Motivation Monday: Building Confidence

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This past weekend was my second track meet of the year. Provincial Championships were a good learning experience. This time, my coach asked me to sign up for the 1500M and 3000M event. Worse, he wanted me to attempt a 2000m Club record en route to the 3000M record. It was a long shot, and not entirely confident I would succeed, I was less afraid of failing, than not even trying.

Track life is so different than any other running communities. It’s intense when it has to be and the rest of the time, it’s completely relaxed. The events run in the background as you nap, eat, hydrate or best of all, be a spectator. Getting to watch the track and analyze how other people strategize a race is an amazing way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

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Track Life

This meet, I was seeded in a position where I was going to be chased instead of last meet, where I was chasing. Running with a pack of girls on your heels is not a comfortable place to be. Having no idea where anyone is and trying to stick to your own pace is a challenge. In the 1500M I stuck to my own race strategy and did exactly what my coach had asked for that day. As soon as I crossed the line, I knew I had a great race, but also I had too much left. Immediately I started to replay the last 7 laps in my head, thinking, I should’ve started my kick earlier. Still unsure of how to deal with lactic acid build up and not knowing where my threshold is, leaves me vulnerable and insecure.

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My down time with my CEP compression socks

With plenty of cool down, a little nap, snack and a mental reset I started my warm up for the 3000M. The track was getting hot, everyone was complaining about it. It was going to be a very uncomfortable 3km. The gun went off, and I set off to attempt the 2km record. 9 laps down, I was within reach but it was going to be close. As I turned the corner and headed down the straightaway, closing in on the 10th lap (2000M), I saw 7:15 turn over on the clock and I knew I blew it. The record was not going to happen that day. I pulled the shoot and slowed my pace slightly so I could finish up the last km. This last kilometer was not only physically painful but also mentally rough. Analyzing and imprinting the pain I was feeling, I would be able to use this data next time, to determine how much I could handle when I attempt my next an en route record.\

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Remember a few blogs ago, I talked a lot about overcoming my performance anxiety? A fail like my 3000M, in my past, would’ve caused a pretty big set back mentally. Instead, I’ve learned that in track, the failure is actually part of the overall success. Having a set back in track is much easier to deal with. You don’t have to take 2 weeks of recovery to get over it and start all over again. You can keep moving forward and learn from your mistake. My performance anxiety, which crippled me in the past, is now a faint memory. The more I fail, the stronger I get and more I want to win.

My coach sent out our weekly reviews and signed off with this saying. “Don’t wait to feel CONFIDENT enough before you act or you might wait forever. CONFIDENCE is the GIFT you receive after you have the done the scary thing.” This completely summed up my latest track meet. Even though I didn’t get exactly what I wanted, I walked away with two gold medals and best of all, just a little bit more confidence for next time.

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2 gold medals at Provincials Championships! Not a bad day!

Frostbike 2015 – Race Review

facebook_1424127694269Canadians are great at many things, but they’re especially great at getting outside during the coldest months of the year. Winter is our thing. We totally own it in every way. This year I was riding my road bike well into December and The Donut riders are still out there every Saturday and Sunday. Little Miss. Hardcore (that’s me) thought I was going to be joining them, but sadly there have been other races every weekend keeping me busy. Instead I’ve been training at least once a week on my mountain bike for the much-anticipated Frostbike race.

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Huddling at the Start line

ShortHills Cycling Club located in Port Colbourne hosts the race. It’s capped at 100 spots, and this year it sold out in something crazy like 5 minutes. It’s a 10kmish course mostly through single track. Last year I did the race on a sprained ankle and even though every bit of it was painful, I had so much fun.

While many people did the first Ocup velodrome race in Milton, Ontario, others were packing up their fat bikes, cross bike and mountain bikes heading for Short Hills. When an event is called Frostbike, you aren’t expecting tropical temperatures, however -20 with wind chill and gusting winds is tad overkill on the frosty part.

The morning of the race, I woke up, looked out the window and rolled myself into the comforter. A few minutes of weighing my options I gave myself a pep talk and put on my cycling gear.

