#MotivationMonday – 6-Weeks to Go – STWM

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The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

As practice for this upcoming race, I ran a marathon. I was so grateful to be part of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. The event was from start to finish simply perfect.

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Meeting your favourite runners is the best part of Expo life! Rob Watson in the house!

The previous week I ran 130km. Normally marathon runners get a two-week taper period. Not this girl. The week of the marathon I was still going to be clocking in approximately 110km. My “rest” days were working the expo all weekend, on my feet, for 10-hour days! By Saturday night I was done. My legs were sore, my feet were sore, and my brain was exhausted! I didn’t even have the energy to get my clothes ready for race day! I set the alarm for 6:30 am. 6:30 came and went. I went into Snooze mode. At 7:10 am I told myself to forget this and just do a long run later on. I was actually considering bailing on the whole deal. 7:15am I rolled myself out of bed, put on what I thought would be the best gear for the weather, a Mizuno singlet, my inspire shorts, CEP compression socks, Mizuno arm warmers and my favourite shoes – the Wave Sayonara 2. I had some oatmeal and Honeymaxx to hydrate and jump on my bike to ride to the start line. Cycle Toronto had a bike valet this year and I was so happy for it. Riding your bike to the marathon and not having to stress about traffic and streetcars and all that mess was the best part of my morning.

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Always nice to see Allan Brooks at the Expo.

Now at City Hall I met up JP and we headed for the start line. Was I feeling like running a Marathon? If I have to be honest, I would say not really. I could feel the expo in my legs and the morning was on the chilly side. I had two times in mind and a very focused plan for this training run. Faster than 3:10 would be a bad day and slower than 3:15 meant I had a bit more work to do in the next 6 weeks. After the excitement of the first couple of kilometres subsided, JP and I started to get into a groove. We had a few arguments early on regarding pace, all in a friendly fashion. The longest we’ve run together was a 10km, this was new territory for us. I learned JP likes to do these surges, which started to drive me crazy. Once I figured out this was his way, I would let him go knowing he would come back to me. It was inspiring to see so many people run up to JP to thank him for his work. He really does help so many people in a very special way. I was so proud to run beside him and watch him inspire others. I remember there were moments he went very quiet. He has been hammering out a lot of marathons recently. He was allowed to feel exhausted and beat up. I was mentally working through my training run and he was mentally working through his. The silence was so comfortable, something I rarely get to experience.

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We have so much fun running together!

The back half of the Marathon, I finally got the expo legs out and my body woke up. I started feeling stronger and soon I’d passed the 3:15 pace group. I knew by marker 36 I had this race in the bag. That’s a great feeling where where the race is supposed to really hurt but you feel better than when you started. The rest of the race I didn’t even look at my watch, I just ran on feel and wanted to simulate a strong race finish.

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More fun photos! 18km getting my PB and J from Clare.

I crossed the finish line with a time of 3:13. It was the perfect execution of my training run and my coach was beaming with pride. My motivation this past week came from everyone I saw at the expo and at the race. I want to name them all but that would be impossible. Key mentions are:

JP, Predrag, Simion, Rob, Anthony, Jonny, Carmy, Kerri, Heather, The Parkdale Roadrunners (best cheer sections), The TRIBE, George, Christine, Gregoire, Tara (who had a huge PB!), my entire Longboat Crew, The Nomads, especially Ryzchard, Jillian, Marky, Steve, Irun Magazine and Andrew. Peter and Clare get a special huge mention for preparing and handing off a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich for me to practice eating solids on during the race. Coach Timo of course! Every single person who screamed my name and cheered for all the runners are my heros. Thanks to everyone for making Toronto and the STWM such a great experience.

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First practice marathon done! See you at the Road to Hope for practice number 2.

In two weeks I will be at the Hamilton Road to Hope Marathon for practice run #2. If you are looking for a fast and fun race this is the perfect one to do. Come join me if you just want to have some fun!

Wear Test Wednesday – Polar V800

https://flow.polar.com/

It’s hard to decide where to begin with this watch. It’s a watch for runners, cyclists, swimmers, triathletes and gym rats. It’s a watch that can be what you want it to be.

