charity · cycling

On the road with #F4LBR17

Me on Red Dress Day 2014. I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll wear this dress again or something else. Decisions, decisions!

I’m on the road all next week with Friends for Life Bike Rally, riding from Toronto to Montreal to raise money for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation.

Saturday, July 25th  is Packing Day and Sunday, July 26th is Departure Day. On July 30th, 600 km later, we arrive in Montreal, with lots of fun, friendship, and adventures in between.

Last year I rode with my friend David. This year I’m riding with my friend and guest blogger Susan.

I’ll blog a little bit from the road, maybe, but it will depend on fussy things like the elements, mostly rain and a strength of the cellular signal.

It’s not too late to sponsor me here!

And you can read about last year’s ride:

Bike Rally Route

PWA’s Friends for Life Bike Rally

On July 26, 2015, more than 300 Riders and Crew will embark on a six-day, 600 km journey from Toronto to Montréal to support the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation’s (PWA) ability to provide critical services and support to individuals living with HIV and AIDS in Toronto. Now in its 17th year, the Bike Rally is the sustaining fundraiser of the PWA.

Bike Rally Participants of all ages and levels of experience share a common passion in supporting their friends, family and neighbours living with HIV/AIDS. Join PWA’s Friends For Life Bike Rally for the experience of a lifetime and help make a positive difference. Dreaming Bigger … Celebrating Friendships … Strengthening Communities … one kilometre at a time

fitness · Guest Post

What’s in a (Women’s Team) Name?


Recently I saw the cartoon, How Society Polices Women’s Clothing (No Matter What We Wear), in which illustrated female figures engaging in various life activities (i.e. working-with-clipboard, relaxing-with-guitar, clubbing-with-clutch purse) are each critiqued for what clothing is worn. I had noticed, however, that none of the women were depicted wearing sports clothing.

This is not to say that women’s athletic apparel escapes cultural policing. For instance, women’s clothing for tennis and beach volleyball seem increasingly revealing and sexy, while already revealing women’s clothing has become athletic apparel, such as in the lingerie football league. In the 21st century, women athletes (particularly those who have achieved celebrity status) are tasked with demonstrating excellence in both athletic performance and sexual attractiveness.

In direct contrast, my current rec league soccer team jersey is far from sexy, especially after I have totally soaked it in the heat of an outdoor summer game. My jersey has white accents, but is mostly Wizard-of-Oz-Emerald-City green. On the jersey is printed the league’s insignia and the number 12 (not even my favourite number). Its style is almost totally generic. Aside from my rainbow socks and matching headband, I’m sure I must blend in almost entirely with the grassy green soccer pitch.

But I have come to identify profoundly with my jersey. On Sunday nights, number 12 green is me. An hour before game time you will find me frantically looking for my jersey like it’s a (well-hidden) treasure. When I arrive at the field, my heart begins to race when I see my Emerald City green-wearing teammates already warming up on the sidelines. (There’s no place like home!)

My only other soccer jersey (purple, number 18) is equally un-sexy with me in it, but on this jersey our fun and slightly sexy team name is on the front of it: “Chicks with Kicks.” My green team name, by the way, is “Femmes of Fury.” So while as sports clothing my jerseys aren’t explicitly gendered or sexualized, the team names still manage to adhere to the formula of suggesting both (aggressive) athletic performance and (sexy, objectified) femininity.

In fact, there are websites dedicated to listing such team names for women. On one site, top-rated women’s team names include the “Pink Fluffy Monsters” and the “Mighty Morphin Flower Arrangers.” Cute, right? But the performance-attractiveness formula emerges again, suggesting that women must be rough-aggressive and passive-feminine. Of course, this is not the case for every women’s sports team. Samantha has reflected in another FIAFI post on soccer team names bearing gender neutrality in favour of referencing activities like drinking and middle-age onset.

I tend to regard my team names and sports apparel as emblematic of 21st century mainstream feminism: the “radical” feminist power of our all-women team uniform, a liberal “girls are as tough as boys” attitude, and 3rd wave “fierce-but-still-fashionable” accessorizing (i.e. the afore-mentioned colourful socks and headbands) that expresses our individuality amidst our uniform-ity.

It’s not that I dislike “Femmes of Fury” and “Chicks with Kicks,” per se. But do I wonder about how these team names risk re-inscribing feminine-otherness, even as they invoke girl-power assertiveness. Do men feel the need to ensure their sports team names follow such a similarly gendered formula?

