My new cardio companion 

Back in December my work teammate Anthony asked me about my exercise schedule. I had been doing a 30 min class twice a week since November. We sit near each other and he and I often talked about our soccer experiences last season and fitness in general. 

I had shared that I wanted to get some high intensity cardio in but never seemed to make it happen. 

“I’m hitting the treadmill Monday, Wednesday, Friday want to join me?”

I agreed that Monday and Wednesday would work for me. We’ve been going regularly and I’m loving it. 

The gym was pretty busy in January so we shifted to 2pm to avoid the crowd. It has been humbling getting back into running. Plus there is a definite technique specific to treadmill running and not getting motion sick. 

Running is the most efficient way for me to get to a target heartrate. In a few minutes I’m in the zone and I’ve been alternating walking and running for a total of 30 minutes. 

A close up of Natalie's face making an unsure expression. She is sweaty with her hair pulled back. The backdrop is a gymnasium.
We can’t always score machines beside each other but it’s really not about running next to each other. The biggest benefit has been that we take turns nudging each other to keep working out. A quick “you hitting the gym today?” has kept me on track. 

The mid-afternoon timing helps me over the lull I usually feel that time of day. I get back to my desk feeling energized and optimistic. 

Anthony and Natalie smile, ruddy faced and slightly sweaty. They are wearing casual clothes and sitting in an office cubicle.
Last week I was feeling harsh with cramping feet and I just could not hit my stride. Seeing I was frustrated Anthony gave me a pep talk and offered that walking on an incline could keep my heart rate up. 

I’m enjoying the little bits of support we offer each other. and it has helped me reclaim running with, and around, other people. 

This week I ran 9 minutes continuously, the longest I’ve done in a while. It felt good to have a new milestone so early on. 

Thanks for being my cardio companion Anthony!

We’re streaking! Join us?

Image result for streakingI’m not a big runner. Injuries plague me. But, I love running short distances. I also love having an exercise plan in place to keep me happy through the holidays. See december is the new january.

People hear that and think I mean weight loss. I don’t. But I am an introvert. I find the increased social demands of the holidays stressful. It’s also grading season for professors everywhere. And it’s the start of winter and I need a push to get me out the door.

So bring on the running streak. Here’s the Runners’ World version: The goal is simple: Run at least one mile per day, every day, starting on Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 24) and ending on New Year’s Day (Sunday, January 1). That’s 39 consecutive days of running.

I did it last year and loved it. See My holiday run streak complete!

I shared the Runners’ World pitch to our Facebook page  and instantly had company. Cate says she’s in. Then Susan. And now Amanda Lynn.

You don’t have to do the Runners’ World version to join in. Make up your own streaking plan.

We’ve all made modifications. I’m going with last year’s plan. I skip the run on the days I ride my bike big distances on the trainer, or ride more than 40 km outside. Cate’s had enough of the winter weather. She’s running on the treadmill. Amanda Lynn isn’t planning to run. She’s getting out for  a walk each day. So you do you. Whatever works for you.

Run Streak

How about you? Are you joining us? Comment below about your plan and what your rules are. We’d love to have you streaking with us.

Ontario, it’s time to move to equal distances for men and women in cross country (Guest post)