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As an endurance athlete and one training 10-15 hours a week, this watch came into my life at the right time. I needed to be stressed out if I had enough battery life to get through my next workout. With a full charge the Polar v800 can last anywhere from 13 hours to 50 hours depending on which mode you select. At the moment I have it on the default mode and I can get almost a week of workouts in before I have to charge it up again. I’m also no longer needing to spend 10-15 minutes waiting for the GPS signal to kick in, which happened too many times with another brand of watch I used to use. Within 15 seconds I’m off to begin my run or ride.

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Maps display your route in the Polar Flow App

The buttons are easy to use and feel sturdier than the RC3 GPS. The band is comfortable and the watch face is easy to read. I have a small wrist and I find the V800 fits me comfortably and I often forget that it’s on my wrist after my workouts.

So far I have used it mainly for running and cycling. On your Polar Flow sport profiles page you can set up what you data you want to view. Distance, average distance, time of day, Heart rate or all four.

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Easily set up what you want to see on your watch inside the Polar Flow Sports Profile settings.

The best thing I love about the Polar v800 is the watch gestures. With each sport profile you can set up a unique gestures. For example, as it’s getting dark earlier I found I was hitting the light button more often. I went into the gestures and set the running profile up so if I tape the watch face the light will come on.

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Heart touch is another great feature where you simply bring your device close to your rate monitor in order to activate one of the gestures.

The Polar Flow App is where the magic really happens. I’m both impatient and efficient. In my Ultimate Hydration pack I’ll carry my phone for both emergency and picture opportunities. Instead of waiting to get back to my place and plug my watch into my computer, I simply hit the back button on the watch and it will sync to the phone app. It’s efficient use of my cool down walk from the bottom of my street to my apartment.

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Easily Sync data from the watch to your phone app in seconds.

Polar came out with the Polar Loop activity tracker. This is a great tool for just about anybody and everybody. It sets a daily goal for you and lets you know when and if you reach it. With the Polar V800 you get both a GPS watch and an activity tracker in one. As I sit at my desk and work on my computer, I will get notifications telling me I haven’t moved in the last two hours and that I should to promote healthy circulation. I’m a sometimes sleepwalker and both the v800 and the Loop shows me if I had any excessive movement while sleeping. This is great data for me during peak training periods to know if I’m getting the rest I need to recover.

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The Polar Loop – now in NEW colours!

Everyday I discover a new reason to love this watch. Recently, I dove into the maps section. At the moment of writing this, I can favourite one of my routes and it will show up on my watch under the favourite setting. Once I go back to that route, it will navigate me through the directions so I can repeat the same route and not get lost. There are rumours’ the next update will allow me to upload maps to my profile and I will be able to try other people’s routes.

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Easily add and name your favourite routes.

For the Strava users, there is a way! At the moment you can export you training session and then upload the .GPX file to Strava. It’s a simple two-step process and one I don’t mind at all. If Polar updates the watch to directly upload to Strava that will just be the cherry on the cake.

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Export your route or training session and easily upload to Strava.

What’s next for Polar? The M400 white version is expected to hit markets in November. Some European web stores are already selling it. The M400 is a runner’s dream watch with all the sports specific features I have come to love in the V800.

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The future! The Polar M400 is coming soon!

Next Week on Wear Test Wednesday I’m getting ready for cooler temperatures with Buff Canada. I will tell you why you want one, how to wear one and where to get them!

Motivation Monday – 7 Weeks to Go: I’m running a F**king ULTRA

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My previous week of training was probably the most challenging week I’ve had – EVER. Moving into a build week, I was faced with double workouts for 5 of the 7 days. That’s 12 workouts in 7 days for anyone who doesn’t want to think too much on a Monday morning. I also still managed to squeeze in a few bike rides increasing doubles to triples. This might sound to some like I’m bragging, but I’m not. I went into this week as any other week, excited by the challenge and even more motivated than ever before. Everyone who spends hours training alone knows the thoughts and ideas that come to the surface while your feet pitter patter along the pavement. It was Tuesday morning, the word ultra kept rising to surface and the internal conversation kept telling me I was training for an ultra. I WAS TRAINING FOR AN ULTRA! Worse, I convinced my best friend to train for an ULTRA! I phoned my friend that afternoon and told her, it had just occurred to me that I’m actually going to be doing an ULTRA, it was no longer a 50miler, it’s a F**king ULTRA! We laughed hysterically and then I had to go do another run.