My questions for FIAFI readers: What do your team jerseys look like, and your team names sound like, and what do they mean to you? Do these “fearless feminine” team names still suggest that feminine attractiveness still matters as much as athletic performance? How might such team names resonate (or not) with non-cisgender or gender-queer players?


On becoming a student again: ten days at the Sivananda Ashram in Kerala, South India (Part One)

Frequent guest blogger Kim Solga takes to her own blog to write about becoming a student again at an ashram in India.

The Activist Classroom

Note: this post was horrifically long, so I’ve divided it into two. The concluding post will follow next Thursday.

In the high summer, full-time academics often get asked what it is we are up to. Or, more accurately, we get knowing, slightly envious looks from people who ask us when we will be going back to work. Although I always gently correct in these situations, letting acquaintances know that we are in our research-intensive term and then explaining a bit about my current writing project, the truth is that most of us are enormously privileged to have large swaths of unscheduled time in July and August (and sometimes May and June, depending on where you work). Of course, such freedom bears with it responsibility: I need to mind my deadlines, and plan work days accordingly. But I’m also fortunate to be free in summer to experiment, try new things…

View original post 1,461 more words

running · training

Fit and fat revisited (ultra running doesn’t make everyone thin and lean)

One of Mirna Valerio's selfies, used to prove that she showed up and did it! From
One of Mirna Valerio’s selfies, used to prove that she showed up and did it! From
You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it.  Running is supposed to be the “best cardio” for weight loss. Have you seen the people who win marathons? They’re lean sometimes to the point of being barely there.

If marathoners are that thin, ultra runners must be even more so. Except that, no, it doesn’t work that way.  I’ve already talked about how endurance training won’t make you lean any more than basketball will make you tall and lanky. I found this out first hand when I trained for Olympic distance triathlons and then a half marathon and then a 30K and then a marathon. I lost no weight at all. Not one gram. My weight fluctuated by about 2 pounds over the entire 2 year period.

And so what? Here at Fit Is a Feminist Issue, we like to challenge the idea that fit and fat don’t go together, and also that being thin is a sign of fitness. It’s not. There are plenty of thin people who could use a regular fitness routine. Sam has a great post that muddies the waters around the so-called connection between inactivity and obesity.

This week, Runner’s World profiled a 250 pound ultra distance runner named Mirna Valerio. Valerio blogs about her running at Fat Girl Running. Mirna runs about 25 miles a week unless she’s training for an event, in which case she ups it to 35. Right now, she’s training for a 50K trail race.

Here’s what people say to her:

“People always say to me, ‘Anyone who runs as much as you do deserves to be skinny.’ Of course, what they’re really saying: ‘If you do all this running, why are you still so fat?’”

Mirna provides a powerful counterexample to the idea that being “overweight” by the lights of the charts is automatically a negative comment on your fitness and health. Recent science bears this out. The RW article states:

“The scientific evidence has become quite powerful to suggest that a healthful lifestyle dramatically mitigates the risks associated with mild levels of obesity,” says Yoni Freedhoff, M.D., author of The Diet Fix and a professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine in Canada. “Scales don’t measure the presence or absence of health. A woman with obesity running marathons makes a superb role model.”

Mirna’s training is a huge source of enjoyment in her life too. Part of her regular ritual is that each time she goes out she takes a selfie.

Every run, every race, every traverse of a mountain trail, every gym workout, Valerio begins by taking a photo. “To prove that I was out here,” she explains. “To document the fact that I achieved something today.”

She makes it fun. And she keeps it light. On her blog, she has a page “how to be a fat runner.” She explains it in ten simple steps, including “embrace the name” and “look in the mirror and smile even if it doesn’t feel genuine” and “look in the mirror again and admire yourself for being a fatrunner.”

So here we have an ultra runner who is not thin and lean. But we’re not going to challenge her fitness, right? Imagine how much joy she would have robbed herself of if, after running for a few weeks or months without losing weight, she decided it wasn’t “worth it”?

This is what happens when we focus on one goal only: the goal of weight loss.  When our activities are a means to that sole end, and we don’t achieve that end, we sometimes forgo perfectly good, health-promoting, and enjoyable forms of activity because they don’t “work.” But there are so many other ways that getting more active does “work.”

