motivation · running

Petty makes me fast: A runner’s confession (Guest post)

by an anonymous academic runner

“Just a tiny brag. I ran a tempo run at a 5:33 pace last night, which is waaaaaay faster than I’ve ever done. 3.01km in 16:39. It felt so good to move that fast.

It felt good too because I was running right alongside the two very young statisticians, one of whom is nice enough and the other of whom is nice enough but very very annoying and loud in the vein of Dora the Explorer and said to me, after she asked what I researched and I replied “social media,” “Oh you mean NARCISSISM” and so I won’t let that woman run faster than me if it kills me even if she is 20 years younger than me.

Petty makes me fast.”

fitness · running

Do you run in the rain?

Image description: Wet concrete ground with reflection of rail, some leaves, and Tracy's feet in running shoes.
Image description: Wet concrete ground with reflection of rail, some leaves, and Tracy’s feet in running shoes.

On Friday morning I had a dilemma. I was in Chicago, which is a great running city. But it was raining, and not just a little bit. I considered my three options: 1. skip it; 2. run on the treadmill; 3. go out in the rain anyway.

I had no intention of skipping my run. After a day in the car on Thursday, my body wanted to move. So option #1 was off the table. Treadmills are for the worst winter weather and it’s not winter. So that ruled out option #2. Besides that, I’m feeling really motivated with the 10K training these days and I didn’t want to miss my tempo run or slog it out on the treadmill.  So I head out.

At the beginning, it wasn’t raining all that hard. Just a little misty drizzle, really. It was kind of cool, which felt so good. I usually associate summer running in Chicago with heat and humidity. It was a pleasant change, actually, to run in the cooler wet weather.

But at about the half way point the gentle drizzle turned a bit harder. There were very few people out even before that. As I turned onto the lake shore pathway, it started to pour. But I was determined to do my tempo run and maintain the pace as best as I could despite the rain. When I turned around at the halfway point, I discovered I had been running in a tail wind. Conditions got a bit more unpleasant at that stage, but there wasn’t a lot I could do about it.

Image description: rainy day with low mist, tall buildings in background, concrete lakeside path with painted lines, lake on the right with sailboats on moorings.
Image description: rainy day with low mist, tall buildings in background, concrete lakeside path with painted lines, lake on the right with sailboats on moorings.

By then I was soaked right through. But I felt really good because it was pretty temperate, and the rain kept me from over heating. On my way back up Michigan Avenue towards the hotel, I stopped in at Starbucks to get a soy latte. That’s when it became really clear that I was totally wet from head to toes. I stood in line dripping in my running gear while everyone else was all dressed for work, picking up their coffee on the way.

When I got my latte, it was still raining really hard, but by then it didn’t matter anymore. So I just took a few sips so I wouldn’t lose any on the way back, headed outside, and ran back to the hotel (the Omni). Both times I went running on the weekend, I was offered a cold bottle of water when I walked in the front door. And on the rainy day, I was also handed a nice fresh towel so I could dry myself off.

I’m really glad I decided to go for it and not skip my run or do the treadmill. It’s a good reminder that when the temperatures are reasonable and it’s not an electrical storm, running in the rain is kind of pleasant.

Do you run in the rain?


Sam misses running and sometimes even cries about it

Pride Run selfie of Sam, Sarah, and Susan. June 2017. Also, Sam’s last ever 5 km running event.

On the blog, we often simplify things. We say Tracy is the runner and I’m the cyclist. That’s mostly true except Tracy is back to commuting by bike for fun and convenience, not speed. And me, I’ve had a complicated relationship with running through the years and though we’ve broken up for good now I really really miss it.

It’s not been easy. See Sam struggles not to run, ever!

The other night I was really upset (moving stress, family stress, new big job stress, all the stress!) and I wanted nothing more than to run with my feelings. See “Angry running” and running as running away.

But I couldn’t. Not with my busted knee. Even if I go the full surgical route and get total knee replacement, I’ll never run again. Instead, I ate some ice cream and watched some Netflix, not the healthiest substitution, but I got through the rough patch.

It’s hard. It’s a big change in identity. I’m still struggling. When the photo above of last year’s Pride Run came through my newsfeed I burst into tears.

