Thursday, August 20, 2009

A funny thing happened on the way to the track....

So there I was, sipping on my tea at 4:00 AM and trying to pysche myself up for my track workout. These track workouts are so tough and I need to really get mentally prepared for the challenge. I have been running 800 Meter repeats which is two laps around a 400M track. I have worked my way to do doing 8 sets of this and making sure that I do them in under 3:30. I have been averaging around a 3:14 or so.

Today I decided to step it up a notch and do 1 mile repeats or 4 laps at top speed. My goal was to run each mile in 7:19 or better with a rest of 1:40 in between each set. I thought about doing 6 laps but decided not to push it too much today.

As I left my house I packed all the things I would need for my track work including my headlamp since I would have to be running the laps in the dark. I had my tunes cranked and set out to run the track at Pine Ridge High School which has a very nice rubber track.

As I drove up to the parking lot I noticed the following:

Needless to say I wasn't pleased. I had to drive to another track which wasn't nearly as good as this one and then had to psyche myself up all over again.

When I got to this track I did a light run to warm-up and then I was off. I decided that 4 sets was going to be enough today even though now I was contemplating doing 6.
I managed to do each 1 mile set in an average time of 7:08. At the end of the 4th lap I took a walk around the track to let my heart rate come down and then decided to do one more mile. I managed to do that mile in 7:00. I was glad that I decided to do that extra mile and now I can build on top of that and do a 6th set the next time out. The only question is where will I do it? (LOL)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Don’t ever use the “Q” word!

Wow! In a word that pretty much sums up the last week for me. It was full of positive energy and I’m still riding a pretty strong wave right now. However, it seemed like I would never get the news I got last week.

Let me give you some background so you can understand just how truly great last week was for me. For the past 3 years I have been working at Extreme Fitness as a full-time nutritionist. This year I decided to become a Personal Trainer and have also been doing that at Extreme Fitness. In addition I have my own Lifestyle Management Company (Cruz Control Lifestyle Management) and have also been working as a walking instructor for a company called Health Systems Group.

HSG manages many fitness facilities for corporations such as Proctor and Gamble and American Express. Each Wednesday I have met with a group of very dedicated women who are preparing to do the Weekend to End Breast Cancer on September 12th. I have been training them each week and have loved the experience. HSG is a company that I wanted to work for full time as I really embrace their “client first” mentality.

While I enjoy working with the clients at Extreme Fitness, I don’t really enjoy the fact that their customer service is so poor. I really believe that you can be profitable while still having a high degree of customer service. It is something that I believe sets me apart from many other people in this field and I take great pride in the fact that I am not only about the money. I think it has plenty to do with the fact that I was extremely overweight as a teenager and I understand how difficult the struggle can be to lose weight.

The other aspect of Extreme Fitness that I don’t enjoy is the fact that I only get paid on a per client basis. There have been days where I have gone into work and had client after client not show up for their session and that meant not getting paid. This made it very difficult to budget especially trying to support two young boys on a part-time basis.

As much as I love the work that I do and feel that it is what I do best, there were so many times that I contemplated changing careers just to make ends meet. I have had jobs in the past where I made more money but where I was totally unhappy. My passion lies in health promotion and that is something that I always get reminding myself about.

Then, two weeks ago I got the call I was waiting for from HSG. An opening came for a full time account manager for Franklin Templeton Financial Institute. The job would be to run the fitness studio and be an integral part of the wellness program there. I went for the interview and felt like I had done a great job. I waited for a full week anxiously awaiting a 2nd interview. That phone call came and I went for the interview last Friday morning.

Later that day I received the news that I got the job! To say that I was thrilled would be a huge understatement. I am so glad that I didn’t give up and remained mentally tough throughout this whole process. In many ways it resembled many of my toughest runs I’ve had.

Today I did a 10 mile run in very humid conditions. There were times when I wanted to stop or slow down as my breathing was getting more and more difficult. However, much like my career, I pushed on and picked up steam towards the end of the run and finished ahead of what I was hoping for.

