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.

cycling · injury · running

BIXI Queen of Mont Royal

A month ago, my partner and I decamped from New York City to Montreal for the rest of the year (and maybe longer). I’m a McGill alum (and Canadian). Ever since I left Montreal, I’ve had a hankering to come back. Pre-pandemic, we’d started talking about coming for a month to see how we liked being here. Then the turbulent spring paused our plans. When we poked our heads above the parapet again to think about the future, Montreal sent up smoke signals.

Despite the fact that we were quarantined for the first two weeks, and now we’re subject to red zone restrictions, I love being here.

I didn’t arrive in my best-self mental state. Four days before we came, I sprained my ankle. I’d been so looking forward to running on Mont Royal. Keeping up my spirits was hard. I felt like I was holding myself together with string and duct tape. Yes, I’m too dependent on running. Especially when I’m going somewhere new (or old-and-new, as Montreal is). Running is such a great way to explore and get grounded.

So, the first thing I did was sign up for BIXI—Montreal’s shared bike system. The day after we arrived, I headed out on a BIXI to ride up Mont Royal. I quickly found where the real cyclists were (as if I was a fake, because I wasn’t in lycra or on a proper bike and I was wearing an air cast). I joined them up the nice long hill on Camillien-Houde, continued up the wide gravel path for the loop around the cross, returning the way I came. A sweet, challenging, mood-altering ride that took me just under an hour on the BIXI. While it wasn’t the run I’d been hoping for, the ride was grand. What a profound relief, to find a way I could be outside, on Mont Royal, get my heart rate up and protect my ankle.

And here’s the bonus—cyclists cheer for you when they see you toiling up the hill on a 40lb BIXI. I’m sure I’m far from the only person who has ridden Camillien-Houde on a BIXI. When my partner tried to make that claim on my behalf, one of my brothers immediately recounted tales of guys he knew in Europe who took Velibs—Paris BIXIs—up Mont Ventoux, one of the legendary climbs in the Tour de France. Still, I haven’t seen anyone else doing the workout on a BIXI, so I feel like the BIXI Queen of Mont Royal when I get to the top. This past Sunday, I pushed myself by staying in second gear (of seven). When I crested, I was high-fiving the low hanging tree branches on the side of the road. A couple of guys swooshed up behind me, offering bravos as they passed, too. I allowed myself to feel special for a couple of minutes.

Mina on Mont Royal with a BIXI. Unlike so many others on this blog, lifting heavy things is not my forte. I couldn’t quite manage the awkward 40lbs above my head., as I’d planned for this photo.

Even better, my ankle is healing faster than expected. I’m also able to run again—cautiously and not for too long. I started with a stair climbing workout and a super short run, but twice now I’ve done full on runs. I have to remind myself to pay attention to my footing, because the fall colours are eye-popping, starbursts of energy and solace.

When I run, I’m ready to buy real estate and move. On days I BIXI, I’m happy and satisfied by my workout, but I don’t feel quite so impulsive about leaving my home of the last 27 years. Considering the possibility of a move challenges my self-image. I like to think of myself as adventurous and adaptable. Yet, I’m discovering that my roots run deep in New York and to contemplate moving keeps me awake at night. I love my friends and community. I love the apartment we live in. A couple of weeks ago we celebrated 25 years since we moved into our apartment. When we bought the place, our relationship was only 18 months old. The decision seemed precipitous and premature, a leap of faith. Now it’s been our home for the last quarter century. We got married in the apartment. What a comfort. On the other hand, on our move-in anniversary, I suddenly started to worry that I was getting staid; that metaphorical yellowing newspapers are piling up in the corners of my life.