Loading everything up, putting on all the layers I could find I headed off to the race. I was thankful to see I wasn’t the only crazy person willing to go through with this. A big portion of the field decided not to show, but the diehards were there with big smiles on their faces, and many layers on their butts.

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Trying to keep warm

The cold was not actually the worst part. Word was getting around the trails were basically un-ride able. It was turning into a hike a bike competition. Had I known this 1. I wouldn’t have worn my clipless pedals. 2. I would have worn trail shoes. 3. I would have brought a kids bike and strapped it to my back and ran the course!

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Looks ride able but it’s pretty deep!

The race went in heats of 4-5 riders and after about 5-6 heats took off; I was well on my way into the trails. Just like everyone said, once you hit the single track, you sunk straight into the soft powdery snow. The kind of snow perfect for skiing but not so good for cycling. 2km later I was still walk/running with my bike, knee deep in snow, asking myself “Why the F**K do you keep signing up for this kind of shit!” My answer; “it’s better than being on a couch watching TV.” I was only starting to get concerned thinking how am I going to do this for 10km, when someone in the pack told us all it was changed to a 5km course. (Listening to pre-race instructions in not my strongest trait)

The sun was out keeping things slightly warmer. There were some really great parts you could bike on and the riders took every single opportunity to hop on for as long as they could. The wipeouts were hilarious, the last 100M to the finish line were grueling, but fun and the post race festivities were the best highlight of the day. Warm Honeymaxx, Spicy Chili and Hockey Pucks for age group awards made spending the day with almost 100 other nutty cyclists a perfect Sunday afternoon.

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Covered in Ice and Snow on my way to the finish line.

A huge thank you to the ShortHills Cycling Club and all the volunteers for hosting such a fun event. I will definitely be there again next year, rain, polar vortex, blizzard or hurricane.

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2nd out of two – Means 2nd place and dead last! haha

Motivation Monday: Training Through the Changes

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Track meet number two is quickly approaching and I’ve been enjoying my time at the track. On one of my runs to the track last week, I had a thought. “What the hell is going on here?” How did this long distance runner get tricked into being a track junkie? This is when I realized; oh I have the greatest coach ever. I know my comfort zone and without a good push most people will stay right in that spot. This season, it looks like I will spending a lot of time on the other side of my comfort zone.

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Distance is easy for me and I’ll do everything to avoid a 5km race. My race schedule coordinator (aka – my coach) sent me my spring race outline and I kept scanning the list wondering where the high mileage races were? On it was a heck of a lot of 5kms, 15km and 10milers. The only word I saw was PAIN.

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When I email my coach and use words like “Pain” “burn” and “frustrated” he responds with a different word; “transitioning”. He’s right; this is just the way it’s supposed to feel when you’re trying to break a threshold you haven’t been to. The last two weeks have been transitioning to an early morning person/track junkie. To accommodate for the added double run days, I’ve had to change my sleep schedule. I’m not a morning person, NOT AT ALL. Having double run days added to the weekly mileage means I have to get my butt out of bed before the sun get ups. It’s been a full two weeks of transitioning.

Later in the week I got an email from my coach, telling me that by the end of the week, I would probably feel pretty beat up. How does he know this? By Friday evening, as I tried to squeeze in as many kilometres as I could to avoid having to run in the snow on Sunday, I was beat.

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It’s always better to have a morning person come drag your butt out the door at 6am!

The first week of doubles is always a difficult transition. You feel like all you do is sleep, run, work, run, sleep and eat everything you see every time you think of food. I’ve actually had to send text messages to people telling them I haven’t died; I’m just running a lot! If I wasn’t running or working I was sleeping. Hours after drinking a large Americano, I’d be wondering if my barista was spiking it with Rophynol. I wanted to nap everywhere, all the time.

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The sun isn’t up and it’s cold!

