The gift of failure

Hey All!


First of all, huge congrats to Steph who ran the Georgina Marathon, crushed her PB, came 2nd in her age group and got a BQ! And Congrats to Carol and Zoe who ran the half, and Chris R, Gillian, Dave K and Eleanor who ran the Scotiabank 10K! What an amazing weekend of RACES BEING BACK!!!


Speaking of races. As so many of us know, races are 90% mental and the other half is physical.


The anterior cingulate cortex is an area in the brain which is in control of internal conflicts: ie the battle between wanting to slow down and wanting to keep pushing in a race. Endurance exercise is known to strengthen the ACC. Presumably bigger ACC’s provide a greater ability to “stay in it” and not give in to the voice telling you to hit the brakes. Interestingly, a larger ACC is also associated with having experienced adversity. In a study where students were tested on pain tolerance by holding their hands in cold water, those who had experienced the fewest adverse experiences growing up pulled their hands out earlier. But students who had experienced a lot of trauma didn’t do well either – those who faired the best had experienced difficulties, but nothing severely traumatic. Top athletes who have had difficult childhoods or have experienced some suffering credit those struggles with their ability to endure. They have built a strength and resilience within the structure of their brains which helps them to “ride it out”.


HOWEVER – if you have so far been blessed with a trauma-free life, don’t fret for your endurance capabilities. This is where the gift of failure comes in. In many cases, top athletes associate their repeated failures to achieve their goals as actual painful suffering. Therefore the main element they were lacking in order to truly succeed, can be built through repeated failure. Psychologist Robert Wicks has termed this sensation “sweet disgust”. This is the opposite sensation of defeat. When you don’t perform as you’d like, instead of feeling defeated and walking away, you become fed-up and channel that anger into a healthy inner fuel. This in turn enhances the maximum perceived effort and intensity you’re willing to endure. It is a flip-switch in your brain that can be brought about by failure.


I have definitely experienced this in workouts and races. Sometimes when confronted with the question “how bad to you want it”, the answer to myself is “not that bad”. And then I’m disappointed with my performance. If this happens enough times in a row, I can become fed-up with myself, and find I can really tap into a new level, just to avoid the pain of defeat.


If you don’t experience pain or suffering when you don’t perform well, you are free from all of this and you vibrate on a higher plane than me. If you do experience pain or suffering from a poor performance – that is your gift. Don’t sugar-coat it. Allow yourself to be upset. And turn that healthy wrath into a super power for the next one.


Lakeshore workout for tomorrow:

3 x 1200 w 1:30 rest, 3 mins, 4-6 x 400 w 1:15

If you ran the 10K on Sunday, take a break or just do the 1200’s if feeling ok

If you ran any distance in Georgina, no workout (and absolutely no running yet if you did the marathon)

If you ran Boston, you can come and jog, but no workout

If you’re just coming back to workouts, consider doing the 800 of every 1200


6:15 am GO TIME. Come earlier if you need more time to warm-up.


See ya in the am!








Giving Thanks

Hi Everyone!


Wow – huge congratulations go out to all of our Boston Marathon runners from yesterday. I’m still tired from following all of you on the app! But seriously – a huge day run with so much heart. Most of you overcame some significant obstacles just to get there, (physical injuries and setbacks, family schedule juggling and accommodating, work stresses, logistical and travel hurdles…) When you’re the type of person who doesn’t put yourself first all the time, (and I’m not sure I’d really want to coach someone who did), getting to the start of an international major marathon after (during?) a pandemic is a pretty big accomplishment.


We still have other teammates running marathons in the next bit: Georgina this weekend and New York in a few weeks. So pumped for all of you!


Since it was Thanksgiving weekend, I’ve been thinking about gratitude.


