cycling · fitness · racing · running · training

Warming up!

Everyone knows that before you make a big effort, you ought to warm up. But do we?

See Warming up for better results: “We all know that we are ‘supposed to’ warm-up. In fact, we probably all learned the importance of a warm-up during PE Class in 3rd grade. Yet, when push comes to shove, warm-up is one of the first things we cut out or cut down when workout time is limited and we’re in a rush. On the contrary, warming up is one aspect of a workout that should never be removed. No matter what your workout is, from intervals to base training, from powerlifting to table tennis, you should always have a warm-up. Warm-ups help to increase body temperature, increase heart rate, increase circulation, and increase blood flow to muscles. All of these physiological adjustments help to prevent injury and help to optimize performance.”

I confess that when I ran, I didn’t really ever warm up. That’s because when I was running 10 km, I felt like 10 km was as far as I could run. I had no extra in the tank for warm-ups. When I ran 5 km, there should have been time to warm up, but I rarely did.

Here’s a little general warm up

Luckily, as far as performance goes, it actually doesn’t make much difference for endurance events. And running, for me, was only ever about endurance.

When cycling, my best warm ups were at the velodrome where you couldn’t warm up on the track. There was too much demand for track time. Instead we warmed up on rollers in the infield. And when I was doing fast group rides outside, I counted my time riding to the start as warm up. Indeed, generally, as both a bike commuter and casual racing cyclist, I was often better warmed up than competitors because I’d ridden to the location of the race.

But when I first started riding and racing on Zwift, I wasn’t much into warming up. I’d just hope on the bike, join the event and start riding. But I discovered through trial and error that I did much better if I’d warmed up. What kind of trial and error? Well, I quit some races after getting dropped and joined others. One night I quit a team time trial (I’d done a bit and it was clearly too fast, too far to stay with the group) and joined an ITT. I won the ITT (in my category) in part because it was short and I was thoroughly warmed up.

I’ve gotten better this year at warming up before big rides and races. I’ve mostly been doing the GPLAMA Ultimate Warm Up.

Ride Report

How about you? Are you a fan of warming up?

eating · food · running

Running Fuel:  Avoiding a sour stomach and what to eat after a run

Feature photo credit: Roman Koester, via Unsplash.

Does running risk upsetting your stomach?  Do you have to treat it tenderly when you get back home to ensure you’re comfortable the rest of the day?  How do you balance your nutritional needs with that overwhelming desire to live off of starchy carbs?

Saturday, I wrote about some of the meals and foods I can enjoy for breakfast that help me feel better during my runs.  Now, I want to address the post-run meal.  I come back from my runs ready to enjoy something, but not ready to eat.  I also want to reset my gut so I can enjoy more fibrous vegetables and satisfying meals with more protein and fats than I have usually put into that day’s breakfast.  Here are the “rules” that seem to work best for me post-run to help me avoid an upset stomach and get me back into my regular eating routines.

Rule one:  Have a recovery beverage asap.  I read somewhere that dehydration can add to that sour stomach feeling, and maybe it’s a factor for me.  So, I make sure to have some water with a little juice or other sugar in it right away.  I might not be ready to eat immediately, but I find having something cold and refreshing immediately following my run really helps me to get back to feeling normal faster. I’ve put two of my favorite ways to rehydrate below.

Rule two:  Keep food easy to digest for the next few hours at least.  Cooked veggies over raw, moderate fat, some low-fat meat is fine for a protein boost. 

Rule three:  Eat when I’m hungry just until satisfied, not until full.  After a run is not a time to stuff myself, which honestly isn’t a habit of mine in any case, but I have been known to keep eating when something is really delicious.  That overfull feeling doesn’t mix well with my post-running stomach.  It’s also not a time for a rich dessert.

If I follow these guidelines, I feel mostly normal and back to my usual eating options by the time for my afternoon snack rolls around.  I keep hoping that someday I won’t need to negotiate so much with my gut before and after a run, but after years of running, I’m beginning to think that this is just how my body works.  I enjoy running enough to keep doing it, at least one day a week anyway.  But if I couldn’t find a way to work with my eating challenges, I’m not sure that would be true.  I’m happy to have found solutions that allow me to integrate running into my weekends and still feel like I’m taking care of myself nutritionally as well.