Reading the post you can see that even then I was having issues.

The Pride Run is one of my favorite athletic events. There are runners of every stripe and speed, kids, runners in costumes, walkers, and so many people cheering the runners on. Such a great atmosphere. This year I registered early but once again ended up with knee issues that meant I couldn’t really train for the event. Other than my holiday running streak there hasn’t been much running for me this year. Instead I was going to regular knee physio. Thankfully Sarah ran with me and helped keep me running at a reasonable pace. We set out to run 5 and walk 1 but a couple of times we ran extra minutes to make it uphills or to the water station. I was so slow–my slowest, happiest 5 km ever– but I was running. I was smiling. And in the end nothing hurt. What a happy day!

Now I’m not running and still, my knee hurts. This year’s Pride March was tough even walking it. I feel like I might need “goodbye running” therapy! Or maybe something new to take its place, like Snipe racing.

I’ll report back from time to time and let you know how life after running is going.

Have you ever given up a sport or activity, even one with which you had a complicated relationship, like running and me? How did it go? Advice welcome.

fitness · running

Where to start? Start small and go from there…

Image description: small green seedling plant with four leaves and more sprouting, in a little pile of soil, against a white background.
Image description: small green seedling plant with four leaves and more sprouting, in a little pile of soil, against a white background.

Starting anything new can feel totally overwhelming. Anecdotally, besides all the reasons we give for why we don’t have time, “where do I start?” is probably one of the biggest deterrents.

It’s also the question that is easy to answer with one of my absolute favourite suggestions we make, in many different ways, on the blog: start small. When I began running, somewhat reluctantly, when I was days away from my 48th birthday, I ran around the block. Then I ran around the block twice. Then I ventured away from the block and added in a few walk breaks between run intervals. Then the run intervals became longer than the walk breaks. Then I started stringing more walk-run intervals together. And so on and so on.  I celebrated the day I ran 20 minutes in a row with a blog post announcing that significant breakthrough in my running “career.”

Now, with 5K, 10K, half marathons, 30K, and even a full marathon behind me, I’ve come a long way, all because I started small and increased in small increments.

Tonight I was chatting with a friend who is about to embark on a new fitness plan. I said the first time I tried running I hated it. Why? Because back then, in my early twenties, I went out of the gate way too fast. I didn’t ease into it at all. No. I thought I should immediately be able to run 5 miles. It hurt. My body wasn’t used to it. After a few months (I think it was months), my hips started to hurt. And that was the end of that. I didn’t run again for almost 25 years.

But this time, it feels so much better. If you let your body adapt to each increase before pushing a little bit further or harder (emphasis on “a little bit”), amazing things start to happen.

You may not know how to start small. If we’re talking about running, try finding a local running clinic with “learn to run” sessions. That way you can meet other people, learn proper technique from the get-go, ease into it, and learn about shoes and clothing and nutrition in the pre-run talks. I got a lot out of all the clinics I did. I did a clinic to train up to each new distance (other than the marathon, but I had trained for the Around the Bay 30K). In the process I learned a ton about all sorts of things, from run safety to hydration and nutrition, to how to manage in cold weather and in hot weather. I also developed some lasting friendships through the run clubs and clinics I’ve done.

Another way of starting small is to use an app. Even though I did eventually do a “learn to run” clinic, I actually started with the “ease into 5K” app, which has a “start small” training plan built right into it. I really liked it and it served me well in the very early days when I thought I was the slowest runner in the world and couldn’t possibly ever run with other people because they would feel annoyed with me.

All activities have equivalent strategies for starting small and easing into it. That’s why they have “give it a tri” or “try a tri” triathlon events. And beginners yoga classes. And different lanes in the pool for training.

Great things come from small beginnings (did someone say that already? It sounds like a famous line…).

Do you have a “small start” fitness story?

fitness · running · training

Don’t forget to hydrate properly on a long hot run (and some tips for how)

Image description: Head shot of Tracy, short blond hair, sunglasses, earbuds, sweating, leaning up against a white brick wall. Not smiling.
Image description: Head shot of Tracy, short blond hair, sunglasses, earbuds, sweating, leaning up against a white brick wall. Not smiling.