What an impoverished idea of any kind of training we would have if its only function was to help us drop fat and lose weight. If that’s the only reason I ran, I would have given it up long ago. And so would Mirna Valerio and countless others who found that actually, they didn’t end up looking like elite marathoners when they took up endurance training.

Check out the entire RW article about Mirna Valerio here.  And visit her Fat Girl Running blog here.

eating · nutrition

Forgetting to eat? Who are these people?


People do that, I hear. They forget to eat.

I have a friend who works at a computer all day, most days and his Facebook posts occasionally say things like “3 pm, guess I should eat something today.”

But not me. I wake up hungry. If I don’t snack in the evenings I’ve been known to wake up at 3 am hungry.

I never forget supper. Mid afternoon comes around and I’m thinking about food. I snack, the goal is to snack healthily, so I can make it to dinner. I snack on veggies while I cook.

People talk about eating when hungry and stopping when full as if it might push them to eat less. But I’m often hungry. Not vaguely snack-y, I mean stomach growling, actually full blown hungry hunger.

Until recently.

Twice recently I’ve realized that I’ve forgotten to eat. Both times, of course, on bike rides. That’s bad.

Last week I had a 5 pm training ride. They’re hard. I had lunch. Returned to my desk. Started to get ready to leave for the ride and realized, “Oh, crap. Food. I have to eat.”

That’s an external cue, bike ride!, rather than an internal one, hunger, but it didn’t matter. Intuitive eating be dammed, I need to eat. So I found a protein bar in a vending machine and off I went.

But it wasn’t enough. Three quarters way through the ride, I was rustling through my jersey pocket trying to unwrap gel blocks without either a)tipping my bike over or b)getting dropped. I managed but I stopped halfway home and ate a sports bar and then real dinner when I got home at 7.

We’ve written a lot on this blog about cycling and food. See:

Here’s some of what I’ve written:

For me biking is one of the few contexts in which eating intuitively doesn’t work at all. If I work hard I don’t feel like eating but you can’t ride a bike without food.

I blogged about my experiences in the post Hunger and Nutrition.

I wrote,

I struggle a bit with this because I’m often not hungry when I know I need to eat–during long, intense bike rides is the most common example–and at other times I’m famished even when I know there’s no need for extra calories (after long bike rides when I’m often hungry for the rest of the day and into the next one even after I’ve refueled.)

I know from experience that if I don’t eat while riding my performance suffers. It’s not just that I struggle while riding, I’m also hungry for days afterwards. By the time I get off the bike I’m eating anything and everything in sight. Often I’m still hungry the next day.

But if I eat regularly, before I’m hungry, and keep eating throughout the ride, I’m fine.

If I get the balance right not only can I ride faster, for longer, there’s no big swing in hunger associated with a long hard ride. I can have dinner that night as usual.

So I do it because I know it works even if it means setting aside my usual “eat when hungry” mantra.

If I find it tough, I think, again based on experience, my smaller cycling friends have it tougher. Food management can hugely affect cycling performance. It’s worth experimenting to find what works.


I’m not sure what’s caused the missing meals thing with me. I’ve got some guesses related to medication I’m taking. The experience has been a bit of an eye opener about intuitive eating If my hunger cues are so radically different when presumably my energy needs are about the same, hunger might not be such a reliable guide. Indeed, regulating hunger and appetite turns out to be something the body isn’t very good at and many people think these hormones (not a relapse to old ways and bad habits) are a big part of the explanation of weight regain.

The good news is that I might even be able to run in the morning. See here for why I haven’t been able to in the past.


boxing · Guest Post · training

Part 2: The Fight (Guest Post)

Last week, Rebecca Kukla wrote about her prep for her first officially sanctioned boxing match. See “Part 1: Getting ready for my first sanctioned boxing match.” That left lots of us on the edge of our seats, wondering what happened! Well here’s part two. Enjoy!

by Rebecca Kukla

Dan arrived the morning of the fight, which was a very good thing, as I wasn’t allowed to do any working out other than stretching that day and I was far too nervous and uncomfortable from dehydration to do anything else. We spent a few hours hanging out and catching up and trying to help me unwind. Finally, that afternoon, we headed over to Gleason’s for the big event.