Homemade Orange Sports Drink

This is my go-to beverage after a run.  I mix it up and either keep it in the fridge ready to enjoy when I return, or if I’m running outside of my neighborhood, keep it in the car to enjoy as soon as I get back to it.

Mix together orange juice concentrate with twice the cold water recommended.

Add a dash of salt.

If you’re a meathead like me, you can put your daily creatine powder in this as well, to check off that box for the day.

Stir or shake together until fully combined.

Ginger-Apple Frothy Recovery Drink

Ginger has natural happy-tummy abilities, reducing nausea and upset stomachs.  This is a great option for days when you’re really struggling to set your stomach right.

In a blender, combine until the texture of a slushie:

Candied ginger

Apple juice (or concentrate plus water)

Ice

Maybe half a frozen banana

Pureed Vegetable Soup

Whenever I get around to lunch, I want to get back to my full serving of vegetables, since I’ve avoided them before my run.  This soup really works for me.

In a large stock pot, add 1 tablespoon of oil and 4 cups chopped carrots, onions, and celery. Frozen is fine.  Don’t bother to chop anything really finely, because you’re going to blend it all up later.

Add another 4-6 cups chopped other vegetables of your choice such as more carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, zucchini, spinach, etc.  I also like to add a red garnet yam for the sweetness.  Again, you can “cheat” and just throw in some frozen veggies, if you want to save time.

Flavor with 4-6 cloves of crushed garlic and 1-2 tbsp fresh ginger root.  If you want curried soup, also add 2 tbsp curry powder, 1 tbsp each cumin and powdered coriander, and some hot pepper (to taste).

Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until everything is very soft.  This can take an hour or so, but you don’t have to pay attention to it most of that time.  It can burn as it gets close to being done, so check on it every 5-10 minutes or so near the end and give it a good stir.

Add 8 cups of (preferably homemade) vegetable or chicken stock.

Use a stick blender to blend it all together until completely smooth.  Add salt to taste and adjust seasonings.  Allow to simmer a bit to combine flavors.

I freeze this in 1-2 cup servings and pull out one each weekend.  It makes 10-15 servings, depending on how much you eat at a time.  When it’s time for lunch, I add some shredded chicken and a dollop of Greek yogurt on top. I make it a balanced meal with some toast or a muffin on the side.

Do you have dietary “rules” you follow to help you feel good after a run?  Have a favorite post-run food?  I’d love to hear them.

Photo description: Not my soup, but someone’s lovely bright yellow-orange pureed vegetable soup with fresh herbs and pumpkin seeds garnishing the top. Photo credit: Monika Grabkowska, via Unsplash.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher.  She can be found slowly cooking vegetables on the stove, picking up heavy things, and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon.

eating · food · running

Running Fuel: What do you eat beforehand to avoid a sour stomach?

Feature photo credit: Marcos Paulo Prado, via Unsplash.

What do you eat before a run?  Does what you eat impact how you perform?  

I struggle with a sensitive stomach on running days.  If I eat the wrong things beforehand, I get a sour stomach during and/or after my runs, which can send me rushing into the bathroom repeatedly and disrupt my appetite for the rest of the day.

Based upon my own experimentation, I have found a few rules for a happy gut and a good run.  Today, I want to share what I have found works for me before a run.  I’ll post later on what I do afterwards.

My eating “rules” for the meal before my run:

Rule 1: Eat something.  I run in the morning after breakfast.  I tried running on just coffee, and my energy tanked rapidly and the run just plain felt harder.

Rule 2: Don’t eat too much fiber.  One of my B365 habits is to aim for 2 cups of fruits and fibrous vegetables at each meal, but I make an exception for breakfast before my run.  Fruit seems to agree with me more than vegetables, but even then I need to be careful.  One apple or a banana is totally fine.  A cup of berries might cross the line into unhappy tummy land.

Rule 3: Focus on easily-digested starchy carbohydrates like hot cereals, bread, or yams.  

Rule 4: Avoid too much fat.  Fat slows down our digestion, and I don’t want too much food hanging out in my digestive track during a run.  So, I aim for enough to keep me satisfied and not hungry on the run, but not so much that I feel full or heavy.  

Rule 5: Get enough easily digested protein to feel satisfied. My preferred sources at breakfast are eggs, usually mixed with egg whites, and/or plain Greek yogurt.   

I let my gut tell me when it’s time to head out.  Some thirty to sixty minutes after breakfast, I need to use the bathroom.  When that business is done, I can safely head out to do the work.

