Around the Bay Countdown

around the bay race logo -- around the bay road race with 30K in a red maple leaf in the lower left cornerThank you to everyone who commented not too long ago on my post “Hitting the Winter Running Wall.” Your comments all made me feel supported and actually kind of badass.

Betty and Jessica both said I was tough.  Steph said she was in awe. Caitlin said she was impressed. And a whole bunch of people offered suggestions (like existentialangst’s suggestion that maybe runners in Saskatchewan, on the prairies, could help me dress for the cold) and tons of encouragement (“it’s almost over” and “stick with it”) and commiseration (“I’m right there with you” and “winter running is so hard”).

The result: I stuck with my plan last week and got out there on Wednesday night and Thursday night — both with windchills in the high minus 20-range — and again for my long run on Sunday. And it all felt great.  If it hadn’t been for the support and for my public declaration that I would stick to my plans and attend all clinic runs last week, I would not have stepped out the door on Wednesday night or Thursday night.

I also have some incentive: I signed up for the Around the Bay 30K and it’s less than one month from now, on March 29th.

The Around the Bay Road Race is steeped in history. It is the oldest race in North America. Yes, it’s older than Boston by a few years:

Hamilton’s Around the Bay Road Race is the oldest on the continent, first run in 1894, three years before the Boston Marathon. Rich in tradition, it has been won by the best from around the world, including Boston Marathon winners and Olympic gold medallists. Become part of the continuing tradition by running this challenging course around Hamilton’s natural harbour!

The race director came to talk to the clinic last week (another reason I went out at all — and I was still reserving judgment about going for the run, but once you’re there, and everyone else is going, and it’s only 6K anyway, and you dressed for it, and the blog post…).

He told us some of the race’s venerable history. Canadians just love a thing that distinguishes us among Americans. It’s like that when you’re north of the most powerful country in the world, ten times your population. So of course he told us this:

In the early 1900’s, Jack Caffery and William Sherring battled it out and won two “Bay” races each. Caffery went on to stun the Americans at the Boston Marathon in 1900, by being the first Canadian to win Boston.

To add insult to injury, Hamilton’s William Sherring and Fred Hughson placed second and third, behind Caffery, making it a Canadian sweep. Caffery rubbed it in even further by coming back the next year 1901, to win Boston again.

Not to be outdone by Caffery, William Sherring went on to win the 1906 Olympic Marathon in Athens, Greece, making him a Canadian hero.

Tommy Longboat

That same year, Tommy Longboat, an Onondaga from Six Nations near Caledonia, won the “Bay” race and the next year in 1907, surprised everyone by winning the Boston Marathon. Hamilton’s James Duffy also went on to win the 1914 Boston Marathon, after two Consecutive Bay wins.

So that’s the race history. It’s also supposed to be a tough race. They say if you can do ATB, you are ready for any marathon.  I’m afraid to ask why exactly, but it has to do with hills. The race has some rolling hills, but it also traditionally has a super tough steep hill in the last 5K.

But not this year. Road work has forced a detour. So the hill that breaks more hearts than Heartbreak Hill will not be on this year’s course. That fact has divided the pack: 50% are relieved as all hell (those are my people) and 50% feel ripped off that they’re not getting the full challenge (who are you people?).

It’s just a few weeks  until the race. I started training specifically for this event with a Running Room group back in November. It’s a long commitment, but doing a clinic that culminates in a particular event is the best way for me to make it through the winter without bailing.

My training schedule got interrupted by that blasted knee injury (if you care, you can read about it in my post “Re-Connecting with Chi Running: Chi Marathon Training”), which coincided with snow, frigid temperatures, and the dreaded “wind chill factor, and then a vacation where it was a lot easier to kayak than to run.

So far I’ve maxed out at 26K.  I scaled it back a bit about a month ago, but I’m ready to test things again on Sunday. Last week I stayed cautious. I chose fartlek over hill repeats on Wednesday because my physiotherapist recommended against hills (confession: he also recommended against speed work but what’s wrong with a few fartleks? It’s Swedish for speed play, not speed work).

Come Sunday, I opted for 15K with Anita and our friend Julie instead of the 28K everyone else was doing. Anita signed up for the ABT two-person relay (15K each). Julie and I were lamenting that we had not. And now it’s too late because the relay is all filled up.  So we’re doing 30K whatever else happens!

With those training runs last week I experienced no difficulties with the knee (I am touching wood right now).  So this week I went back out for the speed play last night.  I need to try squeezing in a 6K today but I’m not sure that will happen.  And on Sunday I may just take a very, very slow 28K with the group.  My actual plan was for 20K, but if I feel okay and am not having any knee pain, I’m going to do 8 more.

