Mid-Week Challenge: Packing Light

It’s almost time. It’s almost time for me to hop on a plane and check out some new places, namely France & Italy. My main goal is to eat gelato twice a day in Italy, and to cram as much cheese and pastry as humanly possible into my face in France.

The only issue? How does one pack for two weeks in Autumn for a mix of active and not-so-active experiences? I realize for most this is not terribly challenging. My confession: I am a chronic over-packer. I am the person who wants to plan for every possible occasion, who hates being cold, who equally hates being hot, and who likes to be able to wear what she ‘feels like’ on the day she feels like it. It’s sometimes a wonder that I ever get dressed in the morning.

In particular I struggle with the following:

  • Shoes: I want to take separate athletic shoes for running, hiking and walking, but I also want to have non-athletic shoes so I don’t constantly look like the frumpy person I really am. If left to my own devices, I would take five pairs of shoes. That is at least two pairs too many.
  • Jackets: I want athletic jackets, a rain jacket, my precious jean jacket, but then another jacket because, obviously, I can’t wear a jean jacket with jeans (hello, Canadian tuxedo). Why don’t I own one single jacket that meets all my needs?
  • Books: I cannot get on the e-reader train. I love my heavy, expensive, hard-to-transport, old-school paper books. Every time I travel, I also convince myself that I am going to read more than I do only to lug around books that ultimately end up unread. But my fear of having no reading material always surpasses logic.  Help me.

I realize this post has nothing to do with running or injury recovery, but it’s also my way of saying that I will be posting a bit less frequently over the next couple of weeks because I will be too busy shoving gelato in my face.  Upon my return, you’ll get the benefit of this semi-hiatus in the form of stunning (read: mediocre) pictures and tales of hiking abroad.



Training Tuesdays: To Track Pace or Not to Track Pace

Lately I have been going back and forth on tracking my pace while running. Some days I’ve been faithful to my pace app. Other days I just listen to what my body’s telling me.   It’s been an experiment of sorts, and by ‘of sorts’ I mean there’s been no scientific due process employed whatsoever.  Really, it’s been more of an intuition check. Regardless of my approach, I’ve come to the conclusion that right now I am anti-pace-tracking.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a time and a place for pace tracking. Right now, with my primary focus being to prevent injury aggravation, it just doesn’t make sense.  I’ve noticed on the days I’ve tracked my pace I either get really frustrated or I try to push myself to go faster, which causes me to burn out quickly and run shorter distances.

When I don’t track my pace, I am likely slower, but I keep running for longer distances, and I tackle hills instead of having to stop.  Given that I’m not in training for anything right now, increasing my distance and overall endurance seems a far more reasonable (and important) goal than being fast.  Really, pace tracking is only helpful to me when I’m actually training or trying to gauge my improvement run over run and that’s just not the place I’m in these days. In the short term, it’s all about the slow and steady consistency.

I’m giving up any form of time tracking device for the foreseeable future.

Long story short, for now I’m tucking my little pace-keeping app in for a bit of an extended nap. But don’t worry, he’ll be back as soon as my body sorts itself out.


Monday Musings: On Good Days

I write a lot about bad days in this little space of mine. What can I say? I’m a glass-half-empty kinda gal and I love a good wallow. Today, however, I’m dedicating some time to the good days. You know what I mean when I say the good days, don’t you? The days when:

  • You willingly take on hills because you know you’ll make them your bitch.
  • I’m not a track skipping fanatic desperately seeking a song to spur on some energy.  In fact, it doesn’t even matter what song is playing because you’re in the zone without music’s help.
  • You sort of smugly keep count of the number of people you’re passing on the trail (maybe this one is just me…and, for the record, yesterday I passed almost two dozen on the BCMC).
  • You’re actually disappointed that you can’t keep running when you realize you have to stop because you’ve poorly planned your life schedule and really should have been home ten minutes ago.
  • Even though you drank an unhealthy amount of the world’s best sangria the night before, you feel light as air and strong as an ox (a fantastic combination, by the way).
  • You’re excited about what the rest of the week has to offer.

The power of a few good days is palpable. It’s the kind of feeling I want to hold onto because, as everyone knows, they can’t all be good days. For now, I’m going to try to ride the high and kick off the week in a more positive headspace than I’ve had for weeks.

Thank you, good days. Please send a few more of you my way.

Seriously, more good days please.
Seriously, more good days please.

RWIR #29: Upward Swing

Well, I have to say on the activity front, I am happy with the quality of 80% of my workouts this week, which is substantially higher than usual. On the nutritional front, however, this week left a lot to be desired and I’m sure I more than outweighed any caloric burn with my consumption. Let’s just all try to put that behind us and move on…

Activity: Run!!!!!
Relevant Stats: 9 km, average pace 5:53 min/km
Observations: Well, it was my slowest 9 km in years, but I ran it and it was magnificent. My muscles aren’t what they used to be, nor is my cardio, but at least my SI didn’t freak out, maybe because I wore the dreaded SI belt. No matter the cause, I am just happy to have completed a run of reasonable distance. Halle-freaking-lujah.

