To The Races!

So I’ve just registered for the Catalina Marathon on March 9th (off the southern coast of California).  Why this race?  Is it a fast course guaranteed for a fast time?  Is it a convenient location which is easy to get to?  Does it fit well into my training plan timing-wise?  None of the above.  I’m doing it because it fits well into my life.  My husband will get to surf/paddle in the area and my kids will be on March Break so we’re making it a family trip.  It will start with the marathon and end with a week of camping/exploring/surfing down the California coast.  I can’t think of a more fun sounding vacation!  I will be treating the marathon as a much needed (and exceedingly rare in my schedule) long run in the lead up to my main goal race – Around The Bay 30K on March 24th.  Is an uphill marathon three weeks out the ideal prep for that race?  Probably not, but as I said – it fits my life.

Here is a map of the Catalina Marathon course:

Here is the course elevation (YIKES!):


And just to confirm that I won’t be setting any PB’s, here are the course records:

Men: 2:39:58

Women: 3:07:00

So basically I’ll be doubling the amount of time I’ve spent on my legs in one running session up to that point.  Unless I get in some emergency long runs between now and then which I’m now planning on doing.  My overall mileage and consistency are good – I’m planning on hitting 70 miles this week and I’m on day three at 31 miles which includes a good quality session of mile repeats.  It’s just the long runs I’m having trouble fitting in.  They just take so much time!!!!  Hopefully this race registration is the kick in the pants I needed to make them happen.

Set Back

I’m sure you’re all wondering how my valiant attempt at 70 miles went this week.  Well, I came down with the flu.  Despite a fair dose of denial, and trying to “get out there anyway” the first few days, the reality has hit and I’ve spent the best part of the last 5 days here:

And here and here

Since no full-blown flu really counts unless your whole family gets it too – musical sick-beds we’ve been playing for the past week.

It’s day 6 of the flu today and I’ve taken three full days off.  My rule of thumb: if you feel up to a small run when you’re a bit under the weather, you should go for it.  Getting out can help you to feel normal and it does boost your immune system (studies show that going for a run just after having had the flu shot increases it’s effectiveness  However, if you have a fever and body aches, take the time to rest – you won’t be able to increase your fitness while feeling like that anyway and can further compromise your body’s ability to fight the bug.

Today, despite telling myself I’m on the mend, I’m feeling as weak as a kitten for not having eaten much over the past few days.  (Two real indicators that I’m sick – no eating and no running).

ok, he’s not exactly a kitten, and not all that weak, but I feel something like this:

I tried to run today and made it for 4.5 slow miles to finish my week at 25.5.

Tomorrow I have some uncharacteristic time to run and I had hoped to use it to get a long run in.  I’m no longer so optimistic, but I’ll see what I can do.  I’m curious how long it will take me to get my strength back.  70 mile week – I’m coming!!!!

Do you run when you’re sick?  What are your rules for going or not going?

Winter Running Tips

Today was one of the coldest days of the year so far.  I know, we’ve gotten soft with our winters lately, but -24C with the windchill still seems pretty cold to me – whether I’m used to it or not.  SO, what do I do to get out the door on days like this?  A few tips:

  • “Run” an errand.  You probably have to get out the door for something, right?  If you’re going to brave the outside anyway, why not just don your running gear and see if you can add a few miles to and from your destination if needed (I needed to get to the bank today, so used that as my reason to get out the door)
  • Take the pressure off your time and pace.  In freezing conditions and snowy/icy footing, use effort as your guide, not pace.  I had a 5 mile loop in mind today and left my watch at home.
  • If you do have an effort session in the plans, consider hills instead of intervals.  Hills work on strength, so effort based repeats work well and you don’t have to be as concerned with time – you can still get the same quantity in as you do in the warmer weather.  I have hills planned for my workout tomorrow with my dedicated and intrepid group so I went to check out how our hill looks.

This is the top of it – the city has salted a path – yay!  Here’s the middle part:

I tried to take a picture from the bottom to show the 3rd part and the better perspective, but that’s when my phone decided it was too cold to take any more pictures.

  • Bundle up!  Ok, sometimes when I’m feeling particularly wimpy, I tell myself I’m going to overdo it on the clothing so that I don’t have that uncomfortable first 5 minutes of cold before I warm up.  That’s what I did today, but I think I was just overdressed.  I had planned an easy day, so didn’t plan on sweating too much.  If you’re doing a tempo, you should really be too cold when you just start out in order to be comfortable mid-run.  This will also motivate you to run fast!  What I wore today:

That is a pair of running tights, a pair of windpants, two long-sleeved shirts, a jacket, two pairs of gloves (although I took one off later to bundle my poor cold phone at the expense of one hand’s warmth), one scarf and two hats.  I don’t know why I felt I needed two hats – one of them isn’t even a running hat.  As you can see, I don’t worry too much about fashion sense on days like these.

