Something To Brag About

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I’ve never been a fast runner.

My first 5K in 2011 was finished in 37:44. I whittled that down over two years to a 27:42 PR. A good time for me over the past four years is usually a 10K in under an hour and a 5K in under 30 minutes.

During marathon training, people told me I should focus on getting my half-marathon time down instead. But I loved the feeling I got from running farther and farther, instead of fast. I had to stop training with my group because they all left me in their dust. I started my long runs on Sundays an hour earlier than most. I eventually ran the marathon and it took me almost five and a half hours to complete.

I was proud of my marathon, but afterwards I switched gears and started thinking about speed again. I dreamed of whittling that time down by half an hour. I wanted to focus on improving my personal bests, but it wasn’t working.

My body was beaten up and so was my mind. I was getting slower. I ran a 10K in the fall in 58:48 and cried after. I felt stressed and was really negative toward myself.

When you think about, it’s just comical to get that emotional about a pace that is middle- to back-of-the-pack, not to mention light years away from a podium finish. And yet, I still did it. I think we all do.

I started running again three months ago after taking the winter and spring almost completely away from exercise.

I still haven’t worn my Garmin in those three months. I searched my house recently and I think it’s officially lost. The only time I get a sense of my pace is by how much time has elapsed when I check the clock when I get home, or if I’m running on the treadmill.

And judging by those things, I am a lot slower that I used to be and I’m not improving. I can go farther than I could 12 weeks ago,  but not faster.

I feel happy when I’m running, and my breathing is calm, but when I try to move my legs faster they just don’t go. If I do pick up the pace I feel panicky and I slow down again. So I don’t bother anymore. I don’t run with a group, I don’t do speedwork; I just trot along on my own.

I am writing this to tell people that running doesn’t always have to be about improving your speed.

I am also writing this to tell myself the same thing.

(When I tell myself it’s OK to be slower, I still don’t always believe it.)

I haven’t given up on my half-marathon training. I am right on track and full of excitement for race day on September 27.

I anticipate a personal worst, but I also anticipate that nervous excitement while laying out my clothes the night before, the sweat and exertion on the course, cheering my friends on when I see them pass by, the pride I will feel when I claim my participation medal, and the giant brunch with my family afterward. For me, that’s what I find fun about running.

I am proud of my running friends who work harder each and every day and keep reaching their goals, whether it be a PR or a BQ. But it’s not for everyone. It’s OK if your goals don’t have anything to do with speed.

In the end, we’re all just trying to stay healthy, have a bit of fun, and maybe have something to brag about later on Instagram, right?

My Favourite Gear for Active Women

At the beginning of the month, I imposed a strict shopping ban upon myself.

The ban has two caveats:

1. I can buy food.

2. I can buy things for a bachelorette party I am co-hosting in August.

The ban lasts until August 15, the party weekend, and will resume after that weekend until Labour Day, at which time I will reassess if I deserve to get my privileges back.

I wasn’t always a big shopper, but this year I’ve been a little out of control and I definitely needed reining in.

Even though I can’t shop, I can still tell you about my favourite gear, clothing and products, and then you can go shop and let me live vicariously through you.

Note: This post is definitely not sponsored. If I was sponsored by Lululemon I would probably quit my job and just Instagram mirror selfies all day. And my husband would probably leave me.

Current favourite Lululemon pieces:

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Yoga top – Wild Tank Multi-use tanktop – Cool Racerback Sports bra – Run Stuff Your Bra II Leggings – Wunderunder Running pants – Speed tights Socks – Keep It Tight sock

I am a complete Lululemon addict. There’s no denying it, so I may as well just make the brand its own list. The funny thing is I used to despise this company and everything it stood for.

Of course, that was when I was a couch potato. I still think spending that much money on workout clothing when you never workout, just because the brand is “cool”, makes no sense. However, I choose to spend my money there because I spend a lot of time sweating, like to dress down on the weekends, and appreciate the good quality and fit.