I knew, vaguely, that the event was a benefit for something that had sounded benefit-worthy, and also – very unusually – that all the boxers that night would be women. I did not understand that it would be a gala, with piles of fancy food and pass-around amuse-bouches and free foofy drinks. The event was a benefit for Save a Sato, which rescues street dogs in Puerto Rico. This was a group I was very happy to be supporting, but it was heavily gendered as well, as animal rescue organizations tend to be. So the gendering of the space was complex: there were a few of us boxers roaming around nearly-naked, getting ready to be as violent as we were able; there were ever-growing crowds of high-society women in evening gowns and expensive jewelry; there were a handful of fully-clothed down-to-earth dog-type women from the foundation itself; and finally there were a small minority of men, most of whom worked for the gym or were trainers or partners.

I felt acutely self-conscious as well as overwhelmed by the noise and the party atmosphere, not to mention very hungry and thirsty. I was desperate for the weigh-in and the medical exam to be over with so that I could eat and drink (though I’d be on Powerade and energy bars, not champagne and shrimp-and-coconut toasts with sprigs of fennel). Dan and I claimed a small corner of the back of the gym with a well-worn little ring and a single chair, where I tried to hide and wait for my trainer, Delvin Tyler, to arrive from DC. I needed his advice, his reassurance, his help warming up, and his paperwork, without which I could not fight.

We claimed the space successfully, but hiding was impossible. Every time I started to warm up, photographers swarmed me and popped flashes in my face, intensifying my self-consciousness and my impostor syndrome. At one point I was pulled over for a photo session with my opponent in front of a sign reading ‘No Ordinary Girls’ – the official name of the event. Debbie proved to be a fast-talking firecracker with a heavy New York accent who weighed in at 97.5 pounds and was completely adorable. Another thing I hadn’t realized was that Debbie was fighting for the ‘home team,’ representing the charity and wearing its shirt. She was also at her home gym. This was not good as far as crowd and judge sympathy went. I was desperate for Delvin to show up.

But when he did, the whole thing became a comedy of errors. Debbie had been presented to us as having one fight behind her, a loss, but we found out last-minute that her actual record was 2-2; this was not a fight that Delvin would even have let me accept if he had known. I had the wrong boxer’s passbook – I need a masters’ book (since I am over 35), not a regular one. One of the glitches I can’t even put in this blog post as it was patched up under a seal of secrecy. Delvin’s coaching papers were nowhere to be found and the computer listed his status as expired even though he had renewed it in person just for this purpose. I had non-regulation body jewelry that I had to remove, including one gauged tragus piercing that no one could get off: not the doctor, trying a variety of tools, not Delvin or Dan, neither of Delvin’s two other boxers who had showed up to watch and support us, and not even any of the random pierced partygoers who I approached for help. Each of these roadblocks seemed like it was about to keep me out of the ring altogether, and I was near tears. The staff was infuriated with me for all the glitches. A passbook for me was jammed together with a bunch of sticking tape last minute, as was my ear.

Sonya "The Scholar" Lamonakis, punching in a boxing match. Opponent up against the ropes.
Sonya “The Scholar” Lamonakis, in the pink.
In a dramatic development, we found out that Delvin would not be allowed to officially coach me because of the paperwork snafu; instead I would be coached by Sonya ‘The Scholar’ Lamonakis, the 5’7”, 220-pound Harlem public school teacher who was the reigning Women’s Heavyweight Champion of the World. I shit you not. The new plan was for Delvin to sit behind her and pass messages to her that she could convey to me during the fight, but I wasn’t allowed to turn around and look at him or anyone else who wasn’t officially in my corner (who knew?). I thought that Sonya was just going to coach me as a mere formality, but as soon this arrangement was settled, she jumped in full-throttle. She grabbed the mitts and finished my warm-up with me, grudgingly telling Delvin through her irritation that I was ‘well trained’ (ha! score one Delvin and score one me). She also proved to be a dead-serious and deeply skilled advocate for me once I got in the ring. I am a little bit in love with her.

In yet another narrative twist, I found out just before getting into the ring that I could not use the 10-ounce gloves I had picked and trained with. As a geriatric fighter, I had to use the gym’s giant 16-ounce gloves that were basically pillows the size of my head. I was not used to them at all, they slowed me down, and I had no ability to judge what counted as an opening with them on. This also did not bode well.

