Mizuno Motivation Monday

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There is always something special about The Toronto Women’s Race series, especially the kick off race, the Half Marathon and 5km. The buzz before and after the race is the most unique and I always compare it to a giant girls weekend getaway.

Every year since this series has begun, I’ve race, paced and sometimes won the race. I’ve got to enjoy all aspect of what this series has to offer. This time, working for Mizuno one of the lead sponsors, I got to work the race. Not only did I get to work it, I got to help coordinate and organize a new version of our Run Bird race guides. I picked 6 of the most amazing, positive inspiring women I could think of and gave then designated spots to be on the course and inside the race. The reason for them to be there, was simple, to motivate, inspire and if possible help some of the participants reach their set goal. High fives, hugs, someone to cry and someone laugh was readily available on Sunday morning.

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With Krysten, Michelle, Clare, Sabrina, Morgan and Phaedra we had an all-star roster of amazing women. Each had their own unique experience being a Mizuno Run Bird and shared with me some of their stories. The true spirit of the women’s running community was in full force Sunday, watching the girls make everyone’s race experience even more enjoyable.

Sabrina wrote:

I’ve paced people one-on-one in the past, but today was really special because of the reach & impact us Run Birds had on the participants.  Rosanne, bib 671, was particularly extraordinary.  She thought the race started later, started with the 5k runners, she is a Registered Nurse who came off a night shift & was the last half-marathon runner to start.  That certainly didn’t stop her & she managed to pass a lot of people to NOT finish last.  Just check out her smile in the photo coming up to the finish. It’s a special feeling when you can be a part of somebody’s accomplishments.

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In addition, I had a great time tag teaming with Krysten, the neon yellow caps really help to distinguish us in the crowd & at a distance.  It was great to hear all your stories & I love all the positivity from the group.

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Clare had a very similar experience:

There was a lot of cheer on the course and we were getting a lot of positive responses from people. The high fives were flying and my voice was going from all the shouting (must learn some new phrases for next time…..)

My story is not any different to those described to us on the day. As we were hitting the 3km mark I came across a women who was starting to struggle and head was falling! I ran up to her and started chatting. She had recently started running and had joined her local Running Room on a “Learn to Run” program. Her longest run to date was 3km. I asked her what her goal was for today and she said her goal was to only stop and walk 2 times during the race. I asked her how many times she had stopped so far and she said 2. She was visibly disappointed as she felt like she needed to walk. I told her that was fine if she need to walk but lets trying slowing down a bit to catch her breath before regaining her pace. We did this and I kept her distracted for the final 1.5km and she got in without having to stop! She was delighted and gave me a big hug and thanked me for getting her in. She even dragged me over to introduce me to her husband and two daughters.

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Krysten got a little misty eyed during the day watching women kick butt. She told me:

One of the first girls I ran in was probably one of my most memorable. Her name is Kristin and I recognized her from Instagram. She had an ambitious time goal and by the time I met up with her, she knew she didn’t hit the time she wanted. She was frustrated and I could tell she wanted to give up at that point. Sabrina ran her to me at the 19km mark and I said I would run her in. Kristin said she wanted to give up and she wanted to walk. But I said no, we were running and she was running an amazing pace (4:30/km) – even if she didn’t think so. We kept that pace and ran strong all the way in. I know she didn’t get the time she wanted, but she tagged me later on Instagram to say how grateful she was for the boost at the end. And I may have gotten a little misty eyed.

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What I loved the best about the event and the day is that at its very core it is just about women lifting up other women and supporting each other to live our dreams. If we did more of that every day, there would be no stopping us.

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The Run Birds stayed to the very end, going out to grab the last 12 women on course and running to the finish one by one, smiling all the way.

Being a part of someone else’s experience is extremely rewarding. It’s like getting to relive your first race experience all over again and again and again. As runners we all know that feeling when we just want to quit and call it day. We know how hard it can be to climb out of that dark spot. The Run Birds erased the doubt, made the runners believe and reminded them pain is temporary, but memories last forever.