Activity: Grouse Grind
Relevant Stats: 850 m elevation gain, 3 km
Observations: I’m still rocking the solid 53 minutes, which is way off my old time, but much better than I was doing a few weeks ago.  I took my time partially because I am an unfit, lumbering beast going up the trail and partially so that I don’t trip or slip on a rock and cause my SI to fall apart (not literally of course…though I sometimes wonder if this could happen…).

Activity: Run!
Relevant Stats: 7 km, average pace 5:50ish min/km
Observations: After Saturday’s running victory, I was super pumped for this run. Unfortunately, there was no victory or magnificence in sight this time around. My entire right leg was a world of muscle tightness and stiffness, which made me anxious about a sciatic flair.  I muddled my way through and ended with a shorter run than planned. I still consider this a success, though, as I haven’t run more than 15 km in a week in…I can’t even recall how long.

Activity: Spin + 1/2 assed strength
Relevant Stats: 45 minutes spin, 10 min. strength + stretching
Observations: I don’t know what it is about post-cardio strength work at the gym. I just cannot motivate myself to do it. I did a solid spin workout leading in so I didn’t feel tremendously guilty for the short and largely unchallenging strength component.

Activity: Grouse Grind
Relevant Stats: same as always
Observations: The highlight of this Grouse Grind was witnessing a stunning sunrise over the Lions and downtown Vancouver.  It made me happy that I didn’t just roll over and go back to sleep, which was really my stronger desire that morning.  My motivation was fear that the afternoon’s acupuncture treatment would somehow render me unable to hike on Thursday.  Fear does motivate, people, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: OMG we used weights! And resistance! And the prowler!!! It felt like more of a legitimate workout than the past few weeks. According to my trainer, pro-sports-team-and-olympic-team chiropractor gave her much more specific guidance about how to work within the confines of my injury.  So maybe he is worth is hefty price tag, after all. Sadly this doesn’t change the fact that he’s unaffordable.

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: gluteal soreness from yesterday’s session: high, calf pain from standing and delivering a workshop all day: even higher
Observations: I don’t have the type of job where I typically stand on my feet all day and, thus, when I have to do this to deliver workshops, I’m reminded of how exhausting it really is.  It’s just standing, yet somehow it feels ten times worse than walking all day.  I am looking forward to an evening of either sitting or walking–there will be no standing. There will also be peach lambic (it may even be happening as I write).  If you haven’t tried this, I have just given you your weekend present. You’re welcome.

And so, this is a week of progress and, once again, cautious optimism of week’s past.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to dive back into that peach lambic. This week gets a:


Throwback Thursdays: Local Hill Run Edition

Sometimes when I drive home from the Grouse Grind, I pass Cleveland Dam and fondly miss one of my favourite, local, (relatively) easy hill runs. So for those of you who are able bodied enough to run, live in the Vancouver area, and looking for a very adaptable hill run, here’s one of my faves.


Starting Point: Behind Park Royal, West Vancouver

Turnaround Point: Cleveland Dam, North Vancouver

Distance: As shown, the return distance is 11.73 km, making it an easy short run.  But it can easily be extended by starting at the western edge of Ambleside Park, adding an additional 3 km or by running past Cleveland Dam to the base of Grouse Mountain for an additional 138 m of elevation gain and an additional 4 km of distance.  You can also do some repeats within the cap canyon trail itself for extra elevation and distance.  See? Flexible!

Elevation Profile (basic route):




Why I recommend it:  If you’re just starting to run hills for training, this is a great, gentle grade with only a couple short sections that would classify as moderate grade. In other words, you won’t feel like you want to die very often. This, of course, is all relative to your fitness level.  Other plusses:

  • Once you get into the forest behind Capilano Suspension Bridge, you’ll enjoy the benefits of the tree canopy, making even a hot day feel cool.
  • While popular, it’s not uber popular so you won’t feel like you’re dodging people right, left and centre.
  • The trail isn’t technical so even the most clumsy (i.e. me) can safely navigate the terrain.
  • As mentioned above, it’s highly customizable to add (or subtract, for that matter) distance and elevation gain.
  • There’s both water and washrooms at Cleveland Dam, excellent for days you drink a litre of water before starting your run.
  • The view at the top is pretty damn nice
Evidence of aforementioned view.

So there you go, a ready-made running route for your hill training needs. Please enjoy it for me as I fear it will be quite some time before I make it out there.

Mid-Week Treatment Shake-Up: Acupuncture Time!

Six years ago I had my first and only acupuncture treatments. At the time, I was addressing a shoulder issue care of a pretty epic and ungraceful bail while trail running. It was magical. One of the needles struck perfectly in the midst of a tense muscle, created an intense spasm and, just like that, my shoulder felt measurably better.