The evening wore on and fell increasingly behind schedule. Strange events I could hardly process occurred, such as a flaming jump rope demonstration, an auction, and some sort of synchronized boxing show involving women in matching outfits. I hid in my corner. At long last I was weighed, examined, wrapped, head-geared, mouth-guarded, giant-gloved, and it was time to fight. Mine was the first bout.

the fight captured over webcam. Rebecca punching Debbie, Debbie back to the ropes.
The fight, captured over webcam.
Frankly, during the fight I was in an altered state of consciousness and I hardly remember it. It was a three-round bout. Almost everyone was screaming for Debbie, though I could hear my little team calling my name. I came out slower than I would have liked, overwhelmed by the giant gloves and the noise, but by the end of the round I felt like I was controlling the ring and had Debbie on the run. She punched more than I did, but her punches glanced off me, and mine felt more precise. Looking at the video now I realize it was an aggressive round but I couldn’t tell that at the time. I also couldn’t tell at all whether I was leading or losing. During the break, Sonya told me to be more aggressive, that I was more powerful and shouldn’t let her out or back off. I heard Delvin and Dan and my boxing friend Shannon shouting the same from behind me, though I couldn’t look at them. I obliged and gave it all I had in round two, and I dominated the round, chasing Debbie to the ropes repeatedly and plunging through her punches and going for her body. When I made it back to my corner, Sonya told me I had won round two, that round one was up for grabs, and that I needed round three to win. Unfortunately by round three I was mentally exhausted and somehow tied myself in knots over the double knowledge that a win was both within reach and by no means a given. I started thinking too hard and slowed down just when I shouldn’t have. The round was still close, but Debbie definitely had the edge.

In the end they called the fight for Debbie, although it was as close to a tie as could be. I strode across the ring to congratulate her, and apparently I looked so intense that her coach thought I was coming over to beat someone up and rushed out to stop me. But honestly, I was (and am) delighted to have nearly tied and won one round solidly against a fighter with so much more ring experience, and given the crowd an enjoyable fight. And I certainly did that! I have to say, tiny and middle-aged and intensely aggressive, Debbie and I were big crowd-pleasers.

Debbie’s coach trying to stop me from what he thought was my imminent attack post fight. I was actually coming over to congratulate her!
A lot of people from both sides seemed surprised that they had called the fight for Debbie; their sense was that I had won the first two rounds and lost the third. I am not sure if this is right. To me, the fight looks like a dead tie, and I really do understand that if it was a tie or even quite close, it made sense to call it for the person who represented the charity and the gym. Or maybe she won fair and square by a narrow margin. I am not sure and don’t care much; I held my own against a five-time fighter in a disorienting crowd after a chaotic day. I am intensely proud and happy with how I did. And she’s already asked for a rematch in November, and I intend to beat her unequivocally then!

I honestly don’t remember getting out of the ring or back to my corner, or who removed my gear. My son (who also boxes) called from Florida, where he’s spending his school vacation with his dad, to congratulate me and tell me what I’d done wrong – he’d watched on the live webcam. I felt fine and energized until about ten minutes after the fight ended, when I suddenly realized I was about to throw up and pass out. I lay down on the floor trying not to submit. Just then Debbie came over and we had a fantastic bond over how much fun we’d had and how close the match had been, and that pulled me back to consciousness.

Lying on the floor because I had to.
Lying on the floor because I had to.

Rebecca with her trainer Devlin, looking relaxed and happy post-fight.
Me and my wonderful trainer, Delvin Tyler, finally relaxing post-fight.
My little team lingered at the gym until everything was shutting down, and then headed out for (more) celebratory drinks. Over the course of the evening, as we had more alcohol, Delvin’s take on the fight progressed from “I think it was close to a tie, but you maybe should have won,” to “WE GOT ROBBED!!!” shouted loudly and repeatedly in a bar under the Brooklyn Bridge. I don’t think anyone got robbed. But I am so grateful for Delvin’s enthusiastic and generous support, not to mention his incredibly skillful training, which got me within ten months to the point where I could get in the ring against a fighter with a decade of experience and make it through with pride.

Post fight: Rebecca with her trainer, Delvin, and her partner, Dan. Dan in a white suit, knows how to dress for a boxing match.
Me, Delvin, and Dan post-fight. Dan knows how to dress for a boxing match!
On the train home the next morning at dawn, I noticed I had a small but dark bruise over my left eye. I don’t remember when I got it; I didn’t feel any of the punches that landed on me at all. I heal fast, and I was sad to notice that the bruise was gone three days later. It’s almost like none of it really happened.

