Sunday, 29 December 2013

Hasta la Vista, 2013 (read in Arnie's voice)

The final hours of 2013 are ticking away and it's my final post of the year.  Most of us, admittedly or not, are reflecting on our strengths and weaknesses of the past 365 days.  And most of us, whether we care to say it or not, are thinking about how to improve in 2014.   Resolutions are made with fervor and optimism but once the Most Miserable Day (reportedly January 23rd, when most resolutions have been dropped) rolls around, they're long gone and elastic waistbands are once again our best friends.

Maybe that's how it goes for you, but here's how it goes for me:  January is attacked with the fury of a woman who ate and drank her way through December (and the latter part of November if I'm being 100% honest).  February goes pretty well, but the training is not nearly as ferocious.  March training is a little on the slack side.  April hits and brings the first triathlon and every year I say "Eff!!  Why did I not keep up those promised changes?  How am I not hitting PR's despite not training all that hard? It all started so nicely.  Oh well, good enough-I'm a triathlete, aren't I?"

But I'm not settling for good enough this year because, like you, I deserve better.  Reflecting on past behaviours, I noticed that there was no real accountability or incentive to sustain my very best, top notch effort.  I enjoy doing it, but just as enjoyable is a night of socializing with friends followed by a long sleep.  So how to improve accountability and motivation?  Challenges and rewards!  Here's what I've signed myself up to do:

30 Days with no grains or dairy:  Sort of Paleo but with wine (Drunken Cavewoman, I guess?), giving this a go to soothe stomach issues and improve energy levels.  I'm on day four and it's been a success, albeit with some pretty intense grain cravings.  These are only supposed to last a week or so.  I hope.  *Disclaimer-I am in no way advocating the Paleo diet or anything like it, or saying you should do it.  I am doing what works for me, and encourage the everyone to do the same*  Reward?  Beer on my bday!

Run 20 miles every week from Jan. 6-March 2nd:  Running is my weakness.  The hardest part for me is getting out there for a run without a friend.  Don't get me wrong, once I'm running it's all good but getting up the motivation is sooooo haaaaard.  The challenge I've joined is through Run With Jess.  You have the choice of either 10, 20, 30 or 40 miles per week and there are prizes!  Woohoo!  20 miles seems pretty daunting right now, not sure how I'm gonna put that one together.  Reward? The possibility of those aforementioned prizes and signing up for the Rock'n'Roll Half's Vancouver debut.

Cycle 20 miles every week from Jan. 1-March 2nd: Made this one up myself in hopes of getting on my bike a little (a lot) more often.  Most of a triathlon is spent on your bike and thus has the greatest potential to lead to a PR.  20 miles a week sounds good now but on top of swimming, running, strength training and life, will I be able to fit it in?  Therein lies the challenge.  Reward?  New tri shorts.

30 Days of Planking-start at 20 seconds and go all the way to 5 minutes:  Does your stomach hurt just thinking of doing this?  Mine does.  You probably think I'm doing this to get a stronger core because the core is so important blah, blah, blah but no.  A stronger core is nice but mostly I've always wanted to be able to plank for more than 30 seconds.  You can find this challenge at Athleta or Tribesports.  Reward? Being able to do a 5 minute plank.

Speaking of Tribesports, I highly recommend checking out their site, they have TONS of challenges for just about anything you can image.  Anyways, these are my challenges, what are yours?  You've probably guesses I'm using the blog as a way to keep myself honest but I'll also try to post updates on Twitter and Instagram.  Best of luck to you in any challenges you take on and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Soothing the savage beast

Welcome to December!  Crowded malls, black ice, subzero temperatures, myriad social engagements, beer advent calendars, and Christmas baking are sapping our will to swim/bike/run and bringing out the (10 pounds heavier) savage beast within.