Some menus/recipes that have worked well for me:

Oatmeal with apple (I’ve shared several of my recipes here), Scrambled egg/egg white, Greek yogurt, Coffee

Roasted sweet potato (with skin), Parmesan cheese, Scrambled eggs/egg whites, Coffee

All-in-One-Bowl Oat Bran and Wheat Porridge 

  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 whole egg plus 6 Tbs. egg whites (2 large whites), or two large eggs
  2. In a microwave-safe glass measuring cup, bring to a boil (2 min. in my microwave): ½ cup soy milk (or dairy, if you prefer) plus ¾ cup water
  3. Slowly pour the hot liquid into the egg mixture, whisking the entire time.  This tempers the egg and keeps it from becoming scrambled eggs.
  4. Turn on the heat to medium under the egg mixture.  When it returns to a near boil, lower the heat and whisk in, 2 Tbs. Cream of Wheat or other wheat farina product, and 3 Tbs. oat bran.  
  5. Cook at a slow simmer stirring frequently until thick, about 4 minutes.
  6. Stir in cinnamon, 1-2 Tbs. raisins, 1 Tbs. of peanut butter, and 1 cup other fruit as desired (chopped apple, banana, peaches, etc.). Heat through.
  7. To serve, pour it all into a large bowl, plop on top ½ cup or so of plain Greek yogurt and sprinkle with a little brown sugar.

Banana Nut Pancakes

I make my own “pancake mix,” which is really just all the dry ingredients from a favorite pancake recipe, mixed together in bulk and stored in a container in my cupboard.  My absolute favorite of the moment is from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book (multigrain with buttermilk), but I have also used the Joy of Cooking Basic Pancakes recipe many times (subbing in some whole wheat flour).  

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together: 1 mashed banana, 1 whole egg, 1 Tbs peanut butter or 2 Tbs chopped nuts, ½ tsp vanilla, a shake or two of cinnamon, and enough liquid (water or milk) for one serving of pancakes (¼-⅓ cup for the recipes I use).
  2. Stir in the dry ingredient pancake mix for one serving (½ cup-ish on my recipes).  Adjust the texture as needed.
  3. Cook on a hot griddle with a tetch of butter melted on it.
  4. Serve with Greek yogurt, a little real maple syrup, and a couple eggs/scrambled egg whites.

These have been my go-tos for breakfast before my runs.  What are you eating?  If you struggle with tummy issues on your runs, what keeps you satisfied but doesn’t upset your stomach?

Photo description: A stack of pancakes and maple syrup on a fun glazed plate (with fruit designs?), a knife and fork. Photo credit: dazedream Via Unsplash

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found searching up new pancake recipes, picking up heavy things and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon.

fitness · habits · motivation · running · winter

Of streaks and inertia: Tracy’s COVID winter

Image description: Selfie of two women, Anita and Tracy (in 2019!), inside a diner, wearing hats and smiles, after a 20K Sunday run, others in the background.

The other day Anita posted one of those memories we get these days on our social media. It was from two years ago, the two of us smiling, in the diner we used to go to for breakfast after our Sunday runs. Its 2019 caption said: “The epic runs begin for the Round the Bay race. 20k, easy peasy!” And its 2021 caption said: “I can’t even imagine easy peasy 20km now. Tracy?” My reply: “No, I cannot. I am impressed with those two!”

And I am. They seem like different people, all excited to be winter running for 20K, in preparation for a late March 30K. Smiling even after the 20K. Able to go out for breakfast after. Two people from different households leaning in for an unmasked selfie. With other people in the background. Was that really just two scant years ago?

My experience, my very quiet experience, this winter has been of streaks and inertia. Both have their own quality of momentum in my life. The more I do (or do not do), the easier it is to do the same (or continue to not do) the next day.

I look outside this afternoon. The sun shines. It’s cold, but not as cold as it has been of late. I started January with a commitment to get outside for a run or a walk every day. That was one of my streaks that I hoped to keep going through the winter. But the runs soon turned to shorter runs. Then shorter runs turned to longer walks. Then longer walks became walks around the block. The streak ended before January did. And on the weekend I cancelled both a walk and a run with others (and heaven knows I could benefit from the company of others) because it was just too cold and I couldn’t face the windchill. My toes froze just thinking about it.