When will the transition be complete? I have no idea. Another week of transitioning is on tap for me. This week I’m more prepared for it. My schedule is more structured and those 6am wake up calls don’t hurt quite so much. I got my track membership for the remainder of the winter season and I’ve got my racing plan in place. Every week the focus gets smaller and smaller and the unknown is very exciting.

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Using everything, even a track membership to motivate me to stay on course!

Training Like a Kenyan: An Interview

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Here in Canada, another cold front is moving in, forcing runners to retreat to the treadmills or invest in more layers. Spring is not far away, I promise you! In the mean time, I decided to bring a little bit of sunshine into your virtual world via Kenya.

The last few weeks, many friends and acquaintances have packed up and shipped out to various training camps around the world. Some are lucky enough to actually live where these training camps happen. I myself have put it on my bucket list to try a training camp at least once in my life. Training camps and high altitude are often used in the same sentence, but it’s more than altitude. It’s terrain, lifestyle and the ability to focus on one thing; training. Also getting to hob knob with some of the very best athletes in the world isn’t so bad either.

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Rob in Kenya

I recently interviewed Robert Brouillette, an amazingly dedicated runner from the Great White North. Rob has attended several training camps and shares with us, what life inside a Kenyan training camp is really like.

  1. How many times have you trained in Kenya or is this your first time?

I’ve been training in Kenya four times over the past four years for a total of 8 months with my trip durations between one to three months maximum. I have lived in a few cities called Mosoriot, Eldoret, and now Iten also known as the famous “Home Of Champions.” I’m trying to make this an annual trip for as long as I can during the months of January to April which is the most popular time for international athletes to train here.

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Iten, Kenya

  1. Describe the first two weeks of training camp in Kenya?

The first two weeks is not about getting too fast or putting too much mileage on just yet. You first have to adjust to the warm climate that can leave you sun burnt if your not careful, high altitude that makes the air thicker so it’s harder to breathe, and terrain which is dusty rocky dirt trails with surprise hills. Also finding a group to fit into that will accommodate to the appropriate speed, distance and repetitions for the workouts you need to target your training and race goals. In short, the first week should be mostly easy runs to let your body understand all these changes and second week you can start throwing in some speed and up the mileage a little.

  1. What is your weekly mileage while at the camp?

My weekly mileage for my latest trip averaged 140K with my highest 180K and lowest 110K with me tapering a little for a race that week. Every year that I’ve been here I’ve had a different race plan for when I returned back to Canada. For example the last four years I trained for College 8K cross-country, marathon, half-marathon, and then 5K & 10K road races. I’m naturally an endurance high-mileage runner even when training for low distance fast road races, but no matter how many kilometres you want to run, there will always be someone to run with in Kenya.

  1. What kind of food are you eating to fuel your training runs?

The staple food of Kenya is healthy natural farm food such as potatoes, rice, corn, peas, beans, a variety of vegetables, and the odd packaged food like pasta. Breakfast is a routine of bread slices with peanut butter and honey but one time I had sweet potatoes to mix things up. The most important meal is supper which I always have the Kenyan traditional ugali. Ugali is corn flour which is mixed in boiling water until it hardens served with cooked vegetables and shredded skuma or cabbage on the side with a big glass of milk. Staying hydrated is very important so we drink cup after cup of chai tea and coffee throughout the day and I always have a litre of water at least every day. To spoil myself we have treats like chapati (Kenyan pancake), ndazi (Kenyan donut/pastry), some sweets, or a nice cold soda. Last but not least is the wide variety of fresh fruits like bananas, oranges, pineapple, apple, avocado, mango, and other more exotic fruits.

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Traditional Ugali

  1. How much sleep do you get to recover from your runs? Is there a difference in sleeping patterns with altitude?

Personally I have a later supper then most so that leaves me going to bed later but regardless I still get my minimum 7 hours. Usually a good 8 hours is enough with the early 5:45AM wake up to get ready for the morning workout. I didn’t notice any changes in my sleeping patterns due to altitude. What I can comment on is that since your here specifically for a training camp you find yourself running more, so it does leave you pretty tired by the evening and you may even start taking day naps when you wouldn’t normally back home.