The end of winter is kind of in sight. Not that it’s really warmer. We had some reprieve yesterday where it actually went above zero, but as I sit here all cozy in my bed with my laptop right now, it’s -17C outside and Environment Canada says the mercury is only creeping up to -11C today, but there’s a windchill of -25C for this morning. Yes, it’s as cold as it sounds.

But it’s March. And usually by the end of March the snow has all melted. Sometimes on St. Patrick’s Day the students have massive parties outside where people who have painted themselves green stagger around in “kiss me, I’m Irish” t-shirts and drinking green beer and getting arrested.  That’s always a good sign of the end of winter too.

And I’ve gone and done something so brazen that I can hardly believe it myself: on May 3rd I’m doing my first full marathon. So it’s not as if I can just let up on my training once the Around the Bay race is over. I need to keep it up, even add mileage, so I don’t crash and burn when I do the Mississauga Marathon.

I am Canadian and I will tough it out for the rest of this brutal winter! Winter training does have its perks. I’ve met new people and really bonded with them, the way people do in times of adversity. I’m a stronger runner than I’ve ever been, despite the difficulties I’ve had with the IT band and the knee.  Taking this time for myself each week has also been good for my mental health because when I am out there running, I don’t worry about any of the day to day bullshit — the crushing workload, the unpacked boxes, the extra furniture piled up in our condo that I haven’t had a chance to get rid of yet, the bins of motorcycle gear that I’m supposed to put on kijiji to sell for the spring riding season…).

If you have a race coming up early this spring that you’ve been training for all winter, yay for you!  Enjoy! And if you’re doing Around the Bay, see you there!


“Pretty fast for a big girl”: Notes from the road, #2

Cycling Shirt - Bicycling over hills: Love / Hate RelationshipOh, hills. Cyclists love/hate you so. See my post, Wind or hills? Pick your poison, and Kim’s post How to ride your road bike up really, really steep hills with minimal weeping.

And this recent bike tour in Arizona had some serious hills. Tucson, like Canberra, Australia, another city I’ve ridden around lots, is deceptive. Local commuting cyclists in both places describe these cities as flat. And yes, that’s true. They’re high country plateau cities.

They’re also, in both cases, surrounded by hills. Big hills. Leave Tucson, leave Canberra and it’s just a question of which hills. Here’s a list of significant Arizona climbs. Note how many are close to Tuscon. And here is a list of Canberra climbs. There’s even an event Fitz’s challenge that combines most of them.

But back to Arizona: On this ride the biggest hills also corresponded with the most beautiful scenery. It’s often that way. I remembered how beautiful the Coranado forest ride was from the last time I did this bike tour. I had completely forgotten the hills.

Another woman on the tour laughed when I told her that. She said she too “forgot hills” as soon as they were successfully ridden up. I loved the point that she made next. “Cycling is like childbirth. You don’t remember the tough bits until you do it again.” Right! These hills, that pain. What am I thinking doing this again? Exactly.

On these hills, I was trying to “be good.” What does that mean for me? Avoiding the bad habit, for me, of racing up the bottom half, or third, of a serious climb only to be reduced to a crawl thereafter. I love going fast but my size is an issue on hills. See Fat, fit, and why I want to be leaner anyway. Tl;dr: hills. Climbing is all about power to weight ratio.

So this time I used my heart rate monitor and deliberately took it easy. La la la, up the hills.

I got carried away just once. Our tour leader likes climbs. I saw him come from behind on a descent and start up on the hill ahead. I raced after him and caught him on the downhill. I’m fast downhill. See Strava, QOM, and does downhill count?

I knew it was unlikely I’d be able to stay with him but I decided to abandon my “moderate, heart rate” sensible strategy and try. That meant getting out of the saddle and pushing hard.

At the top he turned to look behind and seemed happy and surprised to see me there. High five! There was no one else anywhere near us.

We rode slowly, drank water, caught our breath and waited for the others. “You’re pretty fast for a big girl, ” he said.

Yup. I am.

I don’t mind the “big girl” comment. It’s true. They’re aren’t many women my size on road bikes. Like many larger women, I’m actually not that sensitive about my size. It’s not a mystery or a surprise to me. Indeed other people pussyfooting about the issue is what let’s me know that they think it’s a bad thing or something about which I ought to be ashamed. I’m chagrined by my size. Occasionally annoyed by it. I wish I weighed less, etc etc. But it’s not a secret or a shock.

I’ve written about that too, Big women on bikes. I was happy when I uploaded my Garmin data to Strava that they rated two of the climbs as Cat 4. That means as hills, they rated. None of the hills near here, in flat farmland country, get a rating.

