most part, this is totally true. You are only as old as you feel.

However, just because I feel 20 and to some look in my 30’s, this doesn’t mean I can continue to train like a 20 or 30 year old. I’ve been running competitively since I was 10 years old. I‘ve adjusted my training since the day I started, based on age, body and especially hormones. In my younger days, it was speed that was the most important. Training at faster, lower mileage was key to improving my race goals. As age started to creep up on me I’d noticed that my body wasn’t responding to this training any more. I started to go through a period of time when muscle tears happened every single season, at the exact same point in my training. (note: this is the big reason you should always keep a running log to notice patterns in training)

After some adjustments and talking to other women my age, I got the same answers; Run slower and longer. As someone who is addicted to the sport of running, this was the best news I’d ever heard.

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My very first marathon: NYC in 2008

Let’s first deal with specificity.

Too many times, I’m watching people train for a marathon, but in that same season, attempting to PR in their 5km race. There are so many factors to take into account for this to be general, but generally this is not a good approach to 5km or marathon training. Training should be specific to the goal you have marked on your calendar. Everything else is “practice”. I got asked a handful of time this summer, “how do I get faster at my 5km’s”. My answer; “stop training for a marathon”. I also got asked, “how do I get faster at my marathon”, again my Answer was “stop training for a marathon”.

The Marathon is a distance that has taken the world by storm. Everyone wants to do it, but not everyone should do it. I didn’t do my first marathon until I was 32 years old. I did one in 2008 and didn’t go back to the distance until 3 years later. It took that long to regroup and re-build the speed back into my body to go after my marathon goal. During that re-group I did lots of 5km, 10km and most importantly half marathons. I absolutely believe that I would not be able to run the speeds I do now if I had started marathoning earlier. I listened to my body and let it decide when I was ready to go for my goal. Tip; training for a Marathon doesn’t mean running lots of marathons!

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My favourite TO Women’s Race Series. I use all three races to prep for my race goals.

From 35 to 40 is when I noticed the biggest set of changes occur. I can run longer, feel stronger and the recovery is easier because I’m not pounding out so much speed.

“There are only so many marathons in a person legs”, this is a statement I completely agree with. I plan my marathons with my coach, making sure the plan and my goals align from season to season. Most times I’m planning two seasons ahead for the goal I really want.

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My 2nd Boston where I completed my Sub 3 hour goal. It was two long seasons of training for this one big goal.

So about that 5km? Same goes for that race. The training for a 5km is much tougher, requiring a lot of speed work and the need to recover faster. Someone past 30 and into your 40’s, you will have a tougher go at shaving time off your PR. It can be done, but the risk of injury goes up exponentially. As we age, whether we like it or not, our muscles lose their elasticity, their bounce and recovery needs to be it’s own training discipline.

Training for the fastest 5km or the fastest marathon is never going to be easy no matter how you try to short cut it. However, training using the right plan for your age combined with how many years you’ve already been running will increase your chance for a successful race no matter what the distance.

Although Jo Pavey proved at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, you can still be the best at 40 years old. She won Gold in the 10,000M event. Once again I will point out that Jo Pavey is and always has been a long distance track runner. Not a marathoner. She has always trained for her discipline and stuck her goals. She is the picture image of a master of her trade.

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Jo Pavey at the Common Wealth Games, taking the lead for a Gold Medal win. She is 40!

Priceless

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Getting away for the weekend can be more stressful than fun. It can be expensive and you come home more tired than when you left.

This past weekend was so very different. I’m that friend that will call you up and say “so crazy idea, how about we jump in a car, go do this event etc etc etc ….” Usually I drop the idea with little to no planning, details being just a minor thing to worry about. Usually I get a few ho hums, maybe’s and mostly no’s.