Last week was tougher than I ultimately expected and in turn it made me stronger. There are some amazing mentions for my motivation Monday post. Some big stars in this post so I hope you’ll Google them and learn more about who and what they do as well.

  1. Kilian Jornet: He is the king of running in my books. He is a master of the mountains. He is the Flash in real life. I was extremely lucky to have not only met last year in San Francisco but to also run several km’s with him and his girlfriend. I got to see the magic live that I’d witnessed watching all his videos. He is so fast he would scoot up ahead and his tiny body would disappear and eventually I would see him standing still looking at the scenery waiting for his girlfriend to catch up so he could continue to pace her. After the race, he spoke to me and told me I was a very strong runner and was impressed with my win. Kilian told ME I’m a strong runner. I died and went to heaven that day.

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    Kilian Jornet

  2. Emelie Forsberg: An amazing runner in her own right, and bringing life the budding sport of Skyrunning. She is also Kilian’s girlfriend. The two of them post the most amazing pictures of their running adventures. Her philosophy on running is simple. She doesn’t train she just moves. I spent a great deal of time this summer, using that sentence to rehab my injury. I knew I would come back stronger, if I let the idea of training go and just keep moving in any matter that would only put me further ahead and not further behind.

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    Emelie Forsberg

  3. Anna Frost: Another amazing runner. A woman who went through what I had gone through with anxiety and pressure and over training. I also got to meet her last year. She was humble, shy but friendly. She was at that point, coming out the other end of her bad place and it was clear she was still mending. I have since watched her documentary and learned from her a great deal about balancing your love for running and your love for yourself.

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    Anna Frost

  4. Paula Radcliffe: My absolute hero. I read her bio many years ago. Her early days of running were very similar to my early days. Affected with asthma at an early age, she struggled with how to manage it and still went on to be the fastest female marathoner. She’s has been a runner who has been burdened with immense pressure from her country and the world. Just when the world was ready to give up on her, this September she marked her return to racing and will attempt another marathon. She is tough as nails and I’m excited to see her return.

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    Paula Radcliffe winning the NYC Marathon

  5. This one I wanted to save for last. Patrick Elliot is a great guy to have in your corner. We’ve known of each other for a while, did Cyclocross practice together, but we didn’t really chatted much. After my first cross race I came to the tent and was immediately verbally attacked about why I didn’t podium or ride harder. I took him with a grain of salt, and carried on with my list of excuses. I didn’t even get to the good ones and he’d cut me off and said, “I didn’t figure you for the type of person who made excuses”. That was now stuck in my head forever! But he was right. I have never made excuses. I have battled with asthma, chronic bronchitis, sleep apnea and anemia, all things that work against any athlete. So on my hardest week of all it was the voice in my head “no excuses” that got me through.
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    Patrick at More Cowbell Cross Race. Mr. No excuses

    This week will be much easier with some pre marathon rest days. I’m running the Scotia Toronto Waterfront Marathon as part of my training for this ultra. I’m going out easy to test both legs and mind. See you all next Sunday. Take your taper seriously.

Wear Test Wednesday – Shock Absorber HRM Sports Bra.

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What it looks like to shower post-run and not thinking you have chafed.

ULTIMATE RUN BRA HRM

For many years I have gone sans heart rate monitor because of the awful chafing that usually results. No matter how much body glide I apply, the post run shower is like a scene from a horror movie.

There is a reason why most HRM strap chafes more for the ladies . For us women we have to wear a sports bra and then shove the heart rate monitor under the bra strap, where the ideal connection occurs. This will create the perfect storm for a chafing situation. A tiny amount of bounce and you will lose skin.