The Tracy who did the easy peasy 20K two years ago would be incredulous. But the less one runs 20K, the less likely it is that one will run 20K. That’s the inertia of ramping down. As I said to Cate, inertia and streaks are equally strong in their respective energies.

I am considering going out before the sun goes down today. It is in fact a little bit warmer, only -11C with the windchill, and I am after all a Canadian who has trained through many a winter. But I am also considering a nap. All of this rages on as an internal debate. I know how even just a little bit in the other direction can take me out of inertia (I have blogged about this SO MUCH, how scaling back can get me back on track, how small starts are all we [I] need). But I don’t feel like doing a short run or walk. I feel like staying inside. And in the end no one else does (or even should) care.

Counterbalancing the inertia are some divinely satisfying streaks! I have been on a meditation streak since September, meditating at least a little bit almost every day. I started the Insight Timer January Mindful Mornings challenge on January 1st, and I didn’t miss a day until yesterday, which got me thinking about streaks and how much they motivate me to do the same again. The Insight Timer app tells you after your meditation how many consecutive days you meditated. And there is something about that total that pulls me to my cushion the next day (it’s probably counter to the very idea of meditation to call it a “challenge” or a “streak,” so fixated the meditation teachers always are on just “being” in the “present moment” etc.). Still, I once had a daily meditation streak that lasted unbroken for years (I forget how many; it was a while back). I might have missed yesterday, resetting my “consecutive days” to a sad “one consecutive day” this morning. But I think I can jump right back into that because a streak’s momentum is not undermined (for me, anyway) with one little miss.

Added to my meditation streak is my yoga streak. I started 2021 with Yoga with Adriene’s Breath practice, the 30-day sequence. I didn’t miss a day, and some of those days the ONLY reason I didn’t miss a day was that I had not missed a day. Having not missed a day, it became harder to let that happen. This, to me, is the simple and elegant beauty of a streak.

And when January ended, I wanted to keep going. Why? Because I hadn’t missed a day of yoga in 2021, of course.

My other streak-ish sort of thing are my virtual Superhero workouts. I started out with the once-a-week membership. Then I increased to the three-times-a-week membership. And then I went to the unlimited membership, which gives me the option of six workouts a week. You can pretty much count on me for five a week. The idea originally was to do four a week and run on the off days, walk on the “on” days, and do yoga everyday (whatever Adriene was offering, without asking too many questions [not that there is anyone to ask]).

My COVID winter is basically me bouncing between streaks and inertia, with maybe a bit more mindful awareness of what is going on (my WOY is “mindfulness”). I’m working my way out of being totally stalled in my running. And when I am ready to bust out of it, I’ll take tiny steps in the other direction. Who knows? Maybe by the end of this winter I will have a running streak to report, letting the momentum carry me back to 10K.

How about you? Any streaks? Any inertia?

covid19 · fitness · racing · running

Virtual Races: Yes and No

Since COVID sidelined so many runners from taking part in organized events where we feed off the energy of running alongside (hundreds and sometimes thousands of) others, race organizers have had time to come up with alternative approaches. A few friends have talked about “virtual races,” where you sign up and do your own route on the appointed day. This year, the Around the Bay 30K organizers are offering a virtual race, recognizing that it’s likely a done deal that we won’t all be vaccinated by the end of March.

The virtual event will have a 5K, 10K, and 15K options as well as the full 30K. Runners who register (or who transfer their registration from last year’s cancelled event) will pick a day between March 25 and April 25 to do their chosen distance, and will be able to submit their result to be recorded on Sportstat. Information about this event and about the Around the Bay Fun Challenge (a new challenge a day for each day in January, like January 1st: “do 5 jumping jacks everytime you say or type ‘happy new year'”) can be found on the ATB website.

Different people have different feelings about virtual events. Today, we will present two perspectives. Nicole likes the idea. Tracy, not so much.

Nicole: Yes, please!

When I first heard about the Virtual Run Around the Bay, I thought “that could be a good way of increasing my mileage throughout the winter”. I also thought “that’s a definite maybe”. I already have a lot planned for the coming months, with my regular HIIT workouts, spinning at home, yoga, walking and weekly run. Plus, non-exercise things, such as a new university course I’m starting in January and the usual things such as work, books on my list to read and downtime. I love my downtime.