Favourite running shorts:

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Old Navy Lightweight Workout Shorts

Surprisingly, this award does not go to Lululemon. I love the Old Navy active wear line of shorts. I even wore them in my marathon because they chafed the least out of all my shorts.

By the way, they are currently on sale for $9.99 with an extra 25 per cent at checkout. I will wait here while you go browse.

Favourite beauty product:

Lush No Drought dry shampoo

No exaggeration: I have changed many lives by recommending this product. I even get emails at work about it from colleagues.

Throw it in your gym bag and sprinkle it in your hair after a workout when you don’t have time to shower. Or take a shower and don’t bother washing your hair, just apply this after. It’s all natural, smells great and works better than any other dry shampoo I’ve tried.

Favourite sunscreen:

Neutrogena Ultra-Sheer Dry Touch Sunscreen

Have you ever noticed that elite runners kind of look … old? I mean, they’re still amazing athletes of course, but the sun has obviously taken a toll on their skin.

I recently started wearing SPF 45 on top of my regular moisturizer with SPF. Apparently the moisturizer cuts down on the effectiveness of the sunscreen so it wasn’t working as well as I had hoped. I apply this every morning on top of my moisturizer and before applying makeup.

Favourite hat:

Lululemon What’SUP hat

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I have two of these and wear them all the time — you may have noticed them in my photos. They do get a little warm when the temperature goes up so I recommend a lighter weight mesh running hat in those cases. I wear mine running or for after a workout when my hair is a mess and I need to go out in public.

Sports bra:

Moving Comfort Fiona

I get a lot of questions from both friends and blog readers about sports bra recommendations. It’s so important to wear a properly fitted bra when exercising. My hands-down, gold medal, no-questions-asked favourite brand is Moving Comfort. For larger chested women — and I can personally attest that it will fit a FF cup — the Fiona is great. Anyone smaller than that should also check out the Juno.

I would love to hear about your favourite products … leave a comment or write your own blog post. I look forward to reading and trying to restrain myself from purchasing your recommendations. 

Kinda Sorta Half-Marathon Training: Week 3

Another week of kinda sorta maybe preparing for a fall half-marathon is done. Last week was a classic week of training — ups and downs, a big push to get it all done in the end, finished off with a triumphant feeling of success.

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Plans are starting to come together to transition my training from “should I run a half-marathon” to “which half-marathon should I run?” I had envisioned doing the PEI half-marathon in October but right now I’m leaning toward sticking around home and doing the Fall Classic in Fredericton at the end of September. Maybe I’ll go crazy and do both.

We shall see.

In the meantime, I keep running.

Monday:

Plan said – Rest

What I did – Rest

Tuesday:

Plan said – 5K

What I did – 5K

I was too lazy to get out of bed in the morning and by the time I got off work it was more than 30 degrees Celsius. I decided to wimp out and hit up the treadmill. This seriously took all of my willpower — all I wanted to do was go home and hang out with Dan. Of course I felt great after the run and was glad I didn’t miss it.

When I think about how many minutes I spend on Instagram a day, there’s no way I can justify not exercising.

Wednesday:

Plan said – 7K

What I did – Nothing

As I was getting ready for work on Wednesday morning I slammed my ankle on the corner of our platform bed. I screamed and immediately started crying … it hurt so badly. I couldn’t put weight on it for half the day and then spent the rest of the day hobbling around. After last week’s impromptu cold, I was pretty annoyed about this turn of events and having to miss my run. I’m really trying to focus on 100 per cent adherence to the plan.

Thursday:

Plan said –  5K

What I did – 5K

To round out our series of mildly unfortunate events, I had an appointment at the hospital to address a nerve blockage that is a result of my surgery from December. I’ve been having some pain because of it and I ended up having to get three shots into the nerves.

I was woozy after and ended up having to walk a lot of my run and even sat on a bench with my head between my legs. This was definitely the low point of the week. I started questioning everything.