I don’t know what we will end up doing. I’m trying to take life 24 hours at a time. My partner and I check in with each other multiple times a day to see how we are feeling about the possibility of making a change. We know for sure what we will do if Trump wins. But even if he doesn’t, it just might be time for a new leap of faith. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my BIXI crown and the runs my ankle allows.    

cycling · Guest Post · running · swimming · triathalon

Why Will Writing Make You a Better Triathlete? Or Ten Maxims of Writing for My Students (Guest post)

by Şerife Tekin

I turned 40 last Friday. To celebrate my efforts to become a triathlete in my late 30s I went to the beautiful Canyon Lake with a super-triathlete friend. With no actual race or scheduled event in sight due to pandemic, we executed our very own choose-your-own-adventure triathlon. We swam for 40 minutes, rode our bikes on high hills for 40 minutes and ran for 40 minutes. I would have never considered waking up at 4am and pushing hard nonstop for two hours a kind of celebration but, hey, maybe that was what 40s were for. I suffered with so much joy. It was the fittest I’ve ever felt; I could have probably gone for another round of 40+40+40 (after having snacks!)

How come it felt easy and fun even though triathlons are still so new for me? Two reasons: First, the foundational triathlon training program prepared by my awesome coach and my ability to stick with it thanks to pandemic’s side effect of no travelling. Since March, all my work-related trips (averaging 2 per month) were cancelled and I stayed put with a solid uninterrupted time to dedicate to my research, writing, and training. The second reason was me discovering that triathlon training and writing have so much in common. Since March, I have also been thinking about the graduate course I was going to be teaching this Fall, on Philosophical Research and Writing. As I contemplated on my own research and writing process to find the best way to pitch the course to my students, I realized how much in common (academic) writing and triathlon training have. I started transferring my attitude to writing to my training. Triathlon training, just like writing, I realized, involves a lot of suffering and joy. Here are the ten maxims that have been working for me; perhaps they will work for you too!

1. Do a bit everyday

Noone ever wakes up one day to find themselves transformed into a strong athlete or a prolific writer. It takes a lot of consistency. Develop a routine and do a little bit of writing/training each day.

My habit of writing by using the Pomodoro Technique – in 25-minute chunks – served me well in my tri-athletic endeavors. Even when I don’t feel like writing (I almost never do!) I convince myself to do it just for 25 minutes. Most of the time that one 25-minute chunk turns into 4 or 5 because I eventually start enjoying it. Similarly, I started taking a look at the training I have for the day and dividing it into 25-minute chunks. It helped me overcome the mental obstacle of say, having to run 70 minutes in the summer heat of Texas: It was only two chunks of 25 minutes with a 10 minute warm up and 10 minute cool down.

2. Track your progress

Tracking your progress enables you to celebrate small victories or think about what you can do to improve. In other words, don’t wait to finish the project you are working on to celebrate – your dissertation is not going to be done in four Pomodoro sessions. Instead, give credit to how much time and work you’ve already put into it. As a bit of a productivity technology junkie, I use an app called “forest” to track my writing time; after each 25 minutes the app plants a tree. It is so fun to see a forest emerge out of nothingness. Similarly, it is motivating and sobering to see how many hours per week I spent running, biking, and swimming on my smart watch and Strava.

3. Don’t worry about perfection; allow yourself be awful.

Accept that every day is going to be different. Sometimes you spend eight Pomodoro sessions just writing random sentences with no sense, logical coherence, or whatsoever; sometimes you pump out a well-argued paper in just four. Similarly, sometimes (often!) running sucks all the life out of me; everything hurts, I am short of breath even after 10 minutes. I learned to accept the pain and carry on. As my coach always says, it will always hurt, regardless of how fast you can go; even the elite athletes suffer. Just plow forward. You need to be really bad at it before you can be good at it. If you need more inspiration listen to Ira Glass on storytelling.

4. Read or foam-roll if you feel stuck.

Sometimes, you just can’t write, you are stuck. After hiding under your blanket with your eyes tightly closed having a panic attack (this is a very typical process for me when I start a new project), get up, wash your face and read. Just relaxing into reading will help get back to writing. I think the reading-equivalent of triathlon training is foam-rolling; when everything hurts and I “can’t even…” anymore I get on the foam roll, it relaxes my muscles as they get stronger.

5. Rest. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

Take at least one day off per week. Get enough sleep. Take naps. Eat. These all fuel your writing and training. Always keep snacks around.