 It ain't easy getting out there these days to tame the beast, so what to do?  If you don't already, why not add music?  For the exercise-with-music types, why not revamp your playlist?  Half the fun of running with music (a new and very happy discovery for me) is in creating the perfect playlist.   As some of you know, nothing will push you through a weak spot like your favourite song.  I recently asked some friends to send me  their favourite running songs-some are surprising choices and some will be added to my list in the very near future.  Here they are:

Name: Race Vault
Pace: 10:30/mile
Favourite Distance: Mile repeats/any sort of drill
Playlist: - Born to Run/Bruce Springsteen              -The Dead Heart/Alexisonfire
               -Big Wheel/Down With Webster               - Fire Burning/Shawn Kingston 
               -Sandstorm/Darude                                     - Supersoaker/Kings of Leon
              - Angels of the Silences/Counting Crow   - Run to You/Bryan Adams
               -Break Stuff/Limp Bizkit                              -Rock and Roll/Skrillex

Name: Alli
Pace: 9:30/mile
Favourite Distance: 10k.  Fair weather runner, will run on the treadmill if it's too wet (unless it's a club run, then I'm happy to then I'm happy to get soaked with my friends as long as it's followed by a cold beer by the fireplace at the Rose!)
Playlist:- Blurred Lines/Robin Thicke                             -Get Lucky/Daft Punk
              - Can't Do Nuttin For Ya Man/Public Enemy   -Hey Ladies/Beastie Boys 
              -Come Dancing/the Kinks                                   -Jam for the Ladies/Moby
              -Devil Went Down to Georgia/Charlie Daniels - Lets Talk about Sex/Salt N Pepa   
             -We no Speak Americano/DJ Americano& Melinda
               Kool                                                                         -Dowutchalike/DigitalUnderground

Name: The Nutcracker
Pace: 9:00/mile
Favourite Distance: 10k-short and sweet.  Rain or shine, preferably shine.
Playlist: - Big Mouth/Santigold                   -Daft Punk Is Playing In My House/LCD Sound           
             -So Whatcha Want/Beastie Boys - Try It Again - The Hives
             -Insane in the Brain/Cypress Hill   -You've Got Another Thing Comin/Judas Priest
             -I Love It - Icona Pop                        -Jerk It - Thunderheist
             -Power - Kanye West                        -Blue Orchid - White Stripes (and Icky Thump!)     

Name: Special K
Pace: 7:00/mile
Favourite distance: 10k (but I'm making that up, I didn't ask)
Playlist: -Go/Pearl Jam                            -Kickstart My Heart/Motley Crue
              -Hollywood Nights/Bob Seger  -Against the Wind/Bob Seger
              -Run LIke Hell/Pink Floyd         -Clash City Rockers/The Clash
              -Why Go/Pearl Jam                    -Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)/Arcade Fire
              -Harder than you Think/Public Enemy 
              -Galvanize/Chemical Brothers
Name: The Rabbit
Pace: 8:00/mile
Favourite distance: 8k.  Ocean front run on a clear, cool day.  Or any run with friends and beer at the end.
Playlist: Sorry I have never tried running to music. I prefer the tap tap (thump) of my feet and my own inner thoughts which may be a bit monotonous like some music perhaps. Also I'm too paranoid to block out the sounds of the world outside and I don't really like to run on the treadmill. 

So there you have it, 40 great songs and 1 good case for running without them at all.  Hope these help you off get off of the couch, away from the fireplace and cookies and out the door.  Any "must have" songs that aren't on here?  See you out there!


Thursday, 21 November 2013

How do you say gratitude in American?

So the sun is shining, (American) Thanksgiving is nearly upon us and it got me thinking, what am I thankful for?  I've been wanting to write about this for awhile and since most of you readers are from south of the 49th, it seemed a good idea to time a gratitude post with Thanksgiving.  That, and I completely missed the boat on Canadian Thanksgiving.  

Mostly I am grateful for my family, friends and a daily hot shower, but since this blog is dedicated to the active life, I'll stick to that topic, so in no particular order, here goes!

I am thankful that I can participate in the active life.   It's not just the physical side though.  While I am very thankful to have a fully capable body with no impediments, I am even more appreciative of the people who support me in my sometimes crazy endeavours.  So to my incredible husband for letting me chase all these opportunities, my amazing friends for always listening and lining up at the start line with me, and you readers for actually reading  and encouraging me to get out there and find yet more fodder for this blog, thank you!!

I am thankful that I live in a society that allows women an equal opportunity to sports.  This doesn't happen everywhere and it's a shame.  I am forever grateful that any time I decide to step outside for a run, I am free to do so without fear of repercussion and that there are equal recreation opportunities for my son and daughter.