Last week I mentioned to my two favourite run buddies, Clare Horan and Peader Lawless, that we should jump in my car and go on a camping / runcation to Gatineau, Quebec. To my surprise, they said yes. Then I asked Jessica Kuepfer, and Clare asked Stephen Walter. They also said yes. I was starting to get skeptical. Thinking back to my last crazy idea where I created a 2-day trail running challenge (some are still suffering from this challenge) I wondered if I was just a bit of a “fun bully”.

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Fun Bully at your service. Start of the I2P trail run. 

Soon my car magically turned into a rental SUV. Zooming towards Quebec in the middle of the night, we set up two tents at 2am without a single argument. It was at that very moment, I knew the weekend was going to be special.

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Let the weekend begin! Road Trip

Starting the day peacefully eating our Stoked Oats breakfast in typical camp fashion, we then headed into Ottawa to take a run tour of the city. Loaded with our running packs we toured the parliament buildings, parks and street markets.

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My three favourite Irish folks seeing the parliament buildings for the first time!

The reason we planned this trip was to run the I2P (Impossible2Possible) trail run. The run is organized by Ray Zahab. Gatineau Park is an amazing place to run trails. Being able to meet Ray, his wife and be able to support his amazing non-profit organization, made the weekend complete.

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Meeting Ray for the first time! Such a great guy!

The trail was surprisingly difficult, although not overly technical. Every single muscle was firing from beginning to end. To date it was the best trail training I’ve had. Finishing up the 23km we jumped straight into the lake, only to find out that we potentially may have contracted a parasite called “swimmers itch”. Thanks to Webmd and Jessica’s good googling skills, we declared ourselves symptom free after 6 hours of driving and not an itch in sight.

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What seemed like a great idea, almost turned into the worst idea. Thankfully swimmers itch free!

The following day Clare sent out the tally for the weekend. To our shock and awe, the entire weekend cost a total of $99 for each of us. It would’ve cost more money to stay home and do nothing! No one ended up in a medic tent; a search party did not have to be launched and the only crying that happened was from laughing too hard. Finding friends like this doesn’t happen often, and I’m so grateful to be part of this amazing running community. Running is more than a physical activity; it’s a community that opens your world to some of the best adventures you couldn’t even imagine.

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The best community to belong to.

To learn more about Impossible2possible visit the website and learn how you can get involved.

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Trail Run Hardware.

 

 

Full Circle

photo (1)When a new year starts, people often make resolutions or bucket lists. I’ve never really participated in this tradition. I’ve been fortunate to have the kind of family that has always pushed me forward and encouraged me to life my life with my heart. My life has lots of up and downs just like anyone else but I’m especially grateful for the amazing amount of ups I get to experience in my life. 

This year has been a huge learning year for me. With the help of my family, coach and mentors, I found myself, and she wasn’t that far away. Myself was just always busy doing something for someone else, too busy to do stuff for me. Myself couldn’t take a day off from anything! Myself was hurt, broken and denied needing the time to heal. 

I found myself when I was ready to stop looking. I started to care less about the miles and more about the moment. Moments like when I realized I enjoyed being alone for 4 hours on a bike, because finally myself was doing something just for me. Taking rest stops in coffee shops with perfect strangers, making friends from Toronto to Hamilton, along the way. 

The moments I got to spend with my dog, just the two us on the water. Myself trying to learn how to surf on my Stand Up Paddle board. Challenging myself in a way that was completely unfamiliar, allowing myself to feel “humble”.

The moment you’re muddy, sweaty and surrounded by some of the best friends you have ever had and that happy moment was effortless.

The best moment, when myself felt confident, strong and healed to face her coach and her team after a long and withdrawn absence. That moment, I knew the journey was complete and the search could end. 

A family member passed away this weekend. He was a great man and I always looked up to him. He lived a full and most importantly, happy life. I always wondered who I got my athletic drive and boundless energy from. Today I remembered a moment with my uncle. Like the pied piper he’d have all the kids chasing behind fascinated by one of his many stories. He would walk with us every night, teaching us how to speak Czech, do math or play sports. I was in awe of him. He never stopped moving, thinking or learning. He was spiritual, intelligent, funny and handsome. He lived his life with his heart.

