Grit and nuance

Hi Everyone!


Hope everyone saw the results and were inspired by the Berlin Marathon on the weekend. Eliud Kipchoge set a new world record, running it in a time of 2:01:09. Stunning. And Natasha Wodak took down our Canadian Women’s record in a time of 2:23:12! It was a very fast and inspiring day.


What both of these athletes (and many others) demonstrate through these achievements is grit. And by grit, I do not mean the grittiness of racing a marathon. I mean the grittiness as defined by Angela Duckworth as passion and perseverance over time. Both of these athletes have been running for somewhere around 30 years. Think about that. They have been doing what they love, not with the vision that in 20 or 30 years they might be setting records, but because they have loved it. It’s the time and consistency (grit) that have led to success. This is not an overnight business. It is very hard to predict success, but looking back from success, you often find a path of plain old consistency. Just plugging away day after day and year after year. This is what we call grit.


One of the key factors which Duckworth points to in people who display grit, is that they are able to find nuance in their passions. They keep it fresh and interesting. Yes, in the big picture, they are doing the same thing, but they have figured out ways to keep it novel. In fact, Wodak just recently moved up to the marathon distance, having competed at almost every distance leading up to that. And her predecessor as the marathon record holder, Malindi Elmore, had gone to the Olympics in the 1500m 15 years prior to setting the marathon record. As most runners know, there is a LOT of nuance between the 1500m and the marathon (oh and she also dabbled in Ironman triathlons in there).


As I ran in my hoodie with a headlamp under a black sky this morning, a sudden shift from my sweaty summer runs with ever present daylight and humidity, I had the thought that running in our climate provides a lot of nuance whether we ask for it or not. Running in the middle of summer is as different an experience from running in the middle of winter as you could expect from the same activity. Embracing the novelty that each season brings keeps us passionate and interested and in the game. With seasons I also like to switch events. Fall brings cross-country. If you’re looking for novelty and nuance in your running – allow me to suggest some hilly, muddy runs over hill and dale where no one ever asks you your time because it doesn’t matter. The beauty in running is that there are so many options, and it really doesn’t matter how you switch it up – but if you’re able to add nuance to your passion, you are doing what the grittiest people do, and you will be in this for a long time.


On to tomorrow’s workout – back to Lakeshore! 6:05 drills, 6:15 GO time:


Classic cut-down: 1600 (2 min), 1200 (1:45), 1000 (1:30), 800 (1:30), 600 (1:15), 400. Starting around 10K/HM pace and working down. I’ll mark out 400m. We’ll have to do a little 200m jog after the 1000 to get to the 800 start.


If just getting into workouts, start with 1200 and work down. Trust me, that’s enough.


If going by time: 7-6-5-4-3-2 min Hard with the rest being 2:00-1:45-1:30-1:30-1:15 Easy.


If training for Chicago, this stands. Pace work on the weekend, make your easy days EASY and next week is full taper workout.


That is all – see you in the am!






Terry Fox

Hi Everyone!


Congrats to Carolyn (and her husband Ian!) who competed in the Barrelman Half Ironman on the weekend! What a long season of long distance triathloning. Way to go guys!!


Many other people took part in or donated to or supported or cheered on the Terry Fox run on Sunday. And many of us have kids taking part in the school events this week. So obviously I’ve been thinking about Terry Fox this week. No matter how much time passes, his story and athletic feat seems to become even more astounding. Terry started his Marathon of Hope at age 24 in 1980. Most of the athletic records and feats from that time are now viewed as “good for the era,” but would not be as remarkable by today’s standards. Terry’s accomplishment actually seems to be the opposite. The further we get away from it, the more it seems like lore – a myth or blown up tale that could never have really happened. How could a young person, who wasn’t even a runner to begin with, who lost a leg to cancer, run a marathon every single day for 143 days?? They didn’t even have athletic prosthetics back then, and it caused so much pain that he had to run with a hop-skip step which put even more force on his one good leg. And he did most of his running alone, with no fanfare, often in the dark and rain.


I think what a lot of Terry Fox’s story elicits in us is the sense of awe. Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something bigger than yourself, and being brought outside of your own ego. That is what Terry was about. He very specifically did not want his name to be on the event – it would be called the Marathon of Hope. The pain he felt was nothing compared to what others were going through. He had a purpose that was so much bigger than himself – this was about raising money for cancer research that would end cancer and suffering for so many people. To date the Terry Fox Foundation has raised over $800 Million. Terry’s legacy has made an impact beyond what he ever could have imagined. And that is because his character, authenticity, willingness to suffer, belief in the future, and love of humanity have brought out the best in all of us.