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The 2015 Niagara Classic Road Race; a BIKE RACE review

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Niagara Classic Course x 4 laps

It was a Thursday night, 11:45pm and I had 15 minutes left to sign up for my first cycling road race. In an attempt to push my limits and break the comfort zone yet again, I made a secret decision to do what I knew my coach would not agree to. I talk about my jackass moves a lot on my blog. I LOVE my coach. I’m a pretty good student, and my dedication cannot be questioned. I know he worries, I know he wonders why I always want to do more, push harder than I need to. He’s learning the reasons why, and I’m doing my best to contain the crazy version of myself and try to walk the straight line of pure discipline. I like my running routine, but my weakness is I suffer from severe FOMO (fear of missing out). I want to be a well-rounded person and athlete and I want to do everything all the time all at once!

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My bike

Let’s get back to 11:45pm Thursday and my race registration. I completely forgot I forgot to get my bike license for the year. Registration was put on hold and I had to purchase my race license and register on race day. Still not revealing my secret mission to race my bike to anyone, I went about the rest of the week as normal. Friday’s workout went better than expected and it was a running workout. Cycling? Oh yeah, besides a few mountain bike runs and a group ride a month ago, I’ve been MIA on two wheels, focusing on getting through the spring running race season. In-shape? The only data I was going into the race with my Brock University Study that concluded I was a very good cyclist, especially for someone’s whose main discipline is running. Ultimately I know my strengths and weaknesses, and I know my strength hovers on mental toughness.

I had a mini track meet on Saturday with my running club and when the coach said, “see you tomorrow at the long run”, I squirmed knowing full well I would be a on a bike racing away my head full of demons. I was excited though; trying something new is always a thrill for me.

Since I was racing first thing in the morning, I called my cycling buddy and told him to come down and race with me. He didn’t end up racing, but did come out to be my one-man crew and pre and post race pep talker. It was actually very helpful to have him there, as I was definitely a fish out of water. I had NO idea what I was doing. I’m a strong cyclist and I love riding in a peloton, but other than that, I don’t know the pre-race protocol and racing rules. I always find being a newbie at something really interesting and fun.

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Getting the low down

Pre-race instructions were announced to us and then we all made our way to the start line. Having rode this course one time back in December, I knew about the aptly named Eff’ing hill. It’s not easy, it’s long and for this race, it had to be conquered 4 times in total. As someone who just loves riding bikes, I can’t say what I’m stronger at, but I’m not afraid to suffer. The hardest part of the whole course was that eff’ing hill. The rest was fine. So the first climb came fast (I learned during the neutral start what a neutral start was, which means you have to stay behind the lead vehicle until it’s safe to begin racing). The first climb hurt and after the crest, the lead girls broke away but not for long, as a group of 5 of us sort of worked together to catch them. Back in the peloton the pace slowed which surprised me. I’m used to riding at a fairly good speed for an extended period of time by myself. In a peloton I expect the pace to be even faster, but it was slower than my solo ride speed. This was a pleasant surprise as I got lots of time to recover moving into lap 2. The hill came again, and one by one the pack fell apart as we all individually suffered our way to the top. Same as lap one, the girls separated and we all scrambled for less than a kilometre to re-group with the lead pack. The peloton back in formation, the pace slowed again. As a newbie, I was starting to get frustrated. I had no idea what to do, where to stay or do I just take off? I knew I had the strength to make a decent breakaway, but on my own I was setting myself up for a huge risk of the peloton chasing me down. So as my friend TJ told me, I stuck with the group and just waited for something, anything to happen!

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The Peloton

Eff’ing hill was upon us once again. This time my climb was better and the break up t spread the main group into the two packs. I took off to the chase the lead pack and once nestled inside it, I got to let my legs recover for the next 6km. I stayed calm the whole time, watching, listening and learning. At one point I had to ask myself, when does the fun stuff start to happen, this was beginning to feel like a Sunday cruise in the country. I am not being cocky, I’m just used to riding with strong fast groups of men who have no mercy for anyone. I’ve had to ride hard or be left behind.