Even though they’re work, they’re certainly beautiful, those Arizona hills.


Apple, that’s awful. CARROT is a very very bad idea.

What’s Carrot?

A judgemental calorie counting app. Because we’re not harsh enough on ourselves, I guess. Now you can buy extra harshness.

Seems that it launched just in time for Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

From their website:  “Hilarious A.I. construct CARROT has scienced up a new strain of calorie counter. Not only will the omniscient supercomputer tell you what you’re consuming in terms your puny brain can actually comprehend, but she’ll also warn you that you’re approaching your daily calorie goal if you open the fridge. And if you dare to overindulge, she will punish you financially, aesthetically, and socially. ”

iPhone Screenshot 1

From the product reviews:

I have been using a photo diet journal to record my food intake. But CARROT is better. She makes snarky comments when calorie intake gets higher than she deems appropriate, and I wouldn’t recommend her to anyone with an eating disorder. But using this app is like having someone always looking over your shoulder, questioning your food choices. When paired with the CARROT exercise app, both CARROTS will comment on your foot intake – and believe me, the diet app is by far the nicer of the two. The exercise app will say things like “Why don’t you just eat the kitchen sink, too?” whereas this app will become deeply disappointed and appoint a robot to hunt you down…wait, maybe that makes her the evil one…anyway, if it’s tough love you seek, CARROT is the perfect snarky foodie companion. If I were to criticize, I could wish there was a way to declare a pre-designated cheat day, and that I might get positive comments about some food groups, like veggies, while the rudest comments were reserved for high-calorie treats – but CARROT takes the perspective that a calorie is a calorie, and since that’s apparently how my body sees it as well, I’m not complaining. She’s the helper I love to hate!

Tracy and I have both written about tracking food. I love it, she doesn’t. But neither of us like this! (Actually we haven’t talked but I know that Tracy will hate this much as I do.)

I checked my Samsung phone. So far no Android version available. Here’s hoping it stays that way.

Thanks AEG for sharing this with us. I might have more to say later, but for now, GRRRR. It’s been a long day.

Here’s the trailer:

Does Feeling Good about Weight Loss Make Me a “Bad Feminist?”

EqualityMy post the other day about reasons for losing weight besides body hatred generated a great discussion about my implication that appearance-oriented reasons aren’t “consistent with” feminism.

This world has lots to be sad about, including the phenomenon of healthy disagreement among feminists (a good thing) turning into accusations and finger-pointing and the charge that someone is either a “bad feminist” or not a feminist at all. I don’t like to participate in that.

And yet, I don’t think that just anything is consistent with feminism. It’s a political ideology with a clear agenda. That agenda aims first and foremost at promoting gender equality and eradicating gender oppression. Recognizing that women are a diverse group, most feminists either implicitly or explicitly acknowledge that you can’t just isolate gender — race, class, disability, sexuality, ethnicity are also significant dimensions of oppression, and these can interact with one another and with gender to create unique forms of oppression–that is, structural patterns of systemic disadvantage and inequality (forgive me if this is pedantic — I am after all a philosophy professor).

In short, feminism is not just a simple matter of promoting choice for individuals. We need to be keenly aware of the way structures can create social arrangements that privilege some and disadvantage others, not on the basis of individual skills, talents, or means, but rather on the basis of membership (or perceived membership) in visible social groups (be the marked by gender, race, class, sexuality, disability or some combination of these and other social categories that people use to classify people and create social hierarchies).

So while I don’t like all that slamming of one another for not being feminist enough, I also truly believe that there is usually room for improvement.  It’s a simple fact that some behaviors and attitudes do contribute to and promote those patterns of inequality.  And that means that individual choices can have consequences beyond the individual who makes them.

Someone commented that she didn’t really like the implication that it was un-feminist to want to lose weight for the sake of appearance only. I’d suggested in my post that there may be other reasons — health, performance — that were “okay,” but wanting to be thinner for its own sake wasn’t among them.

The fact is, I have unsettled views about all of this as it plays out in my own life. I spend a lot of time trying to re-train my reaction to weight gain and weight loss. For decades the scale determined how I felt about myself. Daily, it either gave me permission to feel okay about myself (if the number went down) or not (if the number went up).

In other words, losing weight has always made me feel kind of good, gaining has always made me feel kind of bad. And at a meta-level, my self-awareness about this fact about me makes me feel a little hypocritical, as if I’m a “bad feminist.” Natalie commented about this and we agreed that there is a lot to say about this issue still.