“There can be no reason for me to stop. No matter what pain I suffer, it is nothing
compared to the pain of those who have cancer, of those who endure treatment.”


“Today we got up at 4:00 am. As usual, it was tough. If I died, I would die happy
because I was doing what I wanted to do. How many people could say that? I went out
and did fifteen push-ups in the road and took off. I want to set an example that will never
be forgotten.”
– Terry Fox


For more inspiration and to donate:


On to tomorrow’s workout! Back to Lakeshore and Leslie – 6:05 drills, 6:15 Sharp Go time


  1. 1 mile tempo, 2 min rest, 4-5 x 800 at a sustainably hard pace (5K-10K pace) w 1:30, 2 min rest, one last 800 @ choice (tempo, or faster if feeling good).
  2. If going by time: 6 min tempo, 2 min easy, 5 x 3 min on, 1:30 off, 2 min easy, 3 min on.


See you in the a.m.!







Hi Everyone!


First up, huge congrats to all our racers on the weekend. Andrew McKay who ran the Erie Marathon. Andrew had a less than smooth training cycle and a tough race, but persevered and ran what most would take as a great result! (we all have our own personal expectations, but putting yourself out there and going for it is always admirable). And Zoë and Erin who ran the Longboat 5K and placed 3rd and 4th overall respectively, with Erin coming away with the Ed Whitlock Grand Master prize! And I ran the Yorkville 5K and was 1st Master (I’ll take it while I can – am eyeballing a bunch of young 30-something whipper snappers about to enter my category 😉 )


What I’ve been thinking about this week is the idea of pushing through “hard”.  As in most races, I got to a point in my 5K where I thought “ok, this is really hard – I want to stop”. At that point I have three options: Stop, Slow Down, Or keep going and see what happens. The thing with the third option is that it’s hard. But isn’t in that space of self-mastery and not giving in, that we derive some strange sense of meaning and self-knowledge? Isn’t that the question we’ve shown up to answer? We look ourselves straight in the eye, and ask – and it must be answered then and there. I’m not saying I always have the answer I’d like. I have chosen all three options at various points for various reasons. If you train and race enough, so will everyone. We learn when “hard” is not the answer we need on that day. It is not always the right answer. But it is always an option.


Many people are training through “hard” sessions right now as we prep for Fall marathons. This is really the pinnacle of it. But remember – you signed up for hard. No one signs up for an “easy” marathon – I don’t believe there is such a thing. So if you put your hand up for hard, then you’re receiving hard, and you’re practicing choosing your response in training. When it gets hard, do you stop, slow down, or keep going? Remember, your brain falls back on patterns, so try to choose the option you want to repeat automatically. When it gets hard is when your brain starts to bargain with you. Be a tough bargainer. Know what you want. There are lots of reasons not to do hard. In fact I can get behind many of them! But if you signed up for hard, and you want hard, you have to practice hard. Not a lot, and not recklessly, but you should touch it and learn how to deal with it. I love you all and I want you to live happy, pain-free existences, but I also want to help you to grow, feel fulfilled and get what you signed up for. So don’t be scared of hard – you can do hard. In the right doses, it might be just what we all need.


On to tomorrow’s workout! We’re back to Riverdale hills.


2-3 sets of: 

3 x Hard up the hill, easy down. Walk to Rooster corner. One lap of Riverdale-Logan-Withrow-Broadview (it’s about a 1.2K block) @ tempo. Walk back to hills and repeat.


I won’t lie – it’s a bit hard. But it’s a fun one!


I’ll be at the Riverdale Clubhouse at 6:05 for drills – we can start at 6:15.

If you’re in the Beach, coordinate amongst yourselves to do something similar there (or join us). It’s a 200 m hill.


See you in the am!






Fresh Starts

Hi Everyone!


Hope you all had a great long weekend. We definitely have some Fall weather turning up – exciting! As runners, Fall is our season. It’s the reward season for all of those runs endured in the heat and humidity where our legs felt like lead and our bodies craved more water and electrolytes than we could possibly carry. More runs now should start to feel a little easier – and sometimes even shockingly pleasant!


