Throwback Thursday: Best Vacation Runs

As you’re reading this, I’m in Cinque Terre, hiking between scenic coastal towns and blissfully ignoring reality.  Now that you’re all envious and whatnot, I’ll distract you with some of my best vacation runs.  I am a fan of running in new places, partly to keep active and partly for the benefits of novel (and therefore distracting) scenery. Over the years, I’ve amassed a few personal faves in Canada and the US.   Enjoy, and maybe even check them out one day!

  1. High Park (Toronto): My brother moved to Toronto, which makes me sad for many reasons, including that I don’t love Toronto.  Thankfully, he at least lives near a delightful urban park space with seemingly endless running options.  Perks of this running here include shade (necessary in Toronto spring/summers); a zoo; a mix of dirt and concrete paths (saving your knees); and the constant threat of poison oak (seriously, there are signs about it everywhere). Last time I visited, I ran a killer 12 km double-loop and even left my brother in the dust.  That’s a win.
    Look at that foliage! Yes, I go nuts for Fall colours!
    Look at that foliage! Yes, I go nuts for Fall colours!

    img_6540

  2. Charles River and Harvard Campus (Cambridge): Yes, I went to Harvard. No, not for a full degree. All my transcripts (and pocketbook) would allow for was a four-day workshop.  Still, I can say I went to Harvard with my integrity intact.  On to the running…The Charles River provides a shockingly cliche backdrop for your run, with elitist rowing teams making their way up and down the river in early morning light.  There’s good options for short and long runs and the opportunity to cross back and forth across several short bridges spanning the river. You can wrap your run with a tour de force loop around the Harvard Campus, and potentially even see a wild turkey like I did! Interesting fact: I saw few student-aged runners, leading me to believe the type-A overachievers that I assume all Harvard students to be are only type-A overachievers with respect to academics…and rowing.img_2734
  3. River Walk & Lake Shore (Chicago): I am not generally an architecture freak, but the buildings along Chicago’s riverwalk make for some stunning architectural contrast to the serene waters running through the downtown core. You can run for miles on these paths, and connect to the lakeshore. If you haven’t seen Lake Michigan’s stunning blue waters, you will probably be shocked and amazed that any great lake can actually look that good.  It was humid as hell both times I’ve been in Chicago and, really, the scenery was all that kept me going.img_2518
  4. Galiano Island Ecological Reserve (Galiano Island): I had one of my first recovery runs on Galiano Island. It could have been just the sheer joy of being able to run again, but I think that would dismiss the scenery I encountered along Porlier Pass Road and towards the ecological reserve. Think coastal views and peaceful (i.e. people-free) forest roads.  In 8 km I saw zero runners, only a handful of cars, and no other signs of human existence.  Happy run.

    Seriously.
    Seriously.
  5. Anywhere in NYC: I’ve been to NYC many, many times and I always run there. I’ve even taken the subway from Astoria all the way to Central Park just to go for a run (and then subjected subway riders to a heinously sweaty version of me on the ride back). Whether it’s an urban run or in the Park, I love running in this town.  The people watching, in particular, is on point, and no matter what distance you’re trying to fit in, there’s a route to match that distance.  In short, you must run here.

    Iconic
    Iconic

There you have it. I’m sure I’ll return in a couple weeks with a whole new list of favourite vacation runs to inspire jealousy…

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Mid Week Pop Culture Fix: Best Sitcom Running Moments

Since I’m likely downing gelato at an alarmingly fast rate instead of running at this very moment, I thought I would distract everyone with a few of my favourite running moments from TV.  Hopefully this inspires you to run less and watch more TV…okay, I kid, but you should at least check out my top five list of running and race related tv episodes:

5. Monika tries to help Chandler lose the last pound (Friends)
The Premise: Chandler is feeling sensitive about gaining a few pounds. Monika, being the neurotic, type-A person that she is, offers to help him shed those last few pounds, which involves a lot of trying to get Chandler to run (often in terrible sweats…I mean, who runs in sweats????).
Why I think it’s Awesome: Chandler uses Monika’s recent termination vulnerability to get out of an early morning run, which is basically the type of manipulative thing I would do to get out of an early morning run.

4. Phoebe & Rachel Run (Friends)
The Premise:  When Rachel and Phoebe become roommates they decide it would also be fantastic to run together. Little does Rachel know, Phoebe’s running style is…unorthodox.
Why I think it’s Awesome: There’s a part of me that thinks I sort of look like Phoebe running when I run, and a part of me that rebels against the uber controlled-looking, prim and proper runners. And I love that Rachel ultimately gives in to freedom of Phoebe’s style…only to run smack dab into a horse.