I remember what my football coach told me many years ago. He said, “It’s ok to get knocked down but it’s not ok to stay down!” I think I have resembled those words!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Dirty Girl Race report

Last weekend while doing my 20 mile trail run I decided to run the 6 hour dirty girl race the following weekend. I knew I was going to run that race but hadn’t decided on what distance/time to run. Because my marathon training has been doing mostly speed work, hill training and tempo runs, I didn’t see the need to do Ultra trail races. However, after talking it over with some very knowledgeable runners, I decided to do the 6 hour race.

Last year I managed to do 52.5 KM’s in 5:45 minutes but my goals for this race were to stay healthy and do a minimum of 40 KM’s. Anything above and beyond that was going to be gravy.

The course is one of my favourite in the Ontario Ultra Series. It is a 10KM loop with just enough hills to challenge but also some great stretches where I can really just run.

When I got to the race site just shortly after 7 AM I knew I had made the right decision to run. I was greeted by so many familiar faces and it felt so good to be surrounded by such amazing energy. Some of my friends were doing the 6 hour run like me while others were doing the 12 hour or 24 hour run.

I decided to run with my heart rate monitor for the first time ever in a race just to gauge where my heart rate was in the trails versus on the roads.

As the countdown started I kept telling myself to just go easy and keep checking my heart rate periodically to ensure that I wasn’t going too fast too soon.

I was disciplined enough to complete the first lap in under 1 hour (55 minutes) so the pace was good and I felt strong. I decided to listen to my music every other lap so that way it would really motivate me. Instead of my music, I just focused on running consistent and enjoying the feeling of being in the trails. I was even able to catch up to a few of my running idols and we all ran in together for the first lap.

The 2nd lap was much of the same and I finished in roughly the same time as my 1st lap. My music really helped to keep me going so I was glad that I made the decision to use it every other lap. Towards the end of the 10 KM loop there is a large hill that keeps getting longer and longer as the day goes (LOL). I decided to pop a few Alleve just before going up the hill to avoid any possible pain in my legs. This, as I soon found out, was a huge mistake. I felt nauseas almost immediately and really thought I was going to be sick. It didn’t help that my heart rate monitor, which was strapped to my chest, felt like it was restricting my breathing. I managed to fight through this feeling but when I stopped after the 2nd loop I decided to ditch the heart rate monitor for the remainder of the race.

My 3rd lap started out pretty well and though my pace slowed a little, I was still pretty happy with how I was feeling. Unfortunately about ¾ of the way through the 3rd loop I started to get cramps in my quads. They were so painful at times and it felt like my muscle was being torn away from the bone. I found it hard to stop though so I kept walking and doing some light running at the same time. The cramps would come and go so I just had to fight through it. I haven’t had this problem since I did my last “regular” marathon in 2007. So many thoughts went through my mind and it took me back to that dreadful experience. I made a conscious effort not to think about it because I know how the mind works so I kept going.

Amazingly enough, I finished the 4th lap pretty strong and had now run 40 KM’s. It was now 4:15 so I knew that even if I walked the next 10 KM I would get to 50 KM as I had 1:45 minutes to get there.

I knew that I was going to surpass my goal so I started to walk a little more and run when I felt like I wanted to. My cramps were still coming on from time to time but for the most part I was still able to run. I met up with a friend who was clearly struggling and he was going to walk the rest of the 6 hours. I made the decision to walk with him. Just then, a good friend (Jeff Cooper) passed me and that really motivated me so I decided to start running. He wasn’t running very fast but I decided to run with him and get some more advice for my marathon. At this point we both knew that we were going to reach 50 KM’s no matter how slow we ran. We actually joked that we didn’t want to run too fast because if we got to the start/finish line with too much time left we would have to go out for another loop.

The race is marked every 2.5 KM’s so if you head out for another loop after the 5 hour mark, you must reach either 2.5, 5, 7.5 or 10 KM or you would not get credit for running that distance. Not only that, but once you head out you will have to make it back to the start/finish line somehow (run/walk). Remember, this is AFTER running for 6 hours.