I just stayed away from the whole scene. Knowing my heart rate wasn’t worth the lifelong scars especially after seeing my friend Clare’s scars. However, knowing your heart rate for specific workouts is important feedback to understand your current fitness levels. Did you know … small changes in your heart rate could also alert you to an on-coming cold or flu.

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Heart Rate monitoring will help you train smarter and healthier.

Shock Absorber came to my rescue this summer and launched a sports bra that also is a heart rate monitor. It’s 2014, I have no idea why it took anyone this long to make this product. It’s brilliant and with a proper fit, it will reduce or completely eliminate chafing.

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The Ultimate Run HRM bra.

For many years Shock Absorber has been my favourite sports bra. It offers the Infinity-8 support system, which counteracts the breasts’ figure-of-eight movement during running. All Shock Absorber sports bras are designed specifically for runners, the award-winning Ultimate RUN bra reduces bounce by up to 78%* and provides ultimate friction-free comfort.

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The infinity 8 strap design.

Girls, we know how painful the cold can be for us up top? Shock Absorber also thought of a solution. With the regular ultimate run bra, you get all the fit and comfort of their bras but with an extra wind layer to protect from that painful cold nipple syndrome.

http://www.shockabsorber.ca/en/products/ultimate-range/ultimate-run-bra/

Fun Facts about women and our breasts!

Shock Absorber ultimate run bra HRM is compatible with Garmin and Polar connectors. Washing is just the same as any other sports bra, just make sure you remove your heart rate monitor first. If you are looking for a sports bra with more, I highly recommend getting this heart rate monitor bra. Chafing will become just a bad memory and with some vitamin E cream you can hopefully make the scars vanish as well.

Next week on Wear Test Wednesday – The Polar V800 and the Loop. It’s the watch the just keeps getting better.

The Ugly Truth – Why I hate Cross-Country

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Runners are lining up to start the race. Cross-Country from a distant view.

Disclaimer: Please don’t hate the sport because I do. It’s a great sport and I really do love the tradition that makes it so special. I know my mom reads my stuff, so no tears please. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I’m a better person because of it. Perhaps Coach Timo and all-star master runner, Karla del Grande will help cure my cross-country PTSD next season. 

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My trail run crossing rivers in high park.

During my Monday afternoon trail recovery run I couldn’t stop thinking about why I really hate Cross-Country. Cross-country was a sport I excelled at as a young runner. I enjoyed the cooler running temperatures and bus rides to places I had never been before. It’s a tradition in running to take part in cross-country this time of year. Just because I hate it though doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it. In fact I highly recommend everyone try it at least once in his or her life.

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No enjoying this one bit.

Me on the other hand, I struggle with it on a very deep emotional level. I was young, too young in fact to be racing at the level I was racing. Many don’t know this about me, but I was recruited to the UofT track and cross-country team when I was only 13 for 14 years old. I was the youngest person on the team. My mom was proud, as any mother would be. I will never have enough words to thank her for taking me out those stupid dance classes and putting me on a track where I belonged! However, there was also a much darker side to being the youngest kid on a University team. My age seemed to not be a consideration, I was no longer a kid, but an elite runner.

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Coming out of the woods. Those Newmarket huskies are tough competition.

We traveled as a team and some trips my mom came with me and some trips were strictly the coaches and the team. This was right around the time frame that my asthma was presenting itself and was clearly becoming something I was soon going to have to live with. At the time we had no idea I was going to be diagnosed with it.

I really don’t recall if this was the last cross-country race I did or not, but it’s my last memory of the sport. As all good stories begin, it was a cold and rainy day. The night before the race, in the hotel room I learned a lot of things that girls at 14 shouldn’t learn. I was taught the ugly truths about anorexia and bulimia. This was a mean to control my weight that hormones would soon take control of. I’d already been learning all about anorexia from my track teammates, because the girls where encouraged to control their weight leading up to race seasons. Looking back it’s a wonder any of us even made it to race day half the time.

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Almost at the finish line. I’m fully deep into PTSD at this point.