​by Leslie Sexton

With the fall cross country season approaching, it is time to continue the push towards gender equality in XC. Last year, the IAAF ruled that distances at the World Cross Country Championships will be 10 km for both senior men and senior women. In July, provincial branches voted to align Canadian Championship distances with IAAF World Championship distances and senior women will race 10k in Kingston this fall at the Canadian Championships.
Despite these changes at the national and international level, the senior women’s distance at the Athletics Ontario Cross Country Championships remains at 6k. It is time that Athletics Ontario committed to the principle of gender equality in cross country and equalized distances at the senior level (at the very least). Already 48 out of 50 states in the US have equalized girls and boys cross country distances at the high school level, and Ottawa has done the same in their OFSAA qualifiers. Therefore, I ask Athletics Ontario to be a leader and revisit not only the senior championship distances, but all championship distances for age groups older than Bantam (after which the gender disparity in racing distance begins, with the exception of the Masters race).
Nowhere else in distance running is this disparity present. On the track and in road racing, all distances are equal between men and women and there are anything but recent changes. The women’s marathon was added to the Olympics in 1984 and the women’s 10,000m was added in 1988. Only cross country remains several decades behind the times, with women racing 25-40% less distance, depending on the age group. It is time that cross country joined the 21st century and abandoned unequal distances as a relic of the past, as has been done in distance running on other surfaces.
It was shocking to me to see that despite this glaring inequality,  the AO championships are hosting a “day of girl power” with Fast and Female. I commend AO for their efforts in working with this organization, yet I have to question what kind of message AO is sending to young women when ‘Fast and Female Ambassadors’ are not allowed to race the same distances as their male counterparts. If we truly wish to empower and inspire girls through sport, we must stop presenting women’s cross country as a lesser version of the men’s events and put the principle of gender equality into practice.
I have emailed the above to Katie Ozolins (Executive Director of AO) and Randolph Fajardo (Competitions, Technical Specifications, and Logistics Manager at AO). I encourage others who support gender equality in cross country to contact Athletics Ontario staff and ask for change. Athletes and coaches need to speak up on this and make ourselves heard if we are to challenge the status quo.
AO staff email addresses can be found here: http://athleticsontario.ca/staff/

Photo by Maxine Gravina, Canadian Cross Country 2015

Leslie Sexton is a London, Ontario distance runner, a 2.33 marathoner, occasional pacer for hire, unapologetic geek. She’s on Word Press at lesliesexton.wordpress.com and on Twitter @LeslieSexton.

Bracebridge Duathlon Race Report (August 7, 2016)–Guest Post

This was my fourth duathlon and first international distance race (10k run – 40k bike – 5k run) of the 2016 season.   I was very active in duathlons from 2008 through 2013, including competing in three national and two world age-group championships.   In the time since then, I have been dealing with injuries (a concussion and plantar fasciitis in both feet) as well as life upheaval and menopause.  When I returned to training, I had lingering symptoms and was carrying an extra 20 lbs which is very detrimental to racing speed, especially running.

My main goal for 2016 has been qualifying for the 2017 world championships.  The qualifying race would be held on August 24th, at the international distance.    This distance has typically taken me 2hrs30 to 2hrs45, depending on the course.  I knew I would feel more confident going into my goal race, if I completed one prior.  The Bracebridge race was only 17 days before August 24th, but I decided to do it and treat it as training.   I also did a full week of training leading up to the race and did not allow myself a taper.  This was going to be a test of endurance, not of speed.   I’ve used this strategy before and it takes a good deal of humility, especially when you know your less-than-stellar results are going to be posted online for everyone to see.

This was my first time doing the Bracebridge course.   I have done the hilly Multisport Canada (MSC) Gravenhurst and Huronia (Midland) races in the past, and was told that the run course would be flatter than those, but the bike course would be harder due to longer hills.   I debated changing the gearing on my bike but in discussion with others, opted to stay with my existing gears.

I drove up to Bracebridge the night before and was able to get to the race site with plenty of time in the morning.   I stick primarily to the MSC series as their races are very consistent in their organization.   I quickly had my bike racked and transition area set up, including a second pair of running shoes.  With my plantar fasciitis still bothering me a bit, I opted to do Run 1 in my cushioned training shoes and Run 2 in my racing flats.  

For my warm-up, I did about 5 minutes of easy jogging, in contrast to the normal 20+ minutes I would have done in the past.   I knew I was going to do Run 1 at an easy pace, so I didn’t need a long warm-up.  As well, I didn’t feel that I had any endurance to spare!  My legs felt good with no hamstring or calf tightness.  My nutrition was good, my stomach was settled and all the bathroom stuff got taken care of in time.  I have had some stomach upset (runner ischemia) in the past so I have now started taking two Imodium after my final bathroom visit at races, and this is working well.

Run 1 (goal 6:00/km, actual 6:09/km) –  We started out on grass and headed up a small hill.  Within the first 10 metres, I was in last place of all 24 participants.  At first, I was very disheartened about this, but then I realized that it took all the pressure off of me as there would be no one for me to try to stay ahead of.    