6. Balance between sprint and endurance workouts.

Sometimes work on multiple projects simultaneously in one day: 25 minutes for that article revision, 25 minutes for that conference abstract, etc. Make sure to also work on a single project for a long time in a given day, such as your dissertation or book. Endurance writing is necessary for big projects. Similarly, do multiple sports in one day (combining cycling and swimming in a day is always a good idea; or a bike-run brick) while training but make sure to do one long session per week on one of the three sports.

7. Enjoy solitude

Get comfortable being alone, in your head, for hours at a time, both for writing and triathlon training. Yes, you need to spend time, writing, by yourself. That is the only way you improve. Similarly, you need to run, ride, swim, by yourself, for hours at a time, to make progress. It will get uncomfortable at times, be ok with it.

8. Find your peeps

Yes, you need peeps. You need them to feel inspired and motivated but you also need them for the honest and sometimes brutal feedback they will give you. Get comfortable with sharing your work with your peers, supervisors, or anonymous referees and receiving feedback. You might hate it at first but taking the feedback seriously will make you a better writer. I love receiving feedback; someone took the time to challenge you, that’s just so precious! Similarly, get comfortable training with other people and getting feedback on how you are doing. You might be the slowest in the group (I often am!), or you might have no idea about the technicalities they are talking about, but listen, learn, enjoy. Try to incorporate their recommendations into your training.

9. Listen to yourself but not too much.

Listening to yourself is a double edge sword: acknowledging how you are stuck in your writing or you really don’t have time because you have to fulfill x,y,z, responsibilities are important; you can work on addressing these so that you can dedicate time to writing. But don’t always believe yourself– these thoughts might be your mind making up excuses to avoid the discomfort of writing. When you feel this way, go back to advice number 1, do it for 25 minutes. Similarly, while training, listen to yourself: if your knee is stabbing in pain, be sure to skip the run that day, but maybe try to drag yourself out of bed and go for your run-meet even when you really feel like sleeping in.

10. Showcase your progress

Whether submitting a conference paper or sending articles to journals for publication, get out there and see how you do. You will learn a lot and make solid progress. Similarly, do races or group events once in a while to see how much you’ve improved and what else you can do to push your limits.

Şerife Tekin is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Medical Humanities at UTSA. When she is not moving around she can be found petting her kitty cat Cortez. Her website is www.serifetekin.com,

aging · athletes · fitness · racing · running

Older women runners are the fastest growing running demographic

While I’m not able to run, it’s exciting to read about the changing demographic of the running community. In cycling I’m often the oldest woman rider and I spend a lot of time riding with men my age and older. That’s been true for be since I started riding. It’s true even in Zwift.

It’s okay. I like riding with men. But still I wonder, where are the women my age? Clearly, they’re running

Running, or at least the race community, is doing something right. Or women runners are doing something right. They’re keeping at it as they age which is lovely to see

40+ demographic takes lead in largest study of runners

“Among other things, the research revealed that the United States has the highest proportion of female runners; that the 40-49 year-old age group is fastest and most popular; that Slovenia, Iceland and Ukraine are fastest countries; and that the Boston Marathon boasts the fastest average run time of “popular races.”

“But perhaps the most encouraging finding for older adults is that those in the 90 to 99 year-old age group are the fastest growing population of runners today, increasing 39% from 2014 to 2017. Researchers called that particular finding “staggering.””

How demographics are affecting the running scene

For decades — a century, almost — road racing was a world of competitive men. Since emerging from the first running boom, however, the sport has quickly evolved. The competitive core is still there, leading the pack. But now that core is being chased through the streets by thousands upon thousands of new runners, many of them motivated by very different factors.

The numbers really began to change in the early 1990s when aging running boomers filled out the masters ranks. By 2000, 44 percent of marathon finishers were 40-plus. Growth of the women’s division was even more dramatic. Just 10 percent of marathon finishers in 1980 were female. That figure is now 40 percent, while women now make up more than half the finishers at many shorter distances.”