I am thankful for Tuesday Night Run Club.  Every Tuesday night at around 6:30, a group of runners gathers at the Run Inn in Tsawwassen.  Sometimes it's a pace workout (I love you 40/20 workout) and sometimes it's a long, slow 7km but it is always one of the highlights of my week, every week.   To be fair, there is a small group of us who head to the pub as a post-run ritual, which might be why I like Tuesday nights so very much.

I am thankful to live in climate where I can train outdoors year-round.  Last but certainly not least, it makes me crazy happy to be able to go outside and run no matter the season.  No, I don't always want to if it's below zero or above 30, but those extremes are rare, and for that, I say thank you mild West Coast weather.

That's my happy/thankful/grateful list, what's yours?

Monday, 4 November 2013

The perfect run

It's been said that perfection does not exist in nature but Sunday's 4th annual Boundary Bay Marathon/Half Marathon/10k/5k came pretty darn close.  According to sponsor Try Events they care.  They care enough to arrange an extra hour of sleep for everyone via the end of daylight savings time and I for one could feel the love.  The arrangement they made with the weather gods were a nice touch too-freezing, windy rain from hell on Saturday yet miraculously sunny and calm on Sunday morning.  Sweet!

Starting at Centennial Beach after a warm up with Ronald McDonald, the route went along the Boundary Bay dike in the sun with perfect views of the ocean, farmer's fields and the always beautiful Coast mountain range.  There were even bald eagles out to cheer everyone on.  Run races aren't even this nice in the movies!

Pretty sure a lot of PR's were earned thanks to the very flat and fast out-and-back gravel course.  I know my pal Alli scored her best time ever and Tenacious D (not her real name) was pretty happy with her run too.  This was my first race with music and what a difference!  Between the tunes and the great course, I was within a minute of my personal best (thanks Bruce Springsteen for getting me through kilometer 8!).

Hard to find any fault with this event at all-the ladies bathroom had it's ubiquitous crazy long line up but there were extra mobile washrooms available (I snuck into the line-up free Family washroom, shhhh.)  Well organized, very nice long-sleeved tech shirt in the race package, free coffee, decent post-race fuel, good entertainment (not just Ronald McDonald), sunshine, just one of those perfect runs.

So yeah, if you like amazing scenery, a well organized race that just so happens to sponsor a great cause like helping sick kids stay with their families, along with a flat, fast course and enough categories for all of your friends to find something they like, this is your run.  

What's your perfect run? Fave running tunes? I would love to add to my playlist!  See you out there!  Pics will be on Instagram :)

P.S.  If you are looking for a fun run you can do with the whole family, please be sure to check out the VanMarrewyk Christmas Fundraiser happening November 16th!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

The running partners everyone should have....

It's a beautiful, sunny, fall day out there, or at least at it is in the neck of the woods, and the perfect day for a run.   While getting out there on these kinds of days is a day-maker for any runner, it's always better when you share it with someone else, right?   Here are some of the run partners that everyone should try at least once:

1)The too-fast-for-you friend: It probably won't be a conversation to remember as you'll be too busy gasping for air but running with this guy/gal will improve your cardio conditioning and show you what you're made out of (tough stuff, of course).  

2)Self-centered Johnny/Jane:  A boring run for sure, Johnny Self-Centered only talks about his past exploits and future plans and never asks about how you're doing these days.  The benefit?  Learning to tune out distractions and focus on getting through the tough part of a run.  Also useful for learning all kinds of info about Johnny you can use for blackmail in the future if need be.

3)A small child:  This group makes the too-fast-for-you friends look like a bunch of wussies.  I recently took my 7-year-old out for a run with me and got schooled, big time.  She was running circles around me, showing me how she could speed-walk as fast as I could run and doing cartwheels, all while keeping pace with me.  The upside?  Remembering that running is a joyful activity and actually seeing that joy on someone's face.  Just make sure you have the parent's permission before you take off running with the kid.

4)The dedicated power walker:  A walker you say? Yes.  Sure it sounds like the world's most boring activity but if you have ever tried to keep up  with a dedicated, hard-charging walker, you know how difficult it is.  Not only will you gain some serious respect for this group, you'll work some muscles you didn't know you had (and you'll reallllly feel it in the morning).