As we rounded into lap 4, I was actually feeling really good. As an endurance runner, it takes me a long time to warm up and I could feel my system was in go mode. Eff’ing hill came and I had my strongest climb for the last attempt. At the same time I was taking stock of the other girls and who was strong and who was struggling. Knowing your competitions weaknesses and strengths is an absolute must for future races. The crest came quickly and I bolted to chase the girls up ahead making sure I didn’t screw up the last lap. As predicted, but slightly surprised, the peloton pace did not get faster. This was the last lap. I was expecting some kind of a break, somebody to make a move. I was beginning to realize this was the deal. They were all going to stick as close together as possible and then sprint the last 500m. Not having a team to work with and being totally on my own, I wasn’t sure what the best approach was. This was something I should’ve worked out beforehand. I had a few choices that ran through my head. 1. just take off, knowing I could hold a strong pace for the rest of the race and hope for the best. 2. Stay put, and stay in a position that will let me sprint when the time is right. 3. Hope one or two other girls want to break and go with them.

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The Eff’ing hill

None of my plans came to fruition. I moved myself up front but it was a bad idea. I wanted to be closer to the front but still inside. The peloton wasn’t letting that happen. Once I was out front I was effed. With 1 km to go to the finish, the girls swarmed me like a pack of bees and I was trapped. I couldn’t move left or right or fall back to escape. I was truly screwed. I kept vocalizing that I was moving out, and even started to push my way out. With 500M to go the speed quickened and the sprinters were getting ready to go. Still trying to get the hell out of my predicament, with about 200M to go I got around the side of the now broken up pack and just tried to catch as many of the girls as possible.

My friend met me to cool down ride and discuss. I was frustrated but not angry. It was my first race ever! I didn’t crash, I held my own, I rode strong but I had no idea what to expect. I deemed the race a total success no matter what the outcome. I love walking the edge of my comfort zone and the things I learn for doing so are priceless.

In conclusion, do I love cycling road racing? No. It’s makes little to no sense to me. Cyclo-cross makes sense. Mountain bike racing makes sense. Running races make sense. Riding in a pack for 50km only to make the last 200M count doesn’t seem like a sport I can really fall in love with. As a stage race, yes a very different picture. As a one-day event, I feel that there should be more burn, more effort and overall more strategy. Will I do it again? Of course! Like anything that I can’t totally understand I want to deconstruct it and learn everything about it.

For my very first official road race ever, 5th place finish was better than I expected. Overall it was a positive experience and I look forward to a second attempt. After some re-hydrating and mingling, I changed out of my bib shorts and into my trail running gear. My head clear and my dark clouds pushed away, I went back to hang out with my comfort zone. We spent the rest of the afternoon getting lost in the forest and enjoying the simple things in life.

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Motivation Monday: Look Toward the Light

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I went slightly MIA this past week. I needed a break. I needed some space in my head. It’s amazing how quickly you can go from feeling on top of the world to the bottom of the barrel. Depression is an awful thing and so many people have to quietly deal with this disorder. I have two fairly serious sleeping disorders and the by-product of not getting my REM sleep can be bouts of depression. The depression can be from mild to severe and can last from an hour to several weeks.

I had the perfect storm erupt around me. Too many sleepless nights from interrupted sleep due to my sleeping disorder and my disrespectful neighbours started to take it’s toll. The horrible thing about any depression is how little control you have over it. The first sign for me that something’s wrong is when I don’t want to run. The red flag goes off immediately. I can say one thing I’m grateful is that I LOVE my job. If I didn’t enjoy what I did, then depression would be extremely disruptive. I was able to work all week, but when it came time to run, I had to really pep talk myself out of my bed fort. Knowing that exercise can alleviate some of the symptoms, I will always get it in, but it can be a chore some days.

tumblr_nck9agsjkq1tmk29oo1_500I think the hardest thing is the toll it takes on my friends and family. Going MIA and taking some time off the grid never feels like my choice. A feeling of not wanting to connect with anyone is very difficult to explain. I’m not moping around, I’m not unhappy; I’m quite literally in a funk. Luckily most of my closest friends have become aware of the signs and symptoms of my disappearing acts. They know to stay close, but also give me space. When I looked at my phone this week and saw quite a few messages from my family and friends stating their obvious concern for my silence, I immediately felt as though I’d disappointed everyone; another great symptom of dealing with depression. Consciously, I had to remind myself they love and care for me. Even though I didn’t respond to all of them, they all brought a smile to my face and made it easier to come out of the funk.