Friday:

Plan said – Rest

What I did – 7K

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As much as I would have loved to spend the hot, sunny Friday afternoon on a patio, I needed to make up for Wednesday’s missed run. I ran on the treadmill while Dan lifted weights. As is almost always the case, this run was a complete 180 from the day before and I felt great. And I even got to hit up two patios after.

Saturday: 

Plan said – Long run, 10K

What I did – Cross-training

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I did my favourite 75-minute yoga flow class outside the YMCA. I count yoga flow as cross-training because it gets my heart rate up, strengthens my muscles and increases my flexibility, all at the same time.

Sunday:

Plan said – Cross training

What I did – Long run, 12.8K

I felt excited when I woke up on Sunday morning. I haven’t run more than 10 kilometres since June 2014. It’s been a long road of recovery since my marathon in the spring of that year.

My schedule said 10K but I felt like going a bit longer so I sketched out a 12K route. I ran along the river and over to the northside before realizing the trail I planned to take is closed this summer due to a sinkhole. I’m not running with my Garmin right now so by the time I got  back I had covered 12.8K.

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This run felt great and was such a good boost for my confidence. Not paying attention to pace and relying on my own intuition with my body is probably the smartest decision I’ve ever made.

Planned mileage: 27K

What I did: 29.8K

Kinda Sorta Half-Marathon Training: Week 2

Week 2 is done already. I feel like time goes by really fast when I’m training for a race. This can be a bad thing in the summer, when I really want time to crawl by and for it to never, ever be winter again.

I was aiming for 100 per cent adherence in Week 2 and felt like I wouldn’t be very difficult to hit that goal. In the end, I missed one workout thanks to a cold. A cold, seriously? Those should be illegal when it’s not winter.

Here’s how I did:

Monday:

Plan said – Rest

What I did – Rest

IMG_20150706_154522 We drove 14 hours back from Ontario so the rest was much appreciated.

Tuesday:

Plan said – 5K

What I did – 5K

I did this run in the morning before work. My husband was on his way home that night so I wanted to make sure I could spend time with him in the evening. I wore a running skirt (purchased on my trip to Ontario) for the first time on this run and did not enjoy the experience. Kudos to all you running skirt wearers out there, but it’s not for me. I think I will stick with wearing it as a casual piece, which is the reason I bought it.

Wednesday:

Plan said – 5K Race Pace

What I did – 5K Race Pace

Still wanting to maximize time with Dan, I decided to go to the gym with him and do this run on the treadmill. It went OK … but I didn’t enjoy having to pay attention to my pace. As much as I try to pretend I don’t care, I’ve gotten slower this year and it’s frustrating.

Thursday:

Plan said –  5K

What I did – Blew my nose a lot

I came down with a cold and was so exhausted by the time I got home from work. I decided to take it easy, especially with the race coming up on Sunday. Really, my body made the decision for me.

Friday:

Plan said – Rest

What I did – 3K

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Just an easy 3K with my friend Katherine to shake out my legs.

Saturday: 

Plan said – Long run, 8K

What I did – Rest

My cold worsened. I wanted to go outside so I went for a little walk and swim in the community outdoor pool but got so tired. I barely slept that night and was so worried about the race.

Sunday:

Plan said – Cross training

What I did – Long run, 10K race

Read all about it here.

Planned mileage: 23K

What I did: 23K

Race Recap: Covered Bridge Run 10K

Wow — it’s been a long time since I recapped a race on this blog. My last race was the 10K at Legs for Literacy in October when I tried to beat my personal best and failed by 8 measly seconds. I was not a happy camper that day. Focusing on time can really take a lot out of you.

That’s why I chose to forgo wearing a watch when I started running again this spring. That, and I have no idea where my Garmin is. Probably in a sweaty corner of a gym bag somewhere. Possibly covered in protein bar crumbs.

My parents have run the Covered Bridge Run every year since its inception three years ago. They sang its praises and convinced me to join them this year. I had a 8K training run on the schedule this weekend so it felt like a good fit, even if I’ve only run 10K twice since last fall.