I always view the first 10km of an international distance duathlon as a mental challenge.  I try not to think about the fact that I am only in the first 10km of a total of 55km that I need to cover.  I need to go hard, but not so hard that I am exhausted for the bike.   When I am fit, I usually aim for 1-2 minutes slower in total than a stand-alone 10km race.   That would put me at about a 6:00/km pace at my current level of fitness.   The run was an out and back on a Muskoka road with cottages on one side and a river on the other.  It was partially shaded, which helped as the day was already quite warm at 8:30am.   My feet were tingly within the first couple of kms, due to lingering plantar fasciitis symptoms, but I knew this would improve as I carried on.  By about the 3.5km mark, I started to see the fast men coming back towards me, followed by the women around the 4km mark.   Lots of encouraging words back and forth, as many of us in the duathlon world know each other.  There was a young woman volunteer on a mountain bike playing “sweep” who was following me as I was in last place…. That’s a first for me, but she was also encouraging.  I plodded on, keeping my pace just below 6:00/km, but I faded in the last 3km and finished up a bit over that.

Bike (goal 24km/h, actual 24.8km/h) – a fairly quick transition, then out on the bike course.  It started out fairly flat but at km4, there was a very big uphill.  I had to go into my easiest gear, and stand up, but I got up it fine.  After that, there were quite a few more ups and downs, but none as big as that one.   In retrospect, staying with my existing gearing was the right decision.  Mentally, this one-loop bike course went on forever.  I had done a number of solo 50-60km rides in training, but my total bike mileage year-to-date is very low and I had not done any 40km time trials as I had in past years.  I just kept telling myself to ignore my speed and get through it.  The second half of the course had more of a tailwind than the first half, which was motivating.  Finally it was over and I was back into transition.

Bracebridge bike

Run 2 (goal 6:30/km, actual 6:30/km) – Ideally, I try to keep my second run to within 15-20 seconds per km of my first run.  Any closer than that means I haven’t worked hard enough in my first run.   Any slower than that means I have gone way too hard on the bike portion.  I headed out of transition feeling my normal amount of quad pain after a 40km bike ride, but was pleasantly surprised to find that my legs were ok after the first km.   I got into a good running rhythm and started to feel very happy, knowing that I was going to finish the full distance in a solid manner.

 

I headed in towards the finish area and became quite emotional, realizing that I had met my goal of getting back up to the level of fitness where I could finish this race distance.  I was thinking of all the life stuff that I had dealt with since the last time I did a full duathlon, especially the sudden cancer death of my dear friend Shirley last summer.  I was very down for many months and for a while I thought that I would never compete again, let alone at this distance.  Shirley’s cancer was completely unexpected and it threatened my previous assumption of my own health.  The feeling of relief and gratitude when I crossed the finish line, was suddenly overwhelming.  

It was pretty easy to collate my results….. 2nd of 2 in my age group, 8th of 8 women, 24th of 24 overall, and 3hrs18 total time, my slowest for this distance by about 25 minutes.   Last in every way and a personal worst time, but it just didn’t matter.   What a relief to know that I had met my race goal of finishing this distance.  

Here are some random pics with my pal Shirley.  Yes, she did 50 half marathons by the time she turned 50!  She is very deeply missed.

 

 

 

run like a wombat!

cuddle

(2008) Lousy photo of me but the wombat looks great! So warm and cuddly. These were orphans whose mums had been hit by cars so they raise them and release them into the wild. Once they turn into surly teenage wombats they stop wanting to cuddle and they get them ready for release.

I’ve long been a fan of wombats. The photo above is me cuddling a wombat while on sabbatical in Australia. They’re odd animals to be sure but the young ones are super snuggly.

But today on the sad occasion of the world’s oldest wombat’s passing, I learned a new fact about wombats: “Wombats can run 40 km/hr despite looking fat and slow.” That’s from the wonderfully written obituary for Hamlet.

I love the idea–as a heavy, stocky, muscular (pick your adjective) runner, that not all creatures who are fast look like they are fast. Sure we praise gazelles and jaguars, but look here’s the speedy wombat. I think the wombat might be my running role model. Go wombats go!