The week crawled by slowly and I started to actively do things to push away the dark cloud. I went to spend time with my nephews, since I can’t help but laugh when I’m around them. It helped a little. I reached out to some friends who also suffer from periodic depression. These things all helped a little.

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I knew what I really had to do though. I had to re-arrange my brain. I had to leave my comfort zone and take control of my life again. Thursday night without telling a single soul, I purchased my cycling license and had decided that I would race my road bike for the first time ever on Sunday morning. The coach would be very unhappy about this news. I hate keeping secrets, but sometimes I just have to take matters into my own hands. I will write a full review of the bike race in the next post, but spoiler alert: It was fun!

Between a track meet, a road bike race and a lonely trail run, the clouds lifted and the sun broke through. I apologize to my friends and family for causing concern in the first place but also a giant thank you for caring in the first place. I’m lucky in that I know exactly what causes my bouts and this makes it easier to work through them. They don’t happen often but still suck the same. Those who suffer with serious chronic depression need to know they can talk about it, they can share, and they don’t have to hide. Even though we just had mental health awareness week, every week we should be mindful about the toll depression takes on everyone; the ones who suffer and the loved ones who suffer beside them. This weeks Motivation Monday, is not about motivating you to get outside and kick butt, but to remind you to always look into the light even when you can barely see it.

sad-lonely-depressing-depression-quotes-10If you are “blue” for an unusually extended period of time, consider seeking medical attention or contacting a helpline. http://www.mentalhealthhelpline.ca/

Trails and how to be safe this summer.

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With dryer warmer temperatures, many of us are hitting the trails, looking for endless adventure. Trail runners and mountain bikers need to take special care as summer quickly approaches. Trails are majestic places to spend an afternoon running or cycling and getting lost in the woods. The playgrounds nature provides for us are amazing, but can also be dangerous.

Trails anywhere are fun, but you need to enter with caution and know the dangers that can ruin a great run or ride. Vegetation is the biggest question mark. Everyone knows what can lurk, but no one really knows how to identify what is poisonous and what isn’t. So let’s get started.

Poison Ivy: How many times have you had to ask or heard the question, what does it look like? It’s not easy but here are few tips:

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  1. Poison Ivy: The poison ivy plan grows as a bush or a vine but it always has three leaves. One longer pronounced pointed leaf with two smaller pointed leaves on each side. In spring and summer it will be a vibrant green and in fall a orange rusty colour. The oils that cover the plant are what makes it poisonous and the effect is usually a very uncomfortable itchy rash than can last for a couple of weeks. Dogs are especially at risk as they usually jump off the trail and into the bushes. Often times the wavy oil clings to their coat and then spreads the poison to you if you touch them. Be aware of your surroundings and mindful when jumping off a marked trail. Trail systems are pretty good about quarantining large poison ivy patches or placing warning signs about its presence.

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  1. Poison Oak: Poison oak is similar to poison ivy in that it grown in a trifoliate leaf structure. Rather than a pointy tip leaf, these leaves will appear wavy. You will also want to look for a glossy sheen on the top of the leave a velvety matt texture on the bottom. The stems are grayish/brown in colour and also have tiny velvety hairs. The poison on this plant is produced both on the leaf and the branches, making this a harzard all year long. Again the reaction to Poison oak is a dermal skin allergy that can take a couple of weeks to fully disappear.

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  1. Poison Sumac: Another plant hazard out there on our trails. This one is considered the most dangerous compared to the previous other plants described. It will give you a skin reaction, but if exposed to mucus membranes can be very dangerous, particularly the eyes.

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The most important thing all trail runners need to be aware of are TICKS. The main ticks that we all deal with are wood ticks. These ticks are harmless but can still be pesky; however their close relatives the Deer tick is the one we should fear. Deer ticks can carry and spread the virus the causes Lyme disease. Lyme disease can be dangerous and cause irreparable damage.