I picked up my pace during the latter part of that last lap and came across the finish line at 5:30. I told a friend who was watching that I was done and wasn’t going out again. Then Jeff came running through the finish line and said, “c’mon let’s go out again.” Of course my competitiveness got the better of me so I decided that I would go out and see what I could do. I managed to get to the 2.5 KM mark at 5:50 which made my total for the day 52.5 KM’s. I was really happy that I decided to run until the end and also happy that I didn’t walk the majority of that 4th loop. I also beat myself up a little because I knew that I could have pushed myself a little more during that 4th loop and that would have given me more of an opportunity to get to 55 KM’s.

In the end, though, I learned quite a bit about myself and I need to figure this cramping issue before my marathon in September.

Today I went out for a nice recovery run of 6 miles and will take tomorrow off to rest and then it’s back to my marathon training schedule.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A change in plans

My plan today was to head to Pickering High School to do my 8 X 800M track work. When I got there I realized just how truly dark it was so I decided to drive a little further to Pinedridge HS. I was hoping that it would have been a little lighter there but of course it was not to be.

It was 5:15 when I did my warm-up lap and because it was so dark, I also used this opportunity to make sure that there was no obstructions on the lane where I was running. I decided to use lane 2 and stayed on that lane for the whole time I was there.

For my training I need to be able to run each 800M (2 laps around the track) in 3:30 or better. I did the first lap in 3:36. I wasn't happy about that so I picked it up quite a bit. Here is my final stats:
Lap 1: 3:36
Lap 2: 3:19
Lap 3: 3:21
Lap 4: 3:19
Lap 5: 3:16
Lap 6: 3:19
Lap 7: 3:16
Lap 8: 3:19

I walked/caught my breath for 1:40 seconds and this allowed my breathing and heart rate to slow down. During each lap my heart rate was about 164 bpm and my average pace was under a 7 minute mile.

Next up the Dirty Girl 6 hour race on Saturday. My goal is just to do 40KM so my body can get a feel for being out there for that distance. My main focus will be seeing how my heart rate is affected running on the trails versus running on the road.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Another great run

Knowing that I have a very addictive personality, is it any wonder that I am now hooked on running with a heart rate monitor strapped around my chest? Today I wanted to do an easy pace but my legs felt good so I decided to try and do as close to an exact race pace (8 min/mile) as possible for 6 miles. I also wanted to get a better gauge as to what my heart rate should be when I run at race pace.

During my marathon there will be times when my pace will speed up or slow down (hopefully not too much though). During my run today I wanted to stay at roughly the same pace and I managed to do that very well. My average pace was 7:59 and I finished the run in 47:53 (my goal was 48 minutes). I found that my heart rate hovered around the 154 bpm range. My maximum heart rate based on my age is 179 so 154 is 86% of my maximum heart rate.

Using the heart rate reserve method is an even better way to gauge fitness as it uses your resting heart rate in the equation. This is mine:
220-41= 179 - resting heart rate (50)= 129 X 86%= 110 + resting heart rate (50)=160
Therefore, 160 beats per minute represents 86% of my maximum heart rate which corresponds remarkably well to where I was yesterday and today.

Tomorrow will be an even greater test as I will have to run close to 90% or higher of my maximum heart rate as I do my track work. Can you tell that I am hooked?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


That was my heart rate for the majority of my run today. That corresponded to an average pace of 7:54 min/mile for 10 miles. I noticed that if I ran too fast, my heart rate elevated to 170 and I felt uncomfortable so I actually slowed down my pace until my heart rate returned to 160-164. If my heart dropped below 160 my pace was too slow so I had to speed up. It really was an interesting game to see where my heart rate needs to be in order to keep my pace.

Mile 5 and mile 8 were the only miles where my average pace was slightly higher than what I needed for my race (8:01 and 8:02 respectively). My fastest average mile was 7:45.

Tomorrow will be a slightly slower pace and less distance as well, probably 5 miles. With a 6 hour race coming up on Saturday, I have to be careful not too push myself too hard.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly....