What I’ve been thinking about is how September, for many of us, actually marks the start of a “new year”. This is the season of fresh starts. There’s an energy to the “back to school” season, whether you have kids in school or not. It occurred to me that I started the Lower East Siders (very loosely) with my sister Tanis almost exactly 10 years ago. My kids were 3 and 5 and I thought I could finally include some consistent, structured training one day a week in my routine. Now they are 13 and 15 and I’ve been doing this consistently with so many great friends and training partners almost every Wednesday since then! Some of us who started connecting through running as a support system for surviving those years with young kids are now holding onto each other even tighter as one by one those kids are leaving home to create their own lives. This is a bitter-sweet milestone if ever there was one.


If we think of September as our Running “New Year”, then it might be a good time to reflect on some intentions for your running this year. Is running going to be your background scaffolding to support you while you lean into other areas of life? Maybe you want to use running as a way to connect – to yourself, to others, to nature? Or you might be finding yourself asking – what am I capable of if I really face my doubts and fears and set a goal and try my hardest? What can I learn and develop about myself through challenge? Whichever intention speaks to you, now is a good time to set up the habits to get you there. Invite someone you haven’t run with before out for an easy run once a week, make a date with yourself to run somewhere beautiful once a week (I love the Brickworks/Moore Park Ravine this time of year), run with your soulmates often, set a goal and commit to the training to get you there – just like how I started 10 years ago – it could just be “do one hard effort a week, every Wednesday” …


Whatever goal or intention you land on for your running for this year, we are here to support each other and cheer each other on and sweat, laugh, cry, complain, celebrate together. We don’t all have to be doing it for the same reasons in order to support each other. And the reason you started might not be the same reason you keep going. In the past 10 years we’ve run through new parenthood, changing jobs, new relationships, new homes, kids growing up and leaving, illnesses, injuries, many personal bests, just as many personal worsts, a pandemic! … Who knows what the next 10 years will bring. All I know is that I’m going to hold on tight and hopefully keep running with this crew!!! Happy Running New Year everyone.


Onto tomorrow’s workout: Let’s do a fartlek on the spit and we can follow-up with hills next week (some ppl have races coming up this weekend)


Meet at Lakeshore and Leslie for 6:05 drills, 6:15 Go time.


  1. 8 min tempo, 3 min easy, up to 6 x 2 min Faster, 1 min Easy

We’ll regroup on the easy sections and I’ll bring my watch that beeps every minute so we’re all in synch.

  1. If racing the Longboat 5K or 10K or Yorkville 5K, let’s just keep it the same. This is a “training through” race for most I believe.
  2. If doing the Erie Marathon (Andrew!) – 8 min @ MRP, and 2-3 x 2 mins a little quicker.



That is all – see you in the am!






Easy paces – and our first rule!

Hi All!


Huge congrats to Mike Greenberg who completed the Penticton Ironman in 10:00:46 for 4th in his age group! And he’s booking his ticket to Kona – wohoo!  


What I’ve been thinking about lately is easy runs. If you want to get up to speed on where I’ve landed and read a great article, reference Alex Hutchinson’s most recent analysis:


Basically what the “science” says, is that everyone has their own set point for what is most economical for their bodies – and this is mostly unrelated to fitness or race ability and times. Alex suggests it could be some combination of someone’s leg length, stride rate, mass, tendon springiness, all inter-relating in complex ways. When presented with a distance to run “easily” all of this is fed into the brain’s computer and it selects the most economical way to get from A to B for each runner.


This is not dissimilar to walking paces. People have their own “comfortable” pace. Mine is very slow. I am more comfortable at a slow jog to keep up beside my walking husband. It is literally more comfortable for me and feels like it burns less energy.


Again, this is unrelated to fitness or ability to run fast when trying to go fast vs being economical (workouts and races). An odd thing as I’ve gotten *ahem* a little older, is I’ve noticed that my easy run paces have slowed down quite a bit. But my workouts and races are still hovering around the same place as they always have. This is not intentional. Whatever my “combination” of economy is, it has shifted slightly. I’m fine with that because I go by feel.