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  1. Prevention: cover up. Wear long socks. CEP compression socks are what I always use when I’m on a trail. This provides a barrier between the tick and my skin, not allowing the tick to sink its nasty teeth into anything. Ticks live in the bushes and grass, where their victims like to feed. Ticks are great jumpers, and once they land on you, they will just hang on for the ride. DEET is a great deterrent. Deet is not a favourite and is considered a very toxic way to deal with bugs, but I personally would rather some deet on my legs than lyme disease.
  2. Whether you cover up or not, check for ticks before you leave the trail. If you can, always keep a pair of tweezers in your car or in your running pack. Ticks sink their teeth and burrow into your skin. When you remove a tick you need to make sure you get all their body parts. Leaving behind the head will allow the tick to still release pathogens. If you run with a dog, check your dog as well.
  3. If you had a tick and removed the tick, then wash the area and disinfect it. Use rubbing alcohol to clean the area. The tick as created a small opening in your skin so you need to make sure it’s clean. For the days following, monitor the area and watch for changes in the skin. If anything abnormal shows up, see a doctor right way!

This is my favourite video that shows exactly how to deal with a tick: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27McsguL2Og

I love running in the trails and in all my years of running, I’ve only once had an encounter with Poison Ivy. I think I actually got it from my dog that was running with me and picked up the oils because I never once went off trail. It was uncomfortable, but lasted only for a few days. My dog is really my biggest concern as she picks up ticks all the time, and the last thing I want is her tick jumping onto me. Trails are a great place to run and bike, but just remember to take some cautions and be aware of the things that could turn a good day into a miserable day. Get off the road, have fun but be safe!

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Race Review by Steve Shikaze: Paris to Ancaster

Steve Shikaze was also at Paris to Ancaster this year and gives us his version of the 70km bike race. From 20km to 70km this race needs to be on your bucket list. Enjoy a post from my favourite guest blogger!

I started writing this P2A 2015 race report by describing the race in its various stages: from rail trail, to gravel roads, to soft wooded trails and farmers’ fields etc., but upon reflection, I realized that there’s more to it than that. Last year, a friend at work (Gaelen Merritt, who finished 8th overall this year) and I talked another co-worker into buying a Cyclocross bike. He rode his new bike a lot last year, and on the day after the race this year, he asked me what the race was like (because we’re trying to get him to enter next year). I told him… honestly… that it’s a long, hard race. I also said that if you’re worried about getting your bike and gears all covered in mud, or if you doesn’t want to get your shoes or cycling clothes muddy, maybe it’s not for you. But then I said, all these things – the mud, the varying terrain, the hike-a-bike, the long, steep gravel climb at the end – they add to the epic nature of this event, and if you’re looking for adventure, then it is for you. A 70 km bike ride is long, but when you add all of these elements, it feels a lot longer (at least it does to me!). On to the race…

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Despite having entered this race every year since 2002, I still found myself with some nervousness on the morning of the race.  Not the same kind of “can’t sleep the night before” nerves that I used to feel, but more of an excited nervousness.  The cycling club I belong to (Waterloo Cycling Club) had approximately 50 people enter this race, and with my connections through my family and people I’ve met at the many MTB events I’ve done over the years, it seemed like I knew every other person in the crowd.

I knew the fastest people in my wave (2) would be much faster than me, but I also knew that my level would be in the middle of the pack.  I joined the start area next to some of my club mates, Bob (who decided to ride his fat bike for this 70km adventure), Bill, Ana Maria, Thiago, Kevin and Mark.  I’d ridden with most of these riders through the winter and fall on our weekly gravel grinder rides on Saturdays, and it’s always reassuring to have people around you that you know.  I surveyed Wave 2 and noticed that I was near the front.  Once the gun went off for my wave, I settled into a comfortable pace and let riders pass me on the paved start road.  As we turned right onto a pot-holed dirt road, the pace seemed to quicken. The pot holes this road made for an interesting start.  I saw a few water bottles that must have bounced off of bikes as I maintained a safe distance around me, letting more enthusiastic riders go by.

Soon we hit the first rail trail, and from past experience, I know that the pace (even in wave 2) can get intense here. Some brave souls will pass on the far left or far right of this trail, which is essentially double track, while I just find a steady pace and find people who ride at my speed. The first real test is a 90 degree right-hand turn up a loose gravel/sand road.  I used to ride this road on my MTB, but this time, with most people already walking, I had no choice but to walk/run my CX bike up the loosest part of this climb (although Bob cruised past a whole bunch of us on his fat bike!).  After some gravel and paved roads, we hit the first dirt trail, just off of Highway 24. In past years, this trail has been unrideable because of wet, thick mud.  This year, however, the trail was dry and very rideable, which was a welcome relief.