5)The Newbie:  Three words-pay it forward. Getting out there with someone just starting out can show just how far you've come as a runner and also shows the newbies the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, i.e, it won't always be gasping for air and doubling over in exhaustion, sometimes it's fun!  Confidence building and good-karma catching all on one run-a win/win for sure!

So there you have it-did I leave anyone out that should have been included?  Hope you get the chance to get outside and enjoy the fall weather before Old Man Winter is upon us!

See you out there!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Who knew cornstarch could be so rad?

This past Saturday marked the 2nd running of Colour Me Rad in Vancouver but probably (hopefully!) not the last.  Here are the top 5 reasons you should be either sad and full of regret for missing it or counting your lucky stars for being able to take part in this sold out event:

5) The organizers have very good karma and don't mind sharing with you:  How else can you explain the weather on Saturday?  The weather this past week has been very typical of October in Vancouver-rainy, cold and blah.  But somehow, when that coloured cornstarch started flying, the sun came out!  No rain and warm temperatures, love it.

4) Great swag:  The typical race has that typical t-shirt that you will never wear and/or you will send directly to the thrift shop.  Not so with Colour Me Rad.   Not only did I score a sweet, soft cotton tshirt that I plan to wear over and over again but I came home with a pretty sweet pair of shades!  The merch tent had many options including but limited to shirts, knee socks, stickers for reasonable prices too.

3) Fun for everyone: There were runners, walkers, kids, people with canes, people in costumes you name it, they were there.  Every participant seemed to have a perm-grin too!   Three generations of my family (ages 5-50 something) and everyone, even my non-athlete husband said it was a lot of fun and are already looking forward to next year.  Can't say I've seen that at most events!

2) Behaviour that is generally frowned upon is encouraged:  Ever wanted to throw cornstarch at a fellow runner?  Or lay down in the street and make powder angels?  Break into a random dance?   I saw all of this and more on Saturday and it only fed the atmosphere of joy.  Definitely a nice break from the every-race!

1) Good bye PR anxiety:  A lot of runners (myself included) worry about not hitting that personal record and it's ruined many a run.  Contributing to the fun atmosphere is the fact that Colour Me Rad is not a timed event.  That's right: no timing chip.  No clocks.  Awesome.  And according to the guy with the mic, if you ask about your time, expect a punch in the esophagus.  How's that for incentive?

Yup, Colour Me Rad is rad.  The merch tent is rad.  The course is rad.  So is the after party.  Do yourself a favour and make sure you add this one to your list of "must do" races.  For those of you who were there, would you do it again?

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Good bye summer, Hello Fall

Only 48 hours left until it's October, and with it colder temps, rainy days, early-onset darkness and depleted motivation.  A lot of training plans are underway but clinging to their summertime ways, which mostly means outside in t-shirts. But soon, most of us will head indoors and start to bundle up until Mother Nature plays nice again (say, late March.....we can dream, right?)  While we wait, here's some suggestions for acclimatizing:

Swimming:  Not much choice here, you've pretty much got to hit the pool.  Finding a pool you like is vital (the quality of the hot tub is how I determine pool worthiness), as is a training plan that is both challenging and fun.  Check out Swimplan for some good plans, it's easy to set up and free.  I print the workouts on an index card and put it in a Ziploc bag for waterproofing on the swim deck.  Throwing in a game or two with your swim buddies keeps it fun too-my favourites are SwimGolf and the 3-5-7-3 challenge.  For SwimGolf, swim 50m and add together your time and number of strokes.  Great for optimizing efficiency and bonus points if you get under 60 which is the lowest score I've ever heard of.  For 3-5-7-3, you breathe every 3rd, then 5th, 7th and 3rd stroke on each 25m over a 100m swim and it's reaaaallly hard!  And fun.  

Cycling:  I'm not sure how many people continue to cycle outside after October, but to those who do: Good on you and please stay safe!  For those of us heading indoors, there is a couple of different ways to keep the legs in shape-the indoor trainer and Spin class.  If you don't have an indoor trainer, get one, they're awesome. Craigslist is a good start for finding one.  If you already have one, I would recommend setting up a TV near by for entertainment.  Depending on goals and time available, some people like movies, some people like Spinervals and some people (me) play a game where my kids get to be the boss-they yell out commands (Sprint! Stand! Slow!) and you follow along.  Just remember, kids are mean.  Alternately, there is Spin class-most local municipalities and gyms offer them in some capacity but another source is local bike stores which usually have good rates and discounts if you bring your own bike trainer (another incentive to get one!)