Last night my family had a hard time adjusting to the last day of a long weekend. My kids (yes, they’re teenagers) kept appearing in my room for various reasons well into the night. I had a morning run with friends planned which relied on my kids getting organized and out the door on their own. But by the time the morning rolled around I realized they would need my help. So I regrettably bailed on my friends. But as I said to them, I’m actually grateful that I can still have a role in helping my kids. As they get older, there is less and less I can actually do to help to influence their days. So instead of feeling put out or annoyed at the experience I was missing, I felt gratitude for the opportunity I had. (I am well aware that in 5 years I will wish I could help my kids with something as simple as making their breakfast and sending them off with a hug)


Gratitude is a way of seeing the world, and it’s a muscle which can stay in shape, or atrophy if we forget about it.


Not everyone had the race they had planned in Boston. This is life. But everyone I’ve spoken to or seen posts from so far has found so much to be grateful for. From our training and running support community (huge!!!), to our physical health (never to be taken for granted), to the opportunity to experience a huge celebratory event with strangers who wish us well and want the best for us instead of yelling at us (that alone makes me want to weep with gratitude), to small moments of personal human connection, like the little kid who hands us licorice to help us on, or having friends to laugh and cry and experience all of this with.


As a coach I can feel responsible for the concrete time outcomes that I know everyone wanted so badly, but I am happy that you’ve all found growth and gratitude through your experiences. I suppose if I had to pick one, I’d pick growth and gratitude for you over achieving a specific time. And I would say you have all been successful in that. And for that, I am proud and grateful!


Tomorrow’s workout is Hills!!!!


Boston runners, obviously take at least a few weeks off. One week off running and at least another one or two off workouts (we can chat individually)

Georgina runners – no hills! For you, 1 mile at race pace and 2 x 600 a tad zippier. Less is more now.

NYC runners – these hills will help you!!!!

Scotia 10K runners – I’d leave the hills out. Instead do a fartlek of 8-10 x 1 min pick up, 1 min easy

New members to this group: hills are less formal than our speed workout days. We show up at Pottery Rd sometime between 5:45 and 6:30 (depends how many hills you plan to do) and just start going up and down. Some people do a hill in the beach, but I think most of that crew ran Boston.

For Pottery Road let’s do: sets of 2 full, 1 half. (the half hill starts at the stairs). I’ll plan to be there around 6-ish.


Thanks all!!!!







Hi Everyone!


I’m typing this with wet feet from a run – a feeling I think we all will have to get used to this season! What I’ve been thinking about recently is how much our mindset can affect our performances. I know we’ve discussed this before, but I specifically wanted to call out the mindset of confidence. I’m not talking about braggy, show-boaty confidence, but deep, quiet, inner confidence.


We live in a culture that values humility. Nothing wrong with that. It’s good to keep our striving and accomplishments in perspective. But it doesn’t hurt if your deep deep inner voice believes you are great.


I recently experienced this voice and was glad it showed up when it did. I had been training for a half ironman. I blasted my training hard out of the gates and was not too long after sidelined with lingering fatigue, anemia and a hamstring injury. I hobbled along for 6-7 weeks, dropping my running mileage to a third of my usual and not being able to complete tempos, workouts or long runs. At one point, as I dropped out of yet another tempo after 10 minutes, my coach questioned me – “How long is this race you’re doing again? Are you sure you can complete it?” I had no clue. I stopped trying to test myself and just approached the race with a sense of curiosity and the usual race day excitement (because I really do like racing).


As I was getting to the end of the bike portion in the race, I started to think about the run. Welp, just see what happens. Then the strangest thing happened. As I started to run, I heard a voice in my head that said “You’re so fit. You got this”.  Obviously, this was not my conscious thinking as I had no business believing that, but that was the deep deep inner voice that was programmed in. It kept coming up as I was running, “You’re so good. This is your event. This feels great. You’re fit and fast”. And somehow my body believed it. I ran faster over 21km than I’d been able to run for 10 minutes in training. I’m not saying I was a world champion or anything, but I do think I outperformed my actual abilities that day thanks to that voice which I didn’t even know was going to be there for me.