Intellectually I believe 100% that I am not my weight.  I’m 110% behind the view that no one else’s worth or worthiness is determined by the number on the scale. And yet in my own case, at some level, I still think of weight loss as an achievement of sorts.

Now, why should that make me a bad feminist?  If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that we are anti-diet, anti-appearance focused in our approach to fitness. I have a strong conviction that this is the right way to go, that dieting and the obsession with getting thin is not only self-defeating at the individual level, but oppressive to women more generally. It buys into normative femininity, promotes a narrow view of what an acceptable women’s body is like, and supports a fat-phobic point of view.

The saving grace in my life over the past couple of years has been my slow and steady evolution from a chronic dieter and slave to the scale to a triathlete who cares dramatically more about getting stronger and faster than getting thinner.

And so when I feel that twinge of disappointment, as I did when I got back from my vacation and had gained four pounds, I feel bad twice. Once from the disappointment and once from judging myself for being disappointed. Bad feminist!

When I reflect more fully on this state of affairs though, I don’t actually believe that it makes me a bad feminist. Instead, I think it means I’m having an understandably difficult time fully extricating myself from oppressive social attitudes. My gut still reacts in the way it always has, in the way I’ve been conditioned to react — as if weight loss is a good thing, weight gain a bad thing.

But upon reflection, I know that it’s just a thing — not good, not bad. And I know too that there are lots of other more productive ways we, as women, can spend our time than embroiled in our typically fruitless attempts to change our bodies.  Weight loss can be empowering, but so can all sorts of other things.

Maybe the real issue is that I’m weighing myself at all. Whether that makes me a bad feminist is not so much the point. The fact is, I’ve had times in my life when I swore off the scale completely, and at those times, I was able to turn my attention to other things.  Whatever our view of weight loss, for most of us there are more important things in the world that we can spend our energy on, and without compromising our health.

Those things might actually contribute to social equality. And that’s something any feminist can feel good about.

Tucson bike travels, notes from the road, #1: Bicycle tours and range of abilities

Did you read about my recent Arizona cycling holiday? I’m still thinking lots about it as I wait out the weeks until outdoor riding starts at home this spring. You might be wondering, is this something I could do?


The first barrier is financial of course, not fitness. It’s probably the most daunting obstacle. Biking holidays where other people make the arrangements, carry your bags from place to place, print out the maps each day and follow you around in a bright green bus full of snacks don’t come cheap. It’s a couple of thousand dollars a person, including accommodation and meals. (But not alcohol. As a non drinker, I like that.) You also need to get you and your bike to Arizona or rent a bike there. So not a poor person’s holiday, pretty self indulgent as these things go.

It’s out of our range except as an occasional treat. In this case we were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary a year late. Not much celebrating happened last year. See Rough times, tough choices and Death changes everything for the back story.

Now we’re thinking of organizing a trip ourselves. Six people, rent a van, six days of riding and we each take one day off to drive rather than ride. And of course you can also do the type of bike holiday where you carry your own stuff. We’ve done some of those too. See here.


The second big barrier is fitness. You can’t go from nothing to a cycling holiday. But that said there was a pretty big range in the group. Three of us had been riding trainers regularly. Others have been doing other kinds of cardio exercise. But the point is, that everyone had been doing something, around three times a week. Most of the crew had done cycling holidays before. A few like us were old hands at it.

But really there’s a very wide range of speeds and abilities. The most common group of non cyclists I meet on these tours are distance runners. Some are in mixed marriages, runner meets cyclist. Then there’s the injured runners who’ve given up and are moving on to other activities.

They tend not to be great group riders. Mostly people ride alone or with another person. But that makes sense to me. Think about who they attract. Affluence is a factor, yes, but they’re also not serious bike racers. The serious group riders are also in Tucson this time of year doing training camps. They’re not being tourists. Instead they’re staying in one place doing more organized training rides with a coach.

Also age is interesting. This isn’t a young person’s holiday. It’s not a wild nightlife holiday nor extreme adventure. It’s a gentle day’s riding followed by a good dinner and night in a b and b. I think young me would’ve still loved it but young me couldn’t afford it. Also, kids would have gotten in the way.

Pretty much everyone there had kids and some of us had grandkids. The “kids” are all in their teens, twenties, and thirties…Again, if you have younger children, chances are your vacations are family vacations and while they might involve bikes (ours did) they don’t start with a flight to Arizona during the school term!


Have you done cycling holidays? Did you love it? Hate it? Where did you go? Share your stories in the comments.


Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #20

This is where we share stuff we can’t share on Facebook page for fear of being kicked out! Read why here. Usually the posts are about body image, sometimes there’s nudity but we’re all adults here. Right?