I’ve often gone on “easy” runs with people – some of whom are ahead of or the same as me in workouts and races and some the other way around – which I find uncomfortably fast. I also sometimes find myself creeping one step ahead of my running partner because my easy pace is naturally a little quicker. In these cases, depending on the situation, you can have a quick conversation and adjust. I am very comfortable asking others to slow down. However, sometimes the body just does what the body does, and in this case it can be tricky etiquette. It is annoying when your buddy half-steps you the whole time and you’re uncomfortable (remember, this is not intentional – they are just locking into their most comfortable pace!) And etiquette mid-run is a tricky thing to navigate. So to help us out, I have come up with an LES rule. As far as I know, this is the first and only rule we have. So here is Lower East Siders Rule #1: if your running buddy says “go ahead, we’ll meet up later” THREE times, you listen and go ahead. We’ve all been there. They are saying go, and we’re not sure if it’s rude. Or we are saying go and just want that person to leave us alone already but they insist on staying. So there we have it. No hurt feelings, no questioning what we should really do. 3 times means you’re splitting up for this run. Your bodies just aren’t in synch on that day. Easy!


On to tomorrow’s Lakeshore workout! 6:05 for drills, 6:15 GO time.


Back by popular demand: 400’s! Here’s how we’ll run them:


  1. 800 tempo. 2 min rest. 4 x 400 w 1 min. 2 min rest. 4 x 400 w 1:15. 2 min rest. 2-4 x 400 w 1:20. 2 min rest. Then marathoners/half marathoners do 800 @ marathon pace or tempo, and others (5K or 10K runners) finish with 2-4 x 200 as long strides (fast, quick, light and relaxed).


So it looks like this: 800, 2-3 x (4 x 400), 800

OR 800, 2-3 x (4 x 400), 2-4 x 200


  1. If doing this fartlek style: 3 min tempo, 3 sets of 1 min Hard, 1 min Easy w 2 mins between sets, 3 min tempo OR finish with 4 x 30 second pick ups.

See you in the am!







Having Fun

Hi Everyone!


First up, huge congrats to Miguel who ran the Reykjavik marathon in a time of 3:08 in what sounds like not ideal fast running conditions – wohoo!! If you haven’t seen the pics they’re breathtaking.


We’re getting closer to the end of summer, and I see lots of people diving into their version of “having fun”. I love this. And, as I would expect with this group, “having fun” usually involves a fair bit of energy being poured into things. I guess that’s just how we’re wired.


But just a reminder that there is a line. You can be hardcore, and that’s awesome – we all seek that out sometimes. But you can also do “harcore-ish things” for fun. I think with us we get confused sometimes – we sign up for things “for fun” and then make them unnecessarily hard. Because that’s our default setting. It’s ok to actually do a race or event or hike a mountain or go for a swim, and not try your absolute hardest. It’s really really nice to enjoy the journey sometimes. (if you struggle with this I highly recommend getting off Strava)


One of the ways I force myself out of the “hardcore” headspace, is that I sign up for events that have a level of challenge or difference which makes it impossible to compare myself to myself. And events which present an experience that pulls me out of my “racing” head. For instance, coming up on Oct 1, a few of us are doing a night run sponsored by a brewing company. So fun! A lot of people really enjoy relay style runs in beautiful settings (Jasper to Banff, Cabot Trail, Ragnar) – I’ve participated in some of those and would consider them top on the list of the most fun I’ve had. And neighbourhood plug: this Saturday Culture, Eastbound and the Leslieville Beer Festival are putting on a Beer Mile with the proceeds going to the Red Door Shelter (you can participate as part of a relay as well):

I will be there organizing, but will cheer you on and give you a mighty CHEERS if you enter!


So just remember – you don’t have to be one or the other. “Serious” runner or “Fun” runner. If you want to maintain longevity in this game, and keep in touch with what you love to do, sprinkle some fun into your running. Because I know you all – if you sit on a beach for too long you will jump out of your skin – you need to make your fun just hard enough.


Onto tomorrow’s workout! I am away, but I will do mine fartlek style. Lakeshore and Leslie – 6:05 drills, 6:15 GO time!


  1. 1 mile tempo (srsly – keep it tempo). 3 min rest. 2 x 800 @ 10K pace w 1:45. 3 min rest. 1 mile tempo. 3 min. 1 OR 2 x 800 again. This is where you’ll be grateful you kept the first mile tempo.
  2. If doing this fartlek style, 6-3-3-6-3-3 minutes ON with 3 min easy after and before the 6’s, 1:45 between the 3’s.


FYI, if training for a marathon (or any race really), a big part of what you need to practice is patience. Not going crazy and unleashing it all out of the gates. In these longer type workouts we’re working on that.


That is all – I will miss you but back next week!!!