There were a few more stretches of road (some paved, some gravel) before we hit a muddy trail.  Many people were walking and the trail wasn’t wide enough to do much passing, so I got off my bike and walked with the masses until we hit a paved road. After a couple of turns I was at the halfway point.  At this point, I was riding with a couple of people, when a woman asked me how many kilometres we’d ridden.  I checked my Garmin and told her that we were at around 30km.  She said she didn’t believe me but she told me “if you’re right, you’re my new best friend”.  I was right, but at the rest stop, I grabbed a banana, while my new best friend right on going.

The second half of the race is the “fun” part.  There are three mud chutes to get through.  The first is short, and this year, it was almost entirely rideable.  The second is a bit longer, and I (like most people around me) walked most of it.  The third chute is the longest.  As I approached it, I slowed and dismounted.  The rider right behind me was a lot braver so I stepped aside and let him ride by.  Within 10 feet, his front wheel hit a log and he flew over his handlebars and landed softly in the mud.  He got up quickly and said he was OK, but after seeing his spectacular fall, I decided that my choice to walk through the mud was a wise one.  Towards the bottom of this long chute, my brother Greg (who didn’t race this year) was sitting on the slope taking photos.

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The end of this last chute is very close to the end of the race.  There’s a fast downhill, a couple of fast turns followed by an abandoned dirt road that leads to the final climb. This road, like much of the race, was mostly dry and rideable, but by this time, all I’m thinking about is the climb. As I approached the hill, I could hear bag pipes (or I was hallucinating!). Spectators and riders who’d finished lined the sides of the climb and cheered us on. Some of my club mates cheered my name and even offered to push part of the way! This gave me the energy to push the pedals and grind my way to the top where I found some club mates and shared tales of the trails.

Some thoughts about bike choice: On a CX bike for the first time, I can say that this is the ideal bike for this race. It’s much lighter and faster on the paved and gravel roads as well as the rail trail. The only advantage a mountain bike has is on the forested trails, and this year, those trails were so dry, my CX bike was fine.

Each year, I have moments when I question whether I’ll enter again the following year. And each year I know that as the race approaches, I know the answer!

Bio: Steve Shikazeheadshot2
Steve has been an active member of the Waterloo Cycling Club (www.waterloocyclingclub.ca) for over a decade. He currently sits as a member of the WCC Trail Committee, which oversees the mountain bike trails at The Hydrocut (www.thehydrocut.ca). He has completed multiple 8 and 24 hour mountain bike relay races, 3-day stage races and many other cycling events, on his mountain, road and cyclocross bikes, and has dabbled in trail running and open-water swimming.

Motivation Monday: It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon

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The jewellery I wear to remind me how to stay patient. by Alex and Ani

Sunday’s Half Marathon was one the race that I had been both dreading and looking forward to. There was no middle ground on this. I’m very well practiced in racing, having 11 race bibs already for 2015 (we are only 4 months into the year!). This was part of the big picture plan, race small, “race” a lot and get comfortable with the ritual of race day. I can say, my coach is not only a great running coach, but he really has fixed some of the bugs in my head.

Why was I dreading this day? I’ve spent a season training for short bursts of speed, transitioning my body from an endurance junkie, and staying mostly under the 3km range. It was, I repeat, a transition. This wasn’t going to happen overnight and I had made a commitment to trusting in the plan and my coach. I was dreading this race, because I knew I wasn’t going to be ready to race 21.1km and I was starting to think this was just going to be a waste of a day where I could be training. Having raced two races the week before, I opted for a hard taper, meaning I only ran three days last week. I just wanted a full week to let everything heal. Knowing whatever the result of this Half Marathon, I was not going to get much rest afterward, it made sense to take my rest on taper.

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At the start before we all departed for our individual “Journey’s”

I was also excited for this race. This half marathon marked the end of one phase and at the same time the beginning of a new one. The goal was never going to be a PB, but rather run a steady and comfortable. I was looking forward to seeing what I could do on very little specific half-marathon training. I was excited because I knew once this race was over, I was the start of track and field training, and I would get to run … a lot.