Somehow, I have not returned to acupuncture since…until today. My unaffordable, and therefore temporary, Olympic and pro sports team chiropractor and sports therapist also does acupuncture and thought it might be good for my sciatic issues.  My father also suggested this several weeks ago but, in true stubborn and lazy fashion, I wasn’t willing to look for an acupuncturist even though I knew it would probably help. But if an acupuncturist happened to fall in my lap, well that’s an entirely different matter…even if I ended up paying five times as much for it.

Here’s the skinny on today’s acupuncture:

  • Pre-acupuncture symptoms: I’ve been what I presume to be sciatic-related aching in my right leg muscles (mostly hamstring and calf), along with a horrible feeling that my sciatic is on the verge of going into its bad place (i.e. spasms).
  • During Treatment: I believe my doctors  think my threshold for pain is about 1/1000th of what it actually is.  The number of times my chiropractor asked me if the needles felt ok was alarming. I have had my entire SI joint seize up. I have had my sciatic nerve decide to host its own raging dance party.  Sticking a couple of tiny ass needles into my muscles is nothing. My saddest treatment moment occurred when I realized I wasn’t going to have one of those crazy muscle contractions that causes your entire body to involuntarily twitch.  I got some good tingling and minor twitchy-ness but not at the scale I was hoping for.
  • Post Treatment: I got to lay on my stomach and close my eyes for ten minutes, so first and foremost I felt like I’d almost taken a nap.  In terms of my SI, it feels about the same post-treatment.  The muscles surrounding my sciatic nerve (mostly the piriformis and gluteus maximus) on the other hand, have had a pretty consistent dull ache since the acupuncture. Apparently this is common, but I definitely didn’t experience this with my last acupuncture treatment. However, I’m also comparing apples to oranges as my last injury-related acupuncture treatment was for a completely different part of my body.

So now I wait to see if there is some lasting relief from this course of action. If so, I will seek a more affordable acupuncturist. Although I quite like new chiropractor/sports therapist/acupuncturist, if I see him weekly I will be spending an ungodly percentage of my net income, a number so high I can’t name it here out of fear that it will spur on a panic attack.


Training Tuesdays: Combating Gym Fatigue

Gym Fatigue: it’s a real thing. Not everyone suffers from it, but for those who do, it is a troubling mental state.

gym fatigue: the insufferable and soul-destroying boredom that arises when one is forced to do increasingly more workouts within the walls of a gym versus in the outdoors. *

This is how I feel at the gym...well, actually, I mostly want to curl in a fetal ball and cry.
This is how I feel at the gym…well, actually, I mostly want to curl in a fetal ball and cry.

I suffer from gym fatigue, to the point that I have defined that my own personal limit for the number of indoor workouts that I find acceptable in a given week. That number, if you’re curious, is two–potentially three if the weather is legitimately heinous (for example, a week’s worth of -25 or colder when I lived in Alberta).

When I first got injured a number of people told me I’d learn to love a good gym workout. Those people were wrong. It is not the activity that I have an issue with, it is being indoors while doing it. It makes everything feel harder and seem like it’s taking about ten times as long. If you need evidence, I urge you to run five minutes on a treadmill with the time clock covered with a towel and tell me it doesn’t feel like it’s been thirty minutes. Try running five minutes outside and chances are it felt like five minutes, ten minutes on a bad day.

But I am not here to persuade you that indoor workouts suck.  It’s a matter of personal preference. For those of you who identify with me but are perhaps suffering from an injury that prevents you from engaging in your normal outdoor activities, or who want to incorporate more strength training, here’s what I’m trying to do to combat gym fatigue:

1.Focus on what I can do that’s outside: When I couldn’t run or hike, I sometimes opted to just walk or to walk up and down stairs. It sounds boring, but I promise you it was better than a stair machine inside the gym or–shudder–walking on a treadmill.

2.Take the inside workout outside: This isn’t always possible and relies more heavily on using your own body weight as resistance or investing in your own weights/kettle bells, but a lot of my strength activities can be done unweighted anywhere. While it may not be as intense, I am way more likely to stick with it for a longer period of time.

3.Test my limits: I have all sorts of people telling me to hold off from certain activities. In the gym, it’s easy to follow orders because, quite honestly, running on a treadmill is one of my least favourite things.  But when the lure of the outside becomes too strong, I fight against the naysayers and am more likely to give things a whirl. You know what? Sometimes it shows me I’m ready for things I was too afraid to try.

4.Consider alternate activities: I have come to the point where I’m considering taking up cycling. This is big for me, as for years I held firm to a belief that running and hiking are the only suitably epic, multi-hour cardio activities that can yield fitness for me.  The thing is, cycling doesn’t involve impact and impact/jostling seems to trigger my SI.  Suddenly, it seems appealing to consider cycling.  And, without question, cycling would create year-round (well, where I live) potential for epic outdoor workouts. I haven’t bit the bullet yet but even considering it is huge for me.

*likely this expression was not invented by me, but this is definitely my definition