3. Phil & Claire Race (Modern Family)
The Premise: Phil mistakenly assumes Claire is suffering from empty nest syndrome and needs a challenge. Despite the fact that she runs all the time, he challenges her to a running race. Claire, of course, could readily beat Phil, but lets him win because she knows he needs it more.
Why I think it’s Awesome: Though I don’t watch Modern Family anymore, Phil remains one of my favourite earnest television characters, and one whose sense of wonder and commitment to the ridiculous (like learning to walk a tightrope in his front yard) is so endearing you cannot love him. At any rate, I love this episode mostly because of Phil and his preciously delicate ego, which Claire must spare by letting him win.

2. Penny & Max’s Scavenger Hunt (Happy Endings)
The Premise: Penny and Max have a ridiculous vendetta against a picture-perfect couple who have repeatedly beat them at an equally ridiculous scavenger hunt.
Why I think it’s Awesome: I find people either fall into the boat of loving Happy Endings or hating it. For the record, I loved that show wholeheartedly and am not sure I can be friends with anyone who doesn’t. Also, this episode is fantastic because Max and Penny’s scavenger hunt victory all comes down to a running race in which Max must push Penny in a shopping cart, and their victory is only the result of their competitor’s wonky shopping cart wheel. It is perfection.

1. Morgan Carries Dan across the Finish Line (Mindy Project)
The Premise: Danny has recently fired Morgan from the practice, causing Morgan to join forces with Danny’s nemeses, the Deslauriers brothers. This also includes teaming up with them for a triathlon, which inspires i I level of competitive insanity unseen in any real race. Despite all of this, when Danny’s legs cramp in the final run, Morgan abandons the Deslauriers and comes to Danny’s rescue, carrying him across the finish line.
Why I think it’s Awesome:  This is hands down one of my favourite Mindy Project episodes. It is made spectacular by the following: 1. Danny completes the running portion of the race in a Speedo…so awful and yet so fantastic 2. Mindy runs to the triathlon so fast that it causes her to vomit and be unable to actually complete her running portion (which is why Danny must complete it) 3. A grown man carries a grown man across a finish line which is all sorts of amazing and 4. Brendan Deslauriers throws an epic temper tantrum/hissy fit upon losing the race. Watch this episode. Immediately.

It breaks my heart that copyright laws prevent me from sharing a video clip of this masterpiece with you. You will have to settle for a picture.
It breaks my heart that copyright laws prevent me from sharing a video clip of this masterpiece with you. You will have to settle for a still shot.

Training Tuesdays: Turkey Trot…How Have I Never Done This?

turkey-trot

Unbeknownst to me, Turkey Trots are a big thing yet somehow, despite my love of turkey and my begrudging tolerance for running, I have never taken part in one. Sadly, I also missed this year’s event in Vancouver. I really shouldn’t say sadly, though. I mean, instead I’m frolicking through the streets of Rome so I guess that’s a pretty good consolation prize.

At any rate, come next year I need to take part.  It’s a perfect storm of things I like in a race:

  • It’s short. At only 10k it requires no training whatsoever. The Vancouver course is also flat, which pretty much means a lazy run day.
  • It’s non-competitive. It seems like people are in it for the fun…and the food, which leads me to…
  • It has food! Sure, races always have refreshment tables but the food options are usually pretty lame. I checked out a picture of the post-race meal and it looked like a full-on Thanksgiving spread.  I mean, the fact that it’s even called a meal is a major upgrade on your average race.
  • There are costumes! Okay, so I’m actually not one to dress up in costumes. That requires way too much effort. But I do wholeheartedly love admiring other’s commitment to epic costumes, and I am in awe of anyone who can run with additional layers of clothing and bulk.

In other words, next year the Turkey Trot is going to be my race of choice. I’ll be the one dressed as a normal runner, but carrying her own personal stash of cranberry sauce for the post-race meal.*

*Yes, I’m making an assumption, and likely an incorrect one, the post race meal is a turkey dinner. Otherwise carrying cranberry sauce would just be weird.

RWIR #30: Keeping it in Check

It’s my last week before a two-week vacation during which I’d like to have a properly functioning body.  Thus, my rule of thumb this week has been simple: don’t f*&k up my SI or sciatic. Here’s what I got up to:

Saturday
Activity: Run!!!!!
Relevant Stats: About 8 km, pace unknown
Observations: I ran to the top of QE park, which is a pretty sustained hill from my place, and thus I felt like a rockstar.  I didn’t track my pace, but it doesn’t take an app to tell me it was generally slow-as-molasses. I don’t care, I made it up the hill without stopping. Victory.

Sunday
Activity: BCMC
Relevant Stats: same as usual
Observations: Two good days in a row! I rocked the BCMC and forgot how different the trail really is. It required a lot more concentration, mostly because I am clumsy and prone to tripping.  Most importantly, I had energy to burn at the top. I was riding a high. Also, we had lamb for dinner, which is pretty much the best way to round out a weekend in my books.