  • Don’t stray too far from home.  If you’re doing a longer run, do a couple of loops which go near (but not right by) your house.  I don’t like running by my house when I’m planning on continuing because it always makes me feel like stopping.  But if you do need to stop and walk for whatever reason when it’s cold, you will lose heat quickly and could find yourself in trouble if you’re too far from home.
  • Enjoy the different sensations from running in the winter – my run today was silent with just the sound of my feet crunching on snow.  Your routes are all new again with different perspective.  The seasons keep it fresh.  I can’t imagine seeing the exact same scenery on my runs for 12 months of the year (ok, maybe people who are forced to run year-round in California aren’t suffering, but let’s try to look on the bright side).  Here was the sun in all it’s blazing glory today:
  • Finally, when you’re getting out and running in this, you deserve a treat.  I ended my run at Starbucks where my phone came back to life, I got a yummy warm drink, and all was well with the world.


Cross Training

A few words about cross-training.  I like it because:

  1. It helps prevent injury by maintaining a balance in your muscular strength
  2. It adds to your overall “functional fitness” and by this I mean, your ability to perform in other activities in life at a higher level, rather than just being really good at running in a straight line
  3. It burns more calories, which, let’s be honest, is never a negative

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that a lot of my everyday activities involve “cross training” (at least I put them in that category).  Sometimes I think “this has GOT to benefit my running somewhere down the line” and other times I think “thank god I’m a runner or I’d never be able to do this!”  Yesterday was a big cross training day for me.

It started with a regular run.  Then I had the kids in the house all afternoon and no car.  The skating rink right beside our house was booked for the day.  No problem.  There’s one a short mile away – UPHILL.  This is what we looked like heading out:

Then we added the chair which my youngest needs to a) skate and b) be pushed on by me when she gets tired of skating after the first 15 minutes.

This is the view from the top of the hill, and honestly, this photo does not do justice to the grade.  It is a long, STEEP hill and I forced the kids to cheer me on from about halfway to the top  (I completely forgot bike helmets until looking at this photo – the skating helmets, knee pads, gloves, 3 pairs of skates, hockey stick and chair made me incorrectly assume we had enough gear).

I probably shouldn’t count as cross-training (but I will) putting on 3 pairs of skates, helmets and shin-guards.  I use the sweat-barometer test, and I was drenched by the time we hit the ice.  Then it was time to actually skate (the main activity).  For the most part they were fine skating on their own, although I was called on for more than the occasional game of tag, and to push the chair “Really Fast”.  Thank goodness Thing 1 took pity on me and helped out by pushing Thing 2 for a while.

After about 45 minutes it was time to head to our local cafe for hot chocolate.  Luckily I’d done this to them, so I could count on some quiet time later at home:

And what did I do with my “Quiet Time” at home?  Cross trained of course!  The one form of “real” cross training I’ve gotten into is Kettlebell.  My husband and I have a set and a routine which takes 35 minutes.  It is INTENSE and really feels like it’s doing a lot based on the endorphin buzz and muscle shakes it produces and the body soreness the next day.  Here’s a picture of our instruments of torture:

They may look pretty, but they’re killer.  We’ll see if they help my running – I’m trying to get them in once-twice a week.

As for how my run went this morning after yesterday’s workouts: let’s just say I’m glad I was finishing off my easy week and didn’t time my 7 mile route.

Now to gear up for a series of 3 build weeks in the freezing temps!  I’m going to try to build to 70 in one of them.  Stay tuned…


Here’s the funny thing about perspective – it’s hard to really change yours until you’re really forced to see it from someone else’s.  My days move along by my accomplishing tasks.  I like to check one thing off the list and move onto the next.  This mentality suits my running quite well, but I seem to maintain it when dealing with my kids.  A typical Saturday involves me dressing them, feeding them, taking them to at least one activity to burn off energy and get them all out of the house, and this all has to be planned around my and my husbands’ endurance activities and chores which need to get done.  SO, I tend to end up spending a lot of time “running the show” and trying to get people to move on to the next activity.

After an afternoon of swimming and lunch with the kids the other day, I looked at  some of the video my 5 yr old had been taking.  All I can say is that we were in completely different worlds.  The one below was taken (without my knowing) while I was trying to wrap up lunch and get the kids in their bike gear so we could get home.  I had been making “we’re leaving now” noises for about 10 minutes before this video was filmed.  I was busily trying to get kids to finish their “last bit”, get into their snowsuits, pack up all activities which were lying around the table, pay the bill and get on to the next daily activity.  As you can see, I am in no way the central character in this world.  In fact, I think my voice actually sounds like the adults in Charlie Brown.  There is an entirely different agenda here, and it’s not rushed or stressed – it’s completely in the moment.  Does it look like the author of this video is trying to get his stuff together and get ready to get out the door?  Sigh…

It took discovering and watching this to fully understand how difficult it must be for someone living in the moment to understand and comply with “my agenda” all the time.  I have a mental “to do” list, and they can’t see it.   And here I thought my kids’ worlds revolved around me.  Hunh…  Sometimes it’s good to slow down and see the world as a 5 yr old does.  Showing more patience was one of my New Years’ resolutions and I’ll try to apply it to my running and my family.  Goodness knows – I need it!!!