Watch the fight here:

athletes · cycling · dogs · running · swimming · triathalon

My taking it easy weekday triathlon

My plan had been to do a mini triathlon on the weekend. Do all three activities with very long breaks in between.

Two weekends ago I rode the MEC Century. Last weekend the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon.

Now this weekend was gong to be the ice cream run but I decided to give it a miss. There’s also a weekend long heat advisory but that’s not the whole story about ditching the ice cream run. See here for that.

Instead, I decided to make it a triathlon weekend by getting in one bike, one run, and one swim.

Part 1, Saturday morning: Bike 60 km with Jeff and Jacquie

That was actually our Plan B. Plan A was riding with our local cycling club. But their long ride was 170 km, and their short ride was 110.

And here’s what the weather looked like.



Heat advisory: Temperatures will peak in the 30 to 32 degree range today and Sunday. Tonight will be a very warm night with overnight minimum temperatures in the 20 to 23 degree range. Humidex values will be near 40 during the afternoon hours today and Sunday…

Heat warning: A heat warning has been issued for a swath of southern Ontario from Windsor to York Region as the hottest weekend in three years is expected. Intense heat may trigger strong storms.

Heat and humidity is a guarantee this weekend across southern Ontario and Quebec, with Sunday poised to be the most oppressive day as temperatures reach the 30s while Humidex values approach ridiculous.

In light of all that we decided on a short ride, just 60 km total with our friend Jacquie.

And even though it was an oppressively hot day, I got three personal bests on Strava. Also had a great time catching up with Jacquie.

Part B: Run 5 km in the neighborhood. Fine. Stinky hot Sunday but I did it.

Part C: Swim in the quarry at St Mary’s

That never happened thanks to the loud, wet, wild, and windy thunderstorms that typically follow hot humid weather here. Action plan, weekend triathlon, aborted.

Monday morning I was feeling a bit dispirited by the whole thing. Less riding and running than of planned thanks to heat and no swimming thanks to thunder and lightning. Bah.

But I realized it was still doable.

Instead, I had a taking it easy, weekday triathlon.

I started with dog jogging with Cheddar. I’m trying to teach him to run with me following the advice of our guest blogger here. We got about 3 km of mostly jogging. That was Part A.


Then my bike commute to work on my cross bike. I don’t race on the bike path but I went pretty fast anyway thanks to being late for a meeting. That’s Part B.


And Part C, swimming with Nat and friends! Hi Nat, hi Terry, hi Bev, hi Phyllis!

Thames Pool

An everyday triathlon, in the wrong order, with very long transitions!

racing · running

The cost of races, or the ice cream 5 km that wasn’t (for Sam anyway)


One of the things runners always say in running’s favour is that it’s cheap and easy. Unlike cycling, there’s no expensive bike required. Unlike swimming, it needn’t be the exact right temperature and you don’t have to have access to a pool or a body of water.

Just running shoes and some suitable clothes and off you go.

Or in my case add Garmin running watch, running hat, iPod, and fancy socks. But that’s just me, being princess-y, as Nat might say.

So I’m good with the line that running is cheap and easy. But racing? Racing is not. I’m often shocked at the price of running events. After all, it’s not like they take very long. The range for a local 5 km fun race is probably 20-40 minutes. That’s barely the time it takes to watch ads and trailers before a movie.

But they’re not cheap.

I said that if my knee wasn’t bothering me after Kincardine which was 6 km of running that I might do a local race or two this summer to focus my attention on speed. Mallory said she might even do it with me.

In the end I decided not to. Here’s my status update from Facebook this weekend, “So I was going to do the ice cream 5 km on Sunday but it’s $40 and while it’s all you can eat ice cream, that’s a lot more than I can eat. Also, it’s not for charity. And there’s a heat advisory. So that’s a lot of money when I could run 5 km by myself earlier in the cooler part of the day and buy myself an ice cream cone later. Might have just talked myself out of it.”

Who is behind the ice cream run? It’s Run The District | I Run For Ice Cream, part of a series organized by the Western Fair. I liked the look of it. It’s nearish to my house and the races sounded fun.