I am going to sign up and these are the reasons why:

  1. While I have continued running throughout the pandemic, my last long race was the half marathon I participated in, in October 2019. I did get up to 10k in the summer and part of what helped me stay on track was signing up for the virtual Run for the Cure and setting a personal commitment of 10K, even though the Run for the Cure is 5k. That’s because I already run 5k on a regular basis and if I am going to sign up for a cause, I feel it should be more of a challenge than the every day routines.
  1. I signed up for the Run Around the Bay 10 years ago. I signed up just before I met someone and started a romantic relationship that lasted about 4 months. I let my training slide, partly because it was a very messy, cold, winter, and partly, because I was preoccupied with the new relationship. That new relationship ended really badly and I would have been better off focussing on training for the Race! Needless to say, I didn’t run it that year and that’s the only Race I’ve everysigned up for that I haven’t completed.
  2. I don’t drive anymore and I don’t have a car. Sure, I can ask my husband, who I affectionately call Uber Gavin, to drive me to Hamilton, when the Race is back to real life, but I like that idea that I can run the distance of the Run Around the Bay, without having to go to Hamilton (from Toronto). Might seem silly, but that’s a factor 🙂
  3. I like the flexibility that will be allowed by a virtual Race. It can get really messy in January and February, which can impede longer runs. Also, it’s a bit late already to start training for 30k for March 25th. So, I’m going to pick April 25th and commit to completing the 30k race by April 25th.
  4. Unlike Tracy, I don’t love the crowd aspect of a race. I enjoy the in-between part, when runners are more spread apart. There is definitely incentive, adrenaline and camaraderie that is gained from running with a group. But I don’t enjoy the before or after part when there are large crowds. I’m a bit crowd-adverse. I don’t enjoy the chatter at the beginning from others talking about how well they think they are going to do. I liken it to chatter before an exam. Happy to do without it. I will sign up for an in-person race when I can, because I enjoy the in-between part and the finish, but I will also appreciate the solitary race. I run mostly by myself and I enjoy running by myself for the active meditation it provides me.
Nicole finishing her first marathon at the Toronto Marathon “awhile back”.

Tracy: No thanks

Image description: Batman on left, Tracy on right, both smiling under a blue sky, at the Around the Bay 30K in 2015.

First, let me be clear that this isn’t actually a hard “no.” But the idea of a virtual event just doesn’t move me. What I love most about actual events like Around the Bay is the race day energy. I mean, I guess we can run 30K whenever and wherever we like if we’ve trained for it. But doing it with 9000 other people is so much fun and impossible to replicate. I did the ATB 30K in 2015 and 2019, and the two-person relay in 2018. (Reports here, here, and here).

When you’re struggling up a hill, someone else is struggling up the same hill just ahead of you. You get to fall into pace with similarly paced runners, and it’s a comfort to see them just up ahead, taking turns overtaking each other and then dropping back, or even pacing alongside for periods of time. You develop a bit of camaraderie with those people who were strangers at the beginning of the race.

Also, when you do the event with someone with whom you’ve trained, like Julie (2015) and Anita (2018), you’re in for a nice long chat if you decide to run together for most of the race. And then of course there is the post-event feeling of individual and collective satisfaction, of having all endured the same thing — those knowing looks exchanged as you try to stretch seized up legs or eat that green banana (I often don’t get to the food before the only remaining bananas are green lol).

A virtual race won’t do that. And though I do like to challenge myself to exceed my previous time, I don’t think I’d be able to stay motivated for 30K without the energy of others, even the bystanders offering encouraging words or holding up inspirational signs.

At the same time, I do recognize that race day is just one day, and that it is motivating to have an event to train for. My Around the Bay experiences were themselves really satisfying, and it’s unlikely that I would have trained as consistently with that level of dedication if I hadn’t had the spectre of a 30K event pushing me to do so. Knowing myself, I can’t see a virtual event inspiring the same sort of commitment for me. It might be different for someone who has a training partner or small running group. But through COVID I have taken to running on my own again, so that’s not my situation at present.

While for me a virtual event has little allure, I am looking forward to signing up for an in person something — probably 10K — as soon as we are able to do that again. I love race day. I miss race day. I hold out hope that there will be a race day for me in 2021.

Question for you: does a virtual race appeal to you or not? Let us know in the comments, including your “why.” 🙂

family · fitness · kids and exercise · running

Running with baby!