  1. What technology do you use if any? Eg Heart rate monitoring.

For my running training I use the Garmin Forerunner 10 GPS watch and have used the Nike GPS SportWatch in my past trips. Strava, an online activity tracking website has been a big help with tracking all my runs, analyzing them for me, and keeping everything organized. It even allows me to see what other international athletes are doing in Kenya and how my friends back home are doing in their running. I have never used a heart rate monitor and have yet to see a Kenyan with one. I do see many international athletes using them and I definitely see the benefit of it. Especially here in Africa, at high altitude where your body and heart are reacting differently than at low-level altitude it can help make sure you’re getting enough rest, which is crucial.

  1. Have you found any problems adjusting to terrain? Diet? Or overall training?

There is a saying in Kenya where they joke that every day you will face at least one problem for whatever reason. Well training wise I’ve encountered training groups that are either too fast or too slow leaving you awkwardly trying to fit in,. Courses that are very difficult due to the uneven ground causing you to stare at your feet the whole run, and the hills here are more like mountains due to them being in the Rift Valley. Diet can be a big problem because you’re used to eating your hometown food all your life. Suddenly you fly to Kenya and are eating another kind of cultural food which can really play games with your stomach. Learning what your body likes and doesn’t like is all experimental until you find a diet and schedule that leaves you feeling strong and ready to tackle your next run. With regard to pacing for example; in Canada lets say my easy run pace is 4:30/K, taking into account all the environment factors in Kenya it is now 5:30/K for the same effort. Lastly, the Kenyan way is hard workouts are hard and easy runs are easy so you will see an athlete doing his kilometre repeats at under 3:00/K in the morning and then see that same athlete going at 7:00/K for his recovery run in the evening. This is a problem because it’s not a typical thing I see or do often while running outside of Kenya so it calls for some mental adjustments to fit in when running alongside them.

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A long shot of part of the Rift Valley

  1. For those of us who have not yet been to a Kenyan training camp or may never get to, what is a day in the life of a Kenyan runner like?

A typical day as a Kenyan runner goes something like this: Wake up, morning workout run, breakfast, house work, rest with a book or music, nap, lunch, drinking lots of water, free time visiting friends, evening easy run, eat some fruits, have some tea, supper, go to bed, and repeat. I could go into detail but the Kenyan athlete try’s to live a very simple, relaxed, laid back lifestyle. They stay totally focused on their training which allows them to stay strong and not tire out easily by doing too much in the day. Another point is that not many people have cars so it forces them to be more active and walk around town to do their tasks. Of course each runner’s life has its more exciting moments like playing some soccer, dancing at the club, going on a safari, or shopping at a big city mall.

  1. What are you training for?

After 3 months of training in Kenya that ends March 26th, I will race Hamilton’s Bay And Back 5K just 3 days later on March 29th while the altitude and all the running I’ve done is still fresh in my lungs and legs. This event is basically an out and back road course that’s fairly flat and attracts some fast guys for competition. My goal here is to improve my 16:02 PB down to 15:30’s or faster. 3 weeks later I will race Canada fastest 10K which I happen to be a Digital Champion for at Canada Running Series’ Toronto Yonge Street 10K on April 19th which is point to point on the road, net downhill, super fast, and top level competition. The goal here is to improve on my 33:37 time from last year’s event. Those are the two big races that follow Kenya but then in spring I have Mississauga Half-Marathon and Ottawa Canadian National Championship 10K. My big summer event will be Waterloo Running Series’ ENDURrun as an Ultimate where I’ll run 7 races over 8 days that total 160K. I hope all my mileage now in Kenya can transfer over to help me in August for the tour de France of running.

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  1. What will you miss the most when you come back home?

I love this place so much that I will miss so many things but mostly all the friends I’ve made in my 13 weeks here, some of the strongest training groups ever, the beautiful views from those soft dirt trails in the hot sun, and finally the unique deliciously healthy traditional Kenya foods of specifically ugali, chapati, and ndazi.