This is going to be a totally practical post where I talk about a badly planned very hot run and how I (and you!) can avoid doing that again.

I went for a really long hot and humid run on Sunday and it just about undid me. I came back feeling worse than I can ever remember feeling after a run. It’s a rare day that I feel worse for running. I had a splitting headache for the rest of the day and even had to nap, which I’ve not experienced from running since I first started to add distance six years ago. I can’t say I regret having gone out on Sunday, but I definitely could have done it better.

What went wrong? First, we had a heat warning that was well-publicized for days leading up to Sunday. Mid-30s (Celsius) with a humidex reading of 40C (that’s the “feels like” temperature). For those who work in F, that’s super hot–“feels like” 112F. My original plan had been to go out at 7 a.m.  because obviously it’s more bearable earlier when the sun isn’t high in the sky. But that didn’t materialize and I found myself heading out at 8:30 instead.

My second mistake was to bring only a small bottle of water, the kind that snaps into my fuel belt. It holds three, but I really don’t like when it’s full and I was only going out for 8K and I rarely need much water on 8K. One small bottle seemed like enough. And for ordinary conditions it may have been. But Sunday wasn’t ordinary.

Add to the late start and the inadequate water supply that I read my training plan wrong. After a 15 minute easy run I was supposed to 5x 1 minute intervals at my 10K pace with 1:30 easy in between. But instead I read it as 5x 1K intervals at my 10K pace with 1:30 minutes easy in between. That’s a big difference. By the third one they were kicking my butt.

I’ve been trying for continuous running and haven’t done too badly, but I absolutely had to take walk breaks on Sunday because I was DYING! I do an out and back into Springbank Park from where I live downtown. I don’t mind the out and back aspect of it because it’s a pleasant route along the river. And though there is one especially relentless bit with no shade (we like to call it Death Valley), there are lots of trees along most of the way.

Anyway, I decided to do a little bit extra before turning around because there is a misting thing on the path (they call it a “cooling station”). That was a bad decision because much to my dismay when I got there, it was all bolted up. No mist.  And now I had actually added some distance to my 8K, and it had become more like 9K. And my water was running low.

So as much for my own sake as anyone else’s, I’m going to crib from a great article I found that gives the pros and cons of various ways you can stay hydrated during a long run. 

The article promises five but actually only talks about four. You can click on the link to see their pros and cons. I’ve added my own two cents to the suggestions on their list:

  1. single handheld bottle–if you’re doing this go with one that is ergonomically designed to fit comfortably in your hand. I’ve got a couple of these and they’re okay for short runs but liquid weighs a lot, and it can feel heavy after awhile. A small bottle if you’re on a route where you can refill it might be fine if you don’t find it too hard on your body. Switching it between hands is a good idea.
  2. multiple bottle belt–I have two different belts. One holds three small bottles and the other holds two slightly larger bottles. They’re okay, but you do feel the weight of the bottles around your waist, and they bounce a bit (with the belt) when they’re full. That’s why even though my belt holds three bottles, I rarely ever take more than two, and on the fateful Sunday I’m talking about here, I took only one. I do like the belts though. And both of the ones I have also have a zippered section where you can stuff some nutrition.
  3. hydration pack or vest–I’ve seen people with these but never used one myself. The article speaks of them as a comfortable and effective no-bounce way to carry a lot of water with you when you won’t have a chance for refills. Weight can be an issue of course, because liquid weighs a lot. But if the water is on your back that’s not the worst place for it as long as the pack doesn’t bounce.
  4. DIY aid station–I’ve had something like this when I used to train with a run club. When we did our half marathon training one of the group leaders set up a van at the half way point of long runs filled with water, electrolyte drinks, fruit, gummies, and I can’t remember what all else (maybe band-aids and sunscreen). It was a great solution for the very long runs when it would have been a hassle to pack all that we needed.

I would add my own fifth, which is to choose a route that has water fountains along the way. Despite that the misting thing wasn’t working, if I had gone still further before turning around I would have hit an actual drinking fountain, and then another not too much further than that. And I could have grabbed more from each of these on my way back. Had a planned for 12K instead of 8K, that would have been ideal AND I could have filled up my one belt bottle before the last stretch that had so very little water.