The race started, very comfortable. I took it conservatively and then did as the coached asked me to do. Look for my sweet spot and sit there. I found it at around 5km in and just sat on my pace. It was an exciting race for me as I crept up slowly on the lead pack of women. At times I was in third place and closing in on the first place woman. There were moments I thought I was going to have one of those magical days. Then I hit the 15km marker and my heart wanted to go, my head was in a good place, but my legs reminded me that we hadn’t trained past this point. It was a very definite moment where the body just knows that you didn’t do the work. So the pace slowed a bit but not drastically. I kept a good attitude as the pack moved a little further away from me. I kept thinking of what the coach has said to me the night before the race. “This is the first day, not the last day of your journey to Lyons”. I motivated myself to get through the last 5km staying relatively on top of a decent pace and finished 1:26, placing 6th overall and 1st female master. It was the perfect training race for me. It was exactly where I’m supposed to be in preparation for Lyons in August.

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Meeting my Get Out There Girls at the finish line.

Happy to begin a new week with a very big goal ahead of me, Sunday reminded me this year is going to be a journey. Like my bracelet says: It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. I’m re-building from the ground up, and a total renovation doesn’t happen over night. Sunday was yet another practice in patience and trust. I finished with a huge smile on my face, because I knew my result meant, good things are in my future.

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Happy Runner

Motivation Monday: 2 girls, 2 races, lots of mud = all the FUN

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The weekend came fast and furious and I was spent! Since I was going to be racing both Saturday and Sunday, I was under strict orders by the coach to not do the Friday track workout. Stress was winning last week. I started to feel overwhelmed by the idea of participating at the World Track and Fields and stubbornly decided to not listen to the coach and do the 400M repeats with my team.

Many who follow my posts, knows what happens when I don’t listen. My coach often reminds me “Even Wonder Woman needs to rest.” In my head some days, I think Wonder Woman is a slacker. Why I thought I could do 400M repeats and then complete a full weekend of racing is completely beyond me. So this is what happened next.

I finished the 400M repeats, feeling mostly good, but pretty thirsty. I headed straight for the fizzy drink section of the grocery store and bought several bottles of Kombucha, because at the time, this made sense.

I drank these bottles and went to bed. The next morning, well I was feeling a little unsettled. Coffee will fix everything, so I got my coffee, jumped in my car and headed for the First of the 5peaks race in Ontario at Terra Cotta conservation area. I met Jess and we went for a slow warm up. My legs felt tired, weird; my stomach felt toxic, pretty odd. The race started and 3km in my stomach was complaining. I was pretty sure at the pace I was holding I was going to vomit, so I slowed up a bit and instead of going on to run the 10km race, I decided to run the 5km race. Pretty sure I was behind everyone, I learned, I was 1st to finish. Well I accidentally won a 5km, but my stomach was not impressed. I let it settle for a bit then saw Jess across the field and decided I would run easy with her (she was not at all racing). The rest of the run was so much laughing and mud up to our knees. I was happy I made the call to cut the race short and realized in order to complete my goal in August; I can’t pull these jackass moves with my coach.

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Lesson:  Kambucha is not a good pre-hyrdating drink for any sport let alone trail running.

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5peaks Race #1: Terra Cotta

The race was fantastic! There were so many new faces and the vibe was just as I remembered, a place for everyone to just have some fun. The course was, as promised muddy, but in trail running mud just means fun. Terra Cotta is the perfect entry course, It’s not overly technical and doesn’t disappoint in the elevation department. The trails are pretty open making it easier for you to get comfortable in your space. With my summer plan: train on track, recovery on trails, I’m excited that the trail season has finally kicked off. Remember if you are interested in doing any of the 5Peaks series: sign up at 5peaks.com and use my code MICHELLE for a discount.

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After the 5peaks race, Jess and I had to head to the Paris to Ancaster expo to pick up our race kits for Sunday’s bike race. This was in itself an adventure. It was here at the expo after much discussion that I decided to have a moment of sanity and bump down from the 70km bike race to the 40km race. As much as I was looking forward to doing 70km, my coach’s voice kept shouting in my head that this is not the ideal thing to do a week before a race. So with a few modifications I was in the 40km race.