Running:  Best thing to do here is embrace the cold, wet and dark.  Besides not over-heating, you'll be building endurance on one of your most important running components: Your mental muscle! And we'll all be thankful to have it come race day.  Having the right gear makes a huge difference too including a hat, jacket, reflective vest, and gloves.  Just make sure one of them has a pocket for id and money for that post-run beverage (several of my runs have been completed only because of the beer waiting at the end).  If you really have to run inside, there's always the treadmill.  My friend Allison has hers set up in the garage and runs with the door open so it's kind of like running outside, a great idea except when the raccoons come in to check out what's going on (which really happened!)

That's all for now, good luck staying warm, dry and visible out there!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Back to the grind.....

When I started this post, I expected to be writing about all the great races coming this fall-the Vancouver Eastside 10k?  Yes, sounds great!  The Electrodash?  Never met a 5k fun run I didn't like (but it's on the Friday of a long weekend :( )!  The Seawall Race?  New Balance Fall Classic?  A friend's recent email looking for company in the races she wanted to do had me excited about all of them.  

Then the return of Serious Training happened this week.  So I thought well, there is a lot of training to be done between now and race time-writing about that seems more appropriate.   I expected to be writing about how the return of swim club with Coach T was murder on the shoulders and how much I regretted my lack of swim training this summer.  

But a funny thing happened-swimming didn't kill my shoulders and although I swam for all of about 30 minutes this summer, the return to the pool felt great, maybe even one of my favourite swims yet!  And all of this got me thinking about expectations, particularly the ones we have of ourselves.

We've all got 'em-they keep us coming back for more, season in, season out.  Whether it's hitting that goal you never expected to reach and having your confidence majorly boosted or having that day where you expect first place and land a DNF followed by weeks of rumination, expectations bring something special to sports: the battle between us and our greatest competition, the most private fight of all-the one with ourselves.

I know I've been on the winning, losing, and warring side of expectations (I can do this.  No, I can't.  I've totally got this.  I should go home.  Oh God, was that the start gun?)  How about you?  What have you learned/won/lost from your goals?

Til next time!

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Tips for enjoying the Zombie Apocalypse

This past weekend I had a chance to participate in the Zombie Apocalypse, as imagined by the lovely folks at Run For Your Lives.  I definitely feel more prepared for the impending doom-here's some tips for rookies who haven't had a chance to run scared from the undead:

1) Figure out where the annihilation is happening before the big day: Fellow zombie hunter Alli and I assumed the race would be in Seattle because all events in Washington happen in Seattle.  Wrong.  After we hit Seattle, we drove for two more hours and hooked a left for another 40km to McCleary, and assumed we had missed the race.  We made it but with a lot of unnecessary grief.  Bad idea because we all know zombies can smell fear.

2)Make friends with your fellow racers, you will need them:  As you attempt to make your way to the Safe Zone with all 3 flags (making it in with one flag means you survived, no flags means infected), you are going to encounter a lot of zombies, sometimes just one, sometimes an entire horde.  Your best chance at making it past unscathed/with all of your flags lies in running past them in a large pack.  Some zombies will make half-hearted attempts for your flags, some will actually chase you and make that horrible zombie noise in your ear.

3)The path to freedom is rife with hills, mud, and obstacles:  Yes, the Zombie Apocalypse has a lot of hills-work on those leg muscles, you're gonna need them.  And every other muscle-the obstacles you will encounter along the way are tough!   You will need your fellow racers to get through/over some of them because the mud makes them so slippery-my clothes and shoes picked up about 10lbs worth of mud over the 5km.  You will crawl through more mud than you've ever seen in your life, swim through a blood pit, under live wires and an electric fence or two. 

4)Bring a waterproof, disposable camera:  The photo ops of the End of Days are pretty spectacular but would destroy event the toughest iPhone/electronic device.  I have barely any pics and am pretty bummed about it.  The link above has some good ones.