Back to the morning of the race, which was freezing not just cold and rainy. I remember there was snow on ground and we had only shorts, singlet’s and gloves to wear. I was this scrawny girl huddled between very tall university boys. I looked up at the field I was about to race and thought; this doesn’t seem fair. The pistol went off, and our spikes dug into the mud. This was one of the more challenging courses I had run all season and there was lots of whispering amongst the filed about this “girl” who was racing at the university level. The tension for my coaches and me was high because I had to prove to everyone I belonged on this circuit.

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This is a coach that believes in me and inspires me over come these hurdles.

My breathing slowly got worse, the entire field was passing me and I think I finished dead last. What everyone wanted to know was “what happened?” “why did I not place higher in the field like my previous races?” Inside my head I was screaming – “I’m a kid that’s why!” but instead, I took my defeat and got on the bus and went home. That day crushed my spirit in a way words will never do justice.

This past weekend at my cross-country race for longboat roadrunners, there was a log I had to jump over. The flashback was strong and thoughts of DNFing the race were heavy on my mind. Everyone knows me as the michelletherunner (who smiles through pretty much everything!), but there is a real reason why when I’m running cross-country you won’t see a smile on my face. The memory of my last UofT cross-country race will probably stay with me forever, I’m not sure I will ever slay my cross-country dragon.

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This man is the master behind the OMA track and cross country series. Doug Smith is an amazing runner and person.

FYI: Trail running and cross-country racing are very different. Cross-country is a very elite group of runners who are strongly tied to the tradition of the sport. There is a uniform; spikes and they still use the starting pistol! Trail running is laid back, not nearly competitive and run on very different terrain.

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The best perk to running Cross-Country is meeting the best in the sport. Meet Karla Del Grande. The fastest 60-year-old woman in the world, Torontonian Karla Del Grande, once thought, like the vast majority of us, that running means distance running. Then, at 50, while trying to boost her speed for a half-marathon, she hit the track for interval training and rediscovered her love of speed. She ditched the long run, took up sprinting and now considers herself fitter, stronger and more powerful than she’s ever been in her life, including when she did high-school track. *there is definitely something to think about here for sure!

Motivation Monday – 8 Weeks To Go!

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Starting this week, every Monday I’m counting down to race day! I’ll be posting about who and what motivated me the previous week to get through my training. It’s my way of thanking those who inspire me to keep going and share this experience with everyone. This is the biggest challenge I’ve ever attempted and I’m going to need to dig deep these next few weeks. This is not a solo journey and I hope others will find inspiration through all of this madness.

So let’s get to it!

8 weeks to day race.

  1. Clare Horan: Fellow teammate and one of the strongest women I’ve met. She doesn’t fear anything. Having Clare on your team is the best thing you could ever have. We never work against each other and only run strong side by side. You’ve seen her in all my pictures this summer and I’m sure you will see more of her as she is also taking on the 50 mile challenge! She is also officially one of very few Irish women who have completed the 6 Major marathons. I’m in awe of her accomplishment.
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Clare Horan – Completed the Marathon Majors and will now run her first 50 Miles!

  1. Simon Donato: This guy makes ME look lazy. I follow him on Instagram and Facebook and I’m in awe that he does all the things he does. He owns and operates Stoked Oats, plus he is an amazing scientist, plus he’s one of the hosts of Boundless. What makes him even more inspiring is he puts all his favourite things together into one amazing program; Adventure Science. Adventure scientists explore the world in a low impact manner, using non-motorized means when possible to make new discoveries. He has been inspiring me through pictures to try something new and chase dreams.
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Simon Donata – Dr. Adventure Science

  1. Stranger on a bike. He is this really nice guy that I ride with on the Toronto Donut ride. He rides up behind me just as I’m about to be dropped from the pack and he’ll push me forward. He seems to be like my donut ride angel. This random act of kindness has taught me It’s okay to be vulnerable and to accept help from others. He reminds me how much small acts of kindness can really give anyone that extra nudge to push themselves.
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Someone in the pack the stranger on the bike is riding.