It’s only June, which means there are a few more hot days ahead of me, where even if I get out at 7 a.m. it’ll be humid and I’ll need to do better than I did on Sunday if I want to feel good, not awful, when I get home.

What’s your go-to hydration system for hot summer training?

fitness · running · tbt

As Summer Approaches, Tracy Takes Stock #tbt (from June 2013)

For this week’s Throwback Thursday, I go back to the very first summer of the blog, back when Sam and I weren’t even 50 yet, didn’t have a book in mind, and weren’t sure what our “goals” for our Fittest by 50 Challenge were. In this post, I consider the shifting sense of goals, some difficulties I had with the concept, and set myself the goal of running a half marathon (continuously) before my 50th birthday. I had forgotten all about that. And in fact, my fittest by 50 goal changed from that to an Olympic distance triathlon (of which I did two before I turned 50). I have done several half marathons since then, but none continuous. I’m working on continuous running now, and have done 10Ks, but not yet a half. Perhaps this is a new goal I can set for my October half? We’ll see. Meanwhile, I like this post a lot, and will undertake an actual “stock-taking” of where I’m at this summer, at 53, next week. Tracy I


Summer on a beachWe started the blog with a bold public commitment: to be the fittest we have ever been by the time we are 50 (that’s 14-15 months from now).

We’re not even a year into it, and my outlook, goals, and thoughts about this project have changed in some significant ways.

First, a bit about goals:

When we started, I wanted to: keep on weight training, stick with my steady yoga practice, and continue my transition from walking to running. I started (and have since dropped) tai chi, and included swimming only among my summer activities. Biking was (and remains) a leisure activity, but that’s a bit stressful for me right now because of an upcoming triathlon.

I also had an explicit goal of reducing body fat and increasing muscle mass, as measured by the bod pod.

I’ve had a troubled relationship with goals because, while for some people…

View original post 1,217 more words

fitness · race report · racing · running · training · traveling

A beautiful day for the Guelph Lake 10K (group report)

Image description: Left to right Violetta (black cap, red t-shirt, fine chain with pendant), Ellen (blond hair tied back, bangs, white tank), and Tracy (blue cap and sunglasses, purple and pink tank), all smiling.
Image description: Left to right Violetta (black cap, red t-shirt, fine chain with pendant), Ellen (blond hair tied back, bangs, white tank), and Tracy (blue cap and sunglasses, purple and pink tank), all smiling.

As I reported last week, I’ve been prepping for the Guelph Lake 10K and I recruited Violetta and Ellen to do it with me. It was a gorgeous day for a Sunday run, not too hot, sunny with a bit of cloud cover, a light breeze that felt just right at least some of the time.

As I like to do when there’s a group of us doing an event, I asked Ellen and Violetta to write a bit about their experience. We were all in different places with the 10K. I had been prepping. Just a few weeks before, Ellen had never run that distance before. And Violetta has been sporadic in her training and didn’t feel she had time to prep as she would have liked.


So today I did my first 10 k in my life! At 54! Actually, it was my first running race of any sort! No 3Ks, or 5Ks to start out with ….But then again, I have always been the kind of person to “go big or go home” in all areas of life. This has got me into some troubles in the past, such as excessive smoking and imbibing for many years, but I digress.  For the past 6 and a half years or so, I have tried to confine this mentality to more healthy pursuits ☺.

I really didn’t know if I could do it.  I have been running for a little while and not tracking any distances, but then one day about a month ago, I actually tracked myself doing 8.5K, and my friend Tracy, said no problem, you can do it!

My high school memories are filled with shame of being the last pick for teams, and being next to the end when it came to any sort of running.  But, I am a grown up now, and I have met many other personal challenges, so I summed up my courage and tried it out today.

What a feeling of accomplishment! And what fun to share the love of this sport with other like-minded folks!  I am grateful to Tracy for encouraging me to overcome the fear and just go out and do my best.