Feel more prepared now?  Good.   Sadly, Alli and I were infected (the current tally stands at 44,344 survivors and 97,525 infected). The Run For Your Lives crew put on a very good, well organized event/apocalypse practice however it was tough to find food afterwards (running scared works up quite the appetite!).  For anyone looking to give this a try next year, I wholeheartedly recommend doing the race twice-once as a runner AND once as a zombie (professional zombie make up included), not sure which one looked like more fun!  Fingers crossed it comes to Vancouver next year too.   

Would you rather chase or be chased?

Saturday, 17 August 2013

It's that time of year......

So it's the middle of August and September is racing towards us way too quickly.  A certain commercial says "It's the most wonderful time of the year" with the kiddos going back to kid-jail/school but it's also that bittersweet point in the summer: Bitter because I think "Damn!  I did not get in the amount of open water swimming I wanted to" and Sweet because it's nearing that time where we sit down and think about goals for the coming season.  For the record, the amount of actual open water swimming I managed to do was half an hour in Nicola Lake (There was a leech.  It attacked a friend which lead to a hilarious but traumatic scene-who would want to go in after that?)

Since there is still some time left for open water swim and the lovely views that go along with it, check out these highly recommended spots (please follow the usual safety rules if you're going to a lake or the ocean):

White Pine Beach at Sasamat Lake:  Pro-it's warm  Con-it's very, extremely popular

Centennial Beach in Delta: Pro-it's warm salt water Con-seaweed and having to time for the tides

Various Outdoor pools around town: there's the Ladner Outdoor Pool, the Al Anderson pool in Langley for 25m pools, the UBC outdoor pool for a 50m pool and of course the Kits Beach pool if you're in need of a 137m pool and one of the best views around.

For anyone thinking of learning how to swim this year, I cannot recommend it enough!!!  When I started five years ago my only aquatic skill was a doggy paddle. I was also terrified of putting my face in the water.  Now it's my favourite activity and there's been no looking back.   Check out Red Cross lessons for adults-if they can make a swimmer out of me, they can make a swimmer out of anyone.  I would also recommend checking the internet for local swim/triathlon clubs.

Experienced swimmers-time to start training for new challenges!  The Vancouver Open Water Swim Association ( is wrapping up it's 2013 season but for anyone who is comfortable swimming 1000m in a pool, they are a great option for next year and they also put on a few races throughout the year-you'll see me there in 2014!

That's it for now-did I miss any swimming hotspots?  Favourite pools?  Talk to you next week if I survive the Zombie run!

Monday, 5 August 2013

First things first....

             Welcome to the Race Vault!   I'm starting this blog as a way to share my adventures and misadventures from my quest to try everything once.  Well, everything from the world of races and active living, that is.   If there is a run/swim/cycle/triathlon/chance to get chased by zombies (Zombie Run, August 24th, Olympia WA, )-I'm there!   So far I have 10 triathlons, 1 mud race and countless runs notched in my race belt.  The big goals are the BMO Half Marathon (1st Half Marathon), the Tough Mudder, hiking the Chief in Squamish and the Vancouver Triathlon.  I have been talking myself out of doing the Vancouver Tri for various reasons for the past 4 years so 2014 is going to be the year it happens.  Here's hoping that a regiment of solid training and making all of this public keeps me honest :)  There are also a couple of new races in Vancouver-the Vancouver Eastside 10k on September 14th and an 8k cross country race happening this November in Stanley Park-worth checking out!
                   On top of racing, I'm always on the lookout for newer and funner (it's a word) places to get active-my current faves are the Fred Gingell stairs, the  Run Clinics at the Run Inn in Tsawwassen (6:30 every Tuesday night, come join us!) and the Lochside/Galloping Goose bike trail in Victoria, which was the source of my greatest misadventure yet-a fractured elbow 30km from home.  Let's just say it's a good idea to become proficient with clip-in bike shoes before you head out on a big ride with some tricky terrain or you too may end up staring longingly at your unused bike for the summer.
                    It's not just all about me though-I want to hear from you!  Favourite races?  Places to get your active on?  All of your adventures and misadventures, I wanna hear 'em!   My heart is racing at the thought of finally getting my first post out there, but here we go, in with both feet!   Thanks for reading and see you out there.