My plan was to have fun with this race and get in a good-quality training run. It was the first race that I didn’t have a watch guiding me.

On Thursday I came down with a cold — don’t summer colds seem so unfair? — and by Saturday it was really bad. I didn’t sleep much that night and was really nervous. Sunday morning I drove to Hartland with my parents and felt excited about going through the race-day routine again, including the traditional bathroom stop of Canadian runners at Tim Hortons.

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We started the race by running across the world’s longest covered bridge. It was only about 300 metres but very cool to experience.

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The rest of the race followed the banks of the St. John River. I’m biased, but I find the river valley insanely beautiful in the summer. All those shades of green ….

In university I did an internship at a newspaper that covered most towns along the river and I loved nothing more than driving my beat-up Toyota Corolla with the windows down, soaking in the views.

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I basically spent most of the race thinking about those memories and enjoying myself. I tried not to get my heartrate up too high, because that’s just no fun. I met the other runners twice  on the out-and-back stretches and gave lots of cheer while receiving encouragement from them as well.

It was a hot day — 30 degrees Celsius — so I poured a lot of water on myself at the aid stations.

My dad met me toward the end (I finished a mere 17 minutes after him) and ran with me toward the finish. I was still conversational at that point and it just felt great to be able to be smiling while crossing the finish line instead of wanting to heave my guts out. There’s a time and place to be competitive, but I just haven’t been feeling it lately. And as a result, I feel happier, mentally stronger, and I’m really enjoying my training.

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In the end we found out there was a glitch in communication and the 10K runners ran a little too far on the route. It really wasn’t a big deal to me.

I would recommend this race to anyone. It was only $25 for the 10K and you got a great grab bag, a cotton T-shirt with a neat logo featuring the bridge, a free pasta dinner AND full hot breakfast afterward, a good chance at door prizes … and a chance to enjoy the camraderie of kind Maritime runners.

I will be back next year.

Kinda Sorta Training For A Half-Marathon: Week One

As I’ve mentioned a million times, I had a hard winter. In April, my doctor told me he thought I would be running again in May. I laughed to myself because I thought he was crazy.

I thought I would never find a love for running or the motivation to get out there ever again.

Then, one day in May, it felt like it was time. I slowly worked up from walking, to running/walking, to running continuously. It started to feel good again. My doctor had been right.

A few weeks ago my friend told me she was planning to do the PEI Half-Marathon in October. That sounded like a great goal race for me because I’ve never done it before.  I kept building a base and started researching training plans.

They didn’t look as scary anymore. They looked doable.

Last week I started Week One of a 16-week training plan that will end on PEI Half-Marathon race day. And yet, I still haven’t registered for the race.

It may be a while before I do.

After recording my first official DNS at Ottawa Race Weekend in May, I still feel some trepidation about signing up for a race and then not being able to reach the start line.

So, I’m “kinda sorta” training for PEI. We will see how it goes. I’m still not wearing a watch, and I’m taking measures to reduce the stress that comes along with training. I want to enjoy the whole thing.

This will be my first time training for a long-distance race in the summer so I’m going to make a couple of modifications. I’m going to try to do my long runs on Saturdays so I can enjoy my weekend, and try to get out early in the morning to beat the heat. I will also be doing a few local races for fun.

I’ve decided to follow this Hal Higdon Novice 2 plan that Anna at Piper’s Run modified into Canadian measurements. It’s a 12-week plan, and if all goes well, I will just tack on a few long runs and a taper at the end to reach the full 16 weeks. I like the idea of having some wiggle room if summer plans get in the way.

Here’s how Week One went …

Monday:

Plan said – Rest

What I did – 5K

I had a sneaking suspicion on Monday evening that my sister was going to go into labour. Call it sister’s intuition. We spent a long time on the phone together that evening and I didn’t get out for my run until it was almost dark. I wanted to get a run in because I thought I would be driving to Ontario to see her the next day.