Who knows… maybe a half marathon is now in sight. I never thought I would say that! So, to all the readers out there, I am at my fittest ever at 54…And sky is the limit! I challenge you all to go after your fitness dreams and be your best ever, at any age.


I’ve really let my running slide over the cold, cold winter.  So when Tracy let me know about the Guelph Lake 10k, I thought it would be the perfect thing to get me back into running regularly.  It didn’t quite work out that way because I wasn’t feeling very well the last couple of weeks.  Since I couldn’t prepare physically, I spent a lot of time trying to work on the psychological aspect, telling myself that I can do this and re-reading Tracy’s blog posts about running without prep and quickly regaining confidence.

I’m not going to lie.  I was certainly questioning myself.  Could I do this?  Was I risking injury given my lack of training?  Well, I did it! I now know, for myself, that it is possible to complete a 10k without much prep, not much at all.  I haven’t run more than 5k in many, many months.  I’m not saying it’s advisable or even preferable.  And it certainly wasn’t easy. But I was very lucky—the weather was perfect, the atmosphere was casual and laid back and I was running with a friend I don’t get a chance to spend much time with.

I will say I didn’t love the repeated rolling hills (well, I didn’t mind going down them) or the repeated loop.  In the end, the race served the function I needed it to, to get back into running, to remind me how much I love it.  It’s too easy to lose your rhythm and get out of good habits.  This was my first step back.

Thanks Tracy for inviting me to come along and for encouraging me when things got difficult.  And what a treat it was to have Sam cheering us on!  I’ve taken my first step and now I’m planning my next ones.  Maybe another 10k … maybe another half?  I’ll let you know.


The race has that local event feel that you get in the smaller cities and towns. I enjoy traveling for events because you get a change of scenery and a slightly different vibe wherever you go.  This one was at Guelph Lake Conservation Area, with the course taking us along the lake for awhile, then through the camp ground, and park. It’s not a bad course but any race that involves two loops is always a bit psychologically tough (in my view). There could also have been more water.

I ran with Violetta, and we had committed to keep each other moving forward. She was worried she wouldn’t make it the full distance (I knew she could) and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make it without a walk break (I wasn’t so sure). Ellen didn’t want to run with us because, according to her, she’s really slow. She of course came in 26 seconds earlier than we did.

My main goal for this one was to do a continuous 10K, no walk breaks. I did it! Other than a very brief walk through an aid station where I was so thirsty I had to drink a cup of water properly, not letting it fly out of the cup while running, I kept a steady pace throughout the race, averaging 7:00/K for a 1:10:01 finish. That’s slower than my 10K without prep! But I think part of the reason for that is that Violetta and I spent quite a bit of the first 8K chatting, and I can’t push quite as hard when I’m chatting. (not that it wasn’t nice to catch up!)

I would have liked to come in under 1:10. But one second over is alright with me. Linda told me recently that I am not aware of my athletic potential. This may be true — I still feel a rush of skepticism when I think about getting measurably faster. Like I’ll always hover around the same speed no matter what I do. But that is a topic for another post. I mention it now because the doubt sets in most acutely on race days.

Image description: Tracy and Violetta running side by side, smiling, trees in the background.
Image description: Tracy and Violetta running side by side, smiling, trees in the background.

But the day had many bonuses: Besides getting to do something with Violetta and Ellen, Sarah and Sam rode their bikes to the park to cheer us on and take great action shots!  And then, when all was said and done, we went out for a fancy brunch at a lovely shaded patio in Guelph.

It was a great time with friends and it’s got me now thinking of my next goal — 10K continuous AND shave some minutes off of my time. I’m working with Linda again and I’m feeling revved up and ready to go.


Here are the three of us at the finish line, after re-hydrating:

Image description: Full body shot of Tracy (tank top, shorts, cap and sunglasses, bib 219), Violetta (t-shirt, capris, cap, bib 216), and Ellen (tank and shorts, bib 189), standing on grass, trees and people in background.
Image description: Full body shot of Tracy (tank top, shorts, cap and sunglasses, bib 219), Violetta (t-shirt, capris, cap, bib 216), and Ellen (tank and shorts, bib 189), standing on grass, trees and people in background.