Why does a fitness blog even care about body image? You can read about that here.


When you think of the phrase “eating disorder,” who do you picture? Young girls with visible ribs poking out of their barely-there pubescent bodies? Teenagers with their heads dangling in a toilet bowl? 

Most likely, you don’t picture someone who looks like me. From a young age, I was praised for being a “good eater,” meaning I was open to all different types of foods, and my weight was always “healthy”.


Leonard Nimoy, who died Friday at the age of 83, was beloved by fans for his distinctive portrayal of Mr. Spock on Star Trek.

Those fans may not have known that Nimoy, through his work as a photographer, also championed women who did not conform to Hollywood’s ideal of physical perfection.

In 2007, Nimoy published The Full Body Project, a collection of photos featuring nude women of many shapes and sizes.


Render isn’t your typical food magazine. It’s not full of glossy photographs of perfectly rustic dinner parties, complete with mismatched china, foraged natural table settings, vintage Pendleton, and perfectly coiffed men who definitely use beard oil. You won’t find dieting tips for swimsuit season among its pages or claims that a $40 Chemex is the only way to brew a decent cup of coffee, either.

Instead, this food and culture quarterly based out of Portland hopes to totally disrupt the prevailing stereotypes of women in food culture. It also wants you to think long and hard about how race, class, privilege, and politics all influence what and how we eat.


“I hate my body; I’m a bad feminist.” Many of my 20-something clients self-identify as feminists, but they worry that their body image issues undermine the sisterhood. Aside from the burden of counting each and every calorie, closely monitoring their BMI, and reassuring themselves that they still have the requisite “thigh gap,” many young women live with the guilt of betraying their own feminism. They obsess about their body shapes and then berate themselves for doing so.


To ‘Bit’ or not to ‘Bit’? (Guest Post)

by Ange B

A few weeks or so back I was wondering whether an activity tracker would be a worthwhile purchase. I am generally wary or gadgets and so, when I first heard about these new super-charged pedometers my initial thoughts were that they appeared to be yet another way for people to compete, compare and generally feel they’re not doing ‘enough’.

That was a year ago and at the time I was struggling with both anxiety & fatigue as a result of a mistreated thyroid disorder. Not wanting to set myself up for another failure, I stayed well clear of the gadgets and the hype. A year on (and thankfully, chronic anxiety and fatigue free) I have come around to another line of thinking. Or perhaps, I believe I now possess the tools I need to prevent this little tool taking over my life. These being, an appreciation for my health, love for my strong resilient body, recognition of the (awesome) things I have already achieved, and the acknowledgement that, after years of inactivity due to illness, slowly slowly is the best way (for me) to get “fit” again.

So why a Fitbit? The purchase decision came down to comfort. I really don’t like wearing anything on my wrists, so it had to be light and comfortable and the one I chose is barely noticeable. I really hadn’t thought much beyond the pedometer function of these devices when doing my initial research, though I thought the sleep tracker could be an interesting function.

I have subsequently discovered that the sleep tracker is a fabulous tool. I am still terrified of tired days – days where I wake up with a (seemingly) inexplicable fatigue and the fear that I’ve regressed. I had one of those days recently, and when I consulted my sleep tracker of the 8 hours I had thought I was asleep my ‘Bit registered 2 hours of restlessness throughout the night. Easily accounting for the fatigue the next day and giving me great peace of mind – and the motivation to continue to work on my sleep hygiene to achieve 8 hours= of proper rest.


The other bonus feature is the vibrating alarm. Having to  take medication twice daily at specific times I had relied on my phone alarm, but I much prefer the silent reminder buzzing away on my arm. It’s handy too as I’d often miss the phone alarm when it was on silent in my bag or in another room.

Now that I’ve had the ‘Bit for a little while I can say that we’ll be good friends lil ‘Bit and I. What I have realised is that I easily average 12,000 steps per day. This movement, combined with a consistent routine of strength work, swimming and cycling throughout each week will get me to my first set of fitness goals. Most importantly, I’ve realised that the ‘Bit doesn’t care, non-judgemental little machine that it is. It doesn’t care that one set of 2000 steps was to go and get hot chips (because Saturday is hot chips with dinner day), or that, at 9 pm the other night I wandered down to the pub for a drink with a friend (because it was 34 degrees at 9pm and there was no sleeping to be had in that kind of crazy hot weather) it just cares that I walked.


Ange is a health sciences student, public servant, cat owner, avid reader of other people’s blogs, HAES advocate with a 5 year plan to finish a half ironman! She lives in Adelaide in South Australia.