So. For those of you training, program that voice in. It may feel uncomfortable to sound that egotistical, but no one will hear you but you. Go over the top. “You are the best. You are fast. You are fit. You are strong. You are so tough. You are ready for this. This is what you love and do.” Find something that works for you, and don’t be humble. This sport has enough humility waiting for you – this is your defence against it bringing you down. (and by the way, studies have shown that speaking to yourself in the third person works best – so it’s “you are” not “I am” – you are telling yourself how it is).


For those of you racing, have some phrases at the ready if you haven’t been practicing to have them pop up automatically. Because there might be a competing voice that pipes up at times telling you something different. Drown it out. Your body is listening to what your brain is saying. Smother it with confidence. You area fit, you are fast, you are strong, you are ready. Let’s do this!!!!


Workout for tomorrow – 6:15 am GO time at Lakeshore and Leslie (so if you want to do some warm-ups, try to get there a little earlier)


  1. 1 mile tempo, (2 min), 2 x 800 (1:45), 2 x 600 (1:30), 2 x 400 (1:15) – all progressively faster
  2. If you’re tapering: Option 1: sleep in if you need it. Option 2: 1 mile at race pace, 2 x 800 a touch faster but no straining


We’ll get back to hills next week.


Have fun all – YOU ARE AWESOME!!!!








Hi Everyone!


I’ve been thinking a lot about patience recently. I think a lot of my pondering has been prompted by having a teenager! But I’ve been thinking about what makes us impatient. A lot of it, I think, stems from not having faith. In ourselves, in the process, in others. We don’t trust the ending, so we want to rush it.


When we start a marathon, we are not totally sure what we’ll feel like at 30K, but we know it will feel hard. That feeling is coming, but it’s so far away. We want to rush it – to get there – to start the fight now. But we can’t. We have to be patient, have faith that our future selves will be able to handle it. Our present selves can only help by being patient.


When we’re injured (yes, we’ve ALL been there), it’s the not knowing if and when we’ll be healed that is the worst. I think this is what gives us our greatest sense of anxiety. A bit of time off isn’t stressful. Not trusting that your body will ever heal or that your future self will be able to resume in the same way you want to, makes the waiting worse. I can guarantee you this: you won’t be injured forever and you will be back as strong or stronger than before. But it always feels like we won’t. We lose faith every time, and with it our patience.


Impatience is living in the future. We want it to come because we’re ready to deal with it now. But trust your future self. You will be there for yourself. Your present self can relax a bit knowing you’ll be there.


One thing about teenagers (at least mine) – they don’t ever seem to be in a rush. They have all the time in the world. I think a lot of that stems from their sense of confidence that things will work out. As my son often says, “that sounds like a whole lot of Future Hugo’s problem”. Which is super annoying as a parent, but there is something nice in his confidence in this Future Hugo’s ability to step up and deal (and yes, he usually does).


So when you’re feeling impatient, try to trust in your future self. Sure, there are things you can do to help set yourself up for better success, but you can’t deal with the future now. Be where you are, and have a little faith in future you – she’s got your back.


Onto this week’s workout! Back to 6:15 at L & L. (I think we should take a poll as to whether 6 should be our start time after this one … bts routines getting tight, but take the z’s while you can)


Boston racers, this is your last week of workouts. Please make sure your recovery runs are shorter than usual and very easy. This workout is to get the legs rolling faster. Will help with your running economy and efficiency so that race pace comes easier. Everyone else, same principle – let’s use this one!:


  1. 6 x 600 w 1:30, 3 min, 4 x 400 w 1:15, 3 min, 4 x 200 as long strides (45-60 sec rec)
  2. If doing this fartlek style: 6 x 2 min w 1:30, 3 easy, 4 x 1:30 w 1:15, 3 min, 4 x 30 sec strides


See you guys in the am!