 

Okay, I’ll go there: Morning running/riding/racing and the poop scheduling problem

I’ve got a friend who I’d like to be weight training with. We’ve both got university gym memberships. It’s quiet there in the morning. I suggest we meet there at 7,-before work, lift for an hour, grab a quick bite to eat, and then off to work. She makes a face and declines. “I’d have to get up at 5 am,” she says. But why? I mean I was planning on a 6 am alarm and could probably snooze once or twice and still make it. The reason was delicate. Bathroom scheduling.

Nat isn’t so delicate. I once suggested doing something at 7 am to her. I can’t remember what or why. It must have been good. She laughed. “No way. That’s poo o’clock.”

A few friends on the bike rally like the later start, 9 am, because you get up at 6 and start riding three hours later. Plenty of time for breakfast and bathroom. That seems like a lot of time to me. My life is simple that way. I get up, I drink coffee, I go. There. Done.

Life isn’t so simple for everyone. I get that. There are sometimes lengthy discussions in the breakfast line at the bike rally about what foods are and aren’t good for regularity.

My suggestion of just stopping en route is often met with disdain. But stopping for number two, is worse again if it’s a race.

I know it’s an issue for runners who race because I see a lot of stories about this in my newsfeed:

So what’s your story? Is it an issue? What if anything do you do to make sure it happens before you race, run, or ride?

And hey, here’s Canada’s favourite emoji, only all rainbow coloured and sparkly! They had stickers like this, rainbow poo emoji, at Pride. I don’t get it. But then, I’m more British than Canadian in some things.

Women, wine, and the gendered marketing of alcohol through running

It’s wine o’clock somewhere, right?

image

Well, not for me. I don’t drink. Because Tracy and I have both chosen not to consume alcohol we tend not to talk about it much on the blog.

But lots of women like the joke. I see wine o’clock memes a lot in my social media newsfeeds. Wine o’clock is when children go to bed, when women finally get a moment for themselves, and when friends get together at the end of a long work day.

I’m thinking about this at the Feminist Approaches to Bioethics Congress in Edinburgh where Professor Kate Hunt’s opening plenary addressed gender and public health.

Hunt’s talk mentioned the gender based marketing of alcohol to women. Why?

We all know that the average lifespan for men is lower than the average lifespan for women. Hunt began with the question, how much of the gender gap in all cause mortality can be attributed to differential rates of tobacco use and alcohol consumption?

Lots it turns out. In pretty much all countries men out smoke and out drink women. The gap between these behaviors tracks the gender gap in all cause mortality.

Gender is made up of behavior and lots of the behavior is health related.

Hunt went on to talk about successful gender based campaigns aimed at men but my thoughts kept returning to alcohol and women.

wine2

The alcohol industry increasingly views women as an untapped market. Hence the “empowering” message behind “wine o’clock” jokes might not be so empowering after all. Gender socialization of women as non, or light, drinkers might be good for our health. And not all rebellion against gender norms is good for women. I think feminists see this in the case of smoking but not so much when it comes to alcohol.

What’s this got to do with health and fitness and feminism? I’ve been thinking about the ways the wine industry sets out to appeal to women. First, it sets itself apart from the broad category of alcohol. It’s not like rum or beer or those manly drinks. Second, it associates itself with rest, time for oneself, and friends. Wine is positively feminist. Indeed as a feminist academic, I hear women who are usually pretty critical cultural consumers sharing this messaging. Third, there’s the link between wine and fitness activities. People who care about their health drink wine, do yoga, and run marathons. Think about all the wine sponsored races out there. Tracy talked about getting a bottle in her race kit at the Niagara half marathon. There’s the wine and chocolate marathon in nearby Windsor, Ontario too. Wine sponsored running races seen to be cropping up everywhere. And the rise in the numbers of people running in these events is fueled largely by the increase in running by women.

wine

No conclusions to draw here though I am concerned about rising rates of alcoholism and binge drinking among women. Likewise I’m concerned about the way the industry seeks to tie itself to healthy lifestyle pursuits like running.

Also, if you’re interested there are lots of wine based races out there! A very quick Google search turns up:

But still mulling. And I’d welcome your thoughts.