My partner and I bought ourselves two things for Christmas this year: a hoover (vacuum) robot and a running/bike trailer to take the little human on sporty adventures with us. So on Boxing Day, we ventured out for our first run as three, which was also my first run since I was 28 weeks pregnant. It was So! Much! Fun!, even though I’m very much out of shape. No regrets on spending our hard earned euros on this new plaything! The small human enjoyed it too, or at least he didn’t complain and even fell asleep.

Bettina in running gear with a three-wheel running stroller and a snugly-dressed baby in it (no photos of baby’s face on the interwebs, sorry!).

Hooray for getting my identity as a runner back, and for making the little one part of it!

Book Reviews · fitness · running

Really moving on past running, Sam gave the books away.

I’m an academic and a voracious reader. You can tell very easily what my interests are at a given time by what I’m reading about. I like to know a lot about the things I do. I’m often puzzled by people who aren’t curious in this way.

It’s not quite true any more that each new passion begins with a trip to the bookstore. There’s the internet after all. But at some point, I start buying books.

Oh you can follow/friend/whatever me over at GoodReads.

Sam’s mostly fiction, non work related, reading

But equally, when passions fade and life stages change, I don’t want these books taking up space on my shelves. For years I co-taught a course on progressive themes in Christian theology to my church congregation. When I stopped I donated the books to our church library.

Ditto all the books on parenting small children. Ditto all the books on pregnancy and childbirth. All donated to places where they might come in use.

In my new neighborhood in Guelph there are three or four small curbside “libraries.” Some people call them “free libraries” but I’m not sure why. Regular libraries are also free. I think of them more as places to give books away. Near me the book giveaway boxes hold everything from gardening books and contemporary mysteries to old textbooks and yet more copies of 50 Shades of Grey.

I recently added to their collections, with my old running books.

I started running in my late 30s. It never really suited me but I loved it. I went from 5 km to 10 km to aiming for 20 km. I got speedy, it’s true. But I also had two stress fractures.

In my forties and in my run up to fittest by fifty, I kept distances short. I ran playing soccer. I sprinted at CrossFit. And I ran doing short distance duathlons.

Now I’m waiting for total knee replacement surgery for both knees eventually, one more urgent than the other. I won’t run again unless I’m being chased by a bear or exiting a burning building. There’s no need to train for that and so away go the inspirational books.

If you live in Guelph’s Old University neighborhood you can find the three great books in our book giveaway boxes. I liked them all.

And I’m hoping some new beginning runner or triathlete gives them a read, puts on her running shoes, and is inspired to give it a go.

Slow Fat Triathlete: Live Your Athletic Dreams in the Body You Have Now

Slow Fat Triathlete: Live Your Athletic Dreams in the Body You Have Now:  Williams, Jayne: 9781569244678: Books - Amazon.ca

The Courage To Start: A Guide To Running for Your Life

Cover art

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances (The Oatmeal Book 5)

Beat The Blerch
Beat the Blerch!

Enjoy!

fitness · motivation · running · training · winter

Winter running has begun!

Image description: Headshot of Tracy, smiling, droplets of melted snow on face, frost on her headband (a paisley Buff), smiling, grey running jacket with melted snow visible, empty streetview of an intersection and a red brick building in the background.

Winter running! Just the other day I posted in my 220 in 2020 group that I have officially become a “fairweather runner” because I skipped a Sunday run a couple of weeks ago. Susan chimed in and said, “because it was a hurricane!” Well, maybe not quite a hurricane, but the winds were gusting up to 90 km an hour and it was pouring rain. Not many people would want to venture out in that.

Fast forward a week, and it was a mild 1 degree C and snowing on Sunday morning. This time I actually felt eager to get out there. It was almost perfect, easy to dress right (early winter tights, a short-sleeved t-shirt, a buff to keep my ears protected and my head from getting wet, and a windproof/waterproof running jacket), and it felt somehow inviting. If it’s going to be cold, I’d rather have cold and snow than cold and rain. Plus I’d rather run in light snow than in blazing sun on a hot and humid day (yes, I’m Canadian :)).

Lots of people complain about winter running. I’ve blogged about it before. See my old old post “Gearing up for Winter Running” where, 8 years ago I was trying to figure my gear for my first season of winter running. I also used to feel fearful about it (see “Getting over the fear of winter running”). Sometimes I’ve had to brace myself for it. Sometimes I’ve hit a wall with winter running. It has its pitfalls. Like it can be icy, which is a hazard. Sunday wasn’t at all icy, though some slush had started to accumulate by the time I was well past the halfway point. It was mild enough that the pathway stayed reasonably clear. That’s not always the case. I’ve run through heavy snow before and it is not fun when there is no clear path and you’re wading through snow or taking risks on the road (I do not like doing that but I have done it).