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11.  If you had any advice at all you can share with the readers what would it be?

Kenya is known to be the best place on the globe to train for running and if you’re a serious athlete and the chance comes around to go there, I say go for it because its an experience of a lifetime. An opportunity that runners from all over the world dream of doing and now that I’ve made my wish come true I want to see others enjoy it too. With that being said, to really benefit from the altitude and all that Kenya has to offer a runner, you really need a minimum of 4 weeks, ideally 6, with a maximum of 2 months based on what I’ve seen. I know this whole Kenya running can be overwhelming to the basic runner so I say if you can’t come here yourself then believe you are as strong as a Kenya in your mind. Find different exciting places to run in your community, always be aware of the food you eat; stay dedicated to your training, you might surprise yourself with how well you can excel at your sport. Keep that passion for running alive forever.

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Robert Brouillette is 22 years old, from Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. He runs with the Health & Performance club in Waterloo. He is currently training in Iten, Kenya, for 3 months of high altitude running with some of the best runners in the world, living an African lifestyle, and enjoying the new culture. Training hard on the dirt trails in the sun to get faster and build the mileage along the way so he can return to Canada and race some big road races.

Runner Rob can be found on these social media sites and is always happy to hear from runners of all walks of life.
Facebook.com/RunnerRob4Life
Twitter.com/RunnerRob4Life
RobBrouillette.wordpress.com
Strava.com/athletes/4446950

Wear Test Wednesday: Cat5Gear Cases + Giveaway!

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As an athlete who’s always on the go, organization is key. Leaving my house everyday for work, I pack all my essential running gear so when I get a moment, I can get in my daily kilometres. There are days I’m off running or I’m heading to some trailhead to take the mountain bike out for a spin. Either way if one important piece of gear is missing, my workout might not be as comfortable or worse not end up happening.

How many times have you showed up for a workout missing a shoe, your shorts or your bike helmet? If this has never happened to you then, you’re a master of organization. Me? I can tell you I have done all of these things and worse.

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Last year I was given a Cat5Gear cycling case. I’d seen a few other cyclists using it and kept thinking, I need one of these! When I finally got mine, I was over the moon. I have a back-pack addiction. I love them, but for races both running and cycling, a back-pack is really annoying. I’m always that person who thinks I have everything I need, and then realizes, nope, my mittens are inside the pack, most likely at the bottom of the mess of gear. Sure enough, after having to unpack the whole bag, I find the mittens and then have to re-pack everything all over again. As much as they are easy to carry and compact, I find I spend too much time riffling through them while my blood pressure slowly increases with frustration.

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What my Cat5Gear case looks like most days.

My favourite thing about the Cat5Gear case is it’s not a bag; it’s a completely compartmentalized rigid case that lets me keep my gear organized. There is a place for everything and even a checklist if you, (like me) need a list to keep you from losing stuff.

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Ready2Ride

The bag comes in a variety of colours and if you are really want, you can get it monogrammed with your name, your team or team logo. It has a mesh covering, which allows for some ventilation making sure you aren’t greeted by a sweaty stink bomb when you get home.

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The bag is easy to carry around and durable. I have put my bag through hell and back and it’s still in one piece. I have used this bag as my camera bag, my running bag, my cycling and my camping bag. It’s been everywhere and purposed for everything.

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See for yourself the items that can easily fit in this one case!

Today on the blog you are going to get a chance to win one of these Cat5Gear cases.
All you have to do is:
Like Cat5Gear on FB
Follow Cat5Gear on twitter
Comment on this blog about your worst moment when a piece of gear didn’t make it to a race or workout.

*The contest will be running for the rest of February – winner will be announced on Feb 28th.

Motivation Monday: Finding Success in Failure

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Team Longboat

As I climb my way down a ladder to shorter distances, the descent is quite painful. Moving up to 80km, my body didn’t have to deal with lactic acid. Now every step down, my legs fill up like cement trucks with this chemical that literally stops you in your tracks.

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That’s the look of pain!