Monday
Activity: Run
Relevant Stats: 6ish km, pace unknown
Observations: This run felt a bit slower and harder than Saturday’s. Also, my right leg muscles, particularly my calf muscles were in a world of pain from start to finish.  I can’t figure out why this is happening since my sciatic isn’t actually in pain, but it must be related as my left leg felt fine.

Tuesday
Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: bags of recycling removed from my house: 9, bags of clothing ready to be donated: 3, stove tops cleaned: 1, loads of laundry done: 4
Observations: I could beat myself up about bailing on a workout, but really I feel no guilt. Right from the get-go, I had little interest in working out. I kept postponing it and postponing it until it was 6 pm and I admitted to myself that it wasn’t going to happen. I also kept telling myself that every time I push to work out when I really don’t feel like it, I end up injuring myself. That was likely just rationalization.  However, my laziness on one front allowed me to be a domestic wonder. I got a ton of necessary tidying and laundry done in preparation for my brother and sister-in-law’s visit.

Wednesday
Activity: Grouse Grind
Relevant Stats: same old
Observations: It is almost time to don the headlamp when hiking this trail in the wee hours of the morning. It was pretty dark and eery at the bottom a la scenes from Stranger Things, but the sun broke over the city when I was at the top so that made up for my early anxiety. I felt fairly strong and I think the hike helped loosen up my tight gluteals, which helped my sciatic to feel less on the fringe. Another win from the day: I successfully avoided chocolate caramel loaf from PureBread.

Thursday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min., mostly basic movements but weighted this time and focused on hip movement.
Observations: I had grand ambitions for doing a second workout after my training session, but I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to take care of things before my brother and sister-in-law arrive, along with trying to prepare for vacation.  Instead, I did my training session and walked 11 km to and from various errands and appointments.  I also cleaned and, for the record, sweeping and swiffering an entire apartment, including moving furniture to do it properly, is no joke as an activity.  Related: I really need to work on being less of a slob.

Friday
Activity: Grouse Grind
Relevant Stats: cold: yes, rainy: yes, hellish: YES
Observations: Today’s hike was fuelled entirely by anger. I won’t get into the circumstance but at least I now know that hiking angry a) doesn’t make me any faster nor slower and b) makes it feel 10 X harder even though it’s not taking any longer. To top it off, once I got to the top it was rainy and windy and freezing cold and, because of the wind, the gondola was going extra slow and it took twice as long to get down. Needless to say, the day didn’t start off well.  But then I remembered that tomorrow I’ll be on a plane to Italy and, well, that does make things a little bit better doesn’t it?

All in all, I don’t even care how this week went, aside from avoiding any injury-related pain.  Here’s what matters at the end of this week in review:

vacation

Throwback Thursday: That Time I Randomly Ran a Half Marathon

Way back when (i.e. 2006ish), I went for a run one day and returned about 23 km later. I wasn’t training for a marathon or half-marathon. I wasn’t training for anything. I wanted to see if I could run to UBC and back. I wanted to go for a long run so I could eat a bunch of ice cream without feeling guilty. I wanted to kill a bunch of time so I wouldn’t be bored on a Saturday afternoon.

I threw on my running shoes and some crappy non-athletic gear and carried absolutely no water. It was just me and my pre-Apple mp3 player and not a care in the world. I had no distance goal. I had no time goal. And somehow, I ran my longest run ever and kicked off an almost year-long habit of running 20-22km every Saturday.

Since then I’ve often wondered what possessed me to do that and, even more importantly, what was the magic behind my ability to consistently run that type of distance without actually trying?  I believe my early success boils down to a few key factors:

  • Zero ability to estimate distance: This was the era before tracking apps, and a simpler time when I didn’t know running route distances by heart. Now, now I would know exactly how far it is between key route points. Back then, it was all a mystery.  Also helpful, I had no concept of what a 5 min/km pace felt like let alone the difference between a 5 min/km pace and 6 min/km pace.  I miss those days…
  • I had minimal social commitments:  I had all the time in the world on weekend afternoons. Really, I had too much time on my hands at that point and hadn’t yet learned how to focus my energy. At any rate, this was a blessing in disguise as it made lengthy runs an appealing escape from boredom. And, since I almost always followed up my long run with a late afternoon nap, I usually managed to kill off a sizeable portion of the day.
  • No pressure: Back then I wasn’t trying to be a distance runner or a fast runner. I wasn’t comparing myself to anyone else out there running and wondering if they were better, faster, runners. I wasn’t even worried about my overall fitness level and staying in peak shape for hiking season. I ran slowly and didn’t care. I think it took me about 2.5 hours to run this distance and, to me, that sounded pretty fantastic for a casual runner.

So there you have it, if you’re looking to up your distance without feeling like you’re running distance, all you have to do is clear your social calendar, lose your ability to gauge distance and pace, and forget about how slow you might look.  Easy, right?

And, in case you’re curious and want to replicate the run that started it all for me, here was the route I took.

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-8-22-23-pm

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.