Winter running can also be dark if you run in the early morning or after your work day. Pandemic life means I can get around that this year by going for more lunch time runs. In fact, I have a pact with a friend in another city in which we run “together” at lunch time a couple of times a week. That just means we text each other before we leave and check in about how it went after we’re back. Running buddies can really help with getting out the door in less than ideal weather, even when they’re somewhere else.

This year I didn’t have to brace myself for winter running. That’s because the first real winter run that I did landed on a temperate day with a little bit of snow. I bailed once the week before, where at Tuesday lunchtime it seemed like a blizzard. My pact friend and I decided to go for a walk instead that day, and once we were each out the door we called and had a phone call, walking and chatting with each other instead of running (it’s good to have a back-up plan for when you just can’t even). Compared to that day, my Sunday snowy run felt absolutely lovely. And we’re in the early days of winter right now, so I haven’t hit the wall. That said, I probably won’t force myself out into the kind of weather that would make me hit a winter running wall if I ran in it regularly. And I’ve had winters where, because I was training for a particular event, I couldn’t afford to skip a long Sunday run just because there was a blizzard. This year, I can cozy up with a cup of tea and watch the weather rage if that’s what I’d rather do.

That must be why I look so happy in the pic I’ve used in this post. This year, I get to go out in the winter weather that makes me feel good, not like I’m battling my way forward with each precarious step. And if I don’t feel like it, I’ll do something else instead.

How do you feel about winter running?

nature · running

Inching My Way Back to Canada On A Spin Bike

I finally made the big decision. Put the Bowflex C6 in my shopping cart. Cate’s given raves how this spin bike is her new best friend. And even though it won’t arrive for 3 months, I’m ready to commit. Montreal winter won’t be over three months from now, nor will pandemic restrictions (or in any event, I don’t see myself going to an indoor spin class for quite some time. 2022?). I put in my new Montreal shipping address and ticked the box confirming that it was not the same as my billing address.  Which, it turned out a moment later, I could not even enter. Only Canadian billing addresses allowed. I only have US credit cards. It turns out the much-vaunted global economy does not include the Bowflex.

So, my partner and I dipped our toes another inch into the Montreal waters and applied for a credit card. We’ve been baby stepping our way toward making this city our new home. We started with the Bixi membership (Montreal’s shared bike system). Moved onto membership in the loyalty program at the pet store. There was an Opus card for the metro system on a rainy day I couldn’t Bixi. Some serious winter running gear, for the more northerly clime. Then a new Canadian bank account, so we could use Interac. I was tired of having to sign credit card receipts for my two-dollar, half-baguette purchase at the boulangerie. The first time I tapped my Canadian debit card was a moment of outsized excitement. I belong!    

New York City has been my much-loved home for the last 27 years. I’ve lived in the same apartment for 25 of those years. Yet, I’ve been feeling itchy for Canada and specifically Montreal. I’m a London, Ontario girl by upbringing. But Montreal stole my heart while I was here doing my undergraduate degree at McGill. Ever since, the city has occupied a corner of my spirit, waving at me from time to time. In September, my partner and I decided to come for a few months, which is looking like it will turn out to be a lot more than that.

Suddenly, the Bowflex C6 isn’t just a spin bike. It will be another little root we are putting down in Montreal. My next rootlet will be a plug-in kettle, because my kettle in NYC is for a gas cooktop and our new stove will be induction. Did I mention that we are also in the process of buying a place to live?

Massive tree roots
NIharika Bandaru on Unsplash

Nothing feels final. Yet. My head and heart are a perfect storm of seemingly contradictory emotions. Grief at leaving friends, my home, my city. Excitement, even exuberance at the prospect of moving to Montreal. Also, there’s a feeling of coming home that has taken me by surprise. One day I was trying to describe it to someone and started crying. I keep thinking of the robot in one of Douglas Adams’ books (not The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, maybe the Dirk Gently, can someone tell me??). The poor robot’s circuits melt down, trying to hold contradictory thoughts in its head—a characteristic that Adams’ points out is so very human.