Today was my first time ever using a heart rate monitor and I felt like a kid with a new toy. For years many of my friends who know I start out too fast, have begged me to start using one of these but I always found them cumbersome.

I was coming off doing a 20 mile road/trail run yesterday so I was a little tired but I really wanted to see what this heart rate training was all about. I strapped the monitor to my chest and off I went.

About ½ miles into the run, the strap, which apparently I didn’t tighten enough, came loose and dropped from above my chest to below my waist. Amazingly enough it continued to record my heart rate though so instead of stopping my run and adjusting it, I decided to just keep running.

I would periodically check my heart rate and my average pace to gauge where my heart rate was. I noticed that when I ran a 7:30 to 7:45 minute mile, my heart rate would climb above 200 bpm. The closer I got to my actual race pace of 8:00 minutes per mile, I noticed that my heart rate was 190 to 195 bpm. This is where I tried to keep my heart rate for the majority of the run. Again, it’s difficult to know how accurate the reading was because the strap had fallen down but I will have to use that as a starting point and the next time I go out I will check again, this time with the strap tighter.

My goal was to finish the run in 1:20 which is an 8 minute mile. I once again started out fast and this gave a nice cushion of 44 seconds at the 7 mile mark. I needed every bit of those seconds because after the 8 mile mark I was 52 seconds ahead but this fell to only 35 seconds by the time the 9th mile was finished. I lost some time as I had to stop at a traffic light. I also had to do 2 hills which didn’t help. I finished the run in 1:19:20 seconds so I was able to make up an additional 5 seconds during that final mile, most of which was again uphill.

After running 30 miles (48KM’s) in 2 days it’s time for a day of rest tomorrow.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

How do you turn a 26KM trail into a 32K run?

The answer? It aint easy. I met up with a group of friends at 7 AM at the Forestream Parking Lot. I had hoped that some of them were going to run 20 miles with me but I soon found out that I had no takers. Most are training for a race next weekend so it didn’t make sense for them to go too far today. While I totally understood, it left me with a tough decision. They were going to do 26KM which was about 6KM short of what I wanted to do today. How was I going to squeeze another 6 KM out of this trail? Many thoughts went through my head, including doing the 2nd 10KM of the trail twice. Instead of that, I did some creative running and amazingly it turned out very well.

I ran with the group to the turnaround point of the first loop. This was Hwy7 and the total miles were just under 5. The black flies on that part of the route were really biting and it was at that point that I made my decision to go it alone. I decided that I would go West on Hwy 7 to the Durham/York border and then run South to Taunton Road. This added another few miles that I would not have gotten in had I went back to the same way I started. When I reached Taunton Road I looked at my Garmin and realized that I still needed to get a few more miles in so I went South to Concession 3. From Concession 3 I travelled East to Whites Road and then North to the Forestream where I had started at 7 AM.

When I got there I refuelled and then saw a few of the runners that I had left behind. I took an electrolyte supplement, ½ banana and filled up my water bottle and then went out for the next part of the run. At this point I was at 12.5 miles and again my head was spinning. I knew that even if I did the route to the Dump and back it would only be 6 miles and being as competitive as I am, I knew that this was not going to sit well with me. I took all the long routes I could find during this second half and when I got to the dump I ran another mile on the road and then headed back for the final stretch. I was at 16 miles and it was going to be a tight fit to get those 4 miles in. I again took the long way back and just as I was starting to get a little tired I heard some rustling in the trees. There was a little clearing about 5 feet in front of me and the next thing I knew there was a deer running right by me. For whatever reason this seemed to inspire me to go faster and harder and the rest of the run was a breeze.

As I finished my run I saw all my friends sitting in their lawn chairs having a beverage and food and was glad that I could join them. I managed to get in 19.6 miles (I decided to cut myself some slack) in 3:41 minutes. After the run I was talking to my friends about my training and they all offered some great advice. One even loaned me his heart rate monitor and tomorrow I will start using it. I’ve never run with one before but so many people have recommended that I do that I’m glad that I will finally be using one.

All in all it was a great day and a picture perfect weather day to be out in the trails!