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Start of the race

Paris to Ancaster turned St. George to Ancaster:

Jess and I met at the finish and then drove our cars up to the start line. With only 30 minutes to spare we realized we were racing experts now, and come prepared for everything. Clothing was the biggest question mark for me. I don’t’ like being cold and I don’t like being hot and it was the kind of temperature that could either way. I stuck with my gut. A base layer under my Paris to Ancaster jersey, bib shorts and legs warmers. It was the perfect combo. I was never too hot or too cold. The race started and I really wanted to hang out with Jess, but I was riding a cross bike and she was riding a mountain bike; two different beasts and two very different speeds. After we got separated in the first mud shoot, my Bianchi and I started to catch some speed.

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There was definitely a moment where a switch flipped and the previous days moment of sanity was just temporary. I will admit, I got a little kamikaze. I was flying over the mud and grinding up the hills. The harder it got, the better I felt. The bianchi was amazing, and I suddenly began bonding with this bike.

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Sunday was the perfect day for Paris to Ancaster, it was pretty dry, the winds were low and the volunteers were amazing. Since mud is a tradition at this course, there was of course some mud, lots of mud. In the chutes the mud was so thick, but since the chutes are short, the fun was over too quickly. The best approach for this type of mud is to pick up your bike and just run. There were a few people who kept trying to get on and ride through it, those people I saw later on trying to fix their bikes.

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I continued to gain speed anxiously anticipating the last 1km climb to the finish. Out on the course I saw every kind of bike you can imagine. Fat bikes, cross bikes, mountain bikes, single speed. It was so fun to see this variety.

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Seeing Chris on the hill at the finish!

Let’s discuss drafting now. Every single time I have ever done this race, drafting was my only issue. DUDES!! If you are going to draft behind a small girl, take your turn at the front. Every time I noticed my speed getting heavier, I would check my shoulder and sure enough, I had a pack of guys drafting behind me. Instead of disputing this, I just picked up the pace and headed for the back of the pack in front of me.

I finally get to THE hill. I took a deep breath, determined to crush this next 1km. I get into the right gear straight away and I just start climbing. To my surprise, I’m not getting slower, I’m actually gaining speed. Instead of the courteous “on your left” command, I just started yelling, “GET OUT OF MY WAY”. I was weaving and sprinting to the top. Everyone started cheering for the Bianchi, and as I crested the hill, I smiled all the way to the finish line. Mission accomplished!

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Finishing Climb

I waited on the hill to cheer some of the others, got to meet some twitter friends and push some friends to the finish. I can’t say enough how much I love this race. The finish area is the best. John the organizer has thought of it all. A bike check, a charity bike wash and even a foot wash. With my shoes caked in mud, the foot wash was my favourite part.

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Post race foot wash!

After a quick change of clothes, and birdbath in the sink, Jess and NEEDED coffee. We put some rumble drink in our belly to get us through the line up and then sat down to talk about how much fun we just had. Just as we were about to collect our cars, I said, you know we should just check the results. She didn’t seem to care much and I didn’t even think we had a hope in hell of winning anything, but it’s just the thing you do, to see how you placed. So we finally got some wifi and checked online at timingrace.ca and to our absolute surprise we both placed in our age group! I actually came 4th place overall and had I known I was even that close, I would’ve actually raced! Yes we didn’t do the epic 70km race where all the elites are, but for Jess and I this was a big deal. We are runners, not cyclist. We just wanted to have fun and we both rocked a weekend of racing with huge smiles on our faces.

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Podium girls!

The weekend was like no other weekend I’ve ever had. It was exactly the way I needed to start off the race season; relaxed, smiling and with best friends. I was smart, listened to my body and learned so much about what I’m capable of and how much I love my sports and the people I get to meet because I participate.

With race season officially in full force, I have one more start line to toe next weekend. After next weekend, I get to go back to training and focusing on the main goal. I’m so excited and proud of Jess. She accomplished so much in only 7 days! Without her, this weekend would’ve been gruelling and not nearly as fun.