Western Fair District is excited to launch a new road race series titled RUN THE DISTRICT, presented by New Balance London and Investors Group that will appeal to all ages and all abilities.

The five race series takes place throughout 2015, with each race beginning and ending in the District. The five races are tied to themes relevant to activities in the District, in hopes of expanding the District’s sports entertainment products and develop new running opportunities for racing enthusiasts or those just looking to have some fun in London and surrounding communities.

The Run the District Race Series is designed to be fun, entertaining and encourage sports and fitness in the communities the District serves. Each race will provide food, prizes and a chance to be entertained.

Men will have the opportunity to participate in four races, while the ladies will have five races. Fun Runs are available at select dates.

To be clear, this isn’t a complaint that private companies are running races. Go for it! More power to you! I did the Warrior Dash and loved it. I’ve ridden more than my fair share of pricey Gran Fondo rides. But this doesn’t feel worth it.

And this isn’t a complaint against people who made a different decision, presented with the same facts.

It’s also not about the all you can eat ice cream. That didn’t even register since I can’t ever eat more than one ice cream cone. I love ice cream. It’s one of my favourite summer foods but it’s also one of those foods that has its own limit built it. I feel done after a small cone.

And I’m not worried as many people are about the Colour Runs, that this was trying pass itself off as a charity run. It’s not and they’re clear about that. See Nat’s post Philanthropy and Fitness about doing your background work before running for a cause.

This is me being frugal, thinking about cost and about accessibility and about value for money.

I started to wonder too about how odd it sounded to me to say that a race was too pricey. It’s not as if I don’t have the money. But we all have to make choices. For some people though those choices are more serious than others. We don’t do anyone any favours by keeping quiet about cost and finances. So in light of that, I hereby resolve to talk more openly about money and about how the fun things we do that we talk about on the blog cost. Money matters to lots of people and to not mention it is to participate in a weird kind of income/class privilege. So when I’m blogging about triathlons and Gran Fondos etc, I’ll talk price. Not sure I’m quite ready to talk about bike costs. Baby steps!

To that end, let me give a huge shout out to MEC for their local race series: “We are hosting five inexpensive running races at different locations throughout London’s beautiful park system. The MEC Race Series is designed to keep costs low for runners in our community. A registration fee of $15 gets you a measured and certified route, professionally-timed results and fun times at the finish line! Custom medals will be awarded to top finishers in each category. This year we have two half marathons in both Road and Trail options!” You had the option of doing all 5 races for $60.

No colours, no costumes, no mud, no ice cream, just your standard issue vanilla race. And that’s okay with me.  (See my past musing on trends in racing, Mud, zombies, and brightly coloured dye: Are the days of the vanilla 5 km over?)

I think come Halloween I’ll do the MEC race. See you there!

And I’m curious, what’s the most you’ll pay for  5 km race?


Weekends with Womack

Bibs vs. bike shorts for women: no contest, the bibs have it

This week I got my newest bibs in the mail and tried them out.

No, I don’t mean these.


I mean something like these:


In nature, with a person in them (in this case, me) complete with jersey, helmet and bike, they look like this:


Many readers of this blog who are cyclists or triathletes no doubt already own cycling shorts. And if you ride a bike often but haven’t taken the spandex plunge, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Wearing spandex shorts makes cycling so much more comfortable in lots of ways. They provide coverage and a smooth and tight fit without seams, chafing, flapping, etc. And of course the chamois inside provides a bit (but not too much) padding to make extended saddle time comfortable.

Well, if you liked cycling shorts, you’ll love bib shorts. I bought my first pair a couple of years ago and almost never wear my regular cycling shorts anymore.

Why, you might ask?

On principle of not reinventing the wheel here, another cyclist blogger has already made the general case for bib shorts here.  However, my favorite reasons for wearing them are the following:

Advantage 1): They are very well-behaved and stay in place—no tugging, hitching, or pulling needed.

Advantage 2): They help provide full coverage during a ride, even if your jersey rides up or moves around, because they are higher waisted (with no waistband, just continuous fabric through the suspenders).

Advantage 3:) They feel smoother, sleeker (perhaps even a teeny bit faster), because they’re a little tighter and hold you in place. For me, bibs on the bike make me feel like a speedo does in the pool—sleek and smooth, rather than flappy or scrunched or wadded up. The fabric is taut and held in place by the suspenders, and the jersey lies flatter against it.