The moment on my way home from my first Stand Up Paddle race, with a first place medal around my neck, I turned to my friend and said “I really love my life just the way it is”, the phone rang and my mom was crying. The moment you find out your hero dies. The moment you remember why he was your hero in the first place. The moment the circle closes. 

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My hero.

Inside Toronto’s Donut Ride

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My first Donut Ride – Rookie Mistake No.1 (keep reading)

The (In)Famous Donut Ride! Most of my adult life I’ve heard about it and honestly the name is kind of misleading. Not knowing a thing, I remember being invited to it years ago. My mind pictured a bunch of “mature” gentlemen riding a few km’s and then stopping at a donut shop then riding a bit more. In all honesty my mind wasn’t that far off, but the “mature” men are kind of fast and the ride starts at what used to be a donut shop finishing with more than a few km’s.

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Two Long Time Donut Riders that I got to meet this weekend. They made me feel better when they told me they did the same rookie mistake I did!

The Donut Ride first happened in the 70’s and started with little more than a handful of riders. Today you can see up to 100 plus riders on a Saturday morning.

It’s no surprise to many people who follow me on Instagram and twitter that I’ve been spending a bit more time on my bike this summer. I’ve not retired from running (like some have asked) and I’m not injured. I was asked by my coach a while ago, “when you were in your best shape, what were you doing that you’re not doing now?” Without blinking, the answer was cycling. His response was, “So why aren’t you doing that?”

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My Rumble Drink Kit for my upcoming bike race.

You don’t need to tell a girl who owns three bikes to start using them, more than once. Thankfully for my bank account this summer, no new toys were necessary to adjust my training.

After a few decent training rides, I signed myself up for my first road race. A few weeks ago I realized I’d only been training by myself or with one other rider. I had a small panic attack about the prospect of riding in a large group.

Enter stage left, the Toronto Donut Ride. Donut Ride #1. Last weekend, I showed up at 8:45 am bright eyed and bushy tailed, secretly terrified but also eager to attack this ride. In a few short words, I got my butt kicked.

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This was really the only time I saw the middle of the pack and it wasn’t for long.

Rookie mistake #1. Being afraid of the riding in the pack, you ride up front, taking on the role of “Domestique”. I quickly learned that you have to be a little bigger than 5’5” and 120lbs to be the “Domestique” for 60 riders. Better idea: Stay in the middle to the right side of the pack or closer to the back. Take the warm-up part seriously and use drafting when necessary to ensure you are able to stay with the pack the whole time.

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Staying right in the middle waiting for the sprints.

Rookie mistake #2. There are three routes with this ride. All are fast. One is long (130kmish, very hilly) another is medium (approx 110km – less hilly) and one is shorter (85km even less hilly). There is actually one other really long route but we won’t discuss that one. First timers, don’t go long! I did and I spent the majority of the group ride – alone. Really not sure? Take the short course.

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The Middle distance Route. Doesn’t look too much different from the long ride, but trust me this is plenty of riding for a first time Donut Rider.

Rookie mistake #3. Check your ego at the start of the ride and no matter how long you’ve been on a saddle, there’s always something new to learn about pack riding.

Next up! Donut Ride #2 went 100% better. After feeling just a taste of riding with a pack, I was hooked. If I wanted to spend more time in the pack I had to re-evaluate the rookies mistakes I made the week before.

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Photo Credit: Mark Buckaway. From the back of his seat, capturing me about to get my butt kicked on Donut ride no. 1.

I stayed far away from the front, which gave me time to properly warm up and when the sprints started, I had enough juice to stick with the guys. When the sprints slowed, many of them came by to pat me on the back for hanging in and also share some very important pack riding tips.