At first, I wanted to rationalize the grief away. Diminish NYC’s allure and charms, as a way to justify my decision and ease the pain. As if loving the city, my longtime home and my absolutely wonderful friends (!) could not coexist with my desire for a new horizon. I am learning to hold the seemingly contradictory emotions of grief and joy separate and together. There is no contradiction, just coexistence.

What keeps me from spiraling out of control in the midst of the emotional swirl (never mind all the logistics) is moving my body. No matter how turbulent I feel when I set out for a run (or one of my Bixi Queen workouts that I wrote about last month), by the time I’m home, I feel the glow of adventure; a grounded lightness, a shimmer of yes-ness. Sweat is so clarifying. While I never experience quite the same effect from indoor workouts, I’m quite sure that I’ll be super glad for the Bowflex when it finally arrives. And if it turns out that the pandemic is totally eradicated by March or next winter, well I’ll still be happy for the workout flexibility and for the Canadian credit card I needed to buy the spin bike. Each little rootlet supports my new life.

I’m not tearing up roots. I’m extending my roots. With every run on Mont Royal, I feel the tendrils of my nervous system absorbing the new nutrients, feeding my spirit and smoothing my circuits.  

fitness · racing · running

Hit any milestones lately? Tracy’s 8th running anniversary

Some people find Facebook’s memories thing to be annoying (and sometimes I do too when it reminds me of things that make me sad). But I like it when it reminds me of things that made me feel good. Like yesterday, when an eight year-old memory came up of my very first running event ever: a 5K with Sam and Tara, with race bibs but no timing chips (I finished in roughly 36 minutes), in support of the Learning Disabilities Association of London Ontario. Here are Sam and I on race day:

Image description: Two waist up shots of Sam on left, Tracy on right, both smiling short-haired women in plan t-shirts, tent canopy in background; left photo they are front facing, right photo is of their backs, face turned towards camera, balloons in the background, race bibs visible.

It’s hard to believe that was eight years ago–two years before our 50th birthday. I can hardly recall when 5K intimidated me. But on that day I was nervous and excited to be doing an official event for the first time ever. I had no idea what to expect, and 5K was probably the furthest distance I ran in my regular training. Since then, I’ve done so many different running events I can’t even count them all, from 10Ks to half marathons and even the Around the Bay 30K a couple of times and one actual marathon (no more of that for me!). Less than two years after that first 5K, I had completed five or six triathlons, including two Olympic distance events, for Sam and my “fittest by 50” challenge.

Now, after a lengthy Achilles injury (now resolved) and the COVID pandemic (ongoing, as you already know), I’m not training for anything in particular. My last official event was the Around the Bay 30K in March 2019, when apparently I felt strong but just days later I experienced debilitating back pain and then when that resolved my Achilles forced me to back off of running for about a year. Truth be told, I’m not even sure I could do 5K in 36 minutes right now (maybe later today I’ll actually see if I can!). But it doesn’t matter.

During the eight years between then and now I also came to love running with people. But I haven’t done that in ages because of the injury and then the pandemic. I know lots of folks who run in packs still, including my old crew, but I’ve taken to running alone again. It lets me not have to be as scheduled (which right now I like) and I listen to audiobooks at least as often if not more than I listen to music.

I’ve considered getting back to training (with speed work even), this time with the 10K distance in mind. I’m not sure when though. I have started to think about whether I have any pre-60 year birthday fitness goals. I’ve got just under four years to reach them. If I start working with a coach again maybe, just maybe, I can realistically aspire to a 60-minute 10K (that’s high ambition for me!). But do I want that? Not sure.

When I look back at that photo of Sam and me I feel as if I am looking at a different version of myself. Tentative and a bit embarrassed about calling myself a runner at all, too insecure about how slow I was to feel I had a right to establish actual goals. But the more kilometres I racked up, the more comfortable I became in my shoes, at my pace, keeping my stride and not needing to prove myself to anyone. That’s what makes me hesitant about training for something instead of just sticking to the rhythm and routine of running for enjoyment that’s evolved over the past 18 months or so. At the same time, I’ve learned too, through our fittest by 50 challenge and just generally by making activity a part of my daily life, that having a goal can motivate me, and training to meet it increases my fitness and makes me feel energized and confident.

Whatever I decide to do with my running, I love that this memory prompted me to think back on eight years of pavement under my feet.

I’d love to hear about your latest fitness milestone. Congrats to you and please tell us about it in the comments.