  1. Jutta Merilainen – A.k.a. The Flying Finn. I met her a few years ago and immediately I knew I wanted to be her when I grew up. She is a strong competitor, will make you fear her during a race, but in real life she’s a darling. She’s always willing to help and advise. She was the first person at a time when I was struggling with my training to give me very great advice about my future.
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Jutta – This picture is just awesome!

  1. SISU. It’s a word, not a person. It’s a very special word to me. Having a Finnish coach, having lived with a Finnish person for three years and many of my running team mates are Finnish. This has made me feel very connected to the Finnish way of live. This word gets me out some very tough training days. Just saying the word makes me feel ready to tackle anything.
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SISU – Finnish for Persistence!

 What motivated you this Monday morning?

The 50 Mile Experiment

I’ll be 100% honest here with my readers. Sometimes I’ve been known to do something to impress the opposite sex. I mean who hasn’t done this right? I will tell you I originally signed up for the idea of this 50 miler to impress a guy. However, I officially registered for The Northface Endurance Champtionships 50 miler 100% for me.

Since I’ve signed up, I’ve been asked so many questions. Why would I run 50miles? So are you going to be an ultra runner now? What are you trying to prove? And most times it’s simply “why?”

Last week I had coffee with one of my favourite people in the universe; Krysten. We talked a lot about her training and the reasons we both have chosen the path’s we have taken this year. It was clear to me that both of us spend just as much time training as we do reflecting on what we’re training for. Krysten is so young in the sport of the running, but already has developed such a deep sense of wisdom about her own inner athlete. She is driven and determined but has learned the most important part of training and that’s maintaining a healthy perspective.

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Here is Krysten, moving out of her comfort zone and trying the trails for the first time. You can’t tell she is totally excited to be on a podium!

A few weeks back someone who doesn’t really know me, straight up came out with this question; “You’ll run 50 miles, then what? What are expecting to happen at the end?” This has sat with me for a while now. It’s probably the most thought provoking question I’ve been asked.

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My podium finish at the Endurance Championships for the Marathon Distance in 2013.

The clock’s switched over to 2014 and as quickly as the second hand moved, my life got pulled from underneath me. My running season was interrupted by injuries and life changes. Boston came and went and my goal race never even happened. The injury continued to pester my training and before I knew it, we were well into summer and fall races were looking bleak. I won’t say the season was a total failure because I did have some great success. I just don’t feel I’ve been the runner I know I can be.

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One of the views I’m looking forward to seeing again December 6th.

With a spotty season, I wanted to do something “big” just for me. My plan going in was to find myself on the other side. I’ve spent many hours training, and that training hasn’t been just running miles. The 50mile race is an experiment. It’s not to win, to prove I can run 50 miles. It’s not to prove I can be an ultra-runner or even a trail runner. The training has already been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I’ve learned more about who I am, what I want and what kind of person/athlete I want to be.

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This is the first climb of the race. It comes pretty early and has to be climbed twice!

Having a coach that is willing to walk this journey with me has been an important key to my decision. To do this 100% alone would be a suicide mission. Having a coach who understands why I NEED to do this makes me feel safe and secure. He’s committed to being part of this for better or worse and that’s made all the difference. In order for an athlete to submit to a coach there has to be respect, communication and most importantly a 2-way trust. This will be a first for both of us and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather share this exciting chapter with.

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Not even at the marathon turn around point. All those mountains in the distance!

What will happen at the end of all this? I really don’t know. So much of the learning comes from the training and not the actual goal race. I suspect by the time I toe the line and the air horn goes off, I will spend the next 50 miles reflecting on the hard work and amazing people that got me there. Perhaps I will inspire others to try something totally out of their comfort zone and reach for things they never thought possible. Hopefully I’ll find the strong, ambitious and determined athlete I lost two years ago.

http://www.thenorthface.com/en_CA/endurance-challenge/

Challenge accepted

My friend is also taking on a challenge of a different kind. Todd Shannon will be running from Toronto Niagara Falls on Nov 8th to raise awareness for prostate cancer. We all hate cancer so not only will I be joining him for some of this journey but we hope everyone and anyone will come share some km’s or more. To learn about Todd and why he NEEDS to do this click http://ca.movember.com/mospace/2933105