This ride has a bad stigma attached to it. Many are intimated by it and after my first time, I didn’t really understand why, after my second time I’m even more baffled. These guys are all ex pros or highly elite riders. Unless you are endangering the rest of the pack, they’re really fun to ride with. They’re happy to help and love sharing everything they can to make it a safe ride for everyone. The last thing they want is to see another rider get seriously hurt and worse, every rider behind that rider.

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I’m the dorky girl who keeps wanting to take selfies. Thankfully the guys didn’t mind.

If you’re thinking of joining the Donut Ride there are few things I would highly recommend:

  • You should be able to comfortably ride avg 35km / hour by yourself. If you get dropped you will have to reach speeds of up to 40 – 45km / hour to try to catch up.
  • Learn the hand signals to communicate with other riders what you are doing and what is happening in front of you. Click here for hand signals 101: http://bitly.com/cyclinghandsignals
  • Work together with the pack and share the work.
  • If you get dropped or flat, no one will stop to help (unlikely) so be prepared to snake your way back home alone and be thankful you hung on at all.
  • Don’t half wheel. It’s dangerous and puts everyone at risk. (I got slapped on the wrist for it once and won’t do it again!)
  • Bring nutrition, hyrdation and a flat kit.

For more information about the Donut Ride go to:
http://www.donutride-toronto.ca/

Also watch GOTLIVE! with The GetOutThere Girls on Monday Aug 17 at 8pm EST. I’ve got highlights from my donut ride and we’ll be interviewing Kevin Lehman, A Donut Ride veteran to learn everything you need to know and why you should join the next one!    http://bitly.com/GOTLIVE9

 

5Peaks Trail Race #4 – Albion Hills A.K.A. Know when to Fold em’

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Team Longboat Trail Runners. Starting the day off with my besties!

The latest 5peaks race at Albion Hills was yet another amazing race day. Erin Dasher is such a great race director. She is so laid back yet extremely organized. This particular race I was grateful that she was both!

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The Albion Hills Route mapped out via Suunto Movescount

To date this was my worst and best race of the series.

Worst:
I was working CanFitPro for Rumble Drink the day before. On my feet all day, dehydrated and just over tired. This is not good for racing the next day. I ate too much food too late Saturday night. Saturday morning, I followed my regular routine, despite knowing I probably didn’t need any more and just needed to drink fluids.

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They don’t call it Albion Hills for nothing.

My stomach was a mess and my asthma was bad. What was even worse was that in the last three weeks I hadn’t run more than 10km. Staying below 10km to make sure my injured ankle was fully healed.

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The pain in starting to set in.

1km in my legs felt heavy, 2km in my lungs felt heavy, 3km my stomach felt heavy. I was just over 3km into the enduro course of the race when I had made the decision to cut my losses and end this before it got really bad. When the rest of the enduro crowd went left, I went straight for the finish line. My first sport course race of the series complete.

This is where Erin Dasher was a star. Without even blinking twice, she realized there must be a problem and without making a big deal about it, she announced my finish.

So how was this day the best race of the series? All through the series I have been 2nd or 3rd place. I’ve been perfectly happy with this and I love that I have the 2nd and 3rd place medal.To complete my collection of running jewelry, I only had this race and the next race to get a 1st place finish. To my absolute shock, I finished the sport course in first place. Just out of curiosity, I went back to look at my Suunto results and realized, I actually had a decent race despite my set backs.

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The new cool 5Peaks Podium!

The past me would’ve pushed through to the bitter end, because I never quit. Splitting from the Enduro pack was like quitting to me. I was pretty disappointed in myself, but knew I had to check my ego. I had to evaluate the limitations up against me and accept these for what they were. My asthma and stomach weren’t going to make it through 11.4 km of hilly trail. While the rest of my enduro team mates ran around the woods, I got changed and patted myself on the back for knowing when call it a day. I know the day could’ve been much worse, and I was grateful it turned out perfectly awesome.

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Finally – My 1st place Medal!