Then and Now

As I attempt to get back to my former running times (from about 10-15 years ago) it’s interesting for me to make comparisons on how my training and approach to running has changed.  I think I can attain my previous PB’s because I’m now more experienced, smarter, stronger (mentally – maybe even physically) and probably equally motivated.  Some things in my life however have changed – 10-15 years ago I didn’t have two kids and I didn’t have a job which demanded 9-5 Monday-Friday hours.  So here’s my comparison of what’s happening differently, and we’ll see if it can still get me to the same place…


I thought a lot about my big efforts beforehand, and would wait until my body and the timing felt right before tackling them.


I head out whenever I have the opportunity regardless of how I feel.  Sometimes I’m halfway through a workout before assessing whether I’m ready.


Post hard run/workout I would eat a mix of protein and carbs in my 30 minute “optimum recovery window” and rest my body and/or nap to fully reap the benefits of the effort.


After I’ve spent 1-2 hours away from the family I’m usually ON as soon as I get back and we head out for some release of kids’ physical activity (playing in the park, swimming, skating, toboggoning,…)  I usually “recover” with a coffee and leftovers from small plates and hands (grilled cheese sandwich crusts, half-eaten bananas, etc…).  On weekdays it’s straight into a day at the office, so that’s usually the best recovery, although sadly, still no naps.


I cross-trained one or two times a week.  Usually working complementing muscle groups and core.


My life is a cross-training session.  I’m often carrying kids and/or their belongings for what feels like miles.  I hope the muscle fatigue I feel in daily chores will somehow benefit my running.


I wore running shoes everywhere I went.  If I wasn’t running I was recovering from or preparing for a training session.


I vainly try to wear heels to boost my confidence level in the office.  This has led to “mystery” injuries which strangely don’t seem to hurt while running.  In running shoes.  I am trying to shelve the vanity and revert to flats – I’m trying…


I trained for races which fit my training cycle and schedule.  I would seek out the fastest courses and always race for time.  Warm-ups were down to a science.


I race where opportunity presents itself and usually only close to home.  I have been known to try to incorporate my family into the “fun” of the experience – with mixed results.  One event where I tried to incorporate the Kids’ Fun Run with my race ended in me missing the start as I tried to corral my kids to the line, still running and winning the 5 km but passing my husband carrying one upset person and dragging one crying/protesting person 500 m before the finish line in their desperate attempt to finish 1 km.

Despite what it may look like, I do still have confidence that my new approach will net me just as fast times.  There’s nothing like being hungry for the time and opportunity to run as the ultimate motivator.  Time will tell!


Generally I think that “not having enough time” is not an excuse for not running.  It’s about priorities and energy levels.  You can wake up 30-45 minutes earlier than usual, and you can usually squeeze that same window into a lunch-time or evening run.  My current frustration comes from trying to “up” my mileage from a comfortable ~45 miles a week to over 60 miles.  One hour runs fit into my schedule.  Just.  I wake up at 5 or 4:50 a.m. to get an hour in before the day begins.  The Day begins with my husband leaving for work at 6 a.m., so I have to be in the door by then so child services aren’t called on us for leaving a 5 and 3 year-old on their own.  Also, if I weren’t in by then there’s no way I could get three of us dressed, fed and out the door by 7:30 (I’ve tried to push the time window and it always lands me in a hectic mess, undoing the calm, positive mindset that my run had instilled).  Add to that a couple of slightly longer runs on the weekends (I don’t like to take much more than an hour and a half away from the family on weekends) and I can comfortably get my 40-50 miles in.  The problem is trying to consistently get to 60 + as I train competitively for a marathon (Catalina) and Around The Bay – both in March (more on that scheduling later).  I was a competitive runner before kids (2:51 marathon pb), and am finally at the place where I want to get back to where I was.  I had success in the marathon and other longer events with mileage in the 70-80 range, including a few days of interval or tempo training.  I’m trying to replicate what I did before kids and in order to get back there.

I’ve done the odd 4:30 a.m. wake-up to get extra mileage in, but it puts me in an energy hole which is hard to climb out of.  If I’ve done a morning run, getting out again in the evening for a double after I’ve worked all day, picked up the kids, made and fed people dinner, done the bedtime routine and gotten everyone settled by 8 p.m. might be possible if there were a gun to my head.  Otherwise, I can’t make it happen and still enjoy the routine of running.  I like to have my glass of wine and hang out with my husband for two seconds before we go to bed.  So basically I can’t/won’t do that double.

So that leaves me with the windows of any time before 6 a.m., the odd 45 minute lunch run if it’s not too busy at work (not generally the case), and 1-1 ½ hours on weekends. I will get to my 60 miles this week, but that seems to be my ceiling.  I’m determined, and do prioritize running, but never over my family, and not at the expense of my job or at the complete expense of my social life (despite my obsession, I don’t want to be seen as a running nerd and do enjoy the company of non-runners a lot).

Has anyone out there encountered and/or overcome the same scheduling problem with fitting it in?  I want to hear from others who are juggling the clichéd “balance”.  Has anyone found the formula for success?

As an addition to this post I just read this great novel on Time and our perception of and obsession with it.  The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom.  One of those books which made me stay up all night at the expense of sleep  – ah sleep – the topic for another post, I’m sure!