Tuesday:

Plan said – 5K

What I did – Rest

I was right! We left Fredericton at 5 AM and made the 14-hour drive to Kingston. I was a nervous wreck while my sister was in labour. I was thankful to have my Tuesday run already done.

Wednesday:

Plan said – 5K

What I did – Rest

After a long labour for her mother, my niece was finally born on Canada Day! No running, just celebrating.

Thursday:

Plan said –  5K

What I did – 5K

I ran 5K on the treadmill in the gross, stuffy hotel gym. It felt awful.

Friday:

Plan said – Rest

What I did – 5K

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I had to make up for my missed Wednesday run so I went for a run around my sister’s neighbourhood. It was hot and I had to walk some. Vacation running wasn’t kind to me.

Saturday:

Plan said – Long run, 7K

What I did – 7K

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I ran with my parents through downtown Kingston, along Lake Ontario and through Queen’s University campus. Beautiful scenery, but a terrible run. I had to stop and stretch out my back because it was completely seized up and painful. By the time we finished on the steps of Kingston City Hall, I was ready to do some silly stretching with my mom.

Sunday:

Plan said – Cross training

What I did – 75-minute yoga class

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I did some shopping at Lululemon on Saturday and asked about Sunday yoga classes in town. I thought it would be a good way to stretch out my back and get some cross-training in. On Sunday morning, I joined about 90 other people down by the lake for a free class put on by Lululemon. Most of the class was yin, so while I didn’t get very sweaty, my body felt amazing after being stretched out.

I was very happy that despite being on vacation and lots of family time happening, I was able to get in all five workouts. Onward!

Planned mileage: 22K

What I did: 22K

P.S. I’m not blogging much anymore, but I am Instagramming regularly about my training. Join me over there @freshstartmolly

A Love Letter To My City

My one-and-only sibling is due to have a baby — today! This will be the first grandchild for my parents, so everyone is feeling slightly excited to meet our newest family member.

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Why am I telling you this? Last night I had to run with my phone in case I got the call to go to Babyville — also known as Kingston, Ontario.

I’ve been running technology free since I started running again in late May. No Garmin, no phone. It’s liberating!

I took advantage of having to carry my phone last night and was able to snap some photos of my beautiful city.

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I moved to Fredericton from Nova Scotia when I was 18 years old. I attended university here and ended up never leaving New Brunswick again, even during my summers in university. I met my husband at school, and we both fell in love with the small city and decided we would try to settle down here.

I can proudly say with complete honesty that I have never gone on a run in Fredericton and not thanked my lucky stars for our beautiful trail system. Part of it even gets plowed in the winter.

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A winter photo … pretty, but I do not miss the temperature.

I lived in Saint John for eight months — and loved it there! — but when I first arrived I asked a few people where I should run. Everyone pointed me to Harbour Passage, which turned out be 1.5K long. Whomp whomp. Fredericton has miles and miles of beautiful trails that makes mapping out routes, even for long marathon-training runs, an enjoyable experience with minimal stoplights and sidewalks.

I’ve lived in five apartments in vastly different areas of the city and the farthest one from the trail system was 1.3K away. Once you see the trail you just hop on and start rolling wherever your legs will take you.

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Fredericton has a north and south side, divided by the St. John River.

Fredericton comes alive in the summer especially. You can tell people want to make up time for the terrible winters we have.

Last night my run was fairly short but I still managed to see a team of bagpipers practising by the Lieutenant-Governor’s House, running clubs and Crossfit sprinters, bikers, rollerbladers, people of all ages and abilities, live music in the square … and a Shakespearean outdoors play.

If you run the Fredericton Marathon you can run over this beautiful old train bridge

If you run the Fredericton Marathon you can run over this beautiful old train bridge.

I also ran through Wilmot Park and along the river, where the breeze is greatly appreciated on a hot summer night.

If you ever come to Fredericton to visit, I’ll be sure to take you on our trail system. Don’t forget your running shoes — and maybe your bagpipes.