Recently I’ve noticed, the person who used to want to chase and pass and win, has not been present. My mission last week was to find this person, come Sunday, I was going to need all the help I could get. Up first, the 800M and I was scheduled for heat 4. So as I warmed up and did my drills, I watched the runners go by. This was going to hurt, I had no doubt, but how much I had no idea. Not having raced 800M in probably 25 years, I was both nervous and excited for the next 2 plus minutes.

The 800M race is known as the hardest race in the world. It’s not a sprint and it’s not an endurance race, yet it’s known in track as a long distance event. You have no room for error and it’s very difficult to execute a perfect race.

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1972 Olympics – perfectly executed 800M

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I entered the track and the gun went off. Everything was going perfectly until the 2nd half of lap 3 and then right into lap 4. Like hitting a wall of bricks, my body filled up so quickly with lactic acid, that soon I felt I was running through thick sand or mud. The blood rushed from my face, my brain was telling my legs to move, but my legs couldn’t do what I needed them to. Simple put, it was excruciating. My goal was to hit 2:30, and I missed it by 7 seconds. 2:37 on my very first 800M was fine, not great, just fine. The long distance runners out there will say, “so what, it’s only 7 seconds”. 7 seconds on the track is an eternity. It would be the equivalent of missing your BQ by probably 7 minutes or more.

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The 800M starts Heat 4

I still had one more race to do and it was the mile. Finally a distance I could sink my teeth into. Again the gun went off and right on schedule I hit my splits. A speed my body was much more comfortable with, where   the lactic acid stays at a comfortable level. I happily finished in 5:40, just as the coach asked. Neither of these times are my best or fastest, but as a first time back to the track it’s a good start.

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Chasing down our competition with Team Mate Edwin. The 1 Mile race

I learned an important thing this week about failure. To enter a ring, knowing you are going to fail takes courage. I felt out of place, out of my element and was purposefully put in the heats where I would finish last. On paper I failed, but as a runner, I set a goal, completed it and learned something new. In my books the failure was a total a success.

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Motivation Monday: The Lucky Number 8

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Recently I was talking to a friend about how strange it is that I ran 80km then my next race an 8km and my very next race will be an 800m. Moving from an ultra distance of 80km all way down the ladder to 800m has not been an easy journey. My friend pointed how in Chinese culture the number is quite auspicious. So naturally I was intrigued. A quick google search and the Internet told me all about the number 8.

“The word for “eight” (八 Pinyin: bā) sounds similar to the word which means “prosper” or “wealth” ( – short for “發財”, Pinyin: fā). In regional dialects the words for “eight” and “fortune” are also similar, e.g., Cantonese “baat3” and “faat3“.” (Source)

Since the 80km, I’ve felt great, until I ran the 8km race. It went as good as it could’ve gone having come off such a great distance. I haven’t been doing much speed training. I wasn’t expecting greatness, but to say I was happy with my results would be a total lie. I had a number I felt I was ready to hit, and I missed it. Regardless of the extreme cold and lack of speed work, I felt frustrated. I felt stuck in a training zone and I don’t want to be stuck there.

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Spending a lot of runs alone this week.

Driven by frustration, I went on a speed binge. The rest of the week, even though my coach said slow down, I sped up. I would begin my workouts, with the purposeful intention of not listening to my coach. Can you imagine what happened? I had a really crappy week of training. I finished the week with a 25km solo Saturday night cold and dark run knowing full well I was running too fast but refusing to slow down. I hit bed that night feeling emotionally and physically worn down.

With my tail between my legs, I sent my weekly update to my coach, apologetic and completely honest about what I had done. He reminded me of Jack Daniels wise words. “Just because we can run faster, it doesn’t mean we should.”

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Running too fast again.

I took too many risks last week and I’m lucky to not have any injuries as a result. I’m back on track starting today. The coach has made some adjustments and we have agreed I will follow all paces that are assigned. The auspicious number 8 has been hovering over my head lately, let’s hope it’s a sign of good things to come. However, I know, running isn’t a luck-based sport; I ultimately have to train smart and listen to my coach.

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