Running demographics

More women than men (53-47%) and the average of women runners now 38.6

fitness · running · training

They’re All Good Runs: A Case for Autoregulation

When you go out for a run or ride, how do you decide how long you will go, how hard, or how fast? Less time lifting weights these days has meant more time running for me, and I’m approaching it a new way–I’m using autoregulation to determine my goals for each outing. For any activity, autoregulation is allowing data from the experience in the moment to determine your outcomes for that event.

Choose your datapoint. Autoregulation does not mean “go for as long as you feel like.” I’m not just running until it doesn’t seem fun anymore. Honestly, for me, the first mile has always been rough, with my body telling me all about how I’m making it do something it isn’t well-designed to do. It can take even longer for my breathing to even out. If I were to use these cues to tell me when I’m done, I’d never run more than half a mile.

What I have learned, though, is that while I may sound like a freight train as I puff down the middle of the road, my pace can remain pretty steady. I start my runs these days around an 11-12 min/mile pace. If I get feeling really loose, maybe if there’s some downhill bits or someone annoys me and I get a surge of adrenaline, I can speed up for a while to perhaps 9:30-10 min/miles.

So, that’s the datapoint I use to autoregulate my runs; I check my pace. As long as I’m running faster than a 13 minute/mile, I keep running. And when I see my pace drop below 13 minutes/mile for a couple checks, I’m done. Usually, my pace drops off really fast. Sometimes that happens after a shorter run, maybe 1.5 miles, sometimes it takes longer. However long I go, I know I’ve gone a distance that challenges me without overdoing it and without cutting myself short.

Choose your route. Obviously, a potential downside to this method is ending up some distance from home and needing to walk quite a ways back. Until my distances become consistently longer, I’m keeping pretty close to home. I started my runs as loops around the perimeter of a beautiful, historic cemetery a few blocks from our house. I can run one loop, about three quarters of a mile, or any distance longer than that without ever being more than a few blocks from home. As I’ve gotten stronger, to mix it up, I also run through the neighborhood along a 3-mile loop. If I can only run one side of the loop, I’m still only a little over a mile from home, which is a nice walk to cool down with.

Celebrate each run. I think the best part of this strategy for me is that it’s reduced the stress of feeling like I need to accomplish something specific on my runs. When I first got back into it at the start of Stay Home Save Lives in March, I gave myself the “add 10% to the distance” rule and tried to adhere to it week to week. It was fine at first, but then, maybe 5 or 6 weeks into it, I hit a wall. I couldn’t run further. I’d try to push through it, and my stomach would start to roil, my legs would ache, my heart rate would spike, and my pace would slow down to slower than if I’d been walking. It felt bad, and I didn’t feel successful.

When I started to give myself permission to just run until my body said stop, the distances run to run varied more, but each run felt better. I didn’t push myself to having a sour stomach all day. My hip didn’t ache for the next week. I had energy for my lifting the following day. It was better. And after a while, the distances started to tick upwards again. It isn’t linear. Every run isn’t further than the run before it. But the trend is slowly becoming longer and longer, and there are moments when it really feels good again to be running. That is why I’m out there in the first place–I want it to feel good, I want to feel good.

This week, I ran just over three miles for the first time in years. There were periods during that run that it actually felt easy. I’ve always laughed at the advice to keep it at a “conversational” pace. Running and conversation have never been in the cards for me. However, for a block here and there, I think I COULD have had a conversation! When I checked my pace, I was surprised to note that I hadn’t slowed down, I was still trucking along around 11 min/mile. So I kept running.

Autoregulation has been a welcome tool for me to enhance my running endurance during these challenging times. It allows me to listen to my body; it gives me a goal that I can pursue without judgement. It has taken away a stressor (externally derived goals) while still allowing me to challenge myself and improve over time. I am so grateful that I can run, and now I am really enjoying it again.

Photo description: Feet in grey and orange running shoes, ascending concrete stairs.

Your turn, dear reader: How do you decide when you’ve gone far enough? Do you predetermine distances or use autoregulation to decide how far to go? I’d love to hear from you.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found ignoring her ragged breathing, picking up heavy things and putting them back down again in Portland, Oregon.