Advantage 4): Some bibs even come with a little radio pocket. And if you’re not busy using it to for your race radio to get tactical advice from your team manager, you can use it to stow your phone. That’s handy.

In fairness to opponents of bib shorts, though, here are some standard objections to them, along with my replies.

Objection 1): Bibs make bathroom breaks a big pain.

Reply 1): In some ways, yes—you have to take off your jersey (which may not have a full zipper, as most women’s jerseys don’t, for reasons which passeth understanding). But you get used to it, and honestly, the no-waistband feature makes them easier to get smooth when putting yourself back together.

Objection 2): Bib shorts are hotter than regular shorts because of the extra fabric for the suspenders and higher waist.

Reply 2): Honestly, when I’m cycling, I sweat a bunch anyway, so I can’t really tell that bibs are any hotter than shorts. I’ve even mountain biked in the summer in them, when one gets maximally hot, and they seem about the same. Pro cyclists wear them, and even wear an under layer beneath their jerseys, and they don’t seem to mind. So there…

Objection 3): Bibs often cost twice as much as regular cycling shorts.

Reply 3): Yep, that’s a fact. But if you’re into cycling, this shows that you’re already willing to lay down some serious money for a recreational sport. Take heart—at least cycling gear and equipment costs less than polo, Formula one/Grand Prix auto racing, and yachting. That’s something. Besides, they do go on sale—I got a deal on two pairs last week.

Objection 4): So if you like bibs so much, how do you account for all those sex-kitten photos of women wearing them topless?

Reply 4): You know, not everything is my fault. Besides, bibs don’t exploit women; stupid cheesecake photographers and misogynistic marketing people exploit women.

One last bib shorts etiquette note: if you’re likely to be photographed wearing bibs (and about to cross the finish line, triumphant), make sure to zip up your jersey first.  Don’t let this happen to you:

jersey unzipped

So readers:  do you wear bibs?  Do you hate bibs?  Do you wish all your pants had suspenders?  I’d like to know.

Sat with Nat · swimming

Swimming with friends

11709521_10155775162830113_6323445869823567017_nI’ll let you in on a little secret, I probably haven’t done lane swimming with friends in over 20 years. Sure, back in Royal Military College circa 1994, I did laps with the triathlon club under the guidance of our most awesome coach Jake. Looking back though, I’ve mostly done laps alone or with my partner Michel. I love swimming but the whole face in the water thing makes it the least social of all the cardio activities I do. Cycling can offer occasions to chat. Running, well, with running I mostly listen and try to keep my asthma at bay.

I’m a moderately competent swimmer who hasn’t had coaching or training in nearly twenty years but, as I’ve said before I love to swim! This summer the evening lane swim at my neighbourhood pool was cancelled but it turns out the pool in Old South (near Phyllis, Samantha, Mallory and Tracy) has a great swim at 8 pm every night.

I put the call out on facebook and a few friends have joined me in the evening. Some are more skilled swimmers than me and others are looking for some ideas on how to move through the water. It’s a bit weird to be offering ideas to my athletic friends but also fun because I like fostering the joy of swimming in others.

I don’t do speed work when I’m in the pool with friends, I focus on technique, drills and discussing strategies for triathlons. I especially work on feeling comfortable in the water regardless of stroke or technique. I think sometimes, for the sake of efficiency, triathlon training focuses almost exclusively on front crawl to the athlete’s detriment.  I get it. Pool time is in short supply and there’s all those other things like running, cycling and weights to do.But I remember Jake’s sage advice “Train all the strokes, you never know when you’ll need them.” He taught me that breast stroke can be a recovery stroke if you cramp, a competent side stroke can save you from the worst waves and that learning the butterfly stroke improves shoulder strength and flexibility, making you a better swimmer.

So I’ve rediscovered group swimming this season and I really like it. Samantha pointed out it is a way for all speeds and abilities to still be together and she’s right, the hanging out in the lane and encouraging each other is great. I also meet new folks as they nottice my race number on my body from last weekend or ask if they can offer some tips. There was a lovely lady named Alice who helped Bev and I out Thursday night. She really knew her stuff and helped us bring our swimming up a notch with a few key insights.

So, especially if you find swimming challenging, try it with some friends. Sure, go some times on your own, get lessons, join a training group, whatever you need to feel good and safe and maybe you want to blog about it! Right Bev?